"The Price of Our Heritage"


In memory of the

Heroic Dead of the

168th Infantry



First Hitch up in Lorraine

Honor Roll, Battle of Alsace Lorraine




      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 following address:


      "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 armies.
     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 small losses.
      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.



~ 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