"The Price of Our Heritage"


In memory of the

Heroic Dead of the

168th Infantry




Honor Roll





         On April 6 when America declared war upon Germany, the officers of the National Guard of Iowa at once began the work of getting their units ready for the part they would be called upon to play.  Enlistments were rapid and before the time came that the guard was formally called into service on July 15, every company had its full quota ;of men and were besieged by eager applicants for the privilege of becoming a member of one of the three regiments of infantry that composed the First, Second and Third Iowa Guard Regiments.
     When the guard was called, every company was full of eager, adventure-loving young men, who were anxious for but one thing; the privilege of crossing the waters and getting a chance to fight the enemy who had so horribly mutilated the Belgian nation and had outraged and trampled under foot the sacred rights of all humanity.
     There was a great deal of rivalry between the three regiments as to which was the better fitted and equipped and would be the first overseas.  Day by day in the different towns in which the companies were stationed and at the camp at the fair
grounds, the companies were drilling hard to prepare themselves for the days that lay ahead.
     In the latter part of July our companies were all assembled at the fair grounds and went into camp under the old amphitheatre and in Machinery Hall, and on August 5, they were examined by federal officers and formally drafted by a
proclamation of the President into the federal service.
     Vaccination for small pox, inoculation for typhoid and para-typhoid in the hot days of August was one of the first of our many disagreeable experiences in the Army.
     About the middle of August, Colonel Bennett, Major Conkling, Major Brewer and Major Fairchild came into camp with smiles clear across their faces.  They were bubbling over with gladness and enthusiasm.  We tried all afternoon to find out what made them so joyous, but not a word would they say until the following morning when the announcement was made that the old Third Iowa Infantry had been chosen as one of the four regiments of infantry that was to make up the Forty-second or Rainbow Division, which was then being formed and which was destined to sail immediately for overseas service.

     When the news was announced to the regiment, a happier group or a prouder lot of men would have been

hard to have found anywhere.   We were to be known no longer as the Third Iowa Infantry but as the One Hundred Sixty-eighth Infantry.  The regiment was to be enlarged to three thousand seven hundred and five men, which would make it larger than a brigade had formerly been.

      Further joy was given that day when the announcement was made that the men to bring us to our new strength were to be drawn from the other two guard units, the First and Second, seventy-six men being drawn from each company of each of these splendid organizations. The boys of the First and Second, as well as the Third had made a reputation for themselves on the border and we were proud indeed to have them with us to enter into the formation of the 168th Infantry.

       A few days later these fellows escorted by their band came swinging up through the gates of the fair grounds, playing their regimental march and marching proudly.  Our band played a welcoming piece and with deafening cheers they were received and became a part of the Rainbow Division.
     This brought the strength of each individual company to two hundred and fifty men, and our battalions to one thousand men.  A splendid lot of young fellows there were, as in the morning at reveille or in the evening at retreat, they lined up for the military ceremony.  Earnest work was done in the few days they remained at the fair grounds before we were to commence on that long journey to France.
     On September 9 with thousands of our friends gathered about us, our first companies with the colonel's staff loaded on the train at the fair grounds at 5 o'clock and started eastward, where most of the rest of the division were already assembled in Camp Mills.  With something gripping our throats, which we could not swallow, struggling to hold back the teardrops from our eyes, we stood upon the back of the train and watched the crowd of folks who came to see us off, became a blur and then indistinct in the distance.  Our journey had begun.
     Four days later we landed at Camp Mills, where we stayed until October 18, when we were loaded on the President Grant and with fifty-five hundred men on board, just as the sun was setting on the New York skyline.  We slipped out of the harbor at 11 o'clock that night.  For five days we journeyed with the rest of the convoy; then the boilers of the boat gave out and we were forced to return.  We went back to Camp Mills and on November 14 again started across, this time on the S. S. Celtic, the Baltic and the Aurania.

        Seventeen days later after being chased by a submarine into Belfast Harbor, we landed at Liverpool, and were loaded on the little trains and moved to Winchester, England.  Here we spent seven days in camp, then moved down to the harbor at South Hampton and slipped across the channel during the night, the search lights across the English shore illuminating the sky as they searched for those who almost nightly came to bomb London.
 At 4 o'clock the next morning we landed at LeHavre, France, where we stayed for thirty-six hours.  Then began our journey for two days and three nights in French cars, when we came to the Haute Marne country near Chaumont.  We were assigned to the little village of Rimaucourt, where we stayed until January 27, our Second Battalion under Major Stanley being assigned to duty with the school of Langres.  In the cold, heatless attics or  in the stoveless barracks our boys suffered much from the cold, wading in the mud or snow out in the wet fields to drill,   coming in with wet feet and no place to dry them. A great number sickened and died.  An epidemic of scarlet fever, spinal meningitis and measles broke out among our troops and we

went into quarantine for many days.
     In the latter part of January we moved to Ormancey from which place we started toward the line early in February.  After a few days journey we reached Gerberviller and marched from there to Baccarat, twenty-six kilometers, where we stayed for two days.  We were reviewed by General Segonne.  From there we moved to Pexonne, where we established our regimental headquarters.  On the morning of February 23, we were ready for our first hitch in the trenches.
     Looking back over those days when we moved from Des Moines to France, going through all the hardships and exposures which the regiment endured, I am surprised that there were not more of these

young boys, who made up our regiment, who did not sicken and die before we arrived.

     The history and pictures of the men who died before they reached the battle line are herein described.  They are as truly our heroes as the men who fought and distinguished themselves at the front. They enlisted for the same purpose and tried as much as any of us to enter into the conflict and to play their part in the battle but fate had willed it otherwise, theirs was not to be a glorious death on the battle field, but to lie in the hospitals and succumb to the power of disease.  From the first boy who died before we left Des Moines to the last one who was killed on our way to the front, we honor their memory as much as we do any of the others, whose heroic deaths fill the pages of this book.



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

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