Primary Documents - French Government Citation on the Battle of Belleau Wood, 8 December 1918
Comprising two related actions, firstly at Chateau-Thierry from 3-4 June and then at Belleau Wood itself from 6-26 June, the Battle of Belleau Wood saw the recapture by U.S. forces of the wood on the Metz-Paris road taken at the end of May by German Seventh Army forces arriving at the Marne River around Chateau-Thierry and held by four divisions as part of the German Aisne offensive.
Chateau-Thierry formed the tip of the German advance towards Paris, some 50 miles south-west. Defended by U.S. Second and Third Divisions dispatched at the behest of the French by AEF Commander-in-Chief John J. Pershing, the Americans launched a counter-attack on 3-4 June with the assistance of the French Tenth Colonial Division; together they succeeded in pushing the Germans back across the Marne.
Buoyed by success at Cantigny and now at Chateau-Thierry, General Bundy's Second Division forces followed up success at Chateau-Thierry two days later with the difficult exercise of capturing Belleau Wood. Casualties proved very heavy.
Stubbornly defended by the Germans, the wood was first taken by the Marines (and Third Infantry Brigade), then ceded back to the Germans - and again taken by the U.S. forces a total of six times before the Germans were finally expelled.
Reproduced below is the text of an official French citation honouring the U.S. effort at Belleau Wood, issued on 8 December 1918.
Click here to read Pershing's account of fighting at Belleau Wood. Click here to read an official French military report based on early fighting during the battle. Click here to read a British press dispatch summarising the Americans' success in defending Chateau-Thierry at the start of June. Click here to read the text of U.S. Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniel's account of the battle.
French Government Citation in Honour of 4th American Brigade, 8 December 1918
Issued December 8, 1918, in honour of the 4th American Brigade, fighting at Belleau Wood. This brigade consisted of two regiments of Marines, and a Machine-Gun battalion from the "Regulars" of the U.S.A.
During these operations [of early June], thanks to the brilliant courage, vigour, dash, and tenacity of its men, who refused to be disheartened by fatigue or losses; thanks to the activity and energy of the officers, and thanks to the personal action of Brig. Gen. Harbord, the efforts of the brigade were crowned with success, realizing after twelve days of incessant struggle an important advance over the most difficult of terrain and the capture of two support points of the highest importance, Bouresches village and the fortified wood of Belleau.
Source: Source Records of the Great War, Vol. VI, ed. Charles F. Horne, National Alumni 1923
A "conchie" was slang used to refer to a conscientious objector.
- Did you know?