History of the
American Field Service in France




I. & II.




The American Field Service
in France



Les États Unis d'Amérique n'ont pas oublié que la première page de l'histoire de leur indépendance a été écrite avec un peu de sang français.


THE American Field Service may justly claim four titles of distinction. It anticipated American troops on the battle-fields of France and the Balkans by more than two and a half years; it contributed appreciably during these years to the enlightenment of American opinion in regard to the crucial meaning of the war; it furnished subsequently to the American Expeditionary. Forces a small nucleus of officers and men of quality and devotion; and last, but not least from the viewpoint of its members, it had the happy fortune of serving with and being part of the matchless armies of France.

It is worthy of remembrance that the little group of American volunteers told of in this book, numbering at no one time much more than two thousand, formed, for the first three years of the Great War, the most considerable organized representation which the United States had on the battle front. A few of them had seen service in the first battle of the Marne in September, 1914, and thereafter as their number increased, there was seldom an important battle anywhere along the French front in which they had not their little part.

As early as April, 1915, this volunteer service was organized in sections of twenty-five or thirty men on the pattern of the regular ambulance sections of the French Army and incorporated for administrative purposes in the Automobile Service of that army. Each section was assigned to a particular division of the army, forming thereafter an integral part of the division, being so considered and treated by its troops and officers, and ordinarily moving by road or by train from one sector in the line to another with the division. These Field Service ambulance sections multiplied before the American Army came to France until they numbered thirty-four, which meant that an equal number of divisions of the French Army depended upon the American Field Service for practically all of their sanitary transport. It may be said without exaggeration that there was no sector in which French troops served where they were not known, and that there was scarcely a poilu who had not seen the American cars and who had not formed some sort of acquaintance among the American volunteer drivers. In 1915, the little American ambulances driven by volunteers could be seen scurrying everywhere over the flat plains of Flanders during the battles of Ypres and the Yser. They were seen also on the wooded hills of northern Lorraine during the violent engagements in Bois le Prêtre, and they were equally familiar in the mountains and valleys of reconquered Alsace during the battles of the Fecht and Hartmannsweilerkopf.

In 1916, throughout the prolonged and terrible battle of Verdun, they were in evidence everywhere in that sector from the Woevre to the Argonne, and in the autumn of that year, two of the Field Service sections, endowed with double equipment, were sent to the Balkans, where they worked during the following year with the French troops in the mountainous regions of northern Greece, Serbia, and Albania.

The year 1917 found Field Service sections also in every great engagement from the April battle in Champagne to the October battle of the Chemin des Dames, and during this latter year some eight hundred additional volunteers of the Field Service, organized in fourteen camion sections, were engaged in the transport of ammunition and military supplies in connection with the last-named campaign. All of this occurred, let it be remembered, while the United States was officially represented on the front by only an occasional military attaché or observer.


THE actual. and direct service to France of these men, when measured by the monstrous task with which France had to cope during the first three years of the war, was of course insignificant, but they rendered an inestimable benefit to their own country, for they helped to keep alive in France the old feelings of friendship and of respect for us which had existed there since our earliest days and which otherwise might easily have disappeared. They helped to demonstrate to the soldiers and people of France that notwithstanding official silence and injunctions of prudence, Americans had already begun to appreciate the meaning, not only to France, but to all the world, of the issues that were at stake, and that many American hearts and hopes were already with France in her gigantic struggle.

Numerous and appreciative were the expressions of this assurance by representative men of France at that time. An officer upon General Joffre's staff in December, 1916, wrote as follows:

The American Field Service is the finest flower of the magnificent wreath offered by the great America to her little Latin sister. Those, who like you and your friends have consecrated themselves entirely to our cause, up to and including the supreme sacrifice, deserve more than our gratitude. We cannot think of them in the future as other than our own.

The distinguished statesman and historian, Gabriel Hanotaux, in a public address of about the same date, paid tribute to the Field Service in these terms:

Friends of France! your every act, your every heartbeat of the past two years gives the proof! You have left everything to live among us, to share our sorrows and our joys, to aid our soldiers at the risk of your own lives. Like our Joan of Arc you have felt "the great pity that there is in this country of France." For your love and your eagerness to help, accept our benediction .

Monsieur Jusserand, Ambassador of France to the United States, sent across the ocean this message of gratitude:

Lives saved by thousands, suffering attenuated, amputations avoided, families spared their fathers for after the war; these form only a part of the French debt toward the American Field Service.

Scores of other equally representative and similarly grateful tributes might be quoted, but perhaps no more convincing evidence of the attitude of France to the Field Service is to be found than the fact that in the days when American troops were not yet on the front, the French Army decorated the American Field Service sections no less than nineteen times and conferred either the Croix de Guerre, the Légion d'Honneur, or the Médaille Militaire upon no less than two hundred and fifty of their members.


This is perhaps not surprising if one takes account of the character of the personnel. For, if America cannot take pride in the number of her representatives in France during the first three years of the war, she can at least be satisfied with their quality. I doubt whether any other such group of men could have been found in any formation in any of the armies engaged in the war. The English poet, John Masefield, after visiting a number of Field Service sections in the summer of 1916, described them as including "the very pick and flower of American youth." Many hundreds of the members were graduates or students of American colleges and universities, and many bore names distinguished in American literary and political history. Some of them had been business men, lawyers, and doctors; some had been architects and bankers; some had been teachers; and some even had been clergymen; but, not willing any longer to remain inert and distant onlookers in the great world struggle, they had left their schools and colleges, their offices, shops, and pulpits in order to come to France and do what they could, were it only in the most humble capacity, to help her armies. President Sills, of Bowdoin College, well described the character and motives of the early Field Service volunteers in his inaugural address delivered shortly after the first contingent of the United States Army had arrived in France:

Long before our troops were in France, earlier even than the messengers of mercy from the Red Cross went in large number , the drivers in the American Ambulance Field Service showed France that chivalry was not dead in America, and carried to the gallant and hard-pressed French people the sympathy of the United States that was never neutral.... They anticipated Pershing's admirable phrase, "We are here, Lafayette. " And while among them and in the Foreign Legion there were many athletes and many with technical training, there were also surprisingly many who were impelled to go by that idealism that is bred of literature and science and art. Some of them, like that noble Dartmouth lad who gave his life Christ mas night, lie there, the advance guard of that goodly company,

"Who gave their merry youth away
For the Country and for God."


