On this day in history, the 2nd Battalion 5th Marines (formed on July 1, 1914) took up positions in France south of Belleau Wood near Lucy-le-Bocage. As the Americans dug in, a French officer suggested that they withdraw. To this, Marine Captain Lloyd Williams of the 5th Marines famously replied, “Retreat? Hell, we just got here.” While the Marines were able to hold against the German offensive, Williams was killed on June 12, at the age of 31.
Williams was posthumously promoted to major and awarded the Distinguished Service Cross.
The 2nd Battalion 5th Marines (2/5), the most highly decorated battalion in the Marine Corps, adopted the first part of Williams’ rejoinder as their motto.