Thank you to Monique B. Seefried for this text
Alabama’s 167th Infantry Regiment, 1916–1919
Editor’s note: "Alabama’s 167 Infantry Regiment, 1916–1919," is a revised reprint of an article by Nimrod Frazer published in the Greenville Advocate, May 26, 1994, pp. 1B, 4B, and 6. Parts of it were first given as a talk on Veterans Day, Nov. 11, 1985, at a Butler County Court House ceremony on the occasion of the placement of a marker celebrating World War I veterans.
It is the story of Alabama veterans who volunteered into the Alabama National Guard, later mobilized by Federal Order and called the 167th Regiment. It became a part of the 42nd "Rainbow" Division.
The current emphasis in the Nimrod Frazer piece is on this regimental unit within the "Rainbow" Division and sometimes it is just on D. Company within the regiment, the company in which his father, William J. Frazer, served (Photo I.2.1). The talk highlights some of the achievements of Greenville veterans in France during WWI, especially the salient points related to the Battle of the Croix Rouge Farm where so much Alabama blood was spilled: this was during the Second Battle of the Marne.
· The regiment’s first battalion entered the battle of Croix Rouge Farm in the Chateau-Thierry sector of the war in France (Map I.2.1) with 984 men. The next morning only 34.55 percent of the personnel were left standing.
· The 167th left Montgomery with 3,500 men. Upon returning, 17.60 percent had been killed.
· The 167th became a part of the U.S.’s Rainbow Division, which ended the war under the command of the later World War II five-star general Douglas MacArthur. In France, 10.41 percent of the Rainbow Division combatants were killed and 43.84 percent were wounded.
OVERVIEW OF WORLD WAR I: U.S. TROOPS IN FRANCE, 1918, AND ALABAMA TROOPS IN FRANCE
After declaring its neutrality at the onset of World War I, the United States entered the war on April 6, 1917. This decision was welcomed with demonstrations of support in the Allied capitals, but the U.S. needed time to mobilize. In May General John J. Pershing was appointed Commander of the American Expeditionary Force (AEF). He sailed for France shortly with fewer than 200 men. In Berlin, the German navy was confident that it could sink the American troop transports crossing the Atlantic, but they were not to be successful. Not one U.S. troop ship was sunk by German submarines. The United States decision to enter the war made it imperative for Germany to end the fighting with Russia. German victories against the Russians on the Eastern front coupled with the upheaval caused by the Russian revolution led to the Armistice between Russia and Germany on November 17, 1917. That released 160 German divisions for shipment to the Western front.
During that same month the U.S. 42nd "Rainbow" Division reached France and entered training under the French. By the end of 1917 there were only four U.S. divisions in the country, of which the Regular Army First Division and the 42nd "Rainbow" Division were the best trained. American policy was to commit the American forces as a unit under U.S. command. Pershing, however, realized that the arrival of German divisions from the Russian front would result in a great German push. French and British troops were dispirited, strained to the limit, and on the brink of defeat. Without the Americans in large numbers, the Allies were going to lose the war.
In March of 1918 French Marshall Ferdinand Foch was made Supreme Commander of all Allied Forces.
The anticipated 1918 German spring offensive came along a 50-mile front on the Somme battlefield, southeast of the Channel port of Calais and northeast of the Somme River both shown on Map I.2.1. The major involvement of the AEF in World War I starts then.
The German objective was to break through to the rail center at Amiens (Map I.2.1) and ultimately arrive at the Channel ports. By April the Germans were within 12 miles of Amiens, a British supply base. Only 2,000 U.S. troops were serving with British and French troops at the time.
When the German attack on Amiens (on the Somme River near the English Channel) was partially checked, the Germans struck to the north in the Armentières sector (Map I.2.1 and Morris and Morris 1996, p. 347). Even so, they were unable to exploit a gap in the British lines.
The last great German offensive of the war, the Second Battle of the Marne, then started north of the Aisne River. It lasted from May 27 to August 27. They made unexpected gains and penetrated to the Marne River along a 40-mile front to within 50 miles of Paris. The French began to panic. At the urging of a desperate Marshall Phillippe Petain, General Pershing committed all US troops to the French commanders. The U.S. 3rd Division and the U.S. Second Division with its 4th Marine Brigade were quickly moved a hundred miles from Chaumont. They immediately went into the fighting at Chateau-Thierry on May 31. A French Colonial unit was barely holding on there and some French were in retreat. By June 2 the French commanding officer had 17,000 U.S. troops to help stop the critical advance of the Germans (Map I.2.1). That number was to grow to 27,500. The battle was a close thing (Morris and Morris 1996, p. 348).
In July and early August the momentum shifted to the Allies. By then a million U.S. troops were in France—270,000 of them were to be engaged in the Aisne-Marne offensive (July 6, 1918 to August 18, 1918, Map I.2.1). Still, that counteroffensive over a 20 mile front was 80 percent French. When it ended, the 2nd Battle of the Marne was over.
It was during this time that the 42nd Division and its 167th Infantry Regiment gave its greatest service to France. This included the successful and decisive Battle of Croix Rouge Farm on July 26-27 in an assault by its 1st and 3rd Battalions. The sharp and desperate action was deemed in a history of the 42nd Division to be one of the highlights of the "Rainbow’s" service during the entire war. In it Cpl. William J. Frazer was hit twice by German machine-gun fire. He lay on the no-man’s land of the battlefield for 17 hours (July 26-27) before being picked out of a shell hole and evacuated. For those wounds received in the successful assault, Frazer was decorated with The Purple Heart.
Wounded from Butler County while in service with the 167th Infantry also include Ross Hall, Henry Jones, James R. Owens and Shirley Roberson.
In August the 1st U.S. Army was organized under the independent command of Gen. Pershing. French Marshall Foch agreed to this role by the U.S. troops who had performed so well under his command.
