History of the
American Field Service in France
"FRIENDS OF FRANCE", 1914-1917, TOLD BY ITS MEMBERS
||Joseph R. Greenwood|
||J. W. D. Seymour|
||John R. Fisher|
||John R. Fisher
||Robert A. Donaldson|
||Arthur J. Putnam|
Do you remember a west postern gate,
And after summer you may still remember,
Long after, when the lustre of young days,
RAYMOND W. GAUGER
TWENTY-ONE RUE RAYNOUARD! What an echo these words will always arouse in the hearts of all of us who came to know the château and especially the beautiful park! The American Field Service has had many generous benefactors, none of whom will be remembered with greater gratitude than the Comtesse de la Villestreux and the members of the Hottinguer family, who, in July, 1916, placed at our disposal this princely estate, which includes the largest and most beautiful private park within the fortifications of Paris. Those four or five acres of forest, gardens, and lawns offered an ideal arrangement. The low part by the Seine provided easy ingress and egress for our ambulances, with plenty of space for a hundred and fifty or more at one time, under the protection of enormous trees. A winding drive led up to successive terraces, until one stood in front of the château, on the top of the hill of Passy. As one looks down from this point, one sees at the left the dense, dark foliage of the largest grove of chestnuts in Paris, and on the right the romantic chalet, with a glimpse of the orchard beyond. Between these extremes, paths wind about, leaving a broad lawn in the centre. Above and through the trees one catches sight of the sparkling waters of the Seine, while beyond the chestnut grove stands the lacelike Eiffel Tower.
There are interesting things too numerous to mention about the house and grounds. Most of us know that kings and the great Emperor have walked here. Under the top terrace runs the long gallery beneath whose massive vault thousands of young ambulanciers have eaten. They did not often know that this room used to be called the "Orangery," that a statue of the king stood in the large niche in the northern wall, and that, if the soil seemed always moist, it was because here ran, and still struggles to run, one of the famous springs of Passy. For the place was noted as early as the seventeenth century because of three medicinal springs, and was called "Les Eaux de Passy." It was in the Orangery that Rousseau wrote part of his Devin du Village, as he himself tells us. His beloved Madelon, to whom he wrote his Lettres sur la Botanique, was none other than Mme. Gautier, the mistress of the château. The family still possesses these letters, as well as the herbarium which he composed for her.
Some of us remember another gallery, with even huger vaults, under the first terrace. This gallery is much older, as its walls and windows indicate. Here may still be seen many of the ancient jars in which the precious waters were carried up from the springs. This gallery was due to the first great exploiter of the Eaux de Passy, the Abbé Le Ragois, who is remembered as the almoner of Mme. de Maintenon. The Abbé lived in a house which stood on the site of the house of the concièrge, by the "lower gate," and his lands extended for some distance beyond the present eastern limits of the park. His clientèle included hundreds of the nobility and of the most influential people of Paris and vicinity. After the death of the Abbé in 1725, his niece inherited the estate. The establishment enjoyed a great extension under the next proprietor, M. Belamy, who twice a week kept "open house." Tables were set under the trees when the weather permitted, and, at other times, in the gallery built by the Abbé Le Ragois. From 1777 to 1785 one of the most familiar figures to be seen walking in the park was that of Benjamin Franklin, who lived near by in the rue Raynouard. La Tour d'Auvergne lived here from 1776 to 1800.
In 1803 the son of M. Belamy sold the property to Mme. Gautier and to the brothers Delessert. One of these three brothers established a refinery on the place and was the first person to obtain sugar from beets. This discovery led to the visit of Napoleon, on January 2, 1812. He was so delighted at the success of M. Delessert that he then and there decorated him and made him a baron. The three brothers occupied separate houses, using the park in common. No. 21 rue Raynouard was the residence of Benjamin Delessert, while François Delessert lived at No. 27, and Gabriel Delessert, No. 19. Toward the close of the nineteenth century, it is of interest to us to note, the sculptor Bartholdi, the author of Liberty Enlightening the World, lived at the château. After his death, the Baronne Bartholdi continued the traditions of hospitality and generosity which have endeared the place to so many generations.
The establishment of the "waters of Passy" was closed to the public towards the year 1868, but Mme. Delessert long continued the gratuitous distribution of the waters among the poor. The reddish waters still flow in the subterranean passage which many of us have visited. At one place a bright tin cup invites one to drink. Those who have explored this passage for some distance readily believe the statement that a vaulted passage leads from the château to the Seine, for every few days of our residence in this enchanted place has brought glimpses of unsuspected mysteries ---vaulted, closed chambers, long underground corridors that lead Heaven knows where, the old orchard, the latticed grapevines, the labyrinth, the cavernes in the cliff where ice and milk were kept, the stone tables, the remnants of the rose garden. Then, from the farthest end of the estate one looks across the strange, deserted rue Berton to what remains of the park of the Duc de Lauzun and the château, which were purchased in 1783 by the unfortunate Princesse de Lamballe. Rue Berton here turns at right angles and becomes, in the part which runs parallel to rue Raynouard, the narrowest street in Paris: you can stand in the middle of it and touch the two sides with your hands. The Princesse was perhaps not a dreamer, but, just opposite her dwelling, on a terrace at the top of the wall, stands the diminutive house and garden of one of the greatest dreamers the world has known, Balzac.
It is safe to say that we may forget many things in connection with our expedition to France, but we shall not forget the generosity of the gracious and charming French family who placed at our disposal the house and park at 21 rue Raynouard.
*Of New York City; Harvard, and University of Paris; Professor of Romance Languages at Columbia University; served on the Staff of the Field Service in France from July, 1917, to January, 1918.
IT was in the early part of the summer of 1916 that fortune smiled on those whose chief occupation it was at the time to find new headquarters for the American Field Service. One might assume that it would have been easy to secure a suitable place somewhere in Paris. Office room --- yes, that was easy; a house or hotel for the men, and a garage for the cars --- equally so. But we had even then a vision of many men and cars to come, and to have these scattered throughout the city would involve not only serious inconvenience in matters of administration, but would also require many men to supervise the various establishments --- men who were needed at the front. Centralization, on the other hand, would mean better organization, especially under conditions where every moment might bring changes to alter all our plans and require immediate action. A telegram from the front demanding men or supplies had to be met instantly, and centralization could coördinate the sending of both without loss of time. At a moment's notice new cars could be despatched; new equipment or parts forwarded; men could be found, given their necessary papers, and sent to the train fully equipped --- all small but vital factors if a service is to be run to its greatest efficiency. Fortune, after many disappointments, smiled, for Baron Hottinguer and his family heard of the quest, and immediately placed at our disposal the house and grounds of 21 rue Raynouard, the one place in all Paris which was perfectly suited to our needs, and which, as time went on, proved its elasticity in every emergency.
Since that time, except for a handful of ambulance drivers who returned to America before the summer of 1916, there is not a member of the American Field Service who has not been affected in some way by 21 rue Raynouard. Throughout all the memories of varied experiences at the front remains an ever-present background of the contact with this home, for it was necessarily there that the first impressions of France and of the Service were stamped indelibly in the mind of every newly arrived volunteer. There centred the realization of each one's hopes in at last reaching Paris; the first steps which enabled him to start in service; the final period of preparation and the start for the camp or section; the return after three months to civilization for those all too short seven days of leave; and finally the return from this great adventure at the completion of the enlistment period and while waiting for a boat to America or an opportunity to enlist in some other branch of military service. Rue Raynouard is indeed a part of the history of the Field Service, for each volunteer has woven there some of his story.
But it was especially the beauty and associations of the place which made its name such a permanent memory in the minds of all those who came in contact with it. Although only one of the many historical and beautiful spots in Paris, it was one which belonged to us without restrictions while we were there. For the donors, in entrusting it to those who had come to France to help her cause, had stipulated only, that we should come to them again whenever there might be need of their help. In it we found on our arrival the expression of that which we found everywhere later in France; namely, generosity, patriotism, beauty, and rich associations with the past.
It was into such surroundings that we moved in July, 1916, with our small staff, opened our offices on the top floor, and installed our housekeeping arrangements below. We were a small family in those days, as there were only six sections at the front, and two tables in the dining-room easily sufficed for the staff, permissionnaires, and new men. I am sure that we all enjoyed our new comfort to the full. Moreover, we appreciated the fact that we could now face satisfactorily the supply problem of the Service by laying up material and stores for the future. The sections required a vast quantity of equipment and supplies, which they could not carry with them, but which they called for continually; and it was now possible to obtain a large portion of these from America and hold them for immediate issue. A store was opened for the personal equipment of the men at wholesale prices. The large garden gave us not only adequate room for the finished ambulances waiting to be driven to the front, but also a space for cased chassis waiting their turn to go to the body-builders.
The family soon grew rapidly, and during the next winter "rue Raynouard," as we familiarly called the estate, was taxed more and more. It seemed only necessary, however, to hunt somewhere in the spacious house and grounds, and new resources could always be found to solve the housing problems as they arose. These proved adequate for the Service, but with the extraordinary development in the spring of 1917, it was decided that, for the comfort of the permissionnaires, outside help must be sought. Again our generous donors. came to the rescue and the accommodations for men returning from the front were transferred to the near-by property, owned by the same family, at 5 rue Lekain. This establishment under a separate housekeeper was. run as an annex to 21 rue Raynouard, which could no. longer be used for anything except office rooms and quarters for the staff and servants, with the exception of the two living-rooms and dining-rooms where the men congregated. It was possible, however, to take care of all the new men in the garden. Barracks and tents were, erected which furnished accommodations for the housing of about four hundred. The mess was run in the ancient vaulted gallery under the topmost terrace which in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, had served as a meeting-place for the élite who came to take the waters of Passy.
The garden now would have presented a strange sight to a nobleman of those old days. Imagine him returning to Passy and going on his old appointed way to the passage which leads to the subterranean spring. He would find at its very entrance a large military barrack with military equipment scattered about. Turning back in dismay up the stone stairway, he would find it the same with its ancient setting of trees and shrubberies, with perhaps the ivy grown somewhat thicker over the stone railing. But on reaching the upper terrace, where he was wont to greet his friends on a beautifully kept lawn, he would wander into a village of military barracks, and in trying to find his way out might emerge to the right only to find another military dormitory in the old greenhouse where once the rarest of flowers were grown. In this confusion he might try to seek a haven in the adjoining subterranean gallery in the thought that its age and associations must have kept it sacred. But no --- a long line of tin cups and plates along the wall and the rows of plain wooden tables the length of the gallery indicate a new epoch, the illusion of which even the familiar dampness and semi-darkness cannot dispel. He would turn toward the old stone staircase which leads up through the house to the court, only to find the entrance blocked by two huge stoves on which the soup for the midday meal is already steaming. He might now return by the garden, and in turning toward the left he would notice a familiar clump of trees sheltering a Swiss chalet, installed there since his time, but years old in comparison with what he has just seen. He would go in, perhaps, to rest for a moment only to be greeted by a nurse in blue uniform standing by a table covered with various medicine bottles and glasses. She would inform him that the chalet was now used as an infirmary for Field Service men whose injuries or illnesses were not serious enough for treatment at a military hospital. From here he might descend the old alley and turn to go out by the large gate at the foot of the park. A bit of familiar path, and soon he must pick his way amidst a jumble of wrecked ambulances. He would stop for a moment wondering what story the wrecked engines, broken wheels, and shell-torn bodies had to tell. And this graveyard of war would perhaps stimulate his mind to a realization of what it all meant, and a pardon for the apparent desecration of a spot which he had so cherished.
