Sunday, February 10, 2019

The Battle of Belleau Wood ~ Commemorative Pens

The Battle of Belleau Wood occurred 100 years ago in June 1918 during World War I. The battlefield sits about five miles west of the town of Ch√Ęteau-Thierry, barely fifty miles northeast of Paris, France. The Aisne-Marne American Cemetery lies below the hill containing Belleau Wood where many American Marines lost their lives during the battle.

This past November, John Sword visited Belleau Wood, where he collected several small oak tree branches from the wooded area above the memorial. From those branches, commemorative pens were made in honor of the valiant Marines who fought there. Each pen was turned and assembled by Col. Stephen H. Young, USA (Ret). The thirteen living recipients of the Medal of Honor recently received a pen as a thank you for their service. 

Aisne-Marne American Cemetery Visit ~ November 7, 2018
On Wednesday, November 7, 2018 we took a train across the border from San Sabastian to Hendaye, France. We then traveled on the high-speed train to Paris. Although we were both anxious to get home we had one last stop to make before our flight out on Friday. On Thursday we scheduled a car and driver to take us to Aisne-Marne American Cemetery. This beautiful cemetery is about an hour from Charles de Gaulle Airport.

The 42.5-acre Aisne-Marne American Cemetery and Memorial in France sits at the foot of Belleau Wood. The cemetery contains the graves of 2,289 war dead, most of whom fought in the vicinity and in the Marne Valley in the summer of 1918. The memorial chapel sits on a hillside, decorated with sculptured and stained-glass details of wartime personnel, equipment and insignia.

Inscribed on its interior wall are 1,060 names of the missing. Rosettes mark the names of those since recovered and identified. In 1940 during World War II the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery chapel was damaged due to heavy fighting in the vicinity. All damage was repaired except for one shell hole in the chapel, left as a reminder of what took place. Belleau Wood adjoins the cemetery and contains many vestiges of World War I. A monument at the flagpole commemorates the valor of the U.S. Marines who captured much of this ground in 1918.

The remains of the hunting lodge lie in the northwest corner of the wood, on a hillside behind the cemetery chapel. During the fighting, the "pavilion" served as a German battalion headquarters until first overrun by the 43rd Company, USMC. From the top of the structure, the Marines could see well behind the German lines.