The Battle of Belleau Wood Begins I THE GREAT WAR Week 202

You’re at war and you’re trying to hold off a determined and capable enemy. When you falter and that enemy advances, you ask your ally for reinforcements. But what if he says they genuinely do not exist? You begin to evacuate your capital I’m Indy Neidell. Welcome to “the Great War”. Last week the Germans launched the Third Battle of the Aisne and made such huge gains that they were now just 50 miles from Paris. Greek and French forces attacked the Bulgarians at Skra di Legen and two big battles were fought between the Oomans and the Armenians in the Caucasus, even as Armenia, Georgia and Azerbaijan declared themselves independent nations. There was turmoil in that region this week. We saw that Kress von Kressenstein had Georgia declare itself a German protectorate so that Germany could secure the Baku oilfields before their ally, the Ottomans, could reach them with their army. And now on June 4th, The Ottomans signed a treaty of peace and friendship with the Armenians and the war of the past few weeks was over. German troops from the Crimea arrived in the brand-new Georgian Republic the 3rd and on June 5th Ottoman Minister of War Enver Pacha himself together with German general Hans von Seeckt, left Istanbul for Batum to try and solve the situation. The furious Vehip Pasha, leading the Ottoman army there, still ordered his troops to march from Alexandropol on Tiflis anyhow, though, and they were on the move as the week ended. And they weren’t the only Central Powers troops on the move. The German Offensive that started last week against the French was still going strong, but I’d like to look at some of the issues the French had going into it. They had 103 divisions in France, but 45 of them were north of the Oise River. “A World Undone” says that Germany had over 200 divisions, battered divisions, but still divisions in France and Belgium, and that the German preparations had made the challenge of figuring out where they would attack next to impossible. In fact, it calls this one of French General Philip Petain’s greatest challenges of the whole war. “Petain’s problems were further deepened by opposition at almost every step from (Ferdinand) Foch and other generals. These men continued to believe that the only way to wage war was to attack and attack again and again almost regardless of the circumstances, and that when the enemy attacked the only acceptable response was to stand in place and die rather than retreat. They saw Petain’s openness to other tactics, his willingness to learn the lessons of the past years, as weakness bordering on cowardice”. It’s true. He had repeatedly called for a defense in depth as the Germans had used so successfully, but his directives were ignored. In fact, back on May 4th, Foch issued his own order that when attacked, even a temporary withdrawal was out of the question. So now the Germans had broken through, and are 50 miles from Paris. On June 2nd, The Allied Supreme War Council meets at Versailles. The French government and tens of thousands of people prepare to evacuate the city of Paris. French command again begged American commander John Pershing to transfer American troops to the disintegrating French sector of the front, and even just temporarily, assigned them to French units. Pershing said “no way, Jose!” Actually, what the French had asked for, was 250,000 Americans to join the lines in June and another 250,000 in July. The British, French and Germans had armies numbering in the millions on the Western Front, but it looked like the real American army wouldn’t arrive in force until at least the end of the year. Pershing agreed to put 170,000 troops in the line, however, the French needed them in June and 140,000 in July, but not a single man more, and the other new arrivals from the States would be supply and support for Pershing’s future American army. The Allied leaders were in agreement that Soissons and Reims were the western and eastern keys to preventing the salient the German advance was creating from opening wider. Reims held fast, but the Germans were already in Soissons, so the Allies had to now hold the wooded plateau just beyond Soissons. And what about the French reserves? Well, Foch did not really believe this offensive was being done to take Paris, He thought it was to drain Flanders of reserves for a new attack up there, so he refused to send reserve south. He was right. As for the Germans, by now They had taken all of their objectives and tons and tons of supplies. So what to do now? Push ahead at Soissons where the attacks had been a success? Or Keep trying to take Reims, where they had not? Or push ahead to Paris in spite of the danger that their salient posed? Or call the whole thing off? Since the Allies were not moving troops down from Flanders, which was the whole idea behind this offensive, as an objective whole it was a failure. The German High Command decided to press on. It did look on paper like things were truly falling apart for the Allies, and French general Franchet D’Esperey, AKA, “Desperate Frankie”, ordered the French 5th army to abandon Reims. However, the commander there disobeyed orders and remained, and stopped the Germans. They would try for their attacks there, but they would fail. Also, June 3rd, the Germans crossed the Marne using enormous ladders, which they telescope and then laid across the river. It was clever and the ladders were wide enough for two men to cross side-by-side, and they established a machine-gun bridgehead, but two American divisions were now at Chateau-Thierry under 10 kilometers away and they attacked the bridgehead, together with French colonial troops. The Germans were forced to swim or row boats back across the river. That same day, the Americans engaged the Germans at Belleau Wood. And the next day. And the rest of the week. They would spend the next three weeks fighting to try and take the wood and block one of the German avenues towards Paris. Fighting was especially heavy the 6th. A morning assault west of the wood captured Hill 142, and a later attack captured Bouresches, but at a cost of 1,087 casualties. That day was also notable for Gunnery Sgt. Dan Daly crossing a wheat field under German machine gun fire, famously yelling to his men. “Come on ya (you) sons of bitches! Ya wanna live forever?!!”. The Third Battle of the Aisne officially ended that day, with casualties of around 130,000 for both sides. The German casualties though were mainly from assault divisions and those were becoming more and more difficult to replace. German quartermaster general Erich Ludendorff was now hastily planning to launch yet another offensive next week, beyond Soissons to the west. The French knew this because on the 3rd, they cracked a German radio code and learned the plans. They knew just what was coming and we’re. And another German secret was revealed this week. On June 2nd, the Swedish socialist newspaper “Politiken” published a secret convention between Germany and Finland. The Finnish government was to pass in the Finnish Diet the establishment of a monarchy under a German dynasty. The Finnish army would be under German leadership. Aland would be used as a German naval base, and Finnish Arctic Territory would be used for German commercial shipping. And here are some notes to end the week. On June 2nd, a German pilot named Herman Goering was awarded the “Pour le Merite”, Germany’s highest military honour. On the 3rd, Britain, France and Italy announced full support for Polish Czech and Yugoslav statehood. An independent Poland with access to the sea is now a condition of peace. On the 4th, the Taryba, the Lithuanian Council, votes to invite the Duke of Württemberg to take the Lithuanian throne. And that was the week. Ottoman troops advancing even though their war with Armenia is officially over. German troops being halted but planning another advance almost immediately, and steps toward possible German leadership of Finland and Lithuania. I’m gonna do something different today; I’m going to end with three quotes about this week’s situation on the Western Front. The first two I found in Martin Gilbert’s “the First World War” French Prime Minister Georges Clemenceau said “I shall fight before Paris. I shall fight in Paris. I shall fight behind Paris … (for) the ultimate success that is within our grasp, that we are on the very eve of grasping”. However, Morris Hankey, Secretary to the British War Cabinet did not share that optimism and wrote in his diary that same day, “I do not like the outlook. The Germans are fighting better than the Allies, and I cannot exclude the possibility of disaster”. And concerning the German situation G.J .Meyer wrote in “A World Undone”, “Once again losing sight of what he had originally intended, Ludendorff ordered seven of the divisions being saved for Flanders to be brought south to join in the attack. He was like a roulette player trying to recoup his losses by putting chips on more and more numbers”. Thing is, sometimes those numbers come up. If you’d like to learn more about the evolution of French infantry tactics, you can click right here for our special episode about that. Our Patreon supporter of the week is Philip Schoffman. If you want better maps, better animations, better everything, consider supporting us on Patreon, please. And do not forget to subscribe. See you next time.

