Gentlemen Volunteers:
American Ambulance Drivers in the
First World War

JAMES THOMAS LAPSLEY III
A.B. (University of California, Santa Cruz) 1971

THESIS

Submitted in partial satisfaction of the requirements for the degree of
MASTER OF ARTS
in
History

in the
GRADUATE DIVISION
of the
UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA

Approved: C. Roland Marchand (signed)
James H. Stickley (signed)
Wilson Smith (signed)

Committee in Charge

DEGREE CONFERRED: DECEMBER 14, 1973
Deposited in the University Library
.........................................
(signature)
Date Librarian

 

Preface

Gentlemen Volunteers is not intended as a history of the American volunteer ambulance services in France during the First World War. It does not list battles nor count wounded. Rather, I have studied the drivers of the ambulance services as reflections of a social system that declined after World War I. Gentlemen Volunteers examines the drivers' motives for enlistment and relates their experiences in France. Moreover, since the vast majority of the drivers were college students or recent graduates, I have explored the role of the university as a transmitter of cultural values in America before the First World War. In so doing insight is gained of the values and ideals of America's upper-class, prewar, society, for these were the values that motivated the volunteer ambulance drivers, the gentlemen volunteers.

The services are not famous and are generally known only in literary history because of the writers who emerged from the services. Men such as E. E. Cummings, John Dos Passos, Malcolm Cowley, Robert Hillyer, Slater Brown, Louis Bromfield, and, most notably, Ernest Hemingway all served in the American ambulance services during the First World War. Literary historians have concluded that the ambulance services were a great training ground for the writers of the 1920's. This is undoubtedly correct. However, historians have gone further and assumed that the disillusionment expressed in works such as Hemingway's A Farewell to Arms or Dos Passos's Three Soldiers was typical of most drivers. Such a belief is central to John Aldridge's After the Lost Generation, a literary history of the writers of two wars. Henry F. May also accepts such a view in his The End of American Innocence, though not as strongly as does Aldridge.

Believing this view to be correct, I started my study of the drivers. I hoped that the drivers would prove to be precursors to the expatriate generation of the 1920's. Much to my chagrin, I discovered that most drivers were not at all like the men described by Dos Passos or Hemingway. Indeed, it seems that the later writers ware completely atypical of the bulk of the ambulance drivers. Rather than being motivated by a desire for adventure, as were Cummings and Cowley, most drivers firmly believed that the First World War was a war for western civilization, a war in which they had a definite stake. Thus, when May states on page 378 of The End of American Innocence that "some of [the drivers] were as idealistic about the war as their elders expected them to be, but many were interested in experience rather than cause," the exact opposite is more correct. The truth of the matter is that "most" were idealistic and "some" were interested in experience. If the gentlemen volunteers underwent disillusionment, it was not during the war but after the war that such disillusionment occurred. Nor was it due to the rejection of their parents' values. Instead, disillusionment came because during the war America somehow had changed. After the war, there was no place in America for a gentlemen volunteer.

Gentlemen Volunteers owes much to many people. Those who have read Laurence Veysey's The Emergence of the American University know my debt to that book. I am sure that I have bored many friends by talking of "my" drivers when better subjects for conversation existed. Yet, everyone politely listened, criticized and suggested possible historical parallels and reading. If this essay is at all readable, much credit goes to Professor Smith's graduate seminar (Fall, 1973), the members of which gave much time and helpful criticism to parts of two chapters of Gentlemen Volunteers. I only wish time had existed for them to have read all of the essay. Finally, I wish to thank Roland Marchand, my essay advisor. Although Professor Marchand's comments and questions greatly helped me place the drivers in their historical context, I would particularly like to thank him for being available when chaos threatened. To all of the above I express my thanks for their ideas and help. The mistakes are, of course, my own.

 

Table of Contents

Chapter I. The Genesis of the Ambulance Services

Chapter II. Liberal Culture and the Great War

Chapter III. The Ambulance Drivers and the War

Life in the Ambulance Service
The Ideals of the War: Civilization and Progress
The Ideals of Experience, Manhood, and Service
The Outsiders
The Last Days of the Ambulance Services

Chapter IV. Homecoming

Bibliography

 

 

Mr. Norton had just finished his very modest speech ending with "As gentlemen volunteers you enlisted in this service and as gentlemen volunteers I bid you farewell." ...I wrote Arthur that I had sworn by all that was holy to remain for the rest of my days a gentleman volunteer.

John Dos Passos The Best Times, p. 56

 

 

Chapter I

The Genesis of the Ambulance Services

On the evening of May 7, 1920, a group of slightly over five hundred young men gathered in a banquet room of one of New York's better hotels for a reunion. A stranger viewing the proceedings might have mistaken it for a college reunion, assuming that the older men were favorite professors who, after dinner, would rise, make speeches, and ask for contributions to the alma mater. The stranger would have misread the nature of the meeting, if not the tone of the event. The majority of the young men ware college educated, some of the after-dinner speakers were former college professors, and contributions were requested. Yet, although the academic, Ivy League overtones could not be denied, this was not a college reunion. Rather, it was a gathering of World War I veterans, specifically of men who had volunteered their services to France as ambulance drivers before America entered the war.

After the dinner the former ambulance drivers shifted their chairs to face a makeshift stage. Over coffee a varied collection of speakers recalled and praised their service to France. The French Ambassador thanked all the drivers who had come to the aid of France in her time of need. Myron T. Herrick, former American Ambassador to France, stressed the importance of the volunteer ambulance drivers and the effect they had "had upon the people throughout America" by their "prompt acceptance of the call long before America thought of entering the war."(1) The most insightful remark of the evening, however, was made by Dr. Hugh Birckhead. In describing the motivation of the ambulance drivers, Birckhead also unintentionally explained the patrician atmosphere of the reunion. "Only those who were the most fortunate could respond," he said. "It was the answer of the best, instinctively feeling its obligation of 'noblesse oblige' and finding a new and undiscovered joy in the completeness of the renunciation that was asked."(2)

The ambulance services were indeed "the answer of the best," and though the elitist and academic overtones of the reunion were not consciously intended, neither were they incidental. In a very real sense the volunteer ambulance services were an extension of a conservative and upper-class ideology of duty and service, an ideology that found expression in the major universities and colleges of prewar America. The proponents of what has been termed "Liberal Culture," an aristocratic code of gentlemanliness that stressed the development of "character" were to be the backbone of the volunteer ambulance services. The services were created by college professors, themselves products of what Santayana has called "the Genteel Tradition." They were funded by gentlemen of leisure, businessmen, and colleges and universities. The ambulances were driven by gentlemen, products of the universities and colleges of prewar America.(3)

Though there were eventually three separate ambulance services: The Anglo-American Volunteer Ambulance Corps, The American Field Ambulance Service (which was later to drop the word "ambulance" and become the Field Service), and the Harjes Red Cross Ambulance Unit, the history of the ambulance services in France rightfully began in Neuilly, a small Parisian suburb. Before the war, Neuilly had harbored an American hospital maintained by Americans in Paris- With the outbreak of the war, this hospital quickly "became the rallying center for all Americans...who wanted to do something to help."(4) The American colony in Paris, a rather diverse group of travelers, students, and residents all under the leadership of Ambassador Herrick, donated time, money, and supplies to the hospital. Within a few weeks, they had established a large hospital for French war casualties.

