Join Date: July 24, 2011
Location: Saint Louis, Missouri
Re. Americans in WWI.
There is a reason the United States Marines earned the name "Devil Dogs" ....
Here's an interesting summary:
As the Marines dug in, a French officer suggested that they withdrawal. To this Captain Lloyd Williams of the 5th Marines famously replied, "Retreat? Hell, we just got here." Two days later elements of the German 347th Division from Army Group Crown Prince occupied the forest. With their attack at Chateau-Thierry stalling, the Germans launched a major assault on June 4. Supported by machine guns and artillery, the Marines were able to hold, effectively ending the German offensive in Aisne.
Marines Move Forward:
The following day, the commander of the French XXI Corps ordered Brigadier General James Harbord's 4th Marine Brigade to retake Belleau Wood. On the morning of June 6, the Marines advanced, capturing Hill 142 to the west of the wood. Twelve hours later, they frontally assaulted the forest itself. To do so, the Marines had to cross a wheat field under heavy German machine gun fire. With his men pinned down, Gunnery Sergeant Dan Daly called "Come on ya sons-of-bitches, ya want to live forever?" and got them on the move again. When night fell, only a small section of forest had been captured.
In addition to Hill 142 and the assault on the woods, the Marines attacked into Bouresches to the east. After taking most of the village, the Marines were forced to dig in against German counterattacks. All reinforcements trying to reach Bouresches had to cross a large open area and were subjected to heavy German fire. When night fell, the Marines had suffered 1,087 casualties making it the bloodiest day in the Corps' history to date.
Clearing the Forest:
On June 11, following a heavy artillery bombardment, the Marines pressed hard into Belleau Wood, capturing the southern two-thirds. Two days later, the Germans assaulted Bouresches after a massive gas attack and almost retook the village. With the Marines stretched thin, the US 23rd Infantry extended its line and took over the defense of Bouresches. On the 16th, citing exhaustion, Harbord requested that some of the Marines be relieved. His request was granted and three battalions of the US 7th Infantry moved into the forest. After five days of fruitless fighting, the Marines retook their position in the line.
On June 23, the Marines launched a major attack into the forest, but were unable to gain ground. Suffering staggering losses, they required over two hundred ambulances to carry the wounded. Two days later, Belleau Wood was subjected to a fourteen hour bombardment by French artillery. Attacking in the wake of the artillery, US forces were finally able to completely clear the forest. On June 26, after defeating some early morning German counterattacks, Major Maurice Shearer was finally able to send the signal, "Woods now entirely -US Marine Corps."
In the fighting around Belleau Wood, American forces suffered 1,811 killed and 7,966 wounded and missing. German casualties are unknown though 1,600 were captured. The Battle of Belleau Wood and the Battle of Chateau Thierry showed the United States' allies that it was fully committed fighting the war and was willing to do whatever was required to achieve victory. In recognition of their tenacious fighting and victory, the French awarded citations to those units that participated in the battle and renamed Belleau Wood "Bois de la Brigade Marine."
Belleau Wood also showed the Marine Corps flare for publicity. While the fighting was still going on, the Marines routinely circumvented the American Expeditionary Force's publicity offices to have their story told, while those of Army units engaged were ignored. Following the Battle of Belleau Wood, Marines began being referred to as "Devil Dogs." While many believed that this term was coined by the Germans, its actual origins are unclear. It is known that the Germans highly respected the Marines fighting ability and classified them as elite "storm troopers."