"The Price of Our Heritage"


In memory of the

Heroic Dead of the

168th Infantry



Chateau- Thierry Drive

Honor Roll, The Awful Toll of Chateau Thierry




      On the night of July 18, at 9 o'clock we were relieved from our duties in Champagne at the same time the orders came for us to proceed at once to the scene of the new battle that was then commencing between Soissons and Chateau Thierry. Morning found us in "Camp Attila" and the next night we marched beyond Chalons-sur-Marne where we were loaded upon trains and hurried away toward the scene of conflict. Captain William J. Tucker has told the story of Chateau Thierry in a short article better than I can tell it myself so I quote here his article.
     "The French Chasseurs were jubilant. The wireless had caught the glad tidings of the defeat of the enemy across the Marne.  They brought this news to their American comrades in the Champagne country, after those terrible and glorious days of onslaught before Suippes, where the 168th Infantry had stood as a portion of the barrier on the Catalonic plains before Chalons, where Ateius had saved the civilized world from the tyranny of the early Huns under Attila, these men had fought. And the news came that their victory was further glorified in that this, the last German offensive, had changed hands. Even in those first moments in a delirium of joy, when the confirmation came of the deliverance of Chateau Thierry and of the Huns fighting to keep back the swift onrush of the Americans and French, there was the realization that the turning point of
the war was then being enacted."
     With the consequent relief of pressure from immediately in front of the Champagne sector, the 168th Infantry was relieved of its duty in the magnificent Gouraud army.  Marches and train journeys carried the Iowa Regiment to Jaena and its neighboring villages.
     There had been only a few hours of rest after the long train trip and the overland march before the word came that we were to take part in the drive north of Chateau Thierry. With a swiftness and dispatch potent with its ominous importance the regiment was embarked upon camions (motor trucks) and after a ride through the long hours of the night, arrived the morning of July 25 in the Bois de Fere near Epieds.  It was almost literally true that there our men were discharged from the motor truck into the throes of one of the most severe battles of modern history.
     For the first soggy, drizzly day, through those torn woods and tedious trails, the men and officers were occupied in taking over the line from the well-exhausted Twenty-sixth division, which had won such splendid honors. The men were hungry, but went about the task cheerfully. Food, they realized, was almost out of the question.
     July 26, shortly after noon, the attack was resumed. After a short advance the First and Second Battalions were engaged. The Third Battalion was in support. The enemy was driven forward, though not without the ground being contested. At the edge of the Bois de Fere, and on the field before the Croix Rouge Farm, what the world has learned of as one of the bloodiest fight of the war was staged. Through the afternoon and night Lieutenant Colonel Stanley's Second Battalion men struggled, maneuvering, and rushing their way to the farm road. The enemy with a splendid field of fire, used his machine gun with wicked precision. Our artillery was inadequate. But before the rushing Americans he gave way. When morning came the objective was held.
     The next day the Third Battalion took the lead, and forced the way seven kilometers to the Ourcq river. At the La Faviers Farm this battalion bivouacked for the night. The First Battalion effected the advance on the right. The Second Battalion was in support.
    With the first gray hint of dawn Major Guy S. Brewer led his men to the Ourcq, forced the crossing, and in the cover of the morning mist, which then lay heavy in the valley at the base of the hill, began the fight. Before noon the crest of Hill 212 was obtained and held, and the positions dominating Sergy and Cierges occupied.
     The real worth of infantrymen was never better exemplified than in the furious assault which carried these men forward on the machine-gun swept slope of this hill, and the dispute for its mastery which followed for several days after the Americans had gained it. In protecting the left flank of the Third Battalion, units of the Second Battalion did wonderful and efficient work.
      July 30th the First Battalion, commanded by Major Emory Worthington, assisted by a battalion from the 47th Infantry with Major Brewer in command of the two battalions, fought through Sergy and held the heights toward Nestles. In these bitter contests men so well did the bidding of their commanders that heroism came to be a common virtue. For their country, their comrades and the glorious struggle for which they fought, men volunteered for tasks when forewarned that death was almost certain.
     The struggle for Hill 212 continued until the 31st day of July. Relief came for this particular part of the line. And, then, with the Second Battalion in the lead, the drive was taken up from the heights beyond Sergy to the Hills and forests north of Nestles, and the route was well cleared for the subsequent advance to the Vesle and Fismes. Finally, these tired and worn troops, whose ranks had been so well thinned; who had subsisted on polluted water and iron rations and no rations at all, and had beaten back the proudest troops of the German emperor, were returned to the rear, for a brief respite. (~Transcriber note: It was during this battle that my father, John E. Genson of Company C was wounded by shrapnel.  Cay Merryman)
     This is the story of Chateau Thierry as this regiment saw it. And well it has been called "the bloody drive to the Vesle.

