An Afternoon of Grim Fighting:
The Fate of Foster and Robert Decorah

by Lt. Colonel Glenn W. Garlock


The 32nd Division
Lt. Col. Garlock

arly in the afternoon of Aug. 1, 1918 several companies of the 127th and 128th Infantry united in a successful converging attack on Bellvue farm. The deserted French farm house stood about two-thirds of the way up the southwest slope of Hill 230. This hill was the highest elevation in the general ridge line forming the watershed between the Ourcq and Vesle rivers. Along this watershed north of the Ourcq the German army was fighting for time to withdraw the immense supplies of war material which had been accumulated in the Marne salient. Against them General Degoutte's Sixth French Army was striking successful blows. At this time the 42nd and 32nd U. S. divisions, side by side on a 5 mile front, formed the spearhead for the thrust to clear the salient. The two divisions operated under their own commanders but over them were French leaders.

The Americans probably outnumbered the enemy on their immediate front but the Germans were skillful soldiers from good divisions, they had an abundance of machine guns, light mortars and ammunition, telephone and signal supplies, they were excellently placed for their own purposes and had stern orders to hold at all costs. Those orders were well obeyed. Hill 230, with its long views into our territory, its open slopes with a favorable field of fire and its groups of trees along the military crest of the hill to conceal the movement of supports and reserves, was probably a key position for several miles of German front.

The French on our right had refused point blank to attack with us asserting that they had a Corps order to stay where they were. They were outside of any 32nd Division officers authority but I had telephoned to my brigade headquarters and asked General Winans to try to have those French orders changed. The French sector was wooded and the woods extended well past Hill 230 on its right. Our zone of advance up the hill was in the open with this woods also on our right. It is hard going for troops to push forward through open fields with woods on the flank filled with machine guns, artillery and enemy reserve troops who are not kept busy meeting an attack on their own front. (108) I thought often of Beveridge's fresh troops in the woods just behind the French and of what his big battalion of 800 men could do in the place of the French. I was repeatedly tempted to send them down this French woods and I held up my attack for some time hoping that an advance might be made there with us. No change was made and no help given but imperative orders came to me to take the hill regardless. I prepared to launch the attack according to the plans I had worked out.

I placed my three one pounder cannon out on the edge of the woods in front of the French and ordered Co. A and C, 128th to move out of the woods directly in front of the French on the jump-off. The right company in this attack was to edge over a few rods into the French sector. This was C Co. originally from Hudson. Fortunately for the troops to the left C Co. struck a German machine gun nest which had swept the whole southwest slope of the hill with a fire directed toward Cierges village. With 200 men moving directly at it this machine gun nest could spare no help to the flank but did exact a terrible price from my right flank company. Five minutes after fire opened Captain O. L. Anderson, commanding, was dead, 1st. Lieut. A. J. Lyksett had been shot through the face and left for dead, and Lieut. Zarske was also severely wounded leaving the company without officers. In not to exceed 15 minutes of fighting the company melted away and for four days was lost as a unit of its regiment. It started 200 strong and when it was reorganized a few days later only 65 men remained. I think this was probably the highest loss ever sustained by a company of the division in any single action. It was the price we had to pay for advancing without support on our right.

No message ever came to me from Co. C but wounded men drifting by enabled me to piece together the story. I still had Co. D of the battalion and decided to send it in to replace C Co. I called 1st. Lieut. Edmund T. Czaskos who commanded the company and told him the situation and what to look for. I especially warned him not to rush into German machine guns out there with his whole company. "Push ahead small groups, locate the guns and send in one of your rear platoons from a flank." I said. Lieutenant Colbert, the (109) Battalion Adjutant had brought in a small group of prisoners from Bellvue farm half an hour earlier. He was still with me and knew the situation out there. I directed him to guide the company out to the edge of the woods.

This company fought its way ahead carefully, took several machine guns and put up a fight which discouraged German resistance out there. It lost almost 50 per cent of its strength in the afternoon and evening. In this fight of Co. D 1st. Lieut. Edward A. Burton was killed by a German sniper who was in a tree behind the line. A soldier had been shot through the neck and Corp. Brockhouse who was nearest him was uncertain what to do for first aid and called the lieutenant. As Burton stepped over a shot came in from the rear mortally wounding him. This patch of woods 100 yards back had been well covered by scouts who looked over the trees for snipers and the ground for a lurking enemy. The sniper probably crawled in from the right. It was reported that he was killed.

