James R. McConnell driving an SSU 2 AFS ambulance in 1915. This image cannot be reproduced outside the guidelines of United States Fair Use (17 U.S.C., Section 107) without advance permission from the AFS Archives.
After a recent renovation, the Lafayette Escadrille Memorial was rededicated on April 20, 2016 in the presence of dignitaries from France and the United States. The famed Escadrille Américaine (Lafayette Escadrille) was formed exactly one hundred years earlier by a small group of American volunteers, who became part of France’s Aéronautique Militaire (the French Air Service.) One of the founders of the group, Dr. Edmond L. Gros, had already served as the chief physician in the American Field Service. Eight pilots had also previously served as ambulance drivers with the American Field Service prior to joining the Lafayette Escadrille, including James Rogers McConnell.
A supporter of the Allies, McConnell wrote to A. Piatt Andrew about his decision to leave his position as an ambulance driver with the American Field Service to become a pilot with the Lafayette Escadrille on November 28, 1915:
“I feel as strongly about the war as the French themselves. I believe it is to be a war of freedom and civilization against despotic dictation and hideous ideals, and having this attitude I want to give up my capacity as a neutral…and go into the fighting end.”
McConnell’s plane was shot down on March 19, 1917, during aerial combat with two German planes. McConnell was killed just weeks before his own country joined the Allies as a combatant nation.
Learn more about the Lafayette Escadrille and the rededication here.
AFS ambulance drivers Peter Melitz, Allen Emmert, and Conrad Wilson amid the rubble in Italy. Photograph by Irving Penn. This image cannot be reproduced outside the guidelines of United States Fair Use (17 U.S.C., Section 107) without advance permission from the AFS Archives.
Conrad Wilson, a Quaker and conscientious objector, volunteered as an ambulance driver with the American Field Service in 1944. He spent months on the Italian front with 485 Company, and became part of the effort to evacuate the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in the spring of 1945 after being transferred to 567 Company. Wilson rarely spoke about his war experience; the exception being a series of interview conducted with a writer, who compiled them into an unpublished memoir in 1999.
AFS Returnee Frances Wilson retraced some of her grandfather’s steps through Italy, after learning about the connection between her own AFS story and his. She then used her grandfather’s unpublished memoir to recount his fascinating story and describe the impact his AFS experience had on both of their lives in the Fall 2015 issue of the AFS Janus! You can read the article titled My Grandfather, the Pacifist on pages 10-11, available as a full download here.
AFS Americans Abroad Summer Program participants doing the "Bunny Hop" in West Berlin in 1954. Photograph courtesy of Inge Rauschning and featured in the Fall 2015 issue of the AFS Janus. This image cannot be reproduced outside the guidelines of United States Fair Use (17 U.S.C., Section 107) without advance permission from the AFS Archives.
The photograph above shows Americans Abroad Summer Program participants doing the Bunny Hop at a ball in West Berlin in 1954. The ball was held in the cafeteria at the Technical University and was organized by AFS Returnee Inge Rauschning, who was chairman of the Berlin Student Returnee Group at the time. Inge chose not to sell tickets to the ball, but instead passed around a hat in the crowd in order to pay for the live band. The American students were hosted in a city that had not yet completely recovered from the war, and Inge ensured that their stay was filled with interesting events such as the ball and a visit to local breweries.
You can read more about the Americans Abroad Summer Program participants and Inge’s experience with AFS in the article entitled “AFS: Making the World a Better Place” (pp. 6-7) in the Fall 2015 issue of the AFS Janus!
Ambulance on a training course at the May-en-Multien training camp. June 1917. 1_002_1B_11, RG1/002: AFS World War I Photographic Collection. This image cannot be reproduced outside the guidelines of United States Fair Use (17 U.S.C., Section 107) without advance permission from the AFS Archives.
During World War I, many AFS ambulance drivers went to the May-en-Multien training camp, which was created to train incoming volunteers to handle and maneuver the ambulances (including dodging obstacles), in addition to learning about the French Army to which they would be attached. Twenty-year old ambulance driver David Annan practiced driving one of the two old Ford Model T ambulances on a training course, drilled for several hours each day, and studied French Army organization with fellow volunteers at the training camp.
The training camp was in a place formerly occupied by the Germans at the start of the war, and Annan walked out to explore the trenches and entanglements in his spare time. According to Annan, the trenches nearby extended “as far as one can see.”
The men were eager to see real action, however, and Annan expressed his frustration in his diary: “Our first month is up today, and outside of many interesting experiences, and lots of travelling, we have accomplished nothing.” The AFS volunteers’ free time was filled with swimming, visiting local villages, and playing pranks on one another. All the activity and confined preparation led Annan to later declare: “it is hard to imagine we are at war.”
AFS ME 32 with a makeshift Christmas tree aboard the S.S. El Nil on December 25, 1942. This image cannot be reproduced outside the guidelines of United States Fair Use (17 U.S.C., Section 107) without advance permission from the AFS Archives.
The photograph depicted above shows AFS unit ME 32 celebrating Christmas aboard the S.S. El Nil, an Egyptian ship, on their trips overseas during World War II. Behind a man who appears to be dressed as Santa Claus is a make-shift Christmas tree decorated for the holiday. Their schedule for the day (which can be found here) included dinner, high tea, and a party for King Neptune, the ancient Roman god of the sea.
The AFS ambulance drivers already stationed in the Middle East found their own way to celebrate. On Christmas Eve they received gifts from the AFS headquarters in New York City, which included a signed card and new leather wallets stamped with “American Field Service” in gold. On Christmas Day the AFS volunteers covered their ambulances with any greenery and flowers they could find in the desert. They stretched blankets over the stretchers to create tables, and AFS ambulance driver Tom Dibble made place cards for the Americans volunteers and their British cooks. They drank punch and ate dishes created with rations they had been saving for the holiday, including margarine, chocolate, and sugar.
Although they were far from home and in the middle of the war, the AFS volunteers still found a way to celebrate their holiday spirit in 1942.
Looking at ruins from the Ponte Vecchio in Florence, Italy. Photograph by Carl Zeigler. This image cannot be reproduced outside the guidelines of United States Fair Use (17 U.S.C., Section 107) without advance permission from the AFS Archives.
The photograph depicted above shows an American Field Service (AFS) ambulance driver looking at ruins in Florence, Italy from the Ponte Vecchio bridge during World War II. The Germans destroyed blocks of buildings on both sides of the bridge. Many famous buildings were destroyed, but the famous Ponte Vecchio remained standing. The bridge was built in the late tenth century and still spans the Arno River.
The photograph above is featured in the catalog for the new exhibition at the Guggenheim Museum entitled Alberto Burri: The Trauma of Painting. Alberto Burri (1915-1995) was an Italian artist who was a prisoner of war and army medic during World War II. This exhibition is the first for Burri in the United States in nearly 40 years, and is the most comprehensive ever mounted showcasing his artwork. The exhibition website and application includes images from the Archives of the American Field Service and AFS Intercultural Programs showing the devastation in Italy during World War II, including the ones shown in the video about Burri’s background found here.
(Left) AFS Driver Joshua G.B. Campbell at the wheel of his ambulance with his dog, Khaki. (Right) Passage and illustration from a wartime booklet about Campbell’s dog entitled “Khaki: The true story of how a brave dog cheered and helped his master in his work for the wounded in France.” These images cannot be reproduced outside the guidelines of United States Fair Use (17 U.S.C., Section 107) without advance permission from the AFS Archives.
Joshua Gabriel Baker Campbell enlisted with the transportation units at the American Ambulance Hospital in 1914, with a group that would later be renamed Section Sanitaire Etats-Unis (SSU) 1 of the American Field Service. He left for Dunkirk on January 20, 1915 to provide aid during the long-range bombardments and air raids.
In early 1915 Campbell discovered a stray dog on the roadside in Belgium, whom he named “Khaki,” due to his color. According to a booklet entitled Khaki: The true story of how a brave dog cheered and helped his master in his work for the wounded in France, Khaki accompanied Campbell on trips to pick up wounded soldiers, helping by barking to clear the road ahead. Although Khaki was terrified of the bombshells, he would never let the AFS drivers go about their work alone. During the bombardment of Dunkirk, Khaki fought against his fear and helped the drivers search for survivors among the crumpling houses.
To read more about Khaki and his short time with AFS in 1915, you can download the full booklet here. The booklet was printed by British friends of Campbell without his knowledge. It contains handwritten commentary by Campbell, written forty years after the booklet was originally published.
Thomas M. Sawyer, Jr. during World War II. This image cannot be reproduced outside the guidelines of United States Fair Use (17 U.S.C., Section 107) without advance permission from the AFS Archives.
