Bedford Free Press
Bedford, Taylor co. Iowa
Wednesday, June 24, 1919
1 & 8
Heroism of the 168th
by Winfred E. Robb, chaplain of the 168th
latter days of September the Forty-second division was
relieved from the St. Mihiel front and after two days rest our
regiment proceeded westward to the locality of Verdun. We
marched to the vicinity of Apremont where, on October 1, we
loaded into camions and moved to the towns near Souilly, about
ten miles below Verdun. Here we were placed as reserves of the
First American Army.
We remained there but a short
time. On October 4, we started north, winding our way over
those white roads, thru badly ruined towns, until we came to
the vicinity of Montfaucon. Here we moved into the woods of
Montfaucon and stayed for five days. We lay there in shell
holes, the men sleeping in dugouts or under their pup tents in
muddy, shell-shattered woods. Here in this desolate battle
ground the first news came to us of the talk of the armistice,
and each day we were filled with the hope that it might be
possible that the battle would come to an end, the victory be
won without it being necessary to send any more of our Iowa
boys into battle.
Here we entered into our Gethsemane
and I, for one, prayed as He prayed, that it might not be
necessary for the Iowa boys to go into battle again. They had
fought so heroically and done their duty so well that we hoped
that it might not be necessary for any more to go to their
death so far from home. Nevertheless, I feel that every man in
his heart was willing and glad to go it the victory could not
be won in any other way.
You people of Iowa will never know how hard it was for the
officers at an hour like this, when victory seemed so short a
distance away, to send men forward into a desperate fight.
What made it the harder for us was that we received a lot of
mail while here, and these letters from those we loved in the
homeland, breathing for us hope and love and pride, filled our
minds with longing for home and for loved ones waiting there.
We had been away from home a year and a month now and it
had seemed like many years. We knew the end was not far off
and every fellow felt that if he was lucky the next two weeks
he would be spared to return to his home. But for many it was
not to be.
On October 11, we received hurried orders to proceed to
Exermont and relieve the First division. We put our letters in
our pockets, turned our backs on dreams of home, shouldered
our packs and started into another great battle. That night as
we marched thru the overcrowded shell-torn roads, two big
shells from the great gun of the boche lit in the columns as
we were passing a crossroad, killing four and wounding
thirty-six of Company B.
There is nothing more
terrible. I think, than to be standing in line and to hear a
sudden roar and see ahead of you in the glare of an exploding
shell, men go down in the dust as tho mowed by a scythe, to
hear in the darkness of the night, the cry of the wounded and
the moans of the dying.
We quickly reformed our column, however and started on leaving
only a small squad to bury the dead by the side of the road.
Before morning we camped in a large draw back of the First
division, and the next day we relieved them. We were now under
the command of General Summerali of the Fifth American army
We were placed on the extreme left of this
front. We found ourselves in a hilly rough, wooded country. It
had been raining for many days and it was almost impossible to
walk over the thrills and next to impossible to drive a team
with a wagon, so much of the food and most of our supplies had
to be carried on the backs of our tired men for a distance of
Our men had summer underwear on, no
overcoats and only one blanket, and in the cold of that damp
fall weather, they suffered almost as much from the rain and
mud and cold, as they did from the shells.
The condition of the roads made it all but impossible for any
kind of an ambulance to be brought forward and so the wounded
had to be carried for many miles, which added to our losses.
We found the hills, slopes and woods covered with dead of the
enemy. Lying among them were many Americans of the First
division, testifying to the bitterness of the struggle there.
The First division chaplains moved away and left their
dead lying unburied upon the battlefield, and those that they
did bury were very poorly buried, and it fell to the lot of
Chaplain Hatch, Chaplain Strickand and I to bury nearly a
hundred of their men.
We moved up behind Hills 263 and 288, found the best shelter
possible, dug our little fox holes and waited for the orders
to go forward. We had not long to wait. Gen. Douglas
MacArthur, commander of the Eighty-fourth brigade called our
two colonels together (Alabama and Iowa regiments) and gave
them the orders that had been given him. The orders were to go
forward on the morning of October 14 and to take Hills 288 and
242, the La Tuilerie farm and Cote de Chatillon, or furnish
him a list of 6,000 casualties in our brigade -- in other
words, meant that we were to take this position at all costs,
even if it cost every man we had in the brigade.
fell to the lot of the First battalion, under Maj. Lloyd D.
Ross, to lead in this battle supported by the Second battalion
with the Third battalion in reserve. I don't believe any
officer of the regiment ever had a harder task than did Major
Ross in this drive.