Somewhere on this field among the dead of Co. C laid an Indian soldier Isaac His-horse-is-fast. Upon the same field in Co. D's attack Sergeant Foster Decorah and his nephew Robert Decorah fell in action. They were both Winnebagos. I had often watched the older go through bayonet practice. We taught our men to assume a ferocious expression in bayonet conflict and Foster Decorah's face was worth study at such times. Now his days of drill and practice were over and out there in the night his own son also a member of the company was discovering a personal interest in the war and perhaps seeking a German prisoner for its fitting expression.1


Commentary. Special thanks to Charles Miner for bring this story to my attention.

"Lt. Col. Garlock" — Lieutenant Colonel Glen W. Garlock (1877-1939), was later promoted to Division Inspector. He was present during the Aisne-Marne Offensive, Oise-Aisne Offensive, Meuse-Argonne Offensive, the March to the Rhine, and the Army of Occupation (the Sector in Alsace).2 The Wisconsin Historical Society gives a succinct biography:

Glenn W. Garlock, Wisconsin editor and publisher, was born December 27, 1877, at Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin, the eldest son of William and Nellie Hudson Garlock. Following high school graduation he served on the staff of the Fort Atkinson Democrat and later became a post office clerk and operator of a small poultry farm. In August 1914 he moved to West Salem, Wisconsin to assume the editorship of the monthly magazine The Wisconsin Poultryman and the weekly newspaper The West Salem Nonpareil Journal. In addition to his activities as a journalist, Garlock served for twenty-four years in the National Guard. At the age of eighteen he enlisted in Company B, 1st Wisconsin Infantry, which was called to active duty in the Spanish-American War, the 1915 Texas border expedition, and World War I. As a lieutenant colonel in the 128th Infantry, 32nd Division during World War I, he participated in offensives at Aisne-Marne, Oise-Aisne, and Meuse-Argonne. He subsequently published a book about his experiences, Tales of the Thirty-Second. Returning to West Salem in 1919 he continued his editorship of The West Salem Nonpareil Journal until his death in 1939 at the age of sixty-one. In 1935 the paper was awarded second place for editorial excellence among Wisconsin weekly newspapers.3

"127th Infantry" — in 1884, a number of Wisconsin National Guard companies from Milwaukee were organized into the 4th Infantry Battalion. It was activated for the Spanish War as the 4th Infantry Regiment. This unit was then reorganized into three Wisconsin National Guard regiments. These regiment in 1917 were again reorganized into the 127th and 128th Infantry Regiments, and assigned to the 32nd Division, where they saw extensive action in France. For the role of this unit in conjunction with the battle described here, see "Drive from the Ourcq to the Vesle."4

   
The Institute of Heraldry   The Institute of Heraldry
The Coat of Arms
of the 127th Infantry
  The Coat of Arms
of the 128th Infantry

"128th Infantry" — this unit was formed from the Wisconsin National Guard, which itself traces its origins back to the 2nd Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry Regiment, formed in 1861. In 1898, with the outbreak of the Spanish–American War, the Wisconsin regiments were reactivated. They participated in the seizure of Puerto Rico from the Spanish. Wisconsin infantry units again participated under Gen. Pershing in his forays against Poncho Villa n 1916. At the onset of WWI, the Wisconsin guard troops were reorganized into the 128th Infantry Regiment, and placed in the 32nd Division. The 128th Infantry fought at Aisne-Marne, Oise-Aisne, Meuse-Argonne, Alsace 1918, and Champagne 1918. Their ferocity earned for them the nickname "Les Terribles" from the French. In WWII, the 128th saw more continuous action than any other American unit. When major wars are not raging, the 128th resumes its role as Wisconsin National Guard troops.

 
Bellevue Farm with Hill 230 in the Background

"Bellevue Farm" — located ca. 49.171018, 3.602406, it appears no longer to exist today despite the fact that the land thereabout is cultivated.

