Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Quote of the Day: “Come On, You Sons of Bitches, Do You Want to Live Forever?”

 

Commemorating the start of the Battle of Belleau Wood, 100 years ago today, and Sergeant Daniel Joseph Daly, who is credited with shouting these words to his men, just before charging the Germans. It is reputed that Daly was twice offered a commission, and that he responded, on both occasions, that he would “rather be an outstanding sergeant than just another officer.”

I’ve been well schooled by my nearest and dearest, over the past forty years, on the unique position enjoyed by the word “outstanding” atop the United States Marine Corps hierarchy of merit. And I have a sense that the soon-to-be Sergeant Major was using the adjective correctly in reference to himself. He is one of only seven Corps recipients of two Medals of Honor (there are nineteen such across all the service branches), and he and Major General Smedley D. Butler are the only two Marines to have been awarded their Medals for separate actions, in different years.

Unsurprisingly, there’s a bit of the fog of battle about the origin of the quote itself. Some claim that those weren’t exactly Daly’s words, that they were either even more salty, or slightly less so; others say that, perhaps, they were shouted by someone else. Still others say that a similar cry was first given breath by Frederick the Great, at the battle of Kolin in 1757.

Regardless (or irregardless, as the case may be), the words have passed into legend as recorded here, and will forever be associated with Sergeant Daly and Belleau Wood.

As to the question put forth in today’s quote: I doubt that most of the (overwhelmingly) young men in the woods that fine, hot, summer’s day had thoughts of immortality on their mind. I daresay most of them were thinking of their mothers, their sweethearts, and their loved ones, praying that they’d be able to keep their heads down and their powder dry, and just hoping that they’d live long enough to go home at the end of it all.

But duty and country called, and that dream died along with almost two thousand of the American men in Belleau Wood, while the lives of the eight thousand wounded would never be the same. The United States Marine Corps suffered more casualties during the three-week battle than it had in its entire history to that point, and its exploits there have passed into legend.

When it was over, Secretary of the Navy, Josephus Daniels wrote:

“In all the history of the Marine Corps there is no such battle as that one in Belleau Wood. Fighting day and night without relief, without sleep, often without water, and for days without hot rations, the Marines met and defeated the best divisions that Germany could throw into the line.

The heroism and doggedness of that battle are unparalleled. Time after time officers seeing their lines cut to pieces, seeing their men so dog tired that they even fell asleep under shellfire, hearing their wounded calling for the water they were unable to supply, seeing men fight on after they had been wounded and until they dropped unconscious; time after time officers seeing these things, believing that the very limit of human endurance had been reached, would send back messages to their post command that their men were exhausted.

But in answer to this would come the word that the line must hold, and, if possible, those lines must attack. And the lines obeyed. Without water, without food, without rest, they went forward – and forward every time to victory.”

Finally, on June 26, Major Maurice Shearer of the Third Battalion, Fifth Marines, declared that victory unequivocally, by submitting a report to HQ stating simply, “Woods now U.S. Marine Corps entirely.” Four days later, General Jean Marie Joseph Degoutte, commander of the Sixth French Army, issued a general order that, going forward, Bois de Belleau would be known as Bois de Brigade de Marine, the “Woods of the Marines.” And the battle for those woods is recognized as one of the most important turning points of the “war to end all wars” for its role in thwarting a last-ditch German push towards Paris.

One hundred years later, we give thanks for those men yet again. Because they do live forever, in the hearts and minds of free men and women everywhere. God bless them, and all like them, those who have come before or since. Thank you.

From the USMC Archives, Belleau Wood, Summer 1918. The inscription on the photograph reads “Every tree in Belleau Wood bears the scars of battle.”

A ceremony was held this year to commemorate the centenary and the losses incurred by the United States forces during its course.

There are 23 comments.

  1. Titus Techera Contributor

    Yup, Friedrich: Hunde, wohlt ihr ewig leben?

    Can’t beat it.

    Great use, though, in the democratic age. Damn stirring.

    • #1
    • June 6, 2018, at 6:22 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  2. Vectorman Thatcher

    She: And the battle for those woods is recognized as one of the most important turning points of the “war to end all wars” for its role in thwarting a last-ditch German push towards Paris.

    FIFY. When the US entered the war with fresh troops, it was all over for the Germans.


    This conversation is an entry in our Quote of the Day Series. We have many openings in the June 2018 Sign-Up Sheet and Schedule, along with tips for finding great quotes.

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    • #2
    • June 6, 2018, at 6:26 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  3. She Thatcher
    She Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Vectorman (View Comment):

    She: And the battle for those woods is recognized as one of the most important turning points of the “war to end all wars” for its role in thwarting a last-ditch German push towards Paris.

    FIFY. When the US finally entered the war with fresh troops, it was all over for the Germans.