A TABLE in the Appendix shows that approximately two thousand of the Field Service volunteers came from one or another of more than a hundred different American colleges, Harvard leading the list with three hundred and twenty-five of her sons. Scarcely a State in the Union was unrepresented on the Field Service rolls, and certainly no university or college of note. It was in fact because of this that the organization was able to render what was probably its most important service to France and the allied cause. For during the long years when the American Government was hesitating, and those in authority were proclaiming the necessity of speaking and even thinking in neutral terms, and while the American people were slowly accumulating the information that was to lead to the Great Decision, these hundreds of American youths already in France were busily writing and agitating in terms that were not neutral, and were sending to their families and friends throughout the Union, to their home papers, to their college publications, and to American weeklies and magazines the great story of France and her prodigious sacrifice. At a Field Service gathering in New York in September, 1916, Theodore Roosevelt summed up their service by saying:

There is not an American worth calling such, who is not under a heavy debt of obligation to these boys for what they have done. We are under an even greater debt to them than the French and Belgians are.... The most important thing that a nation can possibly save is its soul, and these young men have been helping this nation to save its soul.

By personal and published letters, by articles, by books, by lectures, by photograph and cinematograph, they were bringing the war ever nearer to those on the other side of the Atlantic and by the organization of committees in almost every college and university and in nearly every city and town in the United States, they were developing a deeper and more active interest in American participation. This was the aspect of the Field Service which in the thought of those of us who were privileged to direct it seemed heavily to outweigh all others. Herein lay by all counts the greatest contribution which the men of the Field Service could make and did make to France.

Fortunately, as events proved, they were sowers of seed in a field that was destined to yield, not merely an abundant but, in fact, a prodigious harvest. As Coningsby Dawson later expressed it:

Long before April, 1917, American college boys had won a name by their devotion in forcing their ambulances over the shell-torn roads in every part of the French front. The report of the sacrificial courage of these pioneers had travelled to every State of the Union. Their example had stirred, shamed, and educated the Nation. It is to these knight-errants ... that I attribute America's eager acceptance of Calvary, when, at last, it was offered to her by her statesmen.


WHEN at last America joined forces with the Allies, and American troops were sent to France, they found the ambulance and transport branches of the American Field Service thoroughly established and functioning as useful parts of the French Army. The ambulance branch included about twelve hundred volunteers, with nearly a thousand ambulances built upon a model developed and perfected in the course of its three years of active service. It had its own spacious headquarters and reception park in the heart of Paris, its own construction and repair park and supply dépôt, its own training-camp, its own share in the French automobile officers' school, its own home and hospital for men convalescing and on furlough, and above all it had all of its relations with the French Army, of which it was a part, not merely formulated, but tested and revised by several years of actual operation. The transport branch, including about eight hundred volunteers, using the same Paris headquarters and home, and the same department of the French officers' school as the ambulance branch, but with two special training-camps of its own, was also a tried and working proposition which had been rendering helpful and appreciated service with the French Army for several months. The French authorities were anxious that both formations should be continued and that the entry of the United States in the war should not result in any interruption of either of these services upon which they had come to count. Maréchal Joffre, in his trip to the States in the spring of 1917, appealed to the American Government to this end, and as a result of his appeal, it was agreed in Washington that both branches of the Field Service should be adopted by the American Army and reloaned to France, so that they could go on functioning as they had before, only under official American auspices. During the autumn of 1917, accordingly, the ambulance sections, then numbering thirty-three, were incorporated in the United States Army Ambulance Service with the French Army, and the camion sections, numbering fourteen (the so-called Réserve Mallet), were militarized as the American Mission with the French Army of the Motor Transport Corps. A majority of the Field Service volunteer drivers willingly enlisted in the United States Army in order that the entity and work of their sections might continue. The Field Service officers were regularly commissioned. The Field Service ambulances and other cars, numbering nearly a thousand, were turned over to the United States Army, and the sections thus went on serving with the French Army without change or interruption. The only exception concerned the Field Service ambulance sections in the Balkans, which the American Army would not accept or take over for the ostensible reason that the United States was not then at war with Austria-Hungary and could not accordingly have even non-combatant troops in service with the armies that were opposing the Austrians. We were therefore obliged, however reluctantly, to withdraw the personnel of these sections, but not before giving their cars, tents, and abundant equipment directly to the French Army of the Orient, which thus continued their service, in the hands of a French personnel, until the end of the war.


It is worthy of note that while neither the American ambulance nor transport adjuncts of the French Army, which rendered such excellent service in France during the last year of the war, would probably have existed except for their previous formation under the Field Service, both were not only continued under the auspices of the American Army, but were very considerably enlarged under those auspices during that final year. Before the war ended, the American ambulance sections serving with the French Army had increased to eighty-one and the camion sections so serving to twenty-four.

With the arrival of the American Army in France, as more varied opportunities for participation in the war became available, many of the old Field Service volunteers sought service in other branches of the army, such as aviation, infantry, and the artillery, for which they felt themselves better qualified by individual endowment or previous training and experience. In addition, therefore, to the hundreds of officers and men which the Field Service contributed to the American ambulance and motor transport corps serving with the armies of France, it also contributed quotas to almost every other part of the American Expeditionary Forces, and in fact to several services of the allied armies as well. The records of many of the men in these services not only brought distinction to themselves, but reflected some of that distinction upon the mother organization under which they began their service in France. A hundred and twenty-seven Field Service men, whose, names are listed on a Roll of Honor elsewhere in these volumes, gave in the course of the war all that they had or could hope for, and several times that number suffered mutilation and wounds.

We know of approximately eight hundred former Field Service volunteers who subsequently held commissions in the United States Army, Navy, or Marine Corps, and in addition we have record of one hundred and three who were officers or aspirants in the French artillery and aviation, and of twenty-two who were officers in the British Army, principally in the Royal Flying Corps. In all, the total number of Field Service men serving as officers and privates in the French and British Armies was close to two hundred.


