Commemorative History


United States Army Ambulance Service Association


Fiftieth Anniversary


Camp Crane




Special credit is given here for art work on cover to
Alfred A. Gardner, S.S.U. 94, 'Let's Go!"

Designed by John R. Smucker, Jr., S.S.U. 554, "Let's Go!"

Cover Legend: At base of columns --- American Field Service insignia at the left, United States Army Ambulance Service at the right; battle-scarred flags represent the services in Italy, United States of America and France; the columns represent the two main contingents and support the volunteers whose men wore the cock of Verdun in France, and the Lion of St. Mark in Italy.


Researched and written by JOHN R. SMUCKER, JR.








"Take not from the past its ashes --- but its fire."

---author unknown

We must begin with this actual quotation from a letter dated July 4, 1965, addressed to James J. Cummings, National Adjutant: --

"Subject: The Usaac Unit History: Organization; Men and Vehicles; The Bulletin's Commemorative Issue: 1967 Fiftieth Anniversary."

This letter went on to outline the writer's dream and hope that somehow---someway---someone could be found to compile a brief history of our service---and the letter was then signed, F. Eugene Duffee, Section 525. It properly found its way into the hands of William B. O'Brien, Editor of the USAAC Bulletin, who thought it was an excellent idea --- and from there the struggle began! What you are about to read represents hours of research and involved the help of many and we hope it will measure up to Usaac Duffee's "dream."

Your editors have made every effort against great odds, to bring to the men of the United States Army Ambulance Service Association, their families and many friends, this Commemorative History of the U.S.A.A.S., which is published on the occasion of the Fiftieth Anniversary Celebration of the establishment of this Service and the founding of Camp Crane at Allentown, Pennsylvania.

In the pages that follow we have not only attempted to incorporate a brief history of the U. S. Army Ambulance Service, but also to give a short review of each Section or Unit which went through training at Camp Crane, in so far as these reports were received. As many of the men who volunteered for this service were reassigned as replacements in those earlier volunteer ambulance units of the American Field Service, the Norton-Harjes Ambulance Companies, and the American Red Cross Ambulance Companies, short reviews of these units (where available) have also been included. These reviews will of course be limited to the period following the militarization of the earlier volunteer units into the American Army Forces.

Much has been said in praise for the editors who now take up their pens in this work, but the real heroes in this effort are those tireless editors of the past --- from Basil Walters (who originally gave us the Camp Crane News), down through the years including the man who, up to the present, held the job of Editor of the USAAC Bulletin for the longest period, namely Hewitt "Pank" Kahn. They are the ones who deserve our praise. They brought forth from the attics dust covered diaries, picture albums, memoirs, and just plain good stories --- to be published in the Bulletin beginning with the year after we got home --- 1920 through 1966.

Your editors must acknowledge that there is not much in these pages which is new, for it is merely the combining of many facts you have read over the years under a set of gold covers. In this regard no greater reward could have been given to your editors than the opportunity to read the pages of nearly two-hundred Bulletins published to date. This was made possible through the generous gift of a complete collection by the widow of George E. Wilson, Section 555. The continued publishing of these Bulletins --- containing so many memoirs, so much news of the men of this service --- has been the strongest factor in keeping alive that marvelous spirit which has characterized the men who call themselves USAACs.

Your editors have so many to thank for the help in accomplishing their task it will be impossible to name them all. From our page of "Acknowledgments" which follows, we want to emphasize our gratefulness to the American Field Service for their wonderful help in allowing us to quote many passages from the three volumes of their history. Through the summaries of each of the Field Service units which became a part of our service, we have been able to include their experiences in this brief history. The feeling of comradeship which has grown stronger with the passing years reminds us that our origin, so deeply rooted in the American Field Service, gave us the chance in many cases to serve our Allies earlier than other American forces. We should never forget that it was the spirit of courage and loyalty which these early volunteers had shown toward the French soldier which prompted the French government to request our government to perpetuate the work of "those gallant American volunteer ambulance drivers" who had been the sole link between America and the French, British and Italians in those dark days of 1914, 1915 and 1916. We are glad to be able to acknowledge in greater detail this important connection between the two services in our following brief history.

We must ask your indulgence in regard to our story seeming at times disconnected and repetitious, remembering the fact that it is made up of many quotations from many sources, written many years ago. The only real disappointment your editors must announce at this juncture is that, try as they might with all of their energies to bring forth the Section Reviews, there are still some few missing. This cannot be blamed so much on the individuals who failed to respond with the correct information, as much as it can he blamed on the lateness of this history effort. We have recorded the facts in these Section Reviews as truthfully as the men's memories would permit. This is not the first time a recording of our Service history as been made but it may well be the first time we have collected the section activities and the gathering together of the group photographs.

