“Retreat, hell! We just got here”

The Battle of Belleau Wood began on this day in 1918. It’s the battle a lot of Americans know to be “the one with the wheat field.”

There was a wheat field, but more important, there was a wood full of German machine gunners.

The advancing Germans, in the last push of their third offensive, were about 50 miles east of Paris when they met American Marines at Belleau Wood. The terrible fighting went on till June 26, when the Marines officially held the woods.

From an account by Col. Frederick May Wise, commander of the 2nd Battalion of the 5th Marines at Belleau Wood.

 “At the battle’s end … I lined the men up and looked them over. It was enough to break your heart. I had left Courcelles May 31st with 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 before me stood three hundred and fifty men and six officers. Six hundred and fifteen men and nineteen officers were gone.”

The famous quote, by the way, comes from Capt. Lloyd Williams, who was killed in the fighting.

Here’s a link to a description of the battle, which was a confused mess: http://www.worldwar1.com/dbc/ct_bw.htm

(The Great War Society is now part of the WW1HA.)

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