General Pershing’s first tactical command was the U.S. assault on the St. Mihiel salient in September (Morris and Morris 1996, p. 350). Place names concerning this offensive include the Meuse River and St. Mihiel. The Meuse River flows along the Belgian border in the north with the river and St. Mihiel on the southern part of Map I.2.1.
As we see later in Chapter 3, John A. Minnis was participating with the U.S. Marines in the St. Mihiel Offensive, September 12 to 16, when he was wounded and evacuated to Base Hospital No. 22. For action in this St. Mihiel offensive, Captain Minnis was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross by the Army and the Navy Cross by the Marines, as well as a Purple Heart.
From September 26 to November 11, 1918, the military action was concentrated between the Meuse River and the Argonne Forest where the major part of U.S. involvement occurred. These place names are combined to give the Meuse-Argonne (September 11, 1918 to September 20, 1918) shown on Map I.2.1. In the Meuse-Argonne offensive "every available American Division was employed" (Morris and Morris 1996, p. 350). The U.S. contribution to the offensive included 1,200,000 troops, with the final phase of the fighting beginning in November. By the end of the war 26 U.S. divisions had seen combat. Total U.S. deaths were put at 125,000. The armistice on November 11 brought the Meuse-Argonne offensive to a halt.
THE 167th INFANTRY REGIMENT
By Nimrod Frazer
The Hun was on the run after having suffered a decisive defeat; and the Chateau-Thierry salient had almost disappeared. Its spearhead no longer pointed towards Paris—the heart and soul of France—and the Alabamians had written the name of the Croix Rouge Farm into a thankful nation’s history. (Amerine 1919, p. 153)
The author of this quotation was Captain William H. Amerine, historian of the 167th Infantry Regiment, on whose work I draw heavily. He gave a May 1919 description of the results of a costly and decisive battle. That fact and countless others about the celebrated 167th were once common knowledge throughout our state. Awareness of it is now largely lost with time. When recalled, it tells a compelling story of which my father, Will Frazer of D Company, was a part.
State Militia, Recruiting, and the Mexican Border
The unit, originally the state militia organized in 1911, was first named the 4th Alabama Infantry in honor of the 4th Alabama of the Confederate Army. It was mobilized into federal service by command of President Woodrow Wilson on June 18, 1916. The mustering officer was Regular Army Captain William Preston Screws. He was to become full colonel and regimental commander (Photo I.2.3). His first orders called the Regiment to Mexican border duty.
The units were from twelve communities in Alabama: Montgomery, Birmingham, Abbeville, Pell City, Bessemer, Decatur, Gadsden, Ozark, Alexander City, Opelika, Alabama City, and Oxford. Very few of the original companies met the required strength of three officers and sixty-five men (Amerine 1919, p. 30). There was not much to count or show when the first muster took place at Montgomery’s Vandiver Park, the city’s racetrack. The Army called for each company’s strength to be brought to 150 men for the trip to the Mexican Border. Recruiting parties were sent out from Montgomery as soon as the first muster was complete.
The experience of D Company was typical. The Bessemer unit led by Captain Lacey Edmundsen brought 56 men to Montgomery. His recruiting foray netted 10 men from three communities in Lowndes County and 13 men from three communities in Butler County (Amerine 1919, pp. 340–416). The Butler County contingent, mostly from Greenville, had heard that there was a recruiter in Fort Deposit. The 13 adventuresome souls from Butler County went there to enlist. Will Frazer and his best friend Chester "Scottie" Scott were among them.
Captain Edmundsen continued to add to his rifle company through this process. Recruits to the regiment came from Escambia, Coffee, Baldwin, Clarke, Monroe, and Geneva Counties, in South Alabama; Dallas and Marengo Counties west of Montgomery; and Talladega, Chilton, Cullman, Elmore, and Madison Counties north of Montgomery.
Although the United States was not yet in the war in Europe, these recruits and their families believed that they would soon become involved in it.
Before going to France, 443 Alabama communities supplied 3,580 officers and men to the 167th Regiment (Amerine 1919, pp. 340–407). What kind of people were they? All white and all male, the officers would have been called middle class but few were college educated. They had typically acquired commissions through National Guard training, as was the case with Lieutenant-Colonel Walter E. Bare. They were from families that would usually be described as ambitious. Almost all were involved in small business. The military had a cachet to it that brought dignity, respect, and an aura of responsibility. Some of the officers had been involved with the National Guard for a good many years. They were not young men and rank had come slowly.
The enlisted men were generally a good bit younger. Most were new to the notion of military service. While few had much education or had traveled beyond Mobile, Montgomery, or Birmingham, they were the risk takers of the day. To the terror of their mostly conservative and hard-up families, they were willing to pull up stakes and take a chance on something big. All of them knew Confederate veterans who were greatly honored in their communities. Many came from the state’s more visible families (Amerine 1919, p. 27). On going overseas 14 months later they and the other Americans with them were to be regarded as Young Lions by Europeans.
The men sometimes jokingly called the muster at Vandiver Park a "Mob-ilization" Camp. One recruit was later to recall, "You fellows of the old ‘Fighting Fourth’ hadn’t been ‘mobilized’ two weeks when the feverish desire seized me to die like a hero, so I put out for the camp paying my own railroad fare. I quit a good job too" (Amerine 1919, pp. 24–25).
Some recruits arrived in Montgomery wearing low-quarter shoes and straw hats. It took a while to get cots, 1903 model Springfield rifles, and uniforms for everyone. There was rain and sickness in North Montgomery. A band was organized. Exercises, drills, and long hikes became routine. Competition at the rifle range north of Oakwood Cemetery became intense. Sanitary conditions improved, as did the appearance of the camp and the men. The food got better. Many of the mobilization recruits were to get stripes or commissions later on in the great World War. Reviews were held at camp and in the city streets. Thousands of loyal citizens attended them (Amerine 1919, pp. 32–33).
