It is very appropriate that this shell-torn wood and blood-soaked
soil should, with the consent of our great sister republic, pass
forever to American ownership. It is too precious in its associations,
too hallowed with the haunting memories of that fateful June of
five years ago to be permanently sheltered under any flag, no matter
how much beloved, other than our own, and now in the quiet sunshine
of a happier summer it has become a tiny American Island, surrounded
by lovely France. I cannot conceive that in all time to come our
country will ever permit the pollution of this consecrated ground
by the foot of an invader marching on that Paris, which Americans
here died to defend.
Insignificant in area, out of the ordinary track of travel not
specially picturesque, and with no particular traditions in peace
or war, this ancient hunting preserve the Chateau of Belleau, came
into the spot-light of history by being at the spear-head of the
German thrust for Paris in the last week of May 1918. For a short
period, the music of its sonorous name was heard in all Allied
lands, and for its brief day it held the head lines throughout
the world. The great crisis of history pass unheeded by the actors
in the drama, and it is not until after the event that the historian
can say that particular hour on a crowded day was heavily charged
with fate. The accident of place, the chance stroke of a zero-hour
wrote the name of the Bois de Belleau on the tablets, and with
it chronicled the immortal fame of the Marine Brigade, and their
comrades of the Second Engineers.
There were no better troops than our Marines in any Army, and
it is fitting that for this Memorial to the American arms, there
should be chosen this battlefield where they fought with such desparate
valor, to redeem which so many of them gave their lives. The Marine
brigade was placed in line on the afternoon of June 1st. Its front
extended from Thiolet Farm on the Paris-Metz highway through Lucy-le-Bocage,
and over Hill 142, to beyond Marigny and Champillon. It roughly
followed the southern edge of this valley and faced towards Bouresche,
Belleau and Torcy. For several days there was nearly continuous
fighting as the enemy tried in vain to gain ground toward Paris.
On the 6th. of June, the Marines made the first attak on the Germans
in this wood and in the village of Bouresches. Sibley's battalion
captured the southern end of the wood and took the little town.
The fighting was pratically continuous until June 25 th. when the
last German was driven out and Major Shearer reported << This
wood now exclusively U. S. Marine Corps >>. A few days later,
the French Army Commander, General Degoutte, officially renamed
the wood to be known forever on all French maps as the Bois de
la Brigade de Marine. There were killed in and around this wood
670 officers and men of the Marine Brigade, and 7321 were wounded.
The slain were in the proportion of about one to every five
wounded, while the usual battle ratio is one killed to every seven
or eight wounded. This means that many wounded Marines remained
in the fight until killed by a second or third wound.
I may perhaps be forgiven if this ceremony today brings to me
more clearly than to some of you, the half blurred vision of that
other summer. In fancy I can still see the splendid columns in
forest-green deploying across the fields from the great highway
between Paris and Metz, in memory I endure once more the suspense
of these days and nights, and am torn again by the consciousness
of the cost at which this wood was taken. Who better than I should
know that the men who poured out the red wine of life on these
slopes, were the very flower of our race, the straightest of limb,
the keenest of vision and the most dauntless of spirit! ! !
This melancholy spot with its tangle of wildwood, its giant boulders,
its mangled trees, with here and there the wreckage of war, a helmet,
a rusty canteen or, perhaps in some lonely forest aisle the still
tangible evidence of deadly hand-to-hand struggle, will for all
time be a Mecca for pilgrims from beyond the western ocean. Mothers
will consecrate this ground with their tears; fathers with grief
tempered with pride will tell its story to their younger generation.
Now and then, a veteran for the brief span in which we shall still
survive, will come here to live again the brave days of that distant
June. Here will be raised the altars of patriotism; here will be
renewed the vows of sacrifice and consecration to country. Hither
will come our countrymen in hours of depression, and even of failure,
and take new courage from this shrine of great deed.
ANY AMERICAN DESIRING TO CONTRIBUTE TO THE ASSOCIATION
CAN DO SO BY SENDING HIS CONTRIBUTION TO:
Belleau Wood was purchased by the"BELLEAU
WOOD MEMORIAL ASSOCIATION INC."
in the month of May 1923.
Chairman National Committee. the President
of the United States
HON. HANFORD MACNlDER
ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF WAR
Mrs JAMES CARROLL FRAZER
EXECUTIVE OFFICE, NAVY LEAGUE BUILDING , 1749 E STREET N. W. WASHINGTON