Even though, the average volunteer, as he passed through "rue Raynouard" from time to time, did not, perhaps, realize fully either the historical associations of this charming old place, or, what was of most importance to the staff, its wonderful adaptability to present needs, yet each one must have appreciated the fact that this spacious and homelike house and garden gave him a splendid opportunity for contact with his fellow workers and with men from other sections. Both around the long tables at meal-time, in the living-rooms during the evening, and in summer under the trees or on the terraces of the park, the various members of the Service rubbed elbows with each other, and it was here that the new man learned at first hand of the work he would be called upon to do at the front. I could always tell from what section permissionnaires had arrived the night before, for. the next morning the new men would come to my office and beg to be sent out to that section, because, as they assured me, it was the best and most active in the Service.
How many stories of the Service were told and retold at "rue Raynouard"! Many of them have become legends. You do not need to inquire of a man from Section Four how Rockwell and Crane with super-mechanical ability changed a rear axle with such precision that the ambulance had to be driven in reverse from the poste de secours to the cantonment --- every one knows it. The dread of "Hogan's Alley" is no one's possession. You of Sections Two and Four think you knew it best, but I am certain that any ambulancier can relate a tale about it with a thrill that will outstrip any of your real experiences. Section Three is convinced that it owns Alsace, but ask any man in the Service and he will tell you just where the "Charbonnier's Comer" is. Perhaps Section Eight does not know to this day how each individual ambulance travelled from Lorraine to the Somme during the 1916 attack, but ask anybody else how a "perfect convoy" should be run and he can tell you.
Small and insignificant interests, perhaps, compared to what was going on in France, but they were the day's work of our sections and in their telling and retelling the traditions of the Service grew. Time could never be dull at Headquarters even for those who were confined there permanently, for returning men each day brought some news of the sections and friends at the front. That the staff loved their task, even though the pressure of work rarely allowed them a day's holiday, was mainly due to this continual and stimulating contact.
An excellent opportunity presented itself at "rue Raynouard" of giving the men as they arrived a chance to come in touch with those who were helping to direct the policies, thought, and activities of France, and also with some of their own countrymen whose keen interest in the Service reflected their sympathy for France. This was the inauguration of a series of farewell dinners for the sections, given on the eve of their departure for the front. Any permissionnaires who happened to be at Headquarters at the time were privileged to attend, so that these dinners, which occurred at rather regular intervals, were usually attended by fifty or sixty men and sometimes more.
HEAD TABLE AT THE FAREWELL DINNER
FOR SECTION FOURTEEN, MARCH 15, 1917
It is of interest to call attention to these informal banquets, because the speakers endeavored not merely to show their appreciation of the fact that men from all parts of the United States were thus affiliating themselves with the armies of France, but especially to point out the significance of this fact, which gave courage to the hope that more and more Americans would rally to the cause until it might become a national one. Even when Ambassador Gerard was recalled from Germany, and later, after war was declared, the Field Service was still for some months the forerunner of the American army in France, and so naturally these gatherings retained their significance.
Let us look in for a moment at one of these dinners. Section Fourteen is to leave to-morrow morning for the front. The large panelled dining-room, its walls bare except for the American and French flags crossed above the speaker's table, is alive with the youthful faces of a group of students who have crossed the continent as well as the ocean to offer their services to France. This body of men from Leland Stanford University was given an unprecedented farewell by their enthusiastic fellow citizens in a large mass meeting at San Francisco. In New York, again, they were fêted and cheered. Now that they are leaving for their work at the front there is no great throng to wish them luck, for the real business has begun, but France has thought it worth while to send one of her foremost ambassadors, rightly feeling that these men represent a sympathy the seeds of which are fast bearing fruit. And in addition to Ambassador Jules Cambon, the other distinguished guests at the speaker's table are Ambassador Sharp, Consul-General Thackara, and Captain Aujay, as representative of the French General Headquarters.
The excellent meal is over and the speeches have begun to strike the keynote of the evening.
Mr. Andrew, in introducing Ambassador Sharp, lays stress on the significance of the American volunteer's presence in France:
You, who are here, will realize, as the days go by, that you are not merely here to serve France, but that in a much more real sense, you are here to serve your own country. You are here to help in keeping alive in France that ancestral friendship which dates from the beginnings of our own history. You are here to make the people of France feel and realize what the American people feel about them.
There are men here to-night. from twenty-two different States of the Union, the representatives of eighteen American colleges and universities, and while for the next few months you are going to be the ambassadors of America in France, for the rest of your lives you will be the ambassadors of France in America. You are going back to your homes after six months, or nine months, or a year, or at the end of the war whenever it may come, to tell the people in America what you have seen and felt in France. You are not only going to tell them of the beautiful heritages of the past which you have seen and are going to see, but of the wonderful ideals of these French people, what they stand for, and you are to make them believe that these ideals are the ideals for which we stand, for which America stands; the ideals which Jefferson brought back from France, the ideals which were incorporated in the Declaration of Independence and which form the fundamental compacts of our Constitution.
Ambassador Sharp speaks in part as follows:
There is one thing that has come into my mind to-night in connection with the remarks of the Chairman, and especially in connection with the name of this organization, and that is this thought: that I know of no higher aim in life than the aim to be of some real service to your fellowmen. I know of no higher mission than that. I know that young men are thoughtless and that they live unto themselves a great deal for the pleasures that are about them. It does take time and it does take experience to come to realize the full measure of the truth that I have uttered, that service to your fellowmen, after all, is the measure of the fruitfulness of your own life in this brief span that you are on earth. I know of no higher service, not alone to be of service to your fellowmen, but to be of the kind of service that you embarked upon when you left that far-off City of the Golden Gate of California, speeding across the three thousand miles of matchless territory, and across a country that, with all due deference to noble France, --- I will not say in the presence of those who thus honor France, her superior, --- oh no, not that, --- but equal to any other country on earth --- your own country.
Some of you young men have been over on these shores a little longer than others, some of you are very recent newcomers. I have been over here several times in my lifetime, and during this last stay now approaching three years. But if you find the same experiences that I have found in living among the delightful people of France, you will have many, many pleasant recollections to treasure up in after years of your life.
In your service over here (for without undue praise, but just that kind of tribute that is filled with truth), you will find that there is no nobler, more exalted race of people on earth than you will find in the domain of France.
You will find a constant inspiration here that causes the people of France to be always, as a sort of inherent nature, as it were, kindly disposed toward everybody, with an open hand, with a desire to please, and above possibly any nation with which I have had any experience, an inspired love of country. And it is that love of country that has prompted the men with whom you are so soon to become more or less associated, to lay down their lives, just as your Chairman has depicted here to-night, without thought, without care if that sacrifice be to attain the undying principles for which France is to-day giving up her best treasures.
Then Captain Aujay arises to extend to these young volunteers the welcome of the French armies:
A pleasant journey and a good campaign to Section Fourteen!
At the moment of your leaving, in order to proceed to our front, this ancient dwelling, to which still clings the memory of the great Franklin who once lived here, I wish to express, in the name of the Director of the Automobile Service, the good wishes and thanks of the French combatants whose perils and glory you are about to share.
Willing champions of justice and right, you believed that it was not sufficient to feel from the depths of your conscience the horror of crime, the hatred of felony, the contempt of good faith violated, and disgust at treachery; you wish to convert your belief into action, and you have chosen one of the noblest lines of action by consecrating yourselves to the relief of our heroic wounded.
All, without exception, will remember, with a gratitude which often brings tears, having seen American volunteers mingle with the soldiers of France, under the same shells and the same machine guns for the same ideals.
We have seen your Service, small at first, grow unceasingly to the point of becoming at the present time the most important collaboration that has been added to our Automobile Service.
Let me repeat from the depths of my heart, a pleasant journey and a good campaign to S.S.U. Fourteen.
And so it was that many new friends, most of whom have already been mentioned in a previous article, took their place in the life of "rue Raynouard." Their memory is an added glory of those days: M. Hugues Le Roux, with his ardent patriotism, exemplifying the sacrifice that France was knowingly making without fear or hesitation; Captain Gabriel Puaux, and his brother Lieutenant René Puaux, who had served respectively on General Joffre's and General Foch's staffs, and who brought us not only nearer to the glory of the armies, but also to the culture and learning of France; Abbé Dimnet, bringing French university life near; M. Etienne Grosclaude, with his fund of knowledge of the political thoughts of the day; Mr. Robert Bacon, by his own example best symbolizing the possible extent of the force of one man's activity in bringing about a closer friendship and understanding between two countries; and among others of our countrymen whose interest brought them to us, Colonel (now General) Marlborough Churchill, Dr. John H. Finley, Mr. Frank H. Simonds, and Mr. Will Irwin.
There was no other fixed form of entertainment for the men at "rue Raynouard." It was felt that in furnishing a library, writing- and living-rooms, each man would find there what he wished for himself. Organized entertainment was not necessary, and its absence helped more than anything else in conserving the charm of the place as a home for the men. Even during the period of the greatest activity of the Service, these rooms were always open for the men to talk, loaf, read, or write in. In the minds of most of the members, however, the memory of "rue Raynouard" is not alone that of a comfortable home. Mingled in its associations is the recollection of the busy service that was being performed there, and it is interesting to note that various members, who long afterward have written down their impressions of their first days in the Service, have placed the emphasis on the activity the newcomer found there. So much of this activity directly concerned the men themselves that a short description of some of its phases may be the means of casting light on the important elements of the volunteer's life at "rue Raynouard."
In spite of all the papers needed in America before embarking on the steamer, the moment the volunteer arrived in France provision had to be made for his safe conduct, and orders sent to Bordeaux to bring him to Paris under a military pass. Once there, in the eyes of the French Government he was still a civilian, and would be until the armies could control his movements. Certain papers for residence in France had to be obtained and at the same time a request made for military papers to enable him to be sent to the front. Satisfactory relations with the various French bureaux had to be maintained for these purposes. There could be no inaccuracy in the details given, for France could not afford to be in any doubt as to what neutrals were in her country or among her armies.
The newcomer must be taught to drive a Ford. He must obtain his uniform and the equipment which experience had taught was necessary. He must be inoculated for typhoid and given a medical examination. All this had practically to be done for him. It was not in itself a great task, but it became so when it had to be concentrated into the limited time of a few days. The men had come over for work at the front and their place was there, not in Paris. Furthermore, steamers arrived every week from America with new men, so that as many as possible must be sent off to the front before the next boatload arrived.
Supplies also brought their problems. All Ford chassis and spare parts, and some of the equipment and food supplies came from America. Their unloading at Bordeaux or Havre was only the beginning of the work they entailed. Chassis could be brought by road when drivers and mechanics were available, but usually not enough men could be spared, and representatives sent to the ports must pick out their own shipment from among the innumerable boxes and cases which littered the wharves, and often overflowed into the adjoining streets and squares. To be sure, military requirements took precedence, but precedence was of little avail when not even half enough shipping space on the trains was available for military necessities alone. Constant ingenuity and labor were required, and even then delays could not be avoided.
