Last Wednesday , June 26, marked the 95th anniversary of the U.S. Marine Corps momentous “Battle of Belleau Wood”. Do you know about this epic clash? If not, you need to — it is an event central to the history and spirit of the United States Marine Corps.
I dare anyone with a pulse to read this account and not pop goose bumps …
95th Anniversary of the Battle of Belleau Wood: Looking Back on History/MarineParents.com, Inc.
Today, June 26, 2013, marks the 95th anniversary of the end of one of the most important and legendary battles in Marine Corps history–The Battle of Bois de Belleau, or Belleau Wood. This was a battle that exemplified the Marine Corps’ core values of honor, courage, and commitment. It was a battle that catapulted the Marine Corps to worldwide prominence. And it was a battle that helped turn the tide of “The Great War” (as WWI was then known) in favor of the Allies.
In June of 1914, the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria set in motion a series of events that would lead to the outbreak of World War I in August of that year. On one side were Germany, Austria-Hungary and the Ottoman Empire (commonly referred to as the Central Powers). On the other were Great Britain, France, Russia, Italy, and Japan (commonly referred to as the Allied Powers). After three years of neutrality, the United States entered the war on the side of the Allies in April of 1917.
Roughly a year after entering the war, the first major battle involving American troops took place in June of 1918 at Belleau Wood– a 200-acre forest near the commune of Chateau-Thierry, France, approximately 53 miles northeast of Paris.
The Battle of Belleau Wood began on June 6, 1918, and would prove to be one of the most ferocious battles fought by American troops during the war. The 5th and 6th Marine Regiments, under the command of the U.S. Army’s 2nd Division, were tasked with capturing Belleau Wood and clearing it of German soldiers.
To launch their assault on the forest, the Marines first had to cross a wheat field into oncoming German machine gun fire. Trying to cross the field proved to be an incredibly dangerous undertaking and over 1,000 Marines died on the first day of battle, more than the Corps had lost in it’s entire 143 year history up to that point.
After three weeks of brutal tree-to-tree fighting, including multiple charges on German machine gun nests with fixed bayonets and hand-to-hand combat, and after trading possession of the forest with the Germans six times, the Marines cleared Belleau Wood of the German Army entirely on June 26, at the cost of almost 2,000 Marines dead and almost 8,000 injured. The battle proved to be the end to the last major German offensive of the war, and less than six months later the war came to an end.
The Battle of Belleau Wood was a landmark event in Marine Corps history. Prior to the battle, the United States Marine Corps was a little known, unproven commodity. After three weeks of displaying the courage, determination, and win-at-all-costs attitude that has become synonymous with the Marine Corps in the years since, that all changed, and the Marines have since been known as–arguably–the most formidable fighting force in the world.