We have tried to cover the enlistment period and camp life, the ambulance work on the fronts in France and Italy, a short resume of the battle lines, some important statements by important men, a showing of pictures that tell the story far better than words, some experiences of the men. We have tried not to forget the fun we had or in another man's words, "Oh! What a lovely war!" Those of the Ambulance Service knew full well the horrors of war, but their talents brought relief from its grimness. All in all we have tried to catch the spirit of this unique military organization known as the United States Army Ambulance Service---brought into being in 1917 and disappearing from the ranks of the armed forces in 1919.

We would like to point out now, that space limits us from giving reviews of every organization that went through Camp Crane. There is no careless reason for seeming to neglect certain medical units of which many of the men sent to this camp became a part. However, we must point out that the original purpose for which Camp Crane was established was for the training and formation of ambulance units. We will tell the story in this volume of how and why these ambulance sections were the result of a direct request from the French and Italian governments.

It may be obvious to the reader that the editors have purposely left the question of who was the "first," in the events narrated here, to those better qualified to argue those points with their comrades over a glass of beer, into the small wee hours, with no one winning!

So with this explanation of your editors' objectives we close this "Foreword" with a quotation from the Memoirs of Evacuation Ambulance Company Seven:

"If these pages will once more take you back and you can live again your experiences, your trials and tribulations as well as the many pleasantries of army life (the bitter with the sweet), this effort will not have been made in vain."

John R. Smucker, Jr.
Editor, Commemorative History

William B. O'Brien
Editor, The USAAC Bulletin

Wynnewood, Pa. 1967



As stated in the "Foreword," the editors received so much real help that they wanted to devote this page to say "Thank You" to the following persons and organizations who, through their generosity, have lent so much more authenticity and direct interest to the pages that follow. In many cases, authors and publishers have waived copyrights to allow direct quotations.

Mrs. George E. Wilson, for the complete collection of USAAC Bulletins belonging to her late husband.

Sabatino La Noce, Italian Headquarters, for the use of his portfolio containing the complete file of the Italian Contingent's "Ambulance Service News," from which we obtained "Section Reviews" and stories of the Italian Contingent.

Arthur Howe, Jr., President of the American Field Service, for permission to quote from their three volumes of history.

Robert Applewhite, Secretary, American Field Service, for photograph of A. Piatt Andrew and other helpful information.

Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, publishers of the A.F.S. History, for release of copyrights 1922 to A.F.S. editors and in turn to us.

Erwin A. Hero, Section 630 (transfer from 554) and driver in Second World War, for lending his three volumes of the History of the American Field Service.

Henry D. Sleeper (deceased), head of A. F. S. headquarters in Paris and leader in U.S., for his statement on volunteers.

Charles Scribner's Sons, New York, for the use of limited quotations from the book, "Ford: Expansion and Challenge," by Allan Nevins, copyright 1957.

Atlantic-Little, Brown and Company, Boston, for permission to reprint passages from the book, "In Friendly Candor," copyright 1959 by Edward Weeks, Section 641.

Putnam's and Coward. McCann, permission granted to quote poem "November Eleventh" and use of drawing, from book "I Was There," copyright 1919 by C. LeRoy Baldridge.

Doubleday and Company, Inc., permission to quote from the book "The Last Mile," by Frank A. McAlister, copyright 1922.

Colonel Raymond C. Hall, Chief, Historical Service Division, Washington, and his staff, for the use of his library and release of information.

Le General C. D. R. de Cossé Brissac, Chef du Service, Historique de l'Armée, for Section assignments to French Divisions.

University of Pennsylvania Hospital, Medical Library for unlimited use of Vol. VIII, "The History of the Medical Department of the United States Army in the World War --Field Operations" as reported to Surgeon-General M. W. Ireland, 1925.

James J. Cummings, National Adjutant of the USAAS Association for his many acts of assistance.

Cecil P. Harvey, Section 523, for lending his history compiled by members of the section and for permission to use photographs and quotations from the text. Also for copy of "The Exhaust."

Donald M. Campbell, Section 590, for lending his book, "Ambulance No. 10," by Leslie Buswell, Section 2, A.F.S.

C. E. Dornbusch, Hope Farm Press and Bookshop, Cornwallville, New York, for helpful military references.

United States Lawn Tennis Association, for permission to quote from their book "U.S.L.T.A. and the World War."

