Thomas Stretton Esten
Western Desert
29 April 1942

Cairo, Egypt, April 30, 1942. Thomas Esten, 28, of 195 Walnut St., Stoughton, Mass, died of pneumonia in an Alexandria hospital. He was buried in the British Cemetery with military honors. Thomas Esten served with the American Volunteer Ambulance Corps in France from October, 1939 to September, 1940 and during that time was awarded the Croix de Guerre twice, one with palm. For three days and nights, without rest, he helped carry wounded from the front lined to first aid posts, frequently acting as a stretcher bearer himself. Early in his association with the A.F.S. he showed his ability. He was selected as group leader and because of his experience and interest in map-making was given the job, during the long wait in India, of mapping out route marches. This earned him the endearing nick-name among his confreres of "The Mad Mapper" and "Slapsy Mapsie". The death of Tom Esten --- the first casualty in the A.F.S. during the present conflict --- saddened all of us who had the privilege of knowing him and we humbly pray that because of his supreme sacrifice we may do a better job. (AFS Letters No. 3)

  Andrew Geer. Mercy in Hell. An American Ambulance Driver with the Eighth Army. MaGraw Hill, New York 1943.

Tom Esten left for the desert in poor health. He insisted that he make the trip and assured one and all that he would be quite all right. The trip to Tobruk was strenuous, with long hours on a crowded jolting train to railhead, and from there in a three-ton truck. Upon arrival at the harbor city Tom was very ill. He was forced into the hospital and within a few days evacuated to Alexandria by hospital ship. He died of pneumonia (aggravated by desert dust) while on the operating table. Tom was a sincere, hard-working young man. He had seen service in France, where he won the Croix de guerre. His desire to do a job cost him his life.

George Rock. Chapter 3. "Middle East 1. Tobruk to El Alamein (November 1941 to September 1942)" History of the American Field Service, 1920-1955. New York 1956.

In Mena, Tichenor was left in hospital to recover from bronchitis. Esten, although having a bad cold, kept on with the group until three days later, when they reached Tobruk, he was admitted to the 62nd General Hospital with pneumonia and pleurisy. Tichenor later rejoined the unit in the desert, but Esten never recovered. Evacuated to Alexandria, be died on the operating table on 29 April, one lung collapsing as the other was being worked on. Esten was buried on the afternoon of 30 April at the Military Cemetery in Alexandria, with full military honors. He was the first member of the American Field Service to die in action in World War II.

AFS News Bulletin No. 2

Esten was feeling pretty bad, they told me, and I went over to see him. He looked like death. He lay in the back of the ambulance along with our duffle bags, a barrel of wine, and a sack of hard rations; he lay in his sleeping bag, and wore dark glasses. The red and yellow dust powered his face, and crusted his lips. He was pretty bad, indeed. It takes a few minutes of red tape to get a man into any hospital, and Tom could barely stand. He felt ill in Alexandria, and really bad in Bardia. At Tobruk they found he had pneumonia and pleurisy.

  Newspaper clipping in "A Mother's Scrapbook: John Newlin Hobbs and the American Field Service, 1942-1945."

APRIL 30, 1942

Stoughton Hero Ambulance Driver Dies in Egypt

CAIRO, Egypt, April 30 (AP)---Thomas Esten, 28, of 195 Walnut st., Stoughton, Mass., a volunteer ambulance driver with the American Field Service, died of pneumonia today in an Alexandria hospital. He, was buried in the British Cemetery with military honors.

He Won Croix de Guerre for Gallantry in France

Thomas Esten of Stoughton, 28-year-old volunteer ambulance driver in Africa, whose death was announced today had won the Croix de Guerre for his gallant service in various battlefronts. Son of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Esten of 195 Walnut st., Stoughton, Esten had his ambulance wrecked in France and was interned in a German concentration camp after the fall of France. Upon his release he reenlisted for service in Africa.

Esten won the Croix de Guerre for bravery in action on the French front. For three days and three nights, without rest, he helped carry wounded from the front lines to first aid posts, frequently acting as a stretcher bearer himself .

The tall, good-looking American young man was in Spain during the Spanish war and from there went to France where he entered the American Field Service. He was married to Miss Barbara Standish Blackburn of Dedham in 1935.

Esten studied at Stoughton High, the Huntington School and the Museum of Fine Arts School in Boston.

 

George Oscar Tichenor
Western Desert
11 June 1942

George Tichenor of Maplewood, N.J. was the first to die. As an Axis bullet pierced his head, he fell across the wounded in his care. His body protected them from the same deadly spray and they remained safe until they could be rescued. Quiet young George Tichenor was a little different from most of the Field Service men. He couldn't kill anybody. But he was, willing to. take anything being dished out in order to help the men who did fight. He was a pacifist with guts.

The New York office of the Field Service didn't have to ask questions about him when he applied for service on Oct. 1, 1941. That spring he had been headed for the Middle East on the Zam Zam as a member of the British-American Ambulance Corps. His courage when the ship was torpedoed was a high recommendation.

The townspeople of Maplewood supplemented that. His minister said he was an unusual young man, honest and reliable. Another sponsor added the words sober and trustworthy. His employer, the fashionable photographer George Platt Lynes. said his services, character and personality were entirely satisfactory. (Newspaper clipping in "A Mother's Scrapbook: John Newlin Hobbs and the American Field Service, 1942-1945.")

George Rock. Chapter 3. "Middle East 1. Tobruk to El Alamein (November 1941 to September 1942)" History of the American Field Service, 1920-1955. New York 1956.

"I counted 35 holes in me, and that doesn't include the pinheads. . . . Bits and pieces went through my shoes and into my toes, and sprayed both legs and my hand, wrist, and forearms. But no bones and no joints were broken. . . . Later someone came limping out of the blackness, and he took hold of me and we got to the truck. . . . I landed on a pile of wounded men, who could not help but groan. I crawled over onto a pile of blankets, but thought the blankets too solid. I edged onto a toolbox, which was cold and very wet. Tichenor was lying under those blankets, but I didn't know it then. He was dead."

"Tichenor had been killed immediately. His ambulance took fire, and while he worked with the wounded he had been hit in the head and had fallen across the wounded men. His body lying across them had saved their lives. One man, blinded, told me that . . . he had been in Tich's ambulance."

Later that morning, shortly before dawn, the English buried Tichenor about 8 miles southwest of Bir Hakim, near the rendez-vous point where the French were finally met by a British column from the north.

  Andrew Geer. Mercy in Hell. An American Ambulance Driver with the Eighth Army. MaGraw Hill, New York 1943.

George Tichenor pushed his way through the tangle until his machine was hit and put out of working order. Though slightly wounded, he got out and with the help of a passing infantryman off-loaded his patients. He was working over them when a burst of machine-gun fire hit him. Instinctively, as he fell he placed his body over his wounded and caught the full force of further fire.

AFS Letters No. 4

George O. Tichenor belonged to a small group of those who believed they should not wait until called for, when there was something they could do to help in this mighty conflict. He was not only ready to go at a very early date, but when his effort was frustrated through enemy action, he again volunteered when the opportunity arose and left, before his country's participation, to serve where he was most needed. There is nothing finer then that for which he stood, and in giving his life he gave to others an example of one who was unafraid.

AFS Letters No. 6

As to Tichenor, I've been unable to definitely find out all the details of what happened after he was last seen. At any rate, his identification bracelet was turned over (and subsequently lost) to Worden by an English ambulance orderly, who said that they had buried Tichenor at a point about eight miles southwest of Bir Hacheim.

AFS News Bulletin No. 2

"It was the American with the little beard", they told me to identify him. That was Tich, growing a patch of beard on his chin to amuse himself; and later on I saw the silver name bracelet we all wear, and it was Tichenor. His ambulance burned, too, for the red-head got out of it. The blind man was lying on the ground with some other wounded, and Tich must have been working with them, for when the fire of bullets went through his head and shoulders, he fell over on top at the men on the ground, and his body protected them from the grenades which came after. He was buried with the two others who were dead in the truck. I suppose they had thrown him in, too, thinking that he might be alive. Things were confused.

 

Stanley Blazei Kulak
Western Desert
11 June 1942

To the Honor Roll of the American Field Service is added the name of STANLEY KULAK, who was reported missing in action last spring. On the night of June 10th, 1942, Kulak took his place in the line of evacuation with Alexander McElwain, during the retreat from Bir Hacheim by the Free French. Together, they skillfully maneuvered their ambulance through the mine fields and cross fire of the German machine guns and reached the outside perimeter of this dangerous area when a shell struck their car, killing Kulak and wounding McElwain. Kulak's record of service is one of courage and unselfish devotion. During the fifteen day encirclement of Bir Hacheim, he worked incessantly under the stress and strain of the murderous barrage. His calm and steady manner during these days soothed the shattered nerves of the wounded. In the early days of his service, he narrowly escaped death when he was attacked from behind by two Messerschmidts which machine-gunned his ambulance, wounding Tom Krusi, his relief driver. He sacrificed his life for a common cause in helping to alleviate suffering. His loss is keenly felt by all those who had the privilege of knowing him and the honor of serving with him. (AFS Letters No. 10)

George Rock. Chapter 3. "Middle East 1. Tobruk to El Alamein (November 1941 to September 1942)" History of the American Field Service, 1920-1955. New York 1956.

McElwain drove his car through the minefield and then relinquished the driver's seat to Kulak.

"We drove further on, seeking to get away from the light of blazing trucks. Suddenly I felt intense pain in the bone of my right leg, but kept looking straight ahead in order not to divert Kulak's attention from the pandemonium through which he was driving. My whole leg then began to ache and throb with pain. On glancing toward Kulak at my side, I noticed that he had slumped in his seat and that the unguided car was slowing to a stop. A shell exploded over the radiator of our car and fragments ripped through the hood of the engine. An immediate examination of Kulak revealed that he had been badly shot up from the waist down by machine-gun fire. Kulak was sinking fast and asked to be put on the desert to apply a tourniquet. I tried to lift him into my seat. He was dead weight. It was almost impossible to get his wounded legs over the shifting levers in the center of the floorboard. I finally managed it, but my leg was giving me excruciating pain. I reasoned that it would be impossible to get him back in the car, even if I were able to get him out on the desert. It seemed better to drive till a surgeon was found. He agreed and lapsed into unconsciousness.

"A star shell then broke over the car, completely lighting up our position. The Germans had spotted the car and there was no time to lose. I staggered from the car, scarcely knowing that I had a broken leg, and hobbled to the rear to stow away two duffel bags that we had placed to the right of the open driver's seat as protection. Suddenly everything went black before my eyes. I leaned against the rear of the car until my mind slowly began to work again. With great effort I was finally able to heave the duffel bags through the open window of the rear curtain and to make sure that a wounded Senegalese had handled them inside the ambulance. With considerable difficulty I was finally able to get back to the driver's seat and get the car started. The car moved off slowly. Soon another star shell burst ahead of the car. In the instant of its flash, I caught the outlines of three men with fixed bayonets."

