A monument depicting a Marine is located in the center of Belleau Wood.

Belleau Wood

Overview

Belleau Wood is located on the high ground to the rear of Aisne-Marne American Cemetery south of the village of Belleau (Aisne), France. In the center of the road leading through the woods is a flagpole and a monument commemorating the valor of the U.S. Marines who captured this area in 1918.

It commemorates the actions of the 4th Marine Brigade of the U.S. Army’s 2nd Division. The 2nd Division attacked German positions beginning on June 6, 1918. The 4th Marine Brigade liberated Bouresches that day. Its 5th and 6th Marine Regiments fought in Belleau Wood through most of June 1918.

Their gallant actions resulted in the Battle of Belleau Wood ending on June 26. On June 30, 1918, the Commanding General, French 6th Army, officially renamed Belleau Wood as “Wood of the Marine Brigade.”

The 2nd Division sustained casualties of 8,100 officers and men during the intense fighting in this vicinity during June 1918. Vestiges of trenches, shell holes, and relics of the war to include weapons found in the vicinity, may be seen near the Marine monument, which was erected by the U.S. Marine Corps.

 

Location
France

Cemetery Information

Visiting Hours

Belleau Wood is located on the high ground to the rear of the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery. It is open daily from sunrise to sunset.

Contact Us

Belleau Wood is managed and maintained by staff at Aisne-Marne American Cemetery. Please direct queries about Belleau Wood to the cemetery.

Aisne-Marne American Cemetery
Cimetière Américain
02400
Belleau
France
tel +33 (0)3 23 70 70 90

History

June 2, 1918: The 2nd Division troops arrived to cover a front from northwest of Hill 142, overlooking Belleau Wood, through the Marine 5th Regiment’s positions . At midnight, the division was ordered by their French corps commander to hold their line at all costs.

June 3-5: As French troops withdrew through the Marine 5th Regiment’s positions, a French officer suggested to Captain Lloyd Williams that the Marines should also retreat. Williams replied, “Retreat, hell! We just got here!” The German troops of the 461st Infantry Regiment strengthened their positions from Torcy north of Hill 142 through Belleau Wood and Bouresches with mortars, light artillery, and machine guns, and bombarded the Marine lines with high explosives, shrapnel, and poison gas. On June 4, the Germans attacked the Marine and Army units around Lucy-le-Bocage and Les Mares Farm, but were repulsed with heavy losses. On the 5th, both sides improved their positions and harassed each other with artillery fire.

June 6-9: The 2nd Division, with the French 167th Division on its left, attacked on a front from Hill 142 to Bouresches to the south of Belleau Wood. The Marines suffered heavy casualties as they advanced across a waist-high wheat field strewn with red poppies. During the fighting for Hill 142, Gunnery Sergeant Ernest Janson became the first Marine of the war to earn the Medal of Honor, and Sergeant Major Dan Daly led his men forward with the legendary cry, “Come on, you sons of bitches! Do you want to live forever?” Marines also attacked Bouresches and the south corner of Belleau Wood, again suffering heavy casualties. The Marine brigade suffered 1,087 killed and wounded, with more men killed in action in one day than the Marines had lost in their previous 143-year history. The Germans reported their enemy to be “Stubborn and not afraid of his losses....” Patrols and probing attacks continued through the night. On June 7-9, the Marines withdrew to the edge of the wood, preparing for a renewed assault.

June 10-17: On June 10, the Marines’ 6th Regiment attacked the southern half of Belleau Wood, taking back the area evacuated earlier, while the 5th Regiment attacked the north half from Lucy-le-Bocage. In the broken terrain and confusion of battle, bypassed German units and infiltrators attacked from behind. By June 11, after much close quarter fighting, the Germans retained control of the northern half of the wood. On June 13, the Germans attacked the east side of Belleau Wood and Bouresches, but were thrown back. During this fighting, Gunnery Sergeant Fred Stockham put his gas mask on a wounded man and later died from the effects of gas himself; he posthumously received the Medal of Honor. On June 16 and 17, exhausted companies of Marines were rotated out of the line and replaced with Army troops from the 7th Infantry Regiment and 7th Machine Gun Battalion, 3rd Division. Throughout this period both sides shelled their enemies with explosives and gas, including attacks of mustard gas that inflicted chemical burns as it clung to the men’s skin and clothing.

June 22-26: Between June 22 and 24, U.S. Army machine gun battalions, units of the Marines’ 5th and 6th Regiments, and the 6th Machine Gun Battalion returned to Belleau Wood. After a day-long artillery barrage on June 25th, the Army and Marine machine gunners attacked. Fighting well into the evening, they took the northern end of the woods and captured over 500 Germans. German counterattacks on the 26th were repulsed and Belleau Wood was firmly in Allied hands.

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