"The Price of Our Heritage"


In memory of the

Heroic Dead of the

168th Infantry



Reducing the St. Mihiel Salient

Honor Roll, And Those Who Paid at St. Mihiel

~transcriber note: salient means an outwardly projecting part of a fortification, trench system or line of defense.



      After the battle of Chateau Thierry, our tired and much depleted division bivouacked in the woods called "Foret de Fere." For more than a week in this woods, still smelling of gas and rank with the odor of the battlefield, we rested our animals, then began our march to the Bourmont area. Our horses were thin and starved and our regiment with less than a third of its original number, our material scarred by the recent battle were not imposing. Night after night on this long march when we would arrive in the town in which we were to billet, our men had but one thought, that was to rest.
      About August 18 we arrived near Blevaincourt while our division headquarters were at Bourmont. In this picturesque country, dotted everywhere by little villages, with hills fir-clad, and green valleys winding in and out among them, we rested for our first and only rest of the summer. The lazy clouds drifting overhead and the peasants working in the fields, with the ringing of the church bells at evening, gave our surroundings a restful, reinvigorating air that helped us to forget the horrors of the battle. I myself, was sent to the hospital at Chaumont and only know these things through the reports of the officers and men.

     Our regiment was re-equipped, reorganized and replaced and a few days of drill were given to our new recruits before, on August 30, we once more turned our faces toward the battle line. All of France was alive with rumors of the great American battle about to commence. I was in Paris on this date and it was the talk of the city there. The next day the movement began and we, with the First and Second Divisions were moved up in the direction of Toul. From the area above Neufchateau our division marched only at night, camping in the forest in the day-time. With the first touch of darkness we moved out on the roads and kept up the steady tramp, tramp until the first streak of dawning light. When we reached Toul, which was near the line, to the amazement of our men, the policy was reversed and our troops marched by broad daylight straight up to the enemy line. We were placed almost in the center of the salient and waited there in the forest in the mud
and rain for the attack to begin.
      The Eighty-ninth Division was on our right and this was its first battle. The men were all full of excitement, which recalled to our boys our first days in the line. Our division front extended from Seicheprey on the east, westward to

Flerrey. On the night of September 11, we marched out of the Foret de Lareine toward our positions in which we were ordered to be by 12 o'clock. In the darkness of the night, as our orders were delayed in arriving and the roads were full, it was with the utmost difficulty that we reached our place in time for the jump-off. The artillery was to begin its fire at 1 o'clock. It would last for several hours and before daylight the great American attack would be under way.

      The Germans had obtained information concerning the attack and had many guns firing a steady, continuous, harassing fire, which added to the misery and difficulty of the night.
      An intense downpour of rain commenced to fall over the Woevre plains just a few moments before the artillery began its fire. This, while adding to the difficulty of the advance and the bringing up of supplies, protected the men from aeroplane bombs and made it impossible for enemy to detect our plans. After about an hour and forty minutes the German guns replied to ours but they used only small guns and it was not to be
compared with the artillery barrages which our boys experienced in Champagne and Chateau Thierry.
     When the hour came for the advance, the whole American line moved forward in irresistible force, past the first German trench, splendidly supported by artillery. Before noon it had reached its objective for that day. In the twenty-seven hours, our division drove ahead far in advance of the new division on its right, passed through the towns of Pannes, Beney and into the woods of Dampvitrous, where we were halted by orders from headquarters. Our objective had been reached, a nineteen kilometer drive toward Metz. Long lines of prisoners filled the road and they seemed to be pleased with their lot as they marched rapidly to the rear.

      While in the latter part of the battle we met with practically no resistance, yet at the first, in the front of the Third Battalion under Major Brewer, we had met a stiff in the Boid de La Sonard and we had heavy casualties there. At the close of this battle we were held in line with raiding purposes. On the night of September 22, while Alabama was raiding Haumont, we raided the farm directly in front of our sector capturing nine prisoners and two machine guns. The Germans attempted to raid us the following night but their only success was their own loss of three prisoners and machine gun. We suffered light casualties from these raids.

      I do not mean to leave the impression that this battle was a light affair or that the Germans did not resist with all their power.  Their machine gun fire was terrific and our boys displayed as fine heroism as was ever displayed in our regiment as they charged bravely up the steep hills, through great depths of wire entanglements, into the very mouths of popping machine guns. This salient had been attacked before by the French and they suffered a costly defeat here, but when the American forces, fighting with vim and vigor, dashed against the walls of this fortress it fell as though struck by a tidal wave. Fifteen thousand, six hundred prisoners were captured by the Americans in twenty-four hours of this drive. It was splendidly planned by our command and bravely executed by our soldiers. Here the German command first felt the weight, power and irresistible force which was soon to be thrown headlong against them. The morale of the German soldier, knowing that certain defeat would come, began its downward progress, while the morale of the allies was lifted to its highest pitch.

    To those heroic dead, whose names and faces are here pictured and for many of whom it was their first battle, we cannot pay too high a tribute.  Some of the best officers and men the regiment ever possessed fell, fighting gloriously here, but the last vision that was before their eyes was of their own comrades going forward splendidly to certain victory, while the despised Hun was tasting the first bitter dregs of defeat. I imagine it eased the pain of their dying moments to know that while they paid the price, success was certain. They sleep tonight on the plains of Woevre, but when spring comes again and the peasant comes back to the ruined villages and, with a song in his heart, begins to build anew his home, and the laughter of little children rings again on the twilight air and the lovers wander side by side down the beautiful French roads, I am sure their slumbers are light and their sleep is interspersed with pleasant dreams. It is with mingled pride and sorrow that we record the names of the regiment's dead and though we, who live, may make many friends of the future, no men of the world shall ever take the place of those we buried on the Woevre at St. Mihiel.




~ 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