After four months of training late in the summer and fall of 1916, the men were ready to go to the Mexican Border. It mattered not where—whether to Bisbee, Yuma, Tucson, or Nogales. The chill of fall was in the air and they wanted a new thrill. They got it. Orders came for an October 22nd departure.
The men were hardened by training and wanted to go to the Border, although it was generally known that matters there had quieted down. Some National Guard units had already been down, undergone field duty, and been returned home.
The boxcars and flat car trains for the 167th’s movement to the Border pulled in on the long siding at Vandiver Park and the loading began. There was no censorship and the units left amid a shower of cheers for the 2,000-mile, six-day trip to Nogales, Arizona. Once there, the unit moved into a camp vacated by another outfit.
The Mexican Border campaign was not a campaign at all. It was for the Army and National Guard prior to World War I what the Louisiana maneuvers were to be prior to World War II. General John J. Pershing, who was to head the American Expeditionary Forces to France the next year, was given an opportunity to whip his troops into shape. This was billed as the Punitive Expedition into Mexico. The excuse was to go after the Mexican revolutionary and guerrilla warrior Pancho Villa. He had raided Columbia, New Mexico, staking his claim to land that the United States had earlier taken from Mexico. There was loss of life but Villa was no threat (Katz 1978, pp. 102–130). He was simply President Wilson’s public reason to mobilize.
General Pershing tested his logistics, aviation, and cavalry, his medical and field sanitation systems, his new White trucks (White Company, 1918, p. 32), and his officers. For the 167th it was more formations and drills. Fieldwork included a 125-mile march to Tucson and back with full packs and weapons. Much time was spent on the firing ranges improving rifle and machine gun marksmanship. The men learned trench construction. Bayonet drills were held regularly and exercises in setting up camp were part of everyday life. Outpost techniques and patrolling were practiced. Morale was up. The men were in a new country with some prospect of seeing combat, though it was a remote one.
Pershing’s men became better soldiers and looked good on parade. They learned hardship from bitter cold nights and rapidly changing weather. Deaths occurred and at times as many as four bodies were escorted to the little railroad station at Nogales in a single procession, all to be shipped back to Alabama.
The regiment put in four months of hard work in Nogales before leaving by train on March 16, 1917 (Amerine 1919, pp. 42–43). It returned to Montgomery on March 22 and once again went into camp at Vandiver Park. While some Guard units from other states had been mustered out on returning from the Mexican Border, the demobilization orders for the Fighting Fourth did not come through. On April 6, 1917, the United States declared a State of War to exist and on the next day the regiment left Montgomery on a road march to guard and deploy on the railroad property from Montgomery to Mobile. That duty was to last until the unit reassembled in Montgomery on June 7 (Amerine 1919, pp. 48–49).
Captain Lacey Edmundsen’s D Company, of which Will Frazer was a member, pulled typical duty during that two-month tour of duty. The unit marched from Montgomery to Bay Minette, accompanied by a wagon for the kitchen and a wagon for the Post of Command (PC). The unit bivouacked in pyramidal squad tents on the Court House Square in Bay Minette and placed guards on Baldwin and Mobile County bridges of the L&N Railroad. Everybody was ready to leave when orders came through for D Company to make the independent march back to Montgomery. The men wore packs and combat gear as they led the two wagons through the country. Word went ahead that they were coming and everywhere they received tremendous ovations (Amerine 1919, p. 49). Going through Greenville was especially exciting for Will Frazer and those who called it home.
The 167th Infantry Designation
By June 7 all units had reached Montgomery. Great throngs of people visited Vandiver Park. The Regiment picked up more recruits and reached full strength of 150 men per company. The routine of a training schedule was established and the work of rebuilding went ahead nicely during June and July. On August 5 the units of the Fourth Alabama, consisting of the First, Second, and Fourth Infantry and the First Cavalry, all of which had been together on the Mexican Border, were made a part of the Armies of the United States.
On August 14 the War Department gave the Fourth Infantry, Alabama National Guard, the new designation of "The 167th United States Infantry." Instructions were to consolidate the three National Guard regiments to bring the new 167th up to strength of 3,605 enlisted men. This realignment was hard on the morale of the old units.
William Preston Screws was promoted to full colonel from the recently acquired lieutenant-colonelcy that he had gotten on the return from the Border (Amerine 1919, pp. 49–53). He oversaw his new regiment being brought up to strength. Companies immediately went from 150 men to 250 men, and the new regimental staff was filled out from the old one. Five other officers were transferred in. On August 28, two weeks after forming as a new regiment, the unit left Montgomery on eight special trains bound for Camp Mills, New York, on Long Island (Amerine 1919, pp. 49–53).
The Montgomery Advertiser did not publish the movement because of censorship restrictions (Amerine 1919, pp. 53–54), but some people heard of it and went down to the Union Station to see the troops off. There was a good crowd at the foot of Commerce Street according to Joe L. Coleman. He spoke of being the last one to see the boys from D Company as they pulled out. He said, "trains were everywhere" (Frazer 1993). This bystander recognized some of the D Company members from Greenville. He was a Lowndes Countain and had seen them in Fort Deposit on the day of their enlistment more than a year earlier. He admired them.
The regiment reached Camp Mills by September 1 and became a part of the 42nd "Rainbow" Division (Order of Battle, hereafter OB). Secretary of War Newton D. Baker called it "Rainbow" because its units were from twenty-six states of the Union. They made an arc across the nation, like a rainbow. On detraining, the Alabama unit pitched camp like the well-oiled and highly mobile organization that it had become (Amerine 1919, p. 55).
