Hmmm, okay what do those things have in common? And, what do they have in common with the United States Marine Corp? None of them have ever been in the marines.
When you look at the history of the United States Marine Corp, there are three battles that “made the marines” what they are today. Iwo Jima, fought against the Japanese in Japan during World War Two, Chosen Reservoir fought against the Chinese and North Koreans during the Korean War, and Belleau Wood fought against the Germans in France during World War One.
My knowledge of the battle of Belleau Wood was what most people’s knowledge was (those who have actually heard of the battle that is). It was fought by two regiments of marines. Our allies (the French and British forces) on both sides of the US forces retreated leaving the Americans alone. Six times they attacked across an open wheat field. Beaten back five times. On the sixth try they took the woods and tenaciously held on, defeating the Germans, saving Paris, and were decorated by France for their achievement. They were so tenacious in the battle that the Germans nicknamed the Marine Corp “Devil Dogs”, and if you talk with any marine (particularly those serving in the 5th or 6th regiments) that is what you will learn.
Then I found out my grandfather’s older brother, Bob (Robert E. Goodykoontz), fought, died, and is buried at the battle site. And, he was not a marine. All those things and the fact that my grandfather was 13 years old when his brother was killed, just as my daughter is 13 years old at the 100th anniversary of the battle — well, I had to learn more.
Thanks to the knowledge of an official Marine Corp Historian I learned more than I could have imagined, including the myths, legends, and facts of the battle.
The Battle of Belleau Wood lasted from 1 June 1918 to 23 June 1918. Three weeks of intense fighting that stopped the last German offensive of World War One. For the next couple of weeks I will share what I have learned about the battle; the myth, the legend, and the men.
Just to give you a sneak peak of some of what is to come.
Those two marine regiments were not alone. They were attached to two Army divisions that also fought in that battle. The Army lost more men in the Battle of Belleau Wood (one of them my great-uncle) than the marines lost in the entire war.
I am not taking anything from the marines. Their courage, bravery, audacity, and tenacity does truly make this battle one of the finest hours of the United States Marine Corp.
So, join me for the next couple of weeks as we honor all the men who fought in that battle.
Part three “The Battle of Belleau Wood”