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
This is the story of Chateau Thierry as this regiment
saw it. And well it has been called "the bloody drive to the
"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:
PERSEVERANCE, PATIENCE, THE COMRADES ARE ARRIVING.
I tell you today:
AUDACITY, AND YOU WILL FORCE THE VICTORY."
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
"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
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