IAGenWeb Iowa in the Great War 

    Rainbow Division, 168th Infantry
Men Faced Battle With Indomitable Fortitude and Heroism

In a speech delivered in congress this week Judge Towner paid eloquent tribute to the Rainbow Division and especially to the 168th Infantry, the Iowa regiment in that division, with which sixty-eight Plymouth county boys fought. Judge Towner said among other things:

One of the four infantry regiments of the Rainbow Division was formerly the Third Iowa National Guard. It was originally recruited from southern Iowa. During the Spanish-American War it served as the Fifty-first Iowa Infantry from May 30, 1898, until November 2, 1899, and saw active service in the Philippines. After its return and demobilization, the regiment was reorganized as the Fifty-fifth Iowa Infantry, and in July 1915, it reorganized as the Third Infantry, Iowa National Guard. Under this designation, it served on the Mexican border in 1916.

When the order was issued for the mobilization of the national guard, the Third Iowa assembled at Camp Dodge, where it was mustered into the service as the One Hundred Sixty-eighth infantry. There were about 2,000 men in the original Third, and the regiment was raised to war strength by 1,600 additional, mostly from the First and Second Iowa national guard. It left
Des Moines September 10 and arrived at Camp Mills September 13, where it became part of the Forty-second (Rainbow) division and soon thereafter embarked for France.

The service of the One Hundred Sixty-eighth with the Forty-second divisionhas been given with the account of the service of the Rainbow division, of which they were a part. Particular reference to this regiment is justified because of its long and exceptional service. Wherever the fighting was hardest and the responsibility the greatest, there the One Hundred Sixty-eight was sent. In whatever duty assigned, no matter what dangers were incident or what losses were inevitable, the regiment braved the dangers and suffered the losses without complaint and without protest.

Throughout their service they endured privations and faced the hazards of battle with indomitable fortitude and invincible heroism.

Colonel Bennett, who commanded them for a long period of their service, said of them, "I only wish that I had the power to express the character of the work performed by these men. It is wonderful and deserving of the highest praise."

Colonel Brown of the general staff said, "They are a wonderful fighting outfit."

Captain Leon Bentz of the French staff said, "It is the best regiment I ever saw. The men are too brave, too courageous."

Gen. Douglas McArthur, chief of staff, said, "You can tell the people of Iowa that this regiment ranks 100 per cent."

The war correspondent repeatedly singled it out for special praise. As one of the reported, "The One Hundred Sixty-eighth has earned the name of the most famous American regiment. The French cheer whenever it passes. The English have marked it for special praise. The Australians, the Canadians and other colonials, considered the best fighters among the allies, claim the troops of the One Hundred Sixty-eighth as their brothers."

A member of congress describing the battle fronts and that the names of two American regiments were one every tongue: that of the One Hundred Sixty-eighth Iowa, and the One Hundred Sixty-seventh Alabama. These two regiments constituted the Eighty fourth infantry brigade and fought side by side throughout almost their entire service. Representing the blue and the gray together, they gave new luster to the flag they carried on many a foreign battle field and vied in affectionate rivalry in service and
devotion to each other and to the cause for which they fought.

While praise and honors and citations and decorations were lavishly given the gallant boys who composed the One Hundred Sixty-eighth, they were dearly bought. In the fight of July 25th to obtain the heights beyond the Oureq river, Major Stanley's battalion lost over 50 per cent of its enlisted men and 20 out of 26 officers. The next morning only 27 men and officer reported
for duty. Of the 250 men of Company M who were in the service only 27 escaped, 230 men being killed or wounded. Such was the price paid to vindicate American rights and save the civilization of the world."

Judge Towner also told of the capture of Hill 288 in the Argonne by the Iowa troops. Of this, he said, "In the Argonne offensive one of the most difficult tasks assigned the Forty-second division was the taking of Hill 288. The Rainbow boys first attacked it frontally. The attack failed. They made four more vain attempts to storm the hill. One rainy morning the One
Hundred Sixty-eighth regiment started on the sixth trial. With our artillery dropping shells on the crest and the New York troops spreading machine gun fire in all the slopes, the Iowa boys just at daylight, in a cold rain, again started up the hill. Through the barbed wire, over the trenches, driving the gunners from hundreds of machine gun nests, they were at the Germans with bayonets set.

There were hundreds of hand to hand conflicts on the slippery hillside. Captains fell and lieutenants commanded. Lieutenants fell and sergeants commanded. One platoon of nineteen men was led over the top by a private. For six hours the struggle continued before the top was reached and the victory won. When the Germans surrendered there were only 107 men left, the
rest had been killed or wounded."

In the course of his remarks, Judge Towner, told in detail the hardships and difficulties of the fighting in the Argonne. He told of the desperate battling day and night, in the cold rains, and in the darkness, against heavy forces, against a constant storm of artillery fire, against defenses as nearly impregnable as could be made, and in a region difficult in the extreme.

He summed up by saying: "It is not too much to say that never in the history of warfare, ancient or modern, was greater courage, endurance and individual heroism shown than in this great battle of the Argonne."


Only Thirteen Men Rejected For That and Drug Habit

Of the 3,346 persons out of the total of all Iowa registrants rejected at cantonments only thirteen were rejected because of the use of alcohol and drugs by the camp surgeons, according to statistics furnished by Provost Marshal General E.H. Crowder.

The statistics show that 339 Iowans were rejected because of flat feet, 41 on account of defective bones and joints, 361 for defective eyes, 149 for defective hearing, 518 on account of defective heart and blood vessels, 416 for hernia, 108 for mental deficiency, 477 for tuberculosis, 156 for teeth and 146 for defects not stated.

Iowa registrants from June 5, 1917, to September 11, 1918, totaled 240,934 of whom 152,863 were either exempted or received deferred classification. There were 26,563 placed in class 2, 10,477 in class 3, 82,071 in class 4 and 33,782 in class 5. The total registration in the state, including that of September 12, 1918, was 524,456.

In Iowa 5,262 white deserters were reported and 517 negro deserters. Inductions under the first and second registrations were 66,864 in the army, 7,832 in the navy, and 553 in the marine corps from Iowa.

Draft administration in Iowa to October 1, 1918, cost the federal government $266,850.10, of which sum $71,301 was paid to members of the boards.



Who was it, picked from civil life
And plunged in deadly, frenzied strife
Against a Devil's dreadful might?
Just plain "John Doe-Buck Private."
Who jumped the counter for the trench,
And left fair shores for all the stench
And mud, and death, and bloody drench?
Your simple, plain "Buck Private."
Who, when his nerves were on the hop,
With courage sealed the bloody top?
Who has it made the Hun swine stop?
"J. Doe (no stripes) Buck Private."
Who, underneath his training tan
Is every single inch a man!
And, best of all, American!
"John Doe, just plain Buck Private."
Who saw his job and did it well?
Who smiles so bland-yet fights like hell?
Who rang again the Freedom bell?
Twas only "Doe-Buck Private."
Who was it lunged and struck and tore
His bayonet deep into Hun gore?
Who was it helped to win the war?
"John Doe (no brains) Buck Private."
Who, herding not the laurel pile
That scheming other men beguile,
Stands modestly aside the while?
"John Doe (God's kind) Buck Private."

~by Allan R. Thomson in the Stars and Stripes, France

~ source: LeMars Sentinel, February 14, 1919



-transcribed and submitted by Linda Ziemann
Iowa GenWeb County Coordinator, Plymouth, Monona, Sioux counties http://www.iagenweb.org
Iowa Old Press IAGenWeb Special Project Co-coordinator http://www.iowaoldpress.com/index.html