The regiment was quarantined for six weeks, ostensibly because of mumps and meningitis, but really because of street fighting in the camp between the Alabamians and men of the New York Regiment. There were ugly rumors about the white Alabamians being out to "get" Negroes of the 15th New York. The Alabamians did not get to see any of New York City before the division of two brigades of two regiments, each for a total of 27,000 men, began moving by train to ports of embarkation on October 18. The "Rainbow" like all U.S. divisions was about twice the size of British, French, and German divisions.
The Voyage Overseas
The Alabamians, with a number of new officers, went to Hoboken for the voyage overseas. Loading and sailing were completed on November 3 for the Lapland and November 6, 1917 for the Andania. The only sightseeing by those men was to be New York harbor as seen from a ferryboat taking them to the Lapland or the Andania, a Canadian ship of 14,500 tons. No troops were allowed on deck when the ships left the harbor. Two days after shipping out the Andania anchored in the outer harbor of Halifax, Nova Scotia, for coaling. The Alabamians were on deck this time to see a large gray ship pulling out. A soldier climbed up the stays of the Andania and signaled by flag; what outfit?" Instantly there came back from the other vessel "A-L-A." The Andania’s band burst out in Dixie as wigwagged messages of "Good Luck" were exchanged between the Alabamians on the Andania and the Lapland (Photo I.2.5)
A convoy of ten ships was formed on November 10 for crossing the Atlantic. The trip was uneventful. Ireland was sighted on November 17 and the ship pulled into Liverpool, England, on November 18. The incomplete regiment (G and H Companies had boarded another ship that arrived later) unloaded that afternoon and immediately entrained for Winchester. In five days they went to Southampton to board three cross-channel boats bound for Le Havre, France. There they boarded trains containing 50 cars to the train and headed to Uruffe, the regiment’s first headquarters in Europe. They reached Uruffe on November 28 (Amerine 1919, p. 27). The Regiment arrived at a time when the Germans had approached Paris for the first time, been beaten back, and were preparing to approach it again (text page 59). The English, French, and Belgian soldiers were glad to see the Americans. They could not come too soon.
The Early Period
Billeted in barns, public buildings, and empty houses, the 167th Infantry Regiment stayed in Uruffe, Vaucouleurs, and Gibeaumenix for three weeks.
They picked up their routine of shaping up living quarters, drill, and practice on the rifle range. Big guns at the front were heard for the first time.
The 167th Infantry Regiment began training marches through Jeanne d’Arc country to St. Blin, France. There the long-missing G and H Companies showed up, making the regiment complete. St. Blin was near Chaumont, the home of General Pershing’s American Expeditionary Force Headquarters in France. The unit was learning to live with cold and hardship.
On the day after Christmas the regiment left on foot carrying everything on their backs. It was cold and snowing. On the first day it marched 16 kilometers to Cirey les Mareilles, the second day it marched 21.5 kilometers to Chamarande, and on the third day 22.5 kilometers to Marac. It was an extreme test of endurance and the ability of the men to withstand physical hardship. The last three days of December were spent cleaning equipment and setting up camp in the French training area at Marac. Colonel Screws’ headquarters was set up at Faverolles with line companies scattered throughout nearby villages. The snow and cold continued as they settled in for more training (Amerine 1919, p. 93).
Between November 20 and December 12 the British had broken the Hindenburg Line with an advance of five miles at one point. The Germans counterattacked and then held the key town of Cambrai, straightening out and holding the Hindenburg Line. These movements ended in stalemate. It also meant that the 167th was coming closer to the time when it would be called on. With the regiment set up around Faverolles, three-fourths of its original officers and many noncommissioned officers (NCOs) were sent to the French First Corp’s School at Gondrecourt. This was a newly organized five-week course that included work with the Browning automatic rifle (BAR), hand grenades, Stokes mortars, one pounders, machine guns, signaling, trench construction, and bayonet. It was a miserable time for all involved with cold weather at first and then mud.
Those who remained with the 167th Infantry Regiment in the Faverolles area, as Will Frazer did, also continued a rigid training schedule. Begun on December 3 by 30 new American and 2 new French cadre officers, the routine included rifle range and grenade pit work for every man. Trench layouts were dug that included front, support, and reserve positions. Defense tactics were taught. Day and night relief was practiced. Defense against gas attack was stressed. The Hotchkiss (English) machine gun was issued to the Machine Gun Company on January 8.
On January 13, Captain Newman Smith of Montgomery, who had organized the Machine Gun Company, took six men with him to the Division Machine Gun School at Beauchemin for a six-week course. Six other gunners went to a similar school elsewhere. Both facilities were operated by the French Army and were deemed to be first rate.
In Division competition between regiments, the 167th’s one pounder platoon won at every range and the Stokes mortar platoon also won every contest. The Regimental Pioneer Platoon became expert.
Colonel Screws also went to school. With the division’s two brigade commanders, both one-star generals, and all other regimental commanders, he was ordered to the French Army’s school at Langres for a short tour.
During the last two weeks of the 167th Regiment’s stay in the Faverolles area, a part of the experienced 32nd French Infantry helped with training the Alabamians. Special work was also conducted with officers and men involved in signal and intelligence work.
A capable organizer and executive, Screws took advantage of every opportunity to prepare his people for the test that was sure to come (Amerine 1919, p. 89). He carefully used all of January to get ready.
The French population in the Faverolles area was kind to the troops, many of whom they got to know. An officer of the regiment who returned to the place several months later found a carefully kept roster of one company posted in a café, with notations of those killed or wounded. The locals, too, had known what was ahead.
