New Fields

Had the war in France continued, the new American Field Service would shortly have developed into a much larger organization. Each week several. hundred letters of application came in, each day some thirty or forty applicants came to the New York office (moved to 120 Broadway at the beginning of 1940), and in June some 60 volunteers were signed up and awaiting passage. Funds were coming in at an ever-increasing rate.

George Rock, "Interim Activities. England, Kenya, Greece and the Middle East", The History of the American Field Service, New York: Platen Press, 1956

"Tous et tout pour la France"? Through its work for the French Army, the Field Service had become identified in sentiment with France--but its roots went far deeper than that. The mythical Good Samaritan was not concerned with identity. Florence Nightingale had looked after the best interest of British soldiers, but her service was to mankind. The American Sanitary Commission had gone to the rescue of injured soldiers on the battlefield, but they paid no attention to uniforms. Henry Dunant put it in words: his proposed "societies for assistance to the war wounded" were international.

The boys of 1870 brought back French wounded to their American Ambulance---but in 1914-1918, the suffering men were of many origins: British, French, Moroccan, Senegalese, German and even American. In short, through its service to France, AFS put its emphasis on the job to be done--- to help save lives--- not on the ideas behind it. AFS's first motto had been "Acta Manent"----"Acts Show the Way." After the Great War, Piatt Andrew wrote:

The visible and outward body of the old Field Service is gone for ever. It exists today only in memory. The old Fords have been to their last posts, have carried their last freight of wounded poilus, have run on their last convoy and have passed to more banal purposes and to other hands. Their old drivers are home again or homeward bound. [...]

Yet the Field Service still lives and will live as long as the memory of any of us survives [...] let us try to make of the comradeship born of the last four years, not merely an association of veterans of the war that is past, but a living organisation with a vital purpose still to perform.

With an organisation perfected throughout the length and breadth of America, we ought not merely to establish clubs and arrange reunions to perpetuate the past. There are many other things we can do looking to the future.[...] In many such ways we can make the Old Field Service an active and important factor in promoting the same ends for which we have given ourselves in France, a factor which will continue to count in the world long after all of us are gone. .

Let us look forward as well as backward. The king is dead, long live the king!

A. Piatt Andrew. "Ave et Vale." in American Field Service Bulletin, Rue Raynouard Number, April 1919.

July 1940: "Le roi est mort! Vive le roi!" What new "king" would AFS now serve? What "vital purpose"?