Posts filed under ‘World War I Centennial’

SHAKO/FRIDAY FOTO: Devil Dogs

The Devil Dogs’ Dogs

Dog days aboard Wasp

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Corporal Bernadette Plouffe)

Marine Corps military working dogs rest at the feet of their handlers aboard the USS Wasp in the South China Sea on October 1, 2018.

O.K., this is kind of an unusual format for the 4GWAR blog, but since November 10 marks the U.S. Marine Corps’ 243rd birthday, we seized on the opportunity to combine the regular Friday Foto for November 9, with a SHAKO feature on a World War I battle that has taken its place with other iconic engagements like Iwo Jima and Tripoli in the history of the Corps.

The nearly month-long Battle of Belleau Wood (June 1-26, 1918) was the first major engagement of American troops on the Western Front in World War I. It also is one of the most significant battles fought by the U.S. Marines, earning them France’s highest military award and the nickname Devil Dogs from the Germans.

Belleau Wood painting

Marines in close combat as depicted in Franc-Earle Schoonover’s Belleau Wood. (National Museum of the Marine Corps collection)

The 4th Marine Brigade, some 9,500 men, was assigned to the Army’s 2nd Infantry Division, one of the U.S. units rushed to France just a few months after the United States declared war on Germany in April 1917. The Marine Brigade consisted of two regiments — the 5th Marines and the 6th Marines — each with three 800-man rifle battalions and a machine gun company.

One June 1, a major German offensive moved south to the Marne River, where they were held at Chateau Thierry by French troops reinforced by the U.S. Army. One of the leading German assault regiments, the 461st Imperial German Infantry, occupied Belleau Wood, a former hunting preserve about 50 miles northwest of Paris. It was a nearly impenetrable forest of dense underbrush, trees, boulders and ravines.

In early June, the Marine Brigade was dug into a defensive line near Belleau Wood, facing a wheat field. More than 2,000 Germans with 30 machine guns were dug in amid the trees and rocks. There were 100 more Germans with at least six machine guns concentrated in the nearby village of Bouresches.

Retreating French troops advised the Marines to withdraw. “Retreat? Hell we just got here,” snapped a company commander with the 5th Marines, Captain Lloyd Williams, whose remark that went down in Marine Corps lore.

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Gunnery Sergeant Dan Daly. (Marine Corps Archives and Special Collections)

The Marines took and held Bouresches and drove the Germans out of the  But success came at a horrendous cost. Relying on their celebrated marksmanship (“Every Marine a Rifleman”) the Marines advanced about 400 yards across the wheat field without concentrated artillery support. Heavy German machine gun and artillery fire cut the 3rd Battalion of the 5th Marines to shreds.  The 6th Marines’ 3rd Battalion managed to make it to the edge of the woods before enemy fire stalled the advance. In the confusion of battle, another iconic Marine Corps legend was born when Gunnery Sergeant Dan Daly — who had earned the Medal of Honor twice , in Peking in 1900 and Haiti in 1915 — turned to his men and growled “Come on you sons of bitches, do you want to live forever?”

By nightfall on the first day of battle, both Marine battalions suffered  debilitating casualties. Six officers and 222 enlisted men of the 4th Marine Brigade were killed in action. Another 25 officers and 834 men were wounded. This amounted to more casualties than the Marines had suffered in their entire history up until that day, Norwich University professor David Ulbrich observed in an anniversary piece for War on the Rocks.

As the Marines moved into Belleau Wood itself, the fighting seemed especially grim, with hand-to-hand fighting, fixed bayonets and poison gas attacks, noted Michael Ruane in a Washington Post column last May.  The headline on his piece noted: “The Battle of Belleau Wood was brutal, deadly and forgotten. But it forged a new Marine Corps.”

Exploding shells splintered the trees, raining down a deadly shower of wood splinters and metal shrapnel. The Americans and Germans grappled in hand-to-hand combat with knives, rifle butts, bayonets and entrenching shovels.

Belleau Wood shattered trees 1918

Tree Damage, Belleau Wood, circa 1918. An inscription on the photograph reads “Every tree in Belleau Wood bears the scars of battle.” (From the collection of Adolph B. Miller (COLL/1068), United States Marine Corps Archives & Special Collections.)

After three weeks of heavy combat, the Germans were driven out of Belleau Wood. The Marines reached the northern edge of the woods on June 26, sending out the report; “Woods now U.S. Marine Corps entirely.

