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New Croix Rouge Farm memorial honors 167th Infantry Regiment 
 
 
French dignitaries, local citizens, French veterans, U.S. Army soldiers and other Americans gather in Fere-en-Tarenois, France for the unveiling of a memorial to commemorate the battle of the ‘Croix Rouge Farm’, November 12, 2011. (Photo by James Vann)
 

          “The 167th (Alabama) received its warning order for the operation while at La-Ferté near Château-Thierry at 3:20 on the afternoon of July 24, 1918.  Trucked all night over rough roads in thick dust and fumes, they reached the I Corps in Epieds shortly after dawn on July 25, 1918, The sister regiment of the 167th, the 168th (Iowa), arrived there at about the same time after it, too, had taken an all night ride. German aircraft were adjusting artillery fire by flying in and out of occasional breaks in the clouds. It was raining off and on.

          Officers of the 167th assembled in the cold rain at Courpoil, about a mile and a half northeast of Epieds. It was about 7:00 a.m. and they were told their units would be moving forward to make contact with the Germans in the afternoon. Everybody was wet. Despite its being July, the wind was cold and chilling. The troops got a hot meal and tried to rest.

          There were German and American dead in the open fields and along the hedges on the route of march…

          …None in the regiment had seen the objective but officers were told that the farmhouse was in the middle of an open field about a mile square. There were a few logging trails in the woods leading to the front. The woods were littered with debris of combat and smelled of rotting animal flesh, the fumes of high explosives and the sweetish smell of mustard gas. It continued to rain. The cold was penetrating. There had been intermittent incoming German artillery fire on the move up and it continued along with some sniper fire throughout the night of July 25 and all day on the day of the assault, Friday, July 26…

...Neither the Alabama nor Iowa Regiments had artillery support… 

          …German machine guns and riflemen were in positions along the road passing the farmhouse and on its walls. Conditions were cold and miserable. Rain was more or less continuous. The initial 1st Battalion assault failed and was pinned down for about an hour in the open field. American dead and wounded were strewn all around. The day appeared lost…

          …The 1st Battalion’s second assault was successful from the beginning. Firing as they went, spread out across the field, the Alabama soldiers savagely fought German riflemen and machine gunners in their defensive positions. The two officers and their combined forces of about 100 men went through them at a run, killing many with the rifle, pistol and bayonet and rifle butt. Driving remnants back, they sealed the fate of the Germans on the north side of the farmhouse…

Both 1st and 3rd Battalions’ initial attacks, coming at different times, failed to overrun the enemy…

          …Drizzling rain continued throughout the early night of July 26. Combat slowed. The ground was covered with dead and dying. Groans of the wounded were everywhere. Already very dark, it was made even more so when a hard rain started. Every effort was made to find the wounded and get them to aid stations. The band, every member of the Sanitary Staff and all available soldiers were litter bearers. Narrow paths, with mud and water-filled shell holes made stretcher bearing extremely difficult…

          ..Medics were shorthanded. Five of the 12 men assisting the two doctors in the 1st Battalion Aid Station had been wounded.  The two attacking battalions of the 167th had suffered heavily in the four hour battle…

          …The Battle of the Croix Rouge Farm on July 26, 1918 was a military success due to the tenacity and courage of the soldiers of the 167th U.S. Infantry Regiment in spite of it not being well supported, planned and coordinated outside of the regiment. Some 162 officers and men from the 167th died there that day. The lack of synchronization and execution soon after resulted in placing responsibility and in the relief of duty of both the Commander of the 168th U.S. Infantry Regiment (Iowa), who completely missed the ‘SP’ time and thereby failed to support the 167th attack from the Right Flank and the Commander of the 84th Infantry Brigade (the 167th’s Higher HQ) due to failure to properly plan this deliberate attack, coordinate with the French forces (who were on the Left Flank but missed the Operations Order and missed the attack) and the lack of artillery fire coordination from the 28th Infantry Division (Pennsylvania) who was originally designated to support. In a 1930 Infantry Journal article the Croix Rouge Farm attack was written-up as a ‘Lesson Learned’ in synchronization / coordination and situational awareness on the battlefield.” http://croixrougefarm.org/

 

"…the 167th Alabama assisted by the left flank of 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."

                                       Douglas MacArthur, Reminiscences

         

         On Saturday, November 12th a memorial service was held at Fere-en-Tarenois, France to commemorate the July 26, 1918 World War One battle of the ‘Croix Rouge Farm’.  A statue depicting a solider carrying a wounded comrade, set atop a 5½-foot mortar and fieldstone pedestal, now overlooks the field where so many Americans and French lost their lives. The sculpture was created by British artist Mr. James Butler, and the statue was cast of pure bronze in a foundry in Scotland.

            Among those in attendance were several French dignitaries, local citizens, French veterans, U.S. Army Soldiers and Americans who have been involved in this project since its conception. Maj. Gen. Perry G. Smith, the Adjutant General of Alabama, and Lt. Col. Larry Norred, 167th Infantry Battalion Commander, were also present at the ceremony.

           “The 167th Infantry Battalion of the Alabama National Guard still carries that lineage and honor today and continues to serve with distinction,” said Maj. Gen. Smith. “The 167th will deploy next year to Afghanistan in an effort to liberate another people being unlawfully oppressed.  The times are different, the wars are very different in many ways, but the honor and service of the 167th Infantry and the Alabama National Guard are the same.”

(Photo by James Vann)

Governor Robert Bentley
Governor Robert Bentley

Major General Perry Smith
Major General Perry Smith


 

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