Thomas M. Sawyer was teaching English at a school in Honolulu, Hawaii, when Pearl Harbor was attacked on December 7, 1941. After discovering he could not enlist with the U.S. Army, Sawyer volunteered for the American Field Service as a volunteer ambulance driver. He was sent to India in October and served with the 14th British Army in the Burma Campaign of 1943-1944. He was transferred to Italy in January 1945, serving with the British Liberation Armies in Belgium, Holland, and Germany until June, when he was released from service.
During his service in Burma Sawyer found a Japanese flag and a “belt of thousand stitches” (known as a Senninbari, which was given to Japanese soldiers by women as a symbol of good luck during the war), near Sittaung on the Chindwin River. Many years later he discovered the items originally belonged to Asajiro Igarashi, a Japanese soldier who died in battle in Burma on September 21, 1944 at age 27. Sawyer coordinated to have the flag and belt of a thousand stitches returned to Igarashi’s widow, Teru, in 1988 after he was able to locate her. Teru lived in the same house she lived in when she sent Asajiro off to war in early 1944. Sawyer enclosed a letter with the items, noting:
“Everyone who was involved in those campaigns learned that war is hard, cruel, frightening business. And they now feel that those men who marched with them- and those who marched against them- have gone through the same trial and now together make up a brotherhood of men committed to a world based on law and justice rather than conflict and war.”
Teru sent Sawyer a letter of appreciation for delivering her husband’s last possessions to her and their two daughters, and thanked him for his kind words.
Left to right: Phanee Sopitphongstorn of Thailand, Marcelle Banuett of Costa Rica, and Cecilia Sosa of Ecuador standing with Exhibit Hostess Carol Mahnke. This image cannot be reproduced outside the guidelines of United States Fair Use (17 U.S.C., Section 107) without advance permission from the AFS Archives.
In July 1965, 140 AFS Participants visited the Bell Pavilion at the New York World's Fair during their summer bus trip. The New York World's Fair was held at Flushing Meadows Park in Queens, New York, and had opened the previous year. The students learned about the Telestar communications satellite and took a tour of the Bell System Exhibition. The tour included a moving chair ride through "The Story of Communications," where they saw displays depicting communications of the past, present, and future.
The image above shows Phanee Sopitphongstorn of Thailand, Marcelle Banuett of Costa Rica, and Cecilia Sosa of Ecuador learning the differences between natural and man-made quartz crystals during their visit to the Bell System Exhibition. They are standing with Exhibit Hostess Carol Mahnke, who is holding a man-made crystal and showing them the many fracture lines in the natural quartz below. The students also learned how quartz was used in modern communications equipment at the time.
AFS Diploma for Edward H. Pattison. RG1/004 Edward H. Pattison Collection. This image cannot be reproduced outside the guidelines of United States Fair Use (17 U.S.C., Section 107) without advance permission from the AFS Archives.
The item shown above is the diploma that was given to every volunteer who served in the American Field Service for a period of six months or more during World War I. The diploma was intended to testify to the character of the service rendered by each volunteer, and included their ambulance or camion section and the locations in which they served. AFS founder and Inspector General A. Piatt Andrew and Assistant Inspector General Stephen Galatti signed each diploma, as can be seen above.
The diplomas were designed by Bernard Naudin, a distinguished artist at the time. Many AFS drivers believed that America’s assistance to France during World War I was important due to the assistance of the Marquis de Lafayette, a French aristocrat and military officer, to the colonists during the American Revolution in the eighteenth century. The imagery on Naudin’s diploma highlights this belief by showing an American Revolutionary War soldier with a contemporary French soldier (at left), and an American World War I Driver standing with a contemporary French soldier (at right.)
Martha Verdejo Bigliani (at left) with friends in the United States in 1955. This photograph cannot be reproduced outside the guidelines of United States Fair Use (17 U.S.C., Section 107) without advance permission from the AFS Archives.
AFS Argentina is one of several AFS countries celebrating a 60th anniversary this year! AFS Argentina sent its first six students, including Martha Verdejo Bigliani, to the United States in 1955.
This photograph shows Martha (at left) with a group of friends during her AFS exchange year in Maitland, Florida in 1955. Martha met Stephen Galatti, the founder of the post-war exchange programs, during her stay in the United States. Galatti later asked Martha personally to start an official AFS program in Argentina. She first became an overseas representative and then the national director of AFS Argentina, a position she held from 1959 to 1977. After her work experience with AFS, she continued spreading the benefits of student exchanges by becoming the head of Youth for Understanding (YFU) in Argentina in the early 1980s. In 2010, she was one of the recipients of the President’s Award of AFS International for her extraordinary commitment to AFS over the years.
Evacuation of the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in 1945. RG2/030, Charles H. Horton Collection. This photograph cannot be reproduced outside the guidelines of United States Fair Use (17 U.S.C., Section 107) without advance permission from the AFS Archives.
In 1940 German military authorities established the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp near the city of Celle in northern Germany between the villages of Bergen and Belsen. It was originally a prisoner-of-war (POW) camp for French, Belgian, and Russian soldiers from 1940 to 1941. In April 1943 a section of the camp was taken over by German SS guards, who established a detention camp for Jews intended for exchange with Germans held in internment abroad. By April 1945 the population of the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp complex reached over 60,000 due to the arrival of thousands of prisoners evacuated from concentration camps close to the front line. Overcrowding in the camp huts, poor sanitary conditions, and the scarcity of food, water, and shelter led to an outbreak of diseases such as Typhus, dysentery, and tuberculosis.
On April 15, 1945, Bergen-Belsen was liberated by British forces. Shortly after liberation, a contingent of around seventy American Field Service (AFS) ambulance drivers from C and D Platoons of the 567 Company (Coy) was called in to assist in what became a seven-week mission offering aid to the survivors of the camp. Ambulance drivers from the D Platoon under the command of Lieutenant Murray drove to Lübeck on the Baltic to retrieve 130 German nurses to assist with the evacuation of the camp. A section of the C Platoon under the command of W.J. Bell volunteered to assist with stretcher-bearing details and distribution of meals to the survivors. AFS drivers helped evacuate over 11,000 people from the camp and drove them to the displaced persons camp established near the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. AFS drivers also transported medical equipment for the treatment of survivors and transferred the corpses from the wards of the hospitals to the mortuary.
Inspector General A. Piatt Andrew and Assistant Inspector General Stephen Galatti at the AFS headquarters in Paris, France. 1917. Photograph by H.C. Ellis. This photograph cannot be reproduced outside the guidelines of United States Fair Use (17 U.S.C., Section 107) without advance permission from the AFS Archives.
April 2015 is exactly 100 years after A. Piatt Andrew negotiated an agreement with the French military to have ambulance units comprised of American volunteers serve closer to the front lines of battle. These units became known as the “American Ambulance Field Service,” and were later called the “American Field Service.” The photograph depicted above has been used as one of the signature images of the AFS Centennial in 2014-15, intending to commemorate the founding of AFS in the First World War. In addition to being an aesthetically pleasing photograph, the image includes a number of important features related to the history of AFS, and even a “clue” which helps date the photograph!
First- the individuals featured in the photograph are A. Piatt Andrew (left) and Stephen Galatti (right). Andrew was a former assistant professor of economics at Harvard University and director of the U.S. Mint before World War I. His Assistant Inspector General, Galatti, would later go on to found and lead the AFS secondary school exchange programs after World War II.
Second- the ambulances featured behind Andrew and Galatti are Ford Model T chassis, which had an ambulance body built on top. The Ford Model T ambulances were the standard ambulance used by AFS during the war. They had interchangeable parts, which was better for repairs, and were quick and easier to maneuver on shell-pocketed roads than earlier ambulances. In the beginning of the war the ambulance bodies had canvas sides, though wooden sides (shown above) were quickly adopted, which were easier to clean.
Third- the ambulance in the front clearly shows the name “American Field Service” rather than “American Ambulance Field Service,” which was the first name of the organization. AFS dropped the word “Ambulance” from the organization’s name in part because they were no longer affiliated with the American Ambulance Hospital, but also because they adopted the camion (truck) service in 1917. This important clue means the photograph could only have been taken in 1917.
There are many other photographs found in the AFS Archives that highlight important facts about the history of AFS, if you look for the “clues” in the images! You can discover many more photographs like this by searching our database here.
Marga Johnstone standing next to her “AFS MOM” license plate in Pasadena, California in 1979. This photograph cannot be reproduced outside the guidelines of United States Fair Use (17 U.S.C., Section 107) without advance permission from the AFS Archives.
This photograph shows Marga Johnstone, the AFS Chapter President of John Muir High School, standing in front of her car in Pasadena, California in 1979. Marga was an AFS Host Mom six times by the time this photograph was taken, and she proudly displays this fact on the license plate of her car.
The valuable, immersive exchange experience AFS provides is only possible thanks to the many outstanding host families from around the world. Some AFS Partners (such as AFS Australia) have even created host family appreciation months, dedicated to recognizing the many families who have opened their doors and shared their homes with AFS Participants.
