Roy H. Busch
5th Marines, 47th Company
Before the War
Roy Headrick Busch was born to Jennette (Nettie) and Alchanie Busch in Low Moor, Virginia, in 1896. The small town of Low Moor, and the region around it, was primary a farming and mining community that would have exposed Busch to the physical realities of life. Busch, being the oldest of four children, including younger sisters, Atha, Ruby, and Garnett, would have likely worked hard with his father to be able to buy a house and farm of their own by 1910. By the time Busch enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps, he was employed as a farmer and presumably working near Cincinnati, Ohio.
In 1915, well before the United States entered the Great War, Busch applied for enlistment in the Marine Corps at Recruit Station, Cincinnati, Ohio. Due to his age, 19 (in 1915, a person had to be 21 to enlist), and being almost 15 pounds underweight, Busch had to return home to Low Moor in order for his mother to sign two waivers. On July 10, 1915, he reported to Recruit Depot, Marine Barracks, Navy Yard, Norfolk, Virginia. After Basic Training, Busch was assigned to the USS Louisiana as part of the Marine Detachment onboard.
On May 21, 1916, Busch boarded the USS Memphis, docked at Hampton Roads, Virginia, to travel to Monte Cristi, Dominican Republic. By June 1, Busch was taking part in the occupation of the Dominican Republic as part of what would come to be known as the Banana Wars. As part of his time in the Dominican Republic, Busch and his unit helped to place the city of San Francisco de Macoris under a military government. On May 25, 1917, Busch boarded the USS Charleston at Puerta Plata, Dominican Republic to sail to the Navy Yard in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Busch, along with his Unit, the 47th Company of the 5th Marines, boarded the USS Henderson on June 13, 1917. Two weeks later, on June 28, the Henderson reached Saint-Nazaire, France. Once there, the Marines of the 47th Company were assigned to the 2nd Infantry Division of the United States Army as part of the American Expeditionary Forces.
Much of the next year of Busch’s time in France was spent training with French and British veterans on the front. Busch was promoted to the rank of sergeant on June 1, 1918, the day the Battle of Belleau Wood began.
Battle of Belleau Wood
On the evening of June 1, 1918, German forces punched a hole in the French lines. To prevent a major German breakout and the fall of Paris, the American forces rushed forward to fill the gap. In the next few days, the Marines repelled wave after wave of German attacks with expert marksmanship and a tenacity that caught the Germans off guard.
With the German offensive stalled, the Marines prepared to move into Belleau Wood but would have to cross over a wheat field that left them exposed to heavy machine gun and artillery fire. The Marines suffered staggering losses but continued to fight. The next several weeks saw amazing artillery barrages, mustard gas attacks, and the slaughter of thousands of men on each side.
It was during the Battle of Belleau Wood, according to Marine lore, that the German troops took to referring to the Marines by their now famous nickname, the Teufel Hunde, or Devil Dog. By the end of operations, the Marines had pushed the German forces back and captured over 1,800 German troops, as well as the strategically important woods.
During the fighting on June 24, just two days before the battle ended, Busch was shot in his right shoulder, fracturing his scapula, in the vicinity of Chateau Thierry. Busch was sent to Base Hospital #34 at Nantes, France, where he struck up a friendship with a nurse who cared for him. Unfortunately, about a month and a half after being wounded, Busch contracted pneumonia and died of complications on August 16, 1918.
After Busch’s death, he was originally buried at American Cemetery #88, close to Base Hospital #34 in Nantes. According to records, his grave was originally marked with only a bottle. After the war, he was moved to Oise-Aisne American Cemetery which was a temporary cemetery for the Aisne-Marne offensive. Busch’s parents decided to leave his body overseas if the cemetery, and his grave, would be properly tended. Busch’s final resting place is in Plot C, Row 16, Grave 32.
Sometime after the war, the nurse with whom Busch had become friends at Base Hospital #34, visited his family in Virginia. Though little of the nurse is known, her visit speaks volumes to Busch’s character.
With the passage of the Gold Star Mothers Pilgrimage in 1929, Busch’s mother, Nettie, made plans to visit the final resting place of her son, along with his brothers in arms in France. Unfortunately, before the trip could take place, she died in 1931. Alchaney, Busch’s father, asked the U.S. government if he could take his wife's place and make the trip to say a final goodbye to his son but his request was denied.
2nd Division; Records of the American Expeditionary Forces (World War I), Records of Combat Divisions, 1913- 1939, Record Group 120 (Boxes 51-54); National Archives at College Park, College Park, MD.
Busch Family Photographs. Courtesy of Ancestry.
Disembarkation at French port of 5th Regt. Marines- June 1917.... Photograph. June 1917. National Archives and Records Administration (111-SC-002136). Image.
Marines Gas Mask Training France ca 1917.... Photograph. 1917. National Archives and Records Administration (111-SC-002140). Image.
Roy Headrick Busch, Official Military Personnel File, Department of the Navy. U.S. Marine Corps, Record of the U.S. Marine Corps, RG 127, National Archives and Records Administration - St. Louis.
Roy Headrick Busch World War I Burial Case File and VA Master Index Card; Correspondence, Reports, Telegrams, Applications and Other Papers relating to Burials of Service Personnel, Records of the Quartermaster General’s Office, 1915-1935, Record Group 92; National Archives and Records Administration - St. Louis.