Rendez-vous in Remembrance of Belleau
To Americans, Belleau is surely one of the best known villages in France.
The wood at Belleau was the scene of terrible fighting from 6th to 25th June 1918. Using machine guns and fighting hand to hand, the Marines halted the German advance and gained mastery of the battlefield of Belleau Wood. For its baptism of fire, the 2nd Division suffered 7,876 dead, wounded or missing in action. The Marines experienced one of the darkest events of their history in the Aisne.
Belleau Wood still has the remains of trenches, shell holes and ruins.
A huge chapel with a neo-Romanesque bell tower, erected on the site of the trenches, dominates the American cemetery where nearly 2,300 soldiers rest in peace. Across the road, the village church faces the cemetery. The original church was completely destroyed in the fighting and was rebuilt after the war with funds collected by veterans of the 26th Infantry regiment of the American army.
At the centre of Belleau village stands the Remembrance Museum of Belleau 1914-1918, officially opened on 24th May 2008. It is dedicated to the memory of the many American soldiers who came to fight on French soil. Feats of battle at Belleau and the surrounding area are presented, recalling the terrifying fighting. A series of themed exhibitions highlight the remembrance and wartime heritage of the southern Aisne.
For the American army, Belleau has become a symbol of commemoration on Memorial Day, a day dedicated to the memory of those young American soldiers who gave their lives to save France.