The German officer who captured them, with the aid of three Italian soldiers, promised to send medical assistance. But it was not until next day, when they had been driven to a German dressing station, that either received a doctor's attention. By that time, late in the morning, Kulak was dead.

AFS News Bulletin No. 5

THE INTERNATIONAL RED CROSS has reported Stanley Kulak killed in action according to a cable from Stephen Galatti to AFS in Cairo.

Kulak was stationed with the Fighting French forces last June during the siege of Bir Hacheim. After the evacuation of Bir Hacheim, Kulak was reported missing. In Vol. 1, No. 1 of THE AFS BULLETIN an article by Lorenzo Semple 3rd, under the title "The American Field Service at Bir Hacheim", told of the siege and subsequent evacuation under devastating shellfire. Sample wrote that he was probably the last to see Kulak on the night of June 10 as the French and AFS were making their way to safety.

He says of the last two hours, "I realized I'd run into a coil, of barbed wire. My frantic efforts to pull loose only got us in deeper. About ten yards from me, across the passage, I saw that the head of the GSD had had the same misfortune. . .He abandoned it (his car), got in with Worden, and our private little convoy moved on again ---leaving me behind. Tichenor disappeared, following Worden, while a moment later Kulak and McElwain went ahead and also disappeared. . . There is no way of knowing what happened to Kulak and MacElwain. I believe I was the last to see them, as they pulled past me while I was stuck in the wire."

 

William Keith McLarty
Western Desert
21 July 1947

The name of William Keith McLarty, twenty-two-year-old California boy, has been added to the Honor Roll of the American Field Service. It was with a feeling of profound regret we learned of his death, as a result of wounds suffered when a bomb fragment struck him. He faced death---as he lived---fearlessly and bravely, doing the job he had chosen. Night and day he had driven his ambulance over the desert wastes with no thought to the dangers or the hardships which he might meed on the way. His loss is felt keenly by his companions, with whom he served, and by all those who had the good fortune to know him. (AFS Letters No. 6)

George Rock. Chapter 3. "Middle East 1. Tobruk to El Alamein (November 1941 to September 1942)" History of the American Field Service, 1920-1955. New York 1956.

"At about 4 o'clock we saw a Stuka raid that had left a string of bombs across the wadi at about the location, we thought, of McLarty and Grieb. . . . We went over to the ADS for supper and learned that McLarty had been hit. A fragment had scraped the end of his spine and broken part of his pelvis, but there was a tingling sensation in his legs, so the MO said be would probably be all right.

"His ambulance had been hit, too, though he was not in it at the time. John Nettleton bustled me through supper so that we could get to the car and salvage as much as possible before miscellaneous other Dodge drivers should strip it of everything useful. We found it with its rear tires still burning and the interior of the body gutted by flames from the gas tank. But the front tires, engine, chassis, and body had been saved by throwing sand on the fire. John piled into it and had it fit to tow by 7 o'clock. We hitched it to the back of my truck and dragged it to the MDS before dark. There, McLarty had just gone under the anaesthetic, and at 8:30 we were told by the doctor who performed the operation that be expected a full recovery. I saw and talked with Mac the next morning. He was uncomfortable, but his voice and spirits were strong and be had no worry about his legs. Later in the day, I saw him again, when he felt much better and seemed to be getting some rest. As far as I could tell, he was never worried about his wound. Shortly thereafter he was evacuated to base . . . "

William Keith McLarty had died of his wounds on 21 July at the 8th General Hospital in Alexandria. He was buried in the Military Cemetery the next afternoon with full military honors. Wreathes were sent by the units McLarty had served with in Syria and the desert, and all members of the AFS who were able to do so attended the service.

  Andrew Geer. Mercy in Hell. An American Ambulance Driver with the Eighth Army. MaGraw Hill, New York 1943.

On July 14 Keith McLarty was wounded in a Stuka raid and his ambulance destroyed. The attack came about four o'clock in the afternoon while he was in the vicinity of the advanced dressing station. McLarty had driven in with wounded from a regimental aid post and after off-loading at the advanced dressing station dispersed his vehicle and walked a hundred yards or so to the YMCA canteen truck that was touring the area with cigarettes and candy. He was at the side of the canteen when the attack began. The first bomb of a string of three exploded harmlessly in the desert; the second landed near his ambulance and set it afire. The third bomb landed in the vicinity of the canteen truck. There were no slit trenches in the immediate area, and Keith threw himself onto the sand. Fragments from the third bomb hit him. He was removed at once to the advanced dressing station, where it was found that his sacrum was damaged and his pelvis broken. Later that afternoon he was removed to the medical dressing station, where he was operated on. The doctors gave him a better than fifty-fifty chance to live. He retained some feeling in his feet, indicating that his spine was not so severely damaged as to cause paralysis.

When Chan Ives's signal reached me at Ikingi (Captain King was on leave in Syria), I bent every effort to have McLarty evacuated by air, for I knew what a frightful thirty-five miles the trip back was. But two hospital planes had been shot down in the past ten days, one near the medical dressing station where Mac was waiting, and it was hopeless to send another up. Mac had to come out over the desert tracks, and he never recovered from that trip.

The day Mac reached Alexandria I went to see him. Because of the nature of his wounds he was lying face down, and it was difficult for him to talk. He moved a bit to see me better.

 

Arthur Paisley Foster
Western Desert
3 September 1942

The Field Service ambulances with the New Zealand 5th Brigade and the 132nd Infantry Brigade worked back to the 4th ADS. A. P. Foster (a member of SSU 17 in World War I, whose two sons joined him in the AFS in World War II) was with the advancing column of 132nd Brigade. Although fairly deaf, he had insisted on being assigned to an RAP. What happened to him the night of 3/4 September is still uncertain. During a halt in the advance, he and his orderly got out from either side of his ambulance. The orderly never saw Foster again, and shortly thereafter the ambulance was blown up. Later the MO's batman reported that he had seen Foster lying on the ground beside the ambulance, presumably taking cover from the intense gunfire, and then during a let-up running toward the enemy line, presumably in response to a cry for help from a wounded soldier. When he did not reappear, it was hoped that he might have been captured. Some days later, however, it was reported at his platoon headquarters that his silver identification bracelet had been picked up on the battlefield. His body was never found, and he was never reported a prisoner. Regretfully, Arthur Paisley Foster was listed as "missing, presumed dead." (George Rock. Chapter 3. "Middle East 1. Tobruk to El Alamein (November 1941 to September 1942)" History of the American Field Service, 1920-1955. New York 1956.)

  Andrew Geer. Mercy in Hell. An American Ambulance Driver with the Eighth Army. MaGraw Hill, New York 1943.

While 15 Company was forming, 11 Company continued to operate in the desert. On the night of September 3-4, Arthur Foster was lost. He and his son Jim formed the only father-and-son team in the AFS. Jim was a member of the attachment working with the Fighting French. Jim's father, after serving a time in Syria, came to the desert while the company was re-forming at Tanta. In September he went to the front with his section and was attached to a brigade that was being heavily engaged by the enemy. The regimental aid post to which Mr. Foster was assigned was hit by a shell, and the medical officer and orderlies were killed. It is also believed---this was a night action---that Foster's ambulance was hit by the same or subsequent shells. Neither he nor his vehicle has been seen since that hour.

AFS Letters No. 9

One of the chaps in our section was missing ---believed killed --- after recent action. His name was Arthur Foster --- an older man --- who had come over here in the Field Service. I was always afraid something like this might happen, since he was fairly deaf and probably couldn't hear something coming in time to duck. Nevertheless, he insisted on being up at an R.A.P., so our officers couldn't very well keep him back.

 

John Fletcher Watson
At Sea
4 December 1942

JOHN WATSON died at sea on December 4th, 1942, and was buried with full military honors. He left with his comrades with his heart set on the work he was to have done, and though it was not his lot to accomplish it, he nevertheless gave his life for the ideal which had made him voluntarily leave his wife and family. In the short time we knew him, he had already made an impression on all of us. The Field Service is built on examples of devotion such as Watson had, and in cherishing his memory we will realise that such a spirit as his can not die. (AFS Letters No. 10)

George Rock. Chapter 5. "Middle East 3. El Alamein to Tunis (October 1942 to May 1943)" History of the American Field Service, 1920-1955. New York 1956.

At about this time was received the sad news of the death of a member of Unit 33 en route to the Middle East. John Fletcher Watson had died of pneumonia at sea on 4 December 1942 and was buried with full military honors. He had left his wife and family with his heart set on the work he was to have done. Though it was not his lot to accomplish it, he nevertheless gave his life for his ideals. The American Field Service is built on examples of such devotion.

 

Randolph Clay Eaton
Western Desert
25 March 1943

RANDOLPH G. EATON was killed in action on the Mareth Line in Tunisia. Capt. Howe, his Commanding Officer, reports as follows: "At 10 AM on the 25th March, 1943, Randolph Eaton, attached to the 6th N.Z. ADS South West of G. . . was severely injured by shrapnel from a bomb landing on the ground of the ADS. Major Duncan of the ADS gave him immediate attention, but he died five minutes later. Major Lamieson (Padre) buried him at the ADS." His home was in Brookline, Massachusetts and he had been a student at Bowdoin College, which he left at the end of his freshman year in order to join the American Field Service. He was 21 years old. (AFS Letters No. 12)

George Rock. Chapter 5. "Middle East 3. El Alamein to Tunis (October 1942 to May 1943)" History of the American Field Service, 1920-1955. New York 1956.

On 25 March, Lt. Snead reported in the Platoon diary the first AFS death by enemy action in the advance from El Alamein: "Randy Eaton was at the 6th ADS yesterday evening. He was planning on coming in [to the 5th MDS] this morning. Prior to leaving, he wanted to pick up some supplies from a YMCA car. While walking from a NZ car to the YMCA vehicle, he was hit by a bomb burst, suffering severe injuries to his back and head. He died instantly, without pain. The whole crew are severely shocked. He was a good lad and a good driver."

  Caleb Milne. I Dream of the Day. Africa 1942-1943. New York: Longman's, 1945.