You can click here to learn more about hosting an AFS Participant, or here to learn more about AFS USA's current host family appreciation month activities!
Charles P. Edwards and Licia Sargiacomo in August 1944. Taken from his memoir entitled An AFS Driver Remembers (Hyannis Port and Sun City Center, 1999.) This image cannot be reproduced outside the guidelines of United States Fair Use (17 U.S.C., Section 107) without permission from the author.
World War II Driver Charles P. Edwards was active in service projects even before volunteering with the American Field Service (AFS.) After graduating from college, he worked on a project with the American Friends Service Committee draining malarial swamps in the tropical lowlands east of Mexico City. Soon after, he volunteered for the AFS after registering as a “Conscientious Objector” to the war in 1942. During the course of service with AFS, he was temporarily transferred to the Allied Military Government Command in Lanciano, Italy from April to June 1944 to serve as a Public Health and Wealth Officer, in part thanks to his prior experience in Mexico City. Edwards helped with sanitation and malaria control in Lanciano, in addition to supplying the civilian hospital and dispensaries.
During his first few weeks on the job, Edwards was handed a cup of tea at the Refugee Center by a young woman named Licia Sargiacomo. Three months later they were in love and, amidst the horrors of war that surrounded them, were engaged to be married. The wedding ceremony was held at a temporary altar in the dining room of her brother’s home, and guests included fellow AFS Drivers and the mayor of Lanciano. The reception was held on a terrace overlooking a piazza where a devastating German bombing raid had taken place only months before. Licia and Charles would go on to have three children after the war.
Excerpt from a letter written by A. Piatt Andrew to his parents on December 3, 1914. This excerpt and the full letter below cannot be reproduced outside the guidelines of United States Fair Use (17 U.S.C., Section 107) without advance permission from the AFS Foundation.
Exactly 100 years ago this month, A. Piatt Andrew arrived in Paris to volunteer as an ambulance driver at the American Ambulance Hospital. This civilian-run Hospital was founded before the war by Americans living in Paris, and was used during the war to treat wounded soldiers returning from the front. Andrew was a former director of the United States Mint and assistant professor of economics at Harvard University, and had set sail for France in December of 1914 to volunteer his efforts at the Hospital before the United States had officially entered the war.
As can be read in the letter extract above, Andrew informed his parents that his reasons for volunteering were “the possibility of being of some service in the midst of so much distress- the interest of witnessing some of the scenes in this greatest of spectacles-the chance of doing the little all that one can for France.” World War I, the “greatest of spectacles” according to Andrew, led to the death of millions of combatants and civilians. Although Andrew noted that he planned to stay in France only “two or three months,” he volunteered his time until the end of the war, founding an ambulance corps that ultimately transported more than a million wounded in both World Wars.
Click here to read the full letter Andrew wrote to his parents, and here to learn more about the AFS Foundation, where the original letter is stored.
AFS Volunteer ribbons used on nametags at the 50th Anniversary celebrations in New York City in 1997. This image and the brochure below cannot be reproduced outside the guidelines of United States Fair Use (17 U.S.C., Section 107) without advance permission from the AFS Archives.
The purple AFS Volunteer ribbons (pictured above right) were posted in honor of United Nations International Volunteer Day, celebrated on December 5th of this year. These ribbons were used during the 50th Anniversary of the founding of the post- World War II AFS Exchange Programs. Many of the anniversary events took place in New York City in the summer of 1997 (fifty years after the arrival of the first AFS secondary school students to the United States), including a celebration at the Manhattan Center, a party at the Rockefeller Center, and the “Old Timers Dinner” at the United Nations, which was attended by AFS Drivers, Trustees, and early Participants. At the various events, ribbons of different colors were attached to the nametags to highlight the various roles AFSers often play within the organization. As we discovered from the photographs contained in the AFS Archives (such as this one), many event attendees had multiple ribbons, showing their dedicated involvement to AFS.
AFS started as a volunteer organization in World War I, when 2,500 Americans volunteered as ambulance and camion drivers in France and the Balkans. Although the organization has since developed different methods of volunteerism, the volunteer spirit of AFSers is the same today as it was nearly 100 years ago. Today, AFS is able to continue its programs thanks to the help of dedicated volunteers around the world. In 2013 alone, there were more than 43,000 volunteers supporting AFS Participants in their life-changing experiences abroad. Visit http://centennial.afs.org/effect for more information!
Members of the AFS Association in front of the Eiffel Tower after leaving the École de Guerre. 1924. This image and the brochure below cannot be reproduced outside the guidelines of United States Fair Use (17 U.S.C., Section 107) without advance permission from the AFS Archives.
The AFS Association was established in May 1920 to coordinate reunions among former members of the American Field Service and also to administer the AFS Fellowships for French Universities program, which had been established in December 1919.
The photograph featured above is from 1924, and was taken during the first AFS Association pilgrimage to France. The former AFS Drivers met with Marshall Joffre at the École de Guerre. They were officially received by the local authorities in Verdun, where AFS Drivers had evacuated many casualties during the longest and bloodiest battle of the First World War. They also visited the former AFS headquarters at 21 rue Raynouard in Paris, where the Comtesse de Villestreux, owner of the villa, held a tea in their honor. The trip was such a success that the participants decided a similar reunion would be held every year in Paris. The image above was then used in a brochure for the second pilgrimage to be held in 1925, which cost a total of only $290 per person!
Click here to download the entire brochure from 1925, or here to learn more about the fascinating history of AFS through the new timeline available online!
Ambulance drivers of SSU 14 at the AFS headquarters in Paris, France. Spring 1917. Photograph by O. King. This image cannot be reproduced outside the guidelines of United States Fair Use (17 U.S.C., Section 107) without advance permission from the AFS Archives.
In July 1916 the American Ambulance Field Service (which would later be known as the “American Field Service,” or “AFS”) established an independent headquarters in the heart of Paris at 21 rue Raynouard. The property was made available by the Comtesse de la Villestreux of the Hottinguer family, who allowed their estate and private park to be used by the organization for the remainder of the war. The headquarters consisted of an estate and five-acre private park with a view of the Eiffel Tower. It had formal gardens and a grove of chestnuts, and included offices, mess quarters, an infirmary, temporary barracks, and grounds for the ambulances.
After AFS was absorbed into the ranks of the U.S. military by the end of 1917, the AFS headquarters continued to serve as a home away from home for the former AFS Drivers. Beginning in July 1917, staff at AFS headquarters published a weekly bulletin containing news of drivers and the war, which was distributed to former AFS drivers. Henry Sleeper, who had served as American Representative of AFS and Treasurer of the AFS Fund, closed the Boston office and moved to Paris after the Armistice to help the organization conclude business operations. Sleeper helped to maintain and manage the headquarters until it officially closed on April 24, 1919.
Click here to view more images from the AFS headquarters at 21 rue Raynouard.
Animator and business magnate Walt Disney shaking hands with AFS Participants Roberto Segura-Jouineau (Spain-USA 1962-1963) and Daniel Bettens (Switzerland-USA 1962-1963), circa 1962-1963. Autographed photograph. Photograph by Norman Hoyt Photography, Kansas City, Missouri. This image cannot be reproduced outside the guidelines of United States Fair Use (17 U.S.C., Section 107) without advance permission from the AFS Archives.
Fifty years ago on September 14, 1964, Walt Disney received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian recognition. He received this award because his achievements had "made freedom stronger for all us," according to United States President Lyndon B. Johnson. Disney is famous for his career as a business magnate, animator, and director, but not everybody knows that he participated in World War I.
In 1917 he was rejected by the U. S. Navy for being underage. He instead decided to join the American Red Cross Ambulance Corps, an organization that only required volunteers to be seventeen years old. After a period of training in Chicago, Disney sailed to France to aid in the occupation after the armistice was signed. He mostly worked as an errand boy for the canteen that served the troops passing through Neufchâteau by train on the way to Germany, and he drove the canteen car.
Although he was never an AFS Driver, as he joined the war effort only after AFS had been absorbed into the U.S. military and ceased to exist as an independent organization, , Walt Disney shared their spirit of volunteerism. In the picture above, he is shaking hands with AFS Winter Program Participants Roberto Segura-Jouineau (Spain-USA 1962-1963) and Daniel Bettens (Switzerland-USA 1962-1963)who both spent their AFS program year in Kansas. This photograph was probably taken in Kansas City, Missouri, where Walt Disney lived during his childhood and teenage years. Disney also autographed the photograph with his famous signature.
One of the convalescent wards in the American Ambulance Hospital showing French officers nearly recovered with American doctors and nurses, 1915. Photograph by J. Valère. This image cannot be reproduced outside the guidelines of United States Fair Use (17 U.S.C., Section 107) without advance permission from the AFS Archives.
