The Formation Harjes
under the American Red Cross

The selection of the other Board Officers was quickly made. It was obvious that the acting President would need to be a man of administrative experience and judgment, possessing a spirit of initiative nicely balanced by tact, and enjoying the confidence of a big circle of friends, both French and American. Hence, Mr. H. H. Harjes, possessing every one of those qualifications, was at once elected President.

His acceptance of the post was a guaranty of success and a sacrifice of self. In addition to being the Director of a bank extremely active in the war-finances of the Allies, Mr. Harjes was the official delegate in France of the American Red Cross and a founder and chief supporter of the Motor Ambulance Sections which, by their services at the front from 1914 to the very end of the war, added a glorious page to the annals of American valour and altruism. His own share in the work is recorded in a French Army Order regarding his conduct in the field and conferring on him the Croix de Guerre :

" HARJES (Henry Herman); of the American Section, No. 5 ; Delegate of the American Red Cross; founder and member of the American Ambulance Section, No. 5. When his group is in active and perilous service he is always present at the most exposed point, seeing to the execution of orders and contributing a valuable moral stimulus by his unfailing cheerfulness. During the attacks of March-December, 1916, and January, 1917, he particularly distinguished himself in a very exposed sector.

Percy Mitchell. The American Relief Clearing House. Its Work in the Great War. Paris: Herbert Clarke. 1922

Motor Ambulances Presented by the American Red Cross

As his father John had been, Henry Herman Harjes was an influential member of the American Colony of Paris, moving quietly in exclusive American and French circles. As head of the Morgan-Harjes Bank of Paris he was to play a significant role in helping the French finance their war purchases in the United States. Both he and his father had been among the founders of the American Hospital and when the war broke out, he was involved in the organization of the American Ambulance --- a risky undertaking from which he withdrew briefly due to his legal and financial obligations. Both he and his wife, Ivy, were actively involved in volunteer work.

On May 26, 1922, upon pinning the cross of the Legion of Honor on Mrs. Harjes, Marshal Pétain said the following:


The very noble, very disinterested purpose inspiring your activities throughout the war was to devote yourself to the French soldier. To this end, you first founded an ambulance, then a surgical automobile section, then foyers on the front which, under the name of Cantine de la Malmaison, were known and appreciated by all the army. The Poilus competed with each other for the favor of being admitted, since there they were sure to find the material comfort and the sense of well-being which you were so skilled in providing.

Yes, Madame, you were beloved by the French soldier. It was a great cost to yourself that you created around the soldier an atmosphere of sympathy that you obtained this result. You contributed, by this means, to raise his ideals and strengthen him in his resolve, thus greatly facilitating the tasks of high command. Therefore, in recognition of this and for your services rendered, France awards you the Cross of the Legion of Honor which she habitually reserves for her Brave Men.

Madame Harjes, née Frederica Berwind, in the name of the President of the Republic and by virtue of the powers conferred on me, I pronounce you a CHEVALIER de la LEGION D'HONNEUR.

Harjes became the chief representative of the American Red Cross in France and later was to preside over the American Relief Clearing House which funneled American contributions to France.

In early October and under the auspices of the American Red Cross, he and his wife organized the first independent American "flying ambulance"squad-- which would become to be known as the Formation Harjes.

Friday, September 25:
Saw Mr. Bacon, the former Ambassador to France, this morning and had an hour's talk with him. He says there isn't any chance of getting to the front. The English and French armies won't have any outsiders messing about their work. I think they are quite right, but it is a disappointment. Mr. Bacon has been to the general staff, so there is not much use in trying anything after that.

Thursday, October 1:
Mr. Bacon stopped at the hotel this morning and asked me if I would come with him to the American Ambulance. He has been using his own car as an ambulance and has brought in a number of special cases direct from the field. We went to Neuilly in his automobile and he told me that I could get work there which would offer me more opportunities than the Majestic Hotel Hospital. I said that anything which would get me near the front could have me. The American Ambulance is located in a huge new public school building. They have three hundred and fifty patients there now, with immediate capacity for five hundred, and an ultimate capacity for one thousand.
Mr. Bacon introduced me to Dr. De Bouchet, the head of the Ambulance, and Dr. Gross, the chief medical man. They told me that they would put me in the Ambulance Corps if I wanted to come. They are about to take on five more Ford Ambulances, to operate from various bases, twenty miles or so from Paris. This is more like the work I have been wishing to do. Another proposition, which seems even better, Mr. Bacon spoke of today: It seems that there is being organized at this moment, an ambulance service to operate in direct conjunction with the British and French armies in the field. This is being run by Mr. Harjes, of Morgan, Harjes & Co. Of course, it is exactly what I want and Mr. Bacon will get me into it, if he can.

Back to the hospital in time to: serve the patients' lunch.

Went out for a walk at five and upon returning, find a note from Mrs. Harjes asking me to call upon her to-night to talk over going to the front with their Ambulance Service and Field Hospital. "Ambulance Mobile de Premiers Secours," as it is called.

Friday, October 2:
I called upon Mrs. Harjes this morning, who tells me that they have definite authority to work as they had planned. They already have a half dozen automobiles, nearly all their equipment, two operating surgeons in Paris, and Mr. J. P. Morgan of New York has cabled them that he has sent over four more. They are now on the ocean.