But even the demands of men and supplies coming from America were only half the detail work that had to be done. The front had its claim, and the sections must be provided with whatever they required. Also the men at the front were continually writing for new personal equipment, and such purchases must be attended to without delay. Packages and mail from America must be sorted and redistributed. The men's money left in our charge must be sent to them on demand, and their passports, expiring after six months, must be renewed. Above all, food and beds must be furnished for all who returned from the front, and economical catering for an uncertain household was not at all an easy task, for it was not at all unusual for from twenty to fifty men to drop in during the day without previous warning. As many supplies as possible must be bought in France, a difficult task, indeed, when the demands of the war had long since outdistanced production in every field. It required constant effort to meet the needs of the sections in procuring tools of all kinds ---tents, ambulance accessories, equipment, etc. Our headquarters, too, called for supplies such as beds, blankets, and coal for an ever-increasing household.
Add to this detail work the supervision of a small hospital established on the grounds for men of the Service, and the reader will have some knowledge of the organization of "rue Raynouard" as the volunteer saw it. The general direction of the Service and the maintenance of relations with the French authorities, with other organizations, and with the donors of cars, naturally centred here, but this did not form a part of the activity with which the average member was familiar. The detail work of the staff did, however, because this directly affected the men and indeed very often required their coöperation. The registration at Police Headquarters for procuring the newcomer's papers, and his purchase in Paris of such equipment as could not be supplied at headquarters, necessitated the help of the more experienced men in piloting the others about the city. Learning to drive on old "74," became a serious matter, for, until the test was passed, there was no chance of being sent to the front. The need for equipment brought every one in contact with the headquarters store and with those who served there, and I do not think that there was a pleasanter store to deal with in all Paris. Ford chassis meant trips to Bordeaux with some member of the staff in charge, and a trip through the château country, furnishing, perhaps, almost as vivid a memory of France as the front gave later on. The handling of cases arriving by rail impressed upon the men that a day laborer's job was often a part of the soldier's game, and any one who had had any experience with clerical work or typewriting found himself detailed to help keep the records in shape.
So in the first few days of their stay in France, they took their turns in working with the staff. They learned to know its personnel, and they found, what must have been a satisfaction to them, that no hours were too long, day or night, when there was work to be done. There were comparatively few on the staff at "rue Raynouard." The call of the front was too enticing for volunteers, and an organization maintained by voluntary subscription is limited in its quest for help. There were certainly never more than twenty-five under whose jurisdiction were maintained the general office for papers and records, the cashier's department, the buying department, the store and mail-order office, the publication of the "Field Service Bulletin," driving instruction, the dining- and mess-rooms, the dormitories, the infirmary, the post office, baggage storeroom, etc. The cheerful willingness and coöperation in meeting the day's task, to whatever hour of the night it led, made life very pleasant for those whose privilege it was to direct the Service, and it played an important part in the affection which the men had for "rue Raynouard."
It is undoubtedly true that it would have been possible to carry on the work of the American Field Service without "rue Raynouard," and that the actual work of the sections at the front would have accomplished the same results. And yet the place somehow had its part in every activity of the Service, supplying something which made life for the men pleasanter. There was no need of a home --- certainly no need of a beautiful home --- and yet how much happier the men were for it, and how much pleasanter that it should be the finest in Paris. It was not necessary that the men returning from the front should find there a meeting-place for friends, but it helped pass many a pleasant hour for them. It was not essential to the life at the front that there should be a place where the men could have personal matters attended to, and yet in providing this for them, "rue Raynouard" must have added much to the efficiency of their service.
Again, it served in the part the Field Service was playing in bringing together the two countries. There the American volunteer came in close contact with those things in France which would necessarily appeal to him most. In the generosity of the gift, he first found the welcome which he was never allowed to forget. There he found opportunities of meeting French people other than his friends in the Army, and so gain a glimpse of the normal life of France. And on the other hand, "rue Raynouard " attracted Frenchmen from every branch of military and civilian life, who learned much of America from this contact with her young representatives.
And so we find the place that "rue Raynouard" filled never particularly defined, but always associated in some way with the men and their work. The affection which the men bore it marked it definitely as their home in France. This would have been sufficient, but beyond this were the opportunities it gave to add to the scope of the Service. In looking back over those years one wonders if it was not, perhaps, "rue Raynouard" itself --- and not only the surroundings, but the happy and unselfish spirit which reigned there, making light of heavy tasks --that gave the necessary courage for continually furthering the scope of the American Field Service, and above all that made this Service such an important participant in the cause of France.
THE old Headquarters at 21 rue Raynouard are closed; the courtyard is no longer crowded with staff cars, trucks, and camionnettes; all the old wrecks have been cleaned out of the garden; the extra barracks are down, and everything will soon return to pre-war conditions. It is a sad time for many of us as we see the breaking-up of the companionships, friendships, and associations of more than four years of tremendous, tiring, worrying, but successful effort. It is a good time to look back and remember again some of our impressions of the old Field Service in the days when it was the only American organization in the war, so that we may carry away with us --- vividly in our minds --- the joys and sorrows, struggles, and successes of those days.
Once again you have just joined the American Field Service; your wild efforts to get a birth certificate only to find you had never been officially born, your horrible rush to the photographer, your trips to the French Consul, to the passport bureau, to the steamship office, your sad farewells with family and friends are finished. You are on board the steamer, land has faded from sight, and you are actually on your way to France. Do you remember the thrill of that thought? A week of uneventful shipboard life followed, with nothing but lifeboat drills to break the monotony. Then one morning some French sailors in uniform appeared and the gun on the stern was uncovered, cleaned, and tried out; the naval officer, who up to that day had spent all his time playing bridge in the smoking-room, mounted the bridge and took command of the ship. Two days and two nights of tense excitement followed as the ship steamed through the submarine zone, and then one morning you went on deck to find yourself quietly sailing up the Gironde; and a few hours later you were actually landed in Bordeaux. France! France itself, and the first step of your journey to take part in the war was accomplished.
Do you remember your trip across the city, and then your trip through the beautiful vineyard region around Bordeaux and the Garden of France around Tours up to Paris? At Paris you were met at the station by a man in khaki uniform who seemed to be most efficient, who knew his way about the dimly lit station, got your baggage, bundled it and you into the back of an ambulance, and whizzed you around corners and through black streets for an interminable time until you were finally deposited in the courtyard Of "21." You did n't sleep very well that night; things had been happening so fast that you had n't had time to digest them, and you lay awake there in bed and thought them out.
The next morning followed your introduction to the men who were to guide your destinies for the next six months: "Doc," who greeted you cordially, told you how glad he was to welcome you to the Service, warned you of the --- ahem --- evils of Paris, made you feel you were the one man in all America he had been hoping would come over, and passed you over to "Steve"; "Steve," the adjoint, who, as you later found was usual with all adjoints, had to know everything and to do everything connected with the Service, and was in general so busy that you wondered when he ever even had time to eat and sleep. Then there was "Bud" Fisher, who took the greatest delight in rushing you from one end of Paris to the other, from the Préfecture de Police to the Commissaire de Police, from the rue Pinel to Kellner's at Boulogne, and who made you sign your name to so many papers that you knew you would never again be a free and independent American. There was "Bobby" Gooch, who had to pronounce upon your ability or inability as a driver; there was Peter Kent who seemed to be always rushing to meet trains and who was always in such a hurry that he hardly had time for a "Hallo." Also there were Huffer, and M. and Mme. Grimbert, Mlle. Bétourné, Jeanne and Miss Lough, concerning whose duties you were never exactly clear except that the latter could scold you within an inch of your life if she found you doing anything to upset the household arrangements.
Were you fortunate and were you rushed through in a week to join an old section in the field, or did things break badly for you so that you were held in Paris for some time? Do you remember the nondescript costume you went around in for the first few days --- a service cap, a khaki flannel shirt, and a civilian suit --- and do you remember the perfect pride you felt the day your uniform came home from Lloyd's and you first sallied forth in it? Then there were the blankets, the cot, and the field equipment to get, the Permis de Séjour, the Permis de Conduire, the Carnet d'Étranger, and all the other French papers to obtain. Your evenings you spent in the big living-room listening to the stories of actual service told by the permissionnaires, those proud men with the soft, flappy caps, who had actually seen that mystic place "the front"; or else you sat on the terrace of the Café de la Paix drinking portos, dined at the Café de Paris, went to the Alhambra or the Folies, and walked all the way home to Passy through the inky-black streets after the Métro had stopped running. Finally, however, your period of preparation was finished by a call to "Steve's" office, where you were then told you were to go out to Section Blank. Section Blank! Will you ever forget Section Blank?
You remember your arrival at the Section; you remember that first night in cantonment; you remember your first trip to a poste as orderly on another driver's car; you remember the first arrivée you ever heard; you remember the first soixante-quinze that unexpectedly went off rather close to you; you remember the first time you ever took a car out at night by yourself; those things are indelibly impressed on your mind. But do you remember the first permission, when you came back to "21" and were welcomed by "Doc" and "Steve" as though you were the prodigal son returned? What tales you had to tell the new arrivals; how fine it felt to walk along the boulevards and know that you had actually been "in it" along with all these brothers in blue with whom you rubbed shoulders. They surely were wonderful days.
Each one of you has his own particular set of reminiscences which he will never forget, and which will form his contribution to the evening's entertainment in the years to come when this group gets comfortably settled in the club's big leather chairs --- there is no need to recall any of these to our minds.
And now it is over, and "21" is closed for good. We must say good-bye to the old days, but we will keep them in our memory among our finest possessions.
J. R. GREENWOOD
IT will always be pleasant in after years to look back through the softening mists of memory on the days spent within the hospitable walls of old "21" during the few weeks that preceded its closing.
They were indeed days for reminiscence. It was perhaps the only place in France where an ambulancier or camionnier could feel perfectly at home. And not among the least of the satisfactions of visiting it was the fact that there distinctions of rank, which the American army enforced with a punctiliousness that reached the point of falling over backward, were forgotten. It was no mean privilege for those who joined the army and remained in the ranks to feel that because of common traditions of old Field Service days, one could say "Bill" and " Jack " to an old friend at "21" regardless of how he was dressed or regardless of how one would have addressed him had he been encountered anywhere else. The democracy in which most Field Service men lost faith after they joined the army happily did not suffer at "21." There were no separate messes in the dining-room, and I venture to say that American army discipline was not weakened by that fact.
The closing weeks were an opportune time for meeting friends of other days. Ambulance men met friends of other sections to recall, perhaps, that their last meeting had been one night at the front at such and such a place before the Armistice; camion men, who went with ambulance sections to Italy and then became aspirants in French artillery, saw those who remained in the Service and fought over the days at Jouaignes when they were all toiling through the dust on the Chemin des Dames. It seemed that almost all old Field Service men somehow or other got to Paris, either to spend three days' leave or else to wait for a boat to go home.
It will always be pleasant to remember such afternoons passed lounging about in the salon, fighting over old pinard bouts or more redoubtable battles, waiting for five o'clock when tea was to be served, browsing through a book that was always within reach on a table, discussing anything from politics to religion before the cosy fireplace, flouting the exaggerated stories of how our compatriots won the war after the French and English lost it, waiting for the arrival of funds from some source or other. It was a pleasant life, and it made a returning aspirant linger a few days longer with perfect content when he learned that his sailing date had been postponed. At "21" radicals could talk with perfect frankness and simple soldats of the American army could give vent to their feelings, and youthful reformers could castigate modern society and feel sure that the walls had no army ears.
