Belleau Wood Expeditionary Strike Group
Belleau Wood Amphibious Ready Group
LHA-3 Belleau Wood
USS Belleau Wood (LHA 3) is an amphibious Assault and Command Ship. LHA's incorporate the best design features and capabilities of several amphibious assault ships currently in service. The ship has a well deck for deploying conventional and air cushioned landing craft and a flight deck for launching a variety of helicopters and Harrier jump jets.
USS BELLEAU WOOD (LHA 3) is the third ship of the TARAWA-Class Amphibious Assault and Command ships. Her design incorporates the best features and capabilities of several amphibious assault ships currently in service.
The Belleau Wood was ordered in November 1969, its keel was laid in March 1973, it was launched in APril 1977, and was commissioned in Sep 1978.
On September 23, 1978, the second ship christened Belleau Wood steamed from her birthplace in Pascagoula, Miss., and relocated to San Diego in October 1978.
Since her commission, Belleau Wood has deployed as the center of a three-ship Amphibious Read Group, or ARG. The ship carries a complete Marine battalion during deployment, and can send and support Marines ashore by either helicopter or amphibious craft during combat and humanitarian operations.
The ship participated in her first full-scale operation in 1979 off the coast of Hawaii.
The Belleau Wood began her first deployment in January 1981. During the deployment, the ship’s crew rescued more than 150 Vietnamese refugees, earning the crew the Humanitarian Service Medal. The crew completed three major exercises and eight port visits during the deployment.
In August 1982, the ship began her second deployment and participated in four major amphibious exercises.
The Belleau Wood's third deployment began in Jan 1984 and ended in July of that year. Following the deployment, the Belleau Wood began an 11-month complex overhaul at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard.
In Jan 1987 the Belleau Wood began another deployment in which it took part in the first winter amphibious exercises off Alaska since WW II. This was also the Belleau Wood's first deployment with the AV-8B Harrier.
In 1990 LHA-3 began its second complex overhaul in Long Beach, CA. This overhaul included upgrades to the CIWS and installation of the Rolling Airframe Missile System.
In late 1992 the Belleau Wood became the Navy's only forward-deployed amphibious assault ship when it transferred its home port to Sasebo, Japan. In Nov. 1992, the Belleau Wood took part in the US withdrawl forces from Subic Bay and Cubi Point in the Philippines.
On October 28, 2005, USS Belleau Wood was officially decommissioned. She was the first of the Tarawa class ships to be decommissioned to make way for the LHA(R) amphibious class ship, expected in 2013.
Many historians agree that June 6, 1918 – the beginning of the World War I Battle of Belleau Wood – was the single most horrific day in United States Marine Corps history. The casualties suffered that day, and throughout the 20-day campaign to retake Belleau Wood, stand second only by the retaking of Tarawa in November 1943. However, their actions and success in retaking the three-mile square wood sealed the embodiment of U.S. Marine Corps tenacity, determination and dedication forever.
German General Ludendorff set the stage during The Great War for the Battle of Belleau Wood when he launched the Chemin des Dames offensive against the Allied Northern Front on May 27, 1918. The Fourth Brigade, American Expeditionary Forces, along with other allied forces moved north on May 20. 2nd Division Marines dug in along a defensive line north of the village of Lucy-Le-Bocage.
When advised to withdraw by a senior French officer retreating with his units down Paris-Metz highway, Marine Captain Lloyd Williams replied, “Retreat, hell! We just got here!”
The front finally settled with the 5th Marines to the west and the 6th Marines to the east. Most units deployed without machine guns, but 2nd Bn, 5th Marines showed the Germans the effects of their superior long distance marksmanship.
On June 6, the Marines make two assaults. The 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment attacks west of Belleau Wood and captures the strategically important Hill 142. Later the same day battalions of the 5th and 6th Marine Regiments assault the woods from the south and west in an effort to capture the town of Bouresches.
The attack against the woods proper goes grimly. Crossing a wheat field where they are exposed to machine gun fire. Gunnery Sergeant Dan Daly asks his men, “Come on ya sons-of-bitches, ya want to live forever?” The attack is only able to seize a small corner of the wood.
On June 11 after heave artillery bombardment, Marines succeed in securing two-thirds of Belleau Wood, again with heavy casualties. Marines hammered their way through the woods until the Germans counterattacked with intense artillery fire and three divisions on June 13, almost retaking Bouresches. The Marines held, and on June 14, the German counterattack culminated in failure.
The lines did not change until June 24 when the French command committed sufficient artillery to reduce the woods, allowing the Marines to prepare for a renewed assault. On June 25, after a 14-hour bombardment, the Marines overran the remaining machine gun outposts. After fending off several early morning counterattacks on June 26, Major Maurice Shearer sends the signal, “Woods now entirely U.S. Marine Corps.”
The Marines gained more than small battered woodland. They stopped the last major German offensive of The Great War. In doing so, the Marine Corps earned the respect and admiration of our country and our allies. The 4th Brigade was awarded the French Citation, A L’Orde de L’Armee, and the wood was officially renamed, “Bois de la Brigade Marie,” in honor of the Marines.
German soldiers later referred to the U.S. Marines, respectfully, as “Teufelhunden,” or Devil Dogs, because of their fierceness in battle.
CV-24 / CVL-24
USS Belleau Wood, an 11,000-ton Independence class small aircraft carrier, was built at Camden, New Jersey. Begun as the light cruiser New Haven (CL-76), she was converted to a carrier before launching and was commissioned in March 1943. Her original carrier hull number was CV-24, which was changed to CVL-24 in July 1943 at the time she arrived in the Pacific to join the war against Japan. During the rest of 1943, Belleau Wood took part in raids on Tarawa and Wake Islands and the invasion of the Gilbert Islands.
In the first half of 1944, Belleau Wood was part the carrier force that supported the Marshall Islands operation, raided enemy positions throughout the Central Pacific and helped conquer Saipan. During the Battle of the Philippine Sea, in mid-June, her planes sank the Japanese aircraft carrier Hiyo. Following a brief overhaul, she rejoined Task Force 58 for further operations to take Guam, the Palaus and Morotai, as well as raiding the Philippines, Okinawa and Formosa. In late October 1944, Belleau Wood participated in the Battle of Leyte Gulf. While operating off the Philippines on 30 October, she was hit aft by a Kamikaze suicide plane and set afire. Badly damaged, with 92 of her crew killed or missing, she had to return to the United States for repairs.
Belleau Wood returned to the Western Pacific war zone in February 1945, in time to help in raids on the Japanese Home Islands and support Marines on Iwo Jima. The rest of the war was spent on further attacks on targets in and around Japan. Her planes participated in the massed aircraft flyover that followed the Formal Surrender of Japan on 2 September 1945. After supporting occupation operations into October, Belleau Wood transported U.S. service personnel back to the United States until early 1946. Generally inactive from then on, she was placed out of commission in January 1947.
Belleau Wood was reactivated in 1953 for loan to France. Under the name Bois Belleau, she served the French Navy until 1960, when she was returned to U.S. custody and sold for scrapping.
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