To the Editor:
During World War I, a series of fierce battles in June and July of 1918 proved to be a turning point in that war. In the fighting, near Chateau-Thierry, France, elements of General John Pershing’s American Expeditionary Force proved themselves in combat for the first time, halting the German advance toward Paris, only 30 miles away.
The Allies learned the Americans could fight, while the Germans found out the U. S. Marines, who made up the bulk of the force, were a fearsome lot whose indomitable spirit made up for the lack of experience.
The battle of Belleau Wood was a month long fight that began June 6 with the Marines attacking Hill 142 and forcing their way into the dense woods beyond. Many heroes were made in the gruesome hand-to-hand fighting. The Germans called the Marines “teufel henden” or “Devil Dogs.”
The Marines doggedness was exacted at a price. More than 1,000 died that June, a toll higher than the combined casualties of the Marines previous engagements. Out of respect for their tenacity, a French ordered that Bois de Belleau, as it was known locally, be renamed “Bois de la Brigade de Marine.”
The Aisne-Marne American Cemetery at the edge of Belleau Wood now is the final home to many of those Marines. A fountain that once provided water to the thirsty warriors still exists nearby. The cement fountain has the head of a mastiff dog on it and the water flows from its mouth. Tradition holds that any Marine who visits must drink from the fountain’s mastiff spout in respect for the “Devil Dogs” who died there.
On Nov. 11th at the 11th hour, World War I ended when the Armistice was signed. That day was then celebrated as Armistice Day until 1954 when Congress changed the name to “Veterans’ Day.”
Veterans’ Day now commemorates the courage and patriotism of all the men and women who have served in the United States armed services. They should not be forgotten. Please search out some veteran this Friday and thank them for their service.
Charles R. Pearson, Chaplain
Malvern Legion Post 375