100 thoughts on “The Battle of Belleau Wood Begins I THE GREAT WAR Week 202

  1. I think that there are some Canadians, Australians and Britons saying, please, send the Americans back! Even losing to the Germans would be better than putting up with this enormous buildup of ridiculous boasting by them. They are going to claim that inherent Yankee greatness won the war by itself, of course, and make movies to tell the world and their children's children the same thing. Leave the cheering and bravado in the stands of your college football games!

  2. It strikes me that Ludendorff, even though he is more capable and creative than his Allied counterparts, is pig-headed like they have too often been since 1914: he wants to attack, attack, attack, even though again and again his men are getting slaughtered for little gain. It seems to me that a better strategy would be to consolidate his gains of grain, coal and oil in the Ukraine, the Caucasus and Eastern Europe and invite the Allies with their American reinforcements to continue to bleed themselves dry on a strengthened and improved Hindenburg Line.

    And if he thinks that British are near the breaking point in Flanders then he should ask himself, where are the Canadians? They are the stormtroopers of the British forces, yet they have not been seen much during the Spring Offensives …

  3. Right I love World War 1 I love learning about it I wish I could find your channel interesting but I just don't

  4. The only way for allies to take care of Germans, who fought incomparably better in both wars, was to neuter their national pride. The sad results are visible today.

  5. With all respect due to the Americans and their engagement during the war, their battles at Belleau Wood and Chateau Thierry look like skirmishes if you compares their losses to the French ones in general during the numerous battles they fought in the 3 previous years of the war (same could be said for the British, Russians etc)
    I understand these battles have been very symbolic of the American sacrifice and totally respect the soldiers who fought and died there, but I think they were more useful for allied propaganda to say "Look Guys, the Americans are really in it now!". They were important for morale etc
    But their limited numbers and action makes me think they did not make the most strategic and vital contribution among the allies, a bit like the BEF in 1914.

  6. So, it might seem like a random question but It does involve The Americans and the Russians. Will the channel be covering the American Expeditionary Force, North russia.

  7. A question for Out of the Trenches: why was the top German medal called, of all things, the "Pour le Merite?"

  8. 👍👌👏
    You guys are doing some phenomenonal work!
    Thanks for the time and your efforts….I truly enjoy your videos!

