"With the Help of God and a Few Marines": The Battles of Chateau Thierry and Belleau Wood (BOK)
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n an area of woods smaller than New York City's Central Park, the United States Marines made a desperate and dramatic stand against the might of the Imperial Germany Army's final offensive in June 1918. Had the Germans broken through the lines as planned, there would have been no Allied forces between them and Paris. World War I had stagnated for nearly four years, and this last German push was a desperate, but powerful gamble to finally bring the war to a close. As what happened at Guadalcanal during World War II, the enemy had not anticipated the ferocity and doggedness of the United States Marines. Leading this small expeditionary force was Brigadier General Albertus Wright Catlin. For most of the month of June the marines fought the Germans at close range, using their rifles effectively and engaging in hand-to-hand combat. Toward the end of the battle, Catlin was shot in the chest by a sniper and removed from the field. While recuperating, he began "With the Help of God and a Few Marines," his account of the marines' experience in France, including what became known as the Battle of Belleau Wood. First published in 1919, and considered among the finest American memoirs from World War I, it is notable for its description of what it means to be a United States Marine - an account as meaningful today as it was nearly a century ago - and its straightforward depiction of life and death on the Western Front in the last months of the war.