Every one looked with regret at the passing of 21 rue Raynouard and all that was associated with it. Priority and length of service in France, better understanding of the French, and numerous other things had, after all has been said and done, created an esprit de corps and a closeness of comradeship among those who volunteered in the American Field Service such as existed among no other body of Americans in France. Most of us now are glad that our service in the American army had kept us with the French army, and heartily concurred in admiration of its soldiers.
"Their manners, their ways of expressing themselves,
Their courage which nothing can quench;
The humanest lot that were ever begot,
Thank God, we've been with the French!"
EARLY sunlight on the cobbled courtyard, the stones cool and fresh from the night's showers, a gurgle of gay water down the gutter of rue Raynouard and the babble of many birds below in the green garden! Spring! Paris! The Field Service! And now we must say good-bye to it --- that was home to us for so long --- our centre of the universe.
How alive life was then --- young --- full of anticipated unknowns --- zestful! Lord, we were rich then and did not know it half! We ---the little ones who barked pettily up the trees of our small discontents, yet not meaning a quarter of our noise --- as those who looked out for us were wise enough to know. We barked to hide the loneliness and fears of our hearts! And perhaps because we were ashamed to be as happy in such a moment as we really were. For we were in good hands, we newcomers!
Who stood on the terrace and gazed up at the slim lines in gray of the Eiffel Tower, and did not pinch himself to realize --- the reality of it all? Whose breath did not catch in his throat as his eyes saw the house-tops, his ears heard the faint bustle of the city, and his soul reached out to comprehend?
O young days! O Service that for all our own blindness was a big part of our whole being! Service of friendships --- and even a dim appreciation of France. We shall think often of you. All our little jobs were somehow haloed by it --- from pounding typewriters to digging rain ditches round the tents. The front has been sung in all its phases --- but after all we are going to remember almost as often the first days of the new existence in Paris in the ranks of the A.F.S.
Any one who has passed but an hour within the glowing shadow of "rue Raynouard" can for all his life conjure up a memory that helps him. And in that memory are warm handclasps, good cheer and encouraging words, and kind faces. Perhaps we did n't realize it, but ever so slightly as they pressed upon the individual in the addled multitude of us the Chef and his Aide touched us every one --- and we were different --- were it even but a little. And we are grateful. Those two we looked to as the supreme powers of life. We cursed them if we had a tummy-ache --- or if it rained. We sang their praises if sun and stars were bright. And only when we were shot out of the homeliness of "21" into the blare of the outside and the front did we realize what they stood for in our lives. Then to come back to them for a day ---or a moment --- their smiles carried us over hard leagues without notice of the hummocks in our way. I think we'll not forget.
That life in the spring of 1917! Breakfast in the cave! The big tin mess-kits --- the hot milk, coffee, sugar even, and bread --- to be arranged in various enchanting combinations. The wondrous breathlessness of those mornings before the day took fire and became hot. When the sky was aglow with pale colors --- when the Tower cut clear as a sword held high, and the tricolor stood out a-top, stiff and brilliant against the blue. And the Seine below there glittering through the green. The joy of being alive --- and ready, and busy a bit --- made even those moments of marking time precious.
Did you perhaps drive a staff car with packages to rue Pinel, all across Paris so early of a morning? The war-blue car pattering through the cool streets of the wakening world --- where one's heart was forever a-jump with the glory of exquisite, quick-passing vistas. To return when the city was already warming dustily to its daily toiling, and draw deep breaths of living! Perhaps you went to the gares to fetch back arriving Chefs, or baggage, and watched the swarm of poilus and dreamed of the front. There was little of khaki then.
Or perchance it was toil all morning in the storeroom, arranging blankets, canteens, and such --hot, back-stiffening, but not dull because of the dream in the back of your head. And you could stop for a moment and lean out of the wide window, taste the air of Paris, and look across the tree-green and river-blue to the shimmer of ivory buildings beyond, with the tumbled bustling great clouds behind.
In the general office the bang of continuous typewriters as the fiches innumerable were wrung out! Room cards arranged, and then gone over, and gone over again. Even shifting baggage in the cinema was possible --- and it underwent the same transformation as all the other detail dirty work, just because of the Service. Somehow it was n't the army grind, nor the drabness of a "job." And one can't explain it quite --- except that it was something inside that rested content not to be showy.
Then the hours afterward. To tread the streets of myriad dreamings --- to take pride in saluting French galons. How in their innards they must have been amused, those precious officers, at our youngness and importance. To wander about, with a chum or two, finding our pleasures in the simplest way --- of necessity --- since we were not even thirty-dollar-a-month millionaires then. The long sweet dusks....
Old Service that mothered us --- days that petted us --- and Chefs that we came more and more to admire. . . . How silly we are! Our gratitude is not a thing to be put in words --- you could see it perhaps in our eyes . . . We cannot speak it.
J. W. D. SEYMOUR
THE AMERICAN FIELD SERVICE boasted many remarkable sections, but Section Twenty, which was the technical name of the training-schools of the Field Service, was unique. It achieved among other remarkable feats the geometric impossibility of being in two places at the same time. In fact Section Twenty as a united whole existed only as an administrative fiction, an abstract conception of French paperasserie. The only reason for joining its two otherwise independent parts under one number was that both were commanded by that able and energetic French officer, Lieutenant de Kersauson. But if the link between them was tenuous, each sub-section, considered by itself, had a positive existence and a career not without importance in the history of the Field Service. Let us consider first the elder branch, elder both in age and dignity --- Section Twenty, C.I.A. (Centre d'Instruction Automobile).
During the spring of 1917 the Field Service was rapidly expanding. The pace of the creation of four sections a year, which had looked good in 1916, was now speeded up to a section a month; and there was every prospect that this was merely a warming-up jog around the track compared to what was to come later. The organization had to grow or be swamped. It grew; and one phase of its growth was the formation of both parts of Section Twenty. One vital need was to provide Chefs for all the new sections about to be formed, and to this end Commandant Doumenc, head of the Automobile Service of all the French armies, very courteously acceded to Mr. Andrew's suggestion and opened the French Automobile Officers' School in Meaux to members of the American Field Service.
They were a picked crowd, this first body of élèves officiers américains --- all men who had proved their worth by long experience in the field, or newer comers of exceptional promise. Muhr, of Section Fourteen, and Freeborn,(1) of Section Two, dated back to the prehistoric days when the "Tent Section" went out. Henderson, of Section Fifteen, had been with Three in Alsace, while Iselin, of Twelve, Struby, of Two, Bigelow, of Four, Dodge, of Eight, and Read, of Thirteen, had been in harness for a year or more. Colford, of Thirteen, Wallace, of Twenty-Eight, Richmond, of Thirty, Houston(2) of Twelve, Dougherty, of Thirteen, and Barton, of Fifteen, were the cream of the younger generation of our ambulance drivers.
THE first class at Meaux started in April and the Americans plunged at once into the work. From seven to nine every morning they listened and took voluminous notes, while the always patient Lieutenant Oliveau explained the nature of the Zenith carburetor and the position of bearings in a full-floating rear axle; they learned to apply the formulæ for adherence, tractive force, and over-all efficiency; they almost came to understand what happens when a Ford is put into reverse; and they copied from the blackboard complicated mechanical diagrams which, transferred to their notes, resembled combinations of an Enterprise meat-chopper with a White Mountain ice-cream freezer.
After "technique," there was drill, real poilu drill with rifles, under Maréchal des Logis Pallier. Then came luncheon, and, in the afternoon, shop work --- taking down and reassembling Fords, watching a skilled mechanic perform miracles of forging, brazing, bearing-scraping; and finally there was freehand drawing. Oh, how everybody hated freehand drawing when a half-hour's anxious, labor over the plan-view of a piston resulted, as the instructor cheerfully pointed out, in something resembling more than anything else a sprouting seed potato.
Later in the afternoon came topography; service intérieur, the first duty of a soldier; service de place, the law of garrison towns; amphi-militaire, the organization of the French Army with special reference to the rules of the Automobile Service. This last was perhaps the hardest course for old-timers to follow seriously. The problems were so familiar, and yet the theoretically correct answers were so different from the well-remembered practice. How, for instance, could a former Chef of Section Eight reply with a straight face that a section changing cantonment proceeds in strict convoy formation, in unchanging order, and at regular rate of speed? For was there not fresh in his mind that record-breaking trip when this particular section's cars spread fanwise over all the roads of eastern France, each following the moment's whim, and finally found their destination by a process of elimination, after visiting every village in the army zone until they had been to all the wrong ones?
It was hard to remember that the commander of a section needing spare parts makes out a bon and sends it to the C.S.A. of his division, who forwards it to the C.S.A. of the corps, who forwards it to the C.S.A. of the army, who forwards it to the Lieutenant in charge of the magasins des pièces de rechange at the army parc, who forwards it to the M.C.A., from which, if the bon is approved, the desired article returns by almost as tortuous a channel. Every American present knew that such a procedure would bring no results within the duration of the war and that the only way of getting anything was to write a personal letter --- "Dear Steve: Unless we have band rivets in twenty-four hours, the Section can't roll--- and, if possible, drop it in a civilian mail box.
It was difficult to believe that miscellaneous supplies of all kinds are to be asked for through the Major de Cantonnement instead of being obtained after dark from --- well, there is no need of giving away trade secrets! But whether or not one was sceptical, all these theoretically correct answers had to be learned, for the professors at Meaux take no cognizance of such a thing as "Système D." Who says that hypocrisy is unknown among the French?
So the days passed along, with variations on some afternoons when actual convoy runs with real Pierce-Arrow trucks were made and the boys took turns in commanding the convoy and issued orders to fit imaginary conditions devised by the instructor. "The Section will leave Meaux at 13.30, from parc at Barcy," the order would run, "load thirty tons of barbed wire at Esbly Gare, and return to Meaux." Receiving such an order at 13.25, the Commander for the day hurriedly appointed his guide and serre-fil, looked up the road, jumped into the staff car, and hurried off to confer with merely hypothetical Commissaires de la Gare and Officiers du Génie Returning, he generally found his convoy either on the wrong road ---or spread out over a mile or two with the rear-ram drivers standing on their accelerators. Finally, when the day was over and all the lost sheep safely parked again along the Marne, Lieutenant de Kersauson would go over the day's misadventures at length and with point, never omitting a single railroad crossing left unguarded or temporary bridge rolled over in close formation.
Sunday, theoretically a day of rest, was mostly spent in getting notes up to date. No one ran down to Paris for the afternoon, for those were the strict old days of Captain Champeloux and his wonderful Second Bureau.
THUS five weeks went by with lectures and study, dirt and flies, and many little trips to the corner café for crème de menthe glacée, until at last examination time arrived, when the written tests were found not to be so very bad. True, most of the class drew inverse cone clutches that could never have been taken apart, forgot how many kilogrammetres are produced by one calorie, and ordered their convoy to travel in the wrong direction on a sens unique route gardée. Still, as examinations go, the class came through not badly; that is, so far as "the written" was concerned. But, oh, "the oral"! Strange that men who had driven calmly through shell-fire and aeroplane bombardment should have blanched and trembled so at the questions of a group of benevolent old officers. But the fact is that every one was fussed, and some were awfully fussed. However, no ordeal lasts forever; the examining board withdrew for consultation, and to the disconsolate groups of candidates, each sure that he had disgraced himself forever, came suddenly the glorious news that every one had passed!