THE success of the Field Service was due not merely nor primarily to the hundreds of youths who constituted its ranks in the field. It was due, in the first instance, to the concerted effort of a multitude of men and women scattered throughout the length and breadth of the United States. In schools and colleges, in clubs and churches, in business houses and trade organizations of every sort, with unremitting effort they secured the funds and recruits which for three years made the Service possible, and which at the rate of their accumulation in April, 1917 (had America not entered the war at that time), were destined shortly to make of the Field Service an institution of very formidable proportions. To these friends of the Field Service in America, any one of whom would gladly have welcomed the opportunity to do what the volunteers on the front were doing, gratitude for the achievement of the Field Service is as much owing as to the men who served in France. Particularly is appreciation due in this connection to Mr. Henry D. Sleeper, the American representative of the Service, who during these years with unflagging energy organized the committees and spread from one end of America to the other the information which resulted so successfully in providing men and money for the work in France.

Whatever success the Field Service sections may have achieved in the field was equally owing to the devoted effort of the staff in France who, during month after month and year after year, gave themselves without stint, caring for and training the men as they arrived from America in ever-increasing and often unexpected numbers, looking after the assembling and construction of ambulances, finding and shipping the endless supplies needed by the sections, handling perplexing matters of personal discipline and complicated relations with various branches of the French administration, and meeting, so far as possible, the innumerable individual problems presented by several thousand young volunteers in a foreign army in a foreign land. We passed through many tense and difficult days together, and I shall never forget their loyal and faithful coöperation. Above all, and without any risk of invidious distinction, must be mentioned Mr. Stephen Galatti, who reluctantly left his section at the front at the end of 1915 in order to help in the administration of the Service, and to whose unswerving loyalty, unfailing optimism, tireless patience, and wise counsel during the years that followed, the Service owes an inestimable debt.


IN the narratives and impressions that follow will be found something of the life and work of the Field Service volunteers before American troops had come to France. The participants themselves tell their own stories, and by collecting and editing these stories, it is hoped to hand down to the future, not only the record of what the Field Service was and accomplished during the first years of the Great War, but also a considerable number of first-hand observations of what life at the front with the French armies was like during these years.

Writers of greater training have given the world graphic pictures of the more famous scenes of battle, --- of the tragic days of the Yser, of the Somme, of Champagne, of Verdun, of the Chemin des Dames, ---in all of which Field Service sections had their small part; but there are less known events and places deeply graven in the memories of Field Service men which also deserve to be perpetuated and to be sung. Many of the pages that follow will quicken the recollection of such days and places among the men who "were there," even though they may give only faint impressions to those whose reading is unsupported by experiences recalled. What throngs of varied memories troop by again as one turns over the pages! Memories of farewell dinners long ago at old "21," when sections, on the eve of their departure for the front, were bid Godspeed by well-known men of France and America; memories of the excitement of section departures, in particular of the nights in October and December, 1916, when Section Three and Section Ten embarked for their great adventure in the Orient, and of that May morning in 1917 when the first Camion Section marched down through the Passy grounds, under arms, en route for Dommiers; memories of days of eager anticipation at the training-camps by the old water-mill at May-en-Multien, in the forest at Dommiers, or in the château. grounds at Chavigny, the last two of which have long since been reduced to dust and wreckage by the sweep of battle; memories of mysterious nights spent under whistling shells in postes crowded with wounded poilus at Esnes, at Bras, at Vendresse, at Hartmannsweilerkopf, and scores of other places; memories of hours of unutterable sorrow when comrades who had fallen were laid eternally to rest; memories of happy days of decorations and défilés, like that last ceremony in which the Field Service as such took part, when her camion volunteers were decorated on the champ de manœuvre of Soissons in the cold twilight of November 12, 1917!

The American Field Service has passed into history, and the Great War itself is a closed volume. Fortunate is it, indeed, if here are gathered together a few reminders of our work and our companions, of our joys and our sorrows in the great days that are no more.

Sketched at the Front by Herman A. Webster, S.S.U. 2


WHEN all is said and done, the Field Service volunteers themselves gained far more than the wounded poilus, far more than the armies of France, far more than any one else, from the work which they performed.

Even in ordinary times it is a privilege to live in this "doux pays de France," to move about among its gentle and finished landscapes, in the presence of its beautiful architectural heritages and in daily contact with its generous, sensitive, and highly gifted people. Life in France, even in ordinary times, means to those of almost any other country daily suggestions of courtesy, refinement, and thoughtful consideration for others. It means continual suggestions of an intelligent perspective in the art of living and in the things that give life dignity and worth.

But the opportunity of living in France, as we Americans lived during the first years of the war, meant all this and more. It meant glimpses of human nature shorn of self, exalted by love of country, singing and jesting in the midst of hardships, smiling at pain, unmindful even of death. It meant contact with the most gentle and most intelligent of modern peoples facing incredible suffering, prolonged and prodigious sacrifices, mortal peril --- facing them with silent, unshakable resolve, victoriously resisting them with modesty and never a vaunting word. It meant visions of courage, resignation, and heroism as fine as any that history records. Nothing else surely can ever offer so much of noble inspiration as those glimpses of the moral grandeur of unconquerable France.

The epic and heroic quality of France's whole history, and especially of that chapter of which we were eyewitnesses, the quenchless spirit and unfaltering will of her people, ---the democracy, the comradeship, and above all, the calm, unboasting, matter-of-fact courage of her troops,---kindled something akin to veneration in all of us. The Field Service motto was "Tous et tout pour la France." We all felt it. We all meant it. It is forever ours.

In serving with the armies of France, the men of the old Field Service enjoyed a privilege of unique and inestimable value, a privilege the memory of which will remain not only a cherished heritage, but a living influence as long as any of us survive.

France, March, 1919

*Organizer and head of the American Field Service. Served in France continuously from December, 1914, until May, 1919. Commissioned a Major, U.S.A. Ambulance Service, and subsequently a Lieutenant-Colonel. The Commander-in -Chief of the American Expeditionary Forces awarded him the Distinguished Service Medal with this citation: "For exceptionally meritorious and distinguished services. Coming to France at the beginning of the war, he showed remarkable ability in organizing the American Field Service, a volunteer service for the transportation of the wounded of the French Armies at the front. Upon the entry of the United States into the war, he turned over to the U.S. Army Ambulance Service the efficient organization he had built up, and by his sound judgment and expert advice, rendered invaluable aid in the development of that organization. To him is due, in large measure, the credit for the increasingly valuable work done by the light ambulances at the front."




It is not France alone that they serve. They are paying for all Americans a small instalment on the great debt of gratitude that we have owed the French people since the very beginning of our national life.