       
P. W. Schmidt, 33   AMS Maps, NM 31-8 Amiens (Index)   P. W. Schmidt, 33
Cierges and Bellevue Farm, Detail   U.S. Army Map Showing Hill 230, Here Labeled "235"   Chateau-Thierry Drive

"Hill 230" — this feature is shown on the terrain map in the center above, where it is labeled "235." It is located at 49.174400, 3.602806. A sketch of this hill also shown above.

Le Pays de France
General Jean Degoutte

"General Degoutte's Sixth French Army" — the Sixth Army was founded 26 August 1914 at the beginning of World War I and remained as a fighting unit through World War II. General Jean Marie Degoutte (1866 – 1938) commanded the unit from 10 June to 18 November 1918). In 1887 he joined an artillery regiment and received a military education, where he graduated high in his class. When his request to join the Madagascar expedition of 1895 was denied, he took leave and traveled there on his own. Upon arrival, he was arrested by the commanding officer, who was later persuaded to release him and utilize his language skills. After further education and experience in French colonial adventures, he was promoted to adjutant general of an division in Algeria. In 1906 he commanded the 20th Corp, and in 1909 was given command of the Algiers Division. By 1912, he was made commander of the 4th Corps with the rank of Lt. Colonel. By 1916, he had rise to the rank of Brigadier General and took command of the Moroccan Division which saw action at the Somme, Champagne and Verdun. Near the end of the war he took charge of the 6th Army and expressed appreciation for the American troops under his command. After the war, he was made commander of the Army of the Rhine, and in 1923 was responsible for the occupation of the Ruhr. He died a year before the Second World War erupted.5

"42nd" — The 42nd was the brainchild of Douglas MacArthur. When the various National Guard units of division size were federalized to form an army for the First World War, MacArthur suggested that another division be formed from small guard units from all over the country, so that the unit would, as he put it, "stretch over the whole country like a rainbow." In this originated their emblem and nickname as the "Rainbow Division." In WWI they fought in Champagne-Marne, the Aisne-Marne, the Battle of Saint-Mihiel, and the Meuse-Argonne Offensive. The division was reactivated late in WWII, where it fought in southern France and Germany. In 2004, the Rainbow Division relieved the First Infantry Division in Iraq, with the northern part of the country being its primary responsibility. In 2008, elements of the 42nd were sent to both Iraq and Afghanistan. Today, the 42nd is headquartered in Troy, New York.6

   
The 32nd Inf. Patch   The 42nd Inf. Patch

"32nd" — this division was formed from the National Guard units of Wisconsin and Michigan. The 32nd Infantry Division was formed in July 1917 at Camp MacArthur, Waco, Texas. It was made up of two brigades, the 63rd Infantry Brigade (containing the 125th and 126th Infantry Regiments), and the 64th Infantry Brigade (containing the 127th and 128th Infantry Regiments), plus artillery support. When the division finally got into action in Dec. 1917, they took 12 miles in 7 days. They continued with great success, never being thrown back. They were the first Allied unit to penetrate the Hindenburg Line.

HOČĄK SOLDIERS OF THE 32ᵈ INFANTRY DIVISION6a
 
ROBERT BIGTHUNDER NATHANIEL LONGTAIL
ANDREW BLACK HAWK DEWEY MIKE
JAMES BROWN GEORGE MINER
ALLEN DECORAH JOHN MINER
ARTHUR DECORAH WILLIAM MINER
FOSTER DECORAH LEE SAM
HENRY DECORAH MIKE STANDING WATER
ROBERT DECORAH JESSE THOMPSON
RUSSIUS DECORAH SAM THUNDERCLOUD
WILLIAM DECORAH MARTIN WHITE BEAR
NELSON DE LA RONDE ARCHIE WHITE EAGLE
ANDREW FUNMAKER JOHN WHITE EAGLE
JAMES GREENGRASS LEO WHITE EAGLE
JAMES HANAKA LYALL WRIGHT
SAM LITTLESOLDIER  

Their red arrow patch has a cross-bar symbolizing the fact that on every offensive they broke through the enemy lines. Thus they became known as "Red Arrow Division." The Marne campaign described in part here by Lt. Col. Garlock, occasioned their nickname. When General de Mondesir, the corps commander, observed how relentless the 32nd attacked and how they overwhelmed the German defenders, he exclaimed, "Oui, Oui, Les soldats terrible, tres bien, tres bien!" General Charles Mangin had heard of this, and when he requested the 32nd to assist his forces north of Soissons, he referred to them as, "Les Terribles." Ever since, the Division has carried that nickname. After the war, the 32nd was headquartered at Lancing, Michigan. In the Second World War, the 32nd fought in New Guinea and the Philippines. After the war, the unit was downgraded to a brigade. This brigade was sent to Iraq in 2009.7