This photograph depicts recovering French officers with American doctors and nurses in one of the rooms at the American Ambulance Hospital at Neuilly-sur-Seine, France. The American Ambulance Hospital was established as the military branch of the American Hospital in Paris a century ago in August 1914, soon after the outbreak of World War I. The American Ambulance Hospital adapted the Lycée Pasteur, an unfinished school, to accommodate the wounded soldiers arriving from the front. Classrooms, such as the one depicted here, and other spaces of the school were transformed into hospital wards and offices. A classroom could hold eight beds a piece, and the gymnasium was turned into two big wards containing about 35 beds each.
The American Ambulance Hospital had a great reputation among the French. According to a patient who convalesced at the Hospital, many wounded soldiers would pray to be sent to “l’Américaine” (the American Ambulance Hospital) for recovery. The high quality service provided at the Hospital can also be associated with the large number of volunteers who worked there. American men and women answered the call to service by working as ambulance drivers, doctors, and nurses. One of the volunteers, A. Piatt Andrew, eventually organized a group of ambulance drivers from the Hospital into what became known as the American Ambulance Field Service.
For more information on the American Ambulance Hospital, check out the Item of the Month from November 2012 (below). Experiences at the Hospital are also recorded in the letters of volunteer Regis Post in the Regis Post Correspondence Collection here, and additional images of the Hospital can be viewed online here.
Arrival of 28 AFS Americans Abroad Summer Program Participants in Berlin-Lichterfelde, Germany in July 1954. This image cannot be reproduced outside the guidelines of United States Fair Use (17 U.S.C., Section 107) without advance permission from the AFS Archives.
This photograph features the arrival of 28 AFS Americans Abroad Summer Program Participants in Berlin-Lichterfelde, Germany in July 1954. Although the AFS post-war student exchange programs were founded in 1946, the program only exchanged students coming to the United States. In 1950, the Americans Abroad (AA) Summer Program was launched, thanks to the work of AFS Returnees who helped develop new programs in their home countries. The first nine students from the United States spent a few months living with families in France, which had the largest number of AFS Returnees at the time. By 1951, the AA Summer Program had expanded into seven countries in Europe. By 1957 AA Participants had the option to spend several months abroad during the fall and attend schools in their host countries.
A. Piatt Andrew on the grounds of Red Roof before World War I, 1910. Photograph by T.E. Bro and Son. This image cannot be reproduced outside the guidelines of United States Fair Use (17 U.S.C., Section 107) without advance permission from the AFS Archives.
This photograph features A. Piatt Andrew at his home in Gloucester, Massachusetts, before World War I began. Prior to founding the American Field Service during the war, Andrew served as an assistant professor of economics at Harvard, director of the U.S. Mint, and assistant secretary of the U.S. Treasury. “Red Roof,” as his home was called, was designed and built under Andrew’s direction in 1902. Red Roof contained secret rooms, one of which necessitated dismantling a sofa to access and contained a Prohibition-era wet bar and a player piano. Guests in the living room could therefore hear the music but didn’t know its source. Another secret room contained a dugout that was later filled with AFS artifacts from the war, including posters, AFS recruitment slides, shell fuses (a favorite souvenir of AFS Drivers), and trench art.
Andrew created elaborate entertainment for guests at Red Roof by organizing themed dinner parties, musical performances, and skits in full costume. Guests to Red Roof included interior decorator and longtime AFS supporter Henry Sleeper, the portrait painter John Singer Sargent, art collector and philanthropist Isabella Stewart Gardner, and Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
Click here to download the Spring 2014 issue of the AFS Janus, which features an article on Red Roof, and notes the efforts of the AFS Foundation and collector Ron Poteat to preserve its legacy after the original home was demolished in December 2012.
Mr. Bakir Hasan, from Indonesia (1957-1958 Winter Program) visiting Amarillo, Texas on July 1958. Photographer unknown. This image cannot be reproduced outside the guidelines of United States Fair Use (17 U.S.C., Section 107) without advance permission from the AFS Archives.
The AFS program in Indonesia started in 1956 when Wartomo Dwijoyuwono, together with Mohammad Diponegoro and Ibrahim Kadir were invited by the American government to participate in the Youth Specialists Program, spending four months and a half in Nebraska, US. During the program, Wartomo met with several students from various European countries, who were participating in the AFS program, and decided to initiate the program in his own country.
In 1956 the first seven Indonesian students sailed to the United States. Taufiq Ismail, a well-known Indonesian poet, was among them. In 1958 he founded the Indonesian Returnee Association and was one of the founders of Bina Antarbudaya, The Indonesian Foundation for Intercultural Learning, which has been managing the AFS programs since. An article about his life and experience with AFS was published in the December 2001 AFS Janus, a publication of the AFS Archives and AFS Intercultural Programs, which can be found here.
Since 1970, when the multinational programs began, AFS Indonesia began sending and hosting students to and from countries other than the United States. In fifty five years more than 3,000 Indonesian students have gone abroad on the exchange programs and approximately 1,500 students were hosted in the country.
Click here to read the letter that Richard Spencer, president of AFS between 1992 and 1999, sent to Bina Antarbudaya in 1996 for the 40th anniversary of AFS student exchange programs in Indonesia. In the letter, Spencer points out that AFS is similar to Indonesia, which is made up of thousands of islands, because the AFS world is theoretically made up of “thousands of islands, each representing diverse, stimulating cultures.” He further points out that with the establishment of the AFS programs, the distance between these “islands” has narrowed, leading to better understanding.
Gas mask test in Rupt, France, 1917. RG1/002, AFS World War I Photographic Collection. This photograph cannot be reproduced outside the guidelines of United States Fair Use (17 U.S.C., Section 107) without advance permission from the AFS Archives.
The American Field Service (AFS) ambulance and camion drivers were non-combatants in World War I, since their primary tasks involved carrying wounded soldiers and munitions. Although they were not directly involved in the fighting, the AFS Drivers were still exposed to many of the dangers encountered by soldiers, including chemical weaponry such as tear or mustard gas. To protect against this form of chemical warfare, gas masks were often distributed to the AFS units. This event often served as a cause for commentary or a photograph (such as this one), given the unusual appearance of the masks.
AFS Ambulance Driver Philip T. Cate described the masks, which were received by his unit on December 20th, 1915, in the diary he kept during his service abroad. He noted that they consisted of “a pair of goggles with a wire at the bottom, which is pinched to close the nose. Then the chemicals are tied on over the mouth so that the air when breathed in, is purified before getting to the mouth. They certainly make good disguises.”
Other drivers questioned the utility of the masks. According to AFS Ambulance Driver Edward Weeks in his memoir My Green Age (Little, Brown and Company: Boston, 1973), the gas masks were issued to his unit and they photographed each other looking like “creatures from Mars; the isinglass which shielded the eyes was dim to look through and our lieutenant warned us that the sterilizer was no protection against the new German gas which clung close to the ground with an odor like garlic or mustard.”
AFS Returnee Nanci Leitch (USA to ESP, 1976-1977), is escorted to the chapel by her host father Vicente Saitua (left) and her natural father Kenneth Leitch (right.) Excerpt from “Air Mail” section of the Feburary 1993 issue of AFS World: The Magazine for AFS Members (Vol. 3, No.1.) The photograph and magazine issue below cannot be reproduced outside the guidelines of United States Fair Use (17 U.S.C., Section 107) without advance permission from the AFS Archives.
AFS Participants spend a significant amount of time with the host family who has accepted the exciting challenge of hosting a foreign student. The host family serves as an important conduit to the new culture encountered by the AFS Participant. It is not rare for this kind of relationship to eventually become a life-long bond.
An example of a life-long AFS bond was featured in a story in the February 1993 issue of AFS-USA’s AFS World: The Magazine for AFS Members (Vol. 3, No.1.) Nanci Leitch, a year program participant who traveled to Spain from the United States in 1976-1977, kept in touch with her host family long after her return to the United States. Her host father, Vicente Saitua, always promised to visit her when she got married. Her Basque host family flew to the United States to attend Leitch‘s wedding, and the bride was escorted to the altar by both her host and natural fathers, as shown in the picture above.
Click here to download the full February 1993 issue of AFS World: The Magazine for AFS Members, which also contains a story written by then-98-year-old AFS World War I Driver Enos Curtin, and other articles about AFS Participants and Returnees.
Illustration and excerpt from a letter by World War II Driver James H. Brewster (CM 47, IB 60-T) to his parents on January 20, 1944. This image cannot be reproduced outside the guidelines of United States Fair Use (17 U.S.C., Section 107) without advance permission from the AFS Archives.
World War II Driver James Henry Brewster volunteered as an ambulance driver with the American Field Service (AFS) between 1943 and 1945. Brewster was posted to the C Platoon of 567 Company in Italy in October 1943, and remained in Italy until he was transferred to Germany in April 1945. He was transferred to India in August of that same year, and was repatriated to the United States in November 1945 following the termination of wartime hostilities.