MOST of the American war activities in France that preceded the entrance of the United States into the war can trace some sort of parentage to the small American hospital in Neuilly-sur-Seine, that had been maintained by members of the American colony in Paris for some years before the war. As this semi-charitable institution was located in the immediate vicinity of Paris, and included among its supporters and directors a large number of the American residents of the French capital, it naturally, at the outbreak of hostilities, became the rallying centre for all Americans, who, as residents, travellers, or students, happened to be in Paris at the time, and who wanted to do something to help.

Money and hospital supplies were donated; automobiles were given and lent; men and women of all sorts offered their services; and within a few weeks, even before the Germans had reached the Marne, a large hospital for French wounded had been equipped and opened in the Lycée Pasteur in Neuilly, another hospital was in process of organization near Meaux, and a number of ambulances, rudely extemporized from touring cars, limousines, and automobile chassis, were ready to bring in the wounded, which, early in September, the rapidly moving battle flood brought close to the city.

All of these endeavors began in the name of and under the auspices of the little ante-bellum. American Hospital of Neuilly, which can claim the signal honor of having initiated American war relief work in France. They had the distinguished support and active leadership of the American ambassador, Mr. Myron T. Herrick, and of his predecessor, Mr. Robert Bacon.

In the months that followed, with the crystallization of the front, and the resultant prospect of a prolonged war, the efforts of the American residents in France were supplemented rapidly and in ever-increasing proportions by men and funds from America. The American effort began also to differentiate itself, to specialize its tasks and its personnel, and one after another many, who had been associated with the American hospital at the outset, withdrew from it, in order to develop new opportunities for service, --- now to establish a new American hospital at Montdidier (Mr. Herman Harjes); now to organize a hospital at Ris Orangis (Dr. Joseph A. Blake); now to direct a group of automobile ambulances in Belgium (Mr. Francis T. Colby); now to head a group of ambulances with the British (Mr. Richard Norton); now to institute a service for the distribution of relief (Mrs. Robert Bliss); and now to systematize and facilitate the import of supplies from America (Dr. Watson and Mr. Charles Carroll).

In the winter of 1914-15 a score or two of the donated automobile ambulances, which, because of the withdrawal of the front after the battle of the Marne, were no longer needed by the American Ambulance Hospital in Neuilly, had been temporarily lent with American volunteers as drivers, to French and British hospitals somewhat in the rear of the army zone at Paris Plage, Hesdin, Abbéville, Saint-Pol, Beauvais, and Dunkirk. But this work, however useful it may have been, was not of a character to appeal to enthusiastic and ardent young Americans, who were physically able and morally eager to share more of war's hardships and dangers. Many young Americans were already stirring with the desire to participate in the great world drama, yet they could not do so as combatants without sacrifice of their nationality. Admirers of France in America were becoming more and more numerous and generous and were seeking opportunities to contribute aid to the French armies. Every circumstance of the time pointed to the possibility of successfully developing an ambulance service, conducted by American volunteers, and supported by American donors, but working directly in the French army zone as part and parcel of the French Army.

This was the goal toward which some of us began directing our hopes and our energies in the late winter of 1914-15. But before launching an appeal in America for men and money for this special purpose certain preliminary and somewhat formidable obstacles in France had to be overcome. First of all, the Commander-in-Chief of the French Army had to be persuaded of the advisability of allowing representatives of a neutral country, not merely to circulate in the army zone, but, what was far more irregular, to serve as actual members of a French division. One can easily understand that the French General Headquarters hesitated before such a proposal, envisaged the difficulties, and asked for certain assurances. These young Americans were coming from a country whose people at that time were, to some extent at least, divided on the issues of the war, and whose Government had given no indication of friendliness to France. If they were not to forego their allegiance to their native land, they could not be subjected, like French soldiers, to the sterner forms of discipline, such as court-martial, nor to the more severe forms of punishment. They could not, like French citizens, be asked to engage themselves for such an indefinite period as the duration of the war. Above all, the French Army had to protect itself against the possible presence within its lines of men of disloyal inclinations.

We recognized these grounds for hesitation and tried to meet them. We offered formal assurance that no candidates would be accepted without at least three letters from men of standing in their communities, testifying to their character and unquestioned loyalty to the Allied cause, which letters would be kept on file at our Headquarters subject at all times to examination by the French authorities; that each candidate would sign an initial engagement for at least six months' service, to be renewable thereafter for periods of at least three months; that he would also sign a promise not to communicate any information of military significance that might come to his knowledge during his period of service; and finally, that during this period he would "be subject to French military discipline." This latter agreement was probably unenforceable, since any member of the Service, who had not forsworn his allegiance to his country, might still have appealed to the American Government for protection against the execution of a French military punishment, but fortunately it was never put to the test. During our three years of service there was never a question of espionage or disloyalty among our volunteers, nor were there any cases of serious infraction of military discipline. Among all of the thousands of members of the Service I recall only one instance where a volunteer, imprisoned by French military authority for some misdemeanor, appealed to the American Ambassador for relief from his punishment, and this was settled amicably by a prompt dishonorable discharge from the Service of the youthful offender.


EARLY in April, 1915, the French General Headquarters paid us the gratifying tribute of accepting our offer and our assurances, and authorized the incorporation in the French Army of such volunteer sections as we might be able to provide. These sections were to be constituted, as to personnel, material, and equipment, upon exactly the same model as the regular French Army ambulance sections (except that the men and cars were to be furnished by us), and they were to function in exactly the same way. The agreement thus signed by the French Headquarters in the early months of the war is of sufficient interest and significance to justify the publication of its terms in full.


The following translation was made from the original text as slightly modified by subsequent orders.


(A) These sections shall have the same elements (material and personnel) as are provided for the French sections of the same type and shall be similarly constituted in administrative units.

(B) A French officer of the automobile service will be appointed commander of each formation. Attached to this officer will be a representative of the American Field Service in charge of the relations between the A.F.S. and the section. He will have the title of Assistant Commander (Commandant Adjoint) and will be charged with transmitting to the American drivers the orders of the French officer and insuring discipline among the American drivers.


(A) The volunteers must enlist for a period of six months with their Organizing Committee, with the privilege of renewing their enlistment for periods of at least three months. Before leaving for the section they must hand to Captain Aujay (Office of Foreign Sanitary Sections) a signed copy of their enlistment. From this time they shall be subject to French military discipline.

(B) In addition to their passports, the American volunteers must be provided while in the army zone with a "carnet d'étranger" delivered by the B.M.S.E.

