Thomas L. Stewart joined the United States Marine Corps on June 22, 1917—just two months after America entered World War One. Private Stewart was a member of 96th Co (H), 6th Marine Regiment, led by the future Commandant of the Marine Corps, Clifton Cates. Stewart was one of the 24 Marines who took Bouresches during the battle of the Aisne. He was gassed at Belleau Wood and served at a hospital as an MP while recovering. Eventually, he became part of the force that occupied Germany.
His story is made even more personal through the many letters he sent home, from the day he enlisted to his last day in Europe, and selections from the hundreds of photos he took—from training at Parris Island to his time in Germany.
Thomas Stewart and his family saved every letter, photograph, and document from his service in the Marine Corps during the First World War. I met his grandson, who is one of my professors at the University of Central Oklahoma. They graciously allowed me to go through the collection, digitize, and create a work from it.
The project began as a simple paper, but with the sheer amount of resources, it soon evolved into a full book. The Story of One Marine includes all of Tom’s letters and some of his photographs. It is then supplemented with my own research to create a full scope and understanding of Tom’s experience.
Since it is his own letters that have never before been published, it is also a fantastic primary source for any historians researching the Marine Corps or the First World War. On the accompanying Facebook page, more photos and documents are being released from the Collection.
Excerpt from one of Stewart’s letters
I can hardly write you. Living has been too intense the last three weeks. Before I get a chance to write about one thing, something else that overshadows it happens. At present, I am in a field hospital for gas. Don’t be alarmed, however, for my case is slight and not dangerous. And on my body only, for I kept my mask on and saved my eyes and lungs. We were in it four hours in the heaviest bombardment I ever saw; they gave us about two gas and one high explosive, and some sure came close. I didn’t turn into the hospital the first day and tried to stay on duty, but the sweat brought it out, and we had another bombardment that night. A three-inch shell exploded within almost ten feet of the hole where I was lying, and loads of them came so close you almost thought you were hit.
We went over the top about ten days ago, in a daylight attack. We advanced three kilometers, the last 50 yards in a perfect hailstorm of machine gun bullets. Had anyone told me a person could live in it, I’d have laughed at him, but twenty-four of us, with one lieutenant, in my platoon, made the town of Bouresches and cleaned it up and held it till reinforcements came up. We captured machine guns, ammunition and all sorts of stuff. The boche won’t fight tho, close up; they run. They left the town but covered the roads with machine guns which we couldn’t take with our few men. They retired that night tho, when our reinforcements arrived.
About the Author
James P. Gregory, Jr. was born in Ada, Oklahoma in 1995 and moved around the state until graduating from Piedmont High School in 2013. In May of 2017, he graduated from the University of Central Oklahoma with a Bachelor’s degree in History: Museum Studies and a Bachelor’s in Humanities. He is currently a graduate student once more at the University of Central Oklahoma in the Museum Studies program.
The Story Of One Marine
By James P. Gregory, Jr.
Release Date: November 1, 2017