05 June 2015


by Andy Weddington
Friday, 05 June 2015

"The American Marines are terribly reckless fellows... they would make very good storm troopers." Unidentified German officer at Belleau Wood

Comment for today was not planned. But a note received this morning, and read over coffee, from a Marine changed my mind. Not much to say, I've. 

The Marine said plenty...

"Hi Andy,

On one of my days in France, I visited the Moet Chandon wineries...  drank about 6-7 glasses of Dom Perignon and will make no apologies!  A magnificent area, but the best part of the day was an unplanned detour after I noticed the word Marne on a highway sign and inquired about it.

Our incredible tour guide veered off at an exit labeled "Belleau Bois" after explaining that he routinely takes Marines to the memorial. He mentioned he had never taken a woman to the site and wondered how I knew about it. I filled him in.  We arrived 5 minutes after closing and were not allowed to view the graves, a fact I deeply regret, but did visit the battlefield which bears many scars one hundred years later. There were markers erected by The Basic School, multitudes of hand dug trenches as well as indentations in the earth where exploding artillery still tells a story.

There are many things about that day that words cannot capture, but I feel compelled to try.  The area is completely remote, incredibly peaceful and exquisitely beautiful.  The landscape, for miles and miles is marked by wheat fields and an occasional farm house.  At the site of the battlefield, our guide took me through the complete story...a story I did not know all that well, but do now. He literally reenacted the stage and took me through each battle that led up to Belleau Bois (Woods) [sic].  It was emotional as I tried to picture the young Marines, thousands of miles from home with nothing to rely on but each other and the code of honor and valantry that was characterized by the era in which they lived and the training they had received. I was completely absorbed and mesmerized, but was cognizant of the beautiful songs that the birds sang as they weaved in and out of the forest.  I did not want to...it is unbecoming of a Marine, you know, but tears came to my eyes. Our tour guide noticed...and I felt a little embarrassed, but he put his arm around me and told me that there were few Frenchmen alive that did not realize and appreciate what the 2nd Marine Division did for them.  They know they owe their freedom to them. 

Nothing I saw on my trip will ever compare to the beauty of that day.

Semper Fi,

Semper Fi, indeed!

Post Script

Following Infantry Officer Course graduation I was assigned to the 2d Marine Division - further assigned to 6th Marines and on to Second Battalion (2/6 - Golf Company). As the 5th Marines, the 6th Marines too fought the Germans and awarded the French fourragere - worn looped around the left shoulder. I still have mine, a treasure. 


Russell Braden said...

WELL WRITTEN AND SMACK ON. My birthday is 6-6-1931. Colonel Russell Braden USMC . RET.I SERVED IN EASY 2/5 In THE KOREAN WAR.

Steve Morgan said...

It is amazing, the entire area has a huge monument dedicated to the Battle of the Marne atop a Hillside that can be for miles. Amazingly there are huge chucks missing from the marble columns that are battle damage from the 2nd World War.

Janie and I have made a personal commitment that whenever we visit a battlefield gravesite, we read aloud at least some the names on the monument or the tombstones as a tribute to men (and women) who's names have likely not been spoken since the time of their sacrifice.

It brings home the true extent of the sacrifice they made, they loss to the family the left and recognition of the life they never had a chance to fill. I read an excellent book recently about the Marines of Belleau Wood and the amazing sacrifice they made in what had to be hell on earth.