Dean Bollman, Section 570, for permission to quote from his Memoirs covering "University of Washington in World War I," copyright 1945.

L'Illustration, Paris, permission to quote from War Album, Volume II, arranged by Commandant Louis Rivière.

E. Perot Fiero, for lending us his bound edition War Volume II by L'Illustration, Paris Pictorial Publication, from which we received permission to use copies of photographs of Generals and war map.

J. Roy Lovell, Section 625, for his great help in translating into English. L'Illustration review of 1917 and 1918 French and Italian War Fronts.

William Wefer, Section 631, for special story on the passing through their lines of the German Armistice envoys, November 7, 1918.

Mrs. John B. Austin, for permission to use passages from her late husband's (Sections 554-534 -509) Memoirs.

Dr. E. L. Persons, Duke University Medical Department, for his interest and furnishing the photograph of his father.

John Franklin, King of Prussia, Pa., for pictures and information about his father, Col. C. P. Franklin, and copies of correspondence and manuscript pertaining to John Philip Sousa's "USAAC March."

John O. Parcell, Section 567 (deceased), for use of the original drawing by William O. Bailey used as special opening of Section Reviews.

Richard L. Townsend, Section 554, for his most complete collection of World War I books, maps, and "Radiators."

Herbert S. Casey, Villanova, Pa., for the gift of the book, "Friends of France," from which quotations were used.

Mrs. William B. Kernell, for furnishing photograph of her late husband.

Mrs. G. Roberts, Englewood, N.J. (daughter of Richard Fechheimer, partner with William Kernell on two Usaac musical shows) for lending photograph of her late father,

Louis L. Hirschkorn, Section 592-650, for arranging the securing of above photograph, and also sending in pictures of overseas Usaac Baseball Team.

D. Victor Emanuel, Section 634, formerly of 561, for information and pictures of famous Usaac Football Team.

Francis "Hira" Hall, MOU 1, for story and picture of Usaac Baseball Team.

Charles Keck, Section 566. for information and pictures covering show, "Good Bye Bill."

Charles B. Barlow, Section 563, for pictures and story on United States Army Jazz Band.

Paul Hartzell, Section 579, for sending program of Society Italiana di Fonolipia of Milan, covering collection of records made with the Oberlin College Octette and the Jazz Band.

George Beck, Section 501, for selection of pictures used in History.

Von H. Byre, Prov. Section "C," for sending the story of the delivery of the Queen's Regiment flags of 1849 back to the City of Trieste.

George Peyton, Section 521, for permission to quote from special material prepared by Harry Benson.

Robert W. Kernaghan, Section 575, for his assistance in arranging contacts with French Embassy and obtaining information from the National Archives.

Frederick G. Beattie, Section 589, through whose guidance and enthusiasm the editor of this History was helped and encouraged.

Sam Stryker, Wynnewood, Pa., photographer, who was most helpful in furnishing many glossy prints taken from loaned pictures and books.

William F. and Virginia Schlechter, for lending a helping hand to the editors in regard to layout and print type, and other problems.

Dana Smucker, for her understanding and patience during the many months of research and preparation.

All Loyal USAACs and Auxiliary Members, for their moral, intellectual, and financial support in making this History possible.






Service in France
Service in Italy
Special units: AFS and Other Volunteers with U.S.A.A.S.






We are all most appreciative of the great effort and untiring work of the Editors, for this Commemorative History, in searching out and bringing together in most interesting form the story of the USAACs.

There never was before, or since, assembled in short order such a group of high spirited, adventuresome and patriotic American young men from all sections of the nation. The motivation was the lure of promised quick and certain action on the Western Front. They were quartered in the horse and cattlebarns of the Allentown Fairgrounds before their uniforms were ready. Dressed in their own civilian clothes, they got down to army training immediately.

Enlistment in the USAACs seemed the surest way to get to France quick. Unfortunately for many, there was what seemed to them a long, long wait. Those who had to wait, however, found creative outlets for their great energies and finally all got into interesting European action.

Your editors have, in this brief history, caught and preserved the spirit and the personality of the USAACs. Important as was the contribution to the overall war effort, service with the Allied armies as well as with American troops, the thing that made the USAACs a distinctive organization was the high caliber of men in it.

These men were carefully selected, largely on college campuses, for their capability to go in and do a job, wherever a job needed to be done, men capable of finding their own way quickly to and from any battlefront, and then find hospitals that could take care of the loads of wounded.

