Frank L. Glick Story
August 1914 began the worst war the world had known, truly a world war. It was a war that included trench warfare, barbed wire, poisonous gas shells, airplanes and tank warfare. Because of the unusually high number of head injuries, the warring factions used steel helmets for the first time. On the high seas, Germany’s use of unrestricted submarine warfare made any voyage a dangerous gamble. The major combatants were France and Great Britain opposing the Germans as they see-sawed across the bloody fields of France. Germany also faced the White Russians on her eastern borders and had significant troops embattled there. The United States had struggled to remain neutral, but largely due to Germany’s unrestricted attacks on American shipping, President Wilson declared war on Germany in April 1917.
Frank Glick, son of a prominent Marshalltown family, is one of many across the land that heeded his country’s call to arms. He may have seen the wildly famous “First to Fight” posters for the tiny band of his country’s “sea soldiers,” because something motivated him to travel all the way to Chicago and attempt to enlist in the U.S. Marines. Enlisting in the Marine Corps was no slam-dunk. The prewar strength of the Corps was only 17,000 and there were very high standards on who could join their ranks. Only one of every four applicants was accepted. Frank was one of these. He enlisted on May 20, 1917 and was sent to Parris Island, SC to earn the title, U.S. Marine.
Washington, DC., the Commandant of the Marine Corps, MajGen George Barnett worked furiously behind the scenes to ensure the Marine Corps slogan of being the “First to Fight” slogan was not for naught. The Commandant’s first fight was getting Marines to France a task which also took Marine determination and some finesse. The Secretary of War informed him before any Marines could be accepted for service in France, General Pershing Commanding the AEF, would have to approve and General Scott. the Army Chief of Staff, stated the Army had enough soldiers of its own. After weaving and countering a seeming endless number obstacles about Marines having different weapons, uniforms, tactics General Pershing relented and President Wilson directed a Regiment of Marines be sent to France. Secretary of War Baker then informed the Commandant that there was no shipping to take the Marines to France. Once this new obstacle was raised the CNO of the Navy, Admiral Benson, informed the skeptics that he had held specific shipping to move Marines overseas. At last on 14 June 1917 the first group of Marines were on their way! (1)
In the final days of 1917, the Bolsheviks won their revolution over the Czar’s White Russians, and signed an armistice with Germany. Germany secretly moved all its troops from the Eastern Front to France for their long awaited spring offensive. Their goal was to capture Paris. With Paris in the Kaiser’s hands, it would be a certain defeat for the French and they would likely sue for peace. Without the French support, the British would have been forced to retreat across the channel and sue for a separate peace. All this had to happen before the Americans could mass enough troops to make a significant difference.
August 1917, after completing recruit training at Parris Island, SC Frank boarded a train bound for Quantico, Virginia. One of the Marine officers meeting the new Marines was Captain Franklin Garrett, commanding officer of the 80th Company, 2nd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment. The quality of the new Marines was unparalleled in the history of the Corps. Many came right out of colleges and universities to enlist. There was one block of 300 that enlisted en mass from the University of Minnesota. Captain Garrett was hand picking only those Marines he felt were of the highest morale quality, excellent marksmen, and in excellent physical condition. Private Frank Glick was one of his choices. At Quantico, they continued to train hard and long. Finally, the long wait was over and they boarded the USS Henderson and set out across the perilous Atlantic. They arrived in France on February 8, 1918. The training continued, under seasoned French soldiers. They were rotated in and out of the trenches in a fairly quiet sector to get some combat experience.(2)
In March, the Germans launched their spring offensive. Strengthened by their abundance of fresh troops, they were wildly successful. Gains of five to ten kilometers daily were common.
The end of May, 1918 the Americans were finally rushed in to stem the German tide and shore up a war-weary French army. The US Army’s 3rd Division arrived at Chateau Thierry and blew up the bridges over the Marne River. Their machine gun battalion halted the Germans on its northern banks and held the southern. A few miles west and slighty north, the US Army’s 2nd Division, which included Frank’s unit the 4th Marine Brigade, deployed for battle. Included in the Marine sector were the villages of Lucy-le-Bocage, Bouresches, and Belleau all of them barely 35 miles from Paris. Within the triangle formed by these villages was Belleau Wood.
The Marine Corps saw great potential in Frank. On April 16, 1918 with less than a year’s service as a Marine, Frank was promoted to corporal. On May 18th, 1918, 3 months after arriving in France, Corporal Frank Glick was promoted to sergeant. One day later, he was promoted to First Sergeant, the senior enlisted rank in a Marine rifle company of 250 officers and Marines. On June 1st, Frank’s company was located near the Triangle Farm, south of Belleau Wood. German observation balloons had observed their positions and were calling artillery fire on them. A retreating French army major advised US Marine Captain Lloyd Williams to retreat as the Germans were unstoppable. The captain replied “Retreat Hell! We just got here.” The US lines did hold!
The following excerpt is taken from the GySgt Don Paradis Memoirs for June 2nd, 1918. (He was a sergeant in Frank’s 80th Company, 2nd Bn, 6th Marines, 4th Marine Brigade of the Army’s 2nd Infantry Division)
There was a cobblestone road that ran from the Paris-Metz road along the woods for a quarter mile into Triangle Farm, past the barn on one side and a high stone garden wall on the other. Now as I ran past the barn, there were wounded and dead lying on both sides of the road. Top Sergeant Frank L. Glick laying on his stomach, facing me, both legs off just above the knees. He raised his head and smiled as I went by. This smile was to bring me back to the rescue, as the Germans were shelling the Triangle Farm area. Major Holcomb and a bunch of men and officers were standing on the edge of the woods. I threw my pack and rifle on the ground and said “My God, who will go back and help those men!?” Corporal Archie Smith, Sergeant Major (Ingram) and 1stLt John Schneider all shouted they would.
