The Great War

from Great Poems of the World War, an electronic edition

Battle Of Belleau Wood

This poem was chosen by Major General John A. Lejeune, Commandant of the United States Marine Corps, as his favorite of all the Marine Corps verse written during the war. It is republished here by permission of the author and of the publishers, Reilly and Lee, who hold the copyright

IT was thick with Prussian troopers, it was foul with German guns;

Every tree that cast a shadow was a sheltering place for Huns.

Death was guarding every roadway, death was watching every field,

And behind each rise of terrain was a rapid-fire concealed

But Uncle Sam's Marines had orders: "Drive the Boche from where they're hid.

For the honor of Old Glory, take the woods!" and so they did.

I fancy none will tell it as the story should be told--

None will ever do full justice to those Yankee troopers bold.

How they crawled upon their stomachs through the fields of golden wheat

With the bullets spitting at them in that awful battle heat.

It's a tale too big for writing; it's beyond the voice or pen,

But it glows among the splendor of the bravest deeds men.

It's recorded as a battle, but I fancy it will live,

As the brightest gem of courage human struggles have to give.

Inch by inch, they crawled to victory toward the flaming mounts of guns;

Inch by inch, they crawled to grapple with the barricaded Huns

On through fields that death was sweeping with a murderous fire, they went

Till the Teuton line was vanquished and the German strength was spent.

Ebbed and flowed the tides of battle as they've seldom done before;

Slowly, surely, moved the Yankees against all the odds of war.

For the honor of the fallen, for the glory of the dead,

The living line of courage kept the faith and moved ahead.

'They'd been ordered not to falter, and when night came on they stood

With Old Glory proudly flying o'er the trees of Belleau Wood.

Notes

This poem was chosen by Major General John A. Lejeune, Commandant of the United States Marine Corps, as his favorite of all the Marine Corps verse written during the war. It is republished here by permission of the author and of the publishers, Reilly and Lee, who hold the copyright