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U.S. Marines bow their heads during the invocation at a French Fourragrere dedication ceremony on Camp Lejeune, N.C., Nov. 25.

Photo by Cpl. Elijah Abernathy

A Battalion and the Croix de Guerre

30 Nov 2020 | Courtesy Story 2nd Marine Division

Leaders from 6th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division recently welcomed “The Beirut Battalion” to their ranks, as the Marines and Sailors of 1st Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment were formally awarded the historic French Fourragere, known as the Croix de Guerre, by 6th Marines at a ceremony aboard Camp Lejeune on November 25. The integration and Fourragere presentation is a result of 1st Battalion, 8th Marines’ realignment under 6th Marine Regiment Headquarters, as part of the Commandant of the Marine Corps’ Force Design 2030.

France awarded the Fourragere to the Marines and Sailors of the 5th and 6th Marine Regiments in 1918 for their heroism and bravery in the battles of Belleau Wood, Soissons, and Château-Thierry during World War I. To this day, the 5th and 6th Marine Regiments are the only Marine Corps units authorized to wear the Fourragere. This ceremony marks a rare occurrence, in that an infantry unit that is originally from neither of those regiments received the coveted Fourragere.

The first award of the Croix de Guerre came at the Battle of Belleau Wood, where the 5th and 6th Marine Regiments were recognized for their brilliant courage, the vigor, the spirit and tenacity. During Belleau Wood the Marines overcame all the hardships and losses and captured key terrain from the German army.

"...I wasn’t sure what it was about, but once I read the history behind the French Fourragere, it was phenomenal..." Master Gunnery Sgt. Shawn E. Hughes, 1st Battalion, 8th Marines battalion operations chief

The second award of the Croix de Guerre followed shortly after the Battle of Soissons, where Marines of both regiments seized enemy positions in what is known as one of the most dashing victories of the war. Entering this battle, the Marines were fatigued and lacked proper weapons, armed only with their rifles and bayonets.

The final award came after the Battle of Champagne, which opened western approaches to the Argonne; a momentous shift in the war that contributed to the allied victory.

“It’s an honor that I don’t think they realize, but they will understand the magnitude of what it means to wear that rope around their arm once they understand the history and lineage of where others came from,” stated Master Gunnery Sgt. Shawn E. Hughes, battalion operations chief for 1st Battalion, 8th Marines. Hughes continued, “The first time I was awarded the French Fourragere was in 1997. I was assigned with 3rd Battalion 5th Marines. Standing in formation, I wasn’t sure what it was about, but once I read the history behind the French Fourragere, it was phenomenal, [and] astounding what the Marines went through during WWI in the trenches of Belleau Wood. It’s about more than me, it’s about the institution and the Marine to the left and right of them.”

This battalion-sized addition to 6th Marine Regiment signifies a visible change to the face of 2nd MARDIV fighting units. As outlined in Force Design 2030, “the Objective Force ground combat element will consist of seven infantry regimental headquarters, and allows for the Corps to build a more agile, efficient, and lethal fighting force.”