The American Ambulance Field Service was taken over by our army in France in October, 1917, and although many of its sections are still serving with the French forces it has lost its former identity. A few drivers remain, and several hundred have returned home; but the majority have joined some branch of the service with General Pershing's forces.
This book is an attempt to tell something of my own experiences as an ambulance driver with Section Twelve, and, at the same time, to give an idea of what the ambulance service is doing and will have to do probably for some time to come. It is my first book and has not been written without considerable effort, and I might even say sacrifice. Many a time last winter I scribbled in my diary until long after midnight, seated on a stretcher in my ambulance, with two kerosene lamps to give a little light and warmth. I felt that I had a story to tell in my own way, and that, if necessary, I could revise it in a comparatively short time upon my return home. But the task has not been so easy as I imagined. I have spent many hours during the three months I have been at Princeton trying to put it into shape, and study and drill at the same time. I hope that I have succeeded. If I have, it is because I have tried to tell as simply as possible a few of the many things which happened in our section over there.
We of the American Ambulance Field Service have no desire to pose as heroes. I went over, as did so many of the others, with the object of seeing war at first hand and of getting some excitement, as well as being of some service. But we do not care to be talked of as young heroes trying to save France, because that was not our idea in going, at any rate not at first. But having arrived in France and learned of some of the terrible things which had been done by the enemy and what the French people had gone through, and having become imbued with some of the wonderful spirit of the French, our point of view was altered, and we were ashamed of our primary object in offering our services. Moreover, we realized on getting to the front that our own little section was but a single unit among the five million troops constituting the French army, and that individually we were very unimportant. Nevertheless, I hope we did our share in strengthening the morale of all those fine fellows with whom we came in contact. Seeing us Americans actually in the field with them doubtless inspired them with the hope that more would be coming over before long and they have not been disappointed.
I regret that I had to return before the war was over. I feel that I have gotten out of my work in France far more than I put into it. The experience and the life did me untold good and when my period of enlistment was up I would have stayed on and entered the Aviation Service had the decision been entirely my own. Family reasons necessitated my return home but I hope it will not be long before I am again in the field of action.
In taking the photographs I used a post-card size camera, with a good anastigmat lens, and I would advise anyone going over with the intention of taking pictures not to get a smaller camera, for although the larger size is occasionally troublesome, little pictures are always unsatisfactory. But this advice may be unnecessary, because our authorities, like the British, are very strict concerning the use of cameras within the war zone. Almost all our films were developed at the front, Gilmore and I using the loft of a barn for a laboratory, with buckets and basins for apparatus. Many were the negatives we spoiled when the weather was so cold that the developer would not act on the films. Sometimes we printed by sunlight and sometimes by means of the carbide headlights on one of the cars. I took about four hundred photographs altogether, and the best which survive are in this book. I have also used a number of pictures taken by my friends, and wish to thank them for their kindness in giving me permission to do this. William Gilmore and Ray Williams, both of Section Twelve, supplied three and four, respectively, the latter number including the balloon pictures. Monsieur Bardellini took six of the pictures at Esnes and Colonel Thurneyssen the group of Boche prisoners. The Farnam, the bursting bomb, and Guynemer pictures I obtained from George Trowbridge.
I also have to thank Professor Harry Covington, of Princeton University, who very unselfishly devoted many hours of his valuable time in smoothing out rough places in the original manuscript. My sincere gratitude is likewise due to several friends who have very kindly helped me with suggestions, proof reading and numerous other details.
JULIEN H. BRYAN.
February 4th, 1918.
65 Blair Hall,
Princeton, New Jersey.
When our President told us that the causes of the war were obscure and that the war did not concern us, he expressed the common feeling of the American people at the outbreak of the war. When in 1918 he told us that the object of the war was to make the world safe for Democracy and only in the triumph of Democracy could we expect peace, he expressed the common feeling of the American people at the present time. The difference between those two utterances indicates the distance which the American people had traveled during the three intervening years. The war has taught us something; it has taught us much. We now know as never before both the meaning and the value of Democracy.
