From the Publisher
"Axelrod is one America’s great military historians. He’s done it this time with riveting non-stop action that reads like the best of Hemingway’s frontline reports plus the Marine Corps novels of W.E.B. Griffin. Axelrod pushes you right into the action, onto the battlefield, and never lets up. You become a firsthand witness to one of the world’s great battles, proud and heart-pounding as the elite force, the Devil Dogs, are born in a small forest outside Paris. This is one book I wish I’d written!"Paul B. Farrell, J.D., Ph.D., syndicated columnist for Dow Jones’ MarketWatch. He is the author of The Lazy Person’s Guide to Investing, a former investment banker with Morgan Stanley, and a former Staff Sergeant in the US Marine Corps. “Alan Axelrod has perfectly captured the embodiment of U.S. Marines and their unparalleled Esprit de Corps in his new book, 'Miracle at Belleau Wood.' As a former Marine, I find Axelrod's descriptions of the combat in that bloody battle for which the Corps became legendary and which is the foundation of its mythic lore compelling and gut-wrenching. Axelrod's re-telling of the tales some from the letters, diaries and personal accounting of those who fought there more than does justice to Marines at Bois de la Brigade de Marine, as Belleau Wood became known to honor the Devil Dogs who fought and died there. More heroes and legends grew from Belleau Wood than from any other battle in the Corps's history. The names ring out in Axelrod's book Daly, Blanchfield, Lee. Legends one and all. Axelrod brings it all to life for the reader. Though a historical accounting of the battle, 'Miracle at Belleau Wood' puts the reader in the front row 'inches of real estate were purchased with gallons of blood' as you witness the heroism and ups and downs endured by the Marines as they defeated the Germans at overwhelming odds. As Axelrod writes, '...created...in 1775, the United States Marine Corps was born in that French forest...in 1918.' A must read!”Jay Kopelman, author of the best-selling From Baghdad with Love, and a former Lt. Colonel in the U.S. Marine Corps "Axelrod brings us back vividly to the shocking casualties of 'the war to end all wars,' opening up fresh insights into the nature of the fighting and the decisions that shaped a generation."Bing West is a correspondent for The Atlantic and the award-winning author of two books on the Iraq war. He is a former Marine in Vietnam and assistant secretary of defense.
Prolific bestseller Axelrod (Patton: A Biography, etc.) examines the evolution of the Marine Corps in this sprightly popular history of the pivotal WWI Battle of Belleau Wood in France. The Marine Corps, founded in the American Revolution, entered the 20th century on the verge of extinction. Saved by a congressional intervention that repealed Theodore Roosevelt's 1908 executive order withdrawing Marines from warships, the Marine brass looked to WWI as a chance to build up their ranks. The War Department sent two Marine brigades to France, but the U.S. commander, Gen. John Pershing, was reluctant to use themrelenting only when a German offensive threatened Paris. Belleau Wood, formerly "an idyllic patch of forest" used as a hunting preserve for the wealthy, was occupied by the Germans and transformed into "a natural fortress" bristling with machine-gun emplacements. In a savage, month-long fight, the 4th Marine Brigade pushed the entrenched Germans out of Belleau Wood, earning a new nickname from the enemy (Devil Dogs), forging a reputation as "America's fiercest warriors" and securing the future of the corps. Based exclusively on published material, Axelrod's brisk if conventional narrative provides a solid introduction to a crucial battle for fans of military history. (June)Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Despite the book's claim, the Marines' bloody 1918 victory did not turn the tide of World War I, but it remains an impressive achievement. Axelrod (Patton, 2006, etc.) offers a worshipful but lively account. He reminds readers that America entered WWI in 1917 with a tiny army but a far tinier and more obscure Marine Corps whose only advantage was its astute commander, General George Barnett. Pulling strings, he persuaded the Wilson administration to add the Fifth Marine Regiment to the initial army division sent to France in mid-1917. As contemptuous of Marines as his army colleagues, American Expeditionary Force commander Pershing set them to work unloading boats, but Barnett persisted, sending another regiment. By the time AEF troops began fighting in significant numbers in mid-1918, the Marine brigade had won acceptance as a dependable front-line unit. Two immense German offensives in spring 1918 had run their course with little help from the AEF. When the third threatened Paris, several American divisions and the Marines received their baptism of fire at Chateau-Thierry and performed bravely. No sooner had Americans helped blunt the German attack than their commander ordered the Marines onto the offensive to recapture nearby Belleau Wood. Lacking good maps, communication or reliable intelligence, senior officers issued a series of confusing orders that resulted in repeated, uncoordinated attacks by inadequate, unsupported forces resulting in a brutally expensive victory-1,800 dead from a single brigade. Military buffs will enjoy Axelrod's nuts-and-bolts account of the three-week battle, full of vivid descriptions of the miseries, ineptitude and heroism peppered with individual storiesand famous quotes ("Retreat, hell. We just got here."). He does not resolve the continuing debate over whether it was worth the cost, but Marine aficionados have no doubt. Readers depressed after four years of ambiguity in Iraq may cheer up at this chronicle of a battle in a war in which our allies appreciated us, and the enemy fought according to the rules.