During the first week of February a warning order came to prepare the unit for movement. With a total of 19 months’ training, the 167th Infantry Regiment was set to go. On February 16 the unit marched to Rolampont. There each of the Battalions boarded a separate train made up of small French boxcars designed for 40 soldiers or 8 horses. A 12-hour ride in intense cold and another road march found them in the Baccarat Region. On the 18th they were at Glonville and four days later they were at Brouville near the front.
The 167th Infantry Regiment Goes into the Trenches
On the night of February 24 the first elements prepared to go into the trenches near Brouville. Two lieutenants from each company, each with 30 men, formed their commands in the main street of Brouville and marched out to their posts facing the enemy. This was the Lunéville Sector (Lorraine) and it joined the 167th French Infantry (Order of Battle). The first smell of gunpowder came that night when a German plane came over and dropped a single bomb. Another came with a second bomb in the morning.
These small contingents of Americans stayed with the veteran French soldiers for two days, after which the remaining French were relieved by other new American detachments. By February 28 the relief was completed and the French pulled out. The U.S. 167th Regiment took up the six Groupes de Combat (strong points), into which the French had organized themselves. Company D held two of these strong points, numbers 5 and 6. The French pulled out their machine guns on the day after all the new troops were in place. Then the 42nd Division Artillery completed its relief of the French.
The previously quiet sector suddenly became active. The regiment was to stay there for three weeks, until March 21. A random artillery round drew first Alabama blood, killing two Browning automatic riflemen. There were lots of green flares as alarms for gas attacks were sent up during the first few nights, but the alarms were all false. Patrol work began with much excitement and care. On the night of March 4, D Company put out a five-man combat patrol commanded by Sergeant Varner Hall of Birmingham. It got into a fight with nine Germans in a trench. The D Company boys came out with a prisoner after wounding two, who got away, and killing one. It was the Regiment’s first prisoner. For this aggressive action each member of the patrol was awarded a Croix de Guerre by the French Fourth Army Corps and the Distinguished Service Cross by the American Army. Later that night First Lieutenant Shelby V. Gamble, also of D Company, took out a larger patrol and came in with another prisoner. A raid by the Germans the following morning brought them to the realization that the 77th Bavarians were up against U.S. forces. German artillery picked up.
The regiment’s three battalions rotated reserve duty in a four-day cycle for the three-week tour. Captain J. Miles Smith of Montgomery and his Supply Company had their hands full keeping everyone fed. When the tour was over, the Regimental Band met the various units as they were rotated out of the front lines. It escorted them to the nearby French village of Glonville. A French regiment replaced the 167th (Amerine 1919, pp. 96–101), which went back to its training area around Faverolles. Headquarters was set up at Hablainville. Colonel Screws’ unit had been in the trenches and done its bit. The officers and men were now veterans in trench warfare. That could be said of few American soldiers in France at that time.
Strategically, the Germans were now making desperate efforts to crush the Allies and to force their way to the English Channel ports. Trench warfare had in the past been essentially defensive. The Germans were changing that. From here on they would become increasingly mobile. These new-style German operations were making headway against the British and alarming the French. The U.S. 167th was getting closer to real war.
On returning to Faverolles on March 24, Screws sent another group of officers to school at Gondrecourt and selected NCOs to go the Army Officer Candidate School at Langres. They left on March 27. On the very next day the 42nd Rainbow Division rotated back to the front. For the first time it took over an entire division sector and was the first U.S. division to be so honored. It replaced a French division that was being moved to help stop the German offensive west of the French town of Cambrai. In making the relief at the Baccarat Sector (in Lorraine) they went into an area that they were to hold until June 21. They were on the right of the French Eighth Army, with brigades abreast, and were to remain in the trenches for 84 days (Order of Battle).
In making this relief at Baccarat the 42nd Rainbow Division and the 167th Infantry rendered their first significant service to France. Previous to this time they had been a burden to the French who were training them (Amerine 1919, pp. 102–104). Here the rotation was a battalion on line for eight days, in reserve for eight days, and in support for eight days. On April 13 several officers from the regiment were sent to the 32nd U.S. division as instructors in various specialties. The 32nd was a National Guard outfit from Michigan and Wisconsin. It had trained in Texas and passed through Montgomery on its way to ports of embarkation.
There was some action in this new position at the Baccarat Sector, subsector Vacqueville, although it had been known as a quiet sector. On the night of April 13–14, Company D’s First Lieutenant Shelby Gamble—accompanied by Second Lieutenants Dick Breeding and George Berriman—made a long reconnaissance patrol into the Salient du Feys to a crossroads well within German lines and on German soil. They were discovered but succeeded in getting out.
On the morning of April 17 the regiment had two of its men captured. They were part of an observation post relief that got pounced on by an ambush patrol of 14 Germans. On May 1, a French artillery unit came into a support position to prepare for a raid that the 166th Infantry was to make through the sector held by the 167th. On May 2, the French threw out more than 20,000 rounds and at four o’clock on the morning of May 3 two companies of Ohioans passed through and went "over the top." They penetrated to the fourth line of German trenches.
On the night of May 3-4 one of the regiment’s best patrol leaders—Second Lieutenant Alton P. Woods of F Company—was killed in an effort to take prisoners for much-needed information. Later, on May 25, Second Lieutenant Stephen Harris of C Company led 20 men out and made contact with a strong enemy patrol. Then on the night of June 18–19 1st Battalion took the first heavy artillery fire that the Regiment had received. Several men were killed and many wounded. The Division was relieved on June 21 by a mixed U.S. and French force. The 167th moved to Vaxoncourt. On June 23 it boarded trains at Thaon for Vitry la Ville, marched from there to Cheppes, then to Recy near Chalons, then it made a 28-kilometer march to Camp de la Noblette, northeast of Chalons. The regiment was being positioned to help the French save Paris.
