Book Review: The 4th Marine Brigade at Belleau Wood and Soissons: History and Battlefield Guide

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by J. Michael Miller

Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2020. Pp. xviii, 472. Illus., maps, append., notes, biblio., index. $65.00. ISBN: 0700629564

The Devil Dogs in the Great War

The 4th Marine Brigade at Belleau Wood and Soissons manages to do several things at once, and do them well. The author writes a first rate military history of the 4th Marine Brigade at war in 1918, with particular focus on the bitter battles at Belleau Wood and Soissons. The narrative meticulously describes the tactical and operational levels of the battles. At Belleau Wood Miller follows shattered platoons and individual Marines crawling through wheat fields raked by German machine guns. The narrative, however, captures more than combat action. As an engagement progresses, Miller weaves in short, empathetic personal histories of individual Marines and soldiers involved in the battle. When relevant he includes individuals, military and civilian, who supported or affected Brigade operations.

For example, a badly wounded Marine lies a Belleau Wood ravine. The man is dying. Miller will take a moment to tell us about his life before the war, quoting from a letter to parents or telling an anecdote. Often he will mention where the man now lies buried.

The book includes a battlefield tour guide. Guidebook sections follow chapters devoted to a particular unit action or event. For example, Chapter 6 covers the 3rd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment’s attack at Belleau Wood on June 6, 1918. The guide section (Stop 11) at the end of the chapter tells the reader how to follow the attack route in the area around the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery (France).

The 4th Marine Brigade at Belleau Wood and Soissons is particularly recommended for those with an interest in the Great War or the Marine Corps.

 

Our Reviewer: Austin Bay has a doctorate from Columbia University, and is an Army War College graduate. A novelist and historian, he is a syndicated columnist, and his commentaries have appeared on National Public Radio's “Morning Edition”. He has worked as a special consultant in the Office of the Secretary of Defense. A colonel in the U.S. Army Reserve, he is a veteran of the Gulf War of 1990-1991, and although retired, was recalled to active duty in 2004 and served in Iraq with US Army III Corps (Multi-National Corps--Iraq). His past reviews include Chinese Communist Espionage: An Intelligence Primer

 

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Note: The 4th Marine Brigade at Belleau Wood and Soissons is also available in paperback and e-editions.

 

StrategyPage reviews are published in cooperation with The New York Military Affairs Symposium

Reviewer: Austin Bay   


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