Brewster donated his wartime collection to the Archives of the American Field Service and AFS Intercultural Programs (AFS Archives) in 2011. The collection includes letters that he wrote to his parents while overseas. Some of the letters in the collection were illustrated by Brewster, showing scenes featuring AFS ambulances or the activities of the volunteer ambulance drivers in their down time He also illustrated scenes depicting the local Italian community where his unit was stationed in January 1944, including a drawing of a farmer leading a donkey up the hill to town (depicted above.)
Click here to read more information about the James H. Brewster Collection in the AFS Archives.
Former AFS Drivers gathered in front of a Christmas tree at at 21 rue Raynouard in Paris, France, December 24, 1917. Photograph by H.C. Ellis. This image cannot be reproduced outside the guidelines of United States Fair Use (17 U.S.C., Section 107) without advance permission from the AFS Archives.
Many of the 2,500 ambulance and camion drivers who served with the American Field Service (AFS) during World War I spent a holiday season away from home. The men celebrated the holiday in different ways, depending on where they were stationed.
In 1915, AFS Ambulance Driver Philip T. Cate celebrated the holiday with the French brancardiers (stretcher bearers.) He noted in his diary that “there was wine, which they always have in great quantities,” as well as plum pudding. The brancardiers lit small candles and sang Christmas songs, led by their Sergeant. Just two years later, AFS Ambulance Driver Edward Ross noted in his diary that he helped to gather mistletoe on Christmas Eve before a dinner the following day that included vegetable soup, turkey, turnips, carrots, and string beans, among other treats.
In 1917, after the organization was absorbed into the U.S. military after the entry of the United States into the war, 157 former AFS Drivers gathered together for a Christmas Eve celebration at 21 rue Raynouard in Paris, France. The walls and ceiling of the villa were hung with holly and Christmas greenery, and many candles were lit and placed on several Christmas trees (one of which is pictured above.) The AFS men drank champagne, and ate plum pudding and turkey, ending the evening with songs.
Click here to contact the AFS Archives if you would like to schedule a research appointment to view either of the World War I diaries, or here to view more photographs from the AFS headquarters at 21 rue Raynouard.
Nancy Hill (USA-JOR) dancing on a van at an event organized by the local American AFS Chapter, August 1982. Photographer unknown. This image cannot be reproduced outside the guidelines of United States Fair Use (17 U.S.C., Section 107) without advance permission from the AFS Archives.
International Education Week (IEW) begins on November 12, 2013. IEW is a joint initiative of the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Department of Education aimed at celebrating the benefits of international education and cultural exchange worldwide. AFS Intercultural Programs is an educational organization dedicated to providing enriched learning experiences that promote intercultural awareness, tolerance, and communication. As noted in the recently-posted article on the AFS-USA Web site, AFS Participants and Returnees are uniquely qualified to inspire others to pursue international education and cultural exchange during IEW, both in their home and host communities, as a result of their exchange program. Their own inspiration is often a result of the customs, food, traditional clothing, and music experienced in their host communities abroad.
The photograph above shows Nancy Hill at a party hosted by the volunteers of her local AFS American Chapter shortly after she returned from her summer program in Jordan in 1982. In the image, Nancy is wearing a typical Jordanian dress and she is dancing on a van with the American and Jordanian flags behind her. As this image reminds us, AFS Returnees have inspired others to learn about intercultural understanding in their home communities, by sharing part of the new culture that they encountered during their AFS Program.
Drawing of Teddy, the SSU 8 goat, by Raymond Baërt (Left.) Photograph of a goat on an ambulance, presumed to be Teddy. Photographer unknown (Right.) These images cannot be reproduced outside the guidelines of United States Fair Use (17 U.S.C., Section 107) without advance permission from the AFS Archives.
The AFS Drivers from the First World War enjoyed each other’s companionship in between the difficult and often dismal hours transporting wounded men. In addition to each other, they also enjoyed the company of different animals who were adopted by some of the sections during the war. Dogs were the most popular of the section mascots, as evidenced by the photographs of Khaki, the Section Sanitaire [États-] Unis (SSU) 1 mascot pictured here, and of the unnamed dog sitting on top of an SSU 64 ambulance here.
Similarly, the men of SSU 8 adopted a section dog they named “Booze” during the war. Sadly, Booze was hit and killed by a truck on a Châlons road on June 4, 1917, and was buried by six of the AFS Drivers shortly afterward. In addition to their beloved dog, SSU 8 can also claim Teddy the goat (pictured above), who was adopted as the section mascot shortly after the death of Booze. The American Field Service Bulletin published on August 8, 1917 notes:
It is worth recording that Section 8 now has a goat. Do not try and "get it" however,
as it is not that kind of a goat, but one with four legs which they are pleased
to call their "mascot." Here's hoping it brings them all the luck in the world.
In addition to the section mascots, the AFS Drivers were surrounded by a number of service animals used by other organizations or military units. These animals included mules (pictured here), often used to transport supplies in the trenches by the military, and service dogs, including the ones depicted with their trainer in Lorraine in this photograph
Photographs of male models used in the Spring 1965 Our World issue, with the assistance of Seventeen and Esquire magazines and the American Institute of Men’s and Boys’ Wear, Inc. These images cannot be reproduced outside the guidelines of United States Fair Use (17 U.S.C., section 107) without advance permission from the AFS Archives.
When we think of the cultural differences that an AFS Participant faces on an AFS Program, many things come into our minds. Discovering a new cuisine, learning a new language, and adjusting to new social norms are all experiences that an AFSer traveling abroad will encounter at some point. One of the features of a different culture that is equally important and difficult to adjust to, particularly for teenagers, is fashion.
In the Spring 1965 issue of Our World, a magazine produced by AFS Returnees and intended for AFS Participants and Returnees, we find a number of articles tackling the issue. The articles appear in a four-page spread on contemporary fashion in the United States, accompanied by photographs. The spread begins with “An Informal Guide for Girls” in which American AFSers express their views on fashion for girls, including that the average teenager has a wardrobe “more sensible than sophisticated” and “more casual or sporty than formal,” which often included shifts, jumpers, culottes, and A-line skirts. The two central pages of the spread describe the regional variations of the basic wardrobes for girls and boys, including that boys in the Midwest prefer sport shirts to include “classic ginghams,” while those in the Northwest prefer “madras in solids & plaids,” The spread concludes with a page dedicated to men’s fashion.
Although the Americans were offering fashion advice, they also begged the incoming AFS Participants to not become too “Americanized.” Specifically, they asked them to bring their local fashions to the United States, as “half the fun” for the host communities was “seeing what’s being worn in other parts of the world.”
This comic strip was published in the September 1943 issue of The American Indian: Bulletin of the American Field Service in India. This publication was edited by Lieutenant John Patrick, and was intended for the more than 800 American Field Service ambulance stationed in the India-Burma theater of war during World War II. The American Indian was first published in August 1943, and through its run included news, poems, jokes, short stories, editorials, parodies, photographs, and cartoons depicting the service of the ambulance drivers abroad. Multiple contributors, usually the volunteers stationed in India-Burma with the Southeast Asia Command of the British military, submitted items for each issue.
The contributor of this particular comic strip, Adrian Alan Whyte, had been a commercial artist in New York City when he volunteered for the American Field Service in April 1943. He was sent overseas with unit IB 3, and volunteered for ten months until his repatriation in 1944. In addition to his drawings Adrian also contributed poems, including one regarding the receipt of mail from loved ones back home, published in the same issue as the comic strip:
Let Me Know
Letters from home are my hopes by day-my
dreams through the hours of night,
and the blame is yours if I fail to win, if
you shall have failed to write.
So guard my courage and guard my faith
and keep up my spirits there
by letting me know when the mail comes
in that you haven’t ceased to care.
A French soldier walking away from the camera through an empty German trench, 1917. Photograph found in RG1/031, John C. Hanna Collection. This image cannot be reproduced outside the guidelines of Fair Use without advance permission from the AFS Archives.
This photograph shows a French soldier walking away from the camera through an empty trench. This image was taken in 1917, when French soldiers accompanied John C. Hanna and other ambulance drivers of American Field Service (AFS) Section Sanitaire [États-] Unis (SSU) 1 to explore the trenches that had formerly been occupied by German troops. They discovered discarded mortars, old barbed wire, a trench gate, and an abandoned dugout. AFS Drivers were not expected to be in the trenches during battles; rather, brancardiers (French stretcher-bearers) would carry wounded soldiers from the trenches to a poste-de-secours, where they would then be loaded into the AFS ambulances.
