What is Battle of Belleau Wood? Remembering 1,800 American heroes who died and created a US Marine Corp legend

According to a report, Trump allegedly called more than 1,800 marines who lost their lives at Belleau Wood 'suckers' for getting killed

                            What is Battle of Belleau Wood? Remembering 1,800 American heroes who died and created a US Marine Corp legend
(Getty Images)

President Donald Trump is known for stating explosive and debatable comments every now and then. A recent report by The Atlantic stated that Trump did not think it was important to honor the American war dead, according to four sources.“Why should I go to that cemetery? It’s filled with losers...,” Trump allegedly said in 2018 before he canceled a visit to the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery near Paris. As per reports, he blamed the rain for the last-minute decision and said “the helicopter couldn’t fly”. However, none of it was true.

Moreover, on the same trip, he also allegedly called more than 1,800 marines who lost their lives at Belleau Wood as “suckers” for getting killed. This wouldn’t be the first time that a Trump comment like this has surfaced on the Internet. Expressing his contempt for late Senator John McCain, who spent more than five years as a prisoner of the North Vietnamese, Trump said in 2015: “He’s not a war hero,” adding, “I like people who weren’t captured.” At that time, he was running for the Republican nomination for president, but he continued the criticism through his years at the White House.

White House spokesperson Alyssa Farah emailed a statement to The Atlantic, shortly after the story was posted: “This report is false. President Trump holds the military in the highest regard. He’s demonstrated his commitment to them at every turn: delivering on his promise to give our troops a much-needed pay raise, increasing military spending, signing critical veterans reforms, and supporting military spouses. This has no basis in fact.”

What is the Battle of Belleau Wood?

According to History.com, this was the first large-scale battle fought by American soldiers in World War I and it began in Belleau Wood, northwest of the Paris-to-Metz road.

According to War On The Rocks website, the fighting around Belleau Wood was between five German divisions and the US Army’s 2nd Division of the American Expeditionary Forces, which was subdivided into the Army’s 3rd Infantry Brigade and the 9,500 man-strong 4th Marine Brigade. It comprised of the 5th Regiment led by Col. Wendell Neville and the 6th Regiment led by Col. Albert Catlin. Three rifle battalions, of 800 men each, and a machine gun company comprised each regiment. The 2nd Division also comprised the 2nd Field Artillery Brigade and other organic units like the 2nd Regiment of Engineers.

In the initial few days of June, the 4th Marine Brigade drew a defensive line in the southwest of the wheat field and Belleau Wood, as per the website. The battalions in the 5th Marine Regiment found themselves on the left, and those in the 6th Marine Regiment on the right. Retreating French soldiers had warned them of incoming German attacks, urging the marines to withdraw. According to the website, this was the moment when Capt. Lloyd Williams retorted: “Retreat, hell we just got here!” The Americans did not withdraw and compelled the Germans to withdraw to Belleau Wood and Bouresches. The marines then planned on their own to take on those German positions.

According to History.com, the US forces under General John J Pershing helped stop the German attack. On June 6, Pershing ordered a counteroffensive to remove the Germans from Belleau Wood. The attack was led by US Marines under General James Harbord and Allied forces. They attacked the four German divisions positioned in the woods and by the end of the first day suffered more than 1,000 casualties, according to the website.

In the course of the next three weeks, the Marines, with the help of US Army artillery, launched many attacks into the forested area. However, German General Erich Ludendorff wasn’t someone to back down. He was focused that he would not let the Americans win. Ludendorff continually brought up reinforcements from the rear, and they attacked the US forces with machine guns, artillery, and gas. However, on June 26, the Americans won the war but it came with a heavy price -- nearly 10,000 dead, wounded, or missing in action. According to Britannica.com, Americans suffered 9,777 casualties (1,811 killed) and the Germans had 9,500 casualties, including 1,600 captured.

How Internet responded

After the Trump comments surfaced, Twitter weighed in on the matter. One user said, "The Trumpers' reaction to the Belleau Woods story lays bare their hypocrisy. They cry: "This isn't true! He didn't say it. It'd be bad if he did, but he didn't!" That doesn't work. He's already said things on tape *just as bad* about our heroes (POWs/McCain). It's who Trump is."


Another user said, "Belleau Wood is a seminal battle in the history of the @USMC. It is featured at the @MarineMuseum at Quantico and @realDonaldTrump has zero understanding of Honor, Courage and Committment and especially no understanding of sacrifice."


Another claimed, "Arriving at Belleau Wood to find French allies retreating, Capt. Lloyd Williams’ response would become part [email protected]
lore: “Retreat, Hell! We just got here.” Mortally wounded in the battle, he told medics, “Don’t bother with me. Take care of my good men.” Sucker and loser, eh?"


One said, "This might just seem like Trump being Trump, but the Battle of Belleau Wood and the legends of the Marines that fought and died there are deeply ingrained in the identity and lore of the United States Marine Corps."


Another commented, "My Grandfather was hit by Shrapnel in Belleau Wood and earned a Purple Heart. He never spoke of it. must have been horrifying to have been in battle there."


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