BATTLE OF BELLEAU WOOD – WWI
1–26 June 1918
The first large-scale American battle of WWI was the Battle of Belleau Wood. Two U.S. Army Divisions, a Marine Brigade, along with French and British troops, went on the offensive and repelled elements from 5 German Divisions from their defensive positions in the French woods near the Marne River after 26 days of battle. This was one of only 2 times in U.S. history that Marines were under the command of an Army officer.
After the Russian surrender on the Eastern Front, 50 German Divisions became combat ready to participate in the Spring Offensive on the Western Front. German forces pushed towards Paris and were met at the Marne River by the U.S. Army’s 3rd Division at Château-Thierry, France. German troops then maneuvered about 11 kilometers northwest to Belleau Wood – approximately 88 kilometers from the French capital.
Belleau Wood near the Marne River, France
2nd INFANTRY DIVISION
4th MARINE BRIGADE
3rd INFANTRY DIVISION
General John “Black Jack” Pershing
Major General Omar Bundy (2nd Division)
Brigadier General James Harbord (4th Marines)
Major General Joseph T. Dickman (3rd Division)
Crown Prinz Wilhelm
General Richard von Conta
A military victory for the Allies
U.S. forces suffered 1,811 killed in action and 7,966 wounded. German forces suffered unknown casualties with 1,600 taken prisoner of war. The Germans repelled the Allied offensive 6 times and held their position for 26 days before retreating. Gen. Pershing said that the battle was the largest battle for U.S. forces since the Battle of Appomattox in the American Civil War. After the war, the French renamed Belleau Wood “”Bois de la Brigade de Marine” (“Wood of the Marine Brigade”) in honor of the U.S. Marines who fought there.
Dramatic cinematographic reenactment of the Battle of Belleau Wood
Documentary with actual footage of the battle