At this time, the "Rainbow," as it was usually called, was described in The Stars and Stripes as "a unit far separated from other American Divisions . . . it was receiving the finishing touches necessary to fit it into General Gouraud’s Fourth Army in that vast plain of the French Champagne, which for leagues in every direction was furrowed with the trenches and cobwebbed with the barbed wire of nearly four years of trench warfare" (Amerine 1919, p. 109).
At Noblette it was attached to the 13th French Division under General de Bouillon. By that time the 42nd and the 1st Divisions were the most battle hardened of the 29 U.S. divisions in France. The 1st was a Regular Army unit and had been the first U.S. division to reach France.
Thus, the 167th had begun to make a name for itself and was ready to be used in the Champagne defensive. French General Gouraud, and all of his Fourth Army, including the American 42nd, had ample warning of the coming German attack. The "Rainbow" consequently was shifted to a line in the Champagne area with French divisions on either side (Amerine 1919, p. 109). The move of the 167th was by train and a series of marches of up to 30 kilometers (18.75 miles) a day. The Germans were expected to launch the greatest offensive of the war. The Americans learned from captured prisoners that they expected that they only needed to march into Paris over a few Frenchmen too old to fight and a few Americans who didn’t know how to fight. The 167th was ordered to lie in wait in holes or bunkers covered with camouflage. They lay under cover for a week.
At midnight on July 14 the toughest part of the war so far began for the Alabama Doughboys. The Germans came in before daylight. At that time the best divisions of the U.S. Army were lined up over a 15-mile front. They let loose thousands of guns lined hub to hub. However, following their artillery fire, which had been coming in since midnight, the Germans attacked with three assault divisions at four fifteen in the morning. The "Rainbow" was among those taking the brunt of the assault, but this great German attack was to fail. Three battalions of the "Rainbow" were in place. Two and a half more Battalions of the 42nd were advanced into positions that morning. The German attack included tanks.
There was lots of fighting but none harder than that of Corporal Major D. Riley with Company G. This man from Ozark, Alabama, climbed to the parapet of his trench and picked off a German machine gunner. Another German soldier went into the dead man’s place and started operating the gun. Riley again jumped to the top and killed that man. Five times the gunners were replaced and each time Corporal Riley shot down an enemy soldier. In his last effort a bullet to the head killed him (Amerine 1919, p. 125).
This fighting in the Champagne was by far the toughest fighting that the Alabamians had experienced. A new element was added when some 25 German airplanes strafed the lines at about eleven o’clock on the morning of the attack. Company F’s Private Brock Hill from Attala shot one down and became the first U.S. soldier to do so.
At the end of the day Colonel Screws knew his men were made of good stuff (Amerine 1919, p. 128). The artillery continued through the night and combat patrols from both sides were making contact all up and down the line. Some 50 German planes came over on the morning of July 16, but the battle was essentially over. Some called this a great turning point of the war. The German offensive that had started so successfully had been stopped. Paris had been saved. Without the Americans the Allies would have lost the war. Now the Allies were to begin Marshall Foch’s last offensive, at Chateau-Thierry.
The Alabamians were relieved from their defensive position on the night of July 18–19 by a French unit. They were to join the offensive. The troops marched 17 kilometers (10.63 miles) (Amerine 1919, p. 142). At Coolus, they entrained, going back through Paris before detraining and marching for five nights. On that move they rested during the daytime, hiding their kitchen in the woods. This march was to Chateau-Thierry (Frazer 1930, and Map I.2.1).
Text shows photo of The Croix Rouge Farm. The objective of the attack outlined by this map
Source: American Battle Monuments Commission, 1938.
Front lines held by 42nd Division
The offensive there could not have taken place had the Champagne defensive sector failed. It is significant that the "Rainbow" was immediately scheduled for the offensive that Foch had planned. It was to break up the Chateau-Thierry point of the battle line projecting the farthest into the French positions. This was a drive to the northwest to once-and-for-all wreck the long-standing plan of the Germans to seize Paris by capturing the Marne Valley opening into the French city.
After the hard move, the 167th detrained on the Marne at Trilpot and La Ferté sous Jouarre. The Regiment rested on the 22nd and 23rd of July at Sameran. At noon on the 24th they were told to be ready to move out in an hour for a move by truck. The trucks didn’t come until midnight. It took 75 vehicles to transport a battalion. They rode all night and unloaded at Epieds on the morning of July 25. They moved on foot toward The Forêt de Fère to join the Chateau-Thierry Drive. There they passed through and replaced the U.S. 26th Division in the offensive.
After deployment the 167th took up a position in the Allied line of advance, which had bogged down and stopped. Thus began the Battle of Croix Rouge Farm (Photos I.2.6 and I.2.7) in the Chateau-Thierry sector (Maps I.2.2 and I.2.3). Reconnaissance indicated that all about was utter confusion and carnage (Amerine 1919, p. 144).
There was no Allied artillery. The 167th took up positions in the woods as night approached. This was done without guides, since the French and the U.S. 26th Division had themselves already taken quite a beating and been withdrawn. The Alabama regiment was fired on all night. It was in totally unfamiliar terrain (Frazer 1930). Colonel Screws Post of Command was in a roadside gully a short distance behind the woods. This was open warfare of the worst kind. It was raining and miserable. The 1st Battalion under Major John W. Carroll, of Ozark, Alabama and the 3rd, under Major Dallas B. Smith, of Opelika, Alabama, were in the woods east of the Croix Rouge Farm. The 2nd Battalion, under Captain Everette H. Jackson of Montgomery, was to the south in support (Amerine 1919, p. 146).