It was toward the end of the Khamseen that Winslow Martin dropped in from another camp in the valley. He had to prop the door open against the gale to get inside the ambulance, and his skin was raw and sore from the sand's whipping. He sat down, looking very low, and presently inquired, "You heard about Randy Eaton, didn't you?" "No," I said, thinking of the kid who'd come over with him before. "What about him?" "He's dead," Win said, "got his back blown off by a shell this afternoon." He paused a minute, looking drawn and shaky, then he added . . . . censored . . . . This I hope will be my low water mark for uneasiness, for though it has little element of personal danger, yet somehow the ingredients of the story are terrifying to me.

  Newspaper clipping in "A Mother's Scrapbook: John Newlin Hobbs and the American Field Service, 1942-1945."

HERALD, APRIL 2, 1943

R. C. Eaton, 21, Dies in Action

Grandson of Founder Of Thompson's Spa

Randolph Clay Eaton, 21, volunteer ambulance driver with the American Field Service in Tunisia and grandson of the founder of Thompson's Spa here, was killed while serving in the Mareth line sector, it was learned here yesterday.

"Randy" Eaton joined the Field. Service last summer after leaving Bowdoin College, where he was a member of the class of 1945. He had been attached to the British Eighth Army and took part in Gen. Montgomery's "big push," which started in November.

His mother, Mrs. Charles F. Eaton, residing at the Hotel Wadsworth here, was notified of his death by telegram. His father, Lt.-Comdr. Charles F. Eaton, USN, is on active duty in the Panama Canal zone. He had one brother, Richard, a student at Procter Academy.

Lt.-Comdr. Eaton is the youngest son of Charles S. Eaton, who founded Thompson's Spa in September, 1882. The Eaton family has a summer home at Marblehead Neck.

"Randy" Eaton decided to join the American Field Service while at Bowdoin, where one of his professors was Prof. Thomas Means, a member of the original American Field Service which served In France during the world war.

 

John Hopkins Denison, Jr.
Western Desert
27 March 1943

JOHN H. DENISON. Jr. 36 years old, died of pneumonia on March 27th. He was taken ill March 21st just after having arrived at a new post with the Fighting French Corps. He was buried with military honors in a British Military Cemetery, where a number of his A.F.S. comrades were present to form a guard of honor and also a squad of French troops acting as guards. His home recently had been in Bighorn, Wyoming where he owned and operated a ranch, but much of his life had been spent in both archaeological and anthropological studies which took him all over the world. (AFS Letters No. 12)

George Rock. Chapter 5. "Middle East 3. El Alamein to Tunis (October 1942 to May 1943)" History of the American Field Service, 1920-1955. New York 1956.

On 21 March 1943, John Hopkins Denison, Jr., just arrived at Gambut with a reconditioned ambulance to join the unit, fell ill of pneumonia. Weakened by earlier illness, which had left him unable to receive sulpha drugs, on the 27th he died. Denison---"liked by all, sympathetic, calm, and undemonstrative . . . a man of good heart and good sportsmanship," W. T. C. Hannah wrote---was buried at the Gambut Military Cemetery on the 28th, with a squad of French troops as guard and an AFS guard of honor.

 

August Alexander Rubel
North Africa
28 April 1943

August A. Rubel was killed in action North of Enfidaville in Tunisia when his ambulance struck a mine. A veteran of AFS World War I, he felt he could no longer stay out of the present war, where he could be helpful to others. He reenlisted in the AFS in November 1942, and went to the Middle East as an ambulance driver shortly afterwards. (AFS Letters No. 14)

George Rock. Chapter 5. "Middle East 3. El Alamein to Tunis (October 1942 to May 1943)" History of the American Field Service, 1920-1955. New York 1956.

"On the night of 17/18 April," Captain Greenough wrote, "the BIMP took over a position from Force 'L.' Grima Johnson, Rubel, and the MO of the BIMPs went forward in daylight to visit the position, and Rubel returned to base to bring back the medical supplies and the orderlies after dark. They were to start at 8 P.M. At the last moment, Lt. Stockton decided to accompany them. They set out---Lt. Stockton, Rubel, and the three orderlies---and were never seen again alive. They had taken a wrong turn, gone behind the enemy's lines, and were blown up on a mine. . . . Rubel and Stockton were at least 4 miles off their course when the car was blown up. How this occurred is still a mystery, but from my own experience I know that it is entirely possible."

There was hope for a while that they had only got lost and been captured, as enemy patrols were known to be operating in the area, and the full story was not pieced together until the end of the campaign. August Alexander Rubel, who had enlisted in SSU 631 in World War I, was killed by the explosion and was buried by the Germans beside the wrecked ambulance.

 

Richard Stirling Stockton
North Africa
28 April 1943

Richard Stockton died of wounds received while riding the same ambulance with August Rubel. When their vehicle struck a mine they were in enemy territory and Stockton was taken prisoner. He was taken to a German medical post but failed to respond to the operation. (AFS Letters No. 14)

George Rock. Chapter 5. "Middle East 3. El Alamein to Tunis (October 1942 to May 1943)" History of the American Field Service, 1920-1955. New York 1956.

"On the night of 17/18 April," Captain Greenough wrote, "the BIMP took over a position from Force 'L.' Grima Johnson, Rubel, and the MO of the BIMPs went forward in daylight to visit the position, and Rubel returned to base to bring back the medical supplies and the orderlies after dark. They were to start at 8 P.M. At the last moment, Lt. Stockton decided to accompany them. They set out---Lt. Stockton, Rubel, and the three orderlies---and were never seen again alive. They had taken a wrong turn, gone behind the enemy's lines, and were blown up on a mine. . . . Rubel and Stockton were at least 4 miles off their course when the car was blown up. How this occurred is still a mystery, but from my own experience I know that it is entirely possible."

There was hope for a while that they had only got lost and been captured, as enemy patrols were known to be operating in the area, and the full story was not pieced together until the end of the campaign. August Alexander Rubel, who had enlisted in SSU 631 in World War I, was killed by the explosion and was buried by the Germans beside the wrecked ambulance. The sole survivor of the accident, one of the BIMP orderlies, later reported that Lt. Richard Sterling Stockton had been taken to a German dressing station near by, where he died on the operating table.

AFS Letters No. 15

You will have heard, too, of the death of Lieut. Stockton, who with T.R. drove into a mine field. T. was badly wounded and a prisoner. They were all friends; and that is what war means. But I think each one of us did a job, a job we asked to do, a job we wanted to do, a job badly needed, and none of us would refuse to volunteer again.

  Newspaper clipping in "A Mother's Scrapbook: John Newlin Hobbs and the American Field Service, 1942-1945."

PHILA. MAY 26, 1943

RICHARD STOCKTON DIES OF WOUNDS
Ambulance Unit Leader in Africa was Bryn Mawr Resident

Lieutenant Richard Stockton, Philadelphia book dealer and World War veteran, has died of wounds received in North Africa, where he was serving with the American Field Service as an ambulance unit leader, it has been learned here by his wife, Mrs. Cynthia Starr Stockton, of 821 Lancaster av., Bryn Mawr.

Mrs. Stockton, who was informed on May 7 that her husband had been captured near Enfidaville, received a telegram yesterday from Stephen Galatti, director general of the American Field Service, in New York, in which he said that Lieutenant Stockton had been wounded when captured and did not survive an operation.

Mrs. Stockton's last word from her husband had been a letter received on April 27. He enlisted and sailed from this country in September, 1942, serving first in Syria and then with both the French Foreign Legion and the British Eighth Army.

A native of Merchantville, N. J., he served as a sergeant with the 112th Field Artillery in France in the World War.

 

Curtis Charles Rodgers
Middle East
1 May 1943

Curtis Rodgers died in Cairo on May 1, 1943. He had served in the Western Desert for a year, and had then left to join the faculty of Cairo University. All who have read the AFS Letters will have become familiar with his drawings and have understood his hate of war as well as his determination to serve and resolution not to stand aside. Because of this resolution he had decided to rejoin the AFS where he felt he could serve more fully. He, too, gave his life to a cause in which he believed. (AFS Letters No. 13)

George Rock. Chapter 5. "Middle East 3. El Alamein to Tunis (October 1942 to May 1943)" History of the American Field Service, 1920-1955. New York 1956.

On 1 May 1943, Curtis Charles Rodgers died in Cairo. After serving in Syria and the Western Desert for a year, he had joined the faculty of the Cairo University. The many excerpts from his pen printed in AFS Letters showed him---as his many friends knew---to be someone who, while hating war, was determined not to stand aside. Resolved to serve as fully as he could, Rodgers had just decided to rejoin the AFS. He, too, gave his life to a cause in which he believed.

 

Caleb Jones Milne IV
North Africa
11 May 1943

Caleb Milne, IV was killed In action north of Enfidaville on May 11, 1943. He and his comrades had been attached to the forward troops of the 8th Army and since El Alamein had evacuated the wounded as they advanced through the Western Desert. Finally, during the bitter fighting at the end, came a call for volunteer stretcher bearers to help with the wounded forward, in an area ambulances could not travel. Caleb and three comrades responded, and while carrying out this task a shell from a mortar mortally wounded him. Carried back by his AFS comrades to the dressing station he was unable to survive the operation. Caleb had risked his life many times to save others, but when even more was asked he never hesitated. There can not be greater faith than this. (AFS Letters No. 13)

George Rock. Chapter 5. "Middle East 3. El Alamein to Tunis (October 1942 to May 1943)" History of the American Field Service, 1920-1955. New York 1956.

At the same time, Milne was sitting with a Legionnaire who had a slight shrapnel hit in his foot and was going to accompany him down the hill. Then a mortar burst beside the two of them, and the call went over for Lindsay and myself.

"I took a brief look at the Legionnaire and saw that there was very little chance for him, since he had severe head and abdominal wounds. Milne seemed in good condition, considering that his left leg was badly cut by shrapnel and the foot broken at the ankle. I asked him if there were any other wounds, and he said only a small piece in his back. I applied a tourniquet, although bleeding was not too severe, gave him a grain of morphine by hypodermic, and tried to fashion a splint of newspaper and twigs for his ankle. [...]"

By 12: 30, Milne had been driven back to the GSB 1 and was under a doctor's care. His injuries proved much more severe than they had at first appeared, and, although two surgeons worked over him for three and a half hours, by mid-afternoon Caleb Jones Milne IV was dead. "Milne did the work of many men," Captain Greenough wrote, "and was ever on hand where the shell-bursts were the thickest. Perhaps the best tribute was given him by Lt. Martineau [MO of the Foreign Legion 1st Battalion] when he said 'Milne was so evidently a gentleman. He did his work better than any other probably because be was a better man than any other."'

