Primary Documents - French Military Report on the Battle of Belleau Wood, 1 June 1918

Ruins at Belleau Wood 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 an official French military report based on early fighting during the battle.

Click here to read Pershing's account of fighting at Belleau Wood.  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 an official French citation honouring the U.S. effort at Belleau Wood, issued on 8 December 1918.  Click here to read the text of U.S. Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniel's account of the battle.

Official French Military Bulletin, 1 June 1918

American troops checked German advanced forces which were seeking to penetrate Neuilly Wood, and by a magnificent counter-attack hurled back the Germans north of this wood.

Further south the Germans were not able to make any gains.  On the Marne front an enemy battalion which had crept across to the left bank of the river above Jaulgonne was counter-attacked by French and American troops and hurled back to the other bank, after having suffered heavy losses.

A footbridge which the enemy used was destroyed and 100 prisoners remained in our hands.

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.

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