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phil andrade

Belleau Wood

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phil andrade

The centennial of the battle being upon us,  I was wondering if someone might inform me as to the size of the brigade of the USMC that fought at Belleau Wood.

 

I have read that about fifty five per cent of all the marines who went into the fight there were casualties, and if that’s true then the business was surely remarkably intense.

 

I realise that US divisions were much larger than their European counterparts, and I’m wondering if that means that the Marine Brigade was about as big as a British division.

 

Right now I’m in Malta, and don’t have access to my books.

 

Any help appreciated .

 

Phil

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Loader

I can't help you with your question but it was a vicious fight indeed. When I was a teen there was man in my church who fought at Belleau Wood as a young Marine. He told me how the mgs tore into the Marines as they advanced but they kept going & small grps took out the guns many with the bayonet. He also said how when the Germans attacked through the wheatfields they were perfect targets for the well trained Marine riflemen. Being young I asked him directly did he shoot any of them & he said with some hesitation that he did & was amazed at how they came on anyway. He shared much more with me I think mainly because I interested & respectful & that my Dad was a WW2 Marine combat veteran of the Pacific. I recall the time he & my dad talked & the older Marine used the time honored phrase to my Dad that "He should have been in the "Old Corps"!!!!! They both laughed over their private joke.

All those boys who took that wood are gone now as are most of the ones who took the Pacific but I will never forget them & thank them for all they did. Thankyou for remembering that fight 100 yrs ago.

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gem22

Phil

In his book 'Make the Kaiser Dance' Henry Berry quotes 28,000 for the full Division. He also says that 2 US divisions equalled 5 British Divisions in size. I don't know how accurate that is but it's all I can find at the moment.

 

Garth

ps I hope you are enjoying Malta

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genegwf

The 4th Marine Brigade consisting of the 5th and 6th Marine Regiments and the 6th 

Machine Gun Battalion were engaged at

Belleau Wood. At the end of the first day the Marines had 1,087 killed in action.

By June 26th the combined Army and Marine casualties were 1,811killed and 7,966 wounded. 

 

Gene

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phil andrade

Thanks, Gene...but shouldn’t the 1,087 USMC killed on the first day be 1,087 killed and wounded ?

 

I note that sixteen hundred German prisoners were claimed.

 

That’s a very significant figure, given that in all the immense battles of March to June 1918, all the Allies combined did not claim more than twenty thousand German POWs on the Western Front.

 

Phil

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phil andrade
Posted (edited)
8 hours ago, gem22 said:

Phil

In his book 'Make the Kaiser Dance' Henry Berry quotes 28,000 for the full Division. He also says that 2 US divisions equalled 5 British Divisions in size. I don't know how accurate that is but it's all I can find at the moment.

 

Garth

ps I hope you are enjoying Malta

 

Garth,

 

Thanks, Malta is a lovely place, albeit rather intense at the moment : very busy with an awful lot of construction and traffic.

 

Valletta is breathtaking : had a boat tour of the harbour and found it magnificent .

 

Re : the enormous size of the US divisions, I’m getting the impression that the USMC brigade equates roughly to a British Infantry division at that time, so I’m reckoning that twelve to fourteen thousand Marines fought in and around Belleau Wood.

 

That makes the 55% casualty rate claim suspect ; although I should think that they lost at least one third of their men.

 

I would guess that gas accounted for a significant proportion of their casualties.

 

Editing here :  I get the sense that, in rough and ready terms, the fighting at Belleau Wood hit the Marines as hard as the Second Battle of Ypres hit the Canadians.  Some comparisons might be made : in both cases, fresh troops came to the rescue - North American manhood plugging the gap - and made a tremendous name for themselves.

 

 

Phil

 

 

Edited by phil andrade

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gem22

Phil

In Robert Asprey's 'At Belleau Wood' the author quotes the 4th Marine Brigade casualties as 126 officers and 5,057 men for the period 1 June to 10 July. There is no further breakdown unfortunately and no mention of gas.

 

Garth

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phil andrade

Thanks Garth...that’s helpful, and very much endorses my suggestion that the USMC casualties at Belleau Wood were very comparable - both in absolute and proportionate terms - with those of the 1st Canadian Division at Second Ypres.

 

Phil

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phil andrade

Returned from Malta, I can now get some numbers about Belleau Wood and the USMC.

 

The US 2nd Division entered this battle with 28,059 men. Included in this was the 4th Marine Brigade , which numbered 258 officers and 8,211 enlisted men.  The Marines sustained 5,183 casualties in the battle, including 126 officers.  Significantly , the officers suffered a lower casualty rate than the men they led, if those figures are correct.  That is surprising. Of the total Marine casualty list, 1,062 were killed.  That is a lower proportion of fatalites than one might have expected for such a fierce fight : but it does suggest that gas might have accounted for a large number of the casualties - if that’s so, then the lower fatality rate is understandable.  It might also account for the lower officer casualty rate : perhaps the officers were more assiduous in following gas drill.

 

On June 6 alone, the Marines casualty figure of 1,087 included 222 killed.

 

In all, 31,871 US Marines served on the Western Front, and they suffered 12,179 battle casualties, of whom 3,284 were killed or died from wounds or gas poisoning.

 

Phil

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Ron Clifton
On 05/06/2018 at 08:57, gem22 said:

Phil

In his book 'Make the Kaiser Dance' Henry Berry quotes 28,000 for the full Division. He also says that 2 US divisions equalled 5 British Divisions in size. I don't know how accurate that is but it's all I can find at the moment.

 

Garth

 

The original establishment of an American infantry division was about 28,000, at a time when their British equivalent had about 19,000. In mid-1917 the US establishment was reduced to 24,00 and remained so until the Armistice. The British establishment was reduced to about 16,000 in Feb 1918.

 

Therefore, as a rule of thumb, two US Divisions were equivalent to three, not five, British divisions. However, I stress that these were establishments, not actual fighting strengths.

 

A US infantry (or USMC) brigade had just over 6,000 troops.

 

Ron

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phil andrade

A quick glance at those figures I cited for the USMC a couple of posts ago makes it clear that the corps did some hard fighting.

 

Nearly forty per cent of all those who served in five months of battle on the Western Front became casualties, and just over ten per cent of them were killed or died from wounds/gas.

 

No doubt there was additional significant fatality through accident and disease, especially bearing in mind the ‘flu that hit US forces so hard.

 

I’m bound to say, though, that when we reflect on the wonderful research and interpretations that our much missed Guest provided us with in regard to the attrition suffered by the infantry cohorts of the BEF in five months in 1914, and by many of their British and Dominion counterparts at Gallipoli in a comparable time span in 1915, a loss of ten per cent killed in battle would look unexceptional, and even like a lucky escape in some cases.

 

Phil

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