(C) They will have the right to "permissions," regulated as follows:

Seven days at the expiration of each period of three months' presence in their formation.

Fourteen days at the expiration of each period of nine months' presence in their formation.

Fifteen days before the expiration of each period of enlistment, the American drivers will be invited by the French officer commanding the section to choose between their liberation at the end of the current period and the signature of a new engagement. In the first case no "permission" will be granted before liberation; in the second case the usual "permission" will be allowed.

(D) They will wear the uniform adopted by the American Field Service, with the grenades of the Automobile Service, in wool or silk for drivers, in gold or silver for the Assistant Commander. They should in, no case wear the insignia of rank in use in the Allied Armies.

(E) The French Chief of Section will have the right to request from the Chief of the Automobile Service of the army the dismissal of any foreign driver who shall have been guilty of a serious breach of discipline. The Chief of the Automobile Service of the army shall have the right to order immediate dismissal on receipt of a report setting forth the facts. Such dismissal involves the absolute prohibition to enlist in any other foreign sanitary section.


(A) The cars will be registered and attached to the automobile service of the army with which these sections are connected.

(B) Each section will include a workshop car with two mechanics for maintenance and light repairs. The unit will always be able to call upon the resources of the automobile park of the army for more important repairs.

(C) The request for spare parts will be centralized by the automobile service of the army which will transmit them to the Magasin Central Automobile in the form in use for spare parts for French cars. (Never followed as the American Field Service always had its own repair park and supplied its own spare parts.)

(D) Gasoline, supplies, and tires will be furnished to these sections in the same way as to any other section of the automobile service.


Foreign volunteers will conform to all rules laid down by the Commanding General-in-Chief concerning circulation in the army zone and especially the rules concerning movements of drivers of the foreign sanitary sections (particularly the obligatory visit to the office of the foreign sanitary sections on going to or returning from the front).


(A) In the event of the American Field Service being unable to maintain the full effective force of a section in drivers or cars, a supplemental force can be furnished by the automobile service of the army in question.

(B) The cars can be withdrawn from the armies by the Organizing Committee at a month's notice addressed to the Direction of the Automobile Service.


When members of the Committee wish to visit their formations they should make a request to the Commanding General-in-Chief (Direction des Services Automobiles).


1 French officer of the automobile service.

2 Representatives of the American Field Service who will receive the rations applicable to the rank of sub-lieutenant to the exclusion of all other pay. These representatives will have the title of Commandant-Adjoint and Sous-Chef of section and will have the right to officers' billets.

1 Maréchal des logis (Sergeant)---French
1 Brigadier fourrier (Corporal) ----French
2 chauffeurs----French

40 American volunteers at the maximum

2 American mechanics

A minimum of 22 ambulances---furnished by Americans

1 repair truck ---furnished by Americans

Director of the Automobile
Service of the General
Inspector General of the
American Ambulance
Field Service

The signing of this agreement at General Joffre's Headquarters marked the transition to a new development of American aid to France. It initiated direct coöperation with the combatant French armies in the advanced zone. But it did more than that, for it actually incorporated American volunteer units in the French Army under the authority and control of French General Headquarters. It meant the beginning of a new undertaking which was destined to develop rapidly, and to play a considerable rôle long before, and indeed, after, America's formal entry into the war. The date of the signing of this agreement has ever since been considered to mark the commencement of the American Field Service, as a distinct organization with functions, relations, and a personnel of its own.

So began the American Field Service in France, or the American Ambulance Field Service, as it was at first called, an American volunteer formation functioning as an integral part of the armies of France. The agreement once signed, appeals were immediately sent out to American universities for recruits; committees were organized in these universities and in different American cities to collect funds for the purchase of ambulances and equipment and for their upkeep; and before the end of 1915 we were able to offer to the French Army four complete sections, each composed of twenty ambulances and other appurtenant cars, a contingent sufficient to handle all of the sanitary transport of four French divisions.


As to the personnel, the agreement with the French Army had stipulated that each section should have not more than forty American volunteers, that being the customary number in a French ambulance section, allowing two drivers for a car; but, as in the early months we had no redundant supply of volunteers, and as those whom we had, were eager for, and capable of, hard work, the first sections were sent out with only twenty-five or thirty American members, which meant, in principle, one man for each automobile with a small reserve for special duties or for relief in case of sickness, accident, or furlough. In addition the French Army attached to each section from two to four French soldiers, nominally to serve as orderlies and drivers for the French staff, but practically these soldiers did the work of cooks and general handy-men for the sections. The French officer attached to the section was the intermediary through whom orders from the French Army were transmitted to the section, and by him the numerous reports, accounts, and other papers required in the French Army were prepared and handed over to the French authorities. In the latter work he was assisted by two French noncommissioned officers, likewise detailed to the section.

Thus, each section had, in addition to its American personnel of about thirty members, a French personnel of from five to seven members. The American Field Service officer, officially known as the Commandant-Adjoint, was charged with the enforcement of the orders and the maintenance of discipline within the section. In theory such a division of responsibility and command between two officers of different nationalities might easily have led to conflicts of authority and friction between the two, yet, as a matter of fact, during the long history of the Field Service instances of such disagreements were rare. The French officers assigned to the American sections were carefully selected, not merely for their competence and training, but for their tact and familiarity with American character and customs, and in most of our sections the relations between the French and American officers were characterized not only by mutual confidence and respect, but by intimacy and comradeship. Differences of language and nationality counted not at all in the old Field Service sections. French and American members were comrades, sharing the same life, working for the same cause, taking equal pride in their joint accomplishment. The sections, in fact, were more like large families than military formations, the officers and men, whether French or American, eating together, if not at the same table, at least in the same room, and calling each other not infrequently by familiar names rather than by formal titles.

For the information of the reader and as a matter of record it is perhaps worth while to explain how the expenses of all ambulance section were divided between its members, the Field Service organization, and the French Army. The volunteer members were expected to provide their own uniforms, clothing and personal equipment, and to arrange their own travelling expenses from their homes in America to France, and at the end of their enlistment, from France to their homes. Aside from this, practically everything was provided for them. The Field Service furnished board and lodging for the men during their period of training and when in Paris on leave, or when returning to America. It made also an allowance of two francs per day for each man in active service to supplement the regular French Army rations. It provided the ambulances, trucks, trailers, staff cars, spare parts, car and section equipment, tents, tools, etc. It repaired the cars that were damaged in its own repair shops, from which it also replenished the sections with new cars, tools, and parts as occasion required. The French Army furnished to the sections the gasoline, oil, and tires consumed by the cars, and provided regular army rations and lodgings for the men and officers in the field. It also paid to the volunteers the regular pay of French soldiers which, during the early years of the war, averaged about five cents daily per man. It should be added that the French Army was notably generous in its treatment of our sections, giving them preference wherever possible in the assignment of quarters, and detailing to them, not merely excellent officers, but, what was equally appreciated, excellent French cooks.


