World War I battle of Belleau Wood was turning point for U.S.

In this Tuesday, May 22, 2018 photo, a memorial chapel, surrounded by pine and oak trees, towers over the graves of World War I soldiers at the World War I Aisne Marne cemetery in Belleau, France. The World War I battle of Belleau Wood in northern France pitted untested U.S. forces against the more-experienced Germans, who were making a push toward Paris. It became a defining moment, proving the Americans' military mettle and helping turn the tide of the war. (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo)

BELLEAU, France (AP) - It was the spring of 1918, and the German army was making a final push toward Paris. The only thing in their way was a contingent of Allied troops, including untested U.S. forces near the Marne River in northern France.

Among them: U.S. Army 1st Lt. Gordon Kaemmerling, a precocious and athletic Harvard graduate who had jumped at the opportunity to help the United States leave its shell of isolationism and join the war.

On June 6, 1918, the U.S. forces attacked, storming across the open fields near Belleau Wood. Germans sprayed them with shells and machine-gun fire from a densely forested hill. Without proper artillery cover, the Americans were mowed down easily at first.

In the chaos, the 26-year-old Kaemmerling rushed to help his comrades, and was nearly torn in two by shrapnel and bullets.