Tous et Tout pour la France

Military, paramilitary, militant, militarized....

Team Players

American college boys were already struggling for their place in the light: they were young and ambitious, having proved themselves in the classroom or on the playing field. They were always ready to join their fellows in new adventures.


DINK STOVER, freshman, chose his seat in the afternoon express that would soon be rushing him to New Haven and his first glimpse of Yale University. [...]

He had just ended three years at Lawrenceville, where from a ridiculous beginning he had fought his way to the captaincy of the football eleven and the vice-presidency of the school. He had been the big man in a big school, and the sovereign responsibilities of that anointed position had been, of course, such that he no longer felt himself a free agent. He had been of the chosen, and not all at once could he divest himself of the idea that his slightest action had a certain public importance. [...]

And yet, he felt no lack of preparation. Looking back, he could honestly say to himself that where a year ago he had seen darkly now all was clear. He had found himself. He had gambled. He had consumed surreptitiously at midnight a sufficient quantity of sickening beer. He had consorted with men of uncontrollable passions and gone his steady path. He had loved, hopelessly, madly, with all the intensity and honesty of which he was capable, a woman --- a slightly older woman --- who had played with the fragile wings of his boy's illusion and left them wounded; he had fought down that weakness and learned to look on a soft cheek and challenging eye with the calm, amused control of a man, who invincibly henceforth would cast his life among men. There was not much knowledge of life, if any, that could come to him. He did not proclaim it, but quietly, as a great conviction, heritage of sorrow and smashing disillusionments, he knew it was so. He knew it all---he was a man; and this would give him an advantage among his younger fellows in the free struggle for leadership that was now opening to his joyful combative nature.

"It'll be a good fight, and I'll win," he said to himself, and his crossed arms tightened with a quick, savage contraction, as if the idea were something that could be pursued, tackled, and thrown headlong to the ground.

Owen Johnson. Stover at Yale. Toronto: Copp Clark. 1911.

Another condition belonging to the student is his sense of democracy. He is a member of a little group in which equals moving with equals represent the common lot. These men are a part of the great third estate. They are as pebbles flung together on the same beach by the hand of destiny to be rounded and polished by the same forces. The differences which divide men outside academic walls have a certain value; but the value is much smaller than ordinary humanity assigns. Wealth, social distinction, heritage of a noble name, militate quite as much against as for the student's timely advantage. The group as seen in a fraternity house represents the par inter pares. The floor of the classroom is built on one level, and that floor has only a few square feet. The college chapel, the table in the reading room, the benches in the chemical, and the physical, laboratory represent a community and an equality of interest. The gridiron and diamond stand for brotherhood and coöperation. These forces, outwardly and materially visible, are only the sign of the inward forces which unite. College men think together, even if not alike. They are moved by similar ambitions and stirred by like motives and ideals, even if the consummate achievement be not alike. A thousand or a hundred hearts beat as one. Therefore, a wave of patriotism touches segregated and separated individualities, and combines them into unities. One bugle call is heard by a thousand ears; one flag is seen by a thousand eyes. As Oliver Wendell Holmes said at a commencement of his Alma Mater, in the midst of the Civil War in 1863,--- "The hero in his laurels sits next to the divine rustling in the dry garland of his Doctorate. The poet in his crown of bays, the critic, in his wreath of ivy, clasp each other's hands, members of the same happy family. This is the birthday feast for every one of us whose forehead has been sprinkled from the font inscribed Christo et Ecclesiae. We have no badges but our diplomas, no distinctions but our years of graduation. This is the Republic carried into the University; all of us are born equal into this great fraternity."(1) The response, the reaction, the patriotic stimulus, work on the feeling of each and of every other man, reënforcing, increasing, magnifying, developing it. Excitement begets excitement. Thrill stirs thrill. Each man goes where others go, and the others go where each goes. The democracy of the group promotes the martial enrollment.

Charles F. Thwing. The American Colleges and Universities in the Great War. 1914-1919. New York: Macmillan. 1920.

Which Field? Which Uniform?

From August 1914 to April 1917, the United States remained officially neutral:


"They filed into my office with that timidity which frequently characterizes very courageous men, more afraid of seeming to show off than of any physical danger. They came to get my advice. They wanted to enlist in the French army. There were no protestations, no speeches; they merely wanted to fight, and they asked me if they had a right to do so, if it was legal. That moment remains impressed in my memory as though it had happened yesterday; it was one of the most trying in my whole official experience. I wanted to take those boys to my heart and cry, 'God bless you! Go!' But I was held back from doing so by the fact that I was an ambassador. But I loved them, every one, as though they were my own.

"I got out the law on the duties of neutrals; I read it to them and explained its passages. I really tried not to do more, but it was no use. Those young eyes were searching mine, seeking, I am sure, the encouragement they had come in the hope of getting. It was more than flesh and blood could stand, and catching fire myself from their eagerness, I brought my fist down on the table saying, 'That is the law, boys; but if I was young and stood in your shoes, by God I know mighty well what I would do.'

Col. T. Bentley Mott. Myron Herrick. Friend of France. An Autobiographical Biography. Garden City, New York. Doubleday, Doran & Company, Inc., 1929.


