Now all roads lead to France and heavy is the tread
Of the living; but the dead returning lightly dance.
Edward Thomas, Roads

Friday, October 15, 2021

Future U.S. Marine Corps Commandants at Belleau Wood

That four future Marine Corps commandants fought at Belleau Wood might not surprise many of our readers.  The name of one who was not there, however, might surprise you.  Legendary Marine, John Lejeune, was busy with other duties within the AEF at the time.  More on that below, but here are the four that were destined for greater responsibilities after surviving that struggle for the little forest near the Marne River in June 1918.

Now, about General Lejeune's whereabouts:

From May to August 1917, Lejeune helped organize the 5th and 6th Marine Regiments and took command of the new Marine Corps base at Quantico, Virginia. He remained there until May 1918, whereupon the commandant sent him to serve on General John J. Pershing’s (1860–1948) staff, at Chaumont, France. From 19 June to 4 July, Lejeune served with the 35th Division in the Vosges Mountains. He earned promotion to major general on 1 July, and on 5 July he briefly assumed command of the 64th Infantry Brigade of the 32nd Division. Then, on 25 July, he took command of the 4th Brigade (Marines), 2nd Division. Just three days later, Lejeune took over command of the entire 2nd Division. Shortly after his taking command, the 2nd Division participated in the American-commanded St. Mihiel Offensive, the Battle of Blanc Mont Ridge, and the final stage of the Meuse-Argonne Offensive.

Sources: and Encyclopedia 1914-1918


  1. This tidbit of Marine Corps lore was discovered by Col Pete Ferraro USMC (Ret.) when he was the Head, Reference Branch, USMC History Division. I had previously noted to him that all division commanders at Iwo Jima were Belleau Wood veterans: Keller Rocky, Graves Erskine, and Clifton Cates. Of course, LtGen H.M. Smith who commanded the Amphibious Corps was the French Liaison Officer for the 4th Brigade (Marine) at the time. Small Corps.

  2. For those of you whose interest in military history extends beyond World War One, Stephen Taaffe’s new book Commanding the Pacific, which discusses the Marine leadership in World War Two, covers this subject. Most of Taaffe’s books focus on the leadership facets of various wars, how leaders are chosen, how generals function as a team, how the structure of an organization affects the outcome and so forth. In his latest book, Taaffe’s makes the same point Mr. Anderson makes.

    1. Sounds like a book worth reading. Goes along with the volumes on leadership dynamics in Europe.