Photo I.2.6. Croix Rouge Farm from angle in woods south of farm, in direction of attack on Germans who were holding the edge of Forêt de Fère, east and north of the farm. At 4:50 pm July 26, 1918, the 84th Infantry Brigade of the 42nd Division attacked the Croix Rouge Farm from the south and west and the 2nd Battalion of 167th Infantry from the west. They reached the edge of the woods west and south of the farm, made two assaults on the fortified farmhouse, gained it. The firing was intense from the woods east of the farm. U.S. casualties were heavy but the Germans withdrew from this vicinity on the night of July 26-27, 1918. Co-ordinates 192.65-267.5, Croix Rouge Farm, Aisne, France.
Source: National Archives & Records Administration. Photo taken April 4, 1919 by Sgt. S.C. Richards
Reconnaissance patrols were sent out on the morning of July 26 but were stopped. Sniper fire made the 167th advance line almost impossible to hold. The 1st and 2nd Battalions tried to better position themselves, with the 1st having no protection. Will Frazer later said he had seen the 84th Brigade CO, Brigadier General Douglas MacArthur, to the rear of him in the D Company advance position during that day. At 3:40 p.m. the Brigade issued an order for an advance to be made at 4:50. It was to be in coordination with the French on the left of the First Battalion. The Third Battalion was right of the First Battalion. The order was late in reaching Colonel Screws. When received, Screws sent his executive officer, Lieutenant-Colonel Bare to deliver the order in person to the 1st and 3rd Battalions, the two front line battalions. Bare went by motorcycle as far as he could, then ran the rest of the way. The First Battalion got the order at 4:45 p.m. Assault companies under Captain Lacey Edmundsen of Bessemer, Alabama, and Captain Gardner Green of Pell City. D Company, and C Company, went "over-the-top," although there were no trenches, at 4:50, five minutes after getting the order. A section accompanied them from the Machine Gun Company from Montgomery. There was no artillery and little mortar support. This prompt execution by Colonel Screws under extremely difficult circumstances was to be memorialized in 1930 by General George C. Marshall when he was a colonel commanding The Infantry School at Fort Benning, Georgia.
Photo I.2.7. Croix Rouge Farm Buildings. Condition of buildings almost intact indicates little artillery support in attack of 84th Infantry Brigade, 42nd Rainbow Division on July 26, 1918. Co-ordinates 192.75-267.8,2.5 kilometers Northwest of Le Charmel, Aisnes, France.
Source: National Archives & Records Administration. Photo taken April 4, 1919 by Sgt. S.C. Richards
The objective for the assault was La Ventellette, a strip of woods about a kilometer (5/8 miles) east of the 167th lines.. Lieutenant John N. Bryan and Lieutenant Arthur A. Evans each had well-trained Stokes mortar platoons of 22 men. Ten minutes after the assault started they were reduced to a total of 14 men and 1 officer. The mortar men became riflemen. Alabama’s best blood was flowing (Amerine 1919, p. 149). The assault was pressed on the Germans in two assaults for an hour but they held. Sergeant Will Frazer of D Company commented in an oral history undertaken by his wife Chinkie:
"I was relieved to be hit and crawled into a shellhole, knowing that I just had a couple of machine gun bullets in my leg. It was late afternoon. There was a Frenchman and a dead German in the hole. The Frenchman pointed to my leg wound and said "bonne blessure." He then motioned for me to stick my head up. I motioned back for him to do it and he was killed." (Frazer 1930)
The day was saved after the failed first assault when Bessemer’s Lieutenant Ernest E. Bell of D Company and Abbeville’s Lieutenant Robert Espy of B Company rushed forward with platoons of 58 men and 52 men respectively. Espy was to receive a Distinguished Service Cross for leading this assault. It was followed by a German counterattack. The enemy fell back that night. This was the action known as Croix Rouge Farm. The 1st Battalion went into that barrage of rifle and machine-gun fire to lose 65.31 percent dead or wounded. Amerine said, "There they literally fought the Hun machine gunners with their bare American fists."
Brigadier General Henry J. Reilly, described this action in the History of The 42nd Division. He wrote, "the 167th Alabama assisted on the left by the 168th Iowa had stormed and captured the Croix Rouge Farm in a manner which for its gallantry I do not believe has been surpassed in military history. It was one of the few occasions on which the bayonet was decisively used…practically all of those bayoneted died where they fell" (page 32).
When dawn broke on July 27, it seemed that any further advance by the 167th Infantry Regiment would be impossible, but a hot meal and no incoming artillery helped. Search parties went out to pick up the wounded. They captured 22 Germans. The remains of the regiment advanced that afternoon to the bank of the Ourcq River (shown in Map I.2.3). On July 28 Colonel Screws PC was at Espérance Farm. The 1st and 3rd battalions had so many casualties that they were combined. They continued to take casualties. There the exhausted 167th was relieved and dragged itself back to Forêt de Fère to spend the night (Amerine 1919, p. 132). Every man was a physical wreck, just able to stagger after nine days of solid fighting and hardship (Amerine 1919, p. 162). On the morning of August 2, the Fourth U.S. Division relieved the "Rainbow." The 167th had made an advance of 19 kilometers ending at Nesles.
From the Battle of Croix Rouge Farm to the End of the War
The 167th was then billeted around La Ferté until it was entrained on the 17th and 18th of August for a training area near Chaumont, where it rested for eight days. Replacements were brought in and on August 27, while practicing Battalion maneuvers with the new men, orders came to prepare to move (Amerine 1919, p. 169). The following night, August 29, found the 167th Regiment on the first of a series of night marches to St. Paul, where there was a pause for a few more days of training. On September 6-7 they marched 14 kilometers to Allain, then 23 kilometers to Fort Tillot. Replacements and veterans alike practiced the capture of a farm by a Battalion as well as the penetration and seizing of a railroad, which was actually done later in the St. Mihiel Drive (Map I.2.1).
