‘Retreat? Hell! We just got here!’ is 103 years old and still badass
By Paul Szoldra
via the taskandpurpose.com web site
A Marine officer showed up to the front lines of combat on this day 103 years ago and uttered one of the most badass and enduring quotes of all time: “Retreat? Hell! We just got here!”
The phrase ‘Retreat Hell’ has been the motto of one of the Marine Corps’ most-decorated infantry battalions for more than two decades, and has long served as a motivational quote to inspire Marines past and present. But on June 2, 1918, a captain named Lloyd Williams thought to say the iconic cool guy quote in the heat of battle during World War I, and in so doing cemented himself in Marine lore.
The Americans had been in the war for little more than a year by then and the Marines were eager to get into the fight. A large number of college athletes and “unusually high quality of men presented themselves for enlistment” in the Corps, according to an official Marine history of the 6th Marine Regiment. They joined experienced officers and noncommissioned officers like 1st Sgt. Daniel Daly and Col. Albertus Catlin, both recipients of the Medal of Honor. Heavy combat came in late May 1918 with a massive German offensive that caused “utter confusion as the allies tried to reorganize their lines.”
Williams was commanding the 51st Company of the 2nd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment that was fighting alongside the French and expecting a German attack on June 2, according to an account in Leatherneck Magazine. But less than an hour after arriving, Williams received word from a French commander that all American and French forces were to pull back. “Retreat? Hell! We just got here,” Williams reportedly said.
Still, the source of this quote is a matter of considerable debate. It appears on the website of the Marine Corps History Division as a famous quote but is attributed to “several World War I Marine Corps officers” at Belleau Wood in June 1918. A lengthy account of the battle for Defense Media Network and the 2nd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment attributes the quote to Williams. Meanwhile, the 6th Marine regimental history explains what happened this way:
Read the entire article on the Task and Purpose web site here:
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