The US Marine Corps’ adorable mascot, the English bulldog named Chesty XIV, officially retired in late August after five years of service.
He was replaced by Chesty XV, who made his first official appearance at a Marine Barracks parade on Aug. 31.
It’s rather well-known that the Corps loves English bulldogs, but what’s less well-known is why.
It all traces back to the famous World War I Battle of Belleau Wood. The Marines took heavy casualties during the nearly month-long, gruelling fight on the Western Front.
But in the end, the Marines emerged victorious.
Here’s the story.
The Battle of Belleau Wood began on June 6, 1918, about a dozen miles northeast of Paris. US General John J. Pershing ordered a counteroffensive to drive the Germans out of the area, with US Marines leading the first attack against four German divisions. By the end of the day, they had taken 1,000 casualties.
For three weeks, the Marines launched several more assaults against the German lines, which were continually reinforced. On June 26, the Marines had beaten back the Germans from the northern part of Belleau Wood. But they had taken nearly 10,000 casualties as well.
Because of the Marines’ fierce fighting, the Germans were said to have dubbed them, “devil dogs.” But this was later debunked by Marine Corps historian Bob Aquilana.
“The term very likely was first used by Marines themselves and appeared in print before the Battle for Belleau Wood,” Aquilina told Stars and Stripes in 2011. “It gained notoriety in the decades following World War I and has since become a part of Marine Corps tradition.”
Nevertheless, the nickname continued to be printed on recruiting posters after the war. One thing was added alongside it: a growling English bulldog. And this is what led to the first Marine mascot, Sgt. Maj. Jiggs.
Source: Task & Purpose
In 1921, Marine Maj. Gen. Smedley D. Butler adopted Jiggs, who later became the Corps’ official mascot in October 1922.
Butler himself, a two-time Medal of Honour recipient and author of “War is a Racket,” is still well-regarded among Marines to this day.
Source: Task & Purpose
Before Jiggs passed away in January 1927, the Corps continued the new English bulldog mascot tradition, ushering in the successor, Jiggs II.
Over the next three decades, the Corps’ mascot would be named Smedley, after the famed Marine general. But in the late 1950s, the mascot was renamed Chesty after the legendary Marine, Lt. Gen. Lewis “Chesty” Puller.
Puller himself was also highly decorated, like Butler, earning five Navy crosses. But despite two attempts to upgrade one of his awards, he never received the Medal of Honour.
For the next six decades, there would be 14 more official mascots named Chesty, and they all fulfilled their duties.
Such as attending parades…
And participating in morale-boosting activities.
They even went through basic training.
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