The victory at Belleau Wood had saved Paris and the French were delirious with joy.  The French government renamed Belleau Wood, the “Bois de la Brigade de Marine” and both the 5th and 6th Marine regiments were awarded the Croix de Guerre.

The Germans, too were impressed with the Marines. An official German report described the Marines as “vigorous, self-confident and remarkable marksmen.” Captured German soldiers and their letters described the Marines as Teufelhunde, or Devil Dogs.”

Marines in gas masks

Marines train with gas masks in France. (Photo: Marine Corps History Division)

 

 

 

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November 11, 2018 at 12:47 am 1 comment

1918, The Final Weeks: Aerial Combat

The Arizona Balloon Buster.

Frankluke

Lieutenant Frank Luke, Jr. with his SPAD S.XIII on September 19, 1918.

Some legendary World War I aviators — like Germany’s Red Baron, Manfred von Richtofen, or America’s top ace, Eddie Rickenbacker — are still well known to many today.

However, Frank Luke Jr., has seldom been a household name, even though he was the No. 2 U.S. aerial ace during the Great War and earned the Medal of Honor.

Young, handsome and feisty (he was often in trouble with his superiors) Luke had the temperment, skills and killer instinct shared by the best fighter pilots on both sides. And in just a few short weeks in 1918, he shot down eight German planes and 14 enemy observation balloons. His head-on attacks on the hydrogen-filled, heavily guarded balloons earned him the nickname the “Arizona Balloon Buster.”

During a seven-day period, September 12-18, 1918 — two days of which he did not fly — Luke scored 13 confirmed victories, including five victories (two balloons and three airplanes) on the last day, according to the National Aviation Hall of Fame.

Luke was born in 1897 in Phoenix, Arizona — ironically the son of German immigrants — and with anti-German feeling running high after the United States declared war on Germany in 1917 (remember sauerkraut’s name was changed to “Liberty Cabbage”) he enlisted almost immediately in the U.S. Army. He joined the Aviation Section of the U.S. Signal Corps, earned his wings and sailed for France. He was assigned to the famed 27th Aero Squadron in July 1918.

In September 1918, Luke began a personal campaign against German observation balloons and airplanes. In a single week, he scored 13 confirmed victories, including three aircraft and two balloons in one day.

WAR & CONFLICT BOOKERA:  WORLD WAR I/AVIATION, PHOTOGRAPHY, OBSERVATION

Luke brought down three German observation balloons in 35 minutes. He stands beside one of his kills. (U.S. Army photo)

His final flight took place during the first phase of the Meuse-Argonne Offensive in late September 1918. After shooting down three observation balloons six miles behind the German lines, Luke was severely wounded by a single machine gun bullet on September 29, 1918. He landed in a field just west of the small village of Murvaux — after strafing a group of German soldiers on the ground. Weakened by his wound, he collapsed some 200 meters from his airplane. There are contradicting stories about what happened next. Some say Luke drew his Colt 1911 pistol as German infantry approached  and fired a few rounds at his attackers before dying. Others state he refused enemy calls for his surrender and killed several Germans before succumbing to his chest wound.

Here is the official Medal of Honor citation:

After having previously destroyed a number of enemy aircraft within 17 days he voluntarily started on a patrol after German observation balloons. Though pursued by 8 German planes which were protecting the enemy balloon line, he unhesitatingly attacked and shot down in flames 3 German balloons, being himself under heavy fire from ground batteries and the hostile planes. Severely wounded, he descended to within 50 meters of the ground, and flying at this low altitude near the town of Murvaux opened fire upon enemy troops, killing 6 and wounding as many more. Forced to make a landing and surrounded on all sides by the enemy, who called upon him to surrender, he drew his automatic pistol and defended himself gallantly until he fell dead from a wound in the chest.

Luke Air Force Base, located west of Phoenix, Arizona, is named for the Balloon Buster.

October 4, 2018 at 11:00 pm Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO (September 28, 2018)

Dress Rehearsal.

