Skip to Content
Register · Login
About Theme

A Letterboxing Community

Search Edit Search

Read Thread: 100 Years ago - The Forgotten Fight of the Belleau (Bell-ow)

100 Years ago - The Forgotten Fight of the Belleau Wood
Board: History is Alive
Nov 10, 2018 9:16pm
Board
In late May 1918, the German Army broke through the French army's line northeast of Paris. Germany's goal was to take Paris before the Americans were in full fighting condition and to force the French & English to capitulate. The Germans were not going to have their way.

On June 1, about 7500 US Marines, along with US Army and French troops were sent to plug the gap. The Marines had just taken their position when orders from the French High Command came in telling them to retreat and dig a new line of defensive trenches in the rear. Marine General James Harbord, countermanded the French "desires", and ordered the Marines to "hold where they stand". With bayonets, the Marines dug shallow fighting positions from which they could fight from the prone position.

This began the month-long Battle of Belleau (Bell-ow) Wood. It was an old hunting preserve of forest with densely overgrown brush and vines. The area had hills and gullies; it was a perfect location for the Germans to fortify... and they did. They had dozens of machine gun nests and artillery support. In addition, the area was surrounded by wheat fields, so any attack would have to cross a quarter mile of open ground before they reached the tree-line.

At this point in the war, nobody but the Americans would consider taking such a position. The Marine commander was determined, so that was that. The Germans soon learned that these American Marines were different from anyone they had previously encountered. Later a German private, whose company had 30 men left out of 120, wrote, "We had Americans opposite us who are terribly reckless fellows." An official German report classified the Marines as "vigorous, self-confident, and remarkable marksmen". The American commander of US forces, Major General John Pershing, said, "The deadliest weapon in the world is a United States Marine and his rifle."

The Marines would either succeed or die. Over and over they charged and overran machine gun nests at a horrendous cost. A 44-year-old Marine sergeant, Dan Daly, who already had two Medals of Honor from earlier conflicts, is said to have yelled to the men, “Come on, you SOBs, do you want to live forever?”

These "reckless" Americans broke the morale of the German Soldier, and at the same time their French alias were instilled with a new vigor. American Marine Battalion Commander, Frederick Wise later wrote:

"Though everywhere I could see Marines who had been killed by machine guns and snipers, though there were plenty of dead Germans killed by rifle fire, nowhere was there any sign that the Germans had stood face to face with Marines at close quarters and fought it out.

On May 31st, I had in my unit nine hundred and sixty-five men and twenty six officers -- the best battalion I ever saw anywhere. I had taken them, raw recruits for the most. Ten months I had trained them. I had seen them grow into Marines. Now [28 days later] before me stood three hundred and fifty men and six officers."


May 31, 1918 marked the high tide of the German offensive. Soon after, the German Army was in full retreat with the English, French and American armies snapping at their heels. Four and a half montha later, on November 11th, an armistice was declared, and the fighting stopped... but the war was NOT over.

After the Marines had taken the Belleau Wood, the French 6th Army issued a proclamation that changed the name to Bois de la Brigade de Marine - Woods of the Marine Brigade.

This mostly forgotten Marine endeavor far exceeds the contribution the Marines made at the Halls of Montezuma... to be continued.
Re: 100 Years ago - The Forgotten Fight of the Belleau Wood
Board: History is Alive
Reply to: #968185 by DoubleSaj and Old Blue
Nov 11, 2018 9:11am
Board
Thank you for sharing!
Re: 100 Years ago - The Forgotten Fight of the Belleau Wood
Board: History is Alive
Reply to: #968185 by DoubleSaj and Old Blue
Nov 11, 2018 9:04pm
Board
The Lost Battalion is the name given to the nine companies of the United States 77th Division, roughly 554 men, isolated by German forces during World War I after an American attack in the Argonne Forest in October 1918. Commanded by Major Charles White Whittlesey a Lawyer from NY. Most of his men were from New York City. During the October Muse-Arregone battle, Maj. Whittlesay was ordered to take the high ground with an American regiment on his left flank and a French on his right. His commanding General Ordering him to Advance and do not retreat. Both of the flanking units were stalled in their advance and were ordered to retreat, only Maj. Whittlesay's unit managed to make it to the high ground. They did not know of the other units not advancing, nor did he know he was surrounded at first. His troops mostly made up of the working poor from every Ghetto of NY. Many of them learning of the bigger world, did not want to just go back to pushing carts, but had hope for something more. A lieutenant from the American forces was captured and was interrogated by the german military. Specifically why they were not surrendering or taking the opportunity to retreat to their lines. The lieutenant plainly spoke to the german officer that the US Army cleared out every Ghetto from NY finding every Gangster they could, Gave them a riffle and then something they never had. Hope, for a better future. The German military had been fighting a Gentleman's War with the French and British, all this time. You take some ground, you give some up, you surrender when surrounded, you retreat, to try again. The Americans fighting over there, were reclass as it was put. Why retreat when you just fought so hard to get the land you got, why surrender, I can still fight. Specifically in the case of Bellue Woods, one infamous quote from a marine officer after being ordered to retreat " Retreat, Hell we just got here"
Re: 100 Years ago - The Forgotten Fight of the Belleau Wood
Board: History is Alive
Reply to: #968218 by StasiaBoo
Nov 12, 2018 8:30am
Board
I think the attitude of, "Hell we just got here" was prevalent among the Americans.

Interesting story, great post!

Old Blue