While this photograph depicts a somewhat tidier trench due to its abandoned state, World War I soldiers were often exposed to very unsanitary conditions on the Western Front. Trench warfare was implemented due to the advances in firepower and related technology, which were not matched in similar advances in mobility and military strategy. Trenches were built at right-angles in zigzags to better contain artillery blasts, and some included dugouts, which were protective spaces in the trenches intended for command posts, first aid stations, or sleeping quarters. Other common protective features of the trenches included sandbags and barbed wire. The trenches often became muddy and unsanitary, leading to its occupants suffering from infections and fungal conditions, including the dreaded “trench foot” that affected a large number of soldiers. During many long campaigns or battles there could also be remnants of the bodies of dead soldiers that had not yet been removed, leading to infestations of rats.
AFS Participants, Returnees, and Volunteers enjoy a “family style” picnic at a reception in Milford, Connecticut, during the summer of 1970. Photograph credit: Gutrick of Milford. Item found in RG4/001, the AFS International Records. This image cannot be reproduced outside the guidelines of Fair Use without permission from the Archives of the American Field Service and AFS Intercultural Programs.
This photograph shows four AFS Participants and Returnees enjoying live music and fresh watermelon, a typical summer treat in the United States, at a picnic organized at Morningside Park in Milford, CT, in the summer of 1970. The president and vice president of the local chapter, which organized the event, are also present in the picture. The picnic was attended by AFS Returnees who were hosted in the region in the past and were visiting their former American host families during the summer, as well as new AFS Participants who had just arrived from abroad, and Returnees who were back in the United States and attending Milford High School. From left to right are: Ann Bertier (BFL-USA, 1968-69), Mr. Robert C. Miller (Milford Chapter Vice President), Karl Martin Drochner-Karme (GER-USA, 1970-1971), Milford resident Mary Zvirblis (USA-GER 1969-1970), Maria Soledad Ferrando Fuentes (CHI-USA, 1965-1966), and Mr. Vit Zvirblis (Milford Chapter President).
As this image reminds us, AFS Participants become an essential part of their host families and communities through the strong relationships they form during their year abroad. Former AFS Participants often maintain connections with local chapters and travel to their host country to visit with family and friends, giving them the opportunity to meet and share stories (or watermelon and live music) with new AFS Participants and Volunteers.
Film clip depicting the Memorial Day ceremony held in Paris in May 1916, from the promotional film entitled “Our Friend France” (1917), RG1/001, the AFS World War I Records. This film clip cannot be reproduced without permission from the Archives of the American Field Service and AFS Intercultural Programs.
This film clip shows A. Piatt Andrew, founder of the American Field Service (AFS), standing between two men while helping to lay a wreath on the monument of Lafayette and Washington in Paris, France, on Memorial Day in 1916. Spectators, a boys choir (who sang at the event), and Abbot Felix Klein can also be seen in the clip. The wreath was laid in honor of American volunteers who had given their lives for France during the war, including a number of AFS ambulance drivers.
The monument depicting the Marquis de Lafayette clasping hands with George Washington commemorates the French aid given to the Americans during their Revolutionary War. The monument was first exhibited in 1896 at a Paris art salon, and was moved to its permanent home in the Place des États-Unis in 1895. A replica was dedicated in New York City at West 114th Street in 1900, despite early debates among art critics about the questionable quality of the work.
Chaung crossing north of Sinthe in Burma in the spring of 1945. Photograph by DeWitt Morrill. Item found in RG2/002, the AFS World War II Photographic Collection. This image cannot be reproduced without permission from the Archives of the American Field Service and AFS Intercultural Programs.
This picture shows American Field Service (AFS) ambulances crossing a chaung (stream bed) north of Sinthe in Burma during the spring of 1945. Between December 1943 and April 1944, 812 AFS ambulance drivers were stationed in the India-Burma theater of war.
The first AFS ambulances used in this theater of war were black Fords, made from ¾ ton chassis with a white circle containing a red cross painted on the sides. According to DeWitt “Dick” Morrill, an AFS World War II Ambulance Driver and the photographer of the image above, the rear axles of these vehicles broke frequently. In 1944 AFS began using black Chevy trucks that were slightly larger than the Fords. The Chevy truck chassis were made in Canada and were then shipped to Bombay (present day Mumbai), where the ambulance bodies were constructed. Both the Ford and Chevy trucks contained an unusual characteristic for the American volunteers: the driver seat was on the right side of the vehicle. It was only in the spring of 1944 that AFS also began using olive-colored Jeeps that were issued by the United States military. These were smaller and lacked a passenger seat and windshield, though the driver seat was once again placed on the left side. The Jeeps officially accommodated only two stretchers and one sitting patient, though the AFS drivers would sometimes place stretchers on the hood of the vehicle and carried seated passengers on the bumpers or the hood, if needed.
AFS Participants from different regions of the world smile during their arrival orientation at the C.W. Post Campus in Long Island, NY (USA), 1973. Item found in RG4/001, the AFS Student Programs Collections. This photograph cannot be reproduced without permission from the Archives of the American Field Service and AFS Intercultural Programs.
The picture depicted above shows five AFS Participants from different regions of the world sharing a happy moment during their arrival orientation held at the C.W. Post Campus of Long Island University in Brookville, NY, near New York City.
The C.W. Post Campus holds an important place in AFS history, since thousands of participants spent their first or last days of their AFS exchange program in the United States there. In the past, participants would arrive to the Campus from their countries of origin for orientation, during which they would meet other students and be involved in social activities such as cultural talent shows and other group games. American students would also gather there before leaving for their destinations abroad. Beginning in 1982, international participants from the nearby region also returned to the C.W. Post Campus at the end of their stay to attend Departure Day, after which they would begin their journey home. While the orientation events are held elsewhere today, the C.W. Post regional Departure Day tradition is carried on, thanks to many AFS volunteers and staff members who contribute to it every year. In June 2012, more than 700 students arrived at C.W. Post, where they spent several hours together before heading to the airport and the end of their AFS Participant experience.
This ambulance donor card was kept internally by the American Field Service (AFS) in order to monitor and track the specifics of each donated ambulance during World War I. AFS led large-scale fundraising efforts during the war, and many individuals and organizations donated funds for the purchase of ambulances. Donors were then sent unique certificates of service, which included details about the AFS section the ambulance was placed into.
Funds for this particular ambulanced were donated by the Groton School in Groton, Massachusetts, in 1916. Thirty-two students and graduates from the Groton School volunteered for AFS during the war, which likely contributed to the school's desire to donate. The Groton Ambulance was given the number "255" by AFS and "32020" by the French military, and was placed with Section Sanitaire [États]-Unis (SSU) 8. The driver was Massachusetts native Oscar Anthony Isaigi, a chemical engineering graduate from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
AFS ambulance drivers with two Italian children, one holding a box of chewing gum on February 4, 1944. Photograph by Loftus B. Cuddy, Jr.. RG2/001, the AFS World War II Photographic Collection. This photograph cannot be reproduced without permission from the Archives of the American Field Service and AFS Intercultural Programs.
The Allied forces in World War II launched an amphibious landing in the areas of Anzio and Nettuno on January 22, 1944, against German forces during the Italian Campaign in what’s referred to as “Operation Shingle.” Despite the initial and successful element of surprise, the Allies were unable to quickly consolidate and send reinforcements for an offensive attack, and the Battle of Anzio against the Axis powers dragged into the summer months. Two American Field Service (AFS) ambulance sections of D Platoon, 485 Company, were assigned to take part in the amphibious landing. The drivers practiced loading and unloading ambulances from tank landing ships and waterproofing their ambulances prior to the operation. The sections were joined by additional AFS ambulance drivers after landing and throughout the ensuing battle, all helping to evacuate the high number of casualties.
The photograph depicted above features two Italian children, one holding a box of chewing gum given to him by AFS ambulance drivers Bernie Curley and Richard Decatur. The photograph was taken by fellow ambulance driver Loftus B. Cuddy, Jr. near the beachhead established in Anzio. The two children were found wandering along the beachhead, and were later taken to a safe camp where civilians who were caught in the invasion of Anzio waited until they could be evacuated.
Holiday card designed by AFS student Jaroslava Moserová (CZE-USA, 1947-1948; 1948-1949) and first distributed in 1949 for the benefit of AFS International Scholarships. This item can be found in RG4/001, the AFS Student Programs Collection. This photograph cannot be reproduced without permission from the Archives of the American Field Service and AFS Intercultural Programs.
This holiday card, which was sold to raise funds for the American Field Service International Scholarships Program, was designed for this purpose by Jaroslava (Jara) Moserová, (CZE-USA, 1947-1948; 1948-1949). It depicts a group of children on a sleigh, gliding down a snowy mountain and holding flags from multiple countries. The card was first distributed in 1949, shortly after Jara returned from the second year of her AFS exchange program in the United States.