Papa Company Receives New Female Blue Dress Coat

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Corporal Vivien Alstad)

Marine Corps recruits try on their blue dress coats for the first time at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, South Carolina on August 21, 2018.
This photo presents 4GWAR with the opportunity to note that 2018 marks the centennial of women serving in the United States Marine Corps.
Opha May Johnson was the first of more than 300 women who enlisted into the Marine Corps on August 13, 1918, the day after then-Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels allowed women to enlist for clerical duty in the Marine Corps Reserve.
FRIFO 9-28-2018 Add women Parines centennial
In 1918, American women had not yet been granted the right to vote, but Johnson, who was 39 years old at the time, joined the Marine Corps anyway. She served as a clerk at Marine Corps Headquarters in Arlington, Virginia, according to ABC News.
Since 2001, more than 15,000 female Marines have served in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Ten women have lost their lives in combat, ABC noted in an August 10 piece on the first female Marine officer to command an infantry combat platoon —  1st Lieutenant Marina A. Hierl.

September 28, 2018 at 11:31 pm 2 comments

FRIDAY FOTO (November 17, 2017)

Wait, what?!!

Rocky at Marne Mile

(U.S. Army photo by Sergeant Caitlyn Smoyer)

Sergeant Rocky, the 3rd Infantry Division’s mascot, jumps over obstacles behind a soldier during a competition at Fort Stewart, Georgia. The November 13 event was part of Marne Week 2017, a celebration of the division’s centennial.

The mascot’s name and Marne Week derive from the division’s World War I nickname: “The Rock of the Marne.” According to the website, Global Security, the division was activated at Camp Greene, North Carolina 100 years ago this month.

Eight months later, at midnight on July 14, 1918 the Division went into combat for the first time. As a member of the American Expeditionary Force (AEF) in Europe, the Division earned its name as the “Rock of the Marne,” when it stuck to its position after surrounding allied units retreated during the Second Battle of the Marne. Casualties were very high but the German advance was driven off.

3rd ID patch

3rd Infantry Division shoulder patch (U.S. Army image)

In World War II,  General Lucian K. Truscott, Jr. led the division in battles in Sicily, Italy, France and Germany. The 3rd ID saw 531 continuous days of combat — the only Army division to fight the Axis on every European front — in places like Casablanca, Anzio, Tome, the Vosges Mountains, Colmar, the Siegfried Line, Palermo, Nurnberg, Munich, Berchtesgaden, and Salzburg. Lieutenant Audie Murphy, the most decorated U.S. soldier in World War II, was a member of the 3rd ID.

The division also fought in the Korean War. One brigade fought in Iraq during Operation Desert Storm and Marne division units deployed to Bosnia, Kosovo, Iraq and Afghanistan in ensuing years. Last year, one of the division’s battalions was posted to Ukraine in support of Joint Multinational Training Group-Ukraine.

Designated a mechanized infantry division, the 3rd ID is now part of the XVIII Airborne Corps, based at based at Fort Stewart and Fort Benning, Georgia.

EDITOR’S NOTE: In case you’re wondering, Sgt. Rocky the 3rd ID mascot is a bulldog and shouldn’t be confused with Sgt. Rock of Easy Company.

November 17, 2017 at 8:18 pm Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO (July 14, 2017)

Lafayette, We Are Here, Encore.

U.S. Forces Honored During Bastille National Day Parade

(U.S. Navy photo by Chief Petty Officer Michael McNabb)

U.S. service members march in the Bastille Day parade in Paris as blue, white and red smoke trails billow overhead from a flyover conducted by French Alpha jets. U.S. troops led the parade in a historic first to commemorate the centennial of America’s entry into World War I, as well as its long-standing partnership with France.

ww1soldiersdock Bastille Day 2017

U.S. soldiers on the dock in France. (Courtesy TeeJaw Blog)

In all, 4.7 million Americas served in uniform in the Great War, more than 116,000 died.

U.S. Forces Honored During Bastille National Day Parade

(U.S. Navy photo by Chief Petty Officer Michael McNabb)

Here’s a closer look at the U.S. contingent marching in the 2017 Bastille Day parade. The color guard are dressed in World War I helmets and uniforms. Behind them, in order march the U.S. Army contingent, U.S. Marine Corps, U.S. Navy and U.S. Air Force. Interesting to note the U.S. Army now wears berets instead of the Smoky the Bear campaign hats in the archive photo above.

July 14 marks the storming of the Bastille, a notorious prison in Paris, sparking the French Revolution in 1789. Every year on that date, there is an enormous military parade in Paris with Foreign Legionnaires in their white kepis and red and green epaulettes, sabre-brandishing cavalry of the Republican Guard in plumed helmets, sailors in white caps topped by red pompoms, pilots in flight suits and all manner of military cadets, national police and specialty troops.