And so it was all over! No, it was not! The scene simply shifted to the parade ground where a detachment of poilus was drawn up. And then more agony! Freeborn ordered "Armes sur l'épaule" three times, but, having forgotten the order of execution, got no answer whatever, and came back to "Garde à vous. " Every one took his turn. Some did poorly and some worse, but all went through the most miserable minutes of their lives, when finally even this refinement of torture ended, and then it was nothing but handshakes, dinners, speeches, and congratulations.
Then, every eight weeks, another American class graduated from Meaux with varying experiences and success. None of them, however, equalled this first "bunch." The later classes boasted some glorious good fellows, some redoubtable techniciens, but their story is matter-of-fact and colorless in comparison with the doings of the pioneers. To the first fourteen belong all the glamour and credit of new adventure. With no record of other men's success to sustain them, they blazed the new trail. They established the record of S.S.U. Twenty, C.I.A., and --- the "breaks" they made at examination were negligible compared to the general average ---they set the standard high. Their successors maintained that standard, but the glory belongs to the pioneers.
JOHN R. FISHER*
*Of Arlington, Vermont; Columbia, '04; joined the Field Service in May, 1916; served in Section Two, at Headquarters, and as commander of the Training-Camp at May-en-Multien; later a Lieutenant and Captain in charge of a parc of the U.S.A. Ambulance Service.
IF the branch of Section Twenty at Meaux was a sort of post-graduate course for the chosen few, the branch at May-en-Multien was more like a kindergarten class through which all new ambulance drivers had to pass. Its establishment was due to the same sudden enlargement of the Field Service; for during the spring of 1917 the greatly increasing numbers of volunteers arriving from America began seriously to overtax accommodations at 21 rue Raynouard. Many new sections were formed and sent to the front, but as the weeks went by it became more and more evident that ambulances could not be turned out fast enough to take care of the supply of men. The presence in Paris of a large number of idle ambulanciers killing time and wasting money about town was recognized as being equally bad for the men and for the reputation of the Service; so steps were at once taken to organize a training-camp where recruits could receive instruction under conditions approximating the healthy life of field sections. A suitable site was found nineteen kilometres northeast of Meaux, where a friend of the Service offered the use of a large empty mill building, just below the village of May-en-Multien, in the historic, mosquito-haunted, but beautiful valley of the Ourcq.
Section Twenty, D.A.F.S. (Dépôt of the American Field Service), began its active existence on June 12, 1917, when the first detachment of one hundred and fifty-two men arrived by train at Crouy-sur-Ourcq and marched two miles over to the Moulin de May-en-Multien, where they found the camp not altogether unprepared for them. The four floors of the old stone mill building had been cleaned out and one hundred and seventy cot-beds set up.
But beyond this, nothing! However, the day was clear and warm, and the officers improvised lengthy speeches until the hurriedly despatched camion could get back from Meaux with materials for a cold lunch. So every one finally had something to eat, and all started to work in good spirits organizing the cantonment.
Progress at first was slow. For many days the men ate their meals sitting on the stones of the paved courtyard and washed as best they could in the mill brook. But they never complained at hardships which, though light when compared to those endured by men at the front, were enough to try the temper of new recruits. Above all, they and their successors were willing to work; and, divided into squads under leaders chosen from among their own number, they did fatigue duty, and learned French drill and practised driving as much as possible. But let us be honest about this last statement. Not much in the way of driving was possible during the first weeks, for there were but three Fords, no tools, and many breakdowns. A volunteer squad of mechanics, with a pair of pliers, strong fingers, and lots of good-will, did indeed change a valve spring; but no amount of ingenuity could improvise new bands for the camionnette.
The real work at the start was the improvement of material conditions, and this went on rapidly. First, tents were set up in the courtyard for shelter in wet weather, which, later, were replaced by a long baraque Adrian furnished with tables and benches enough to seat a full camp. At meals, instead of the slow procession of men carrying individual mess-kits, there was substituted a service by platters, one man bringing in the food, hot from the stove, for his table of eight. In the kitchen four civilian cooks, working over a hotel range, established the camp's reputation for good food. The cellar was cleaned out, bins were built, and the reserve stock of food was kept in good condition. After meals, two lessiveuses provided warm water for washing mess-kits. Improvement was made in the management of the food supply problem, too; and it was needed. At first no one knew anything whatever about it. Every morning a couple of men were chosen from the crowd, one of whom was reasonably sure to get the car to Meaux and back, and the other speaking a little French. A hurried consultation was held with the cooks, some money was advanced, and then the car went off and brought back almost anything it could get. But as time went on, the ravitaillement was put under more competent management when we found it possible to provide plenty of good food at a cost which compared favorably with the expenses of other sections.(3)
Meanwhile, the personnel of the camp was anything but static. During all the confusion of organization, men were being sent out and recruits were coming in from America. Toward the end of the month, Sections Sixty-Four and Sixty-Five went off, forty-four men in each, to drive French gear-shift cars. A few days later the camp was again full to overflowing, only to be almost immediately cleaned out by the arrival of a telegram calling for three gear-shift sections on the next day. It was a hectic twenty-four hours.
THEORETICALLY the formation of a section is not difficult. One consults the list of available men, selects the necessary number, and the thing is done. But it never worked out that way in actual practice. Men persisted in not thinking of themselves as numerical units. They came from America in little groups from the same college; they had friends in sections at the front; they had formed friendships on the steamer; and were absolutely convinced that the war would be lost if these things were not taken into consideration in the forming of a new section. These groups and friendships must not be broken up. Yet to some extent these preferences had to be overruled. A war was going on, although at peaceful May-en-Multien it was often hard to believe it. But it was the policy of the camp to overrule as little as possible. Granted that a war cannot be run along lines of personal convenience, nevertheless, the fact remains that, other things being equal, a contented man will do better work than a disgruntled one. This principle being admitted, the selection of personnel for a section became an almost endless affair of making one tentative list after another.
On one particular night the job was more than ever complicated by the presence among the latest arrivals of an Amherst College unit which neglected to announce its existence until the lists were all posted, when it received the news in anything but a tranquil spirit, that it was to be split up. However, late that night, after enough labor to organize a successful offensive, all the necessary exchanges were finally put through, and next morning Sections Sixty-Six, Sixty-Seven, and Sixty-Eight, all more or less homogeneous and more or less satisfied, marched off, loaded their baggage on the train, and disappeared into the zone réservée.
JULY began with a lull, but soon became as busy as June had been, with the exception that, the camp being better organized and every one understanding the work better, the machinery of camp life, the receiving and despatching of contingents, ran with considerably less friction. Six sections went out: Thirty, Thirty-One, and Thirty-Two, on Fords, and Sixty-Nine, Seventy, and Seventy-One, on various sorts of French ambulances.
The comfort of camp also improved. A regulation army lavabo was set up outside the gate, a piano hired, and a small coöperative store and circulating library put into operation. On the little drill ground those who preferred to take their recreation leisurely pitched horseshoe quoits in liberty hours, while the more actively inclined played many and exciting games of indoor baseball. The guiding principle of camp routine was to make discipline mild enough to avoid being much of a burden and yet strict enough to accustom young Americans unused to military life to regulations as rigid as they might find in any section at the front. A rising bell rang at 6 A.M. and another at 6.30 turned every one out, officers included, for roll call. Frequent inspections accustomed the men to coming to attention when an officer entered the room. Twice a day, under the French Maréchal des Logis, they learned the meaning of "Garde à vous," "En avant par quatres, " and, most welcome of orders, "Rompez vos rangs."
While the rest of the camp was drilling, the fatigue squad cleaned quarters, sawed wood, and prepared vegetables. The remainder of the day was spent in the camp's main business --- driving instruction. This course improved steadily from its unsatisfactory beginning until, by the end of July, it included, beside the usual road work, a short training in first aid to balky Fords, tire-changing, driving on roads strewn with obstacles, and backing through a sinuous passage marked out by wooden standards. The last exercise developed into a sort of field sport, and great ingenuity was shown in making the course more and more difficult, all the men off duty standing around to watch the contest and breaking out into derisive cheers whenever a contestant knocked over a standard, and into genuine applause when he came through with a clean record.
WITH August the work began to fall off. Sections Thirty-Three and Seventy-Two went out. But two sections a month was child's play after the work of the early summer. September had a still poorer showing. A few men came to the camp, but more left it. The United States Army was beginning to arrive in France and the Field Service days were numbered. The regular army officials who looked over the Field Service camp thought it was too near to the front, and did not care to adopt it. In comparison with the days when we had one hundred and sixty men, the courtyard looked bare with only twenty-five. It seemed quite deserted with ten; and even these did not stay. For a little while two lone privates "held the fort " and gave the instructors something to do. Another week and they also were gone. Then one of the instructors transferred to the Engineers. Things were becoming desperate. The three lone survivors, all that was left of the camp's staff, smoked their pipes in the sunny court, found excuses to exercise the eight cars, fished without success in the canal, and wondered if they had been entirely forgotten. Then, one day, orders came to dismantle the camp. Extra drivers arrived from Paris who loaded everything, and the convoy rolled away leaving the old miller smoking in the yard as solitary as the organizing party had found him four months before; and thus ends the uneventful history of S.S.U. Twenty, D.A.F.S., a Section without citations, with no record in carrying blessés, and yet not undeserving of a place in this History.
It is hard to put a definite value on the work of the camp. Looking back, with the fondness of memory, many Field Service men consider the time spent there as a delightful interlude between the turmoil of the trip over and the hardships of ambulance work. They think of the camp as an enchanted oasis, overlooking its discomforts, forgetting their own impatience to escape from it and go out to the front to do their part in a war which they feared might end before they had seen their fair share of it. Looking back in another spirit, it is easy to criticise the camp's many shortcomings. Even at its best, men were not as fully trained there as they might have been, and the best was seldom realized. The war was always going on, new sections were being asked for, and men were frequently sent out with little or no training. All this is perfectly true. Nevertheless, in the sixteen weeks of its existence, seven hundred and thirteen men were cared for at the camp, and from it thirteen new sections went forth to carry on the traditions of the American Field Service with the French Army.
And now that the Field Service itself has ceased to exist except as a tradition, it is easy to see that the faults of the training were also largely those of the parent organization. The Field Service always worked under pressure and outgrew every system tried before it could be perfected. Undoubtedly the sections could have been better prepared if there had been fewer of them and if they had been sent out at greater intervals. But if our policy had drawbacks, it also had one great merit. Sections did go out, half-trained drivers did somehow learn to handle their cars, and did carry thousands and thousands of French wounded from the postes to the hospitals. It did get results. The record of the Service is beyond criticism; and the last word of an old ambulance driver, who in his time did his full share of grumbling and complaining, is a heartfelt expression of thanks that he had the chance to work in the American Field Service, of pride in its achievements, and of gratitude to those who made the organization possible.
JOHN R. FISHER
IN June, 1917, I left for the old grist mill with one hundred and seventy-five ambulance men, and was present at the formal opening of this romantic and noted camp where it was my task to try and improve the sanitation of the place and to look after the health of the American boys, which, I may add, was very good. During the six weeks I was camp physician the only sickness was a case of genuine measles and one of three-day measles; but there was no spread of the disease. The boys were housed in a grist mill, said to be three hundred and fifty years old, which was run by water-power. The steel turbine wheel, the largest I ever saw, pumped spring water to May, two miles away, and also ran a dynamo which produced electric power for some of the near-by towns. In September, 1914, the Germans occupied this mill for a week, but they left suddenly and, contrary to their usual custom, did very little damage.
