Belleau Wood WWI ceremonies

Many Americans will visit Normandy on June 6, ’04, for events surrounding the 60th anniversary of D-Day.

A few winters ago, sans crowds, I explored the Normandy landing sites and was astonished to see surfers riding the waves there. Even more bizarre was my discovery of the Omaha Beach Golf Club. Not a golfer myself, I raided the pro shop for an Omaha Beach golf shirt, one which never fails to draw comments.

As a U.S. Marine, now retired, I also must point out that in June 1918, during WWI, two regiments (a division has three) of Marines counterattacked five German divisions at Belleau Wood 60 miles east of Paris, stopping their big push down the Marne and thereby saving Paris. The grateful French gave the wood, Bois de Marines Americain, to our Marines.

Americans visiting Normandy in May ’04 are invited to attend the annual commemorative ceremonies at Belleau Wood, this year on Saturday, May 22. The Commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps; the Marine Corps Drum & Bugle Corps from Washington, D.C.; Marines stationed in Europe (in their dress blues), and members of the French army and its band plus a few French generals will participate there at the American cemetery.

After the ceremony, almost everyone will walk over to the tiny town of Belleau to drink water from a spring which flows through the ceramic head of a bulldog.

Though Belleau Wood is little more than an hour’s drive from Paris on the autoroute, it’s not easy to find. Exit at Château-Thierry (there’s a great WWI monument there) and ask directions. The country road starts on the outskirts of town.

The French have a love affair with the U.S. Marines and have even devoted a section of their great military museum, Les Invalides, to our Marines.

Oakland, CA