Saturday, April 27, 2013

The first American Ambulance

1870 saw the beginning of the Franco-Prussian War and the expansion of "Red Cross" work--- the consequence of the Geneva Convention of 1864.  In Paris, the American Colony, in the person of its most famous member, the illustrious dentist Thomas W. Evans, set up, organized and ran a temporary military hospital under tents----the first "American Ambulance".   The equipment mostly came from Evans' collection of US Sanitary Commission supplies, which had been used during the American Civil War.  As Evans himself was absent, the hospital was under the direction of his righthand man, Dr. Crane, and the medical direction of Dr. John Swinburne.   It proved to be a teaching hospital and its success paved the way for the American Colony's great American Ambulance of 1914-1918.

The American Ambulance of Paris

The Lycée Pasteur. not yet completed in the summer of 1914, became the site of a temporary military hospital----an "ambulance"--- organized, financed and run through the nearby American Hospital of Paris---- both located in Neuilly-sur-Seine, a western suburb of Paris.  Medical units were detached from American teaching universities----beginning with the University of Chicago and Harvard--- to provide care, supplemented by volunteers.  A notable nurse amongst the latter was Mrs. W.K. Vanderbilt, who furnished the first ten Model-T Fords used by the hospital's Transportation Service.


Service in the field. The French Army Photographic Service made these films of the Field Service in action---- which were later used to great effect in recruiting drivers back in the United States.

21 Rue Raynouard

AFS HQ.  In the summer of 1916, the Field Service finally freed itself from the constraints of its mother organization, the American Ambulance, moving from cramped quarters at the Lycée Pasteur in Neuilly to the spacious grounds of 21 Rue Raynouard, in the Passy section of Paris.   This boasted a "château" manor house, a Swiss chalet (the infirmary), underground caves, an ample space under the chestnut grove to set up tents and store ambulances....


Julian Green's unit.  The boy was only 16 when his father took him over to "21" to sign up.  His parents were American, but he had been born and raised in France---- ultimately to become a noted French author and member of the French Academy.   His experience in the field was short, but it marked him---- as it did all his American comrades.

The Field

Devastation: buildings and men.  The experience of men on the battlefield whose mission was to save lives.


Volunteer ambulance drivers.  The faces of many of the young men who drove ambulances for the American (Ambulance) Field Service in 1916.


The Lafayette Flying Corps.  In 1916, a group of American volunteer pilots were formed into what was to be called the "Escadrille Lafayette"--- pioneers from the volunteer combatants who had been integrated into the French Foreign Legion.   Dr. Edmund Gros, medical officer of the American Field Service, now located at 21 Rue Raynouard in the Passy section of Paris, recruited many ambulance drivers under his care---- all of whom went on to furnish almost a third of the Escadrille's personnel.  These drivers felt that they had not been doing enough for their host country, and wanted to get more involved.  Some joined other units than the Escadrille---- so the entire group of American volunteer pilots, whatever their assignment, is known as the "Lafayette Flying Corps."


James R. McConnell.  The first alumnus of the University of Virginia to fall on the battlefields of WW1.  McConnell had first been an ambulance driver for SSU2, and then one of the pioneer members of the Lafayette Escadrille.  He was shot down over the lines in March of 1917.  The statue is the work of Gutzon Borglum, best known for the presidents' head of Mount Rushmore.

Trucking to the Trenches.

The TMU units.  As soon as the United States had entered the war as a combatant, the head of the French Army Automobile Service requested that the AFS help with combat drivers---- that is, men who would drive their supply trucks carrying munitions and troops.  This the AFS gladly did, although the work did not have the glamor and appeal of ambulance work.  The AFS truckers----"camionneurs" in French--- were organized into TMU units (as opposed to the SSU ambulance ones).


The Federalized Ambulance Service. When the United States finally entered the war in 1917, the French and British sent a commission to coordinate joint operations with their new allies.   Asked by the Americans how they could help immediately---- the American Army was not yet ready--- the French requested that the Americans follow the example of their volunteer ambulance services (which had been in the field since 1914).  This led to the creation of the United States Army Ambulance Corps, 10 times the size of the existing AFS, which absorbed most of the volunteer personnel.   The men were mostly recruited from colleges in the US, were trained at Fort Crane in Allentown, PA.   They served the French Army and therefore are to be distinguished from the American ambulance units serving the American Expeditionary Forces.


The Devastated Regions. The areas northeast of Paris, occupied by the Germans for most of WW1, was over 90% destroyed.  Amongst the many efforts to rebuild and revitalize this part of France, those of the CARD (Comité américain pour les régions dévastées), a small group of American women working under the direction of Anne Tracy Morgan and Anne Murray Dike, were outstanding.  One of the notable dimensions of this work concerned the cooperatives which grew up in this agricultural region--- referred to in the name which Miss Morgan gave to the museum which grew out of her headquarters at the Château de Blérancourt:  the Musée de la Coopération franco-américaine.