     "It was following  these days of trial and struggle, during which the American soldier had shown to the Old World how he could fight, and how he could bear privations, that General Petain, in this memorable order to his army, said:

"I told you yesterday:


I tell you today:



   The French general, Fayolle, said:

"We owe these results to the energy and skill of the chiefs, and to the extraordinary valor of the troops, who, for more than fifteen days, had to march and fight without rest.' 

       "It is for this, and for the knowledge of the sacrifice and suffering involved, of the stubbornness of the treacherous for against whom strength was tried, that man speaks with firmness and pride when he says: 'Sir, I was in the Chateau Thierry Drive.'

      "If you knew in truth how well these men fought; of how men wounded accomplished the miraculous and bore their suffering with dauntless fortitude, and then, how the fine young American manhood because of the willingness of the individuals saw sacrifices made, and bore them with courageous and undeterred valor, you well could believe that the flag we adore is a brighter flag; that the country we love, because of these and their sacrifices is a better country.

      "The living who have not suffered physical hurt, and the living, though they be maimed, will hold forever the memory of Chateau Thierry as a precious heritage to go down the halls of time through their progeny.

      "For those brave souls whose bodies lie, marked by humble wooden crosses, which mutely tell of the difficult drive from Epieds beyond Nestles, fame is as certain as morning light. The regiment whose name they helped make illustrious will ever guard the traditions they have given it, and hold them forth as chivalrous examples of American patriotism.

      "Born unto lives of peacefulness, natured at the bosom of love, led into the paths of righteousness with honor a bright guiding star, proud in their physical strength, they rallied to their nation's call. They went into the valley of death, with the avowal to never return until victory is bought at the price of blood. And with visioning eyes they saw afar, and with new meaning, to where Calvary with its altar of sacrifices lifts its cross against the eternal skies.

      "There never were men more brave than these. Life had not paled for them. Still glad and eager, still unsatisfied, for more and more of life, they died.

      "As guardians of liberty they came to a new shore; to a far-off land, to a strange tongue and a strange

people and took up arms with them in the defense of common ideals. They loved their regiment because it was 'their' regiment , the preservation of those ideals. And what a part they had in magnificent achievement; Bois de Fere; Hill 212; Sergy; Nestles, around which their graves are made, and will go to illustrate some of the best pages ever written into American history.    

      Captain Tucker's description of the battle and his appreciation of the men, who gave their lives there, was shared alike by every other officer of the regiment. It is the common opinion among the men of our regiment that this was the most severe battle the regiment ever engaged in.
      More men were lost two to one than in any other battle in which we took part. Fourteen hundred and eighty-two men in my regiment were either killed or wounded in the seven days of fighting. Two hundred and twenty-seven Iowa boys sleep around the Croix Rouge farm along the Ourcq and along the sides of Hill 212. Bravely they responded to the order of their general and the foe, though well trained and abundantly supplied with every article of warfare, could not withstand the mighty onrush of the sons of Washington and Lincoln, fighting to protect the rights and liberty of humanity.

We left our dead sleeping peacefully there and when we turned our faces back from the field, the sunshine was just breaking through the clouds and a beautiful rainbow made a full span in the sky, one end of it resting upon the open fields by the Croix Rouge Farm where many of our dead lie among the growing flowers.


~ reference: "THE PRICE OF OUR HERITAGE", W. E. Robb,  1919 American Lithography and Printing Company, Des Moines, Iowa

~ contributed by Cay Merryman for Iowa in the Great War Special Project