Marines: Happy 243rd Birthday! To commemorate not only the Birthday, but also all veterans’ service and the Centennial of Armistice Day tomorrow, please enjoy this excerpt from John W. Thomason’s Fix Bayonets, from the story “Battle Sight.” I think it’s an appropriate and succinct summary of the Corps’s essential role in bringing about victory in the Great War.
The Americans of the 2nd Division* were new troops, untried in war, regarded with uneasy hopefulness by the Allies. Their successes came when the allies very greatly needed a success; for not since 1914 had the Boche appeared so terrible as in this, the spring of 1918. For a space the world watched the Bois de Belleau uneasily, and then with pride and an awakened hope. Men saw in it, foreshadowed, Soissons, and the 8th of August, that Ludendorf was to call “the black day of the war,” and an event in a car on a railroad siding, in the misty November forest of Senlis.
* notably commanded by Brigadier General Charles A. Doyen, USMC, and Major General John A. Lejeune, USMC – the only time an army division was commanded by Marines
Charge your glasses and Toast Those Who Have Gone Before.
The Battle of Belleau Wood is just one of the Corps great moments. Also, this was the battle during which a couple of legendary phrases were uttered.
The French, who were in retreat (go figure) repeated told the Marines to withdraw from their position. The Marines commander responded, “Retreat? Hell, we just got here”.
Also, Sgt Dan Daly, who had already won two Medals of Honor, had to get his men across a wheat field and into the woods. That’s when he shouted, “Come on, you sons of bitches, do you want to live forever?” The casualties were bad but they took their position in the forest.
After this Battle General Pershing said, “The deadliest weapon in the world is a United States Marine and his rifle.”
It was after this Belleau Wood that the Germans simply called the Marines “Teufel Hunden… Devil Dogs”. (Teufelshunde)