The Battle of Belleau Wood occurred 100 years ago in June 1918 during World War I. The battlefield lays about five miles west of the town of Château-Thierry, barely fifty miles northeast of Paris, France.
Belleau Wood occupies a hallowed place in U.S. Marine Corps lore and history ingrained in the Marines’ collective consciousness from the first days of boot camp, during ceremonies, on walls in museums, and on pages of publications. Every marine proudly claims the “Devil dogs” moniker because of their ferocity in combat and the famous quotes from their comrades fighting in 1918 in the Battle of Belleau Wood: “Retreat, hell we just got here!” by Capt. Lloyd Williams, and “C’mon you sons-of-bitches, do you want to live forever?” by Gunnery Sgt. Dan Daley. United States forces suffered heavy casualties in the battle: 9,777, including 1,811 killed. Many are buried in the nearby Aisne-Marne American Cemetery. There is no clear information on the number of German soldiers killed, although 1,600 were taken prisoner. After the battle, the French renamed the wood "Bois de la Brigade de Marine" ("Wood of the Marine Brigade") in honor of the Marines' tenacity. The French government also later awarded the 4th Brigade the Croix de guerre. An official German report classified the Marines as "vigorous, self-confident, and remarkable marksmen. General Pershing—commander of the AEF—even said, "The deadliest weapon in the world is a United States Marine and his rifle.” Pershing also said "the Battle of Belleau Wood was for the U.S. the biggest battle since Appomattox and the most considerable engagement American troops had ever had with a foreign enemy.” The Marine Time Machine is a short video series that highlights different periods of Marine Corps history.