This volume affords a striking illustration of this change in the American point of view by portraying the change in a single mind and the causes which produced that change. Says the author in his preface:
"I went over, as did so many of the others, with the object of seeing war at first hand and of getting some excitement, as well as being of some service. But we do not care to be talked of as young heroes trying to save France, because that was not our idea in going, at any rate, not at first. But having arrived in France and learned of some of the terrible things which had been done by the enemy and what the French people had gone through, and having become imbued with some of the wonderful spirit of the French, we altered our point of view, and were almost ashamed of our primary object in offering our services. Moreover, we realized on getting to the front that our own little section was but a single unit among the five million troops constituting the French army, and that individually we were not very important."
The first of these lessons the American people have already learned; the second we are just beginning to learn.
Such a book as this has two distinct values.
It gives the reader at home a vivid picture of the scenes upon the field of battle. Such a book is all the better for not being literary. We get the first impressions of the actor not modified by the ambitions of a literary artist, and the effect of his artless narrative is all the greater because he has not in his mind the effect which he is trying to produce upon the reader. Simplicity, accuracy, and realism are his characteristics. He is so absolutely in the life that he has not in his mind the readers of the narrative.
And for this reason the book produces upon the reader an effect similar to that which the events produced on the writer. We also alter our point of view as he altered his. We wonder that we ever thought that this war did not concern us. We wonder that we ever thought of leaving our kin across the sea to fight for the world's freedom without our aid. The author tells us that by his experience he became imbued with some of the wonderful spirit of the French. In reading the story of his experiences we become imbued through him with some of the same wonderful spirit. The war is no longer three thousand miles away; it is at our doors. We also have passed through a kind of baptism of fire. And by our companionship with our fellow citizens on their field of battle we are inspired by their enthusiasm and nerved by their resolve to accept no peace which does not give us in the destruction of Prussian militarism a reasonable assurance that our sons will never have to take part in a like campaign.
Cornwall-on-Hudson, N. Y.
|NAME||RESIDENCE IN AMERICA||COLLEGE|
|Allen, Wharton||Colorado Springs, Col.||Univ. of Penna|
|Bryan, Julien H .||Titusville, Penna.||Princeton ('21)|
|Clark, Walter||Stockbridge, Mass.|
|Cook, Robinson||Portland, Maine||Dartmouth|
|Craig, Harry W .||Cleveland, Ohio||Univ. of Wisconsin|
|Crowhurst, H. W., Jr||Philadelphia||La Fayette|
|Dunham, Dowse||Irvington-on-the Hudson||Harvard|
|Faith, Clarence||Nahant, Mass||Tufts|
|Gillespie, James Park||East Orange||Yale|
|Gilmore, Wm||Florence, Italy||"Boston Tech."|
|Haven, George||New York City||Yale|
|Houston, Henry H .||Philadelphia||Univ. of Penna.|
|Iselin, Harry||Normandy, France|
|Kann, Norman||Pittsburg||"Carnegie Tech."|
|Keleher, Hugh||Cambridge, Mass||Harvard|
|Lloyd, J.T.||Ithaca, N. Y||Cornell|
|Lundquist, S. J. H.||San Francisco|
|Powell, C. H||Milwaukee||Univ. of Wisconsin|
|Walker, Croom||Chicago (and Alabama)||Univ. of Virginia|
|Williams, Ray Evan||Dodgeville, Wis.||Univ. of Wisconsin|
|NAME||JOINED IN||RESIDENCE IN AMERICA||COLLEGE|
|Bradley, Lloyd P .||Feb||Berkeley, Cal||Univ. of Cal.|
|Chauvenet, Louis||Feb||St. Louis||Harvard|
|Coan, Raymond||March||N. Y. City (& Montclair)||Cornell|
|Harrison, W. Lyle||March||Lebanon, Ken||Oberlin|
|Joyce, Thomas||May||Berkeley, Cal|
|Lloyd, J.T .||March||Ithaca, N.Y.||Cornell|
|O'Connor, Tom||May||Brookline, Mass|
|Sinclair, Gilbert||May||Minneapolis||Univ. Minnesota|
|Stanley, Everett||March||Milton, Mass||Bowdoin|
|Tenney, Luman H||March||Ada, Minnesota||Oberlin|
|Ray Eaton )
Ellis Frazer )
Mark Payne )
|Three fictitious persons whom I have used here and there, when the mention of the real name has seemed unwise.|