The Infrastructure of the American Ambulance
in the United States

Before the War, the American Hospital of Paris drew their moral and financial support primarily from the American Colony of Paris,---although the institution itself had legal representation in the United States where it had been incorporated under the laws of the State of New York. This latter fact would greatly assist the U.S. partisans of the new American Ambulance in sending back to France the dollars they raised for their cause.

There was already a long tradition in the United States of charitable fund-raising, spreading across the United States and organized into local chapters. The precedent of the U.S. Sanitary Commission----and its Sanitary Fairs----is noteworthy.

The American Hospital needed vast sums of money to accomplish its purpose of first bringing the American Ambulance into being and then keeping up with the demand for its services. It also needed qualified medical personnel. Both were to come in a steady stream from the United States thanks to the hard fund-raising and recruiting work of many----particularly the Herricks, after they returned home in December of 1914.

The Ambulance's Transportation Committee, which had started off with the 10 Fords donated by Mrs. Vanderbilt, soon embarked on fund-raisings efforts of its own. In Boston, for example, where the Ambulance "chapter" was located in the law offices of Lee & Higginson, a campaign was launched to induce institutions----colleges in particular----to underwrite the cost of a "motor-ambulance".

One nearby secondary school ----Phillips Academy, Andover--- responded immediately:

During the fall of 1914, through Dr. Stearns's initiative, the sum of $750 was subscribed, in three equal parts, by the Trustees, the Faculty, and the student body, to provide a completely equipped Ford Ambulance, for foreign service. So far as can be ascertained, Phillips Academy was the first American preparatory school to join in this movement for relieving wounded soldiers. What was actually accomplished is told briefly by Mr. Frank H. Mason, of the American Hospital at Paris, in a letter to Dr. Stearns:

"It will doubtless interest you to know that the Motor Ambulance which you generously contributed to the transportation service of the American Ambulance Hospital of Paris, bears your name and is numbered 127 of our series. It forms part of the section of ten ambulances which was assigned in December last to duty with the Allied Army at St. Maurice, on the eastern portion of the firing line, where they have transported thousands of wounded and rendered services so efficient and valuable as to earn the highest commendation and grateful appreciation of the military authorities."

The first driver was Mr. Eustace L. Adams of St. Lawrence University, who described most entertainingly some of the rough experiences through which he passed.

Claude Moore Fuess. "Phillips Academy in Wartime" in Phillips Academy, Andover in the Great War, New Haven: Yale, 1919

At this point, one might liken the organization of the new Ambulance to a tree with its chapter roots drawing sustenance from the United States, its administrative trunk and committee branches channeling the volunteer activities in Paris----with the "leaves" representing the highly-visible individuals, such as the ambulance drivers.

This would be the starting conditions for Henry Sleeper's work, after his friend Piatt Andrew had established the organizing principles for the Ambulance's "Field Service."

Stephen Galatti later described it this way:

"When Doc arrived in France be found that the American Hospital had a detachment of ambulances to do evacuation work, and some cars back of the front in Belgium. The French had no idea of allowing neutrals any closer. But Andrew saw something that no one at that time could visualize. He saw Americans sharing hardships, danger, mixing with the soldiers at the front. He knew what a link that would be between America and France. He would not be rebuffed, and found his way to French Headquarters, where he had a friend, Gabriel Puaux. He pleaded with him of the great morale effect of having these Americans at the front and finally got permission to go to Commandant de Montravel, then stationed in the east. Here again he had to use the force of his argument that he wasn't interested simply in getting a few men at the front, but that its importance lay in that it would attract more and more American youths to come to France. He won his point, and the Service aux Armées de l'Ambulance Américaine became a reality.

"And in early 1915, with this settled, funds had to be gotten, so he went about it in his direct way---got on a steamer and went to Harry Sleeper and imbued him, a willing friend, with his vision of what America could do---so much so that Harry dedicated his life for those years to a magnificent accomplishment of financial and recruiting organization.

"Day and night for three years---the incessant details and the constant creation---the construction and improvement of the ambulances---the perfecting and organizing of supplies for cars and men---the relationship with the French Army and officers at the front and rear---the problems of ever-shifting volunteers---the constant necessary contact with the United States---nothing was too small not to be looked after, nothing was too large to be conceived and put into motion. I want you to see him as I did and you all couldn't. Your job was at the front. But it was his vitality, imagination, and strength of purpose that got you there, kept watching over you while you were there, and so often got you attached to the right division--got the funds to keep you there. And all the time the American Field Service was growing until nearly 3,000 volunteers were serving, with their own supplies, and functioning with marvelous efficiency---really a great undertaking when you realize that men, money, and supplies came from all over the United States across the ocean to France, and that the sections were then scattered throughout the French front---all this conceived and co-ordinated by 'Doc' Andrew.

J. Paulding Brown. "The First Months of the American Ambulance in the Field" in George Rock, History of the American Field Service, 1920-1955, New York: Platen, 1956

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Henry Sleeper's description:

History of the American Field Service in France, "Friends of France," 1914-1917, Told by its Members. Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1920. Volume I: "The Effort in America"

"We had a good cause, an unusually sympathetic means of operation, but at that time no affiliation in this country on which we had a right to depend for any large or responsible effort. A way of winning friendship, a competent organization, and a considerable fund had therefore all to be achieved --- and quickly."