AFS Letters No. 15

You will have heard of the death of Caleb Milne, directly hit by a mortar shell. He nearly lost one foot. Before he could be aided, he had been hit again. I helped bear his stretcher for a while back to the dressing post; my heart goes out to his friend, who with two Frenchmen carried his stretcher for two hours from within a few feet of the front over the difficult and dangerous map to the Post. That afternoon, after everything humanly possible was done, he died. You will have heard, too, of the death of Lieut. Stockton, who with T.R. drove into a mine field. T. was badly wounded and a prisoner. They were all friends; and that is what war means.

AFS Letters No. 33

Mrs. Caleb Milne, whose son Caleb Milne IV was killed in action at Enfidaville in 1943, has just published a collection of his letters under the title I DREAM OF THE DAY. These letters were written to his mother while Caleb served as an AFS ambulance driver in the Alamein-to-Tunis desert battles. The beauty of these letters lies not so much in the narrative as in the feeling and form of expression imparted by the author. The letters are lovely and make the book a memorable one.

 

Vernon William Preble
Italy
1 December 1943

VERNON W. PREBLE, the first American Field Service man to cross the Sangro River in Italy. He lost his life attempting to save the lives of others while under heavy enemy gunfire. He was serving attached to an R.A.P., the forwardmost medical station on the Eighth Army front. (AFS Letters No. 20)

George Rock. Chapter 7. "Italy 1. Termoli, Volturno-Monte Camino, Trigno-Sangro-Ortona (1 October 1943 to 14 January 1944)" History of the American Field Service, 1920-1955. New York 1956.

"On 4 November the Trigno attack pressed forward, during the night. All the ambulances were forward, but the Buffs RAP [to which V. W. Preble was attached] was apparently the first to cross. [...]"

Preble had driven across to the north bank of the Trigno at night with the Buffs, under shellfire, while the battle for S. Salvo was in progress. He waited half a mile from town to carry casualties back across the river---exposed to bombings, shellfire, and even machine-gunning. In the 48-hour period he crossed the Trigno 3 times with casualties from the victorious assault on S. Salvo.

During the next few days the weather cleared, and on the 28th the big assault on the Sangro Ridge began. According to the C Platoon record, "at first the ambulances had to wait on the south side of the river, but later the diversions were opened. These were the world's worst. There was great danger of tipping over or breakdown. A few of our ambulances crossed at the start. One hit a box mine buried beside the first farmhouse beyond the main bridge. This was V. W. Preble's and he himself was mortally burned when the petrol tank exploded." At the time of this accident, Preble had just beaten out R. W. Beck in a race to be the first AFS ambulance over the Sangro. As he was lifted into an ambulance, Preble said: "I guess I won't drink any more beer for a while." Four days later Vernon William Preble died. His bravery had saved many lives, and he was much mourned.

 

Charles James Andrews, Jr.
Italy
8 December 1943

CHARLES JAMES ANDREWS, Jr., who was killed while on duty at a New Zealand Medical Station on the 8th Army front in Italy. An NCO he was leading his section in the thick of the front line fighting when he was struck by fragments of a mortar shell. (AFS Letters No. 20)

George Rock. Chapter 7. "Italy 1. Termoli, Volturno-Monte Camino, Trigno-Sangro-Ortona (1 October 1943 to 14 January 1944)" History of the American Field Service, 1920-1955. New York 1956.

Well, about 10 that night I was pretty tired, so I got up and went across the street to the room where we slept. Jim Andrews and Henry, along with the Colonel, walked past me to go down to the MI Room to see whether there were any patients to be evacuated. No sooner had I entered the house than crash down came a shell no more than 10 yards away. I don't want to go into any details of what happened after that. . . . Jim was struck by a piece of shrapnel in the back of the neck and died instantly.

 

Charles Kendrick Adams, Jr.
At Sea
14 January 1944

CHARLES K. ADAMS died on January 20th 1944 somewhere in the European Area. He was being repatriated to this country on a hospital ship after a period of illness in the Middle East. He was keen and eager to go overseas and be of service. He fulfilled this desire until his health broke down when it was necessary for him to come back, but, before reaching the home port, he succumbed to the illness with which he was afflicted shortly after his arrival overseas. (AFS Letters No. 22)

George Rock. Chapter 7. "Italy 1. Termoli, Volturno-Monte Camino, Trigno-Sangro-Ortona (1 October 1943 to 14 January 1944)" History of the American Field Service, 1920-1955. New York 1956.

At the end of this period there was one more casualty no less tragic than the others. Charles Kendrick Adams, Jr., died on 14 January while being repatriated by hospital ship. He had been keen and eager to be of service, and he fulfilled this desire until his health broke. Unfortunately, before he could reach home he succumbed to the illness which had stricken him shortly after his arrival overseas.

 

Henry Larner
Italy
27 January 1944

HENRY LARNER, on December 8th, 1943 was wounded by an enemy shell which struck him as he was entering the Medical Inspection room of an Advanced Dressing Station, to which he was attached. He put up a gallant fight for life and for a while it looked as though he would win through. However, on January 27th, 1944, he died in a hospital in Italy as a result of the wounds received. In giving his life, he gives still greater significance to the great effort now being made by humanity the effort toward decent living toward justice and the high purposeful meaning of all human life. His death is a great loss to his family and to all of us who had the privilege of knowing him and serving with him. (AFS Letters No. 22)

  Newspaper clipping in "A Mother's Scrapbook: John Newlin Hobbs and the American Field Service, 1942-1945."

A star man is 28-year-old Henry Larner of Albany, N. Y. He is a corporal in charge of a section and though that might not seem a very exalted rank, in A. F. S. organization it is the most forward command of all and involves first-go at all the hazards of war.

Coming and Going.

Harry Larner gets it both ways. Up in front when he goes there with the section; rearward when he stays behind to organize the come and go of his drivers and bearers. He has been doing this job all the way from El Alamein to the Rome front. He is a handy man with a camera and his skill has earned him the title of official photographer to the American Field Service.

George Rock. Chapter 5. "Middle East 3. El Alamein to Tunis (October 1942 to May 1943)" History of the American Field Service, 1920-1955. New York 1956.

"Competitive spirit and satisfaction at being the first to reach a captured town persevere to a surprising degree in the Eighth Army. And the 'opening night' complex animates members of the Field Service as much as anyone else," H. Larner wrote of his participation in this victorious action. "My car-mate at the time, Joe Jarrell, and I received the privilege of being the first Americans to enter fallen Sfax. Like many of our AFS predecessors in this game, we had the honor bestowed on us ex officio, simply by being the ambulance attached to the 11th Hussars. . . .

George Rock. Chapter 7. "Italy 1. Termoli, Volturno-Monte Camino, Trigno-Sangro-Ortona (1 October 1943 to 14 January 1944)" History of the American Field Service, 1920-1955. New York 1956.

"Well, about 10 that night I was pretty tired, so I got up and went across the street to the room where we slept. Jim Andrews and Henry, along with the Colonel, walked past me to go down to the MI Room to see whether there were any patients to be evacuated. No sooner had I entered the house than crash down came a shell no more than 10 yards away. I don't want to go into any details of what happened after that. . . . Jim was struck by a piece of shrapnel in the back of the neck and died instantly. Henry was very severely wounded."

Although he made a hard fight for his life, Henry Larner died of his wounds on 27 January 1944.

 

Alexander Randall, Jr.
Italy
8 February 1944

ALEXANDER RANDALL, Jr. was killed instantly by shell fire on February 8th, 1944. No other report than this has come through as yet: but the loss of this volunteer, one of the youngest, seems especially full of meaning. It is our youth, the fire of whose spirit we so profoundly honor, who are winning this war. Though they die on the ground, in the sea, or in the air; still this dedication of their lives is not death, really, but life that flames eternal. We will carry on for them, full of humility. and gratitude. (AFS Letters No. 22)

George Rock. Chapter 7. "Italy 1. Termoli, Volturno-Monte Camino, Trigno-Sangro-Ortona (1 October 1943 to 14 January 1944)" History of the American Field Service, 1920-1955. New York 1956.

"I have never in my life seen such slippery roads!" wrote A. Randall, Jr., on 25 December, while working with 158 ADS. "Over every inch of every road there is at least an inch of the slipperiest slime you can imagine. There is hardly a chance for the ambulance to go along in the highest gear for fear of running off the side. The roads themselves are terrible to begin with: steep inclines, hairpin turns overlooking deep valleys, ruts every 5 feet, one-way traffic (when another car comes from the other direction, one of the cars has to pull to the side so that passing is possible), and bumps galore! When you add the intense slipperiness to this, you really have something. I suppose it really isn't so bad as I make it out to be, but it took me 7 1/2 hours to do a trip of 74 miles. It gets dark about 5 to 5:15, and you can imagine how it is to drive over roads like these at night. Coming back, I must confess, I landed up in a ditch, the entire side of the car over in a gully. Fortunately a truck was near by, and the delay was but for a few minutes. . . .

"There is hardly a 10-second interval in any part of the day that we cannot bear, see, and feel the sending and receiving of shells. Two or three nights ago, for example, a 180-pound 'Christmas package' landed exactly 10 yards (measured by yours truly) from where I was sleeping. Had it been in an open field, I might have had some shrapnel land near me, but nothing that exciting happened. . . ."

George Rock. Chapter 8. "Italy 2. Gariglio, Anzio and Winter on the Adriatic (14 January to 1 April 1944)" History of the American Field Service, 1920-1955. New York 1956.

Although the big attack was not embarked upon, it was a rough sector. A post with the 66 Medium Regiment (RA), was established in the middle of January. The car was actually stationed with 227 Battery, some 6 miles away from the RAP by road though a shorter distance otherwise. Because of heavy shelling, it had moved on 2 February to a position near a brick factory on the Lanciano-Frisa road. A. Randall, Jr., went to this post on 4 February, and there he was killed when the new position was shelled on the morning of the 8th.

Lt. Metcalf reported that "the shelling began a little after 11 with two short and two over the position. The rest fell upon it. They had two casualties and sent for the ambulance. Randall was not there. A sergeant drove it to the guns, picked up the injured, and evacuated them to the MDS (74th Canadian in Lanciano). After the ambulance returned, they searched for Randall and found him dead. . . . He had been killed instantaneously, a shell having landed about 3 feet from him." Alexander Randall, Jr., was the fourth tragic fatality in less than 10 weeks of the Italian campaign.

