In June 1918, near France’s Belleau Wood, the U.S. Army and Marine Corps were sent into action in a desperate attempt to stop a German breakthrough that threatened Paris. The 2nd Infantry Division, reinforced with the Marine Corps’ 4th Brigade, moved forward through shattered French Army forces who were falling back in disarray from the attacks of at least five German divisions. Assessing the situation, Army and Marine Corps leaders determined a defensive scheme, seized key terrain, and established hasty positions from which to fight. Over the following two weeks, the U.S. forces defeated successive German assaults that employed everything from attempted night infiltrations to large quantities of chemical weapons. Having blunted the German offensive, U.S. forces reconsolidated and then, in a determined and bloody counterattack, cleared Belleau Wood of German forces and paved the way for further Allied offensive operations.1
1. MAJ Edwin N. McClellan, USMC, The United States Marines in the World War, 1968 Reprint Edition (Quantico, VA: USMC G-3 Historical Branch, 1920; 1968), 21–28 and 40–44; and Allan R. Millet, Semper Fidelis: The History of the United States Marine Corps, The Revised and Expanded Edition (New York: The Free Press, 1991), 299–301.
2. This should not be taken to mean that small-unit tactics and exchanges should not be undertaken, with Army and USMC units conducting joint exercises at Twentynine Palms or the Fort Irwin National Training Center. It is simply means that, given finite fiscal resources and, more pressingly, limited time, the payoff for tactical level exercises will be limited compared to operational training.
3. Joint Staff, Joint Publication (JP) 3-31, Joint Land Operations, 24 February 2014.
4. Author e-mail correspondence with the Marine Corps Center for Lessons Learned, June–July 2019 and conversations with MCTP personnel during Warfighters 18–4 (April 2018) and 19–4 (April 2019).
5. Title 10, United States Code, Section 7062.
6. Title 10, Section 8063.