Hunting Lodge at Belleau Wood

A common feature in many turn-of-the century French forests were shelters for the use of autumn and winter hunting parties. Called a "Maison" or "Pavilion de Chasse", these simple structures were constructed to provide protection from the elements and as a meeting location for a drink and a meal during the hunt. Built of brick and masonry and often octagonal in shape, these solid shelters became positions of tactical importance when their positons fell within the fighting zone.

At the beginning of Junç, 1918, the German drive south from the Chemin des Dames, to the Marne River, had reached the vicinity north of Chateau Thierry. Rushed up to support the beleagered French troops, the American 2nd Division came into the line west of Belleau Wood on June 3, 1918. One of this Division’s two brigades - the 4th - was composed of two regiments of US Marines, the 5th and 6th Regiments.

On June 6th 1918, the Marines attacked the wood. For the next three weeks, the fighting see-sawed back and forth across the fields and through the broken boulder-strewn interior of the wood. The Germans mounted a tenacious defence of the wood, determined to deny the Americans a tactical victory of enormous propaganda potential. On June 26th, the message reached American headquarters, "Belleau wood now U.S. Marine Corps entirely."

Belleau Wood was renamed "Bois de la Brigade de Marines" by the French and the small forest now belongs to the U.S. Government. On the flat ground below the wood’s northern end lies the American Aisne-Marne Cemetery, which holds 2,288 graves.

The remains of the hunting lodge lie in the northwest corner of the wood, on a hillside behind the cemetery chapel. During the fighting, the "pavillon" served as a German battalion headqurters until first overrun by the 43rd Company, USMC. From the top of the structure, the Marines could see well behind the German lines. Confused fighting swirled around the position for two more weeks, until its final capture on the morning of June 26th. To the north the Marines found the hunting lodge still standing, its octagonal façade scarred by a 155mm shell which left its entrance covered with seven mangled German bodies; the torso of one rested in the crotch of a nearby tree.

The immediate postwar photo - a commercial postcard - shows the hunting lodge being inspected by several civilians and French officers. The graves of three unknown Germans are visible at the foot of the tree to the left.

The present day view shows that considerable damage has occurred to the second story during the postwar years. The German graves have been collected into the nearby German cemetery at Belleau.

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Original artwork & copy; © 1998-2004, TGWS.