When we started for the front, we were told by the officers of
the division that it was to be only a training period of about
ten days. We were ordered to leave our baggage at Ormancey,
which we did, expecting to return shortly and get it. We never
saw the baggage any more until the next January when it was
shipped to us up in Germany, some eleven months later.
The history of the One Hundred Sixty-eight Infantry between
February 23 and June 19 has to do with what is called a
"training period." Here under the critical eyes of the French
officers, who, I do not think had a very high opinion up to
this time of the American's fighting ability, for they knew we
were not well trained when we began our first experience in
battle. We entered in with the French units of Badonvillier,
one half platoon serving man for man with the French for a few
days' instruction, then full companies were put in full
command and finally a battalion took over the regimental
front, and our first experience in holding the line had begun.
For a few days everything went quietly, our boys going again
and again into "No Man's Land" on patrols, night and day, and
became well acquainted with the terrain in their sector.
We were inexperienced in battle and the officers
of our regiment and men were wondering just how we would act
when the first attack was launched upon us, as we felt sure it
soon would be. Our methods of fighting were somewhat different
from that of the French, and the enemy was soon to know that a
different bunch of troops were in the sector opposite him, and
he began at once to plan for a raid to find out who they were.
On March 5 at 4:30 o'clock in the morning with a
sudden roar their artillery and trench mortars began the
artillery preparation for the raid. They tore our trenches
literally to pieces on the left one-half of our sector,
occupied by Company B of Des Moines and Company D of
Centerville with the Machine Gun company of Des Moines
supporting them, while the Stokes mortar platoon was of
Headquarters company. Companies A and C were in the second
line in support. For one hour and thirty three minutes the
roar of shells of both the enemy and our own literally shook
the earth. Then the raiders came over, but so well were our
troops supported by their artillery and machine guns and so
splendidly and heroically did they fight that only once did
the raiders of the Eleventh Bavarians get into our trenches,
and these were cleared out of our trenches with scant
ceremony. Eighteen of our men were killed and some
thirty-eight wounded in this raid but not one was captured.
For their steadiness under fire and the way in which
they fought in repulsing this attack, they were honored by the
French Corps by three different platoons being given citations
and awarded the Croix de Guerre.
Captain Harry C. McHenry and the eighteen boys that died with
him did much by their heroic fighting to give us confidence in
ourselves and make us know that we were able to meet the
Germans and master them in battle.
Two days later two great trucks, draped with French and
American flags, escorted by soldiers from the regiment, and a
large escort of French soldiers, passed through the streets of
Baccarat following the band which played with muffled tread
and wound our way up to the little cemetery where our first
dead, who fell in the conflict with the foe, were quietly laid
to rest and General Segonee, the French General made the
"It is with deep emotion that in
the name of your comrades of the French Army, I come
today to honor the remains of Captain McHenry and of
the brave American soldiers who died gloriously at
the hands of the enemy on the night of the 5th of
March, when they were defending with tenacity and
energy the labors which had been entrusted to them.
The conduct of the American troops since their
entry into the sector of Baccarat, their strength
under fire, their ardor in the conflict, is, in every
respect worthy of praise.
It is in memory of Captain McHenry, it is in
memory of the deceased of the American
regiments of Infantry and Artillery, these men I
intend to glorify.
The noble American blood that has just flowed in the
ancient territory of Lorraine, the time-honored
battlefield, is a stronger tie between our two
In the folds of the American and French flags flows the
same ideals of justice, loyalty, of
liberty and of victory. The sacrifice generates
immortality. The shade of these two flags will be
soft to the departed heroes.
Captain McHenry, American soldiers, sleep in peace; the
grand sleep of glory; you will not be forgotten and
you will be avenged."
Never shall I forget the scene when the
first crosses were placed above the graves of these, our dead,
the first installment of the price that we were to pay to
protect our heritage from the aggression and domination of the
war-mad Huns. Sleeping there beside their comrades we left
them and went back to our task, determined to carry on the
work they had begun.
Three different raids were carried out upon the
Boche trenches during the month of March, in which we raided
the German lines again and again and drove them out of their
trenches, killing most of them and ourselves suffering very
On March 22 we were relieved and marched out and
back for two days, resting at Jeansmenil. We received the news
that the British line had given away at Amiens and we were
ordered to return to the trenches from which we came and take
up our old position and relieve the French divisions for duty
in helping the British to re-establish their line. We marched
back, came to the line, taking the same positions, occupying
the right of the divisional front, the rest of the division
being moved in by our side now and we stayed here until the
18th day of June. During this time we suffered a severe gas
attack on May 27, when over four hundred men were gassed,
forty-seven of them being killed. A few days later another gas
attack followed by a raid on the Chamois Sector, which had for
its object the capture of American prisoners; four dead and
ten prisoners were left in our lines at the close of the raid,
while many more of the Boche lay dead in "No Man's Land."
First Iowa soldiers grave
In these four months of fighting we lost more than one
hundred killed and between six and seven hundred wounded, and
when we marched away long rows of American graves lying beside
their French comrades, made the ground of Lorraine hallowed
forever to us. There many of our best buddies sleep among the
hills of Lorraine, our second installment of the price that we
were to pay to protect the inherited rights of mankind.
The French peasant wanders there today out from the
little village of Pexonne to the town of Baccarat and stands
with bowed head before the little crosses that mark the graves
where his American friends, coming five thousand miles to
fight with him against the common foes of civilization, sleep.
The following is a list of the
names of those officers and men who sleep in Lorraine.