     

    FIFY. (Messing you about a bit, is all, which should be clear from the context of the OP. Chalk it up to an uncharacteristic outburst of nationalistic oneupmanship).

    • #3
    • June 6, 2018, at 6:46 AM PDT
    • 9 likes
  4. Nanda "Chaps" Panjan… Inactive

    OOHRAH! Semper Fidelis, Marines…Rest Easy, and Thanks for this, @she!

    • #4
    • June 6, 2018, at 9:02 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  5. Susan Quinn Contributor

    A moving post, @she. So many men have died to preserve freedom. I find myself wanting to read every story to soak up their commitment and courage. Thanks.

    • #5
    • June 6, 2018, at 10:17 AM PDT
    • 5 likes
  6. She Thatcher
    She Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    I would like to take this opportunity to recognize Thomas Herbert Mapson, the father of the woman I always knew as “Aunty Betty,” although technically she was my grandmother’s first cousin (shameless self-promotion alert).

    The six-year-old Betty’s forty-year old father, Thomas Herbert Mapson, went to war in 1918, when an exhausted and war-weary* Britain was conscripting 40-year-old fathers of small children to go to war as Privates in the British Army. He didn’t last long.

    He served in the 3rd Battalion, Worcester Regiment, and was killed in action on 10 April 1918. It’s most likely that he died in the Battle of the Lys, just east of Ypres. A few years ago, my brother found his grave marker.

    marker

    *This was when the phrase “war weary” actually meant something.

    • #6
    • June 6, 2018, at 11:21 AM PDT
    • 11 likes
  7. She Thatcher
    She Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Another World War I story, if you’ll indulge me: Uncle Arthur (my actual uncle–Dad’s oldest brother, who was born in 1907, was a wonderful gentleman who died in 2009 at the age of 102 (not for nothing does Mr. She suspect that my family has Dúnedain blood–especially as he knows that Uncle Arthur and JRR Tolkien attended the same Birmingham grammar school).

    Anyhoo, Uncle Arthur told many stories about his attendance, with his mother, at the Birmingham train station during WWI, where Grandma, who was a stalwart of the Womens’ Institute, served tea and cakes to the arriving and departing troops. At the time, the young Arthur became fascinated with the ANZAC soldiers, prompting a lifelong interest which ended up with him becoming a well-known amateur expert on the Gallipoli campaign. When he died, The Gallipolian, the Journal of the Gallipoli Association, noted his passing, and linked to the several articles he had written for them over the years.

    But what his family remembers about Arthur’s stories at the train station is his recollection of the music-hall songs that were played over the loudspeakers at the time, and that Australian Florrie Forde’s rendition of “Hold Your Hand Out, Naughty Boy,” spoke so loudly to Arthur that he was convinced (at the age of about eight or nine) that it was about him, so every time he heard it, he started to cry.

    • #7
    • June 6, 2018, at 12:58 PM PDT
    • 5 likes
  8. Susan Quinn Contributor

    She (View Comment):
    But what his family remembers about Arthur’s stories at the train station is his recollection of the music-hall songs that were played over the loudspeakers at the time,

    Oh yes, how times have changed! What a cute song! Poor Arthur, though.

    • #8
    • June 6, 2018, at 1:09 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  9. She Thatcher
    She Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Titus Techera (View Comment):

    Yup, Friedrich: Hunde, wohlt ihr ewig leben?

    Hmm. @titustechera –Was he speaking to, and anticipating, the Teufelshunde, do you know?

    Can’t beat it.

    Indeed.

    Great use, though, in the democratic age. Damn stirring.

    Yes. Nothing like a revamp through the eyes of an Irish-American New Yorker.

    • #9
    • June 6, 2018, at 1:39 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  10. Percival Thatcher
    Percival Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Dan Daly’s first Medal of Honor citation is something of a masterpiece in understatement.

    In the presence of the enemy during the battle of Peking, China, 14 August 1900, Daly distinguished himself by meritorious conduct.

    Yeah, you can say that.

    During the Boxer Rebellion, Daly accompanied the captain of his company to reconnoiter a position where the Marines wanted a barricade constructed. Seeing the abysmal state of the position, the captain decided to go back to the ship and bring back reinforcements and supplies to do the job right. The US Legation was at risk. Someone had to guard the position — alone. The captain told Daly that he couldn’t order him to volunteer; the Boxers were everywhere and in no good mood.

    “See you in the morning, Captain” said the private.

    And so he did. Daly, his rifle, his bayonet, and about 200 dead Boxers. By himself.

    • #10
    • June 6, 2018, at 3:56 PM PDT
    • 12 likes
  11. She Thatcher
    She Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Percival (View Comment):

    Dan Daly’s first Medal of Honor citation is something of a masterpiece in understatement.