The French wounded were originally brought into Paris by train and then carried by transport to various hospitals. By early September, however, the Germans advanced to within a few miles of Paris and ambulances, rather than trains, became a more effective way of evacuating the wounded. So severe was the shortage of transport vehicles that, during the heroic defense of Paris, troops were taken to the front in taxis.

This same shortage of vehicles was also responsible for; the birth of the volunteer ambulance services. When it became obvious to volunteers at the American Hospital that the French transport system had almost completely broken down, and that the available cars were taking troops to the front rather than bringing wounded back, an impetuous decision was made on the part of hospital workers with cars. If the French could not bring the wounded to the hospital, then the hospital volunteers would go and collect the wounded themselves. Pierce Arrows and limousines belonging to "the leisure class and business people" were driven to the front by American volunteers,(5) who then evacuated the wounded to the American Hospital.

This arrangement continued until the Germans were forced to retreat due to their extended lines and continued French resistance. As the front lines receded and the French transport system grew more organized, the hastily devised ambulance service was no longer practicable or necessary. This might have spelled the end of the American volunteer ambulance service in France, but, rather than retire completely from the field, the American Hospital renamed itself the American Ambulance Hospital and placed its ambulances at the service of the French. With the exception of one section of six ambulances that was sent to Belgium, the American ambulances remained in Paris, serving as a shuttle service from the evacuation trains to the Parisian hospitals. Eventually, they were to unload three-fourths of all wounded that arrived in Paris.(6) Though more active ambulance units were soon to be founded, the service of the American Ambulance Hospital was important not only because it was the first such service, but also because it provided a model for the corps that were to follow.

The first separate ambulance service was that of the Anglo-American Volunteer Motor Ambulance Corps, more commonly it was referred to as the Norton Section, after its founder, Richard Norton. Norton, like his famous father, Charles Eliot Norton of Harvard, was a prime example of the Liberal Culture of the late nineteenth century American upper-class. Norton combined within himself the qualities of a gentleman with those of a scholar. Having graduated from Harvard in 1892, he had by the advent of the First World War become a noted archaeologist and had directed the American School of Classical Studies in Rome, as well as led an archeological expedition for the Boston Museum of Fine Arts.(7) Norton's father had once declared that "the motives which impel an intelligent man...to virtuous conduct are the strongest which can be addressed to a human being because they appeal directly to the highest qualities of his human nature."(8) During the war, as leader of his own ambulance service, Norton was to prove himself to be truly his father's son by continually displaying such qualities.

Norton was in Paris at the start of the war and like many other Americans he gravitated to the American Hospital. According to Henry James, "the idea of the admirable enterprise was suggested to Mr. Norton when, early in the war, he saw...scores of cases of French and British wounded whose lives were lost through the long delay of their removal from the field of battle."(9)

The French frontline ambulance system then consisted of springless horse-drawn wagons that were both slow and painfully uncomfortable. With the idea of replacing the antiquated French ambulances with light American autos, Norton approached a group of Americans living in London and asked the to raise money for his proposed service. Henry James, the eighty year old exile, consented to head the committee and wrote a twelve page pamphlet entitled The American Volunteer Motor Ambulance Corps in France.

It was altogether fitting that James, a man distressed over America's lack of "clear paths for taste and conduct,"(10) should head the fund-raising committee for a service motivated largely by the gentlemanly qualities that James believed lacking in American society. James expressed his joy in discovering that America did indeed have young gentlemen in his own distinctive prose style: "I find a positive added beauty in the fact that the unpaid chauffeur, the wise amateur driver and ready lifter, helper, healer, and so far as may be, consoler, is apt to be an University man and acquainted with other pursuits."(11) Whether due to James's fame or to the nature of the enterprise, enough money was secured by October, 1914, that Norton had fifteen Ford ambulances, ten of which were in the field and operating. By the time the United States entered the war, Norton was commanding over one hundred ambulances and had plans, which were never realized, or two more sections of twenty ambulances each.

The Norton unit was originally affiliated with the British Red Cross and with the Saint John Ambulance Corps. However, in early April the American Red Cross Bulletin announced that "a unit known as the American Volunteer Motor Ambulance Corps, having Richard Norton as its head, has now come under the American Red Cross."(12) The announcement was written by Herman Harjes, son of the House of Morgan's principal European representative. Harjes, like Norton, had worked for the American Hospital, mainly arranging shipments of hospital supplies from the American Red Cross. He soon became the head of the American Red Cross in France, and, when in early 1915 seventeen Red Cross ambulances were sent to France, it was natural that he too command an ambulance corps. The unit was informally known as the Formation Harjes, and with the absorption o the Norton Section by the Red Cross, the Red Cross units were commonly called the Norton-Harjes Sections. Both men retained control of their respective sections. The main advantage of affiliation with the Red Cross, at least for Norton, was that he was able to let the Red Cross worry about the monetary end of the arrangement.

Although the Norton and Harjes units were the first on the field, they were soon outstripped by a third ambulance service, the American Field Ambulance Service, which was destined to become the largest ambulance service by far. The dynamic force behind the Field Service was A. Piatt Andrew, a former college professor. Andrew had graduated from Princeton in 1892, taught economics at Harvard for two years, and served as Assistant Secretary of the Treasury. Unlike Harjes or Norton, he was not in Europe at the outbreak of hostilities. In December 1914 he resigned his Treasury duties and sailed for France.

Andrew followed the pattern of early volunteers and worked at the American Ambulance Hospital upon his arrival in France. Rather than stay in Paris though, he went to Flanders and drove a French ambulance for two months. Andrew quickly realized the need for speedy evacuation of the wounded and "began a campaign to organize an American volunteer service on a large scale and have it attached directly to the French army."(13) This was done after overcoming objections by the French army, which feared possible infiltration by spies. In April 1915, ten ambulances were sent to Alsace on a trial basis. They proved so effective that the French requested more ambulance sections. By the time of America's entry into the war, over twenty sections were operating and over 2,000 men had driven in the service.

