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An awesome aerial view of the hollow ruins of Vaux in northeast France, photographed sometime in 1918.
After minimal involvement in the Belleau Wood area in June of that year, the American 9th and 23rd Infantry Regiments assaulted the town, held at the time by the German 201. Infanterie-Division, on July 1st. Unprepared and poorly dug in, the Germans were taken by surprise and the Americans captured the town within a few hours along with 500 prisoners at the cost of 300 casualties.
Pvt. William Brown of the 9th Infantry Regiment recalled throwing a grenade into a basement, saying, “After the smoke cleared away out came the ‘Fritzies’ with their hands up – and they kept a-coming and a-coming until I thought I’d captured the whole German army. There were twenty altogether and I called out, gun leveled, you know – ‘Anyone in this bunch speak English?’ and one fellow said, ‘Sure, I’m from Milwaukee’ and I said, ‘Well, tell your friends to keep their hands up and march and do it quick’ – and they marched...and I took them to camp and that’s all I did...the poor geeks were half starved. One of them had a loaf of the worst black bread I ever saw and he held on to it – hands up – until we got to camp. And that is how I won my Croix de Guerre.”