The old grist mill was four stories high, and made room for about two hundred and twenty-five ambulance men. A portable wooden barracks answered for mess-room and a smaller one furnished wash-room space. The offices were in an annex to the mill, and the infirmary and sleeping-quarters for the officers were over the office rooms. For recreation, nearly every afternoon at five, the boys all went swimming in the canal which passed not far from the mill, or they had football and baseball, pitched quoits, played cards, and took walks to the many and delightful old towns in the neighborhood. But there was one horrible drawback to the camp surroundings --- the presence of industrious and large mosquitoes which, during the early evenings and dull quiet afternoons, were a hell for some of the men; for one full-grown French mosquito can make life miserable for a whole regiment. Aside from this defect, the Old Grist Mill Camp was a very romantic and beautiful place, which every American volunteer, who had the good fortune to inhabit it, will remember with pleasure.
H. BURT HERRICK, M.D.*
*Of Cleveland, Ohio; Western Reserve University; served as physician at May-en-Multien Camp from May to the middle of July, 1917.
July 13, 1917
WE arrived by train at Crouy-sur-Ourcq on July 8 about 10 A.M. We were met at the train by Mr. Fisher, of the Field Service, who is in charge of the camp. The fifty-two of us lined up as best we could, considering we carried our bedding rolls, and marched out to camp in some fashion or other. A more wonderful country or location you could not imagine. We went up over a hill, and then down across a green, shady canal with barges tied by the banks, and then on up another gentle hill, past an old stone cottage with some fat white ducks waddling about it and squawking indignantly for no reason at all.
The camp is located in an old mill, I don't know how old. It is a building in the form of an L, four stories high, with a stream at one side which runs over a mill wheel. There is a stone wall around the other two sides of the L, and a farmhouse and farmyard in back. There is quite a lot of old-fashioned machinery in the mill, and sometimes when the mill wheel is turned on, the wheels and pulleys go creaking round, very slowly, while we are sitting there talking or reading. We sleep in cots on the fourth and top floor. Down below us is the courtyard, where some cars are parked, with a dove-cote, a washhouse and kitchen, a wooden military barrack used for a dining-room, a couple of trees, and some climbing-rose bushes. The courtyard has an old iron gate with an iron lion's-head knocker on it. A more romantic place you could not imagine. That wonderful and beautiful story of Zola's, "The Attack on the Mill," might easily have been situated here.
Crouy is an interesting, although not a lively little town. There is the tower of an old castle there, which is very picturesque. Everywhere crowds of small boys follow us, the smaller ones in funny black skirts, the ones about twelve or so more like village boys in America. Most of them follow us as much from curiosity as from anything else, although an occasional one, more bold, hopes that we can be persuaded to give him a sou. There are a couple of awfully bright kids of about twelve, very neatly dressed, who meet us nearly every evening we visit the town, and go around with us. The sister of one of them teaches English, among other things, in a school somewhere around here. He knows quite a bit himself and was anxious to talk with us and learn more. It is easier --- at present at least --- to understand the French of the youngsters than that of older folk --- they speak more distinctly and less rapidly. Whatever else may be said of France, her children are beautiful, polite, and altogether delightful.
At the training-camp those who need it are supposed to get instruction in driving Fords and French gear-shift cars. We get up at six in the morning to the violent jangling of an old bell down in the court. Then comes roll call, and the detailing of a third of the men each day to be on details and squads in the kitchen, dining-room, or around the camp generally. After breakfast (more often we avoid the military one and get delicious chocolate and an omelette from the woman in the farmhouse back of the mill) we go out to drill, under the instruction of an old French sergeant. French drill differs from American in that the movements as we execute them are often executed with an entire reversal of the same movements by the French --- perhaps with little running steps to jump into place instead of our mathematically measured movements. All the commands are in French, and you may believe it's often pretty hard to keep them in mind and be able to think which one is which when it's given. How would these sound to an American soldier?---,"En ligne" "Face à gauche!" "À gauche --gauche!" "A droite -- droite!" "Demi-tour à droite!" "Repos!" "Fixe!" "A droite par quatres!" "Rompez vos rangs!" I confess that the last one sounds the best to me, for it's French for "dismissed." However, the drill is not too exacting, and the French Sergeant, for all his attempt to be sternly military, is a jolly fellow, and intersperses the work with "beaucoup repos."
The other day he had been jollying some of the fellows about getting tired. They decided they would lead him a merry chase, so suggested that we go on a hike. He agreed, and the whole bunch set out up the hill in ranks at a furious pace ---taking long strides. We kept it up for about three miles, up through May-en-Multien and down toward the Crouy road and canal. The sergeant stuck right at the head of the affair, but, being forty-five or so and not used to such strenuous exercise, he was mopping his brow very frequently until we got in. He was a good sport and never said a word to stop the pace they were setting. The next day he lay on the grass beside the Grande Route and watched us drill for a short time, after which it was nearly all "repos," and we lay around in the grass beside the road most of the time during the morning and afternoon drill periods.
There is also a black-eyed young Frenchman at camp who speaks good English ---Charley. He was in the trenches for a long time, and every one questions him about his experience and about the war in general. A couple of groups of ambulance men having already passed through this camp, he is used to it, and has really become a human compendium --- how exact I don't know --- on France and the war in general. However he seems to enjoy it.
ROBERT A. DONALDSON
WHEN the parc at Billancourt closed another landmark of the old Field Service passed into tradition. It rightly claimed to have been the oldest landmark, for long before "21" had been thought of, the cars for Section Eight were delivered, and soon thereafter Section Nine, one early morning, rolled out from its gates to Alsace via Versailles. From then on, its business was to meet the demands of rue Raynouard, and car after car was delivered to be sent to the front or formed into new sections. At the same time spare parts were received, sorted, and sent out to meet the incessant orders from the front.
For those --- and there are many of us --- who came into close contact with the Parc, there are remembrances which go deeper than the nine hundred and eighty cars put together there or than the many thousands of dollars' worth of spare parts issued. What original member of Section Eight will ever forget those days at the newly established Parc where he worked as a carpenter, mechanic, and painter! --- A good training for the work that was ahead. How many of those who volunteered to help in the equipping of cars there will forget how the French Army insists that tires must be numbered and recorded accurately! Some of them were section leaders later, and perhaps the training helped them. What section leader and mechanic has not felt the Parc was an intimate part of his daily work, looking on it either as a friend or as an enemy, depending on the way his cars were running that day! The Parc stood for him as something to be telegraphed to or telegraphed at, always something upon which he knew the success of his section depended.
To a few of us --- those to whom all of its details were in the day's work --- there are many incidents which made that part of the work alive with remembrances. There was the first summer when things were easy, when chassis were driven from the ports on wonderful summer days, and spare parts for the few sections were easy to obtain; then, quickly, the change when transportation was tied up, and parts, which foresight had ordered from America, were lost among the millions of cases in Bordeaux and picked out months later among those cases and brought up. Then came the period when chassis for which no gasoline could be spared had to be brought by rail in space which could not be got, but which was got. Then came the triumph of being able to supply Section Three on forty-eight hours' notice with the huge new equipment which its adventure to the Orient required. Then again the routine of the winter, broken by the unexpected early frost which froze the radiators of all the reserve cars, showing that the Parc was human after all. And finally the days of the next spring: days of terrific pressure when section after section had to leave, and at the same time parts and cars had to be sent to the old ones. Pressure which reached its height during the month of May when five new sections of cars were delivered at rue Raynouard!
The Parc's two years form a full page in the history of the Service, a fuller page than most members of the Service could realize because its work, like its founding, and like its termination, was done without fuss, but with always the day's work accomplished. Perhaps in reading this the men of the old Service will look back again on their days at the front and recall that good days and bad days were judged by how their cars were running, and perhaps they will find that the good days were more frequent than the bad days, and that the latter were often due to their own negligence. If they do they will realize what part of their success they owed to the Parc, and what was accomplished by Robert Moss and those who helped him in those two years of work which had no excitement or adventure, but which had their reward in work well done.
WE all knew vaguely, even before we reached Paris, that 21 rue Raynouard in which the Field Service Headquarters was established had been given by some one --- we did not exactly remember whom. We had read of the wonderful old house and garden with its memories of Franklin and the old royalist days, but we vaguely pictured it as some conventional city home, steeped in an oppressing formality, and with perhaps here and there a bronze plaque.
Those first few days in Paris were too full of new impressions, and we were so painfully eager to become a part of this life that I am afraid we took our surroundings too much as a matter of course. But later, when we had time to adjust ourselves a bit, what a delight it was to wander about the old house and to feel that in some miraculous way it belonged to us and we to it; and how quickly the garden, sloping down to the Seine, came to mean a place where we could take our little triumphs and disappointments, and figure them all out under some old tree, quite forgetful of the city around us. And then it was we came to realize what such a place meant and would always mean to all of us, and the value of what had been given us through some one's generosity.
Then came the day when we first saw the Comtesse de la Villestreux in her nurse's veil, talking with Miss Lough in the hall, and we loved her from that moment. And the never-to-be-forgotten Fourteenth of July when we met her at the Grande Revue at Vincennes, and cheered, standing by her side, the faded blue coats and tattered flags. She consented to ride back with us that morning to rue Raynouard on the market camionnette; and what an honor it was to give up one's seat and bump along through holiday Paris sitting in the back on a sack of potatoes beside Touraine, the cook, who was busy peeling onions all the way.
She seemed so exactly what we thought a Countess ought to be, with an added simplicity and charm which somehow we had n't counted on, and it seemed so very fitting that it should be she and her family who had given us 21 rue Raynouard, and not only that, but their whole-hearted interest in the boys who lived there. If any one was sick the Countess made it her special charge to visit him daily and see that everything was done for his comfort, and whether he was in a pest-house with smallpox or in a hospital with a bad cold it made no difference whatsoever. One young American died in her arms, who would otherwise have had no one by his side to make the last moments a little easier. Nor did this in any way prevent her toiling daily in an important hospital reserved for the care of tubercular French soldiers. Service and self-sacrifice were so much a part of her daily life that many months after the Armistice, when Paris was torn by a subway strike, she, despite her snow-white hair and the weariness of four and a half years of war, was one of the first to take her place punching tickets for the welfare of her beloved city.
In looking back on the time we have spent in France, 21 rue Raynouard stands out even more than ever as the centre of our memories of those bygone days. There we first came into touch with France, and with the mighty struggle in which she was engaged; there we came back after weeks at the front, to meet old friends, make new ones, and to talk over the changing fortunes of war; and there above all we always found a home, friendly counsellors, and the courage to go on when things were blackest. And in the background of all our memories of 21 rue Raynouard stands the Countess and her family whose generosity made such a place possible. Our gratitude is not of the sort that goes easily into words, but may they realize that what they have given us is the precious heritage of a lifetime!
A. J. P.
ANY one who was in any way familiar with the trying problems which faced the American Field Service from its early days until the end of its career, cannot but realize what the Service owes to Mrs. Vanderbilt for her keen and unfailing interest in its work and the welfare of its members. Some of us remember her as far back as the first months of the war when, without her faith and her counsel, the Field Service as we have known it might never have come into being. And some months later it was she who made our independence possible, and opened the way for our direct assistance to France, unchecked by red-tape and limited only by the number of men and cars that could be procured from America. We can never forget her aid at this time, nor did her interest cease once our independence and future development were assured. When new headquarters had been found and were being installed in 21 rue Raynouard, she found many odd moments every day, despite the fact that she was busier than ever with her hospital work, to help us in a practical, womanly way by hanging pictures, covering tables, and curtaining windows, to make our new quarters into a home.