We had a most difficult country to fight in, with three giant
hills, thickly wooded and steeply sloped, to capture. The
boche had every advantage in this fight and took it. His
machine guns were hidden everywhere and poured forth a steady,
deadly fire against our advancing troops, but, nevertheless,
our men were equal to the task. Wiggling their way on their
stomachs oftentimes, or crawling forward thru the brush, they
made slow but steady progress up the steep sides of Hill 288,
and soon had taken it, and with the advantage of this hill
they made short work of the smaller one, Hill 242.
companies of the Second battalion were sent forward to aid in
the attack here. So skillfully were these six companies
commanded, and so cleverly did they fight, that they
surrounded a large number of boche, captured 250 of them --
116 in a single dugout.
At the close of the second day of fighting all of Hills 288
and 242 were in our hands, and while many American boys lay
silent and still on the wooded slopes of these hills,
testifying to the bitterness of the struggle, their comrades
went on with the grim work.
At dark that night, they
dashed across the open space between the Bois de Romagne and
the Bois de Cote de Chatillon. They seized La Tuilerie farm,
and from the advantage of this position before daylight the
next morning, without stopping for rest, they swept forward
and thru the woods of Cote de Chatillon, threw back a counter
attack, killing and capturing most of them. At 2 o'clock p.m.
on the 15th day of October, attained our objective.
sundown that night the tired and war-weary First battalion was
relieved by the Third battalion, stayed in line for three or
four days consolidating the new positions and getting ready to
continue the attack in case we were ordered forward.
The desperate fighting in which we had engaged here was
perhaps the worst of the entire war and too much praise cannot
be given to Maj. Lloyd D. Ross of Red Oak for the clever
manner in which he commanded his battalion in taking these
difficult positions with so small a loss of life. Capt. Glenn
C. Haynes, who was then in command of the second battalion,
deserves no less praise for his courageous and skilful work in
this attack. Many a boy had the privilege of returning home
again at the close of the war because of the skillful and
courageous work of these two officers.
Eighty-fourth infantry brigade received perhaps the highest
praise from its commander that we received during the war, for
our work at this time. But it had cost us heavily.
One-hundred-sixty-eighth infantry alone lost many officers and
about one hundred soldiers killed, seriously wounded or
seriously sick through exposure and cold, with less of sleep,
entailed by this drive. We gathered together our dead from the
hillsides and buried them in two graves. Of their heroic
deaths I will now attempt to tell.
We lost one captain, Capt. Oscar B. Nelson, Company H. He had
been promoted from first lieutenant Company G, to captain and
placed in command of Company H. He had been wounded during the
Chateau Thierry operation, but he refused to be taken to the
hospital and had remained in command of his company (Company
G) until the close of that battle. He was recommended for the
distinguished service cross for this act of courage.
During the Argonne engagement, Captain Nelson was ordered to
the hospital on account of severe illness, but he refused to
leave his company.
As he was advancing he was hit by
two or three machine gun bullets, one going thru his stomach
and breaking his back. As he lay on the field under heavy
fire, his men came to carry him back. He tried to make them
leave him there saying: "Don't expose yourselves boys, I am
going to die and can die as well here as anywhere." He begged
them to leave him, but in spite of his plea they started back
with him. He died before he reached the aid station, but his
men weary and tired as they were, carried him nearly three
kilometers back to our rear grave yard, that his body might be
buried where it would not be disturbed by shells.
Company B lost First Lieut. Harold R. Pouch. Lieutenant Pouch,
after leading his platoon over the most difficult ground and
thru desperate fighting, had aided in the capture of Hill 288.
He was advancing to attack Cote de Chatillon when he was
mortally wounded in the side by a machine gun bullet. He
suffered great pain and when he arrived at the aid station he
still held his pistol tightly gripped in his hand. He was
quickly taken to the hospital, but died the following day.
Company E had George Wheaton Carr Vaughan seriously wounded in
this battle and according to a letter from Lieutenant Reed, he
died while in the hospital.
|1st Lieutenant Harold R. Pouch.
Company H had one second lieutenant killed, Henry T.
Gillespie. In the attack on Hill 288 at the beginning of the
Argonne battle, Lieutenant Gillespie was leading his platoon
against this hill when hit and killed.
We lost seven sergeants in this engagement. The sanitary
detachment lost John Burke of Des Moines. Sergeant Burke had
done most efficient and heroic work during the entire summer.