THE principle of an ambulance service in the French Army being established, a pressing question was the finding and establishment of an appropriate base. The four sections which we were able to send out in 1915 were distributed at intervals along the French front all the way from Flanders to Alsace. Their work had no relation with the work of the American Hospital at Neuilly, which was more than two hundred miles distant from the nearest section, and which received its wounded, not by motor ambulance, but by rail from the army zone. The problems of these sections were those of motor transport as part of the Automobile Service of the French Army, and had nothing to do with surgery and medical work, as will be explained in a subsequent paragraph. The Field Service, with a quite distinct work to perform in a quite different region, with its own special funds, its own committees in America, and its own staff in France, needed space and freer opportunity to develop. Inevitably it was bound to follow the example of other American œuvres de guerre and become a completely independent entity. The umbilical cord, which at the outset had bound it to the American Hospital, had to be cut if it was to undergo any considerable growth.

For nearly a year we continued to use as our Paris office a small room in an outhouse in the grounds of the American Hospital in Neuilly, with a small attic in the main building as a dormitory for the men en route to the front. Early in 1916, however, after months of persistent search, we found, with great good fortune, the spacious and historic property at 21 rue Raynouard in picturesque old Passy, and this estate, thanks to the munificence of the French family who owned it, the Hottinguers, was placed at our disposal gratuitously for the duration of the war. Here were not only plenty of rooms for offices and stores, but adequate dormitory and messing quarters for two or three hundred men, a separate building for an infirmary, and large grounds in which scores of cars could be parked, hundreds of men drilled, and numerous sections organized. This, with two neighboring buildings at 5 rue Lekain, temporarily loaned by the same benefactors during the period or our greatest activity in 1917, became the heart and centre of the Field Service, and continued so to serve during the remaining three years of the war.

Thus was another problem of the Field Service solved. A satisfactory base was found, and indeed a veritable home established about which will ever cluster the grateful memories of several thousand members who at one time or another enjoyed its sheltering comfort. The importance of the step is indicated by the fact that although, when the change of base was made in 1916, there were only five sections in the field, a year later the number had increased to forty-seven sections serving with the French armies at the front.


IN connection with the separation of the American Field Service from the American Hospital, it is perhaps appropriate to digress for a moment in order to draw attention to a fundamental difference between the French and American Armies in regard to the relation of the ambulance sections to the medical service. As our sections were with the French Army, it was inevitable that we conform with the French system which involves much greater independence between the two services. In the American Army the automobile ambulances form part of the Medical Corps, and their supply, repair, and upkeep are directed by medical officers. In the French Army, however, such vehicles are not subject to the medical service in these respects, but are assimilated with other motor vehicles, and entrusted to a special branch of the army known as the Automobile Service, which provides and maintains every sort of motor-car used by the infantry, the artillery, and all other branches of the army, including the medical corps. This service had its own system of schools for the purpose of training its officers and men, its own organization centres, repair and revision parks and supply dépôts of various sorts, which served alike all automobiles no matter what their functions might be, whether for the transport of troops, material, or wounded.

The use of the automobile for the rapid transportation of wounded, which had reached no considerable development before the great European war, rendered possible in this war the surgical treatment of wounded under much more favorable circumstances than in previous wars. Its adoption, however, inevitably suggested many modifications in the tables of organization of the army medical service, modifications which were not so thoroughly recognized in the American Army as in that of France. In the American Army, motor-ambulances were driven, looked after, and supervised by men with medical training, just as had been the horse-drawn ambulances of other wars, the assumption being that with long distances between dressing-stations and hospitals, such as were familiar in Mexico and the Philippines, surgical or medical treatment might be advantageously administered en route. Such conditions did not exist when motor-cars decimated distance, and above all in France with its complex network of railroads and its closely grouped towns and villages in which hospitals could be established. Surgical and medical training had, therefore, no part to play in the ambulance service in France. The French Army discovered at the very beginning of the war that the only rôle of this service was to get the wounded as rapidly and comfortably as possible from the battle-line to a field hospital, usually only a few miles back, where they could receive proper treatment under advantageous conditions. What was required of an ambulance section was to furnish to the Division, wherever and whenever required, motor-ambulances in sufficient number, adequately supplied with gasoline, tires, and spare parts, properly looked after by motor mechanics, and properly handled by experienced drivers. From the French point of view it, was as illogical to expect doctors and surgeons to accomplish this work successfully as it would be to ask automobile experts to do surgical and medical work in the dressing-stations and hospitals. The divisional surgeon in the French Army had a certain number of ambulances and drivers, under the command of an automobile officer, placed at his disposal by the Automobile Service. The surgeons decided the daily work to be performed by the section, but they had nothing whatsoever to do either with its internal administration and discipline or with the upkeep of its membership and material.



A division of the French Army normally included three infantry regiments and an artillery regiment, each of which had its own sanitary formation of stretcher-bearers and doctors, who gave hasty dressings at the first-aid shelters. In addition the division had its own corps of surgeons, doctors, attendants, and stretcher-bearers (G.B.D., Groupe des Brancardiers Divisionnaire), who maintained at least one central dressing-station or poste de secours, where reëxaminations were made and, when necessary, further treatment given, and who served as a reserve for the regimental postes. In addition the divisional corps maintained a mobile hospital unit, which served as a sorting-station (triage), assigning cases according to their nature and gravity to particular hospitals in the rear not attached to the division.

Where conditions of the terrain allowed, motor ambulances brought wounded directly from the regimental first-aid shelters, but ordinarily the wounded were brought from these shelters to the G.B.D. postes by hand, or upon stretchers slung on a light two-wheeled frame. The ambulances then carried them back to the triage, and from there again to the base or evacuation hospitals.

