Photo Information

U.S. Marine Corps Col. Matthew G. St. Clair, 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) commanding officer, assists French Marine Lt. Col. Rene Debuire with the first cut of a cake during a commemoration ceremony for the Battle of Bazeilles, a widely honored battle in France’s history, in the ward room of the USS Kearsarge (LHD 3), at sea, Aug.31, 2013. The 26th MEU is a Marine Air-Ground Task Force currently assigned to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility aboard the Kearsarge Amphibious Ready Group serving as a sea-based, expeditionary crisis response force capable of conducting amphibious operations across the full range of military operations. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Kyle N. Runnels/Released)

Photo by Cpl. Kyle N. Runnels

Brothers in arms: honoring past

6 Sep 2013 | Cpl. Kyle N. Runnels

U.S. and French Marines alike are built around their customs, traditions and deep history composed of honor and selfless sacrifice. Quinton Ennius, a poet often considered the father of Roman poetry said, “Let no one weep for me, or celebrate my funeral with mourning; for I still live, as I pass to and fro through the mouths of men.”

On Aug. 31, 2013 the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, helped honor a part of French Marine history by holding a commemorative ceremony to honor the Battle of Bazeilles, along with French Marine Lt. Col. Rene Debuire, an infantry officer for the Troupes de Marines currently deployed with the 26th MEU.

From Aug. 31 to Sept. 1, 1870, during the Franco-Prussian War, a detachment of French Marines, Blue Division, stood up to a force of Bavarians, allies of the Prussians, who outnumbered the French 10 to one during the Battle of Bazeilles, taking place in the French village of Bazeilles.

“This is a very famous battle because it is the first time we put together all of the Marines,” said Debuire. “Before this, Marines spent most of their time on various ships in order to defend them and the colonies. They decided to join together on land in order to stand against the Prussians.”

The whole battle, which is now considered one of the first occurrences of urban warfare, consisted of re-taking the city of Bazeilles a total of four times. On the final day the French Marines, also known as Marsouins, 
defended the town for nearly seven hours. When Napoleon III sounded the retreat, Maj. Arsene Lambert and a small group Marsouins stayed behind in the last house, the Auberge Bourgerie, defending the retreat and the rode to Sedan.

As the fighting continued, supplies ran short. The house Lambert and his troops held up in was nicknamed La Maison Bourgeri, or The Last Round Inn, named in honor of Lambert firing the last round of ammunition from this inn. Gen. de Vassoigne, commander of the Blue Division, said “The Troupes de Marines fought beyond the extreme limits of duty.”

“The Prussians were so impressed by the behavior and courage of the French Marines they decided to capture them as prisoners [instead of kill them],” said Debuire. “It is very similar to the Battle of the Alamo with the same kind of history and the same kind of values.”

“Tradition is steep in the French Marine Corps: evident as soon as you step onto [their base in Djibouti],” added Col. Matthew G. St. Clair, 26th MEU commanding officer. “You can just see the true meaning of this particular battle in the French Marine Corps, similar to how we hold near and dear our birthday. It is very significant, emotional and something they are extremely proud of and rightfully so, to fight to the last round at odds 10 to one.”

This historic moment is celebrated by the French Marines, ending with the rallying battle cry of “Et au nom de Dieu Vive la colonial” or, “In God's name, long live the French Colonial Forces.”

After spending two years with U.S. Marines, Debuire said he has noticed that Marines in general are closer to each other than any other branch.

“It is very important to savor this event on the ship with the Marines because we share many things together: we have the same values,” said Debuire. “It is a good opportunity for me to explain to the Marines what kind of values and leadership we share. I have never seen the same relationship in any other branch. It is a very symbolic aspect between Marines. Whenever we meet Marines, whether it be French, U.S., or the British, we have the same relationship. The discipline is always the same, and we are always efficient when we need to fight.”