U. S. Army
Gen. Edwin Winans

"General Winans" — Edwin B. Winans (1869-1947) was born in Hamburg, Michigan. He graduated from the United States Military Academy in 1891, and was assigned to the 5th Cavalry. He was involved in the Philippines Insurrection, 1899-1900, and the pursuit of Poncho Villa in 1916. During World War I, Winans commanded the 64th Brigade Infantry, 32nd Division, of which the 128th Infantry was a part. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal "for exceptionally distinguished and meritorious service," and the French bestowed upon him the Légion d'Honneur and Croix de Guerre with two palms. In 1927, he became Superintendent of the U.S. Military Academy. He was elevated to the command of the VIIIth Corps, and by 1932, was in command of the Third Army. He retired in 1933.

"Beveridge's fresh troops" — this is Thomas B. Beveridge, who resided at 652 Franklin Street, Appleton, in Outagamie County. He was with the 127th Infantry, and left the Army with the rank of Major.8

"Hudson" — a Wisconsin town located at 44.963237, -92.735898.

   
Photo Laboratory, Vincennes    
Americans Mopping Up in Cierges, by Captain Morgan Wallace   The Cierges War Monument

"Cierges" — a commune in the Aisne Department in Hauts-de-France located at 49.168232, 3.598731. The monument shown in the photo is dedicated to the dead of the Great War.

"Captain O. L. Anderson" — Anderson, Orville L. Anderson was born Virden, Manitoba, Canada; but resided in Montana where he enlisted. His next of kin was his wife. He served with Co. E, 128th Infantry. He is interred at Oise-Aisne American Cemetery.9

"1st. Lieut. A. J. Lyksett" — Albert J. Lyksett resided at 327 7th St. N., Hudson, in St. Croix County.10

"Lieut. Zarske" — Robert F. Zarske was from Hudson, in St Croix County. He left the Army with the rank of 1st Lieutenant.11

"1st. Lieut. Edmund T. Czaskos" — Edmund T. Czaskos resided at 663 Lincoln Ave., Milwaukee. He left the Army with the rank of Captain.12

"Lieutenant Colbert" — Thomas P. Colbert was a native of Beloit, Rock County. He left the Army with the rank of Captain.13

"1st. Lieut. Edward A. Burton" — Edward A. Burton was born in 1895 at Hillsboro, Vernon County, Wisconsin, the son of Charles W. and Jessie (Jennie) L. Burton. served with Co. D, 128th Infantry, and was killed near Reddy Farm at Hill 230. For his actions there, he was awarded the DSC. The medal was presented to Burton's family, ca. 19 Jul. 1920, by Col. John Turner, former commander of the 128th Infantry. Lt. Burton was interred at Green Wood Cemetery, Reedsburg, Wisconsin. The Edward A. Burton Post of the American Legion at Mauston, Wisconsin, was named in his honor.14

"Isaac His-Horse-is-Fast" — a Sioux, native of White Horse, South Dakota. His father was Robert His-Horse-is-Fast. Isaac served with Co. C, 128th Infantry, and was killed in their assault on Hill 230. Co. C went into the attack 200 strong, when it was reorganized after the battle only 65 remained.15 Jensen makes an important observation:

At least one casualty was a full-blooded American Indian by the name of Isaac His-Horse-Is-Fast. His father, Robert His-Horse-Is-Fast, is listed as the next of kin with an address at White Horse, North Dakota. It is sobering to realize that this soldier’s grandfather might well have participated in the massacre of Custer at the Little Big Horn in 1876. It can hardly be imagined what this grandfather would have thought of his grandson’s death 42 years later in the service of his former enemy, in a country he had never heard of, separated from his home by an ocean of unimaginable size.16

