Les États-Unis d'Amérique n'ont pas oubliés que la première page de l'histoire de leur indépendance a été écrite avec un peu de sang français.
THE following pages, written and edited in the course of active service in France, tell, however imperfectly, something of the experiences of a small group of young Americans who have not been inert onlookers during the Great War.
Few in number and limited in their activities, this little band of American ambulance drivers in France is of course insignificant when compared with the tens of thousands of young Frenchmen who crossed the ocean as soldiers and sailors to help America in 1777. To the valor and devotion of these Frenchmen we owe our very existence as an independent nation, and nothing that Americans have done for France during these last hard years of trial can be thought of --- without embarrassment --- in relation with what Frenchmen did for us in those unforgettable years of our peril from 1777 to 1781.
The little group of Americans told of in this book who, during the past two years, have dedicated valiant effort and, not unfrequently, risked their lives in the service of France, can best be thought of as only a symbol of millions of other Americans, men and women, who would gladly have welcomed an opportunity to do what these men have done --- or more. For, notwithstanding official silence and the injunctions of presidential prudence, the majority of Americans have come to appreciate the meaning, not only to France, but to all the world, of the issues that are today so desperately at stake, and their hearts and hopes are all with France in her gigantic struggle. They share with the world at large a feeling towards the French people of sympathy, of admiration, and, indeed, of reverence, such as exists towards the people of no other country; and millions of them, like these volunteers of the American Ambulance, have been tortured by a longing to have some share with the people of France in defending the ideals for which, as they feel, America has always stood, and for which France is now making such vast, such gallant, and such unflinching sacrifice.
The service to France of Americans, whether ambulance drivers, surgeons, nurses, donors and distributors of relief, aviators, or foreign Lègionnaires, when measured by the prodigious tasks with which France has had to cope during the past two years, has indeed been infinitesimally small; but their service to America itself has been important. They have rendered this inestimable benefit to their country. They have helped to keep alive in France the old feeling of friendship and respect for us which has existed there since our earliest days and which, otherwise, would probably have ceased to exist. They have helped to demonstrate to the chivalrous people of France that Americans, without hesitating to balance the personal profit and loss, still respond to the great ideals that inspired the founders of our Republic. They have helped France to penetrate official reticence and rediscover America's surviving soul.
When all is said and done, however, the ambulanciers themselves have gained the most from the work in which they have taken part. It is a privilege even in ordinary times to live in this "doux pays de France," to move about among its gentle and finished landscapes, in the presence of its beautiful architectural heritages and in daily contact with its generous, sensitive, gifted, and highly intelligent people. Life in France, even in ordinary times, means to those of almost any other country daily suggestions of courtesy, refinement, and thoughtful consideration for others. It means continual suggestions of an intelligent perspective in the art of living and in the things that give life dignity and worth.
The opportunity of living in France, as these Americans have lived during the past two years of war, has meant all this and more. It has meant memories of human nature exalted by love of country, shorn of self, singing amidst hardships, smiling at pain, unmindful of death. It has meant contact with the most gentle and the most intelligent of modern peoples facing mortal peril --- facing it with silent and unshakable resolve, victoriously resisting it with modesty and with never a vaunting word. It has meant imperishable visions of intrepidity and of heroism as fine as any in the records of knight-errantry or in the annals of Homeric days.
Nothing else, surely, can ever offer so much of noble inspiration as these glimpses of the moral grandeur of unconquerable France.
A. PIATT ANDREW
Inspector General of the Field Service
THE publication of this book presents an opportunity of showing our appreciation of the extraordinarily successful work of A. PIATT ANDREW in reorganizing and furthering the work of the Field Service of the American Ambulance.
Those of us who were in the service before his arrival and have continued to work under him have been able to judge the effects of his efforts, and to realize the amount of activity, patience, and tact necessary to overcome the numerous difficulties which presented themselves. It was through the confidence placed in him by the French military authorities that the small American squads, after reorganization to army standards, were allowed to take positions of trust at the front. As a result of his untiring efforts in America funds were raised and cars donated to continue and advance the work.
No more striking proof can be given of the change in value to the Army of our Service, and of the change in the attitude of the authorities towards it, than the recent request of the Automobile Service to the American Ambulance for other Sections. When Mr. Andrew began his work we were seeking an opportunity to widen our sphere of work. Now the efficiency and usefulness of the service are such that the Army has requested that it be increased.
We all owe much to Mr. Andrew: his devotion to the cause has inspired all those working with him.
Commander of Section III (Alsace)
EDWARD V. SALISBURY
Commander of Section II (Lorraine)
H. P. TOWNSEND
Commander of Section I (Flanders)
DURING the first eight months of the war the American Ambulance continually hoped to extend its work to an Ambulance Service actually connected with the armies in the field, but not until April, 1915, were these hopes definitely realized. The history, however, of these first eight months is important; its mistakes showed the way to success; its expectations brought gifts of cars, induced volunteers to come from America, and laid the basis upon which the present service is founded.
