Medical Medal of Honor Awardees – Battle of Belleau Wood

This week we observe the Battle of Belleau Wood (6 June to 6 July 1918).  The 1st and 2nd Battalions, 5th Regiment, U S Marine Corps fought in this iconic World War I battle as part of the American Second Division. Their initial mission was to block a German advance toward the French capital along the Metz-Paris road. Once the German advance had been stopped, the Marines were directed to displace a determined German force from Bois de Belleau on the German salient. Fighting was extremely vigorous, with American forces crossing land covered by murderous German machine gun fire. The Wood changed hands 6 times in a month of brutal action. Navy Secretary Josephus Daniels described the fighting thus:

The marines fought strictly according to American methods – a rush, a halt, a rush again, in four-wave formation, the rear waves taking over the work of those who had fallen before them, passing over the bodies of their dead comrades and plunging ahead, until they, too, should be torn to bits.  But behind those waves were more waves, and the attack went on.

“Men fell like flies,” the expression is that of an officer writing from the field.  Companies that had entered the battle 250 strong dwindled to 50 and 60, with a Sergeant in command; but the attack did not falter.  At 9.45 o’clock that night Bouresches was taken by Lieutenant James F. Robertson and twenty-odd men of his platoon; these soon were joined by two reinforcing platoons.”(1)

Two Naval medical department officers serving with Marines were awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for valor during that month of intense action.

The first (6 June 1918) was LT(jg) Weedon E Osborne, Dental Corps, USN. His Medal of Honor Citation reads:

LT(jg) Weedon E Osborne, DC, USN

“For extraordinary heroism while attached to the Fifth Regiment, United States Marines, in actual conflict with the enemy and under fire during the advance on Bouresche, France, on 6 June 1918. In the hottest of the fighting when the Marines made their famous advance on Bouresche at the southern edge of Belleau Wood, Lieutenant, Junior Grade, Osborne threw himself zealously into the work of rescuing the wounded. Extremely courageous in the performance of this perilous task, he was killed while carrying a wounded officer to a place of safety.”(2)

Medical Corps officer LT Orlando H Petty, US Naval Reserve Force, received the award for valorous service when his battle aid station was gassed on 11 June 1918. His citation says:

LT Orlando H Petty, MC, USNRF

“For extraordinary heroism while serving with the Fifth Regiment, United States Marines, in France during the attack in Bois de Belleau, 11 June 1918. While under heavy fire of high explosive and gas shells in the town of Lucy, where his dressing station was located, Lieutenant Petty attended to and evacuated the wounded under the most trying conditions. Having been knocked to the ground by an exploding gas shell which tore his mask, Lieutenant Petty discarded the mask and courageously continued his work. His dressing station being hit and demolished, he personally helped carry Captain Williams, wounded, through the shellfire to a place of safety.”(3)

Petty survived the war, but died young, in 1932.

Four other Navy medical department personnel received Medals of Honor for valor during World War I: Alexander G Lyle, LCDR, DC, USN; Joel T Boone, LT, MC, USN; David E Hayden, Hospital Apprentice 1st Class, USN; John H Balch, Pharmacist Mate First Class, USN.(4)


(1)  “ – a multimedia history of world war one”, Primary Documents – Josephus Daniels on the Battle of Belleau Wood, June 1918,, accessed 21 June 2012.
(2) Naval Historical Center [{U S} Naval History and Heritage Command], Online Library of Selected Images – People – United States: Lieutenant (Junior Grade) Weedon E. Osborne, USN (Dental Corps), 1892-1918,, accessed 21 June 2012. Both the citation and the image can be found on this site.
(3) [U S] Naval Historical and Heritage Command, Lieutenant Orlando H. Petty, Medical Corps, USNRF (1874-1932),, accessed 21 June 2012. Both the citation and the image are found on this page.
(4) [U S] Naval Historical and Heritage Command, Navy Medal of Honor, World War I, 1918 [sic],, accessed 21 June 2012. This list records Navy and Marine Corps Medal of Honor awardees for both 1917 and 1918

©Thomas L Snyder

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