USS HARRY S. TRUMAN, At Sea (NNS) -- Several Marines from Marine Corps Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 312, attached to USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75), visited the historic battlegrounds of Belleau Wood during a recent port visit to Marseille, France June 9.
The battle at Belleau Wood was significant because it was the battle in which German forces first began referring to Marines as "Devil Dogs" because of the tenacity and ferocity they displayed, a nickname still used today.
In 1918, the Marines of 4th Marine Brigade, the 5th and 6th Marine Regiments, of the U.S. 2d Army Division began a series of attacks during the Battle of Belleau Wood, which culminated June 25, 1918, with the capture of the area and the defeat of the German offensive.
Today, the memorial site is a tribute to the American service members who fought during World War I.
"I missed my opportunity to go five years ago; I wasn't missing it this time. It was breathtaking to see the place that set the standards for Marines," said Marine Gunnery Sgt. Jason Martin, the maintenance administration division chief for VMFA 312. "This is a location any Marine should want to visit, and I am glad I did."
During the visit, a few of the Marines visited Paris and Aisne-Marne American Cemetery and Memorial.
"I wanted to see where we come from," said Cpl. Nicholas Izzo, a ground support equipment representative for VMFA-312. "The trip was not expensive, and we only know of our history from what we learned in school or recruit training. Being there makes the experience much different than seeing it in the pages of a history book."
For the Marines who visited, Belleau Wood is much more than a battlefield memorial.
"Visiting Belleau Wood is a rare occasion for any Marine," Martin said. "The battle signified who we are as Marines. The Marines there set the standard we all go by today. Our past at Belleau Wood is one of the examples of what distinctly separates us from any other service."
At the site, they were able to visit many early 20th century monuments that still stand in the area. Some of the monuments seen were the Memorial Chapel, the graves of approximately 1,000 service members who died in the battle, the Marine Monument and the Devil Dog fountain.
"It is a tradition for Marines to drink from the fountain because it still stands after being partially destroyed in the 1918 battle," Izzo said. "Some of the Marines didn't know about the tradition until I told them about it. All of us drank from it."
Marines stationed in the U.S. have the opportunity to visit sites such as the National Museum in New York or the Tun Tavern in Philadelphia, the birthplace of the Marine Corps. The location of Belleau Wood makes it difficult to visit, so this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity will not be forgotten by the Marines who came.
"The trip was fun and inspirational, and everything there looked nicer than anything I have ever experienced [in Beaufort, S.C.]," said Marine Lance Cpl. Sara Mund, an aviation maintenance administration clerk with VMFA-312. "The Devil Dog fountain will be the most memorable thing to me."
The Devil Dogs of VMFA-312 returned to Truman with a better understanding of what their past brothers and sisters sacrificed in order for them to wear the title U.S. Marines across their left breast pocket.
Truman deployed May 21 as part of the HSTCSG in support of Maritime Security Operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 5th and 6th Fleet areas of responsibility. HSTCSG includes Commander, Carrier Strike Group 10, USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75), Carrier Air Wing 3, Commander, Destroyer Squadron 26 and Hessen.
For more news from USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75), visit www.navy.mil/local/cvn75/.