 

George Edward Brannan
Burma
5 May 1944

GEORGE BRANNAN was killed on the Assam-Burma Front during the latter part of April. With two companions, Frank Dignam and Mitchell Smith, he was flying in an unarmed and unescorted plane which was attacked by Jap Zeros whose fire seriously wounded Brennan in the throat. The men were being ferried to their destination by plane, which is the only means of, transportation between the rear and isolated forward positions where the AFS is at work. Brannen was landed at the nearest British Hospital where a delicate throat operation was performed. For a while he gained ground and it was hoped he would recover, but a fortnight later, he died of a cerebral embolism. His memory and devotion to duty will always be honored by those who knew him as an example of what la finest in courage and self-sacrifice. (AFS Letters No. 25)

George Rock. Chapter 15. " India-Burma 1. The First Year (May 1943 to April 1944)" History of the American Field Service, 1920-1955. New York 1956.:

On 23 March Captain Patrick reported from Imphal: "Brannan came in from Fenn's section and reports Japs both sides of the road. Very little traffic. Of 5 vehicles in one section, 4 were AFS ambulances. The official report (which I go to Corps to get daily) is that Tamu is not being held. Tank battle south of Tamu day before yesterday in which 8 Jap tanks knocked out to 1 of ours. Trouble is expected in that direction. The main force of the Jap drive is concentrated in the Ukhrul district. There has been no Japanese air activity at this HQ for the past 4 or 5 nights. This may be because of the weather---thunder and rain. .."

A great deal of mortar fell in the camp, most of it striking the trees and detonating, spraying the ground with shrapnel. Most of the MAS tentage was pierced in numerous places. Macgill's mosquito net was torn to shreds with Macgill under it, counting his moments. The greatest loss to the AFS occurred when a large hunk of hot shrapnel entered Brannan's ambulance through the wooden frame and pierced his duffle bag, wherein nestled an unopened bottle of gin, George's ration for the week. . . .

During this lull in activity toward the end of April, the Detachment suffered a tragic casualty. Early in the month, patients had been evacuated from the airstrip at Sapam, a few miles west of Palel on the Tamu road, and a number of ambulance drivers struck up friendships with U.S. Air Force personnel at the field. On the 25th, G. E. Brannan, F. A. Dignam, and F. M. Smith went on a sightseeing ride from Sapam to Comilla in a plane sent for supplies and intended to return the same day. "They were attacked en route by three Zeros," Captain Pemberton reported.

"They dove from 7,000 feet to tree level and for 15 minutes hedgehopped along toward Lalaghat, while the Zeros kept popping off at them from 1,000 feet. Finally one Zero came in for an angle shot at the nose. The copilot saw him at about 600 feet and told the pilot to swing into it. This he did, cutting about 8 feet off the wing on a tree and causing the Zero, who apparently thought the DC-3 had a gun in the nose, to do a 180-degree turn and hightail it with the other two back to Tokyo.

"The first burst of cannon fire, which came without warning while they were at 7,000, caused several explosions within the plane, which wounded most of the occupants other than the crew. Smith has a few minor cuts on the face, Dignam was cut in a couple of places on the legs, and Brannan had a piece enter his throat at about the Adam's apple and another enter his chest through the right lung. He bled profusely. Smith told of attempting to apply pressure on the pressure points to reduce the bleeding---but of being frustrated by the motion of the plane throwing all passengers from the floor to the ceiling and back again."

George Edward Brannan died of his wounds on 5 May 1944.

 

Robert Carter Bryan
Italy
17 May 1944

ROBERT C. BRYAN on May 17th, while looking after the assignments of the forward posts of his platoon in the Rapido Sector, was wounded by shrapnel when a shell landed close to his car. He was immediately taken to an Advanced Dressing Station, but died in the ambulance which was transferring him for further attention to the Medical Dressing Station. His courage, devotion and leadership will always remain an inspiration and treasured memory to his comrades in the AFS. (AFS Letters No. 26)

George Rock. Chapter 9. "Italy 3. Cassino and the Break-Through to Rome (February to 6 June 1944)" History of the American Field Service, 1920-1955. New York 1956.

The work at Cassino was hazardous, strenuous, and in most respects unpleasant. Still, there were many gripes when, at the end of the month, B and C Platoons of 567 Company were relieved of their posts with the New Zealand Corps by C Platoon of 485 Company. As they had come, the two platoons set out for the Adriatic in a torrential rainstorm. Lt. Bryan and his Platoon took over the forward Indian and New Zealand posts, as the Corps waited for a break in the weather to permit the launching of its second attack on Cassino.

With the two companies working in more or less the same area in the late spring, 485 Company held a competition for a design to be used as its insignia. QMS MacFarlane concocted one of the better designs. The prize, however, was given to Lt. Bryan for a symbolic beast-half British lion and half American eagle. This griffin was stencilled in white on a red cross on all the vehicles of the Company.

On 24 April [Galatti] wrote: "Spent yesterday with Bryan's platoon---it has at the moment the most forward positions, and I was able to visit everyone or catch everyone somewhere along the line. Their posts are something, and these boys don't need to take their hats off to anyone. One of them has been up to a spot where no other ambulance has ever been before. Bryan looks to be a swell leader, knows his stuff, quick and decisive, attractive. . . . Chamberlin is just as good, and they make a great team. . . .

On the afternoon of 17 May, Lt. Bryan, returning with F. E. Balderston from a tour of the forward posts of his Platoon, was mortally wounded. They were bringing back a British MO who had been on roving duty in a Bren carrier since the start of the battle. At Cardiff bridge, they were tied up in a small concentration of traffic, which may have attracted fire. A shell struck without warning to the rear of their jeep, wounding both Lt. Bryan and the British MO, who had been sitting in the back.

As the shelling continued, Balderston managed to get the two unconscious officers out of the jeep and into a ditch beside the road, where he protected them from further wounds by lying across their bodies until the shelling stopped. After dressing their wounds, Balderston got them to the ADS and accompanied them on back to the MDS. He and Bryan were able to talk during the short trip. As they reached the MDS , Balderston said "We're turning in now." Bryan winked at him and died.

"The Field Service has lost a great platoon officer," Lt. Mitchell wrote. "C Platoon revolved about him, just as he reached out to every part of the platoon, wherever it was working, and it did the finest work possible because of his leadership. He saw and helped to win the crucial part of the great battle we are in." Robert Carter Bryan had represented "the spirit of the Field Service," wrote Captain Morley, expressing the sympathy of the attached British personnel. He was succeeded as Platoon officer by Lt. W. B. Chamberlin III, with H. M. Wagner succeeding as Sergeant.

AFS Letters No. 30

The next afternoon the lieutenant of another AFS platoon --- Bob Bryan---was killed by shell-fire near the river. It came as an awful shock. He was a good friend and as genuinely well-liked as anyone I ever knew. His men were devoted to him. That evening I went up with his second in command to help break the news to his platoon and visit some of my own men who had crossed the Rapido with the Lancer and Yeomanry tanks. It was not a pleasant job.

 

Dawson Ellsworth
Italy
2 June 1944

DAWSON ELLSWORTH on May 27th, while acting as spare driver with Franklin Billings, was seriously wounded in the arm as a result of a mine explosion. Although his condition was serious, it was hoped that he would recover. However, he died as a result of his wounds on June 2nd. During the brief period in which Dawson served with the AFS, he did the jobs assigned to him and in giving his life; he gave well above and beyond the call of duty. (AFS Letters No. 26)

AFS Letters No. 30:

Across the Melfa River the following evening two of the platoon, Dawson Ellsworth and Frank Billings, were blown up in a mine going after an Italian civilian reported badly wounded near their RAP. Dawson had his right arm nearly severed by the blast; Frank was badly burned. Their Italian guide was burned to death in the back of the car. The British Medical Officer with them escaped without injury. Ellsworth died as a result of his wound --- and this was one of our worst tragedies. He had just joined the platoon. It was his first front-line assignment. And so it goes for the veterans and the new....

 

John Dale Cuningham
Italy
4 June 1944

JOHN DALE CUNINGHAM on June 4th while working on the Italian Front; was instantly killed by shell fire. Time after time during the year and a half he served he had gone out courageously to advanced posts without thought of himself. His loss will be keenly felt by all those who knew him and served with him. (AFS Letters No. 26)

George Rock. Chapter 7. "Italy 1. Termoli, Volturno-Monte Camino, Trigno-Sangro-Ortona (1 October 1943 to 14 January 1944)" History of the American Field Service, 1920-1955. New York 1956.

The most unusual experience fell to L. L. Biddle, Jr., and J. D. Cuningham, with 57 Antitank Regiment, which was out of the line at the start of battle. Later a single battery was sent up to pinch-hit for infantry and to hold a village while the Guards cleared the next ridge. Biddle and Cuningham accompanied the battery, while the MO remained with the RAP. On arrival they were told to establish an emergency first-aid station for the attack of the next day.

"Exciting and interesting work and the real thing at last," Biddle wrote. "We are now in a small village in mountainous terrain, really beautiful country, heavily wooded and dappled with shadow and sunshine---for the weather has been fine, the air cool and fresh and invigorating. . . . But this little village has been razed by the retreating Nazis. There is scarcely a house which has escaped meaningless ravage by dynamite and fire. The narrow, winding cobblestone streets are filled with rubble. The inhabitants still dazed and fearful. . . .

"Dale and I . . . managed to acquire a pretty adequate supply of stores en route---bandages, field dressings, and sulphanilimide powder and ointment, even some morphine. Those sulpha derivatives are certainly worth their weight in gold! We set up a sort of medical room in the village schoolhouse. In the mornings we attend to the troops of our assignment, in the afternoon to the civilians. Running sores and a few shrapnel wounds are now healing well---Drs. Biddle and Cuningham doing minor operations with a pair of sterile scissors to cut away decaying skin and make the sores clean. It's a great satisfaction to feel you are doing some good, and the people are immensely grateful---bring us apples and perhaps some vino in appreciation."

George Rock. Chapter 9. "Italy 3. Cassino and the Break-Through to Rome (February to 6 June 1944)" History of the American Field Service, 1920-1955. New York 1956.

On 4 June, B Platoon suffered another casualty. J. D. Cuningham, while attached to 2 Rifle Brigade, was killed by a shell which hit his ambulance exactly in the center of the red cross on the side. Returning from an attack in which a hill near Fiuggi had been taken, the several medical vehicles of the RAP with which he was working stopped 2 miles east of Fiuggi for a brew-up in what seemed a protective dip in the road. The first sounds of shelling a mile away did not worry them, but as it came closer some of the cars got off the road. Cuningham, the MO, and two British orderlies were killed before they could get away. An NCO for some months, John Dale Cuningham had been called "an inspiration to his section," and his loss was keenly felt.