A war dead monument in Eagle Butte lists his name.17

       
Charles Miner Collection   Facebook   Keith L. HMdb.org
Foster Decorah and Two of His Sons   Foster Decorah's Grave   Monument Boulder
        D.A.R. In Recognition of the Patriotism and Loyalty
of the Winnebago Indians
Corporal Foster Decorah, Robert Decorah, Jesse Thompson
Mike Standingwater, Dewey Mike, Nelson de la Ronde, James Greengrass

"Sergeant Foster Decorah" — born in 1878 to Mrs. Elizabeth Decorah of Friendship, Wisconsin, who is listed as his next of kin. It is also noted that he "had ties to Reedsburg, Wisconsin."18 When he was 20 years old, one of his sisters and her baby died in childbirth.19 He and his nephew Robert Decorah enlisted together in Co. D, 3rd Wisconsin Infantry, Wisconsin National Guard, at Mauston, 1 Aug. 1917, almost exactly one year from the time of his death. This company was placed in the 128th Infantry when the Wisconsin units were reorganized. His son Henry T. Decorah also served in Co. D (one source suggests he may have served with 2 of his sons). Being older than most men in the Army, he soon rose to the rank of Corporal. He and his nephew Bob were both killed near Bellevue Farm during the assault on Hill 230.20 Foster was interred at Oise-Aisne American Cemetery. Plot B, Row 4, Grave 33, Oise-Aisne American Cemetery Seringes-et-Nesles, France.21

The Wisconsin Magazine of History gives us further details:

We recall these facts [about the Decorah family] to our readers apropos of a press dispatch from La Crosse which states that thirty-five descendants of Glory of the Morning enlisted in the Mauston company in 1917 and crossed the sea to do their bit in curbing the German menace to America. To three of these red citizens of Wisconsin in particular an inspiring, albeit pathetic, story attaches. Bill and John Decorah were brothers who enlisted in the Mauston company. Their father, Foster Decorah, begged to enlist with them, but his forty years were against him and at first he was refused the coveted permission. Later, however, permission was granted, and father and sons crossed the sea together. Foster Decorah died a soldier's death in the Argonne Wood, while his sons continued to "carry on." Later Bill was killed and only John was left to return across the ocean to his native Wisconsin. For two centuries the name of Decorah has loomed large in Wisconsin history, but the thirty-five descendants (doubtless there were others the record of whose ancestry is lost) of Glory of the Morning who fought for their country in the World War have attached to the ancestral name a new significance. Wisconsin's red men performed their full share in the war, and this record deserves to be held in grateful memory by the commonwealth and the country they served.22

Charles Miner Collection
Bob Decorah

"Robert Decorah" — a native of Mauston, Bob Decorah was born in 1894. John Wallace, a brother, was listed as his next of kin. Bob Decorah enlisted in Co. D, 3rd Wisconsin Infantry, Wisconsin National Guard, at Mauston, 1 Aug. 1917, almost exactly one year from the time of his death. He was assigned to Co. D which became part of the 128th Infantry when it was organized. he fell near Bellevue Farm during the attack on Hill 230. He was a paternal nephew of Cpl. Foster DeCorah, who was killed in the same attack.23

"his own son" — this is the aforementioned Coporal Henry Thomas Decorah (1899-1993), who served from 30 May 1917 to 19 May 1919.24 He is buried at the Ft. Snelling Military Cemetery. Here's a list of all the Decorahs who served in the 128th:25

Name City County Branch Unit Rank Serial #
Allen Decorah Mauston Juneau Army Co D 128th Inf private first class 285662
Arthur Decorah Friendship Adams Army Co D 128th Inf private first class 307944
Foster Decorah Friendship Adams Army Co D 128th Inf corporal 283698
Robert Decorah Mauston Juneau Army Co D 128th Inf private first class 283701
Russius Decorah Mauston Juneau Army Co D 128th Inf private first class 283713

Arthur, who is also from Friendship, is listed as one of Foster's sons who enlisted in the 128th.26 Russius Decorah may be a relative of Robert Decorah, since his Army serial number (283713) is only 12 away from Robert Decorah's (283701). Russius' mother was Cutie Day, making him the brother of Allen Decorah, whose mother is listed as "Cutie D. Decorah."

"German prisoner" — this suggests a rather casual acceptance of a war crime.


