Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Not Just Another Day


[[ Losses heavy. Difficult to get runners through. Some have never returned. Morale excellent, but troops about all in. Men exhausted. ]]

6 June 1918 was the day that forever changed the face and heart of the United States Marine Corps. This was the day that saw the beginning of the Battle of Belleau Wood in World War I.

If you are not familiar with this battle, you should take the time to look into it just a bit. I'll give you a few highlights... starting with the darkest one: on 6 June 1918, the U.S. Marine Corps suffered more casualties than it had in the entire 143 years of its existence up to that point.

Those Marines fought... oh, Lord, how they fought. Even though the French had other suggestions for us. From the USMC web site:

[[ As American forces arrived on the scene, Captain Lloyd Williams of 2nd Battalion, 5th Marines Regiment was told by the retreating French army that turning back was the best course of action. He declined, giving the now-famous reply, "Retreat, hell! We just got here!" ]]

As the battle raged, our legendary marksmanship training paid off:

[[ With little to no cover, Marines maneuvered through an 800-yard wide-open wheat field, trying to reach the heavily entrenched German soldiers. The Marines began their advance with unwavering courage and the use of precision long-distance marksmanship. According to Gilles Lagin, a Belleau Wood historian, the Germans were familiar with British snipers, but the Marines’ ability to hit a target from more than 500 yards away stunned them so badly they believed there was an entire regiment of Marine snipers attacking. ]]

Here's part of the account given by Navy Secretary Josephus Daniels:

[[ In Belleau Wood the fighting had been literally from tree to tree, stronghold to stronghold; and it was a fight which must last for weeks before its accomplishment in victory.

Belleau Wood was a jungle, its every rocky formation containing a German machine-gun nest, almost impossible to reach by artillery or grenade fire. There was only one way to wipe out these nests - by the bayonet. And by this method were they wiped out, for United States marines, bare-chested, shouting their battle cry of "E-e-e-e-e y-a-a-hh-h yip!" charged straight into the murderous fire from those guns, and won!

Out of the number that charged, in more than one instance, only one would reach the stronghold. There, with his bayonet as his only weapon, he would either kill or capture the defenders of the nest, and then swinging the gun about in its position, turn it against the remaining German positions in the forest.

Such was the character of the fighting in Belleau Wood; fighting which continued until July 6th, when after a short relief the invincible Americans finally were taken back to the rest billet for recuperation.

In all the history of the Marine Corps there is no such battle as that one in Belleau Wood. Fighting day and night without relief, without sleep, often without water, and for days without hot rations, the marines met and defeated the best divisions that Germany could throw into the line.

One more thing about Belleau Wood... it is the battle where Marines earned the nickname "Devil Dogs." A captured diary from a German officer stated that the "American Marines fight like tuefel hunden (devil dogs)."

God bless the souls and hearts of those men... I will never forget them and I will do my level best to help others remember them.

Semper Fi, Marines!




Anonymous Anonymous said...

Semper Fi Marines!! OOO_RAH!!!

6/6/07 09:07  
Anonymous Mike said...

We will not forget. Thanks Gunny!

6/6/07 11:54  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Green Fouragere was awarded to the Regiment I was in by the French for the units' actions in the Battle of Belleau Wood.
When you are an active member of the 6th Marines Regiment you wear it on your uniform.

Semper Fi.

3rd Battalion 6th Marines is an infantry battalion in the United States Marine Corps based out of Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. Also known as "Teufelhunden",
" Devil Dogs " because the Germans said they fought like dogs possessed by the DEVIL;
it consists of approximately 1000 Marines and Sailors. They fall under the 6th Marine Regiment and the 2nd Marine Division.
Semper Fi.

7/6/07 16:04  

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