This moss-banked fountain in the heart of the ancient village of Belleau, France, has become ~ by a quirk of history ~ a central symbol in the lore of the U.S. Marine Corps. The iconography of the fountain, of course, greatly predates the arrival of the Marines in 1918. The "bulldog" of the fountain is, in fact, a bull mastiff, doubtless one of the hunting mastiffs for which the Chateau of Belleau was famous. It was to this same Chateau of Belleau which Belleau Wood, Bois de Belleau, belonged by tradition. The cold & pristine water which gushes from the mastiff's mouth is the "beautiful water", belle eau, for which the village itself was named.

When the Marines took Belleau Wood from the Germans in June, 1918, they had just been dubbed Teufelhunden, "devil dogs", by their opponents, a soubriquet which the Leathernecks quite cheerfully adopted. Almost at once, depictions of fierce helmeted hounds began appearing on recruiting posters and even in the letters of the Marines themselves. And so it was that when the first Marines entered the shattered, abandoned village of Belleau, begrimed by battle & the unrelenting heat, they must have greeted the sight of this venerable canine with particular delight. For not only, in the wake of their fiercest battle to that time, could they luxuriate in the clear & cooling stream, slaking thirst & swabbing their steaming necks, but, in the very act of replenishment, in a ritualistic partaking of restorative water bestowed by the beast, they affirmed, as though with a warriors' toast of raised aluminum cups & canteens, the newest & hardest-won symbol of the Corps: Teufelhunden ~ Devil Dogs ~ Bulldogs of the Marne.

Now that this stirring portrait has been painted, it must be confessed that nothing of the sort ever occured. Though the Marines took Belleau Wood in late June, 1918, Belleau itself was captured not by the Marine Brigade, but by the 26th Division some three weeks later, by which time the Marines were fighting & dying at Soissons.

How and when the "bulldog fountain" actually entered into the mythology of the Corps remains something of a mystery, but it must have happened in the weeks & months following the Armistice, as Marines--- first individually, and then later with wives & family--- began return in an act of pilgrimage to the scene of their most famous battle & the new American cemetery which had grown up on the very edge of Belleau Wood itself.

It was after the war, then, that Marines first began entering the village of Belleau in numbers, and first began to associate the mastiff of the village fountain with the emerging legend of the Teufelhund, which had originated among the German soldiers entrenched in Belleau Wood in the early summer of 1918.

See also
"Marine Corps Mascots"
for more about bulldogs
in the Marine Corps.

Special thanks to
Therry Schwartz, Francis Pay,
Mark Henry, Jerry Beach
& Bob Austin.

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World War I