Wednesday, 26th April 2006 by Alex Turnbull
1918, the height of the first world war and German forces have pushed far into France, coming dangerously close to the French capital. The Battle of Belleau Wood occurred near the Marne River between June 1st and June 26th.
The battle was fought between a mainly US Allied force and a hodgepodge of German units, and is remembered because of both its extremely bloody nature and its close proximity to Paris. The Allies attempted to take the woods but were repeatedly forced back by artillery and machine gun fire. After retreating and re-taking the woods a total of six times the US Marines finally manged to force the German forces out. They’d fought off more than four divisions of Germans, often reduced to using only their bayonets or fists in close quarters combat. In order to rally his Marines, Gunnery Sergeant Dan Daly used the now famous phrase:
“Come on, you sons of bitches, do you want to live forever?”
The battle is now remembered by a cemetery on the edge of the woods which has 2,289 graves, 250 for unknown service members, and the names of 1,060 missing men on the wall of a memorial chapel. There is also a nearby German cemetery where 8,625 men are buried; 4,321 of them rest in a common grave in which 3,847 are unknown.
Hopefully memorials like these will stop such wastes of human life from happening in the future.