BATTLE OF BELLEAU WOOD IN WORLD WAR I
The Battle of Belleau Wood was a significant battle in World War I along the Western Front. This was the line of fighting that occurred along the trenches that stretched through Belgium and northern France. It was fought between the Allied nations of the United States, Britain and France against the Germany Army. Today, the Battle of Belleau Wood is remembered as a significant American battle and is of particular important in the history of the United States Marine Corps (USMC). For this reason, the Battle of Belleau Wood is important in the history of the United States in World War I.
The Battle of Belleau Wood occurred in June of 1918. More specifically, the Battle of Belleau Wood was fought from June 1st to the 26th in 1918. The battle occurred in Northern France near the Marne River, which was important in relation to the earlier First Battle of the Marne. During the Battle of Belleau Wood, American forces (2nd and 3rd divisions, which were led by Major General Omar Bundy) fought alongside British and French soldiers against five divisions of the German Army.
The Battle of Belleau Wood was part of the German Spring Offensives in 1918, which historians consider to be the final advance of the German troops in World War I. As such, the attack at Belleau Wood began on the evening of June 1st with a German assault on the Allied defenses. At first, the Germans were able to advance through the French line, but the American divisions quickly regrouped and setup defensive positions from which they waited for the Germans. For example, American soldiers dug small foxholes and sat in wait until the Germans were close. Then they opened fire, which forced the German soldiers to pull back into the woods and setup their own trenches. The ability of the American Marines to stop the German advance became legendary, since French forces in the region were expressing the need for the Allied to retreat. Instead, the Americans held their ground and stopped the German assault. In fact, it was at this time that Marine Captain Lloyd W. Williams of the 2nd Battalion, 5th Marines famously argued "Retreat? Hell, we just got here".
Following this, the American Marines, along with French soldiers, attacked the German defenses on June 6th. Referred to as the ‘Attack on Hill 142’, the Allied forces assaulted the German line but the German soldiers were able to use machine gun fire to hold back the attack. However, during the attack, American Gunnery Sergeant Ernest A. Janson, bravely stopped an advance of 12 German soldiers and protected other soldiers with him. For his actions, he received the Medal of Honor, and was the first American soldier of World War I to receive the prestigious honor.
Regardless, the American Marines were able to attack the Germans at Belleau Wood and gain a foothold in the region. As well, the American attack at Belleau Wood became an important symbol for the United States Marine Corps. For example, when the Americans began their attack, First Sergeant Dan Daly, announced the following to his men: "Come on, you sons of bitches. Do you want to live forever?"
The two sides went back and forth several times and each suffered heavy losses. However, the Americans and the other allies proved successful as they overwhelmed the German defenders with several waves of attack. For example, on June 26th, the 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines and supporting forces, finally pushed the Germans out of Belleau Wood. The Battle of Belleau Wood was over, and is remembered today as one of the bloodiest battles for the United States in all of World War I. In all, it is estimated that the Americans suffered over 7,900 casualties including over 1,800 deaths. Whereas, the Germans suffered over 10,000 casualties.
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