Yesterday - today - tomorrow in 1918 - - - Jun 7, 2018 6:32:04 GMT -7
Post by JustJohn or JJ on Jun 7, 2018 6:32:04 GMT -7
Battle for Belleau Wood: United States Marine Corps
MARINES ATTACK BELLEAU WOOD On the night of 4 June, the Intelligence Officer for the 6th Marines, Lieutenant William A. Eddy, and two men stole through German lines to gather information about German forces. They gathered valuable information showing the Germans were consolidating machine gun positions and bringing in artillery. While this activity indicated an attack was not immediately likely, their increasing strength was creating a base of attack that raised concern about breaking through to Paris.
At 17:00 on 6 June, the 3rd Battalion 5th Marines (3/5)—commanded by Major Benjamin S. Berry, and the 3rd Battalion 6th Marines (3/6)—commanded by Major Berton W. Sibley, on their right—advanced from the west into Belleau Wood as part of the second phase of the Allied offensive. Again, the Marines had to advance through a waist-high wheat field into deadly machine gun fire. One of the most famous quotations in Marine Corps history came during the initial step-off for the battle when Gunnery Sergeant Dan Daly, a recipient of two Medals of Honor who had served in the Philippines, Santo Domingo, Haiti, Peking and Vera Cruz, prompted his men of the 73rd Machine Gun Company forward with the words: "Come on, you sons of bitches, do you want to live forever?" The first waves of Marines—advancing in well-disciplined lines—were slaughtered; Major Berry was wounded in the forearm during the advance. On his right, the Marines of Major Sibley's 3/6 Battalion swept into the southern end of Belleau Wood and encountered heavy machine gun fire, sharpshooters and barbed wire. Marines and German infantrymen were soon engaged in heavy hand-to-hand fighting. The casualties sustained on this day were the highest in Marine corps history up to that time. Some 31 officers and 1,056 men of the Marine brigade were casualties. However, the Marines now had a foothold in Belleau Wood. FIGHTING IN BELLAU WOOD The battle was now deadlocked.
At midnight on 7–8 June, a German attack was stopped cold and an American counter-attack in the morning of 8 June was similarly defeated. Sibley's battalion—having sustained nearly 400 casualties—was relieved by the 1st Battalion, 6th Marines. Major Shearer took over the 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines for the wounded Berry.On 9 June, an enormous American and French barrage devastated Belleau Wood, turning the formerly attractive hunting preserve into a jungle of shattered trees. The Germans counter-fired into Lucy and Bouresches and reorganized their defenses inside Belleau Wood. In the morning of 10 June, Major Hughes' 1st Battalion, 6th Marines—together with elements of the 6th Machine Gun Battalion—attacked north into the wood. Although this attack initially seemed to be succeeding, it was also stopped by machine gun fire. The commander of the 6th Machine Gun Battalion—Major Cole—was mortally wounded. Captain Harlan Major—senior captain present with the battalion—took command. The Germans used great quantities of mustard gas.Next, Wise's 2nd Battalion, 5th Marines was ordered to attack the woods from the west, while Hughes continued his advance from the south.
At 04:00 on 11 June, Wise's men advanced through a thick morning mist towards Belleau Wood, supported by the 23rd and 77th companies of the 6th Machine Gun Battalion, and elements of the 2nd Battalion, 2nd Engineers and were cut to pieces by heavy fire. Platoons were isolated and destroyed by interlocked machine gun fire. It was discovered that the battalion had advanced in the wrong direction. Rather than moving northeast, they had moved directly across the wood's narrow waist. However, they smashed the German southern defensive lines.
A German private, whose company had 30 men left out of 120, wrote "We have Americans opposite us who are terribly reckless fellows. Overall, the woods were attacked by the Marines a total of six times before they could successfully expel the Germans. They fought off parts of five divisions of Germans, often reduced to using only their bayonets or fists in hand-to-hand combat. On 26 June, the 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines, under command of Major Maurice E. Shearer, supported by two companies of the 4th Machine Gun Battalion and the 15th Company of the 6th Machine Gun Battalion, made an attack on Belleau Wood, which finally cleared that forest of Germans. On that day, Major Shearer submitted a report simply stating, "Woods now U.S. Marine Corps entirely," ending one of the bloodiest and most ferocious battles U.S. forces would fight in the war.
AFTERMATH United States forces suffered 9,777 casualties, included 1,811 killed.(p32) Many are buried in the nearby Aisne-Marne American Cemetery. There is no clear information on the number of German soldiers killed, although 1,600 were taken prisoner.