He had aided by his skillful work many of our wounded men to
positions of safety. While in an advanced aid station he was
wounded on October 16. He was severely wounded by high
explosive, but was getting along splendidly in the hospital
when pneumonia set in with pleurisy and he died on November 9.
|2nd Lieutenant Henry Gillespie.
Company A lost Sergt. George W. Wilkinson of Winterset. He
had been seriously wounded at the Oureq river July 28, but six
weeks later tho his wound still bothered him, he rejoined his
company and took an active part in the St. Mihiel drive.
During the operations on Octoer 14, he led his platoon with
great dash and spirit up the steep fortified slope of Hill
288. Unfalteringly he charged with his platoon and captured
three machine gun nests which had reduced his platoon by half
its number. Twice he reassembled and organized his command
under terrific fire. Then seizing the advantage he had gained,
he charged with a number of his men and captured a fourth
machine gun nest. He captured this position and saved his
company great loss, but lost his own life by his courageous
act. He was recommended for the medal of honor by his
commanding officer, Captain Wood, for this heroic conduct.
Company B lost one sergeant, Donald J. Marsh of Carlisle.
He was a member of the Second platoon and was in the raid of
March 5. His platoon was cited in orders by the French
One-hundred-twenty-eight division for the bravery displayed in
the raid of March 5. He was leading his platoon in a daring
dash across the open ground in front of the Hill Cote de
Chatillon when he was struck by a machine gun bullet and
Company D lost Sergt. Glenn H. Gray of Amana,
Ia. While leading his platoon in this advance in the Argonne,
he was hit by many machine gun bullets and killed. Corporal
Dais, thinking him still alive, went out and tried to drag him
out of the range of fire, but was wounded and failed in the
Company E lost Sergt. Albert T. Walton in this
battle. "Swede" Walton, as he was known, was one of our best
Company K lost Claude Swisher of Washington,
Ia., who died in the hospital at this time. He had been
wounded in the attack at St. Mihiel.
Company L lost
Thomas E. Langan. Langan was chief of the scouts of the Third
battalion and performed his tasks in such a remarkable manner
and with such heroism that he was awarded the Distinguished
Service Cross. He was to have been commissioned an officer,
but died a few days before he was to take the oath of office.
Theodore H. Loetz was another sergeant from this (Co. L)
company who died on October 9 of pneumonia.
We lost ten corporals during the Argonne battle. Headquarters
company lost Earl T. Connelly of Tabor, Ia. He was a member of
the Stokes mortar platoon and on the 14th of October was back
of the front lines waiting for orders to move forward. He was
talking with a group of men when a shell burst nearby, killing
The machine gun company lost two corporals, Corp.
Leland P. Scott of Morning Sun was killed in the attempt to
set up a machine gun in a clearing of the little hedge between
Boiss de Romagne and Cote de Chatillon. He was at work with
his squad when he was hit by many machine gun bullets and
almost cut in two. He died almost instantly.
Francis H. Webster of Central City was one of the most popular
and efficient corporals in the regiment. Corporal Webster was
in action with his squad and was advancing on Hill 288 when he
was hit in the chest by a piece of high explosive shell which
went entirely thru his body. His comrades rushed to his aid
and got him on a stretcher to carry him back to the aid post.
He was suffering great pain but regained consciousness as they
were carrying him back. The boys told him that they were
taking him back and he would be sent home and they asked him
if that was all right. He tried to smile at this and nodded
his head. He sank into unconsciousness again and they had gone
but a little way down the path when he died. They laid him
beside the road and went back for other wounded, and that is
where I found him. Corporal Webster had drawn many cartoons of
instances in trench warfare and a number of them were printed
in The Capital. He was buried very near the spot where he
Company A lost two corporals, Corp Lin Crawford
of Chapin had been wounded in the Champagne battle. He died in
Corporal Tosom of Winterset had been in
every engagement and battle. In taking Hill 288 he, with his
men had captured several machine guns and a number of
prisoners, and after the battle was over he was helping with
the salvage detail when he was instantly killed by a piece of
Company B lost three corporals. Corp.
William May of Indianola was killed on October 16 while
advancing with his squad at Cote de Chatillon. Corporal May
had served as a sniper and as an observer in the intelligence
Corp. Charles Polton of Company B was one
of the men that was killed on the march the night of October
11 as we were going into this action.
Corp. Lawrence J.
Sattler of Aridote [?], Iowa, was advancing the wire in the
attach on the Cote de Chatillon and was killed by machine gun