In some ways the Field Service was a duplication of the Red Cross ambulance service- However, there was a major difference between the Field Service and the Norton-Harjes units. The main motivation of the Norton-Harjes Sections was humanitarian: the relief of suffering. The Field Service, however, was "organized for the purpose of helping France." It was, according to Andrew, "a concrete expression of our sympathy with the French people, our belief in the justice of their cause, our hope in its ultimate triumph." For that reason, "while the American Ambulance Field Service has always enjoyed pleasant relations with the American Red Cross," wrote Andrew, "we have preferred that our service in France should not be officially affiliated with it."(14)

It is perhaps not out of place to attribute the phenomenal growth of the Field Service to this difference. Although a humanitarian impulse was certainly commendable, the cultural and moral values of upper-class youths found a fuller expression in the Field Service than in the Norton- Harjes units. Men who thought of France as the country wherein the world has seen the ideal of democracy nourished and made strong; wherein the world has seen civilization attain to perfect flowering" were much more likely to volunteer to join the Field Service,(15) than the Red Cross sections. Late in the war, the difference between the Red Cross sections and the Field Service became obvious, when the Field Service was persuaded to drive munitions trucks as well as ambulances. Even before this, the difference existed and was probably apparent to most volunteers.

While the creators of the three ambulance services were all upper-class gentlemen with organizational talents and leadership capabilities, the success of the ambulance services rested on more than the personalities of Andrew, Harjes, or Norton. Endowments for ambulances and their upkeep were needed as well as drivers for the cars. The response to these problems was largely upper-class and came from both the business and academic worlds. As in most charity organizations, the main problem of the ambulance services was monetary. In retrospect, however, it would seem that money was not terribly hard to come by. The society pages of the New York Times reported at least one fund raising ball a month for the Field Service. Businessmen often donated one or two ambulances, either through a business club or through their colleges. Sometimes they gave much larger numbers of ambulances. The New York Times reported that a Mr. B. G. Dawes, the president of Ohio Cities Gas Company, donated an entire section of twenty ambulances. The Banker's Club of New York donated eleven ambulances costing $1,600 apiece, and then contributed $6,400 in cash.(16)

Such large donations were not frequent. The majority of cars were donated by private individuals or colleges. One example of a college donation was the seventeen ambulances given to the Red Cross that resulted in the formation of the Harjes Section. Of the seventeen vehicles, twelve were donated by Yale and five by Harvard. At between $1,500 and 1,600 per ambulance, it is understandable that the majority of the donors were upper-class businessmen, gentlemen of leisure, or colleges. There were, however, some examples of midwestern towns raising enough money through subscription to endow an ambulance. In retrospect it is not surprising that the services were able to raise money. What is surprising is the amount and ease with which donations were acquired in the early war years prior to America's entrance. Of course, Norton, Harjes, and Andrew all had personal connections with both colleges and the business community. Yet the ease with which donations were obtained indicates that some sympathetic nerve in the American upper-class was touched by the ambulance services.

Like the men who formed the various ambulance services and the people and institutions that endowed ambulances, the drivers were upper-class. Eighty percent of the ambulance drivers were college students or recent graduates. When the American Field Service compiled a roster of drivers at the end of the war, they found that of the 2328 volunteers, all but 495 were college graduates or students. Of the 1833 drivers who were college educated 916, or almost exactly half, were from five private eastern schools: Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Dartmouth, and Cornell. Harvard led the way with 325 drivers, far in front of second place Yale, which could claim 187 of the volunteers.(17) The preponderance of Harvard men was so marked in one section that a Harvard club was formed. But there were also enough Yale graduates at the front for Yale's upset football victory over Harvard in 1916 to be celebrated in France.

Basically, the atmosphere of the ambulance services was collegiate. Specifically, because early recruits came mainly from the eastern private schools, it was Ivy Leaguish. Throughout the war, until America's entry threatened to dilute the ambulance services with enlisted men, a clubby, upper-class, atmosphere was maintained by the services. Volunteers often joined in groups and sometimes whole ambulance sections were sent en masse by their colleges. Cornell, Berkeley, and Stanford each sent two sections, while Harvard and Princeton provided one apiece.

Specific reasons existed why the ambulance services were so heavily collegiate and why the eastern universities made such a strong showing. Organizationally, due to the connections of people like Andrew and Norton with Ivy League schools, it was easy for the services to find professors who would serve as recruiters. Indeed, Norton had a ready recruiter in New York in the person of his brother, Charles Eliot Norton, Jr. Charles Norton recruited almost all of the Norton Section's drivers with the result that the Norton Section was largely composed of Harvard men. Andrew, who graduated from Princeton and had taught at Harvard, had associations at both schools, connections which he used.

Economically there was a factor working to limit participation in the services to upper-class students. A volunteer was expected to pay his own expenses for travel and uniforms. In a pamphlet published by the Field Service to help advise prospective volunteers, expenses were estimated at five hundred and fifty dollars per year per driver.(18) Although this was a comparatively small price for six months in Europe, it was a large enough sum of money to shake the dedication of many a poor boy. After all, not all students were like the fellow whose "eye caught the sign, S. S. Rochambeau sails September 2nd," and who "went in and bought his ticket right off the reel."(19) Another possible reason why volunteers tended to be upper-class college students, if not necessarily from Ivy League schools, was that the knowledge of automobiles and French were, in 1914, upper-class talents.

Beyond such specific reasons why the volunteers tended to be college students, there was a more general ideological reason for the predominance of upper-class students among the ambulance drivers. In 1914, when only four percent of the college aged population attended college,(20) college served as a primary screening device for the ambulance services. Of more importance, though, was a secondary screening. When John Masefield, the British poet, referred to the ambulance drivers as "the finest young men of America, the very pick and flower of the graduates and undergraduates of the universities"(21) he was not exaggerating. Drivers were picked. The professor doing the recruiting was at the same time screening the applicants. Not everyone with five hundred and fifty dollars was allowed to join the services. The American Field Service required that volunteers "have letters of recommendation from six persons of standing" in their community. They cautioned drivers to "remember that you are volunteers going to France for a lofty purpose and that you belong to an organization that has maintained the highest standards."(22) This was also true of the other services.

The standards of the creators of the services, of the Nortons and Andrews and their recruiters, were necessarily the standards of the ambulance services. Professors who thought that education "should be directed towards the production of intelligent gentlemen of leisure" or who taught that "there is one great society alone on earth, the noble living and the noble dead,"(23) could be counted on to pass only gentlemen into the ranks of the ambulance services. This last was the most important reason why the services were composed of upper-class youths. They were the only applicants who could pass the unstated test.

.