July 14, 2017 at 5:08 pm Leave a comment

SHAKO: ANZAC Day 2017

Australian, New Zealand War Dead Remembered.

Thousands turned out in Australia, New Zealand, Britain and elsewhere Tuesday (April 25) for Anzac Day, a national day of remembrance that commemorates all Australians and New Zealanders “who served and died in all wars, conflicts, and peacekeeping operations.” It also marks “the contribution and suffering of all those who have served”

Named for the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (Anzac) — the day is celebrated every year on April 25. It is the anniversary of the 1915 Gallipoli landings in Turkey during the First World War.

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A crowd of nearly 35,000 people attend the 2013 Anzac Day dawn service at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra, Australia’s capital. (Photo by Peter Ellis via wikipedia)

An estimated 8,709 troops from Australia and 2,721 from New Zealand were among the thousands of Allied troops killed during the failed attempt to capture the Gallipoli Peninsula between the Med and the Black Sea to open the way for the capture of Constantinople (Istanbul), the capital of the Ottoman Empire, an ally of the German and Austro-Hungarian empires.

Aussie troops Gallipoli

Men of the Australian 1st Divisional Signal Company being towed towards Anzac Cove at 6 am on the day of the Gallipoli landings. (Courtesy of the Australian War Memorial)

By the 1920s, Anzac Day became established as a National Day of Commemoration for all the Australians and New Zealanders who died during the Great War. In ensuing years, the holiday honors the dead from all the wars and conflicts the two countries’ troops served in.

To see how Anzac Day 2017 was marked in Australia, New Zealand, Britain and Turkey, click here, here and here.

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SHAKOSHAKO is an occasional 4GWAR posting on military history, traditions and culture. For the uninitiated, a shako is the tall, billed headgear worn by many armies from the Napoleonic era to about the time of the American Civil War. It remains a part of the dress or parade uniform of several military organizations like the corps of cadets at the U.S. Military Academy, West Point New York.

 

 

 

April 26, 2017 at 12:27 am Leave a comment

SHAKO: U.S. Entered WWI 100 Years Ago Today

Over there.

On this date in 1917, the United States entered what was then known as the Great War.

The_US_Army_in_Britain,_1917-1918_Q30005

A column of American troops passing Buckingham Palace, London, 1917. (Photo: Imperial War Museum collection)

After avoiding entanglement in the European bloodbath that erupted in August 1914, America finally got involved when Germany resumed unconditional submarine warfare — threatening freedom of the seas — and tried to win over Mexico as an ally by promising a return of lands lost in the Mexican-American War of 1846.

Congress declared war on Germany just two months after U.S. troops under General John J. Pershing returned from a punitive expedition into Mexico to catch or kill the rebel general and bandit Pancho Villa. When Congress declared war of April 6, 1917, the U.S. army was still small and hadn’t fought a nation state’s army (Spain) since 1898.

While 4GWAR won’t be following the centennial of World War I as closely as we did the bicentennial of the War of 1812, SHAKO will be checking in from time to time to ponder the implications of America’s involvement in an overseas war that saw the introduction of tank warfare, poison gas and the widespread use of the airplane, submarine and machine gun.

94th_Aero_Squadron_-_Group

Pilots of the 94th Aero Squadron at Foucaucourt Aerodrome, France, November 1918. The top U.S. air ace of WWI, Eddie Rickenbacker (center), leans against a SPAD XIII fighter plane bearing the squadron’s “Hat in the Ring” symbol.

World War I also saw veteran units like the Marine Corps and the 69th New York Infantry Regiment add to their glory while new outfits like the “Harlem Hellfighters” and the “Hat in the Ring Squadron” added their names to the history books.

In the coming months leading up to November 11, 2018, we hope to introduce you to some interesting people and units like the “One Man Army,” the “Lost Battalion,” “Arizona Balloon Buster,” and the “Rock of the Marne.” Meanwhile, to get you started, here are some informative websites about World War One and the American Expeditionary Force. The U.S. Army Center of Military History, The Great War and the U.S. World War One Centennial Commission.

SHAKOSHAKO is an occasional 4GWAR posting on military history, traditions and culture. For the uninitiated, a shako is the tall, billed headgear worn by many armies from the Napoleonic era to about the time of the American Civil War. It remains a part of the dress or parade uniform of several military organizations like the corps of cadets at the U.S. Military Academy, West Point New York.

 

April 6, 2017 at 11:59 pm Leave a comment


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