THE COST OF FREEDOM IS GREAT.
BELLEAU WOODS, FRANCE
JUNE 6, 19186 June 1918
Arguably, this was the most catastrophic day in Marine Corps history to this date. Two assaults take place. At 0500, the 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment attacks west of Belleau Wood straightening the front and capturing strategic Hill 142 to support an assault on the wooded area. The attack was successful despite the lack of preparation and poor timing. It went off with only 2 companies and timely arrival of the other two avoided a defeat. Gunnery Sgt E. A. Janson's was awarded a Medal of Honor for his service in this assault. A member of Capt. Hamilton's 49th Co., he was responsible for effectively stopping a German counterattack.
Twelve hours later battalions of the 5th and 6th Marine Regiments frontally assault the woods from the south and west and attempt to capture Bouresches on the east edge of the woods. This afternoon attack was to be coordinated between the 3rd Batt, 5th Marines [3/5] and 3rd Batt, 6th Marines [3/6] with the latter eventually taking the village of Bouresches.
The attack against the woods proper goes grimly. Crossing a wheat field where they are exposed to machine gun fire. Gunnery Sgt Dan Daly asks his men, "Come on ya sons-of-bitches, ya want to live forever?' The attack is only able to seize a small corner of the wood. The army 2nd Engineer Regiment is called on to provide reinforcements.
The poorly coordinated attack on the woods left the 3/5 decimated and the 3/6 struggling to get into the southern edge of the woods. The Brigade order was amended and the 2/6 (in reserve around Triangle Farm) was directed to take Bouresches. Capt Duncan's 96th Company led the way with future Corps Commandant Lt. Clifton Cates. Lead elements of the company got into the village and were then reinforced by Capt Zane's 79th Company. The retention of the village was a real struggle due to the fact that the Marine flanks were wide-open fields and any attempt to reinforce received heavy German fire. Personal bravery kept the Marines supplied with needed supplies. US Navy Dental Service Officer Lt. JG. Weedon Osborne's received the Medal of Honor after being killed trying to save Capt Duncan. Today there is street in Bouresches named for him.
In addition to the village, the Brigade was directed to take the railroad station just outside. However, it was heavily manned and protected by a railroad embankment providing the Germans excellent fields of fire and the attack failed. On this day, the Marine Brigade suffered the worst single day's casualties in USMC history with 1087 men killed or wounded.
Battle of Iwo Jima
19 Feb 1945 - 26 Mar 1945
he naval bombardment stopped at 0857, and at 0902, the first of an eventual 30,000 marines of the 3rd, 4th, and 5th Marine Divisions, under V Amphibious Corps, departed in their landing craft. They arrived at the beach 3 minutes later. It was uneventful. They were sure that optimists like Jim Buchanan must be right, there were no Japanese left to fight; the only casualties that occurred were to drownings caused by a powerful undertow. Several more waves of landing crafts hit the beach and dropped off their men, tanks, and supplies continuously in the next hour, and it was about then when the thunders of the Japanese guns hit. Under Kuribayashi's specific instructions, they waited an hour for the beach to crowd up before the guns sounded so that every shot fired would inflict maximum damage on the Americans. "Smoke and earsplitting noise suddenly filled the universe," and the Marines had nowhere to hide as the volcanic sand was too soft to dig a proper foxhole. All they could do was move forward; some of those who could not move forward were crushed by tanks that were trying to get off of the beach like the men. Navy Corpsman Roy Steinfort recalled that as he arrived on the beach, he was initially happy to see that countless Marines lay prone defending the beachhead. It did not take long to realize that the men were not in prone positions; they were all dead. Frantic radio calls reported back to the operations HQ: "All units pinned down by artillery and mortars", "casualties heavy", "taking heavy fire and forward movement stopped", and "artillery fire the heaviest ever seen". By sun down, the Americans had already incurred 2,420 casualties.
First Lieutenant Barber Conable of the United States Marines, who would later become the president of the World Bank, woke up in disbelief when he saw the second flag flying above Mount Suribachi. He recalled:
"It was my first time in battle and we were all terrified. Someone jumped into my foxhole and swore: 'it wasn't like this on Bougainville.' The officer I admire the most, the man in the next foxhole, a sergeant I knew -- they were all killed. My hearing is impaired to this day.... A major came over looking for a site for a cemetery and was shot by a sniper.... I was lucky.... When she heard about (the flag raising), Tokyo Rose said the flag on the mountain would be thrown into the sea. I hadn't had any sleep for more than sixty hours, so I didn't see them raise it, and it was wonderful to wake up to. I must say I got a little weepy when I saw it."
The Allied forces suffered 25,000 casualties, with nearly 7,000 dead. Over 1/4 of the Medals of Honor awarded to marines in World War II were given for conduct in the invasion of Iwo Jima.
In sum, Iwo Jima saw the only major battle in the entire Pacific Campaign where American casualties surpassed the Japanese dead. All the lives lost, on both sides of the battle, for ten square miles; for that very reason, Admiral Richmond Turner was criticized by American press for wasting the lives of his men. However, by war's end, Iwo Jima sure appeared to have saved many Americans, too. 2,400 B-29 landings took place at Iwo Jima, many were under emergency conditions that might otherwise meant a crash at sea.
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