Chapter II

Liberal Culture and the Great War

For most Americans World War I was a popular war. The zealousness with which the American public eventually endorsed the Allied cause is well known, resulting in such excesses as the renaming of sauerkraut as "liberty cabbage" and the German measles as "liberty measles." Yet the popular feeling that the war was a war for democracy and civilization came only after America's entry into the war, however tacitly the majority of Americans might have previously approved of the Allied cause. Some circles of Americans anticipated this feeling however and viewed the war as a war against German barbarism from the very outbreak of hostilities. One such group was found in large numbers within American universities and colleges.

American institutions of higher learning had responded so early and in such numbers to the Allied cause that a 1919 Bulletin of the Bureau of Education announced it "probable that no other class or group in the population of the United States contributed so large a proportion of its membership to the fighting forces of the country or participated so directly in the leadership of noncombatant war activities."(24) This estimate is undoubtedly correct. Of course, American colleges contained a high percentage of young males of military age. More to the point, an influential group of academicians had urged American intervention throughout the early war years. At Harvard "sympathy for the Allied cause was unconcealed; not for a moment was the Harvard community neutral in thought or deed."(25) Many professors, both in class and in public meetings, urged that America put aside her neutrality. Some counseled students to enlist in one of the ambulance services or to be of aid to the Allied cause in some other manner. The administrations of most of the eastern colleges were quite willing to grant leaves of absence to students who wished to enlist in the ambulance services for six months; indeed, some deans encouraged their charges to do so. A young driver from Yale related that the dean had "said that going abroad with the American Ambulance was a fine thing to do, and that he would not discourage anyone contemplating doing it."(26) Such a feeling was carried to its logical extreme: by the time of America's entry into the war, some colleges and universities had actually created full ambulance sections, completely organized, funded, and manned by the school. Thus, when America finally entered the war, the sentiment and organization of the academic community presented the First World War to students as a war for civilization. The result was that practically all undergraduates who ere old enough and physically fit saw some form of service.

Who were these academicians who had early agitated for American involvement and who had supported the various relief organizations? Why did they do so? Mere patriotism, though certainly important after America's entry into the war, was not a motive before 1917. Humanitarianism, though clearly an important factor, does not explain their actions, for though the academicians called for relief of the wounded, they also desired America's intervention. Rather than possessing a single defined reason for supporting the Allies, most early academic advocates of the Allied cause did so because they perceived the First World War as a war for humanistic western civilization. They were eventually to pass this view on to their charges, the students who were to become the gentlemen volunteer ambulance drivers.

Impressionistic evidence suggests that the majority of the professors who early supported the Allied cause were also advocates of an educational philosophy that Laurence Veysey has termed "liberal culture."(27) Liberal Culture was one of three educational philosophies competing for dominance over higher education in America from 1900 to the First World War. The other philosophies were research and utility. The advocates of research believed that the main purpose of a university was to advance human knowledge. Not surprisingly, the majority of these men were located in the hard sciences, though some advocates of research could be found in the humanities and social sciences. The third major philosophy was utility. The utilitarians espoused the idea that a university should function as a resource center that could teach anything to anyone. The utilitarians were offshoots of the Progressive movement, as can be seen in their desire to uplift the general populace through education. The strongholds of utility were usually state universities, of which Wisconsin was the most notable example. By 1910 utility and research had joined together in an uneasy alliance that "held sway at most major institutions away from the Eastern seaboard."(28)

Liberal Culture, a conservative educational movement, held that the main purpose of a university or college was not to advance knowledge (although as a byproduct that was commendable) or to directly uplift the majority of the populace, but rather to produce an educated elite of gentlemen. When Charles Eliot Norton wrote that, "the ideal university is the training-place of the wisest, strongest, and best men..."(29) he was saying that it should produce gentlemen. The training of those "wisest, strongest, and best men" naturally included a wide range of subjects; yet, more important than the subjects was the moral framework in which they were embedded. Dean Briggs of Harvard, a proponent of Liberal Culture, admitted this when he wrote that higher education's "unwritten and unspoken purpose is not so much intellectual as moral; and her [the college's] strongest hope is to stamp her graduate with abiding character."(30) That character was upper-class in nature. The moral code was an aristocratic one, since the idea of the gentleman, as Charles William Eliot noted, was derived "in good part from the days of chivalry."(31) Eventually it was the upper-class ideal of the gentleman in all its ramifications-- intellectually, spiritually, morally, and physically, that would motivate the young men reared in the tradition of Liberal Culture to join the ambulance services.

The advocates of Liberal Culture had numerous reasons for preferring the cause of the Allies to that of Germany. Liberal Culture was strongest on the East coast and within four departments: English, philosophy, literature, and the fine arts.(32) Most professors of English and literature were Anglophiles who naturally sided with England in the war. Secondly, as members of the Eastern academic community, many advocates of Liberal Culture had strong friendships with colleagues in England and France, friendships which do not seem to have extended to Germany in any appreciable numbers. German influence in the American universities, which had been quite strong in 1880, had declined and "American and German academic circles [had] increasingly lost contact with each other well before the advent of the First World War."(33) For most advocates of Liberal Culture, excluding the idealist philosophers,(34) Germany, when thought of at all, was associated with the natural sciences and research, the predominance of which Liberal Culture was fighting at home. Basically then, the natural sentiment of most advocates of Liberal Culture was with England and France, rather than with Germany. Yet this natural sympathy for the Allies does not explain the intense feeling held by many advocates of Liberal Culture that the First World War was a war for humanistic civilization. Many American academicians perceived the war not as a war between nations, but as a war between philosophies of civilization. On the one side stood the Allies, representing impulsive humanistic civilization, while on the other side was Germany, a country believed to be authoritarian, and cold. The parallels of the fight between Liberal Culture and Research are of course obvious. That the war was a war between systems and not just countries was made clear to those American men of letters who "tended to make a religion out of civilization" when the German military destroyed the Belgian University of Louvain.(35) In the minds of many professors, destruction of centers of learning was an attack on civilization and the German action "threw American university opinion on the side of the Allies."(36)

That the advocates of Liberal Culture should have reacted so strongly to what they perceived to be an attack on civilization is completely understandable, for the conservative order of things implicit in Liberal Culture was built upon culture and civilization. President Eliot of Harvard had once remarked that "for us and our system, the genius is no standard, but the cultivated man is."(37) For Eliot, "the great element in cultivation... is acquaintance with some part of the store of knowledge which humanity in its progress from barbarism has acquired and laid up."(38) Advocates of Liberal Culture specifically viewed the German attack on the University of Louvain as an attempt to destroy humanity's "store of knowledge" and most academicians generally feared that under German rule "humanity's progress from barbarie" would retrograde. From this it was then a short step to proclaim, as Charles Mills Gayley, head of the English Department at Berkeley and a proponent of Liberal Culture, did in 1915 that "France is fighting not for her country and her home, so much as for humanity." Gayley then asked that "with civilization and humanity bleeding as it is, let every American search his heart and soul to see where he stands."(39) The majority of the academic men of letters stood with the Allies.