Dr. W., an American, is their chief surgeon, and I had a half hour's talk with him. He says that the thing is absolutely settled and that we are going to start just as quickly as we can get all our equipment together. We shall probably leave Sunday afternoon.

The idea is to follow up the lines of battle, get the wounded men off the field and bring them to a point as close to the rear as we deem safe, where we will give them first aid and send them on. He has accepted my offer to help in this work and this diary will stop here for the time being.

Edward D. Toland, The Aftermath of Battle. With the Red Cross in France, New York: MacMillan, 1916.

In early 1915, when the American volunteer ambulance squads were accepted into the French Army Automobile Service as foreign "Sanitary Sections,"the Formation Harjes was named SSU 5. (The "U" stood for "United States").

Later, when Richard Norton's American Volunteer Motor-Ambulance Corps was to leave the patronage of the British Red Cross for that of the American Red Cross, it merged with the Harjes Formation. The new organization, known to the French as sanitary sections numbers 5, 6, 7 and 11, was called the Norton-Harjes.

In the fall of 1917, when the volunteer ambulance services were being absorbed by the United States Army, the Norton-Harjes corps disbanded rather than give up its neutral status---- which nonetheless would be maintained by the new units being organized by the American Red Cross in Italy.

Percy Mitchell. The American Relief Clearing House. Its Work in the Great War. Paris: Herbert Clarke. 1922.

"Who can compute in terms of coin the value of that service ? Unless it be taken into account no adequate conception of the world's charitable effort can be formed. It is an element of fundamental importance in the work. Money is, we are told, the "sinews" of war. The saying is less true than is commonly believed. "Scientific" warfare may be difficult to wage, may be impossible, without the financier's help: but men can, and probably always will, make war so long as they may possess muscles, and fists, and passions. Admitting, however, that money is partly the sinews of war, it is to an even greater degree the sinews of charity. Money, however, money alone, does not suffice. Something more than the material sinews of relief is necessary. Sinews, real or figurative, without will to set them in motion, and intelligence to guide their action are merely inert matter. Money, the sinews of relief, is powerless to relieve until vitalized by human will, abnegation and sympathy. The material which figures on the balance-sheets of the A.R.C.H. was a part, but a part only, of the sinews of relief. The other part, the better part, was the "great and manifold " service of men, and women in the cause of brotherhood."

Arlen Hanson, Gentlemen Volunteers, New York: Arcade, 1996.

"H. Herman Harjes, the 39-year-old Senior Partner of the Morgan-Harjes Bank in Paris, was planning to organize a mobile field unit under the sponsorship of the French military hospital, the Val de Grace. Harjes, Bacon said, intended his field service to work in cooperation with both French medical and military officials (thus avoiding the ban against allowing neutrals in a war zone) in the Compiègne-Montdidier sector, where the battle lines had not yet completely stabilized. If Toland so wished, Bacon would try to get him into Harjes' unit. "It is exactly what I want," Toland wrote in his diary that evening.

The next morning (October 2, 1914), Mrs. Herman Harjes, an active member of the Ambulance Board, as well as the prime force behind her husband's field service, made Toland an offer: Would he be willing to go to the front with the Morgan-Harjes Ambulance Mobile de Premiers Secours to set up a field hospital, complete with its own ambulances? Toland replied without hesitation that he would, and so for the next week he helped set up the Morgan-Harjes field hospital and ambulance service.

Edward D. Toland, The Aftermath of Battle. With the Red Cross in France, New York: MacMillan, 1916.

"October 9. We left Paris at six o'clock in the morning in two automobiles, the party consisting of Mr. and Mrs. Harjes, the chief surgeon, the head nurse, R. and his chauffeur, and a French caporal who is to represent the army and keep military records, etc. We all have uniforms something like the English, and good warm overcoats. We had all the necessary papers and authority, and the purpose of the trip was to find a suitable place to locate for the time being."

Edwin Morse, "Two Yale Men at Verdun", in The Vanguard of American Volunteers, New York: Scribners, 1919.

"This reference to the 'Formation Harjes' calls for a word of explanation. The first lot of ambulances which the American Red Cross sent abroad consisted of seventeen Ford cars, the cost of which was met by contributions from students at Yale and Harvard, twelve being the gift of Yale and five of Harvard."

Edwin Morse, "A Princeton Man's Experiences", in The Vanguard of American Volunteers, New York: Scribners, 1919.

"By November Mitchell got his ambulance, a big six-cylindered Packard, and was assigned to a section of the Formation Harjes, with headquarters at the Château d'Ayencourt, near Montdidier, under the immediate leadership of Paul Rainey, the big-game hunter, who became his roommate."

George Henry Nettleton, ed., "Memorial Sketches" in Yale in the World War, New Haven: Yale University Press, 1925.

"In February, 1916, of Senior year, George Houpt had left college to enlist in the Harjes Ambulance Corps, a branch of the French Army. He sailed for France almost immediately. 'American Ambulance Section No. 5' was made possible by a gift of fifty ambulances by Mr. Harjes to the French Government. These ambulances were driven by Harvard, Yale, and Princeton men."

Alan Albright, "American Volunteers at the Beginning of the War," Blérancourt Exhibition Catalog, 1993.

"Henry Herman Harjes (1875-1926) was the third American to organize an ambulance corps. Although his group of American Red Cross ambulances was in the field in October 1914 ---later merging with the Norton corps---Harjes is best known for his role as president of the American Relief Clearing House."

Notes on the Harjes Family of Paris