North Africa

With the great British 8th Army. Having traditionally served the French Army, AFS was a little at loose ends after the fall of France in the summer of 1940.  But then it got going again, first by joining the Hadfield-Spears unit, first sent to the Middle East; and then becoming attached, as it had been with the French, to the British 9th and 8th Armies.   AFS took part in all the major battles of North Africa, notably El Alamein.   There was a small group, a spinoff from the Hadfield-Spears, which continued to serve the Free French, attached to the British.


Italy  After operations were wrapped up in Tunisia, AFS followed the British 8th Army (and the American 5th, to which some British units were attached) on into Italy, landing in Taranto and participating in the entire campaign, including the battles of Cassino and Anzio....


With the British 14th Army. Given AFS's successes in service the British 9th Army in the Middle East and especially the 8th Army in North Africa, it was asked to send drivers to operations in India-Burma. From its initiation to the exotic setting of India, to its hard work in the jungles of Burma, AFS volunteers once again showed their best.   They found themselves mostly driving Jeeps, reminiscent of the Model-T's of WW1.


Museum of Franco-American Cooperation. First opened on the grounds of the Château of Blérancourt (which had been the headquarters of Anne Morgan's CARD) after the death of Anne Murray Dike, the museum eventually expanded to include a Pavilion of the Volunteers, opened in September of 1938, which celebrated the work of both the American Field Service and the Lafayette Escadrille.  World War 2 saw this little national museum "fall asleep" until Pierre Rosenberg, curator at the Louvre, "woke it up" again---- now with an emphasis on artwork.  To do this, he enlisted the help of a new group, The American Friends of Blérancout, which supplemented the work (and the funding) of the old "Amis de Blérancourt."   The Volunteer Pavilion was transformed into the Florence Gould Pavilion, featuring the artwork of American artists who had studied in France and French artists who had worked in America. The old AFS exhibitions were now moved to the basement area, still featuring "Hunk 'o Tin".   Outside, an area was dedicated to the memory of AFS:  the "jardin du souvenir", dominated by the bust of its founder, A. Piatt Andrew.

Steve Galatti

Stephen Paul Galatti, born in New Jersey, came from a venerable family of Greek nobles, originally from the island of Chios--- of tragic fate under Turkish rule.  His great grandfather had been one of the hostages hung in the public square during the uprising of 1823.  His father was a cotton trader and, following tradition, sent his sons to the best schools of his host country.  Steve and his brother both went to St. Mark's and then Harvard where Steve was a football star.  The elder Galatis (Greek spelling) moved back to Europe in 1914 where Steve's father died in July, just before the outbreak of war.  At the prompting of some of his college classmates, Steve joined the newly formed American Ambulance Field Service as part of SSU3, the "Section de l'Alsace Reconquise", mostly composed of Harvard students.  By the end of the year, he was called back to AFS HQ in Neuilly to become A. Piatt Andrew's righthand man.  Thereafter, he would always be at the heart of AFS operations, the natural leader after Andrew's death in 1936.  In 1939, he revived the Field Service for work first in France, then in the Middle East and North Africa, now part of the British Army.  After the war, he continued to pilot the Field Service as it pioneered a new form of international service:  student exchanges.   Under his direction, this proved to be a great success.  He died in the summer of 1964,

A. Piatt Andrew

A. Piatt Andrew.  His family was from Indiana.  He was schooled at Lawrenceville, at Princeton and at Harvard University where he then taught economics.  He played a key role in the development of the Federal Reserve through his participation in the Aldrich Commission.  In 1915, he organized the groups of volunteer ambulance drivers detached from the American Ambulance of Paris, by having them integrated into the French Army Ambulance Service--- thus marking the beginning of what was to become the American Field Service.  After the War, he served in Congress.

A. Piatt Andrew Bridge

Gloucester Bridge:  It was dedicated in 1950 to the memory of A. Piatt Andrew, economist, member of the Taft Administration, member of the Aldrich Commission, founder of the American Field Service, representative in Congress for Massachusetts' Sixth District.

Red Roof

Red Roof: In 1907, A. Piatt Andrew built this home out on Eastern Point in Gloucester, Mass.  His friend, Henry Sleeper followed suit, with Beauport (now a museum) a few houses north.  Both were the founders of the American Field Service of WW1, Andrew overseeing operations in France while Sleeper managed the support system in the United States.  Before his death in 1936, Andrew had been Massachusetts' Sixth District representative in Congress.   Red Roof was then maintained by his sister, Helen Patch and her descendants ---but finally sold in 2012 and mostly torn down this year.