 

George Alden Ladd
Burma
2 July 1944

GEORGE A. LADD on July 2nd, while proceeding with members of his unit to a port of embarkation for the United States, suffered a heart attack and died instantly. George went overseas with the first AFS Unit destined for the Indian Command and served in that theatre until the termination of his enlistment. Few men were more universally liked, and he did much to keep morale high among the men because of his keen sense of humor. His conscientious devotion to the AFS will long be remembered. (AFS Letters No. 28)

George Rock. Chapter 16. " India-Burma 2. Return to Burma: To Tiddim and Kalemyo (April to November 1944)" History of the American Field Service, 1920-1955. New York 1956.:

GHQ had moved to Calcutta by the time the enlistment period of Unit IB-1 came to an end and a large number of its members were brought in for repatriation. One of them, George Alden Ladd, died in the Calcutta railroad station on 2 July 1944. The first group of repatriates had gone to the station late on the evening of the 1st. They waited for hours for their train to come in, Ladd brightening the wait with many jokes and stories. When the train finally came into the station, at about 2:30 in the morning, the weary men picked up their baggage and started for their allotted compartments. P. H. Sheridan, who saw Ladd fall, bathed his face and wrists in water for a while, then C. H. Horton and I. F. Forman gave artificial respiration during the hour or so it took to find a doctor. The train was delayed until an MO arrived and told Major Ives that Ladd had died immediately of heart failure. "Wish it could have been anyone else," one of his many friends wrote. "I have never respected a guy more."

 

Donald Joseph Harty
Italy
5 July 1944

DONALD HARTY on July 5th, was instantly killed by a mine. This the only information received to date was reported by cable to the AFS. The message, brief as it was, spoke volumes for the courage and devotion of this ambulance driver. During his seventeen months of service overseas, Donald held an outstanding record on the desert and his ambulance was one of the first to make the hazardous crossing of the Gargliano River with the Fifth Army in Italy. He was admired and respected by all who knew him and he was always where the need was greatest. His death is a greet loss but his memory will always be cherished by those who had the privilege of knowing him and working with him. (AFS Letters No. 27)

George Rock. Chapter 9. "Italy 3. Cassino and the Break-Through to Rome (February to 6 June 1944)" History of the American Field Service, 1920-1955. New York 1956.

On the 15th, Lt. Mitchell recorded in the Company diary that the members of B Platoon across the Rapido had "attacked with the tanks, driving through the dust of the tank battle to evacuate patients during the action. Don Harty and Drayton Smith last night tried to reach the Black Watch, which had been surrounded just above Cassino. A German sentry told the Colonel in charge of the party that ambulances couldn't go through because of an attack being made to relieve the Black Watch. Later jeeps brought out patients to where the ambulances were waiting, and several trips with patients were made. (Apparently the Watch were able to keep a corridor open through which the jeeps could pass.)

George Rock. Chapter 10. "Italy 4. North to Florence (7 June to 25 August 1944)" History of the American Field Service, 1920-1955. New York 1956.

During the hard fighting of early July, A Platoon had posts with the 6th South African and 4th British Divisions, as well as a number of artillery regiments. On the 3rd, D. J. Harty with the RAP of the Royal West Kents (4th Division) was captured by a patrol of German paratroopers in a s1tuation similar to the one in which he had found himself at Cassino. Before he could be taken through the lines, however, he was "recaptured" by a British tank. Two days later, northwest of S. Savino, he answered a call to pick up casualties a short distance away. The road had been in use for 24 hours, but about a quarter of a mile from the RAP his ambulance ran over a mine. The explosion instantly killed both Harty and his British orderly and demolished the ambulance. As the crater caused by the explosion required the services of a bulldozer to make the road again serviceable, it was thought that a box mine had been used as detonator for at least 4 large-caliber shells which went off simultaneously. The death of Donald Joseph Harty was a sad loss. Coming at a time when the whole Platoon was tired, it made the survivors unusually nervous.

AFS Letters No. 26

During one of the critical stages of the battle, a medical Colonel asked for volunteers to accompany him into the German lines to assist an infantry regiment that had been cut off. Donald Harty and Drayton Smith offered to go. Flying Red Cross flags on their ambulances, they set off across the open fields into no-man's land.

William P. Meleney "A Phantasy" in AFS Letters No. 35:

Don Harty was killed on July 5, 1944, about six miles north of Monte San Savino when the ambulance which he was driving hit a super-charged teller mine set by the Hun. He was one of my best friends, and his death brought me nearer to, and made me think more deeply on the subject of death than any other event in my life. Hence, this phantasy.

 

Thomas Lees Marshall
Italy
9 July 1944

THOMAS L. MARSHALL on July 9th, while serving in the Italian Campaign was killed instantly by a mortar bomb which exploded directly over the small shelter in which he and some British personnel were gathered. Tom had served with the AFS since November 1942, was a veteran of the desert campaign and moved to Italy with his unit. His record of courage, faithfulness, loyalty and unselfishness will long be remembered by all who had the privilege of knowing him and serving with him. (AFS Letters No. 28)

AFS Letters No. 30

We had our third death in the platoon below Arezzo. Tom Marshall was killed by mortar fire while on duty with the forward infantry. We had a service for Tom the morning after his death. In a small, close-knit organization of friends, tried and true over the months together, a death---sudden, unexpected--- comes with deep impact. There is no need for words spoken one to the other. We carried Tom's body to its resting place on a stretcher, lowered it into the grave and the padre spoke the words, with the hills rising blue in the distance across the valleys "I am the resurrection and the light..." Those seemed good words and I felt somewhat as I did a few days before, when I stood inside the crypt of St. Francis' tomb at Assisi --- the crypt with its lofty dimlit arches, and its unalterable silence, the silence of a deep-felt religion, the silence of a hallowed memory, the silence in veneration of the gentle peace apostle of a bygone age, a silence far removed from the intimacy of war and one akin to a true perspective of values.

 

Paul Haynes Cagle
Italy
5 September 1944

PAUL CAGLE AND JAMES WILTON on August 4th, while posted to an RAP on the Italian Front, were in an area which was under heavy shell fire. Wilton, who took shelter under his ambulance, was struck by an enemy shell. Cagle who had taken refuge with some British personnel, left his shelter to go to Jim's aid. As he was bending over him to ascertain the extent of his injuries, Paul was severely wounded. Both boys were given immediate surgical attention, but despite the quick action of the Medical Officers, they died as a result of their wounds. The service rendered by both of these boys will always remain an inspiration to those who carry on in their stead. Many AFS men have given their lives that others may live. This is the first time that one member of the Service has died in an attempt to save his friend --- "Greater love hath no man" may well be applied to Paul Cagle. (AFS Letters No. 29)

George Rock. Chapter 11. "Italy 5. The Gothic Line (25 August 1944- 15 March 1945)" History of the American Field Service, 1920-1955. New York 1956.

The new advance started with a tragic double fatality. P. H. Cagle and J. B. Wilton were both mortally wounded on the morning of 4 September. They were attached to the RAP of 5 Hampshire Regiment (46th Division), which had pushed a salient into the enemy lines at S. Clemente, several miles north of Morciano. This was contested with a heavy artillery engagement. When the shelling came over the RAP area, Wilton, who was loading his ambulance, took shelter underneath it but was hit. Cagle and a British orderly went out from the shelter of the house to bring Wilton back into the RAP. Cagle was hit by the continuing shellfire as he bent over to assist Wilton. Both were evacuated to Morciano, where Paul Haynes Cagle died the next morning and James Bennett Wilton, Jr., survived until the 9th.

 

James Bennet Wilton, Jr.
Italy
9 September 1944

PAUL CAGLE AND JAMES WILTON on August 4th, while posted to an RAP on the Italian Front, were in an area which was under heavy shell fire. Wilton, who took shelter under his ambulance, was struck by an enemy shell. Cagle who had taken refuge with some British personnel, left his shelter to go to Jim's aid. As he was bending over him to ascertain the extent of his injuries, Paul was severely wounded. Both boys were given immediate surgical attention, but despite the quick action of the Medical Officers, they died as a result of their wounds. The service rendered by both of these boys will always remain an inspiration to those who carry on in their stead. Many AFS men have given their lives that others may live. This is the first time that one member of the Service has died in an attempt to save his friend --- "Greater love hath no man" may well be applied to Paul Cagle. (AFS Letters No. 29)

George Rock. Chapter 11. "Italy 5. The Gothic Line (25 August 1944- 15 March 1945)" History of the American Field Service, 1920-1955. New York 1956.

The new advance started with a tragic double fatality. P. H. Cagle and J. B. Wilton were both mortally wounded on the morning of 4 September. They were attached to the RAP of 5 Hampshire Regiment (46th Division), which had pushed a salient into the enemy lines at S. Clemente, several miles north of Morciano. This was contested with a heavy artillery engagement. When the shelling came over the RAP area, Wilton, who was loading his ambulance, took shelter underneath it but was hit. Cagle and a British orderly went out from the shelter of the house to bring Wilton back into the RAP. Cagle was hit by the continuing shellfire as he bent over to assist Wilton. Both were evacuated to Morciano, where Paul Haynes Cagle died the next morning and James Bennett Wilton, Jr., survived until the 9th.

 

Ralph Evans Boaz
Burma
23 October 1944

WILLIAM TUTTLE ORTH and RALPH EVANS BOAZ, on October 23, 1944, while serving in the India theatre. Both of these men had volunteered to help shorthanded aircraft crews parachute medical supplies from their planes to troops in the Burma Front area. While the plane was flying over mountainous regions dropping its load one bundle failed to clear the plane and caught underneath When it finally fell free, the pilot was unable to gain altitude and his ship disappeared from view behind a hill. A battalion located on higher terrain saw the crash and immediately British and Indian personnel set out to rescue the men. They were guided by runners from one of the native villages, but on reaching the scene of the crash, it was found that all aboard had been instantly killed. A memorial service was held for both of the men on November 4th. The Chaplain who conducted the ceremony uttered these appropriate words, "Let us remember before Almighty God, two who have given their lives--- Ralph Boaz and William Orth." (AFS Letters No. 31)

George Rock. Chapter 16. " India-Burma 2. Return to Burma: To Tiddim and Kalemyo (April to November 1944)" History of the American Field Service, 1920-1955. New York 1956.:

The inactivity, however, had proved too much for some who wanted to do all they could to help. In this way R. E. Boaz and W. T. Orth lost their lives on 23 October. By then the 5th Division was receiving "all its supplies-food, petrol, medical supplies and ammunition-by air," Captain Marsh reported.

"The supplies are dropped by parachute onto prepared landing places near the various units. The aircraft crew consists of the pilot and copilot and two enlisted men who stand at the door and push the bundles out at the proper time. In order to assist these two, the aircraft carries two additional men whose duty is to push the bundles back to the door where they can be reached by the regular crew members. The additional men have been and are being supplied by volunteers from units stationed near the air strip (in Imphal). British officers and men and members of the AFS have volunteered for this very useful work, and it was on such a mission that Bill and Ralph were killed.

