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Pixley, Rutherford Birchard, 1877- / Official war history of Ozaukee County, Wisconsin

The Marines at Chateau Thierry,   pp. 93-94

Page 93

U 0Marine at hateau Chpt rry
Chateau Thierry! The name of that French town on the Marne lives
forever in the memory of Americans. For there the United States Marines,
whom Berlin had affected to pity as "untrained amateurs," stopped the
rush of the famous Prussian Guards, and proved that the "amateurs" could
shoot straight and did not know the meaning of the word retreat.
For five days the German masses had been pressing back the French
divisions, unbroken but very weary-from the Aisne to the Vesle, to the
Ourcq, and finally to the Marne. They had taken Chateau Thierry and
the crest over which the Paris road runs. To the west they had pushed
out toward Meaux and Paris. To the east they had crossed the Marne at
Dormans. That was on Memorial Day, 1918.
Driving in at full speed of its cars, the Seventh Machine Gun Battalion
had helped to hold the Chateau Thierry bridgehead. On the morning of
June 2 the Second Division, and with it the Marine Brigade, was in line
across the Paris road down the Marne. Though one of its regiments had
been in France nearly a year the Brigade had seen no hard fighting. It
had been seventy-two hours on the road in motor trucks, coming from
reserve back of Montdidier. Late that afternoon they were attacked by
huge masses of Germans advancing across a wheat field. Calmly setting
their sights as if on the Quantico range, the Marines withered the German
columns with rifle fire.
What proved to be the last drive direct for Paris had been stopped.
It was not yet the high tide of the German war machine, for after six
weeks of beating against a stone wall it was to try one more big attack,
up the Marne toward Epernay, in the hope of getting around what it
could not break through. Meanwhile the "untrained amateurs" were to
prove that they could not only hold but also could strike back. The Ger-
mans had filled Belleau Wood, to the west of Chateau Thierry, with nests
of machine guns. Until they were cleared out the battle of Chateau
Thierry could not be considered won. On June 6 the Marines went in
again to clear them out, with the villages of Torcy and Bouresches as the
objectives. Companies that went in 250 strong dwindled to fifty and sixty,
with a sergeant in command. Lieut. Robertson had only twenty men left
of his platoon when he entered Bouresches at 9:45 p. m. It was fighting
from tree to tree, in underbrush so thick that a machine gun fifty yards
away could not be seen until it swept the ranks with its fire. Save by long
artillery fire that would wipe out the timber the only way was with the
bayonet, with perhaps but one man reaching the nest to kill the last of its
defenders and turn the gun on other German positions. That is the way
the Marines and their companions of the Third Regular Brigade did it.
The task was not done in a day or a week. Not until July 6 was Belleau
Wood finally cleared. But what the Yanks took they held. And in the
memory of their valor France has decreed that Belleau Wood, whose tak-
ing completed the battle of Chateau Thierry, shall be known forever as
the "Wood of the United States Marines."

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