    In the presence of the enemy during the battle of Peking, China, 14 August 1900, Daly distinguished himself by meritorious conduct.

    Yeah, you can say that.

    During the Boxer Rebellion, Daly accompanied the captain of his company to reconnoiter a position where the Marines wanted a barricade constructed. Seeing the abysmal state of the position, the captain decided to go back to the ship and bring back reinforcements and supplies to do the job right. The US Legation was at risk. Someone had to guard the position — alone. The captain told Daly that he couldn’t order him to volunteer; the Boxers were everywhere and in no good mood.

    “See you in the morning, Captain” said the private.

    And so he did. Daly, his rifle, his bayonet, and about 200 dead Boxers. By himself.

    It has been my privilege to know a few people like that. Thanks for filling in the blanks. Not that Daly had any, it seems. Blanks, I mean.

    • #11
    • June 6, 2018, at 4:30 PM PDT
    • 5 likes
  12. J Ro Member

    She (View Comment):

    Percival (View Comment):

    Dan Daly’s first Medal of Honor citation is something of a masterpiece in understatement.

    In the presence of the enemy during the battle of Peking, China, 14 August 1900, Daly distinguished himself by meritorious conduct.

    Yeah, you can say that.

    During the Boxer Rebellion, Daly accompanied the captain of his company to reconnoiter a position where the Marines wanted a barricade constructed. Seeing the abysmal state of the position, the captain decided to go back to the ship and bring back reinforcements and supplies to do the job right. The US Legation was at risk. Someone had to guard the position — alone. The captain told Daly that he couldn’t order him to volunteer; the Boxers were everywhere and in no good mood.

    “See you in the morning, Captain” said the private.

    And so he did. Daly, his rifle, his bayonet, and about 200 dead Boxers. By himself.

    It has been my privilege to know a few people like that. Thanks for filling in the blanks. Not that Daly had any, it seems. Blanks, I mean.

    The Corps was much smaller back then, so Daly and Smedley Butler were often in the same campaign together. On the approach march from the sea to Peking during the Boxer Rebellion, 1Lt Butler drew attention to himself getting wounded while “bringing in a wounded man from the front under heavy and accurate fire.”

    A young Army artillery officer named Charles P. Summerall also made a name for himself in Peking blasting open, at point blank range, several gates leading to the Forbidden City. Something to remember when you are there taking snaps at those gates!

    • #12
    • June 6, 2018, at 8:27 PM PDT
    • 6 likes
  13. Al French Coolidge

    My mother’s uncle was a Captain of the Marines and won a Silver Star and a Croix de Guerre in the Battle of Belleau Woods. I inherited his military effects, including the medals, his sword and his casket flag. He was the commanding officer of the Marine Barracks in Panama when he died. I proudly wore his silver oak leaf collar device when I was a Navy commander. The flag has been family holiday colors for 60 years.

    • #13
    • June 6, 2018, at 9:20 PM PDT
    • 12 likes
  14. She Thatcher
    She Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Al French, sad sack (View Comment):

    My mother’s uncle was a Captain of the Marines and won a Silver Star and a Croix de Guerre in the Battle of Belleau Woods. I inherited his military effects, including the medals, his sword and his casket flag. He was the commanding officer of the Marine Barracks in Panama when he died. I proudly wore his silver oak leaf collar device when I was a Navy commander. The flag has been family holiday colors for 60 years.

    What a simply (to coin a phrase) “outstanding” piece of information! Thanks for sharing it, and God Bless your great uncle. What an honor to be the custodian of his effects. And thank you for your service, too.

    • #14
    • June 6, 2018, at 11:45 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  15. Nanda "Chaps" Panjan… Inactive

    After watching a “Marine Minute” last night, I found that this is also rendered as: “For Christ’s sake, come on, men!…Don’t you want to live for ever?!” Daly was not necessarily George C. Scott in “Patton”. Just sayin’ 

    • #15
    • June 7, 2018, at 7:15 AM PDT
    • 5 likes
  16. She Thatcher
    She Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Nanda Pajama-Tantrum (View Comment):

    After watching a “Marine Minute” last night, I found that this is also rendered as: “For Christ’s sake, come on, men!…Don’t you want to live for ever?!” Daly was not necessarily George C. Scott in “Patton”. Just sayin’

    Yes, that’s true. The first thing I notice is that their hats covers are quite different . . . .

    • #16
    • June 7, 2018, at 7:53 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  17. Nanda "Chaps" Panjan… Inactive

    She (View Comment):

    Nanda Pajama-Tantrum (View Comment):

    After watching a “Marine Minute” last night, I found that this is also rendered as: “For Christ’s sake, come on, men!…Don’t you want to live for ever?!” Daly was not necessarily George C. Scott in “Patton”. Just sayin’

    Yes, that’s true. The first thing I notice is that their hats covers are quite different . . . .