I picked up a shelter half and we ran back to the men. Private Fred E. Lomax lay to the right side of the road shouting for help. I went to him at once, while the other men were examining the wounded, but all were dead. He went on to say they buried those Marines that night in a shallow trench, side by side. They were not allowed to attend the services because they were still under artillery fire.(3)
Frank was killed at the outset of one of the pivotal battles in Marine Corps history. At Belleau Wood, control of the woods would wrestle back and forth between German and Marine control for weeks. The Germans soon came to fear the deadly marksmanship of the Marine and his Springfield rifle and the close combat of the Marine and his bayonet. They understood fate and losses to artillery and machine gun fire were to be expected, but to have someone sight down a rifle at distances of 600 yards and choose them to die, that was a bit too personal. They referred to the Marines as Teufelhunden (Devil Dogs).
On June 6th, the Marines went on the offensive and assaulted across 800 yards of wheat fields into withering German machine gun and artillery fire. Marine legend and holder of two Medals of Honor, 1stSgt Dan Daly prompted his men into the fight with “Come on you S.O.B.’s, do you want to live forever? Follow me.” (He was nominated for his third Medal of Honor, but it was felt two were enough for any man. He received the Navy Cross and the Army’s Distinguished Service Cross for his actions.) On that one day alone, the Marine Corps would sustain more Marines killed in action than the combined totals of dead in all its previous wars. The fight for Belleau Wood would continue until legend in Marine Corps history, much as Iwo Jima, the Chosin Reservoir, Khe Sahn, and Fallujah would in later wars. Belleau Wood would soon be followed by Soissons, Saint-Mihiel, Blanc Mont and finally, the war’s end, the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th Month – 11 November 1918. Armistice Day is now known as Veterans Day.
First Sergeant Frank Lewis Glick was Marshalltown’s first Devil Dog. Who was Frank Glick? His paternal grandfather, Dr. George Glick, emigrated from Germany in 1846 and settled in what would become Marshalltown, Iowa in 1853. He practiced medicine in Marshalltown for over 20 years. He was the examining physician for the Banker’s Life Insurance Company in Des Moines and served on its board. Dr. Glick was a charter member of the first Marshalltown school board in 1864 and was its treasurer. He served on the city council. He raised his family and lived in his home across from the Episcopal Church on the North side of the street. His eldest son, Albert (“Ab” to his friends) Glick was Frank’s father. Glick Elementary School was named in honor of Dr. George Glick.
Frank’s maternal grandfather was A.C. Abbott. Mr. Abbott came to Marshalltown about a year after the town was incorporated, in 1854. He opened Abbott and Krisley Hardware and Feed Store on the corner of Main and Center Streets. He was also active in the community and served on the school board, the city council and on the board of directors of the 1st National Bank. He later bought out the Krisley interest and relocated the store to the corner of 1st Street and Main. They had two children, T.C. and Helen. Abbott Elementary School (4th Avenue and Lynn Street) in Marshalltown was named in honor of Frank’s grandfather, A. C. Abbott.
In the latter part of the 1800’s Albert (Ab) and Helen (Nellie to her friends) Abbott were married and had four sons; Abbott, Arthur, Frank Lewis, and Fletcher. They resided for a time in Dr. Glick’s home. They had planned to build a home on the corner of 9th Street and Main, but Nellie did not want to live “that far out in the country.” Ab Glick was a founding member of the Marshalltown High School Alumnus. He was also instrumental in bringing the Iowa Soldiers Home (Iowa Veterans Home) to Marshalltown. He was responsible for the financing that lead to Fisher Governor Company locating in town. The 1910 Census shows Frank and his family as residing at 511 E. Church Street.
Frank graduated MHS in the class of 1911. He then went to Iowa State for a year, but his father’s ill health called him back to Marshalltown. He was being trained to take over leadership of Glick Plumbing Supply from his uncle, T.C. Abbott who had been elected president of the National Retail Dealer’s Association. Frank left a lucrative position and went to serve his country and paid the supreme sacrifice.
Frank was later buried in the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery, just south of Belleau, France. His final resting place was just about a mile north of the Triangle farm site he had originally been interned. The cemetery is maintained by the American Battle Monuments Commission who maintains cemeteries for America’s war dead all over the world. In the 1920’s a caretaker to that cemetery told a visitor to Frank’s grave that of all the hundreds (2289) of Americans buried there, Frank’s was the most visited grave. In the early 1920’s, a group of World War One veterans formed an American Legion Post in Marshalltown. They named it in honor of Frank L. Glick, Marshalltown’s first son to die in combat in the Great War.(4)
(1) Soldiers of the Sea, the US Marine Corps, 1775-1962 by Col Robert Debs Heinl, Jr, USMC Ret. Page 192
(2) To the Limits of Endurance, A Battalion of Marines in the Great War by LtCol Peter F. Owen, USMC Ret. pages 15-16 (Note: Captain Garrett was promoted out of the company to the battalion staff.
(3) The World War I Memoirs of Gunnery Sergeant Don V. Paradis pages 40-41
(4) Marshalltown American Legion Post 0046 (Frank Lewis Glick) papers generously shared and printed in its entirety on this website.