A Brief History of the Iowa National Guard

Two veterans of the Iowa National Guard have written up a brief history of the unit, including action and duties just prior to and during the First World War.

In 1917, the United States was drawn into the struggle, partly to support democracy and partly to maintain the maritime rights of neutral nations. The call was answered by thousands of Iowans, many having served on the Mexican border.

The first Iowa National Guard unit to be sent to France was the 168th Infantry. The 168th Infantry was a consolidated force made up of three prewar regiments of Iowa National Guard infantry. It was assigned to the 42nd ‘Rainbow’ Division, one of the first American divisions to reach Europe. The 42nd Division took part in engagements at Baccarat, Esperance-Souaine, Champagne-Marne, Essey-Pannes, and the final great Allied offensive at Meuse-Argonne. Brigadier General Douglas MacArthur was the Chief of Staff of the 42nd Division. Speaking to a French major, he said, ‘Is it any wonder that my father was proud of this regiment.’ The 168th, as the 51st Iowa, had served under the elder Arthur MacArthur in the Philippines.

The remainder of the Iowa National Guard forces that were mobilized for World War I were assigned to the 34th Division. These Iowans went to Mexico to train in the desert. They took as their insignia a white bovine skull superimposed upon a black Mexican water jug. The 34th earned the name ‘Sandstorm’ because of the omnipresent sand in food and clothing. The 34th left for Europe on September 17, 1918. Upon their arrival in France, the division experienced a bitter disappointment. Instead of going into battle as a unit, they were used as a replacement pool.

Back home, the Iowa National Guard training site at Camp Dodge was greatly expanded and functioned as one of 16 regional training sites for the United States Army . . .”

There is a page dedicated to World War I, as part of the history section.

The Champagne-Marne offensive was one of the most decisive battles of the World War I. Fought over a four-day period (July 15-18, 1918), it was a daring attempt by the German General Staff to drive a wedge between the British and the French and end the war before the bulk of American forces could arrive in France. Several American divisions already in France, including the 42nd, played an important role in stopping the German attack. As one soldier of the 168th wrote, ‘By noon of July 15, the German offensive had been halted, but both sides maintained a terrific artillery duel until the 18th.’

‘Life around our part of the country was an inferno, with earth quaking from the shock of artillery, and the sun blotted out by the dense clouds of gray-black smoke.’”

Some background on the expansion of Camp Dodge, and the time after the official declaration of war in April, is also available and a good source for information.



Beyond Booing at a Ballgame

Mayor William Jay Gaynor moments after being shot on August 9, 1910.
Mayor William Jay Gaynor moments after being shot on August 9, 1910.

I read about this sad incident, the attempted assassination of a New York City mayor, in Monday’s paper issue of The New York Times. He appeared to be a good and decent man.

Thankfully this type of murder appears to be waning. A photograph taken right afterwards helps tell the story.

“When a man has gone down into the Valley of the Shadow and looked the specter Death in the face, and said to it, ‘I am ready,’ nothing in this world looks very large to him,” the mayor wrote later.


Search for a Surname circa 1086 England

The Domesday Book is now online, searchable by surname and other parameters. The National Archives (UK) has a website about the historic book. It “links information from the Domesday survey (1086) to maps showing the location of estates throughout England.”

Visitors can find out who owned their town or village, create maps and tables of the estates held by the same lords elsewhere in England, and examine the scale of the dispossession of the English by the Normans following the conquest of 1066.”


Rodeo in Maxwell, Iowa

There is a rodeo in Maxwell, Iowa this weekend. I drove through town in the fall of 1998 on my way to visit the Peoria Cemetery, where most of my Hill relatives are buried. I wanted to stop in the Maxwell Museum, but we didn’t have time.

A message—a “classified ad”—was posted on Craigslist about the rodeo. It costs eight bucks.

Rodeo this Friday and Saturday evening at Maxwell Iowa, just a short drive from DesMoines. We have well over 200 contestants entered so you will see lots of cowboy action in the roping and riding of buckin horses and bulls. 15 bullriders entered each night. Come see the chanel 8 news guy get on a bull Friday night. Also new this year will be the Minature bull riding with the youngsters riding the small bulls. Dance after the rodeo and Old Settlers Celebration going on at the grounds as well. See you in Maxwell Friday and Saturday nights, rodeo starts at 7 each night.”


Microfilm & Old Newspapers

While at the downtown library I discovered a scanner attached to a microfilm reader, which was a great use to me while at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City in 2006. With rolls of newspapers, including the Oregon Statesman and the Capital Journal, predecessors of the Statesman Journal, I was excited to start reading coverage during the First World War. 

Sadly, I couldn’t get the damn thing to save images to my classic iPod. I’ll be experimenting with it more when I have some time and will bring some other types of USB drives.

It would be nice to return to the days before Gannett’s Statesman. The takeover and subsequent merger of the two papers has led to a decline in quality such that many view the modern entity as a pathetic joke. Crappy columns are commonplace. I remember a high school chemistry teacher referring to it as the Statesman Urinal, an oft-repeated stupid nickname. 

Once, a few years back, I sent a letter to the editor dreaming of the day when the current paper could be restored to local ownership and broken up into two competing papers once again. One could have right-of-center, conservative op-ed pages while the other would be leftist and liberal. 

Editor Dick Hughes, who is generally a buffoon, wrote back saying he’d forward the message onto the publisher. I asked him if it would published, and of course he said heck, no! (I have a pile of letters that the powers-that-be there have refused to publish, including a wonderful rant against Ron Cowan, the theater critic for many years. It was poetic, dramatic, elegant.) 

I asked a library staffer if there were any microfilm of the older New York Times. She checked, but the film there only goes back to the 1970s I think. Western Oregon University appears to have the entire Times catalog. 

Then, I decided to check online, and sure enough, someone has been hard at work scanning the New York Times stories. What’s remarkable is that most of these are readily accessible and free. 

So I spent most of yesterday searching, viewing, and downloading articles related to the 42nd Division during World War I. I now have a treasure trove collection of news to include in my book about a soldier from Iowa and the war. 


Today’s Stories of Interest

Here are some of today’s stories that piqued my interest. A state representative in Tennessee is one of seven African Americans who agreed to test their DNA. There’s some information on artist Thomas Moran’s studio. A recent report “furnished an inventory of every floorboard and finish so that the Studio could be restored accurately.” The website GOOD is putting on a little contest using census data. A blogger with The New York Times has written about researchers analyzing Twitter and tweets by Americans. And, finally, but certainly not least, Tammy Duckworth, who was wounded while serving the nation, has received her pilot’s license.