  9. Follow the channel since 1915, love you all! A question for Out of the Trenches: as emergent states in the east (Finland, Lithuania, Georgia, etc.) were aligning themselves with Germany, there was a German attempt of organizing a sort of post-war conference with them?

  10. Great channel!!! Thank you for all the work and research you put into these videos. I have always loved history, your videos make it easier and enjoyable to learn more of the details. Again, thank you very much!

  11. Ok I never really studied Herman Goering but I never knew he was a ww1 veteran, he sure did gain weight.

  12. You know what would have been better for the Ottomans to do instead of joining in ww1? Stayed neutral, traded with whom ever was willing to buy any resources they had, and then take advantage of the confusion once the war stopped to send out Ottoman entrepreneurs to invest in the war torn areas where their country would benefit (preferably mutually to the folks living there) then suck up and drain any worth while people or material to be brought over in home to strengthen and modernize the empire. (Basically steal the talent and make them work for you and teach your people) That's literally what happened during the two world wars for America. The funny thing is… when world war two came around there were already folks rushing over here to escape the messed up governments and harsh regimes, even before it occurred.

  13. Hi ! I’ve been a fan for a couple of years and love the show, but your prononciation of Reims really makes me cringe. I think it’s pronounced with the « un » sound like in Verdun, and the S is not silent for once. So more like Runce but with a silent « n » than Rem as you pronounce it

  14. Really hope you do a story about the “Lost Battalion” because I can’t stress enough how much of a great story it is

  15. What bugs me about this part of the war is seeing the German Lines so close to Paris. Even though we all know that line will never reach Paris.

  16. I found a large dagger in a junk shop shaped like a ghurka – however it is stamped with an american trademark, it still has its scabbard and the hilt has been replaced by a wooden hilt…. with 5 notches carved deep into the handle – it looks like it is covered in blood and has a us marine unit stamped on the scabbard, I heard that they were used by machine gun crews to clear the brush in front of their position

  17. Is there a transcript for this episode? Seems like the only one available is the transcript automatically generated without punctuations, grammar, and inability to recognize foreign words/names.

  18. Pershing didn't want to enter his troops into trench warfare.The slaughter since 1915 when trench warfare started was clearly evident.A war of open ground was his plan.

  19. The Battle of Belleau Wood was carried out by us Marines; this is where they got the name, "Devil Dogs" from the Germans !

  20. My great great grandfather fought at Belleau, he lived. But at what cost, to see all your friends die around you.

  21. Sir, is the channel over due to lack of subscribers. I would love to see the videos for the rest of 1918.Thanks for your work. Please continue.

  22. This is the first and the only World War of the history of the world U.S Marines was fought in Europe I guess

  23. Yeah… your channel needs money for better production. I like what you're saying… just how needs to be better.

  24. The fact that Germany could almost win with little to no colony manpower against the 2 most powerful countries in Europe is amazing.

  25. As a veteran of the 5th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, we memorized a simplified version of belleau wood. Cool to get a legit breakdown of it!

  26. The immortal Dan Daly and the Marines. One of their finest hours. They earned a great deal of respect from the Germans (this is when they were dubbed "Devil Dogs", or Herfelhunden (spelling?) In German. Long live The Corps!

  27. The problem for ally was the arrogant of their English-French commanders. In this war I found American and Canadian commanders understood the battlefield than English and French commanders.

  28. Ww1 was to much to decide what to call it. It's just another war that introduced the new killing machines of that year. Like the release of a new phone or whatever.

  29. The thumbnail is wrong. The painting used doesn't depict Belleau Wood or Marines, it's a tribute to the 28th Infantry Division during the Champagne-Marne offensive titled: Men of Iron.

  30. anyone know anything about the reddit paranormal story to do with these woods?
    they call them 'The Splintered Woods' – highly entertaining read but further research is frustratingly sparse.

    any help with further reading/articles/videos/historical documents etc. would be very grateful! thanks (ツ

  31. How can French generals still not get it in their heads that the old method of "always the attack" is suicidal? After the losses of in 1914-1915 and the witnessing of German defense-in-depth in 1916-1917, how dare they call Foch a coward for not fighting like it's 1871?

  32. Extremely well done, no matter what your interest level in history might be, this series is excellent entertainment and you may just learn something while your at it.

  33. It does appear that German infantry and artillery employed superior tactics to those of other nations come 1918. However the overall military strategy of French, British and German high commands appear to be identical. Proud nations and empires at this point are having their men fight, kill and die for the mere sake of it. For the sake of not wanting to compromise and seek peace entirely because they are afraid, not of the terms being unfavourable but of how they fear they will be perceived.

    I don't think I could live with myself if I let one single person die, directly due to my actions, simply because I fear some people may be upset with me for not doing what was commonly expected or that my personal prestige may suffer. Perhaps after letting tens of thousands die for those very reasons those that were in power didn't see how millions more would make any difference, as far as their conscience was concerned. Those war mongers in all government were moral cowards, and selfish arseholes.

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