Besides perceiving the First World War as a war for civilization, men of Liberal Culture also thought of it as a holy war. Although not all advocates of Liberal Culture were religious, the moral code behind Liberal Culture was Christian and most men of Liberal Culture were practicing Christians.(40) By the time of America's entry into the war, atrocity stories, such as the supposed crucifixion and rape of a mother superior of a Belgian convent had sufficiently proved the barbaric atheism of the Germans to the majority of Americans. Coupled with a strong response on the part of organized American religion, this created popular feeling within America that the First World War was a holy war.(41) Such a belief was shared and to a degree predated by proponents of Liberal Culture. In a letter, Barrett Wendell of Harvard, a strong Anglophile and an advocate of Liberal Culture, condemned the Germans "not only for their dense arrogance but also for their deliberate and conscious effort to revive old heathen Teutonic ideals, as opposed to the sympathy inculcated by Christianity."(42) Compared to other academicians Wendell was moderate. Charles Mills Gayley considered the war to be the "crowning crusade of history" and thought that the victory of the Allies would be a "victory of mercy, justice, and liberty over the tyranny, savagery, and force of the powers of evil banded together to make of God a mockery and earth their footstool."(43) While such extreme depersonalization of the Germans did not exist among all academicians, it was prevalent enough, fanned by numerous atrocity stories, to make religion a motive for enlistment in the ambulance corps early in the war.

Advocates of Liberal Culture possessed a third major reason for supporting the Allied cause. Many of them viewed the First World War as a war for democracy. This belief, like the view that it was a Christian holy war became popularized on a mass level with American entry into the war. Among liberally educated men, however, the name of democracy had been invoked at least two years before 1917. Many ambulance drivers in 1915 and 1916 spoke of the war as a war for democracy in their letters home, and Charles Copeland, the Harvard professor of Literature, felt that important democratic principles were at stake in the war and took pains to impress his beliefs upon his students.(44)

At first glance it might seem strange that advocates of Liberal Culture, a basically conservative and elite social system, would have bean motivated to fight a war for democracy. Indeed, the dilemma was perceived by some of the more conservative members of Liberal Culture. Wendell felt it ironic that "these Aristotelian democracies [England, and France] are in control of the men and things I care for...and that the expert organization for national welfare of the Germans concerns men and things to me abhorrent."(45) Yet Wendell concluded that he must loyally support the Allies.

Wendell's was an extreme case. Most advocates of Liberal Culture did not find a conflict between their class concept of a society of gentlemen and their belief in a democratic America. Their concept of democracy was semi-aristocratic and based upon the belief that a natural elite existed and was necessary to society. This was squared with the ideal of democracy through the belief that the elite was open to all who could meet its stringent standard. Thus Irving Babbitt, a French Literature professor at Harvard and a protégé of Charles Eliot Norton. wrote that "what is needed is not democracy alone, nor again an unmixed aristocracy, but a blend of the two--an aristocratic and selective democracy."(46) In this he echoed Charles Eliot who had earlier written that "the children should learn that the democratic nobility exists, and must exist if democracy is to produce the highest types of character...."(47) Without such a "democratic nobility" advocates of Liberal Culture feared that American society would culturally decline. Norton expressed this fear when he wrote that although he believed democracy would work, he feared that "it may work ignobly, ignorantly, and brutally" and he doubted whether "the better elements of social life, of human nature, were growing and flourishing in proportion to the baser."(48) Norton's fear was common among educated gentlemen of Liberal Culture. It was a fear that democracy would lower upper-class standards. In order to prevent this occurrence, advocates of Liberal Culture pursued Babbitt's vision of a conservative, elite democracy that would pose no threats to the existing social order. Babbitt ably summed up the prevailing attitude toward democracy when he wrote that: "We may safely trust the democratic spirit, if by democracy we mean the selective democracy of the sober second thought, and not the democracy of the passing impression."(49) Thus it was the conservative democracy of the "sober second thought" rather than a radical and leveling democracy, that advocates of Liberal Culture envisioned when they spoke of the First World War as a war for democracy.

Entwined with the concept of democracy was the idea of progress. Most proponents of Liberal Culture had by 1890 accepted an evolutionary view of society that tied democracy and progress together. Such a coupling had been put forward by John Fiske, an academic popularizer of evolutionary theory, in the late nineteenth century. Fiske believed that an evolutionary process operated through history to produce a Christian democratic republic in the United States, a republic destined to lead the world both to Christianity and a Pax Americana.(50) Such a seductive view of America was naturally popular, providing as it did a role for American religion as wall as a religious excuse for emerging American imperialism. By 1910 this belief in the inevitable spread of American democracy was a firm part of the doctrine of Liberal Culture. Often then, when men of Liberal Culture spoke of the war as a war for democracy, they also meant that it was a war for American progress. It was in this sense of fighting for democracy that some ambulance drivers volunteered their services.

Advocates of Liberal Culture thus possessed three somewhat interrelated reasons for supporting the Allied cause. First, they viewed the war as a war for the preservation of humanistic civilization. Second, they considered the war to be a holy war for Christianity. Third, they thought of the war as a war for American progress and democracy. These beliefs were taken seriously by men of Liberal Culture, some of whom did their best to instill these beliefs into their students.

Some professors were extraordinarily successful. At Harvard both Josiah Royce and Charles Copeland actively campaigned for America's entry into the war. Both urged their students to be of service to the Allied cause.(51) Of the two Copeland was by far the more effective in inducing students to enter services beneficial to the Allies. Copeland, who taught English literature and composition, possessed a large undergraduate following due to his unique teaching. He was thus in an excellent position to urge his students to participate in some form of war service. Calling himself the "recruiting sergeant" he asked each student who left for war service to write him of the student's war experiences. Some measure of Copeland's influence is seen in his collection of six bound volumes of letters collected by the war's end.(52)

A counterpart to Copeland existed at the University of California at Berkeley in the person of Charles Mills Gayley. Gayley, like Copeland, was a leading proponent of Liberal Culture and an English professor. Although he did not possess as large an undergraduate following as did Copeland, Gayley was a popular professor and was almost wholly responsible for the raising of Berkeley's two American Field Service ambulance units. Again like Copeland, Gayley had thrown his energies on the side of the Allies from the outbreak of hostilities in Europe. His biographer and friend wrote that "in the war he saw humanity and the humanities at stake" and for the next four years he relentlessly stumped the state, speaking in favor of America's entry into the war.(53) During the war he changed the title o his English course from "Great Books" to "Books on the Great War". The course proved so popular that it eventually was held in the Greek theater with between 3000 to 7000 auditors in attendance.(54) In this course Gayley ably articulated Liberal Culture's view of the conflict. By the time of America's entry into the war, Gayley was the recognized leader of the pro-war forces within the university. In this position Gayley collected donations for an ambulance unit to be sent abroad and personally selected the drivers from among the applicants. This was as it should have been, for he had probably inspired many of the volunteers through his speeches and his course on the war.

