The Battle of Belleau Wood in France took place in year four of World War I. The German army’s Spring Offensive advanced at least 50 miles outside of Paris. In their first real taste of the battle, the U.S. Marine Corps emerged victorious after 3 weeks of intense fighting. General Pershing stated that the fight for Belleau Wood was the most important battle for U.S. Forces since the Civil War.
The U.S. Marines fought with such doggedness and courage that a story surfaced that the Germans called the Americans, Teufelhunden or “Devil Dogs.” The nickname was based on mythology in which, according to Bavarian folklore, Devil Dogs were wild mountain dogs.
Based on the story, Charles Falls soon painted a recruiting poster depicting a dachshund wearing a spiked helmet and Iron Cross running from an English Bulldog wearing a helmet with a globe and anchor insignia on it. The words on the poster announced, “Teufelhunden – Devil Dog Recruiting Station.” The Marines and the public seized on the characterization.
King Bulwark, born May 22, 1922, an English Bulldog by famed Rob Roy, became the first unofficial Marine mascot. With his name changed officially to Jiggs, he was inducted into the Marines in a formal ceremony led by Brigadier General Smedley Butler on October 14, 1922.
Private Jiggs rose through the ranks quickly. Within three weeks of enlisting, he was made Corporal, became Sergeant on January 1, 1924 and finally promoted to Sergeant Major in July, 1924.
Pugnacious, as bulldogs often are, Jiggs was court-martialed a number of times for his behavior. Forgiven each time, he retained his rank and eventually became a star in the 1926 movie, “Tell It To The Marines.”
Sadly, Jiggs passed away January 9, 1927 4 months short of his 5th birthday. He was laid in a satin-lined coffin in a hangar at Quantico, Virginia, guarded by two Marines.
Jiggs II was donated was donated by boxing champ James “Gene” Tunney who himself was a former Marine who fought in France. To honor General Smedley Butler, from 1930 to early 1950s, Bulldog Marine mascots were named Smedley.
Beginning in 1957, new mascots were named Chesty to honor Lt. General Lewis “Chesty” Puller, the most decorated Marine in history who was awarded five Navy Crosses throughout his esteemed military career.
True to the temperament of the breed and the official Marine Corps motto since 1883 (Semper Fidelis – Semper Fi), Always Faithful, as bulldogs are.
Although Bulldogs can be stubborn and have a mind of their own, they are loyal and tenacious, aperfect mascot for the U.S. Marine Corps.