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The Mistake Regarding The Marines At Chateau-Thierry


So much was written during the war regarding the Marne fighting when the designation of units could merely be hinted, and it was so generally treated as one big battle — the "Second Battle of the Marne" — that great confusion has arisen as to the actual facts. The word "Marines" was used in the early dispatches and so much was made of it as to give the impression that the United States Marine Corps was fighting this entire series of battles alone. The 6,000 Marines who formed a part of the 2nd Division, did fight a very gallant, small local action in Belleau Woods, but it seems unfortunate that they were given the credit for what was really accomplished by the 250,000 American Infantry, and the million of French Infantry who fought through these 72 days.

The chief reason for this mistake was the censorship. Early in the fighting, the censor permitted the word "Marine" to be used in connection with the engagement in Belleau Woods. The designation of any other unit that fought in this sector was carefully deleted at the time. It was quite natural that the United States Marine Corps should have used this engagement for recruiting and publicity, but the general impression was created that the Marines were rushed up to fill a gap in the line at Chateau-Thierry and saved Paris. Nothing could be further from the truth. The Marine Brigade did not fight in Chateau Thierry. There was no gap in the line. The Marines simply were put in behind a French Division in support, and on June 4th, three days later, the French, under orders, fell back through them, and this put the Americans in the front line, facing Belleau Woods. Here the Marines remained for two days, and then, as part of no large movement, they attacked the Germans who were entrenched in Belleau Woods. This was merely a local affair and its result had no other than a sentimental bearing upon the actual battles of this campaign. The Marines fought gallantly, and in 20 days' continuous fighting cleared the wood of Germans. The big part the Marines played in the war was not in Belleau Woods, but a month later, in Foch's counter offensive southeast of Soissons on July 18, 1918, as part of the 2nd Division (Regulars and Marines).


Hart, Albert B. Harper's Pictorial Library of the World War. New York, N.Y: Harper, 1920. Internet resource.
v.5. The United States in the War : The American Armies Abroad and At Home
Part II—The Story of the A. E. F.
By Captain Shipley Thomas, 26th Infantry, 1st Division, U. S. A.

 
View of Chateau Thierry and the famous bridge where the Marine (Devil Dogs) stopped the Hun hordes on their march on Paris.

A good example of misinformation about the Marines at Chateau Thierry is the text on this photograph taken in 1919. "View of Chateau Thierry and the famous bridge where the Marine (Devil Dogs) stopped the Hun hordes on their march on Paris." The Marines didn't fight at this location. (Ed.)

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