Now all roads lead to France and heavy is the tread
Of the living; but the dead returning lightly dance.
Edward Thomas, Roads

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Remembering a Veteran: A President's Grandson with the Fighting 69th

Dalton Hayes (1898–1950), grandson of  President Rutherford B. Hayes, was a freshman at Princeton University when the U.S. entered World War I in April 1917. He joined the Princeton Battalion, headed by Captain Stuart Heintzelman, U.S. Army. Later, he trained with the Princeton Officer Training Corps. On 10 September 1917 he enlisted at Camp Mills, Long Island, in the 69th New York Regiment of the 42nd Rainbow Division in Co. D 165th Infantry. He served in the A.E.F. in all engagements participated in by his company, until he was seriously wounded on 14 October 1918. 

Lt. Hayes on Recuperation in the South of France

He wrote this letter home after his unit had helped stop the last German offensive of the war near Navarin Farm in the Champagne and then was later deployed in offensive operations during the Second Battle of the Marne:

August 20, 1918 

Dearest Mother, 

I’m afraid it’s a terribly long time since I’ve written but it was not my fault.Since my last letter my division & regiment have helped considerably in stopping the big German drive and then pulled off the push you must have read about, in a different sector.We had over a month straight on the lines.When we were in trenches we all prayed for open fighting – but take me back to the trenches! The “doc” had beaucoup work under fire.

We [suffered] quite a little from [hunger] as we advanced so rapidly that the [kitchens] couldn’t catch us for four or five days! We ate our own iron rations & those of the dead Boches (of whom there were quite some) and so didn’t exactly starve.The poor German soldiers don’t get much to eat but the officers live on the fat of the land.

The German shreklichhiet hasn’t changed any since 1914. They bombed & shelled hospitals wore red crosses on their arms, used explosive machine gun bullets etc ad infinitum.One particular example – our platoon captured a m.g. implacement with twelve men: they all hopped out shrieking Kamarad with Red Cross bands on their arms and potato-mashers (hand grenades) in their pockets.They got Kamaraded all right! At that we took quite a few prisoners-the first two days.

All the prisoners predicted that the war would end this winter or this coming spring. Garn (an officer too) even went so far as to say he’d be willing to pay for every shell fired by the Boche after Oct 15!! I’m not so hopeful of it’s being over so soon however.

After we came out I was so very fortunate as to get a pass to Paris for two blissful days. I surely had a wonderful time but to my disappointment found that Uncle Webb was in Barcelona Spain. Had an air-raid while we were there, but I didn’t hear a sound of it. They said there was a little damage done in the Paris region I wrote a postcard to nearly everyone I know. 

Lots of love from your loving son, 

Following World War I, he resumed his studies and graduated from Princeton. In 1921 he was employed by the Atlantic Refining Company. He later became associated with the Standard Oil Company of New Jersey in its foreign branch and spent considerable time in Australia, South Africa, Cuba, and Bermuda.

On April 17, 1926 he married Corinne Monsarrat in Columbus, Ohio. They had two daughters, Chloe and Jean. On the outbreak of World War II Dalton returned to military duty as captain, later major, and served in intelligence. He was active in Portuguese East Africa. He was instrumental in locating a radio station from which German agents directed the destruction of Allied ships by German subs. After service in Portuguese East Africa, he was assistant military attache at Pretoria, South Africa, and then Melbourne, Australia.

After World War II, Mr. Hayes resumed his association with the Standard Oil Company (New Jersey) at its New York office and remained there until 1 August 1948 when ill health forced him to retire. The Hayeses maintained a summer home at Bryant Pond, Maine. Dalton Hayes died in 1950 and is buried in Oakwood Cemetery, Fremont, Ohio.

Source: Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Library


  1. What a wonderful letter -- thanks for sharing.

  2. I hadn't realized that a president's grandson served in the 69th NYNG