Foreign Legion

 
ambulance service


YMCA

 

On to Greater Heights

There seems to be a fascination to aviation, particularly when it is coupled with fighting. Perhaps it's because the game is new, but more probably because as a rule nobody knows anything about it. Whatever be the reason, adventurous young Americans were attracted by it in rapidly increasing numbers. Many of them, of course, never got fascinated beyond the stage of talking about joining. Among the chaps serving with the American ambulance field sections a good many imaginations were stirred, and a few actually did enlist, when, toward the end of the summer of 1915, the Ministry of War, finding that the original American pilots had made good, grew more liberal in considering applications.

Chouteau Johnson, of New York; Lawrence Rumsey, of Buffalo; Dudley Hill, of Peekskill, N. Y.; and Clyde Balsley, of El Paso; one after another doffed the ambulance driver's khaki for the horizon-blue of the French flying corps. All of them had seen plenty of action, collecting the wounded under fire, but they were all tired of being non-combatant spectators. More or less the same feeling actuated me, I suppose. I had come over from Carthage, N. C., in January, 1915, and worked with an American ambulance section in the Bois-le-Prêtre. All along I had been convinced that the United States ought to aid in the struggle against Germany. With that conviction, it was plainly up to me to do more than drive an ambulance. The more I saw the splendour of the fight the French were fighting, the more I felt like an embusqué-what the British call a "shirker." So I made up my mind to go into aviation.

James R. McConnell. Flying for France. With the American Escadrille at Verdun. Garden City, New York. Doubleday, Page & Company, 1919.


Dr. Edmund L. Gros


Taking to the Air

 

April 1917: Belligerents, Now


Yet our service was, in its own fashion, almost ideal. It provided us with fairly good food, a congenial occupation, furloughs to Paris and uniforms that admitted us to the best hotels. It permitted us to enjoy the once-in-a-lifetime spectacle of the Western Front. Being attached to the French army, it freed us from the severe and stupid forms of discipline then imposed on American shavetails and buck privates. It confronted us with hardships, but not more of them than it was exhilarating for young men to endure, and with danger, but not too much of it: seldom were there more than two or three serious casualties in a section during the year---and that was really the burden of our complaint. We didn't want to be slackers, embusqués. The war created in young men a thirst for abstract danger, not suffered for a cause but courted for itself; if later they believed in the cause, it was partly in recognition of the danger it conferred on them. Danger was a relief from boredom, a stimulus to the emotions, a color mixed with all others to make them brighter. There were moments in France when the senses were immeasurably sharpened by the thought of dying next day, or possibly next week. The trees were green, not like ordinary trees, but like trees in the still moment before a hurricane; the sky was a special and ineffable blue; the grass smelled of life itself; the image of death at twenty, the image of love, mingled together into a keen, precarious delight. And this perhaps was the greatest of the lessons that the war taught to young writers. It revivified the subjects that had seemed forbidden because they were soiled by many hands and robbed of meaning: danger made it possible to write once more about love, adventure, death. Most of my friends were preparing to follow danger into other branches of the army---of any army---that were richer in fatalities.

Malcolm Cowley. Exile's Return. A Literary Odyssey of the 1920s. New York: Penguin, 1951 (1934).


Réserve Mallet


Transition


Aviation & Artillery


AEF

 

Militarized

The taking over of the Service by the United States Army was not only to be desired, but for several reasons was inevitable. Our declaration of war and the subsequent preparations for sending over our expeditionary force, which involved strict draft regulations, had placed members of a volunteer organization at the front in a technically ambiguous position. While the record and standing of our ambulance drivers with the French Army was of the highest order, as the honors and citations conferred upon them testify, it was obvious that the work that they had undertaken voluntarily had since become an obligation. The changed circumstances made many hundred of our men feel that having fulfilled the original spirit of their intention, they were now free to enlist as they chose. During the subsequent months a large number entered artillery, aviation, or other branches of the army. About sixty per cent, however, remained as members of the ambulance and transport. More than a hundred of our men, with fine records and long experience, who were anxious to enlist for the duration of the war, were rejected on account of slight physical defect. Be it said to their credit, the majority of them subsequently entered the French Artillery School at Fontainebleau, and graduating in due course, became officers in the French Army.

The most potent factor, however, necessitating our enrolment in the United States National Army, was that when the first French commission arrived in Washington in May, 1917, General Joffre was asked by Surgeon-General Gorgas what immediate service the United States Army Medical Department could do for France. His reply was a request that the United States should undertake, as far as possible, the responsibility of caring for the wounded of the French armies at the front. A more satisfying tribute could scarcely have been paid the Field Service than this request that the work it had carried on in France for more than two years should be supplemented and entirely assumed by Americans. As a consequence, General Gorgas authorized, through the Secretary of War, the organization of the United States Army Ambulance Service at Allentown.

During the period of our transition from volunteer to regular service, our staffs offered the Army as complete coöperation as they were able, recruiting for it through our University committees, and all our offices, as long as it proved possible. If we could not, perhaps, wholly repress a sense of regret in having to yield all rights of administration, and the satisfaction which an intimate knowledge of each day's achievement in such work as this meant, it was compensation to remember that the Americans whose initiative and energy during the first three years had made so fine a record in France, and we whose opportunity it was to stand behind them, were able to turn over to our own Army at one of the greatest moments of need in its history, so useful an organization.

Henry D. Sleeper, in History of the American Field Service in France. Boston and New York. Houghton Mifflin Company, 1920.


Paris HQ


The Bulletin