At the end of the day scores of Marines lay dead. It was June 6th….just not the June 6th you were expecting.
A couple of decades ago while on one of my frequent jaunts hitchhiking trips across the United States I came into a small Dakota town, grabbed lunch at a typical mom and pop general store and sat down to eat in the shade of the town square. Next to me was a small monument dedicated to all the county dead from ‘The Great War’ as it was called at the time. Later to be known as the First World War (after we experienced a second round of slaughter).
What caught my eye was not the list of 35-40 names engraved on the front, it was that 1/2 were listed as dying in some strange place named Belleau Wood . Later I learned that it was at The Battle of Belleau Wood on June 6, 1918 that the US Marines suffered the deadliest day in their history…..1,087 dead.
Having suffered heavy casualties, the Germans dug in along a defensive line from Hill 204, just east of Vaux, to Le Thiolet on the Paris-Metz Highway and northward through Belleau Wood After Marines were repeatedly urged to turn back by retreating French forces, Marine Captain Lloyd W. Williams of the 2nd Battalion, 5th Marines uttered the words that were to pass into legend among the Corps “Retreat? Hell, we just got here.”
It was also the Germans first encounter with the US Marines who fought with such ferocity that the Huns later called them Tuefel Hunden….Devil Dogs.
The date June 6th will primarily be remembered for the action which took place 26 years later on the beaches of Normandy. Many others will reflect upon D-Day, so it’s only fitting to take a second to recall what the Devil Dogs did in the hills of France in 1918.