Other Accounts of Combat: The Man who Fought against Forty, Mitchell Red Cloud, jr. Wins the Medal of Honor, Little Priest, How He went out as a Soldier, Little Priest's Game, The Heart River Fight as Recorded in a Pictograph by One of the Hočąk Scouts, They Owe a Bullet, The Scalping Knife of Wakąšučka.


Notes

1 Lt. Colonel Glenn W. Garlock, Tales of the Thirty-Second (West Salem, Wis.: Badger Publishing Company, 1927) 107-109.

2 The 32nd Division in the World War, 1917-1919, Volume 32, Part 4 (Madison: Wisconsin War Commission, 1920) 47.

3 Wisconsin Historical Society, "Glenn W. Garlock Papers, 1898-1919, 1926-1936." Viewed: 5.31.2018.

4 Paul W. Schmidt, Co. C, 127th Infantry, in the World War; a Story of the 32nd Division and a Complete History of the Part Taken by Co. C (Sheboygan, Wisconsin: Press Pub. Co., 1919) 29.

5 World War I: The Definitive Encyclopedia and Document Collection, ed. by Spencer C. Tucke (Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO, 2014) 1:458-459.

6 42nd Infantry Division > History (28 Nov. 2006 Archive).

6a From a commemorative stone plaque now housed at the Wisconsin National Guard Museum at Volk Field. A picture of this stone was supplied to me by Charles Miner, 6.3.2018.

7 The 32D ‘Red Arrow’ Veteran Association. The 32D ‘Red Arrow’ Division in World War I: From the ‘Iron Jaw Division’ to ‘Les Terribles. Viewed: 6..1.2018.

8 Wisconsin Veterans Museum's World War I Database. Viewed 6.1.2018.

9 The 32D ‘Red Arrow’ Veteran Association > World War I Roll of Honor for the 32D ‘Red Arrow’ Division > Surnames A through Be; Wisconsin Veterans Museum's World War I Database. Viewed 6.1.2018.

10 Wisconsin Veterans Museum's World War I Database. Viewed 6.1.2018.

11 Wisconsin Veterans Museum's World War I Database. Viewed 6.1.2018.

12 Wisconsin Veterans Museum's World War I Database. Viewed 6.1.2018.

13 Wisconsin Veterans Museum's World War I Database. Viewed 6.1.2018.

14 The 32D ‘Red Arrow’ Veteran Association > World War I Roll of Honor for the 32D ‘Red Arrow’ Division > Surnames Bf through Bz, Wisconsin Veterans Museum's World War I Database. Viewed: 6/1/2018.

15 The 32D ‘Red Arrow’ Veteran Association > World War I Roll of Honor for the 32D ‘Red Arrow’ Division > Surnames Gs through H. Viewed: 6/1/2018.

16 William B. Jensen, Jørgen Christian Jensen (1892-1960): A Personal Memoir of My Paternal Grandfather (Cincinnati: The Epicurean Press, 2011) 33-34.

17 David B. Bowes, Trail Mix: A Writing Life Enhanced by Attention Deficit Disorder (Bloomington, IN: Author House, 2009) 73.

18 The 32D ‘Red Arrow’ Veteran Association > World War I Roll of Honor for the 32D ‘Red Arrow’ Division > Surnames D through Er. Viewed: 6/1/2018.

19 Adams County Press, Sat., Aug 20, 1898, Page 5, Column 5, Roche-A-Cris news column: "The wife and infant child of Tom GOOD BEAR died last week Wednesday. She was a sister of Foster DECORAH."

20 The 32D ‘Red Arrow’ Veteran Association > World War I Roll of Honor for the 32D ‘Red Arrow’ Division > Surnames D through Er. Viewed: 6/1/2018.

21 American Battle Monuments Commission; Wisconsin Veterans Museum's World War I Database. Both viewed: 6.1.2018.

22 "The Society and the State," Wisconsin Magazine of History, 3 (1919-1920): 254-273 [261-262].

23 The 32D ‘Red Arrow’ Veteran Association > World War I Roll of Honor for the 32D ‘Red Arrow’ Division > Surnames D through Er. Wisconsin Veterans Museum's World War I Database. Viewed: 6/1/2018.

24 Ancestry.com. Viewed 6.2.2018.

25 Wisconsin Veterans Museum's World War I Database. Viewed 6.1.2018.

26 U.S., Army Transport Service, Passenger Lists, 1910-1939, for Foster Decorah.