BELLEAU, France - The long wheat fields and dense forest of
Belleau Wood have deep roots in the history of the Marine Corps.
Each Marine from the day they enter recruit training learns of the
5th and 6th Marine Regiment's offensive in the heart of the French
countryside in June of 1918 during World War I. However, very few
Marines get the opportunity to see it in person.
Marines with the Wounded Warrior Regiment, the opportunity to view
the historic ground of Belleau became a reality during an annual
professional military education program designed by the regiment.
The program is aimed to instruct Marines on the legacy that Marines
have created in the past and the legacy they continue to uphold.
Ray Scherer, former Marine and tour guide, gives a history lesson on Belleau Wood to the Marines of the Wounded Warrior Regiment
on May 24, 2014. The Wounded Warrior Regiment conducted a professional military education program aimed to instruct Marines on the legacy that Marines have created in the past and the legacy they continue to uphold. Wounded Warrior Regiment provides and enables assistance to wounded, ill and injured Marines, sailors attached to or in support of Marine units, and their family members in order to assist them as they return to duty or transition to civilian life. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Wayne Edmiston)
Belleau Wood shares even deeper ties with many Marines of
the regiment because a large portion were injured serving
with the very same regiments in modern day conflicts in Iraq
or Afghanistan, said Col. Willard Buhl, commanding officer
of Wounded Warrior Regiment.
The Battle of Belleau
Wood was fought on 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.
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.
through this open field with wheat up to your knees,” said
Buhl. “The first and second wave didn't even make it across
and the parts of the third and the fourth finally broke the
The wheat field that Buhl described its
deeply seeded in Marine Corps lore. Sgt. Maj. Dan Daly,
two-time Medal of Honor Recipient, was said to inspire his
Marines across this field and nearby Gunnery Sgt. Ernest
Janson became the first Marine to receive the Medal of Honor
in World War I.
The tour began with a visit to the
Chateau-Thierry American Monument overlooking the Marne
River. At the monument, Marines began to learn about the
beginning of Marine Corps involvement in World War I.
“Our nation and our Marines were ready to go to war,”
explained Buhl. “Not a lot about Marines has changed because
Marines continue to be ready when the nation is least
After leaving Chateau-Thierry, the Marines of
regiment visited towns involved in the battle such as Lucy
Le Bocage and Bouresches.
The Marines then visited
Belleau Wood where fierce fighting took place for nearly a
month between the German Army and Marines. Many of the
fighting positions are still visible to this day.
“The first day you get into the Marine Corps you hear bout
Belleau Wood a lot,” said Lance Cpl. Justin Beer, a Marine
with the Wounded Warrior Regiment. “However, being here and
seeing it makes you feel like you are a part of it.”
After visiting the villages and Belleau Wood, they heard
stories of how the Marines operated during the battle and
proceeded to the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery where many
fallen Marines are still buried.
Many of the Marines
could not help to feel a deeper understanding of their
brothers in 1918 and what all Marines have in common.
“I think we share the same warrior spirit that makes us
look after our buddy to the left and the right of us,” said
Beer. “Being injured makes you appreciate things a lot more
and feel connected with the Marines who were here.”
By U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Wayne Edmiston
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