The French system of entrusting the supply and maintenance of motor material to an especially trained corps, proved not only efficient, but of marked advantage. In fact so manifest were its advantages that when subsequently the American Army came to France, many of its higher officers perceived the superiority of the French system and tried to incorporate in the Ambulance Service of the United States Army the principles of organization which had already been tested by three years' actual service in France, both by the French army ambulance sections and by our American volunteer sections as well. Almost a year after the arrival of the American troops in France a Motor Transport Corps was in fact established as a department of the United States Army, and it was based in the main on the French model. The war came to an end, however, before the plans to incorporate the American motor ambulance sections in this corps had been adopted.


BUT to return to the Field Service, one other problem presented itself in the early days, the proper solution of which seems simple enough in retrospect, but which at the moment was not without its perplexities. This was the question of the kind of ambulance to be employed, and its decision furnished a distinct technical contribution to the machinery of the war. During our first months of effort many generous friends in America and in France offered to turn over to us automobiles of diverse makes, and several such cars were actually sent over from America, equipped as ambulances, with every device employed by vehicles of that. name in American cities. Various automobile dealers in America also wrote offering to present us without charge new cars of their manufacture, and one firm of considerable standing even promised to donate cars for an entire section. At a time when the Field Service was in an incipient and indigent condition, such offers were decidedly tempting, since they opened the way to a rapid and immediate development. It was not, therefore, without initial hesitation that we decided to reject such offers.

The difficulties, however, attendant upon the utilization of such gifts far outweighed any obvious advantages, as the later experience of other ambulance formations abundantly proved. Ambulances made in America were not constructed for war work. They were not designed to carry the largest number of cases in the least possible space, nor arranged to carry the stretchers upon which seriously wounded cases are transported in the army. Such ambulances had to be completely reconstructed in France before they could be of any use on the front. But what was far more serious, it was impossible to procure or keep on hand spare parts of every sort for a great variety of different automobile types. If an ambulance service was to function promptly and without interruption, it must be composed of cars for the repair of which stocks of interchangeable spare parts were always available. Uniformity in the type of cars used was, therefore, a prerequisite of efficiency.

We decided, accordingly, at an early date, not to accept gifts of miscellaneous cars and to limit our service to not more than two types of automobiles. Each section would be given two heavy cars (two- or three-ton trucks), of a uniform make, one to be fitted out as a workshop with simple machinery, hand tools, and a stock of spare parts for the section's ambulances, the other to be equipped as an ambulance with benches for fifteen or twenty sitting cases, to be used in case of heavy evacuations in the rear, and also to serve for the transportation of tents and other heavy section equipment when the section moved from one locality to another. One of these cars was to be used also to trail a specially designed rolling kitchen, with which each section was provided, a kitchen fitted up like a small room on wheels with a stove, bins for coal, wood, and flour, shelves and hooks for pots and kettles, drawers and cupboards for meat, vegetables, canned foods, and smaller articles, all arranged after the manner of a gypsy wagon, so that it could be drawn up by the roadside, or before any cantonment, and a hot meal quickly prepared without other installation or shelter.

As for the ambulances which were to constitute the main body of the section, we initiated an experiment which at the outset was considered by many of doubtful expediency, but which proved in the end so eminently successful that it was adopted by other formations, and in particular by a large department of the United States Army when that army came to France. The French and British Armies had employed only heavy motors for their ambulance services, cars equipped to carry from four to six lying cases or eight to ten sitting cases; but there were certain disadvantages in these cars. Under the usual conditions of trench warfare wounded did not arrive at dressing-stations in such numbers, and the result was, either that wounded were held at the postes until a sufficient number had arrived to make a load, or that the ambulance had to make its run half empty. On the other hand, in moments of heavy offensive or defensive operations, when wounded were arriving in large numbers, the roads were so encumbered with traffic that a heavy ambulance, being unable to slip in and out of the convoys, had to keep its place in the endless procession of slow-moving trucks, artillery, supply wagons, and marching troops, thus prolonging painfully the suffering of the soldier en route to the surgeon and the hospital.

From the point of view of adaptation to the service a light, small car seemed preferable. From the point of view of transport from America, it offered the additional advantage of occupying less space on the cargo ships, when such space was precious and difficult to obtain. Moreover, such cars were less expensive, and this was also a point to be considered when we had not the financial backing of any government, or of any widely organized institution such as the Red Cross. So we adopted the Ford motor for the standard ambulances, and in the years before the United States Government was lending its support to the Allied cause, we imported into France approximately twelve hundred such chassis. Here let it be said that in doing so we received no favor or assistance from their manufacturer, who with his peculiar ideas of philanthropy, was averse to giving any assistance to war activities, even to the relief of suffering entailed by war. From him we could obtain not even the favor of wholesale rates in the purchase of cars and parts, and for every Ford car and for every Ford part imported from America, in those difficult days before America came into the war, we were obliged to pay, not the dealer's price, but the full market price charged to ordinary retail buyers.

Each section then was endowed with the following material: twenty small Ford ambulances actually in the field; two such ambulances in reserve; a Ford staff car; a light repair car (Ford) carefully designed to carry an assortment of spare parts and to make emergency repairs on the road; a large repair car (two-ton truck) equipped with workbench, forge, vises, and other tools to make heavy repairs in the cantonment; a two-ton truck arranged to carry from fifteen to twenty sitting cases and used especially for evacuating lightly wounded or gas cases from the hospitals to the trains; a kitchen trailer with stove and cooking-utensils; and three tents capable of furnishing living, dining, and sleeping facilities for the men.


THE ambulance bodies we had constructed for us in France. On account of the short-wheel base of the Ford, the bodies projected far beyond the rear wheels, which gave them a characteristic, not to say, amusing, appearance. But this very fact had two compensating advantages. First, the ears could be manœuvred in traffic and turned around with surprising ease in a very small space. Second, by reinforcing the rear spring, and lifting it above the axle on specially made high perches so that the rear axle was protected against possible bumps from the loaded body, the overhang resulted in an unusually comfortable suspension of the ambulance, even when running on very rough roads.