The 42nd relieved the 89th Division in cold rain on the night of September 11–12. The St. Mihiel Drive was under way. Artillery began at one o’clock in the morning. Just before dawn the 167th crawled through the barbed wire and fell in behind the barrage. Pressing close to it they advanced at the prescribed rate of 100 yards in three minutes. German flares were everywhere but the wire was no problem and only limited resistance was met (Amerine 1919, pp. 177, 181).
The same method of advancing was used the next morning and again on September 20. Company D was back in the front lines. Most of the battalion and company commands in the 167th had by now changed hands but there was no absence of professional combat leadership. Casualties were still being taken every day and C Company had four men killed on the 23rd. There was always the problem of artillery and little protection. The 1st Battalion had four different commanders due to wounds between Croix Rouge Farm on July 26 and September 27, when the 15 day St. Mihiel Drive ended (Amerine 1919. p. 177).
Next came the Argonne-Meuse Battle (Map I.2.1), "the deathblow to the Huns." It lasted from October 5 to November 9 and severed half of the supply- and troop-moving power of the German system of communications. The American attack through dense woods had a front of 18 miles. With very heavy artillery support, it started on the morning of September 26.
On October 10 the regiment went into the Forêt d’Argonne, 4 kilometers east of Exermont. It had moved by foot and truck from St. Mihiel (Map I.2.1) when it came up to relieve the 1st Division’s 18th Infantry.
The 167th attacked on the night of October 14 when it was asked to take Côte de Chatillon. That strong point was not done away with until a third attack on October 16, following which the 167th Regiment was shelled for five days until it was relieved on October 21. All welcomed a bath for the first time in a month. After a few days of rest, the regiment made another series of marches toward the Meuse River. Colonel Screws was in the hospital with the flu and Lieutenant Colonel Bare was in charge of the regiment. It continued to be called on to take out one German strong point after another. The advance continued with constant casualties. Five men from L Company were lost on November 7, four days before the end of the War. Regimental Headquarters was at Bulson. The regiment then moved through Maisoncelle to Artaise le Vivier, covering 23 kilometers in two days. The swiftness and power of that drive was the crowning and final achievement of the Alabamians. On November 11 the regiment was at Boult-aux-Boix, then Imecourt; on November 14 it was at Landes et St. Georges.
Colonel Screws got back in time to lead the last push to the Meuse River, which flowed near Sedan and the battle line that was drawn on November 11 (see Map I.2.1). On Armistice Day, November 11, 1918, they were at Boult-aux-Boix. There Screws was temporarily given command of the 84th Infantry Brigade. He took the place of Brigader General Douglas MacArthur, who was given command of the "Rainbow" Division at that time (Amerine 1919, p. 219).
Of the 224 days since the 167th Regiment arrived in France, it was engaged 180 days. All other time was spent in moving from front to front or in reserve close to the front.
The regiment marched into Germany and stayed there in the Army of Occupation (American zone of occupation, Map I.2.1) until April (Photo I.2.8). On April 25 they arrived in New York and staged at Camp Merritt, New Jersey. There all of the officers and men of the regiment who were not from Alabama were mustered out.
The "Rainbow" split up. It had left Hoboken in November of 1916 with 27,000 men. In France it lost 2,810 killed and 11,873 wounded (Stallings 1993, p. 28). Visitors to the 167th while it was at Camp Merritt included the mother and sister of Sergeant Worth Lewis, a D Company man from Greenville. They had been among the few Alabama people who visited the regiment when it was at Camp Mills, Long Island, before it shipped out. Their son and brother, Worth Lewis, was killed at the Croix Rouge Farm (Frazer 1930) and they had journeyed from Alabama to welcome the survivors. Lewis is buried in France at the beautiful Oise-Aisne American Cemetery containing more than 6,000 of our men, including the poet Joyce Kilmer and others from the "Rainbow." It is near the Croix Rouge Farm.
Screws brought home the surviving original members of the unit. This time they traveled by Pullman. It reached Alabama soil on May 9, with about 1,400 men and 51 officers. The 1st Battalion train—with its men from Huntsville, Albany and Decatur—stopped in Huntsville for an hour. At Albany a crowd, which probably exceeded the population of Morgan County, gathered to do honor to "Alabama’s Own." Gadsden is said to have had the wildest demonstration of joy ever known there. It was the hometown of Lieutenant Colonel Bare (Photo I.2.4), who had first joined the National Guard as an enlisted man.
All of the trains pulled into Birmingham that night between 8:30 and midnight. Saturday, May 10, was said to be the biggest day in Birmingham’s history. Marching in full battle gear through streets lined with thousands of cheering, crying crowds, the 167th passed in review. Nine bands played at various points (Amerine 1919, p. 254). The parade was led by a Navy Band from New Orleans. Uniformed Confederate and Union Army veterans flanked their color bearer.
On Sunday night the trains pulled into Montgomery, where thousands lined the streets and gathered near the Union Station. Monday was the day of all days. These men were ending nearly three years of military service. The crowds were delirious with joy. Flowers in the hundreds of thousands rained down on the 167th Infantry as they marched under the Victory Arch coming up Commerce Street to Court Square and then on to the Capitol under another arch over Dexter Avenue.
Bill Screws and his troops were preceded by every dignitary in the city and state from the governor on down (Photos I.2.9-11). There was a lengthy program on the Capitol grounds with speeches, singing, prayer, and band music. All of the troops attended a luncheon at City Hall, followed by an open-air festival on Perry Street that night. Prominent citizens in the five, six, and seven hundred blocks of Perry Street, the finest neighborhood in the city, opened their homes. A home was named headquarters for each of the 16 companies (including Headquarters Company, Machine Gun Company, Supply Company, and Companies A through M) in the regiment.
The troops left Montgomery after midnight en route to Mobile and were given another reception, before going on to Camp Shelby, Mississippi. After arriving there, they were mustered out of the Army.
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