"They both had lunch here at headquarters and in the afternoon went down to the airstrip and signed on as additional members of the crew of a U.S. DC-3 that was to drop supplies to a unit stationed in the hills northeast of Tiddim. The supplies consisted of food, petrol, mortar ammunition, matches, and medical supplies for an ADS that was serving the unit and that happened to be stationed quite near to the dropping ground. Major Bramley Moore of the Canadian Medical Services says that the accident occurred as follows: The last bundle dropped from the plane on its swing-around over the dropping-ground failed to clear the tail, the parachute looping over the port side of the tail and the bundle swinging underneath. The aircraft headed north up the valley, trying to gain altitude, but without success. Suddenly the bundle dropped clear, but the plane, instead of rising, dropped behind a hill and disappeared from view. He received word from the battalion, who were higher up and could see the crash, of the location of the plane, and set out for it accompanied by some British and Indian personnel from the ADS. He was met by runners, sent by the headman of the village of Haupi, near where the crash occurred, who led them directly to the plane. It was still burning when they arrived," but all the men aboard were dead. "It is very sad. Both . . . will be much missed."

 

William Tuttle Orth
Burma
23 October 1944

WILLIAM TUTTLE ORTH and RALPH EVANS BOAZ, on October 23, 1944, while serving in the India theatre. Both of these men had volunteered to help shorthanded aircraft crews parachute medical supplies from their planes to troops in the Burma Front area. While the plane was flying over mountainous regions dropping its load one bundle failed to clear the plane and caught underneath When it finally fell free, the pilot was unable to gain altitude and his ship disappeared from view behind a hill. A battalion located on higher terrain saw the crash and immediately British and Indian personnel set out to rescue the men. They were guided by runners from one of the native villages, but on reaching the scene of the crash, it was found that all aboard had been instantly killed. A memorial service was held for both of the men on November 4th. The Chaplain who conducted the ceremony uttered these appropriate words, "Let us remember before Almighty God, two who have given their lives--- Ralph Boaz and William Orth." (AFS Letters No. 31)

AFS Letters No. 30

Bill Orth of AFS India has evolved a new method of therapy for the wounded patients he carries in his ambulance. Because of the terrible condition of the Burma roads, his patients are often in considerable pain and call out asking how much farther the hospital is. Now, instead of telling the actual mileage, which is long enough to sicken a well man Bill tells them there are 45 bridges to cross between the first aid station and the base. He can hear them counting bridges in the back of his car and it seems to quiet them.

George Rock. Chapter 16. " India-Burma 2. Return to Burma: To Tiddim and Kalemyo (April to November 1944)" History of the American Field Service, 1920-1955. New York 1956.:

The inactivity, however, had proved too much for some who wanted to do all they could to help. In this way R. E. Boaz and W. T. Orth lost their lives on 23 October. By then the 5th Division was receiving "all its supplies-food, petrol, medical supplies and ammunition-by air," Captain Marsh reported.

"The supplies are dropped by parachute onto prepared landing places near the various units. The aircraft crew consists of the pilot and copilot and two enlisted men who stand at the door and push the bundles out at the proper time. In order to assist these two, the aircraft carries two additional men whose duty is to push the bundles back to the door where they can be reached by the regular crew members. The additional men have been and are being supplied by volunteers from units stationed near the air strip (in Imphal). British officers and men and members of the AFS have volunteered for this very useful work, and it was on such a mission that Bill and Ralph were killed.

"They both had lunch here at headquarters and in the afternoon went down to the airstrip and signed on as additional members of the crew of a U.S. DC-3 that was to drop supplies to a unit stationed in the hills northeast of Tiddim. The supplies consisted of food, petrol, mortar ammunition, matches, and medical supplies for an ADS that was serving the unit and that happened to be stationed quite near to the dropping ground. Major Bramley Moore of the Canadian Medical Services says that the accident occurred as follows: The last bundle dropped from the plane on its swing-around over the dropping-ground failed to clear the tail, the parachute looping over the port side of the tail and the bundle swinging underneath. The aircraft headed north up the valley, trying to gain altitude, but without success. Suddenly the bundle dropped clear, but the plane, instead of rising, dropped behind a hill and disappeared from view. He received word from the battalion, who were higher up and could see the crash, of the location of the plane, and set out for it accompanied by some British and Indian personnel from the ADS. He was met by runners, sent by the headman of the village of Haupi, near where the crash occurred, who led them directly to the plane. It was still burning when they arrived," but all the men aboard were dead. "It is very sad. Both . . . will be much missed."

 

Albert Studley Miller
France
7 February 1945

ALBERT STUDLEY MILLER of Cambridge, Massachusetts, on February 7th, 1945, was killed in France. Albert's ambulance and a French truck collided, instantly killing Miller and seriously injuring a French officer and a stretcher bearer, who were riding with him. Upon learning of Albert Miller's death, the Chief of the French Military Mission in the United States wrote, "I am sure I need not tell you that France is gratefully aware of the great assistance given the war effort by the splendid work of the volunteers of the American Field Service, and feels a personal loss in the passing of one of its members." (AFS Letters No. 35)

George Rock. Chapter 14. "Victory 3. The Return to France (March 1944- July 1945)" History of the American Field Service, 1920-1955. New York 1956.

The Cornimont show lasted 3 weeks, during which time there was little or no enemy action. Nevertheless, we met with a disturbing amount of pathos and ill fortune. It started to snow soon after our arrival, and it continued to do so for more than 10 days. Though our mess was warm, it was small; we were vastly overcrowded at meal-times. The food took an atrocious turn. We were billeted in several houses along the road, but the bedrooms had no stoves in them. Temperatures dropped to zero. Fuller, MacArthur, Miller, Smith, and Greenough went to the hospital with various degrees of pneumonia. C. B. Alexander and Fugitt permanently left our circle to command new sections. Mase and Mac, while plowing through a snowdrift, wandered off the road and got the car hopelessly entrenched; it took a week before a wrecker got through to pull it out with a winch. Hope and France lost all their belongings when their car struck a mine and burned to the ground. And then the terrible road accident occurred which claimed the life of Al Miller. All misfortunes converged while wind-swept snow mounted on a bleak and despicable countryside. At Cornimont we were driven into a state of real depression.

 

Bruce Gilette Henderson
Burma
15 February 1945

BRUCE GILETTE HENDERSON of Kenmore, New York, on February 15th, was killed by enemy action while serving on the India-Burma Front. Bruce was in charge of a jeep ambulance and was working at a forward post near the banks of the Irrawaddy. Just before dawn, on the morning of the 15th, the Japanese attacked the position in superior force, inflicting many casualties and forcing the remnants of the company to withdraw. During the operations, Bruce was shot through the chest. He was loved and admired by everyone in his section, as he was always cheerful and helpful to those he worked with and those he worked for. His Commanding Officer said, " ...one feels that, having known such a man, one can never lose heart." (AFS Letters No. 35)

George Rock. Chapter 17. "Victory 4. India-Burma (November 1944-1945)" History of the American Field Service, 1920-1955. New York 1956.

On the afternoon of the 14th, Bruce Gilette Henderson replaced Dodds with the same company so that the latter could return to Section HQ. That night, during a Japanese counterattack, Henderson was killed. Several versions of this tragic accident were current, some of them quite lurid in detail. The following is the report of the CSM, R. G. Berry: "At 0515 hours on 15 February we were attacked by a large force of Japs. [Henderson] was sleeping near his jeep, about 15 yards inside the perimeter. The section that was covering the jeeps had severe casualties, and several of the enemy entered the box. [Henderson] attempted to reach the Command Post. After moving about 10 yards from his jeep, he was hit in the chest by a burst from a machine gun on our left flank. In the excitement that followed he was bayonetted in his left side by one of the Japs; who were in the box."

 

Paul Michael McKenna
Burma
73 February 1945

On 23 February, Paul Michael McKenna was sent down to the East African Brigade to replace P. T. Abelmann at 64 FA. Major Marsh reported the sorry details of McKenna's disappearance: "He arrived at about 0830 hours, by light plane, and at 1030 was sent forward from the Field Ambulance to one of the forward companies on the perimeter of the box. On the way up he passed George Riel, who was in convoy with a battalion that was on its way up to relieve the troops to whom

McKenna was reporting. This was about 3/4 of a mile from his destination. McKenna waved at Riel but did not stop. . . .

"[The Company Commander made the following report:] 'Pvt. Nyanda of the Coy under my command states that at about 1030 hours, 23 February, whilst in his section position, he saw a vehicle pass through the battalion position and carry on towards Gwebin. He describes the vehicle as a jeep with the iron supports of a stretcher carrier. The driver was wearing a small sidecap and appeared to be an Indian, but the speed of the vehicle prevented him from being certain. The jeep then disappeared from sight. Other members of the platoon say they also saw this, and that there were shots heard as the jeep went out of sight. This is, however, not confirmed, as there were many shots in the area at that time.'

"The loss was not discovered until the 24th, as the MDS assumed [McKenna] was with the forward battalion. The morning of the 24th was spent by Dodds searching all units in the area, and the above report was elicited in the afternoon. McKenna was apparently last seen about 300 yards ahead of the most forward position and disappeared around the bend in the road. The local artillery officer then flew over the road for 3 miles forward of the position where the jeep was last seen and reported nothing abandoned along the road. Several patrols have been sent along the road but reported nothing."

(George Rock. Chapter 17. "Victory 4. India-Burma (November 1944-1945)" History of the American Field Service, 1920-1955. New York 1956.)

 

Hilding Swenssen
Burma
28 February 1945

HILDING SWENSSON of Manasquan, New Jersey, on February 28th, was killed while serving on the India-Burma Front. The news of his death was received by cable and, as yet, the details have not reached us. The only information is that he was killed by a land mine. Hilding originally went overseas with the British Ninth Army during the Middle East Campaign. He returned to this country and in 1943, reembarked for the India theatre, where he served until his death. (AFS Letters No. 35)

George Rock. Chapter 17. "Victory 4. India-Burma (November 1944-1945)" History of the American Field Service, 1920-1955. New York 1956.

Not everyone was so lucky. Closer to the front, with a 19th Division RAP, H. Swensson was killed on 28 February by a splinter from the mine that demolished his jeep. Swensson, with C. L. Albert, D. C. Morrill, and J. E. Ricca, was attached to 64 Brigade, which began its victorious push south from the bridgehead toward Mandalay on 26 February. On the 28th, the 4 jeeps were temporarily assigned to an RAP established about 7 1/2 miles south of Singu in support of the Worcester Regiment and a battalion of the 10 Baluchistan Regiment, which were engaged approximately a mile farther south.

