Category Archives: 168th Infantry

Ninety Seven Years Ago

Ninety seven years ago yesterday, my great grandmother’s younger brother Leslie died from wounds in France while serving on the Western Front during the First World War. He had been cut down by German machine gun fire four days before and taken to a makeshift field hospital, what had been what’s called a sanitary train, a place where the wounded and sick were tended by medics and nurses. Maybe I’ll get a chance to visit his resting place and the area of operations in France on the 100th anniversary in 2018.


July 2014

My great uncle's 99th birthday party.
My great uncle’s 99th birthday party.

This July is replete with significant milestones in our family.

My great uncle celebrated his 99th birthday two weeks ago. He has led a remarkable life. His love of funny stories and anecdotes has entertained us for decades. Thankfully, I’ve been around to hear many of them, and I’ve even recorded some on video.

He was a mere toddler when his uncle, Leslie Darling, went off to France to fight the Hun1 after America became entangled in the First World War. His uncle, Private Darling, died in late July of 1918, succumbing to a wound from a German machine gun crew he encountered near Épieds, France.2

The firefight is known as the Battle of Croix Rouge Farm. There is now a memorial on the farm where he was mortally wounded.

Leslie W. Darling
Leslie W. Darling

Douglas MacArthur, then chief of staff for the 42nd Division, which included Leslie Darling’s infantry regiment, the 168th of Iowa, noted the heroism of the men in his autobiography.

“ . . . 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.”

I should probably be there in person, in France, for the 100th anniversary in 2018.


1. Hun was a derogatory word used to describe the Germans during both world wars.

2. Leslie Warren Darling died either July 28 or 30, 1918. I would suspect the 28th is the correct date, since a letter is signed noting the day and details. A book compiled by the unit chaplain lists the 30th, but this is most likely a mistake.

Tending the Graves in France

On Memorial Day, writing in The Kansas City Star, former Congressman Ike Skelton of Missouri, a conservative “Blue Dog” Democrat, described a recent visit to the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery and Memorial in France as a member of the American Battle Monuments Commission.

My great uncle‘s name is on the Tablets of the Missing there, and he may very well have been re-buried among his comrades, although what happened to his remains is a mystery.

. . . I stopped at [the] Aisne-Marne American Cemetery in Belleau, France. The cemetery was established after World War I and is named in honor of the June 1917 Aisne-Marne campaign, when American forces were rushed into combat to stop the German advance on Paris.

The cemetery itself rests on the edge of Belleau Wood, the scene of hard fighting by Marines, an experience forever etched in Marine Corps identity. Thanks to the American action in Belleau Wood and other hard-fought engagements of the campaign, the advance was halted and the German lines were pushed back.

What I experienced in the cemetery cannot be easily described. As I walked among the 2,281 white marble headstones and read the 1,060 names on the wall of the missing, I was awestruck at the level of sacrifice our nation has given in the name of freedom.

During my visit, I learned that 69 sons of Missouri were killed in the summer and fall of 1918 and are memorialized at this one cemetery alone. Among those names is Tony Mautino from Lexington, Mo. I have known his family for many years.

Tony was killed on Aug. 5, 1918. Over the course of Memorial Day weekend, many Americans will spend time with their family and friends. Many will attend or participate in Memorial Day parades or ceremonies in their communities. I am also sure that many will attend church and pray for all who sacrificed everything for the liberties we have today. In fact, that is exactly what Memorial Day is about: a day dedicated to honoring Americans who died in the service of their country, for our freedom and the freedom of others.

During this time, we must not forget those brave Americans from the world wars eternally resting overseas. The American Battle Monuments Commission, on which I serve, has commemorated these brave men and women abroad since 1923 through 24 commemorative cemeteries and 25 monuments. The first chairman, Gen. John J. Pershing, best defined the commission’s goals with his promise that “time will not dim the glory of their deeds.”

As we reflect on history this Memorial Day, it is important to understand how America’s overseas commemorative cemeteries came into being. In our nation’s earliest wars, most of the fighting took place on the North American continent. This naturally led to the return of fallen soldiers to families, or interment in national cemeteries near the battlefields. The relatively small number of American dead in its first major international conflict, the Spanish-American War, allowed this precedent to continue. But as America became involved in modern global warfare on a large scale, this became impractical.

Faced with the massive loss of life in the wake of World War I, the government decided to establish eight permanent cemeteries in Europe. Families of the deceased were given a choice to have their loved ones returned home for burial or allow them to be interred in the new commemorative cemeteries in Europe. Approximately 30 percent of them allowed their loved ones to remain where they fought and died. In return, the U.S. government promised to perpetually maintain those sites to a befitting standard. The government has kept that promise.

As we honor the service and sacrifice of our military this Memorial Day here in the United States, I ask that you reflect upon all those sons and daughters who rest abroad. More than 125,000 American war dead are interred in overseas commemorative cemeteries; an additional 94,000 are memorialized on tablets of the missing. These men and women gave everything to defeat the forces of tyranny.

Reading Tony Mautino’s name on a marble cross at Aisne-Marne American Cemetery in France immediately connected me with his sacrifice, and that of his family. Every American who is able to travel overseas should visit one of our 24 commemorative cemeteries at least once. The experience is powerful and tremendously personal.