Gradually, and after much experimentation, a light ambulance body was developed by the Field Service of such dimensions that it could comfortably accommodate three lying or five sitting cases, and at a pinch could carry seven or even eight sitting cases. The design provided for the utmost economy of space, and although the cubical content was perhaps not more than half that of the body of an ordinary ambulance of the kind constructed to carry four stretchers, our cars could carry three. Letting down the rear gate, two stretchers could be slid in on the floor of the car, and the third on ingeniously contrived tracks above. When not in use these tracks folded up and rested flat against the sides of the ambulance, while two seats, which were also folded against the walls of the car, could be instantly dropped into position, and the car transformed in a moment into an ambulance for four sitting cases. In addition to these, room was provided, by specially constructed seats placed outside near the driver, for three more sitters, making it possible in clement weather to carry three lying and three sitting cases on each trip. In emergencies as many as eight wounded men have been carried at one time, the running-boards and mud-guards serving as extra seats and racks for the soldiers' equipment. An ambulance loaded like this was an interesting sight. The driver seemed almost buried under his freight; he had not an inch of room more than was necessary for the control of his car. Covered with mud, blood-stained, with startlingly white bandages against their tanned skin, with puttees loose and torn, their heavy boots and shapeless uniforms gray from exposure, and with patient, suffering faces still bearing the shock of bombardment, these heaps of wounded rolled slowly from the postes de secours to shelter and care.

In the earliest of our ambulance bodies the walls and top were made of painted canvas which had the obvious advantage of being light; but canvas walls could not be easily cleansed and disinfected, nor could they be made to exclude wind and dust and winter's cold. So after a few unsuccessful experiments with an extra canvas lining, we abandoned the lighter covering altogether and substituted matched boarding of tough mahogany for the sides and top, and this we continued to use until the end of the war.


Side view showing sheet-iron apron and canvas storm-curtains to protect driver, top rack for spare tires, side-box for tools and gasoline reserves, also front panel which swings open, allowing driver to arrange pillows for, or give water to, wounded on stretchers. Rear view showing folding third stretcher tracks, folding seats, rack on wall for folded stretcher, holes in front wall and canvas pockets in rear door for extra long stretcher-handles, folding step to aid in entering.


During three years the Field Service ambulance was undergoing incessant adaptation and improvement of detail. In it were gradually incorporated many contrivances, suggested by experience, for the comfort of the wounded, for the protection of the driver against bad weather, and for the orderly storage of stretchers, tools, and reserves of oil, gasoline, tubes, and tires. Some of these can be seen on the accompanying illustrations, but it would take a long chapter by itself to call attention to all of them, with their evolution and the reasons therefor.(1) It suffices to say that the Field Service model, which was the product of so much experiment and thought, was subsequently adopted by several French ambulance formations as well as by the Russians, Roumanians, and Serbians, and eventually by the United States Army Ambulance Service, but not by the latter until several thousand Ford ambulances of an inconvenient and less practical model had been sent to France. We sent over a finished model to the United States in 1917 which was exhibited in many cities, and as a result, light ambulances built upon the Field Service plan are now also widely used in this country for civilian work.

The success of the Field Service ambulances answered every apprehension and exceeded every anticipation. They could travel over roads impossible to other motor vehicles. They could climb the narrow zigzag mountain paths of Alsace, where up to that time the wounded had only been carried on muleback or in horse-drawn carts. They could skim over and pull through the muddy plains of Flanders. They could work their way in and out among passing convoys, and if they were on a blocked road they could pull their way through the adjacent fields. If on a dark night one of our ambulances ran into a ditch, or dropped into a shell-hole, it only required the help of three or four passing soldiers to lift out the car and set it again on the road. The advantages of these ambulances were particularly evident during the great battle of Verdun in 1916, where they attracted favorable comment from many observers. Among such comments may be cited the following excerpt from the London Daily Telegraph:

For fully three months, until railways could be built, France kept up this endless chain of four thousand autos, two thousand moving up one side of the roadway from Bar-le-Duc as the other two thousand moved on the opposite side from Verdun. The four thousand automobiles included also the ambulance autos which brought back the wounded. Many of these were urgent cases, and yet these ambulances could only move at the established rate of one yard per second. Hundreds of lives would have been lost had it not been for the sections of the American Field Service stationed at Verdun. Equipped with small, light, speedy cars, capable of going almost anywhere and everywhere that the heavy French auto-ambulances could not go, the "rush" surgical cases were given to these American drivers. They were not given a place in the endless chain, but were allowed to dart into the intervening space of sixty feet maintained between the cars, and then make their way forward as best they could. When an open field offered, they left the road entirely, and, driving across, would come back into line when they could go no farther and await another chance for getting ahead. They were able to bring the wounded down from Verdun often twice as fast as those who came in the regular ambulances, and always without ever committing the one great error upon which the life of France depended, the tying up for a single instant of the endless chain of the four thousand automobiles of Verdun.

It was immediately after this demonstration of the superiority of our light Field Service ambulances in the Verdun battle, that the Commander-in-Chief of the French Army requested two Field Service sections to be sent to the Balkans to serve with French troops on the Serbian and Albanian front in regions where roads were sometimes little more than river-beds.

In such manner, then, were solved the three principal problems of the formative days in France. The French Army had adopted the Field Service as a part of itself. The Service had become a full-fledged entity with an establishment of its own. Its tables of organization had been determined and its type of equipment adopted and tested. The lines had been staked out along which its future might develop. That future, however, depended primarily upon the response from America.



1. We may cite one or two detailed instances to illustrate the way in which the Field Service model was perfected. For example we had designed our ambulance interiors to fit the official standard French stretchers, and, both in order to economize space and to prevent the stretchers from slipping, the dimensions were trimmed to a close fit. Great was our subsequent dismay to find stretchers at different points on the front varying in length and some with handles even a foot longer than the standard. To meet this difficulty which would sometimes have necessitated the painful transfer of a wounded soldier from one stretcher to another, we had openings cut in the front wall of the ambulance under the driver's seat and folding oilcloth pockets inserted in the rear door and curtains into which obstreperous stetcher-handles might protrude. Thus the problem was solved without enlarging the body or increasing the weight of the car, and all our later cars were made with these devices.

Again, although the standard stretchers had wooden legs, one frequently met stretchers with iron legs which tore the floors of the cars as the stretchers were pushed in. To remedy this and prevent the roughening of the tracks, the particular boards in the floor and on the upper racks over which the stretcher legs slid, were replaced by strips of hard oak, which were left unpainted and were greased to facilitate the sliding of the stretchers in and out. This detail was also incorporated in all subsequently built cars. Small as it may seem, the absence of this provision in many United States Army cars sent to France caused much inconvenience.

Introduction, con't

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