George Rock. History of the American Field Service, 1920-1955.
New York 1956
ITALY 1: Termoli, Volturno-Monte Camino, Trigno-Sangro-Ortona.
(October 1943 to January 1944)
"As General Montgomery passed an ambulance on a road
at the front today, he stuck his head out of the window of his
staff car and, in his typically uninhibited manner, shouted 'The
American Field Service! Hooray!'"
ITALY 2: Garigliano, Anzio, Winter on the Adriatic (January to
"The Gustav Line, although turned at its eastern end,
held for the rest of its length. Stretching from Ortona on the
Adriatic to Minturno on the Tyrrhenian Sea, it was most favorable
to the enemy. Its hills and mountains offered a series of natural
obstacles across the width of Italy. There was no easy way to
break this line. It could be out-flanked only by sea, and on
land there was only one road along which an army could hope to
advance north to Rome. This was the valley of the Liri River,
a tributary of the Garigliano. The entrance to. this valley is
guarded by Monte Cassino---a rocky spur jutting abruptly from
the eastern mountains."
ITALY 3: Cassino to Rome (February to June 1944)
"Work with the Italians was something new. It was not
particularly arduous and offered striking differences to anything
before encountered. Evacuations were highly dramatic affairs,
sometimes involving an entire family, all expressing the deepest
emotion. Things shook down, of course. The early morning eye-opener
in the shape of a glass of brandy was not repeated, and ways
were discovered to deal with the language problem, even to using
German in a pinch. As consolation for any and all inconveniences,
the Italian cooks were said to perform miracles with the staid
ITALY 4: North to Florence (June to August 1944)
"From then on it was up to us. And the fellows who drove
those 30 cars did a wonderful job. They won us honorary membership
in the Division and the right to wear the famous Divisional insignia---on
our shoulders and on our ambulances. This singular distinction
for the AFS, was presented to me, as OC of the Platoon, at a
victory party celebrating the fall of Perugia. The rooms of Perugia's
best hotel were crowded with the men who had led the battle this
far. Champagne flowed. Suddenly I became aware of high officialdom
looming above me, chiefly by the way the conversation I was having
came to a dead stop. I was wearing the Div flash at the time
(not without some misgivings), and here was the General himself---a
huge man decorated with the ribbons of many campaigns and highest
gallantry in action. Before I could find my voice, which had
mysteriously disappeared, the General smiled down at the flash
and said: 'Bloody fine show! Tell all your lads to put it up.
They deserve it! Then, as he turned, he added: 'Oh, yes, if you
ever have any trouble staying with the Div . . . just come to
me and I'll arrange it. We'd like to have you with us as long
ITALY 5: The Gothic Line (August 1944 to March 1945)
"One thing pleases us very much: the Tommies invariably
say that the Yanks give them the smoothest rides of all the ambulances
they ride in. A smooth ride---or as smooth as humanly possible---is
one of the first notions you get in the AFS and it haunts you
all the time. You go slower over a road the longer you use it.
You study the ruts, you know them all, you are afraid you are
going to jolt the hell out of the lads. It helps to have a change
of scenery, a new road or track over which you have not become
fanatically self-conscious. If you used the same track for more
than a month, you would probably be afraid to use it. ."
VICTORY 1: Italy (March to July 1945)
"The withdrawal of 567 Company in mid-March had left
485 Company with the opportunity for a great deal of forward
work. Company HQ moved up to Faenza, where A and B Platoons already
were established. A was then working with 2 Polish Corps (except
for C. S. Satterthwait, who was detached to AMG in Faenza) and
B with 10 Corps. C Platoon, with headquarters in Prada, was assigned
to 5 Corps. While D, working with Italian troops in 13 Corps,
kept its HQ in Castel del Rio"
Medical Units of 2 NZEF in Middle East and Italy. J.B.
McKinney. Wellington, NZ: War History Branch, Department of Internal
"The first convoy of wounded came in. They were carried
in the Dodges of the American Field Service drivers, who had
come over dreadful roads through torrential rain. They were mostly
Indians from the sector in the hills on our left. They had had
terrible casualties, and a fair, good-looking English major with
both feet mangled by a Schu mine told me he was carried from
the field by the last remaining four sepoys of his company. We
all worked on these stoical Indians, who were so silent and yet
so grateful for any attention. After they had gone we rested
a little. As usual in the Eighth Army, it was an international
affair. The Indian doctor stood by the fire talking to "Butch",
who was an unmistakable Kiwi. A tall, smooth-faced Texan was
helping to reset our table, and chatting to an English orderly.