Ferme de la Croix Rouge

Via Lonely Planet’s site, I discovered a blog by an American expat named Richard Nahem living in Paris. It’s called Eye Prefer Paris. Someone named Thirza Vallois attended the recent dedication of the Rainbow Division memorial near Fère-en-Tardenois and has written about it.

According to Vallois, the monument is on the site of the La Croix Rouge Farm (Red Cross Farm). Initially one French military historian thought this was likely the place where my great grand uncle, Leslie Warren Darling, was mortally wounded.

After much discussion and review of eyewitness accounts, Private Darling most likely endured the machine gun fire that eventually killed him in Forêt de Fère near Chateau Thierry.

Most recently, on November 12th, I attended the unveiling of the Rainbow Division Monument on the site of the one-time Ferme de la Croix Rouge. On 25th and 26th July, 1918, their 167th and 168th regiments won a major victory there that helped bring the war to an end. Men from all over the US had joined the Rainbow Division, which “stretched over the whole country like a rainbow” according to Douglas MacArthur. The poignant bronze, designed by British artist James Butler, was on display for three months in London’s prestigious Royal Academy before travelling to the open countryside of Picardy. Here, under a radiant sky on that day, French and Americans, military and civilians, old war veterans and village children, officials and ordinary locals, bonded around it to pay homage to the US “doughboys”.

The memorial is the work of the Croix Rouge Farm Memorial Foundation. I wrote about the project back in May.


Americans in Winchester

I thought that I had finally discovered some evidence of Americans in Winchester, England during the First World War. I knew sooner or later that I (or those intrepid Google computers) would find something. I posted messages to a variety of places — mailing lists and message boards — long ago but never received any good leads from it.

Sadly, after more thorough review, I realized the photograph was from World War II not World War I. But I am undaunted. There has to be something.

Many American soldiers, including my great grand uncle, spent a week there on their way to France. His regiment, the 168th Infantry of Iowa, left New York harbor with their division, the 42nd. But the old German passenger liner carrying the 168th had to return to port after its boilers gave out.

The ship tried keeping up with the convoy, but it was a futile effort. The ship turned around and soon the other ships in the convoy disappeared from the horizon, on their way to the British Isles.

Cut off from the main part of the 42nd Division, the 168th returned to Camp Mills, awaiting a new ship and new orders. This led them to Belfast harbor, then Liverpool, a night train ride through the English countryside, and seven days of tenting it in Winchester before boarding another train to Southampton to catch boats waiting to ferry them across the channel to France.


YouTube de L’inauguration

French is a beautiful, yet frustrating language. I took two terms of it at a community college in Oregon. By the grace of God and a teacher who really liked my effort, I received an A each time.

I received a link in my inbox to a video of the pomp and circumstance regarding the dedication of the new World War I monument I wrote about previously. It specifically memorializes the 167th and 168th Infantry regiments of the 42nd Division.


Leslie Warren Darling (1895-1918)

Leslie Warren Darling (1895-1918)
Leslie Warren Darling (1895-1918)

Leslie W. Darling

Private First Class
Company E
168th Infantry of Iowa
42nd Rainbow Division

Died in Field Hospital No. 117, July 30th. Son of Mr. and Mrs. J. H. Darling, Ogden, Iowa. Born at Chicago, Illinois, August 23, 1895. Private Darling was severely wounded at Foret de Fere, near Chateau Thierry, July 26th. He was a good soldier and a clean-cut man. His death was deeply felt by his many comrades. Private Darling had taken the civil service examination for railroad clerk and was called for a position shortly after he had enlisted. Private Darling had taken the civil service examination for railroad clerk and was called for a position shortly after he had enlisted.


The 42nd Division Roster

Someone wrote to me via the blog, in a response to another post, about family records housed by the U.S. Army. He wanted to know if I had a man named Robert Hynes “among my records.”

I’m interested if your records show a listing of the men in that unit and, if so, is there a Robert Hynes in the 168th. His father’s obit in Dec 1918 in Bridgeport, Fairfield Co., Connecticut says his son is over in France in the 168th Infantry. Thank you.

Oddly there is no one with that name on the 42nd Division Roster. There is no Robert Hynes listed in the roster. There is a Joseph. And there is no Robert Hines either. Hynes may have been transferred from another division or may have joined after the roster was published.

Here’s what I initially wrote in repsonse, with two links of interest:

I don’t have any records personally. Just what I’ve found in books and online. I did find a book of the men with their addresses while they were at Camp Mills on Long Island before shipping out. I will try to find it again. I’ve also been in contact with the modern Iowa National Guard. There is a museum at Camp Dodge, near Des Moines. Someone there may be able to help you.

After a little searching on Google Books I found the roster again. Although there’s no Robert Hynes, my great grand uncle is listed with his home address. I don’t recall ever writing about this find, so I am adding it now.

DARLING, LESLIE W., Pvt., 704 Sixth Ave., Shenandoah, Ia.

When I originally discovered his address, I did a Google Maps and Street View search. I also wrote to the local Methodist church, which isn’t far from the house on Sixth Avenue, but I didn’t receive any response.


Family Records with the U.S. Army

Today I learned that the U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, near the Army War College, is in danger of being closed, because of some major bureaucratic idiocy. I discovered a file on my great granduncle Leslie Warren Darling there a few years back.

In his file is a transcribed letter, dated July 20, 1918. I am not sure who the author is or what the letter contains. Another item is a transcribed notice from the 117th Sanitary Train to the unit commander regarding his death from the wounds he sustained in battle.