A gift of ten Ford ambulances, whose bodies were made out of packing-boxes, enabled the American Ambulance, at the very outset of the war, to take part in the transport service, and as more and more donations were made small squads were formed in an attempt to enlarge the work. These squads, each of five cars, were offered for service with the armies, but owing to their inadequate size were in every case attached by the Government to existing services well in the rear. So there were small squads at Saint-Pol, Amiens, Paris Plage, Abbéville, Merville, and Hesdin, attached to British or French Sections, and they were engaged in evacuating hospitals, work which clearly could be better done by the larger cars of Sanitary Sections already attached to these hospitals.
In April, 1915, through the efforts of A. Piatt Andrew, who had then become Inspector of the Field Service, the French authorities made a place for American Ambulance Sections at the front on trial. A squad of ten ambulances was sent to the Vosges, and this group attracted the attention of their commanding officers, who asked that it be increased by ten cars so as to form it into an independent Sanitary Section. As soon as this was done, the unit took its place in conjunction with a French Section in an important Sector on the front in Alsace.
With this initial success a new order of things began, and in the same month a second Section of twenty cars was formed and was stationed, again in conjunction with an existing French service, in the much-bombarded town of Pont-à-Mousson.
In the meantime, two squads of five cars each had been working at Dunkirk. These were now reenforced by ten more and the whole Section was then moved to the French front in Belgium, with the result that at the end of the month of April, 1915, the Field Service of the American Ambulance had really come into existence. It comprised three Sections of twenty ambulances, a staff car, and a supply car --- Section Sanitaire Américaine No 1, as it was called, stationed at Dunkirk; Section Sanitaire Américaine No 2, Stationed in Lorraine; and Section Sanitaire Américaine No. 3, in the Vosges.
The story of the next year is one of real achievement, in which the three Sections emerged from the test with a record of having fulfilled the highest expectations of proving their utility to France. Section 1, having given an excellent account of itself in the long-range bombardments and air-raids at Dunkirk. was rewarded by being intrusted with important work in Belgium at Coxyde, Nieuport, Poperinghe, Elverdinghe, Crombec, and other postes de secours in that Sector of the French front.
Section 2 had to win recognition in a region already served by a French Sanitary Service and to which it was attached to do secondary work. The Section not only accomplished its own work, but made it possible for the French Section to be withdrawn, taking over the postes de secours on the line, and finally becoming independently responsible for an area renowned for its continual heavy fighting.
The record of Section 3 is slightly different. It first successfully took over the existing service, and then, pushing on, opened up to motor transport hitherto inaccessible mountain postes de secours.
With the three Sections thus established, it is interesting to note why they have been a recognized success so shortly after their possible usefulness was appreciated.
In the first place, an admirable type of car was selected. Our light Ford ambulances, stationed as they were in Belgium, in Lorraine, and in Alsace, faced three separate transportation problems. At Dunkirk they found the mud no obstacle; at Pont-à-Mousson they outgeneralled the ravitaillement convoys; in the Vosges they replaced the mule. They were driven, too, by college men or men of the college type, who joined the service to be of use and who brought to the work youth and intelligence, initiative and courage. There have been to date in the Field Service 89 men from Harvard, 26 from Yale, 23 from Princeton, 8 from the University of Pennsylvania, 7 from Dartmouth, 6 from Columbia, 4 from the University of Michigan, 4 from the University of Virginia, 18 American Rhodes scholars from Oxford, and representatives of more than thirty other colleges and universities. Twenty-eight men have already been cited and awarded the croix de guerre.
In November, 1915, at the request of General Headquarters, a fourth Section, made possible through the continued aid of generous friends in America, took its place in the field. In December, 1915, Section 1 was moved to the Aisne. In January, 1916, Section 3 was transferred to the Lorraine front, in February Section 2 was summoned to the vicinity of Verdun at the moment of the great battle, and in March definite arrangements for a fifth Section were completed.
So April, 1916, finds the three old Sections still on duty at the front, the fourth already making its reputation there, and a fifth being fitted out. Confidence has been gained; we have learned our parts. The problem of the future is, first, to maintain efficiency, and at the same time to be ready to put more cars and more men in the field. Our vision is to play a larger rôle in behalf of France, and with the continued cooperation of the donors of ambulances and the same spirit of sacrifice on the part of the men in the field, it should be realized.
Note: Since the writing of this chapter three more Sections have gone into the field and an eighth is in process of formation. More than fifty American colleges and universities have been represented, and more than fifty members of the service have received the Croix de Guerre or the Médaille Militaire. (November, 1916.)
II. AT THE BACK OF THE FRONT: DUNKIRK AND YPRES.