    So they are, indeed… :-)

    • #17
    • June 7, 2018, at 7:56 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  18. Mark Camp Member

    Fine article, thanks.

    The quote, whether addressed by old Fred to den Hunde themselves, or by our Sergeant Daly to their pups, reminds me of a book I read on the famous Marine Chesty Puller.

    I had always wondered where warrior leaders find the conviction to walk about upright on foot or in saddle, under fire, in front of their terrified, cowering men, urging them on to their duty.

    More than that, what thoughts justify to them in their minds calling their beloved troops to their likely injury or death? To me it seems to require enormous courage to offer up your life, but even more to offer up the lives of others.

    Chesty’s exact words escape me but they were to this effect, that “there are worse things than to die for your country”. I’ve seen other quotes that capture the idea, which is that you are not choosing whether to die or not, but for what purpose.

    It made more comprehensible to me the courage of our heroic combat leaders who call for the same sacrifice from those in their charge that they call for from themselves.

    • #18
    • June 7, 2018, at 11:52 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  19. She Thatcher
    She Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Mark Camp (View Comment):

    Fine article, thanks.

    No, thank you.

    The quote, whether addressed by old Fred to den Hunde themselves, or by our Sergeant Daly to their pups, reminds me of a book I read on the famous Marine Chesty Puller.

    I had always wondered where warrior leaders find the conviction to walk about upright on foot or in saddle, under fire, in front of their terrified, cowering men, urging them on to their duty.

    I suspect (thanks, Dad) that they do it because they think that it is their own duty to instill “heart” into the minds of others, no matter their own feelings or the consequences to themselves.

    More than that, what thoughts justify to them in their minds calling their beloved troops to their likely injury or death? To me it seems to require enormous courage to offer up your life, but even more to offer up the lives of others.

    Yes. I think this is true. And I think that can break people, when “offering up the lives of others” is actually what happens.

    Chesty’s exact words escape me but they were to this effect, that “there are worse things than to die for your country”. I’ve seen other quotes that capture the idea, which is that you are not choosing whether to die or not, but for what purpose.

    Agree. I don’t know which quote you’re referring to. But I do know that “Chesty” Puller is alleged to have said:

    “Our country won’t go on forever, if we stay soft as we are now. There won’t be any America—because some foreign soldiery will invade us and take our women and breed a hardier race.”

    And also:

    “Take me to the Brig. I want to see the “real Marines.”

    And also:

    “There are not enough Chinamen in the world to stop a fully armed Marine regiment from going where ever they want to go”

    Lord, I hope that last one, at least, is true. But, yikes. How politically incorrect and uncomfortable all those quotes are!

    It made more comprehensible to me the courage of our heroic combat leaders who call for the same sacrifice from those in their charge that they call for from themselves.

    I wonder, sometimes, who are the “warrior leaders” and who are their “terrified, cowering men.” Seems to me, as you go up (and down) the chain of command, that those paradigms may shift (which is one of the reasons that the Bernard Cornwell, Richard Sharpe, books and videos are among my favorites of all times). Because I think that the “terrified, cowering men” exist at all levels, including the highest. The most difficult paradigm of all, I think is when such “terrified, cowering” men are at the top of the pyramid, and when those “below” them have more of a grasp of the situation, more of an understanding of what is needed, and more guts, than their supreme commander.

    I have a feeling that there are many on Ricochet who could speak to this situation. If they are reading this post, I thank them, and invite them to do so.

    • #19
    • June 7, 2018, at 12:19 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  20. Percival Thatcher
    Percival Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Retreat, hell. We just got here!

    — Capt. Lloyd W. Williams, 51st Company, 2nd Battalion, 5th Marines, to a French colonel, June 2, 1918

    • #20
    • June 7, 2018, at 3:23 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  21. ST Inactive
    ST

    Great post.

    I seem to recall that there have been one or more attempts by certain powers that be to either eliminate entirely or roll the (US) Marine Corps into some sort of outfit within our Army.

    Always liked this painting depicting Marines in Belleau Wood.

    • #21
    • June 9, 2018, at 6:26 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  22. Percival Thatcher
    Percival Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    A young man that had just enlisted in the US Marine Corps, when told who his First Sergeant was, said “God, you mean he’s real? I thought he was someone the Marines made up, like Paul Bunyan.”

    • #22
    • June 9, 2018, at 7:39 AM PDT
    • 4 likes
  23. Nanda "Chaps" Panjan… Inactive

    @simontemplar: Bienvenido de Vuelta, Sñr. Caballero! I was wondering whether I might have to deploy the “yut-signal” soon. :-)

    (Thanks, TBA!)

    • #23
    • June 9, 2018, at 10:15 AM PDT
    • 2 likes