The Ford ambulance was virtually as new to warfare in World War I as is the helicopter ambulance today. Strange as it may seem to our children and grandchildren, ability to drive an automobile was not universal. One requirement for acceptance as a USAAC volunteer was experience in driving an automobile and in automobile repair. Many volunteered a questionable "Yes" to these requirements.

Descendants of USAACs, who read this history, will understand it better if they keep in mind that horses and mules were still only gradually giving way to the truck and the tractor late in the war. Tanks and airplanes were in their infancy. On the Italian front, at least, cavalry was still horse mounted.

Horseshoe nails were a constant peril to thin automobile tires, especially on skids at a crossload under enemy artillery fire. There were no demountable rims. Clincher tires had to be mounted on jacked up wheels and then pumped up by hand.

Roads were jammed with men and supplies and headlights were of course not used near the front. A few kilometers back peasants with their ox-drawn two wheel carts were a constant hazard.

In Italy much of the driving was on mountains. Gasoline was fed to engines from gravity tanks. On steep grades it was frequently necessary to drive backwards in order to get the gas flowing into the engine. Brakes were not built for mountain driving and frequently gave way to wear. The wise driver watched for well placed trees that could be used for an emergency stop on the way down.

But to the USAAC, as the Editors reveal, this was high adventure as well as service. Some of their grandsons, no doubt, are the ambulance helicopter pilots of today, USAACs with modern equipment --- men capable of going in and doing a job on any battlefield.

The shows "Good Bye Bill" and "Let's Go!" and Jazz Hamp's Band, touring the canals of Venice, with gondolas as their bandstand, while that city was under artillery range from the enemy --- belong to USAAC history.

No ordinary or dull men, these USAACs!

This history is something each of us will want to give to each of our grandchildren. It will make them proud of their heritage.

Basil L. Walters, Section 88





It is indeed an honor to write this short Introduction as a "Friend of the USAACS," to be singled out among a townful of friends because there is no doubt in my mind that Allentown, Pennsylvania, during those thrilling days of 1917-18, contained naught but friends of the men who trained at Camp Crane.

It is an honor too because I know how earnestly and how diligently the Editors have worked in compiling writing and editing this Fiftieth Anniversary History. It is a real privilege to be a part of so outstanding an achievement.

The considerable correspondence that has passed between us, plus our telephone talks and personal meetings have stimulated my recollections of those days when I was a reporter on an Allentown newspaper. And there is no greater pleasure at the age I have attained and no doubt many of my USAAC friends will agree --- than to reminisce.

As I look back upon a life spent in newspaper work, the period when the Allentown Fairgrounds was populated with soldiers, when every day brought exciting news of camp activities, of visits of famous persons in all fields of endeavor --- the military, political, cultural --- I revel in the memory of the reportorial assignments that took me to the camp.

And there were guard mounts to cover and community sings and block dances and parades. Ah, those parades! I can still see them, as in perfect ranks, in formations that stretched from curb to curb, the USAACs marched down Hamilton Street, behind the big USAAC Band.

Whatever the occasion that demanded a parade, a Liberty Loan drive, the departure of local National Guardsmen, a patriotic holiday -- the committee had but to send word to the camp and you had a parade --- a thousand, two thousand men!

So it was in many other community endeavors, with the camp always wholeheartedly cooperating.

Similarly, the community took the camp to its heart and under the imaginative and dynamic leadership of Mayor A. L. Reichenbach, the camp and the community became one.

Many of my USAAC friends will surely recall the Big Brother movement, just one of Mayor Reichenbach's many projects to make the USAACS feel welcome and at home in Allentown. Search of the newspaper files brought forth the list of prominent citizens who became Big Brothers to the various units. It is a veritable "Who's Who" of Allentown as I remember it in that day.

The homes of the Big Brothers were open at all times to the men for friendly visits, for relaxation, for social affairs, for Sunday dinners. Many elaborate events, dances, picnics, parties were held while at the same time the Big Brothers were always available for counsel and advice.

I want to close with reference to another phase of Camp Crane activities with which I became most closely acquainted --- the Camp Crane News.

The offices of the camp's weekly were located in our own newspaper building at Sixth and Linden Streets and so the staffs got to know each other well. In fact my city editor, the late E. J. McGettigan was adopted as their willing and happy mentor.

It was here that I met "Stuffy" Walters, city editor of the Camp Crane News who rose to such journalistic heights that he may rightly be termed, "Mr. Newspaper U.S.A."

And so it is still another honor for me that this piece appears in company with that of an old friend grown so deservedly distinguished.

John Y. Kohl
Editor Emeritus
Sunday Call-Chronicle
Allentown, Pa.

Chapter One