Gayley and Copeland were the two best known academic advocates of the Allied cause in the pre-war years. Yet the proliferation of war issue courses by the time of American entry into the war would seem to indicate that other, less famous men shared Gayley's and Copeland's view of the war. Patterned after Gayley's course, the war issue courses usually explained the war in terms used by Liberal Culture: The war was a war for civilization, religion, and democracy. For advocates of Liberal Culture the war issue courses served another need beside motivating male students to enlist. Many believers in Liberal Culture felt that higher education needed some "unifying principle to guard against the dangers of intellectual license" that they thought had resulted from the elective system.(55) Some academicians saw the war issue courses as a means of providing that unifying principle. Dean Woodbridge of Columbia believed that "to the thoughtful,...the course [war issue] affords the opportunity to introduce into our education a liberalizing force which will give to the generations to come a common background of ideas and commonly understood standards of judgment."(56) Concerned with the maintaining of common standards, the advocates of Liberal Culture used any opportunity given them to inculcate "standards of judgment in their charges. Yet this was but a byproduct of the war issue courses, although a desirable byproduct to be sure. The most important function of the war issue courses was still the articulation of Liberal Culture's view of the First World War.

Although advocates of Liberal Culture possessed three basic reasons for supporting a war specifically against Germany, they also had another reason for urging their students to take part in the war. Simply put, most proponents of Liberal Culture viewed war as character building. They conceived of the battlefield as a testing ground for the individual and believed that the war experience would teach self sacrifice, discipline, obedience, toughness, and patriotism. Men of Liberal Culture lumped these and other ideals together and called the result "character." The possession of character was in turn made a basic test of manhood. Thus many professors urged their students to try their character on the battlefield.

The term character was widely used by men of Liberal Culture but rarely, if ever, specifically defined. Rather, it was a catch-all term used to describe an ideal type of student. This type is revealed in a dialogue between two Yale students in Owen Johnson's Stover at Yale, a popular novel of college life written in 1912. "What does this [Yale] type stand for?... First, a pretty fine type of gentleman, with good, clear, honest standards; second, a spirit of ambition and a determination not to be beaten; third, the belief in democracy." "All of which means," sums up the other student, "that we are simply schools for character."(57) Another definition of character was attempted by Charles Eliot in his essay "The Character of a Gentleman." Eliot wrote that "Now what is character?... It is the character of a gentleman who is also a democrat."(58)

Both Eliot and Johnson stressed that a gentleman must be a democrat. The role of a gentleman in a democracy was definitely prescribed if the gentleman possessed character. As Eliot put it, "The gentleman in a democracy cannot be a lazy, shiftless, self-indulgent person. He must be a worker, an organizer, and a disinterested laborer in the service of others."(59) Eliot's idea was taken up by Theodore Roosevelt in his book The Strenuous Life, a collection of essays and speeches published in 1901. Roosevelt believed that "wisely used leisure merely means that those who possess it, being free from the necessity of working for their livelihood, are all the more bound to carry on some kind of non remunerative work... work of the type we most need in this country."(60) Men of Liberal Culture placed this emphasis on the role of the gentleman because their defense of a semi-aristocratic democracy rested upon the premise that an upper- class earned its position through such service.

For many academicians, the ideal of service, with its concomitant glorification of patriotism, individual sacrifice for public good, and high moral feeling, had reached its highest expression during the Civil War. Such a belief was expressed by Oliver Wendell Holmes in his Memorial Day address of 1895 when he declared that: "The generation that carried on the war has been set apart by its experience. Through our great good fortune, in our youths our hearts were touched with fire. It was given us to learn at the outset that life is a profound and passionate thing."(61) However, since the Civil War it seemed to many advocates of Liberal Culture that the increased luxury of life had sapped both the intellectual and moral vigor of the upper-class. Most men of Liberal Culture believed that a pervading spirit of materialism was responsible for such a decline. Thus, most felt that one of the main purposes of a college education should be to counteract such materialism. Eliot thought that "a university stands for intellectual and spiritual domination--for the forces of the mind and soul against the overwhelming load of material possessions, interests, and activities which the modern world carries."(62) Eliot's cousin, Norton, believed that the work of a teacher was "to enforce the conviction upon [his] students, and through them upon the community, that mere material prosperity affords no solid basis for the permanent welfare of a nation."(63) Advocates of Liberal Culture hoped to stem the decline of the upper-class by developing and disciplining the morals and intelligence of their students through study of the humanities. Basically then, they desired to create character in their charges.

The creation of character took more than mere book learning. The humanities were all very well for training the intellect and morals, but some things could only be learned bodily and seemingly only through war. Even William James stressed the importance of war in building character. "Martial values," wrote James, "must be the enduring cement; intrepidity, contempt of softness, surrender of private interests, obedience to command, must still remain the rock upon which states are built."(64) James believed that these martial values were "absolute and permanent human goods" and in his search for ways to develop these values without war has eventually suggested that young men work for one or two years in the outdoors.(65) Such a proletarian solution was disregarded by men of Liberal Culture, though they agreed with James that martial values were of importance in character building. Instead of adopting James's solution, men of Liberal Culture turned to another way of teaching martial values.

Rather than engage in war, a way of mimicking war was found through sports, specifically football. Many advocates of Liberal Culture viewed football as a direct parallel to war. Henry Higginson donated the Harvard football field, Soldier's Field in memory of his fallen Civil War comrades. Like war, football taught discipline and obedience to the mind while it toughened the body. It also had other advantages. Dean Briggs of Harvard believed that football was a positive moral agent because it necessitated "early hours, clean life, and constant occupation for body and mind" thus keeping many students occupied who otherwise might get into trouble.(66) In the eyes of those academicians worried about an increasingly materialistic American society, football had "still another moral advantage in training the students to honor a non-commercial standard of success.(67) Football taught "preference for the collective aims over individual ones," and gave the players an "experience of large enterprise...."(68) Finally, men like Norton hoped that football taught "fair play, honor to opponents, cheerful acceptance of defeat and modest acceptance of victory," though these latter values were often conspicuous only in their absence.(69)

The value of football as a moral agent was not confined strictly to the players. Ideally the football spirit was to infect the spectators as well as the participants. Francis Walker in an 1893 Phi Beta Kappa address at Harvard declared that: "It is a good thing that the body of students should now and then be stirred to the depths of their souls; that they should have something outside of themselves to care for; that they should learn to love passionately, even if a little animosity toward rivals must mingle with patriotic fervor...."(70) For advocates of Liberal Culture then, football was the moral equivalent to war. It taught discipline, patriotism, and service, as well as hardening the body. Though occasional deaths did result, football achieved all of this without the carnage of war.

