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Belleau Wood, Battle of

BELLEAU WOOD, BATTLE OF

BELLEAU WOOD, BATTLE OF. The German Seventh Army, under General Max von Boehn, driving southward from the Chemin des Dames toward Paris on 31 May 1918, approached the Marne at Château-Thierry. To the west, the American Second Division, under the command of Major General Omar Bundy, hastened in support of the French Twenty-first Corps, the left corps of the French Sixth Army. Forcing back minor French units, by 3 June the Germans uncovered the American front line, which stood fast and stopped them. On 6 June the Americans assumed the offensive. Against bitter resistance the Fourth Marine Brigade, commanded by Brigadier General James Harbord, recaptured Bouresches and the southern edge of Belleau Wood, while on its right the Third Infantry Brigade advanced nearly to Vaux.

Continuing their local offensive, the Americans took most of Belleau Wood on 8–11 June, and despite desperate counterattacks completed its capture on 21 June. On 1 July, following an intense artillery preparation, the Third Infantry Brigade stormed Vaux and La Roche Wood. The division front, everywhere established on favorable ground, was turned over to the American Twenty-sixth Division on 9 July, the Second Division retiring to a support position.

American losses were severe—nearly eight thousand killed, wounded, or missing. Approximately sixteen hundred German prisoners were taken. In 1923 the site was made a permanent memorial to the Americans who died during the battle, and by order of the French government the site was renamed Bois de la Brigade Marine.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Asprey, Robert B. At Belleau Wood. New York: Putnam, 1965.

Mackin, Elton E. "Suddenly We Didn't Want to Die." Novato, Calif.: Presidio Press, 1993.

Joseph MillsHanson/a. r.

See alsoAisne-Marne Operation ; Champagne-Marne Operation ; Château-Thierry Bridge, Americans at .

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Belleau Wood, Battle of

Belleau Wood, Battle of (1918).Belleau Wood was a significant U.S. action of World War I, attack by a Marine brigade of the U.S. Second Division in woods west of Château Thierry, France. Having participated in stopping the German offensive on the Marne River, the Marines were eager to attack. The brigade was tasked to clear the woods and retake the nearby town of Boursches. Beginning on 6 June and attacking in linear formations, with poor artillery fire support coordination, the Marines immediately began taking heavy casualties; they then shifted to short rushes by small groups, engaging in hand‐to‐hand fighting in a maze of woods, and heavy undergrowth. Several German counterattacks were beaten off, and the Marines advanced into raking machine‐gun fire and well‐adjusted artillery. “Come on, you sonsabitches, do you want to live forever?” shouted Sgt. Dan Daly, leading his Marines into the woods—and into U.S. Marine Corps history. The Americans finally cleared the woods on 26 June, as much by courage and determination as by fighting skill. It was a bloody fight, the bloodiest in Marine Corps history to that date. The Marines suffered 5,200 casualties, more than half their strength. But they gained the respect of the Allies and the Germans.
[See also Marne, Second Battle of the; World War I: Military and Diplomatic Course.]

Bibliography

Robert B. Asprey , At Belleau Wood, 1965.
John Toland , No Man's Land, 1980.

Paul F. Braim

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