Monthly Archives: June 2018
The titles given to this war says much about the people at that time. The first two titles are pre-World War Two. There is nothing great about any war. Wars happen because of the failures of politicians. The failures of politicians decide when wars begin and end. As General Patton once said, politicians always pull us up short and leave us with another war to fight. World War Two gave us over 45 years of Cold War. A war that was not cold and brought us to the brink of world wide nuclear war on more than one occasion.
World War One was seeded forty years earlier at the end of the Franco Prussian War. The French were dealt with so severely at the end of that war it made another French German war inevitable. Just as the Germans were dealt with so severely at the end of World War One that it made another war inevitable.
There is nothing honorable or glorious about war, despite what politicians say when they are trying to start one.
General George S. Patton was a man of action, in war and peace. Whether he was commanding Third Army racing across France toward Berlin or the occupational governor of Bavaria after the war. I admire him for that. But when it comes to war the general and I are polar opposites. He loved war, I detest war.
The largest number of casualties in any war are civilians not military. I say civilians and not innocent civilians, because they are the ones who supported the politicians while they beat their war drums. They supported, cheered for, and even demanded war in some instances. They sent their children to fight the war, and when the war came to their neighborhood they either ran or fought back as best they could. No one is innocent when war comes, we all have blood on our hands.
By 1918 Germany had defeated Russia. Germany quickly moved all the armies on the eastern front to the western front and planned an all out battle designed to take Paris, defeat the allies, and end the war before the United States could get her soldiers on the field of battle. Germany failed at all three objectives.
The Battle of Belleau Wood was not an isolated battle. It was part of the offensive Germany initiated along the entire western front, from the sea in Belgium south across all of France to its southern borders.
The American forces had arrived in France more than six weeks before this offensive began. The marines were the first to arrive. The French had been training the Americans for combat since their arrival, and thought very poorly of their ability to fight.
Next week we will discuss the Battle of Belleau Wood itself. You will hear the officers memorable words. You will hear the machine guns.
You will see the courage of the young boys in arms and hear their crys. You will see the scary, impossible goal at the beginning of the battle, and watch these boys as they will accomplish it. In some cases you will watch as the legends of Belleau Wood happen. In some cases you will watch as legends dissolve into myth. You will be there.
But between now and then I want you to do something first. I want you to find a photograph of a young person killed in war, preferably from World War One (a member of your own family if you can).
As we read next week’s article I want you to have that photograph with you. I want you to think about that young person while we watch the Battle of Belleau Wood.
That young person made mistakes and had triumphs in such a short life. They had dreams, aspirations, and goals for a future that never happened. They never got to guide their children into adulthood and know the joys of grandchildren.
That young person died so young that they left few to remember and mourn them. In most cases only parents.
Robert E. Goodykoontz left behind a mother and a brother who mourned his loss for the rest of their lives. He left behind no one of his own. No one to remember his smile or the sound of his laugh, no wife, no children. There is not even a photograph of Bob to show he really lived. All that is left is a cold marble stone in a foreign land to mark his grave and a few short words on the web stating his regiment, division, and place of death.
The only thing left was the grief in the eyes of his younger brother. A grief that persisted for over half a century.
War is not honorable, war is not glorious, war is a thief. Next week we will watch the thief at his worst.
Part three “The Battle of Belleau Wood”
Weekly Ides? Yup Weekly Ides. The word ides comes from the Romans and means half. Wednesday is the halfway point of the week. “I Hope You Get to Live Like…”
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”