Jara participated in the first post-war AFS program in 1947-48, when she attended the Warren Wilson College in Swannanoa, North Carolina. While she was studying at the Art Students League in New York City during her second year abroad, the Communist regime that had been established in her country made the presence of AFS there impossible, and the organization ceased to exist for nearly half a century. After the Velvet Revolution in 1989, Jara contacted AFS and actively helped regenerate the organization in Czechoslovakia. When the country peacefully split in January 1993, Jara founded AFS Czech Republic (AFS Mezikulturni programy, o.s.) with two other Returnees from the 1947-1948 program year. To learn more about Jara’s fascinating life, visit the Web site for AFS Czech Republic here.
Veterans Day is an American federal holiday honoring veterans of all wars on November 11th each year. Initially, this holiday was known as Armistice Day, which commemorated the signing of the armistice ending wartime hostilities on the Western Front during the First World War. In honor of this holiday celebrating the “end” of the war, this month’s post is about the “beginning” of AFS, which today serves as an organization that provides intercultural learning opportunities to help people develop the knowledge, skills, and understanding needed to create a more just and peaceful world.
The American Ambulance Hospital in Neuilly-sur-Seine, depicted in the postcard above, was the original location of the organization that became known as the American Field Service (AFS.) The American Hospital of Paris, established before the outbreak of war in 1914, used the unfinished Lycée Pasteur as their military hospital (also referred to as an “ambulance”) to accommodate a larger number of patients. A. Piatt Andrew, a former director of the United States Mint, set sail for France in December of 1914 in order to volunteer with the hospital, and later became Inspector General of their Transportation Committee. In 1915 Andrew convinced the French army to let the ambulance drivers of the hospital work closer to the front lines of battle. His organization of drivers, known initially as the American Ambulance Field Service, broke away from the hospital in 1916 and established an independent headquarters in the heart of Paris for the remainder of the war.
Robert Montgomery with sculptor and World War I veteran Stuart Benson in Paris, France. June 1, 1940. Photograph by Acme (Paris). This photograph cannot be reproduced without permission from the Archives of the American Field Service and AFS Intercultural Programs.
This image shows Hollywood movie star Robert Montgomery standing with fellow ambulance driver Stuart Benson in front of an American Field Service (AFS) ambulance in Paris, France. Montgomery (born Henry Montgomery, Jr.) was an American actor, Academy Award nominee, and former President of the Screen Actors Guild before volunteering as an ambulance driver with AFS in June of 1940. He drove an ambulance in France and was engaged in evacuating wounded soldiers to Vouvray when Paris fell to Germany, and consequently returned home to the United States that same year. Montgomery toured California to raise funds with AFS World War I camion driver Whitney B. Wright (TMU 133), and joined the U.S. Navy Reserve as an officer for three years before the war ended.
After World War II Montgomery made his directing debut with the film Lady in the Lake (1947), became a consultant and coach to President Dwight D. Eisenhower on his broadcasts to the nation, and also created the Emmy Award-winning television series Robert Montgomery Presents (1950-1957). Montgomery’s daughter, Elizabeth, made her television acting debut on her father’s television show, and later starred as Samantha Stephens in the television comedy Bewitched.
AFS Participant Marketta Mattila (FIN-USA, 65-66) with her host family in Huntington Beach, California (USA), 1965. Regitser Photo found in RG4/001, AFS Student Programs Collection. This photograph cannot be reproduced without permission from the Archives of the American Field Service and AFS Intercultural Programs.
The picture shows Marketta Mattila (second from right), an AFS Participant from Kankaanpää, Finland, standing with her new host family on the day of her arrival in Huntington Beach, California, in 1965. Marketta was beginning a full school year as an exchange student with the Royers, and her host parents and sisters received their “new” member of the family with big smiles and a welcoming banner.
In 1948, the first AFS students from Finland (three from secondary schools and one from college) traveled to the United States as part of the Year Program. AFS Finland began hosting American students for an entire school year when the Americans Abroad Year Program was established in 1957. By 1965, when Marketta was hosted by the Royer family, there were fifty-nine Finnish students who spent a full school year in the United States, while three American students spent a school year living in towns in Finland.
Click here to read about a current American student’s experience living and attending school in Finland, posted on the AFS-USA Study Abroad blog. To view other photographs of AFS students being welcomed by their new host families, check out the pictures recently posted on the AFS Canada, AFS Sweden, and Intercultura (AFS Italy) Facebook pages.
This image shows Philip Glorieux of Irvington, NJ, boxing an unidentified French mechanic one morning in 1917. Glorieux served alongside the French military as an American Field Service (AFS) ambulance driver for six months during World War I.
Glorieux’s ambulance section, Section Sanitaire [États-] Unis (SSU) 9, first came into existence on August 14, 1916. The section first left for the Vosges Mountains in France from Versailles, near Paris. The men of SSU 9 later drove ambulances to their poste de secours on the Meuse River at Montgrignon near the front of Verdun, the site of the longest and one of the bloodiest battles of World War I. After Verdun, the section moved to different locations in France and ended at Saint-Max outside of Nancy, where it was taken over by the United States Army Ambulance Service (U.S.A.A.S.) as a new unit, SSU 629. Glorieux was one of the men who joined the U.S.A.A.S. after the United States entered the war in 1917.
Toward the end of World War II, American Field Service ambulance drivers in 567 Company were stationed at an embarkation camp in Pisa, Italy, awaiting movement orders. The ambulance drivers coordinated a two-day track and field meet that included a high jump, running and wheelbarrow races, and a tug-of-war competition between the different platoons of 567 Company during this period of inactivity. Directly following the meet, 567 Company received orders to embark for France aboard an LST, a ship meant for transporting vehicles and personnel.
AFS students holding signs representing their home countries in Point Park, atop Lookout Mountain Battlefield in Chattanooga, TN, July 1948. Photograph by Carl Zeigler. This photograph cannot be reproduced without permission from the Archives of the American Field Service and AFS Intercultural Programs.
Over sixty years ago, AFS exchange students embarked on the first AFS bus trip across America before departing back to their home countries. The purpose of the tour was to give the students a fuller picture of the United States, to help them know and understand the country so that they could work abroad for international understanding, and to interest American citizens in providing scholarships and hospitality for more international students each year. World War II ambulance driver Carl Zeigler and his wife contacted Greyhound Lines, which donated a bus and a bus driver for the trip.
The bus trip consisted of twenty-nine students from France, the Netherlands, Norway, Czechoslovakia, England, Greece and Syria. The students were selected from the larger group of fifty college and secondary school students who had arrived ten months earlier from ten foreign countries as part of the first post-World War II AFS exchange program. The bus trip was a twenty-four day, 5,500 mile adventure that covered twenty-two states. Stops along the way included the White House, the Ford assembly plant in River Rouge, the Seven Falls of Colorado, and a baseball game in Chattanooga, TN. The students had a $0.75 allowance per day, and used this money to purchase findings along the way, including chocolate bars and soda from vending machines.
To read more and see other photographs of the trip, including a photograph of Eisenhower with the AFS students, download the October 2007 issue of the AFS Janus here. This issue contains an article (pp. 8-9), written by World War II ambulance driver DeWitt Morrill, who served as a spokesman and chaperone on the first bus trip.
(Left) The cook at Villa le Querci, the American Field Service convalescent depot in Florence, Italy, ca. 1944-1945. (Right) American Field Service Drivers at the Villa le Querci, ca. 1944-1945. Photographs by Irving Penn. RG2/003, Irving Penn Photographic Collection. These images cannot be reproduced without permission from the Archives of the American Field Service and AFS Intercultural Programs.
Twenty minutes outside the historic city center of Florence, Italy, stands the Villa le Querci. Situated among the oak trees for which it was named, the Villa became a destination for the advancing American Field Service (AFS) during World War II. The AFS arrived at the Villa in August of 1944—a little more than a week after the Germans destroyed all the bridges crossing the Arno River in Florence except for the Ponte Vecchio- and eventually converted it into the official convalescent depot associated with the AFS Liaison Office in Florence.
Official AFS records from the war indicate that a number of Italian civilians lived in the Villa at this time, including thirteen year-old Danila Frassineti and her fifteen year-old brother, Giordano. Their mother Helen, an American citizen, had been sent to a concentration camp and then released to live in the United States prior to the arrival of AFS at the Villa. Because Danila and Giordano were Italian citizens, they had not been taken as prisoners and were left under the watch of servants and family friends. Helen requested help from the U.S. Consul of Florence to arrange to have AFS move into the upper part of the Villa, where they stayed until July of 1945.
In 2011, Danila contacted the AFS Archives to discover if she could find any information about her childhood home in Italy. For information on Danila’s experience with AFS during the war or to view more photographs of the Villa found in the AFS Archives, read the article entitled “Villa le Querci: A Young Woman’s Wartime Memories of AFS” on pages 6-7 of the Spring 2012 issue of the AFS Janus here.
Convoy of chassis coming back from Le Havre, France, March 1915. Photographer unknown. RG1/022, Regis H. Post Correspondence. This image cannot be reproduced without permission from the Archives of the American Field Service and AFS Intercultural Programs.