To complete the picture, a Pole, wounded slightly in his seat,
was noisily gesticulating as he was carried in, and ineffectually
telling people in Italian that he was a Pole and not a German.
. . .
"Each American ambulance carried four stretcher cases
and perhaps a couple of sitters. They were often with us, these
Yanks, and were old friends of the desert. The first two cases
we unloaded from the next convoy were both traumatic amputations
of feet. An infantryman, while moving up, had stepped on a Schu
mine and blown a foot off. Unhesitatingly, a Yank driver had
gone to his assistance. He also lost a foot on a Schu mine. Stretcher-bearers
had got them both out of the minefield and they had travelled
down together. Both were shocked and wan. The Boss transfused
them both, and as they looked at each other across the table,
the Yank said, " Blood brothers, huh? " They went on
together to Forli....
"Now rows of Indians and New Zealanders on stretchers
lay side by side in the hall, and the sitting wounded had spread
into every room. They were methodically examined. Field cards
were attached to the clothing of each man, with entries on them
telling of wounds and treatments, morphine given and tourniquets
applied. Bill and Butch were lighting cigarettes for some; giving
hot cocoa, steaming from the cookhouse, to others."
Fred Majdalany. The Battle of Cassino. New York: Ballentine.
In time the identity of Cassino is established by a consideration
of the Italian campaign as a whole. Because of the nature of
the country this was a campaign in which the initiative was always
held by the defending army. It was the defender who dictated
where it would be fought. Cassino was where the Germans chose
to make their main defensive effort. Retrospectively, therefore,
the campaign is seen to fall into three parts. Everything that
happened before Cassino was a prelude to it: Cassino was the
climax: everything that happened afterwards was anticlimax. For
the battle of Cassino became the battle for Rome. Two days after
the fall of Rome the Allies invaded Normandy and the Italian
campaign became of secondary importance. Cassino was a climactic
trial of strength fought to a finish at a time when Germany did
not consider the war yet lost.
A Mother's Scrapbook: John Newlin Hobbs and the American Field
With the Eighth Army, Somewhere in Italy, Nov. 1 (Delayed).---American
Field Service volunteer ambulance men and stretcher bearers are
right up here behind the advanced lines of the Eighth Army bringing
back British and German wounded to the casualty clearing stations.
They are under the command of the youngest A. F. S. leader,
22-year-old Major Arthur Howe Jr., 20 Ridgeway avenue, West Orange,
N. J. He is regarded as one of the perfect liaison officers with
the British, for though he was graduated from Yale, he went to
Rugby School in England,
Major Howe has been with the A. F. S. from its early days
with the Eighth Army. He has been platoon officer, company adjutant
and was finally known as "Officer Commanding, the Desert
Company," in the days when A. F. S. was following Gen. Montgomery's
Army across North Africa.
AFS Letters, 1943-1944. Published at AFS HQ, 60 Beaver Street,
18: October 1943.
It is great news that AFS has rejoined Montgomery's Eighth
Army in Italy and is once again serving on the European continent.
Great news, because the volunteers are going ahead in their chosen
work; and great news because it means the renewal of the fraternity
between the American volunteers and the Tommy soldiers. The road
home is a long one and rough. The Field Service men are on it,
but they have stepped onto the far edge.
19: November 1943:
My cars are spread over 150 miles which makes keeping track
of them almost impossible, In the past 5 days I've done over
600 miles in a truck that won't go over 30 miles an hour. I suppose
the country we are in is not scenically exceptional but to our
desert warped standards it is a fairyland. Much of it is hilly
---up to 3000 ft. in height ---,and the towns built in feudal
times with an eye to security are all on the tops of the steepest,
most jagged hills to be found in the region; and evidently the
builder of the roads was determined that the tourist miss none
of the sights for they wind their way up every hill and thru
every town. As you leave one town you can see across a valley
another town on a neighboring hill perhaps three miles away;
after 6 miles and half an hour of serpentining you find yourself
there. Each town perched on top of its peak is white and gleaming
and looks like an illustration in East of the Moon.
20: December 1943:
A little human interest? A German Sergeant-Major (a Sergeant-Major
is an "old Army man") died the other night while being
taken care of as best we could here. Any man gets the best and
same treatment, of course. He had been shot apart completely
in the middle. A good soldier he was. In a friendly but grim
table atmosphere, (operating table) a fellow said, 'Why are you
fighting, and for what, old man?' In blunt English the reply
was this: "Hitler says fight, and I fight. Churchill says
fight, you fight. War is war! --- You treat me well, better
than I was told I'd be." When told he'd die, he said "Thanks
anyway --- I know --- but---.!"