Many of us remember, too, how she came to the front to see us back in 1916, when a trip to the lines was undertaken by few women. Mr. Andrew had telegraphed, "Will arrive with Vanderbilt," and we, thinking of course it meant her husband, were quite overcome by surprise when she appeared in our midst. She visited our most advanced postes at a time when our admiration for her courage was mingled with a sincere anxiety for her safety, and she spent the night with us at Pont-à-Mousson during a heavy bombardment. It was then that we found out just how enthusiastic she was about our work, and how eager to learn anything new about the problems and needs of our everyday existence. That indeed was the keynote of her interest in the Field Service. For four years she was indifferent to nothing which affected our work and the spirit in which we did that work, whether it was a mere detail or a far-reaching policy. And we who have known --- as only young Americans in France in those days could know --- what it meant to have such a friend, will always recall with deep gratitude what her unfailing faith and devotion did for us, and for the Service of which we were a part.
AMONG the happy recollections of Field Service days none has left a deeper impression than the courtesy and kindness shown to us by French officers. In the sections at the front, although we were privates and directly under their orders, our peculiar situation as volunteers permitted them to invite us to their messes, and even when on duty to treat us with friendly familiarity. Médecin Divisionnaires and Médecin Chefs took personal interest in our quarters, our health, our games and fêtes, and other activities, and the regimental officers in general knew by name most of the men in the section serving them. This relationship helped, not only in making our lives pleasant and rich in companionship, but in obtaining without delay or friction the things for which we were dependent on the French, thus adding to the efficiency of a section in its work with its division.
This was an important factor, but much more important was the specific interest shown by certain officers at the French Army Headquarters, who swiftly recognized the possibilities of the Service, and opened the way to its free development. Most of these officers necessarily belonged to the Automobile Service of the French Army under whose direct command we were, and although in all our contact with those who were directing us we found interest and help, circumstances brought a close affiliation with particular ones. In recounting these affiliations I can best show how much the direct influence and friendship of these men were interwoven with the history of the Service.
The first name which naturally presents itself is that of Commandant de Montravel, who later in letters to Mr. Andrew liked to designate himself as the "père des sections américaines." He well merited this name, for it was his personal decision which gave our sections a place at the front. We must go back for a moment to the little squads of American ambulances serving with the British and the French in the north, early in 1915, to see the importance of his action. These squads were only adjuncts to hospitals in a region where, owing to the concentration of the British as well as the French, and the natural consequence of the advance and retreat and confusion of the early days, there were sufficient regularly organized sections to do the work. In fact some of these American units were accomplishing nothing, and those in charge of them despaired of their ever accomplishing anything. Mr. Andrew, cognizant of this state of affairs, conceived the plan of attaching them directly to the French Army divisions, and with this idea in view, went to the Eastern Armies in March, 1915, and found at Vittel Commandant de Montravel, Inspecteur des Automobiles de la Region de I'Est. Commandant de Montravel welcomed Mr. Andrew's plan, not only with courtesy, but with warm-hearted enthusiasm, said that ambulance sections were greatly needed in the armies subject to his supervision, and he pledged his influence and his friendship to the project of trying out an American section with an army division. It was on this understanding that the section ultimately known as Section Three was tentatively organized and sent to Vittel as a trial section in April, 1915 . As chance would have it, its arrival, after a three days' convoy, coincided with the arrival of a heavy train of wounded. The Section was instantly put to work, and the eagerness and promptness shown in carrying out his orders determined Commandant de Montravel to give it a place at the front without further observation. He immediately asked that the section be built up to the standard size of a regular French army section, and he sent it down into the very appealing, and at that time, fairly active sector of Alsace Reconquise. Thereupon he asked for another section, and thus Section Two in the same month gained its place on the eastern front at Pont-à-Mousson. Upon his recommendation the French General Headquarters formulated an agreement for the utilization and control of these and future sections (which is printed elsewhere in this History), and requested that the squad in Flanders be increased to the standard sectional proportions, assigning it also to work in the advanced zone.
Commandant de Montravel passed from one position to another in the French Army, but he never lost his paternal interest in the young Americans and the Service which he had befriended in the early days of the Great War. Writing to Mr. Andrew after the Armistice, he said:
Je ne puis oublier, moi, que dès le début de 1915 une phalange de vos meilleurs jeunes hommes est venue nous apporter une aide aussi généreuse que spontanée. A moi qui a été un des premiers à apprécier leur sublime enthousiasme, il appartient de vous dire aujourd'hui combien j'ai été fier d'accueillir ces vaillants précurseurs de toute votre Grande Patrie, et de vous exprimer toute la reconnaissance que nous leur avons vouée.
Comme Chef de Service Automobile dans plusieurs armées, je les ai vus à l'uvre (et depuis bientôt quatre ans!): toujours prêts, toujours dévoués et infatigables; des héros sublimes et modestes chaque fois que l'occasion s'en est présentée. Permettez-moi de leur rendre ici l'hommage qu'ils ont si vaillament mérité. Tous ceux qu'ils ont secourus, tous ceux qui les ont connus, ne pourront jamais les oublier.
In eastern France the Service had another faithful friend in Commandant Arboux, D.S.A. of the Seventh Army from the beginning to the end of the War. Section Three first came under his orders early in 1915 and continued there until the following January. Section Nine came into his region in the summer of 1916 and remained there until December, and when it was removed, he urgently requested that another Field Service formation be sent to take its place, a request which the French G.H.Q. endorsed, and which resulted in the sending, in December, 1916, of the so-called Vosges Detachment. Most of the men who came in contact with him will remember him as a very strict disciplinarian, for he personally travelled throughout his sector to see that his orders were being properly and promptly executed. Section Sixty-Four in their very earliest days learned what promptness meant, when Commandant Arboux, having sent an order for a very early morning start, arrived at the Section a few moments before the time set for their departure from his army, and watch in hand and with rather caustic comment, inspected their departure. His interest in the men may not have always been apparent to them, but Mr. Andrew and I never received a warmer welcome anywhere than when we stopped to see him at Remiremont on our inspection trips. When the business of the moment was over, he would instantly launch on the exploits of his old Field Service sections, recounting anecdotes about individual men, whose names he never forgot, and enquiring as to what had become of them. He always liked to point to a chart hanging on the wall behind his desk on which he had had painted the names of the Field Service men who had been cited in his army, and he never failed to make it evident that he took an especial personal interest in his American sections.
The severe fighting all through the years of 1916 and 1917 in the Verdun region naturally brought the largest concentration of our sections there. Commandant Pruvost was stationed at Bar-le-Duc or Souilly as D.S.A. of the Second Army throughout that time, and it was due to his appreciation of and interest in the Service that so many sections received important assignments in that army. It was true that a section would naturally follow its division into line, but the D.S.A. not only had the power, but used it constantly, of changing the sanitary sections whenever he thought best, either from one division to another or to the reserve. Also new sections were sent directly to an army reserve, and must wait there until the D.S.A. saw fit to attach them to a division. It was Commandant Pruvost's custom to welcome our new sections and not allow them to wait long for an assignment. The result of his friendly attitude was that the G.Q.G. nearly always sent newly formed Field Service sections to his army. Sections Twelve, Fourteen, Fifteen, Sixteen, Seventeen, Eighteen, Nineteen, Twenty-Six, Twenty-Nine, Thirty, Thirty-One, and Thirty-Three reported directly to him on formation: a very high percentage, when we leave out the first four pioneer sections, Section Ten which departed to the Orient, and the sections on French cars, which of course simply replaced the French drivers wherever those sections happened to be at the moment. I remember seeing Commandant Pruvost for the last time in 1918 when he was stationed at the French G.Q.G. in Provins, and he took pride in telling me that new sections of our Service had always been sent to him for training and that none of them had ever failed in their work.
The Field Service contact with the French Army was a direct one with the Director of the Automobile Service at French General Headquarters, or his representatives. This contact need only have been a matter of military routine for, from the point of view of the G.Q.G., an American sanitary section was used and administered as if it were a French section, the differences of supply, volunteer enlistment, etc., being merely detail matters, which, however complicated for us, were only of concern to a subordinate department of the French G.Q.G. That Mr. Andrew obtained not only the friendship, but the interest and confidence of the heads of this Service, made many seemingly impossible obstacles easily surmountable.
Commandant, later Colonel, Girard was the D.S.A. -- the Director of the Automobile Service --- of all the French armies until 1916, when he was promoted to the Ministry and Commandant Doumenc succeeded him. Mr. Andrew's first meeting with Commandant Girard is of interest, as on his being able to establish a relationship necessarily depended the success of the Service. On the return from his visit to Commandant de Montravel, with the latter's assurance of willingness to give Section Three a trial in Alsace, Mr. Andrew's problem was to get the order from the G.Q.G. He was unable to get a pass to Chantilly, the orders at that time being very strictly enforced in regard to its sanctity from outsiders, but the necessity of obtaining this interview demanded heroic measures. A pass was obtained for a near-by town and it was easy to bluff the sentry. A fortunate occurrence now made everything easy, for Mr. Andrew met in Chantilly on his arrival Captain Puaux, an old school friend, then serving on General Joffre's staff. An introduction to Commandant Girard suddenly became a simple matter. Section Three was sent to Alsace, and contact with French Headquarters established.
Soon thereafter Lieutenant Duboin was appointed by Commandant Girard as liaison officer between our Service and his headquarters, and his constant visits afforded opportunity to discuss all service questions with complete understanding. Lieutenant Duboin did not confine his interest to headquarters, but sometimes accompanied Mr. Andrew to the front, thus becoming familiar with the actual problems which foreign sections faced within their divisions.
With the growth of allied and neutral participation in the French Automobile Service at the front and in the rear, a special bureau known as the O.S.E. (Office des Sections Étrangères) was opened in Paris to deal with the various foreign organizations. Among these organizations were the Norton-Harjes unit, several English ambulance units serving with the French Army, one or two Russian sections at the front, and the Paris evacuation service of the Neuilly Hospital as well as various American automobiles attached to other relief and hospital centres in the rear. Captain Aujay was placed in charge of this bureau, and naturally his contact with our Service was constant. Throughout the three years we found in him a steadfast friend. His task was no easy one, for one of his responsibilities was to see that the orders of the armies were followed to the letter in regard to the matriculation of cars and volunteers sent into the army zone, and the registration of all movements to and from that zone. Strict adherence to all details of army regulations is always harassing to the evenest of dispositions. I feel sure that Captain Aujay must have often in private given vent to his exasperation at the difficulties in trying to make Americans realize that "fiches" and "matriculation books" could be made as easily to conform to regulations as to their ideas of what was proper. But if he did so, he never showed it, and when emergency required, he personally attended to the minutest detail in order to expedite matters. His friendship was not only to the Service, but to the men themselves. He enjoyed coming to the farewell dinners given to departing sections at rue Raynouard. He always found there friends among the older volunteers and made new ones with the outgoing sections. No section ever left for the front without his hearty word of God-speed in which was reflected all the warmth and cheerfulness of his big heart.
