BELLEAU, France (5/28/2012) - Towered by a Romanesque chapel and
flanked by 2,289 epithets of the fallen, U.S. Marines and citizens,
along with French troops and locals of the town of Belleau, gather
to honor the fallen at Aisne-Marne American Memorial Cemetery, May
27.The event was broadcasted live on American Forces Network and had
more than 4,000 in attendance.
May 27, 2012 - As the Marine Drum and Bugle Corps performs in
Aisne-Marne Memorial Cemetery, American Marines, to include the
assistant commandant of the Marine Corps, and citizens as well as
French soldiers and locals, including the mayor of the town of
Belleau, Monique Benier, look on as they celebrate Memorial Day on
the sacred ground of Belleau Wood. The ceremony marked the 94th
anniversary of the battle and embodied the legacy Belleau Wood has
given to the Marine Corps and the brotherhood that unites an
American-French friendship that has lasted from before the fields of
World War I to the current operations in Afghanistan and was
attended by Marines from commands all over Europe and the United
States, to include: members of the 5th Marine Regiment, Fleet
Anti-Terrorism Security Team, and Marine Forces Europe. Photo by
USMC Cpl. Tatum Vayavananda
The ceremony marked the 94th anniversary of the battle
and embodied the legacy Belleau Wood has given to the Marine
Corps and the brotherhood that unites an American-French
friendship that has lasted from before World War I to
current-day contingency operations.
has also come to symbolize the commitment of the American
and French people to the shared ideals of liberty and
justice,” said Gen. Joseph Dunford, the Assistant Commandant
of the Marine Corps.
“This morning, we remember that we were
should-to-shoulder defending those high ideals here at
Belleau Wood; just as we were at Yorktown and just as we are
in Afghanistan today.”
Though seldom mentioned in
traditional history texts, Belleau Wood holds an endearing
place in the hearts of all Marines.
Belleau Wood is a
200-acre forest located by the Marne River, approximately 90
kilometers north of Paris; a morsel of French territory that
was contended for by the opposing German forces due to its
strategic location. For the Germans, stopping the
newly-arrived American troops would have been both a
strategic and demoralizing victory over the Allied forces.
The Battle for Belleau Wood was fought June 1-26 of
1918; it was the first time the Marine Corps was given its
trial-by-fire to prove to the world that it was more than
just a simple naval infantry. On June 6th, 1918, the Marine
Corps saw more losses on a single day than its past 143
years of existence. However, that was not enough for the
Marines to retreat.
After weeks of heavy
back-and-forth battling between the Allies and Germans,
often resulting in the use of bayonets and hand-to-hand
combat, on June 26, the 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines attacked
Belleau Wood and cleared the forest of the opposition,
ending one of the most ferocious battles the U.S. would
fight during the war.
“Today, Belleau Wood is a
spiritual touchstone; its name has become synonymous with
the intangible traditions of our Corps,” added Dunford.
Backing up the Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps
were Marines and Sailors from commands throughout Europe and
the United States, including members of the 5th Marine
Regiment from Camp Pendleton, Calif., Fleet Anti-Terrorism
Security Team out of Rota, Spain, and Marine Forces Europe
from Stuttgart, Germany.
Performances by local school
children and the French Military band were followed by
French and American invocations ,then speeches by Dunford
and Gen. Jean-Jacques Poch, Commandant of the North French
Wreathes were then laid to honor the
fallen, followed by taps, and the raising of the national
American and French colors from half to full-staff. The
finale included performances by the French Army band, the
U.S. Marine Drum and Bugle Corps, and the Silent Drill
Platoon of Marine Barracks Washington, D.C.
an amazing experience and it's amazing that we took part in
a remembrance ceremony to honor Memorial Day,” said Sgt.
Joseph W. Wooden, a squad leader with Charlie Company, 1st
Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment.
The 5th and 6th
Marine Regiments are the only Marine units authorized to
wear the French fourrag�re. These units were awarded the
right to wear the decoration on their left shoulder as a
result of being the only regiments in the American
Expeditionary Force to receive the Croix de Guerre, an award
for distinction in combat with the enemy, three times during
the First World War.
“It's our history and lineage
and it's important that we all take time on this day to
remember the ones that came before us and shaped the way we
are today,” said Wooden, a Santa Ana, Calif., native.
Keeping with Memorial Day traditions, miniature American
and French flags flew on each of the 2,039 known-buried, and
250 unknown whose remains are buried not identified, graves
in the 42.5-acre cemetery. Inscribed in the Romanesque-style
memorial chapel is a list of 1,060 names to remember the
“94 years after the terrible fighting which
united them in blood, American Marines and French soldiers
find themselves once more at Belleau Wood to celebrate,
through their unfailing brotherhood of arms, the powerful
bonds of friendship which exists between our two countries,”
“Their sacrifice will always inspire the
brotherhood which unites our two nations aiming at the same
fate... To promote and to defend the values of liberty which
The Memorial Day celebration is an annual
event that is hosted by the American Battle Monuments
Commission at Aisne-Marne American Memorial Cemetery. The
ABMC is the guardian of America's overseas commemorative
cemeteries and memorials that honor the service,
achievements and sacrifices of the U.S. Armed Forces.
“It is not enough to pause and mark the graves here with
flags and wreaths,” Dunford added.
“If we truly want
to honor those who fought and died here, each American and
French citizen will leave here with renewed commitment to
our nations and the values for which they stand. Each of us
will leave here determined to serve our nation and our
community in honor of those who have given their all.”
By USMC Cpl. Tatum Vayavananda
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