In the spring of 1918, Germany had good news and bad news. The good news was that the surrender of Russia had freed large numbers of troops to move to the Western Front. That would enable the Germans to hopefully knock France and the United Kingdom out of the war.
The 1918 Spring Offensive was, in some ways, a last throw of the dice. In 1917, the United States had declared war on Germany in the wake of Germany’s submarine attacks in the North Atlantic and Mediterranean, and the Zimmerman Telegram – an intercepted cable that revealed Germany’s offer to work with Mexico against the U.S.
The United States, after taking time to train troops for the fighting on the Western Front, sent military elements to join French and British forces to battle the Germans. The first units to arrive joined French forces near Chateau Thierry. The 3rd Division held the Germans, and was reinforced by the 2nd Division, which included a Marine Brigade with the 5th and 6th Marine Regiments.
Fierce fighting raged for the next 25 days. When ordered by the French to fall back, one Marine officer, Captain Lloyd Williams, said, “Retreat? Hell, we just got here.” Later, prior to the Marines taking on entrenched Germans, two-time Medal of Honor recipient Dan Daly would ask his fellow Leathernecks, “Come on, you sons of bitches, do you want to live forever?”
At the end of the battle, the Marines held Belleau Wood, earning the nickname “devil dogs” from the German forces they vanquished during that battle.