Writing to Mr. Andrew at the end of the War, Captain Aujay recalled his appreciative memories of the Field Service in the following terms:
Soyez assuré que je garde de votre si longue collaboration le plus précieux souvenir. Quelle chose vivante, variée, souple, et toujours allante que l'American Field Service! Que de bons offices n'a-t-il pas rendus à notre cher Pays! Et si complète fut votre organization que lorsque l'Armée officielle vint ---non pas vous relever --- mais vous doubler, elle n'eut qu'à calquer les mesures prises par les volontaires pour être a l'hauteur de sa tâche! C'est une de mes grandes fiertés d'avoir pu vous aider dans votre tâche, et je tiens à vous le répéter une fois ne plus.
Captain Aujay had many subordinates, and so many of them were closely associated with us that we hardly think of them in any way other than as part of the Field Service: Lieutenant Thillard, his faithful adjoint, the genial Duc de Clermont-Tonnerre, who generally accompanied Mr. Andrew upon his tours of inspection, M. Perrin, Maréchal des Logis Bouchet, and many others, all of whom seemed to make it their particular purpose to help in every possible way.
It was, of course, necessary that the sections, being each an independent unit, be commanded by a French officer. The French G.Q.G. took pains to choose these lieutenants, not only from among those who spoke English, but with a regard to their ability to cope with the problem of commanding neutral volunteers whose discipline must conform to that of the French soldiers, and yet which could not be enforced by the same methods. That these officers won the complete loyalty of the men is enough evidence of their qualifications, but long association with many of them brought more than loyalty, for out of their leadership grew the respect and affection for the French officer which makes us ever happy to recall those days. The influence of many of them spread beyond their own sections, and the names of Lieutenants de Kersauson, both Rodocanachis, de Rode, de Turckheim, Reymond, Bollaert, Fabre, Baudouy, d'Halloy, Marshall, Rey, Pruvost, Goujon, Ravisse, and Gibilly, are known to most of the men of the Service.
Lieutenant de Kersauson commanded Section One in its earliest days. He had lived in the United States for some years, answering his country's call at the outbreak of war. It became his especial pride to convince his fellow officers that his American section was not only the best sanitary section in the armies, but that its discipline could conform to that of the regular army. His own enthusiasm was transmitted throughout his section in such a way that, although the personnel was constantly changing, the traditions of the Section remained throughout its service. It was a tradition which later gained for it the fourragère. Lieutenant de Kersauson remained with Section One for two years, and then, much against his will, was withdrawn to take charge of the instruction of Field Service men at the French officers' school at Meaux. In conjunction with this duty he was appointed to oversee the training of the new men at the camp at May-en-Multien. It was a fitting tribute to his previous success that he was called for this larger work in connection with the Field Service relationship with the French Army.
Lieutenant Reymond succeeded Lieutenant de Kersauson as French officer of Section One, and in him the men found a new friend and leader, in whom they placed their utmost confidence and loyalty.
One never hears Section Two referred to without some mention of Lieutenant Rodocanachi. Many firm friendships have resulted from the associations of men in sections, but none firmer than that of those who have served in Section Two with their French Lieutenant. Lieutenant Rodocanachi came to the Section when it was unattached to a division, and when most of its men were hardly optimistic in their vision of a winter in the Meuse playing the part of an evacuation section. Even at the front a Meusian winter wears down the stoutest heart, but just behind the front there is nothing to bring relief from the cold, foggy drizzle which penetrates deeper than the two feet of mud. Lieutenant Rodocanachi never spared himself in those early days to keep the morale of his men high, and he tried every method and trick his ingenuity could devise to obtain for them a division. His effort was well rewarded, for Section Two finally took up its rightful place again at the front. Throughout the next two years his active leadership obtained for the Section the most difficult work, and his own personality helped forge the strong unity of Section Two.
Section Three's personality was already formed by the leadership of its American commander before Lieutenant de Rode came to it. In him, however, the members of the Section found an added coöperation of leadership and friendship which helped to weld the unity of purpose of the Section, not only in the critical moments on the French front, but on the difficult expedition to the Balkans. Recollections of the very dangerous poste at Bras in 1916 would bring Lieutenant de Rode's name to the lips of every member of Section Three, for he remained there night after night until dawn looking after the men and the work. His action in choosing to remain with the Section on its transfer to the Orient, although he was offered the chance to stay in France, enhanced the esteem and respect in which he was already held.
As was fitting, the next oldest section could vie with its older brethren in its French personnel, and in Lieutenant de Turckheim its members found a quiet, firm leadership and a highly cultured and valued friend. It seemed quite in keeping with its leader that the Section always went about its business in unfailing regularity with little or no fuss, but always accomplishing its work.
One could go on indefinitely pointing out the influence which the French officers exerted upon the sections, how closely identified with, how much a part of the sections they became, how much their example and advice helped all of us in those days and, above all, what good companions and friends they were. Two of those friends we lost during the War. We looked upon Lieutenant Bollaert and Lieutenant Baudouy as comrades. The former was killed outright by a shell while in command of old Section Eight, and the latter, commander of Section Fourteen, died in service. Section Thirteen also suffered a serious loss in leadership when Lieutenant Rodocanachi was grievously wounded while commanding them during the Champagne offensive of April, 1917.
I have touched earlier in this article on our direct relationship with the French G.H.Q. established by Mr. Andrew with Colonel Girard. When Commandant Doumenc succeeded the latter, this relationship drew closer and closer. Commandant Doumenc and one of his aides, Captain Loriot, appeared to lay stress on the continual development of the Field Service. They wanted always more and more sections of ambulances for the French front; they wanted first one, then two, sections for the French army in the Balkans; they wanted as many transport sections as we could enlist. It was evident that Commandant Doumenc appreciated early the possibility of reënforcing his service by American volunteers. In its realization he knew that the task assigned to them must be important and useful, not occasional and auxiliary, and in his willingness to carry out this principle he encouraged in every way the Field Service development. I think every man in the Service feels that he was permitted to accomplish the work he had come over to do, as he would have wished, that is, with all the opportunities as well as with all the hardships of the French soldier of his service. Commandant Doumenc sent American sections to the best French divisions, and when war was declared asked for more of them for the purpose of incorporating them in his crack T.M. group, the Réserve Mallet. If it were only for his action in placing his confidence in the Service from the start, and thus giving it full opportunity, we should owe him an immeasurable debt. But he went far beyond this in his personal interest. He never failed to send a message of sympathy for the loss of an American volunteer. He frequently took several hours of his precious time to personally decorate a wounded American volunteer in a hospital, and he acceded to practically every suggestion made by Mr. Andrew for the welfare of the men, this often necessitating his own supervision. When one remembers that Commandant Doumenc was not only in complete charge of the whole Automobile Service of all the French armies, but also entrusted with the regulation of all the road movements of these armies, one can appreciate what such constant personal interest in our Service on his part meant, and how gratifying, as well as helpful, that interest was. That the more far-reaching aspects of the Service did not escape Commandant Doumenc's attention is shown in a letter addressed by him to Mr. Andrew shortly after the United States entered the war.
Je dois reconnaître [he said] que cette uvre importante, que vous avez su mener à bien, s'est toujours montrée à nos yeux, non seulement comme une aide effective pour nos blessés, mais encore comme un trait d'union entre la Nation Française et la Nation Américaine, avant qu'elles fussent alliées dans la même juste cause.
And he added:
Je voudrais que vous soyez mon interprète auprès de tous les membres de l'American Field Service, pour leur témoigner, de ma part, combien j'ai été heureux de les avoir pour collaborateurs. je puis dire que je les ai toujours trouvés les premiers dans le chemin de dévouement et de l'honneur.
T.M.U. Group 526
No enumeration, however brief, of the friends of the Field Service in the French Army would be adequate or just which did not include the officers connected with the transport branch --- the T.M. (Transport Materiel) --- especially Lieutenants Gilette and Vincent, who so patiently and zealously looked after the training of the men in the camps at Dommiers and Chavigny, and Captain Genin, who commanded the first group of sections at Jouaignes. Who, of that groupe will ever forget the cordial interest of Captain Genin in his "boise" or the great out-door banquets that he arranged for them on improvised tables in the dusty yard at Jouaignes, when the long summer evenings were made gay with songs and stories and warm-hearted speeches, or the great celebration of the first Fourth of July which he arranged for several hundred men, with bands and entertainers from neighboring French regiments, and ingeniously contrived sports and "stunts," and abundant supplies of the wine of France which he himself provided!
Above all, must tribute be paid to Captain (later Commandant) Mallet, the officer in command of the Réserve which included all of the American sections, and by whose name that Réserve will ever be known. It was not an easy task to command a thousand American youths, who had come to France as volunteers, utterly unaccustomed to military discipline, and who had only time for two or three weeks' training, before being thrown into a hard service very different from their preconceptions. Such command required the exercise of an unusual amount of tact and friendly comprehension, both of which Captain Mallet fortunately possessed. With what thoughtfulness he assembled the men from time to time and expressed appreciation of their faithful service! Read this passage from his address on the evening of October 6, 1917, as an example:
Volunteers of the American Field Service!
The American Field Service has existed for almost three years, and had been doing wonderful work on our front for months when practically no American believed that his own country might ever be involved in this war. The whole organization has proved a great benefit to the French Army, and its promoters would be justified in recalling their work with pride. Hundreds of motor ambulances have been busy in the hottest sectors of our front. Thousands and thousands of wounded have been brought back from the fiercest battles that the world's history has ever recorded to find proper care and get back their health.
By entering the Camion Service you awarded France a still greater help in allowing us to send hundreds of our oldest drivers back to their fields which must be tilled if they are to yield bread to our people.
Be assured that I and all the Frenchmen who know something of the work you have done will always think gratefully of you and of the American Field Service which brought you to this country!
In a personal letter to Mr. Andrew written more than a year later, after the Armistice, and after his separation from the Réserve, Commandant Mallet testified again to his enduring gratitude to the volunteers of 1917:
I feel every day more deeply [he wrote] now that the victory is won, that your boys were the first pioneers of their country in this war, and I shall strive all my life to make France attentive to this fact and grateful for their work.
Assuredly then, we, who worked with them, shall think always gratefully of the hearty friendship and constant helpfulness shown us by those French officers who were so appreciative, and whose hands were always so eager to further every effort that we made.
1. Charles James Freeborn, of Paris, France; Yale; served as aide to Mr. Andrew from March, 1915, and as Chef of Section Two from March to September, 1917; subsequently a Captain in the U.S. Army, and Liaison officer with the French, General Headquarters; died of pneumonia, February 12, 1919.
2. Henry Howard Houston, 2d, of Philadelphia; University of Pennsylvania; served in Section Twelve from February, 1917, and as Chef of Transport Section One-Thirty-Three until July 30, 1917; subsequently a First Lieutenant in the U.S. Field Artillery; killed by shell August 18, 1918.
3. EDITOR'S FOOTNOTE:--- Mrs. John R. Fisher, wife of the C.O. of the Camp in May, rendered a devoted and invaluable service at this time, by taking charge of the camp mess, making daily visits to the neighboring market and supervising the preparation of the meals for the two hundred men of the camp. Mrs. Fisher, who writes under the name of Dorothy Canfield, has given in her volume, Home Fires in France, some appealing pictures of French life in the near-by town of Crouy during these months.
The Camion Sections
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