Yet for all this, football was a gams and at best could only be a surrogate for war. When the First World War broke out, young men reared in the tradition of Liberal Culture were presented both with a duty and an opportunity. To volunteer for war service of some kind was a duty because Liberal Culture's perception of the war as a war or western civilization, religion, progress and democracy, when combined with an upper-class notion of service, left the students with a fairly clear moral duty to volunteer. Moreover, here was an opportunity to test-one's manhood by the standards of Liberal Culture. Most volunteers probably did not need much urging from their professors to join an ambulance unit. Eager for service, they were to experience a rude awakening at the wheel of a Model T Ford.

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Chapter III

The Ambulance Drivers and The War

Life in the Ambulance Service

During the Twenties, when the ideals of the pre-war generation were no longer fashionable, it was popular sport on the part of intellectuals to speak condescendingly of the ambulance "boys" and the services they had rendered. It was assumed that most drivers had been blasé college youths who had entered the ambulance services out of a desire to view the carnage of the First World War from the safe seat of an ambulance. Thus John Aldridge, a literary historian, wrote that the drivers "wanted to experience the excitement of death without the pain of it."(71) Such a view was indulged in even by those men who should have known better; John Dos Passos and Malcolm Cowley, both volunteers themselves, later belittled the ambulance services. Yet, even if some of the men were not motivated by a desire to be of service, there was certainly no such thing as a "safe" seat on an ambulance.

On the contrary, the work was so hard and dangerous that personal commitment was necessary if a driver was to last out his six month tour of duty. Certainly, life in the ambulance services was much easier and safer than life in the trenches; the drivers were among the first to admit that. But life in the services was not the "picnic" later described by some writers of the Twenties. Rather, the ambulance services were a tiring and necessary business, the proper running of which took courage, endurance, and enthusiasm on the part of the drivers.

Early in the war an ambulance driver wrote an article in which he tried to describe life in the ambulance service. He found it "difficult to take any one day's work and describe it in the attempt to give an adequate picture," for while the "framework, the schedule of runs, the point of calling, the ordinary duties, are more or less the same, the action and experiences which add the color are never alike."(72) With this caveat in mind, the framework of the ambulance services can be described.

The basic organizational unit of the ambulance services was the section, which consisted of twenty ambulances. These ambulances were usually Model T Fords with an enclosed wooden frame for carrying the wounded built on the back. Although lightly powered compared to the larger French Fiat ambulances, the Fords were able to carry three stretcher cases (couchés) or six sitting cases (blessés) at a time, and, due to their lightness were much more maneuverable on the bad roads of the front than were the French ambulances. Besides transporting wounded, the ambulances often served as sleeping and eating quarters for their drivers and each volunteer became extremely attached to his particular car.

Theoretically, each section was composed of forty drivers. In practice, however, it was rare for a section to possess over thirty drivers, and more often a section averaged just over one driver per car. From among the drivers of a section, Field Service headquarters chose the two most responsible men to act as sergeant (sous chief) and lieutenant (section chief). Since all men were expected to drive, these offices were viewed as extra duty and competition for the posts was not usually keen. Attached to the section were four French soldiers, one of whom was a lieutenant responsible for relaying orders from the French command to the section. The three other men served as cooks or mechanics. The rolling stock of the section was rounded out by two large trucks, one of which served as a spare parts vehicle and work shop while the other was used as a cook wagon.

If the basic unit of the service was the section, the basic unit of the section was the individual driver and his car. Each driver was a volunteer who had signed for a six month tour of duty. While in the service he was considered to be a part of the French army and thus under French discipline. This might have created problems except that the French lieutenant was chosen for his ability to speak English and for getting along with Americans. Most of the French lieutenants had spent time in the United States. Formal cases of discipline were rare and were usually handled by the American section chief.(73)

As members of the French army, the drivers were supposedly treated as common soldiers (poilus). They received the pay of the poilu, were fed the canned meat that the soldiers in the trenches ate, and were given the vin ordinaire (commonly called "pinard") and the French tobacco of the common soldier. Estimates of the pinard varied, some drivers thinking it too strong, others believing it too weak; however, all agreed that the French tobacco was vile. Although the volunteers liked to think of themselves as common soldiers, in reality they were in a privileged position. They were not stuck in the trenches, and, having their own money they were able to supplement their diet by buying their own food. Moreover, as volunteers fighting for France they were treated with consideration and courtesy almost everywhere they went. Finally, unlike the poilus who were fighting for the duration of the war, the drivers knew that their tour of duty was only for six months.

This is not to denigrate the work that the drivers performed, for often it was hard and tiring. Each ambulance section was attached to a division of the French army and had the sole responsibility of evacuating the wounded from its division to the nearest field hospital. The evacuation of the wounded generally proceeded in the following manner. A French division consisted of three infantry regiments and an artillery regiment, each of which maintained a first aid post (poste de secours) for its wounded men. These postes de secours were generally located between the second and third line trenches and were anywhere from ten to one hundred yards from the front. Since the first aid stations were generally visible to the Germans the ambulances usually evacuated the wounded at night without the use of headlights. From the poste de secours the wounded were driven to a more permanent poste de triage located in the nearest town behind the front. Usually the poste de triage was well within the shelling zone and it was here that the drivers waited for the call to evacuate the wounded from the forward first aid posts. At the poste de triage the cases were sorted out according to the gravity and type of the wound. The wounded were then driven by ambulance to field hospitals outside the zone of fire.