"The road from the RAP north had been cleared of mines by the Royal Engineers, and heavy transport had used it," Lt. Gilliam reported. "The road south from the RAP was not cleared, but from 11 o'clock onwards transport, including two 5-ton artillery tractors towing guns, had used the road without incident. As a result, the road to the south was considered clear.

"At noon a report reached the RAP of several wounded a short distance south along the road, and, in accordance with normal procedure, Swensson went out to establish contact with them and to bring back any stretcher cases. He had proceeded only 300 yards toward the wounded when be struck a tank mine of considerable size. Swensson was killed instantly . . . his skull pierced by a splinter of the mine casing . . . and the jeep was completely destroyed."

 

Charles Butler Alexander, Jr.
Germany
9 April 1945

CHARLES BUTLER ALEXANDER, JR, of Eccleston, Baltimore Country, Maryland, died on April 9th, shortly after he was wounded by machine-gun fire and captured by the Germans in the town of Niefern, near Pforzheim, Germany. "C.B.", as he was known to family and friends, had been a member of the AFS since 1943. He served with the British Eighth Army during the Desert Campaign and in Italy, and in August, 1944, transferred to the French AFS Unit, where he served until his death. His outstanding courage as leader of an AFS Section will long be remembered by the men who served with him. (AFS Letters No. 37)

George Rock. Chapter 14. "Victory 3. The Return to France (March 1944- July 1945)" History of the American Field Service, 1920-1955. New York 1956.

The situation was pleasant but demoralizing. There were accidents and serious illnesses. On 14 September, Aspirant Addoms and C. B. Alexander obtained permission to drive to Commandant Coster in Mâcon in an effort to do something about it. They brought the first information to HQ, from the General down, of the arrival of the Battalion in France. Commandant Coster, taking advantage of the impression this created, obtained an order directing that the 1st Company, as soon as completed, should move inland for forward assignment, without waiting for the rest of the Battalion. Then, C. B. Alexander was commissioned a Lieutenant and left in charge of the AFS HQ office.

The HQ to run this shrinking unit was kept at a minimum. At first, Commandant Coster had only B. D. Chancy, who joined him in Mâcon after a long illness. C. B. Alexander acted as Adjutant until on 15 November he resigned his commission in order to drive an ambulance again.

The situation came to a head in what Commandant Coster called "'The Thanksgiving Day Rebellion' . . . a friendly and reasonable discussion on both sides in the Section's billets after Thanksgiving dinner." At this time, the Section requested that, as all their troubles were Coster's fault, command should be given to C. B. Alexander.

In the first week of January 1945, the two new sections were assigned: [...]The next day Section 2, commanded by Aspirant C. B. Alexander, was attached to the 431st Medical Battalion, a reserve formation like the 43rd, with the 3rd Algerian Infantry Division at Gérardmer.

On 9 April, Aspirant Alexander left Bretten early in the morning to visit his Section's advance posts at Maulbronn and Pforzheim. With him in his jeep was the French MO, Captain Berthelot. The chief MO of the Battalion was in another jeep. They took the road from Muhlacker toward Pforzheim, a more direct road being known to be still held by the enemy. However, when the 7 jeeps entered Niefern, a machine gun opened fire on them. As they turned around in an attempt to flee, a bullet passed through Captain Berthelot's sleeve, then entered Alexander's back and pierced his left lung. The two were taken prisoner, Alexander unconscious; but only Berthelot was released after his papers had been examined. He reported these events to the AFS group at Battalion HQ in Maulbronn, adding that he thought it suspicious that the Germans had refused to allow him to see or to treat Alexander. [...]

However, C. B. Alexander had already died of his wound while being evacuated by the Germans, although this they would not have known in Niefern. From the doctor who had attended him, who was shortly thereafter taken prisoner, and from the civilians in the town, when it was taken a few days later, the location of his grave was learned. W. T. C. Hannah and Captain Berthelot identified the body, which was placed with proper ceremony in a military cemetery. "Energetic, courageous, persistent, direct, inspiring to his men," Commandant Coster wrote, "he was certainly and most deservedly one of the most-admired and best-liked men in the unit."

 

Jack Wells Douthitt
Germany
20 April 1945

JACK WELLS DOUTHITT, of Florence, Alabama, was killed on April 20th, while serving with the French Unit of the American Field Service. Jack was ordered to evacuate four seriously wounded men in the village of Boblingen, which was partly surrounded as the result of a German counter-attack. He did not report back to his post and on April 21st, he was found dead beside his ambulance, which had been blown up by a German bazooka. Jack had served with the British Eighth during the desert campaign, in Italy, and with the American Fifth on the Anzio Beach-head, later transferring to the French Section of the AFS. He was absolutely fearless and devoted to the Service in which he volunteered. (AFS Letters No. 37)

George Rock. Chapter 14. "Victory 3. The Return to France (March 1944- July 1945)" History of the American Field Service, 1920-1955. New York 1956.

In the middle of the night, just after everyone had crawled into his beddingroll, a call came in for 5 ambulances needed forward. The Germans at the Lauter River were fighting hard and French casualties increased. The 5 cars (Fred Blow and Victor Downing, Brinton Young and Eli Rock, Mark Ethridge and Don Elberfeld, Jack Douthitt, and Carl Harris and Bill Wallace) moved off to Soufflenheim in the dark, following a speedy Frenchman in a jeep.

On 2 April, Blow, Douthitt, Elberfeld, and Nodine were sent up to an advance post on the Rhine at Germersheim. The next day the Section crossed the Rhine "with the French in their bridgehead at Speyer," D. N. Elberfeld wrote. [...] During this short period the uncertainty of where the enemy was along the fluid and generally invisible front cost the Section two casualties and inspired some extraordinary courage: C. B. Alexander and J. W. Douthitt were killed by enemy action.

Jack Wells Douthitt was killed in action, while with the 20th Alpine Chasseurs. Early on the morning of 21 April, he was asked to take a seriously wounded man from Boblingen to Herrenberg (about 15 miles southwest of Stuttgart), over a road thought but not known for sure to be open. Fully aware of the danger, Douthitt undertook the mission. As he drove around a curve in the road, he was fired on from ahead by a bazooka. Having no time to turn, he stepped on the gas. As he came opposite the foxhole from which the first shot had come he was fired on again. He was immediately killed. The ambulance left the road, overturned, and burned, the occupants being thrown clear. In this case, there was no question of the red crosses being clearly visible. Directly after the accident, and in the presence of Douthitt's French orderly (who was taken prisoner at the time but was later released and gave the details of the misfortune), a German officer went up to the soldier who had fired the shots and abused him and hit him with the butt of his rifle for having fired on an ambulance.

 

Gerald Riley Murphy
Burma
20 June 1945

GERALD R. MURPHY, of Chicago, Illinois, on June 20th, was killed in India. Gerald, in company with Gilbert Collyer, was riding in a jeep driven by a British Officer, who swerved suddenly to avoid hitting a parked truck, lost control of the car and hit a tree. Gerald was thrown from the jeep and struck his head killing him instantly. During the Burma Campaign, Gerald had risked his life many times transporting wounded in forward areas, and his death came as a great shock to all those who worked with him. (AFS Letters No. 39)

George Rock. Chapter 17. "Victory 4. India-Burma (November 1944-1945)" History of the American Field Service, 1920-1955. New York 1956.

Captain Gilbert reported that "Gerald Murphy and Jack Ries completed a great piece of work in evacuating the lepers from the Fort in Mandalay. Strange as it may seem, the Japs permitted the ambulances to pass but opened up on the very next vehicle that passed. The incident was mentioned over a BBC broadcast."

Throughout the operations immediately concerned with the capture and mopping-up of Mandalay proper, "the AFS drivers, particularly the jeep drivers, did extremely well," Lt. Gilliam reported. "Medical, infantry, and staff officers have all made comments on the sensible and dependable work our fellows did under the most adverse conditions. Albert, Mathewson, McCollester, Morrill, Murphy, J. Parkhurst, Peterson, and Ries have all been particularly commended to me by various officers. As a whole, the Platoon did very well."

As if to underline the general depression, during this period occurred the deaths of John Wilder Parkhurst and Gerald Riley Murphy---both first-rate men whose tragic loss was deeply felt. Parkhurst entered a hospital in Calcutta with a bad case of malaria on 20 June, the day on which Murphy was killed in an automobile accident in Rangoon.

Murphy was in a jeep being driven by a British officer. Swerving to avoid a parked truck, he lost control of the jeep and hit a tree. Murphy was thrown out of the car, struck the tree with his head, and died in a few minutes. G. E. Collyer, also a passenger in the jeep, was thrown clear, suffering only injury to his cheek bone and elbow. It did not make it any the less sad that of the many auto accidents in the records this should have been the only one to have fatal consequences.

 

John Wilder Parkhurst
Burma
3 July 1945

JOHN W. PARKHURST, of Winchester, Massachusetts, on July 3rd, died in India. John entered the hospital on June 20th, suffering from malaria, and later developed enteric fever. He was making satisfactory progress when pneumonia set in, and although every care and attention was given him, he could not pull through. John had served during the Burma Campaign and his courage and fine spirit were an inspiration to the men with whom he worked. (AFS Letters No. 39)

George Rock. Chapter 17. "Victory 4. India-Burma (November 1944-1945)" History of the American Field Service, 1920-1955. New York 1956.

Throughout the operations immediately concerned with the capture and mopping-up of Mandalay proper, "the AFS drivers, particularly the jeep drivers, did extremely well," Lt. Gilliam reported. "Medical, infantry, and staff officers have all made comments on the sensible and dependable work our fellows did under the most adverse conditions. Albert, Mathewson, McCollester, Morrill, Murphy, J. Parkhurst, Peterson, and Ries have all been particularly commended to me by various officers. As a whole, the Platoon did very well."

Other experiences show how the Burma campaign differed from others, in regard to both the manner of fighting and the energetic defense against the enemy. "Johnny Parkhurst has been sniped at numerous times in the advance to mop up the remaining Japs on the other side of the river," Captain Gilbert wrote of the two men attached to the 4/5 Gurkha Rifles (114 Brigade).

As if to underline the general depression, during this period occurred the deaths of John Wilder Parkhurst and Gerald Riley Murphy---both first-rate men whose tragic loss was deeply felt. Parkhurst entered a hospital in Calcutta with a bad case of malaria on 20 June, the day on which Murphy was killed in an automobile accident in Rangoon. [...] The loss of J. W. Parkhurst was equally distressing. Run-down after months of strenuous front-line work, he developed enteric fever after a few days in hospital, and then pneumonia set in. For some days, according to his MO, only his will-power kept him alive. Then, on 3 July, he died of the multiplicity of ailments that had beset him.