"The Price of Our Heritage"


In memory of the

Heroic Dead of the

168th Infantry



Drive to Sedan

Honor Roll, Those Who Fell in the Drive




           After the battle of the Argonne we rested for five days in the valley to the right of Exermont.  While lying there a long range shell, one sunny afternoon, came plunging into our midst and two boys were killed and three wounded. On the night of November 2, our regiment with the rest of the division,  started forward once more to enter the line of battle. Marching all night in the cold, drizzly rain, over muddy and shell torn roads, with but little food and practically no sleep, we moved forward over roads that were crowded with marching troops, struggling horses, poor and thin from the loss of food, trying to drag their heavy load in pursuit of the rapidly retreating enemy.
     On the night of November 4, we bivouacked near the town of Brieulles-Sur-Bar. There airplanes in great number came roaring over to drop their loads of bombs and to turn back to their own lines for a fresh supply. Making trip after trip they returned again and again to disturb our rest and send chilly fears down our spines. But the next morning the tide was to turn in the other direction.
     That day (November 5th) I saw a sight I never shall forget.  Two hundred and twelve American aeroplanes, flying in beautiful formation, flew over us to bomb the retreating boche.  Never shall I forget them, flying in goose formation while far above the bombing planes, our lone scouts were watching for any enemy who might attempt to attack our bombers.  The next day, as we followed the retreating Hun, the roads were thick with evidence of what those planes had accomplished. Wagons and guns had been thrown about in wild confusion, dead horses and German soldiers lined the roads, and many a German battery was left behind because of blown-up bridges and destroyed roads..
     Our boys went out in skirmish lines, with scouts ahead of them.  Under the personal command of Colonel Tinley, we jumped off to the attack at Verrieres and swept forward almost like a march, clear to the town of Stonne.  The German rear guards fought cleverly, but they knew the battle was lost and their one thought was to escape to their home. Consequently, with slight resistance we forced them out of one town, then another, by strongly fortified hills, and through woods that would have been most difficult to have taken had they had the heart to fight.
     From Stonne to the Meuse our progress was much hampered by the fact that the enemy had destroyed all culverts and bridges and blown great gapping holes in the low places along the splendid highways. At one place just north of Stonne where it was impossible to go around, the Germans had blown out the whole side of a hill by a mine and our artillery and supplies were held up for twenty-four hours. Not waiting for food or water our infantry pushed on and by the night of the sixth passed through the town of Marinaucourt, and occupied the town of Haraucourt, where we were most joyfully received by the liberated French civilians, who came out waving American flags, which they had made in secret in their cellers and the dugouts of their homes. I arrived at 7 o'clock that night with the food carts, which I had taken charge of, as I had no wounded to attend to, I had worked all the day repairing bridges, doubling teams, only to find the French civilians had fed the boys out of their meagre supply and in many cases the boys had been placed in their best beds.  Never shall I forget that sight. Great groups of French peasants clustered about our American boys, jabbering away as rapidily as they could in a language which they had not been allowed to speak, their own language, the French, for four years. Our boys, understanding less than half of what they said, were saying "Oui. Oui" to everything. A stranger sight could hardly be imagined. The joy of these people was so great and yet so pathetic, that it filled one's heart with deep emotion to watch them, to feel their splendid enthusiasm and hear their cry "Vive L' American!" and their "Vive la France!"

      By the morning of the 7th, the entire Forty-second Division had reached the Meuse river and was encamped on the heights above Sedan.  On that night and the night of the 8th, our Brigade, the Eighty-fourth, took over the front of the whole division, occupied it until the night of the 9th, was relieved upon that day and marched back the Syonne highway. In the little village of Briquenay, on November 11, we received the news of the armistice.
     In this drive our regiment was the most fortunate of any of the division.  We did not lose a single man, killed, and only three slightly wounded. Colonel Wolfe in his description says, "In its rapid advance to Sedan, the Forty-second Division despite the destruction of the highways and the natural obstacles in its path, advanced against enemy resistance an average distance of twenty-one and one-half kilometers in twenty-nine hours, and had seized on the evening of November 6, the heights on the south bank of the Meuse dominating Sedan.
     The armistice was signed and the fighting part of the war was over.  Our dead were strewn over seven battlefields and our wounded were lying in many villages of France in our American hospitals.  The price that our regiment paid to maintain and protect our heritage of Freedom and Liberty was six hundred and seventy-seven dead and approximately thirty-one hundred wounded. The old flag with its red bars has a new meaning for us now because our comrades' blood has dyed anew its colors for us and to maintain and protect the liberties, rights and privileges of that flag will evermore be our sacred duty, for to us it has been "bought with a price."

     In the days that came before we started on our march to the Rhine, the quiet of the night and the calm of the day seemed unfamiliar and unreal to us, so accustomed had we become to the whine of shells and the cracking roar of cannons. We wondered by what process of fate, better men than ourselves had been called upon to pass through the door of death leaving their loved ones and all behind, while ours was to be the privilege of returning to home and friends. We had passed, as our dead had passed, through a long summer of battle, but to us fate had been very kind. The long months of exposure must exact its toll and we record here the names of those boys, while escaping the wrath of God of battle, fell a victim to exposure or disease.   



~ 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