This photograph depicts a convoy of chassis coming back from the docks at Le Havre in France. The chassis arrived from the United States and were driven to the American Ambulance Hospital in Neuilly, which was the parent organization out of which the American Field Service was formed during World War I.
The photograph accompanied a letter written by Regis H. Post to his mother on March 24, 1915, from the Department for the Wounded at the Hospital. Post describes the photograph in his letter, and notes that the "railroads are so congested that we send our own men down to Havre, unpack the cars on the docks, assemble them, have a rough box built on them, and push them home along the road."
Bill Congdon holding a ceramic platter in Faenza, Italy, 1945. Photograph by Carl Zeigler. RG2/002 AFS World War II Photographic Collection. This image cannot be reproduced without permission from the Archives of the American Field Service and AFS Intercultural Programs.
William “Bill” Congdon was an American Field Service ambulance driver who served in the African Campaign in the Western Desert, Italian Campaign, and the France-Germany
Campaign during World War II. The photograph depicted above was included in a two-volume photographic album compiled by Carl Zeigler, a World War II ambulance driver and staff photographer for the American Field Service. Zeigler’s original caption for the photograph is as follows:
Congdon Helps Revive Famed Faenza Art...
Bill Congdon of D Platoon worked with the Allied Military Governor of Faenza and the civilian Red Cross on local relief work. This old city, long famous for Faenza pottery and ceramics, had lost practically all of its kilns and shops during the month-long shelling of the city by the 8th Army. The pottery makers were desolate and believed the art would never be revived. But Congdon, who is a painter, etcher and sculptor, searched out surviving examples of Faenza ware from the ruins of homes and cellars where they had been hidden for safekeeping, and staged an exhibit. This huge platter, in greens and purples and yellows, was purchased by Congdon for 5000 lire, and other Field Service men bought similar museum pieces. The Faenzians took heart and said they thought they would get going again.
AFS Participants performing a local dance called “Seng-ka-tib-kaw” in Thailand, October 1981. Photographer unknown. This image cannot be reproduced without permission from the Archives of the American Field Service and AFS Intercultural Programs.
This photograph depicts AFS Intercultural Programs Participants performing a local dance called “Seng-ka-tib-kaw” from Northeast Thailand for a television program performance in October of 1981.
AFS Thailand sent their first group of students to the United States in 1962 under the supervision of the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs with support from the United States Information Service. Today, AFS Thailand is an international organization, sending and hosting students to and from countries around the world with the help of around 3,500 volunteers and eighty chapters throughout the country.
AFS Thailand celebrates its fiftieth anniversary this year, and will host the AFS World Congress in Bangkok from February 7-11, 2012, for over 200 staff, volunteers, chairs, board members, and partner directors from around the world.
Sidney C. Howard standing in front of an American Field Service ambulance in Alsace, France in 1916. Photographer unknown. RG1/019, John C. B. Moore Collection. This image cannot be reproduced without permission from the Archives of the American Field Service and AFS Intercultural Programs.
This photograph of famous playwright and screenwriter Sidney Coe Howard (1891-1939) was taken in France during World War I, and was found in John C. B. Moore’s wartime scrapbook. Howard joined the American Field Service as an ambulance driver in June of 1916. He was sent to Alsace, France with SSU 9 until December of 1916, when he joined the newly-formed SSU 10 unit serving with the French Army of the Orient in the Balkans. Howard later joined the French aviation units following the militarization of the American Field Service in the fall of 1917.
Howard was the author of many plays throughout his career, including “Labor Spy,” “Yellow Jack,” “The Silver Cord,” and “Paths of Glory,” and won the 1925 Pulitzer Prize in Drama for “They Knew What They Wanted.” In addition to being nominated for the screenplays of “Arrowsmith” and “Dodsworth,” he won a posthumous Oscar in 1939 for writing the adapted screenplay of “Gone With the Wind.” Howard died in a tractor accident on his Pennsylvania farm at the age of forty-eight, four months before the premiere of the film.
Cover (above, featuring William Congdon and AFS ambulances aboard an LST) and first page (below) of the December 1943 issue of the AFS Letters, found in Series 1 of the American Field Service World War I Records. These images cannot be reproduced without permission from the Archives of the American Field Service and AFS Intercultural Programs.
The AFS Letters was a monthly publication containing letters from World War II ambulance drivers, copies of which were sent to the AFS headquarters on Beaver Street in New York City by their friends and parents. The issues were compiled by Dot Field and included correspondence describing the daily activities of the drivers and their experiences in the Middle East, North Africa, India, Burma, Italy, France, and Germany.
This particular issue of the AFS Letters was sent during the holiday season in 1943. The cover includes a photograph of AFS ambulances aboard an LST (which transported vehicles and personnel), and the first page contains a letter from Director General Stephen Galatti, who reminded those at home of the sacrifice their sons and husbands were making to help wounded soldiers during the war.
Photographer unknown. This image (and any others on the website) cannot be reproduced without permission from the Archives of the American Field Service and AFS Intercultural Programs.
This photograph of current AFS President Vincenzo Morlini was taken on the S/S Seven Seas in August of 1966, when he sailed from Rotterdam to New York as an AFS Winter Program Participant. On this particular night the students wore their clothes backwards for a party on the ship. The guitar Vincenzo is holding belonged to Franco Bernabé, a fellow Italian student on the program who now serves as the CEO of Telecom Italia.
Stay tuned for the upcoming Fall 2011 issue of the AFS Janus, which includes this photograph and a letter from Vincenzo. Click on the play button below to listen to Vincenzo's recent conversation with former AFS President Tachi Cazal.
Photograph by PP/Photocenter. This image (and any others on the website) cannot be reproduced without permission from the Archives of the American Field Service and AFS Intercultural Programs.
This photograph depicts a group of AFS Returnees participating in a kickline during the International AFS Weekend held in Antwerp, Belgium, from September 13 -15, 1974. Over 300 AFS Returnees flocked to the Belgian “Tent City” for the gathering, which was held on the site of a former mine field from World War II. The program was coordinated in conjunction with the AFS European Conference, and included a forum with then-President Steven Rhinesmith, workshops on encouraging involvement in AFS in the respective homelands of the Returnees, and a dance celebrating the 25th anniversary of the AFS Belgium office.
For other historic photographs of AFS Returnees, Particpants or World War II Ambulance Drivers dancing, visit the news feature on the AFS-USA partner website located here. For information about the U.S. Department of State’s “Dance with Us: Motion Across Cultures” photograph competition for AFS government-sponsored program Returnees, visit their website here.
Photograph by Dr. John C. (Jock) Cobb. This image (and any others on the website) cannot be reproduced without permission from the Archives of the American Field Service and AFS Intercultural Programs.
This photograph is part of a series Dr. John C. (Jock) Cobb developed while in Tunisia, which depicts the methods of "desert" medicine in North Africa during World War II. This particular image, which can also be found in the American Field Service World War II Photographic Collection, features an orderly preparing for an operation by lighting the primus stove to boil the sterilizer. The floor of the operating tent is covered with canvas to prevent the sand from blowing around during the operation.
Cobb recently published a photographic narrative of his time spent as an ambulance driver and official staff photographer with the American Field Service during the war. The book, entitled Fragments of Peace in a World at War, consists of photographs from Syria, North Africa, and Italy from 1942-1944, and includes other images from his "Desert Medicine" series. More information about the book, including purchase information, can be found here.
This image (and any others on the website) cannot be reproduced without permission from the Archives of the American Field Service and AFS Intercultural Programs.
Named for Captain Richard Mallet, the Réserve Mallet was the collective name for the series of units known individually as Transport Matériel [Etats-] Unis (TMU), which were engaged in the transportation of munitions and supplies for the French during World War I. Though somewhat controversial at the time, Director General A. Piatt Andrew recruited American Field Service men for these camion units under the belief that they should serve France in whatever ways necessary in order to help the war effort.
Photo by Abby Rowe - Courtesy of the National Park Service
This photograph shows President John F. Kennedy walking to the microphone before addressing AFS students at the White House in July 1961. Kennedy spoke to AFS students in Washington, D.C. three times during his presidency, including in July of 1963, when he met them on the South Lawn of the White House. Kennedy commended the American Field Service for their activities as a voluntary ambulance organization during World War II, and addressed the students directly about their role in creating a more peaceful world.
To listen to an audio clip of President Kennedy's speech from July 1963, click the play button below.
In this clip from a Legacy Project interview completed in 2002, Arthur Howe, Jr. discusses his time spent on the Egyptian tourist ship that transported his ambulance unit (ME 2), 80 Canadian nurses, and other individuals helping the British military (often in civilian roles) from New York City to the Middle East in January 1942.
The ship hugged the coast due to the threat of German military submarines (U-boats), and broke down or needed repairs several times before finally reaching Port Tewfik, their final destination at the north end of the Red Sea.