Through all this, the intensity of a section's work depended entirely upon the intensity of the war along that section's particular stretch of the front. Usually long periods went by between attacks. During the holding operations a man might work as little as every third night and possibly only two or three wounded would need to be evacuated. During an attack the drivers might be called upon to work four or five days straight. One driver described the work: "When the work is light, men are usually 24 hours on and 48 off; when moderate 24 hours on and 24 off; when stiff 48 on and 24 off, and during an attack almost steadily on."(74)

Since the duty of the section was quick evacuation of the wounded, men were always on call and the section itself was necessarily billeted close to the front. This meant that the drivers were located within the zone of shelling. Through the use of observation balloons and planes, the Germans knew where the main roads were located and they shelled the roads sporadically any time of the day. Thus, while merely being in the war-zone was dangerous, driving on the roads was even more so. The danger of being killed or wounded, though small, was ever present and most drivers were not likely to forget it. Even if they had, a shell was sure to remind them. Such was the case of one driver who was "just getting into the car" when a shell burst so near him that he "was hit by the flying earth and falling stones thrown up by the shell, which struck the car in several places."(75)

During an attack the danger of shelling and the chance of physical harm were increased. Quite naturally, the Germans shelled the roads as often as possible to hamper French reinforcements, while at the same time the increase in wounded meant that all of a section's ambulances needed to be rolling. Because of the increased shelling almost every driver had his own individual scrape with a shell, though most were lucky enough to live. One driver recalled that during the last five days of the Verdun attack fourteen of his section's cars had been hit by shells or fragments and that "two of the twelve men [had] been wounded."(76) This was not at all unusual. A volunteer from another section recorded that "one of our drivers had the front of his car broken open and two men were killed beside it, while he just saved himself by sliding under the car when he heard the whistle (of the shell). Another man had a shrapnel bullet pierce his purse and stop; and another was bruised in the ankle...."(77) Yet, while the drivers had good reason to fear driving during an attack, the majority continued to drive as long as their cars held together.

Often, if the battle were a major one such as Verdun, the rate of killing and wounding quickly outstripped the capacity of the ambulances to retrieve the wounded. When this occurred the ambulances would evacuate the postes de secours all night and then drive the men from the poste de triage to the field hospitals during the day. Often there was such a backlog of wounded that "it was left to the driver to decide how many trips it was physically possible for him to make in each twenty-four hour period."(78) Most drivers responded by working as long as their cars would run and they could stay awake, though lack of sleep made the ensuing bombardment unreal and nightmarish.

One driver described Verdun in a letter to the New York Times: "We worked eighteen hours daily and fell asleep in the mud beside the cars, too tired to eat."(79) Richard Norton recounted a similar battle scene in a letter to his brother. "Only three or four incidents of the twelve hard days of work stand out clearly in my mind," wrote Norton, "the rest is but a hazy memory of indistinguishable nights and days, cold and rain, long rows of laden stretchers waiting to be put into the cars...."(80) The unreality of life during an attack and the blurring of events in a mind were common. Another driver wrote: "Our section has been working at a terrific pace. I am so tired that the events of the past few days seem all confused and even unreal."(81) Eventually, when the division to which a section was attached incurred forty per cent casualties, the division and the ambulance section were taken off the line. But until that occurred, the volunteer drivers worked feverishly and single-mindedly in the evacuation of the wounded; so much so that after every major battle at least one section of the volunteer services was decorated.

While life was undeniably hard and dangerous during an attack, the tenor of life during an attack was not typical of life at the front. Usually the western front was a massive holding operation on the part of both armies with low casualties. In such a situation the typical driver drove every other day, though continually on call. Life for many drivers during this period was somewhat boring when contrasted with the excitement found during an attack. That this was so is not strange. The ambulance drivers were usually stuck in a small, semi-ruined, French provincial town from which most civilians had long since been evacuated. The only women nearby were prostitutes, whom the majority of the volunteers did not patronize, and whatever bars the town possessed were only open for a few hours during the afternoon. After a few weeks of little activity some of the drivers secretly hoped that the Germans would attack and break the monotony. A driver reported that "just yesterday I heard one of our drivers, over here to do a work of mercy, say that he hoped there would be lots of wounded to carry that day because it was such a bore to sit around and do nothing."(82) Another driver, writing that "except for our experiences on the road there was little romance in the daily routine," was entirely correct.(83)

Of course the drivers did have various ways to relieve their boredom. The first call on any spare time was from one's car, as every driver was responsible for keeping his Ford in running condition. What with shellings and accidents due to bad road conditions and night driving without lights, repair took up much of a volunteer's time. Any excess leisure time was used in visiting the trenches, socializing with the poilus, and collecting souvenirs. As one driver-noted, "everybody seems to have gone souvenir crazy. Not only do we bring in all sorts of junk from the poste, but we spend every minute here making briquets [cigarette lighters], paper knives, aluminum rings, and various do-dads from Boche bullets."(84) Another driver concurred: "Collecting war trophys [sic] seems to be the chief recreation. It reminds me somewhat of the old marble days when one traded a clouded agate for two glass ones. A German aluminum "fusée" is more prized than one made entirely of brass."(85) However, not all men were interested in collecting spent German shells. As Norton dryly noted "I hate them [shells]... I was never born to be a conchologist."(86)

While collecting souvenirs helped break the monotony of life in a quiet sector, it seems that drivers used their free time either to talk among themselves or to write in their diaries, which every driver seemed to possess. In their diaries and letters home the drivers spoke of life in the service. Though they complained of their food and the dirt, they generally seem to have been happy. "We eat in this little inn with French doctors and for sleeping are billeted around the town" wrote one driver.(87) Another remarked that "the food was none too good and the cooking none too clean" but realized that "the men in the trenches would have made of such conditions a luxury paradise" and so was content.(88) In a letter home Andrew noted that "so far it seems as if we were preparing for a camping lark," and that although the conditions were not what he was used to they were easily bearable.(89) Of course, camping was necessarily a dirty experience. John Dos Passos wrote that "I've not been on duty today--so I've been engaged in washing off to the best of my ability the grime and fleas of two nights in the dugout."(90)

Perhaps it was memories of such boredom and discomfort that led Dos Passos and Cowley later to disparage the ambulance services. It was certainly true that life between attacks was often boring and perhaps seemed meaningless to some of the drivers. However, the work they were engaged in was important and did save lives. The retrospective view of the novelists of the Twenties that the ambulance drivers were college youths who had joined only to view the carnage of war is simply not borne out. Rather, the quality of the drivers is reflected in some of the official citations of the French army. One driver was cited for a Croix de guerre for working "constantly in the zone of intense bombardment. His ambulance and wounded men he was transporting were struck by bursting shells. His coolness and presence of mind were remarkable."(91) Others were cited for "courage and profound devotion" and both the Norton Section and Section One of the American Field Service were cited en masse for their work at Verdun.(92)

Such actions were not the work of men who had joined merely to see war. Rather, they were the actions of men dedicated to both an abstract cause and a conception of manhood that was predicated on service. The life of the ambulance service, both under battle and holding conditions was such that only dedicated men fulfilled their six month tour of duty. The reasons for this dedication will be examined in the following two sections.


Chapter Three, continued
Table of Contents