A devil’s wedge
A group of U.S. Marines pose for the camera in 1918 just months before the end of World War One.
Note the campaign hats of the sea soldiers in the front rank doffed to the deck. As the legend has it, German troops facing the Marines at the Battle of Belleau Wood that year termed the leathernecks “Teufel Hunden” or devil dogs. This has stuck for the past 97 years.
By the time this photograph was taken, the enemy facing the Marines were scrawny, half starved sixteen and seventeen year old German boys with a few weeks training. The best troops of all the European armies were in their graves two or three years previously, having been killed in murderous battles, the like of which have never been seen since in human history. I imagine the German defenders had little time to coin phrases like Devil Dogs – they were more interested in surrendering and being taken prisoner in the hope they’d be fed. The arrival of the Americans in 1918 caused no excitement in war weary France/Belgium. Neither did their later exploits.