You're in the Army now,
You'll never get rich
(You made the switch)
You're in the Army now!
SO went the song of the light-hearted men and boys as they marched (or better walked) through the gate of the Fairgrounds at Allentown, Pennsylvania in 1917. They had poured off the trains at the Lehigh Valley R.R. Station and formed columns of fours for the march up the Hamilton Street hill. They had come out of the classrooms of many colleges, from automotive shops, from small businesses, barber shops, and the farms. Some came with the urge to help the great cause of Freedom. Some came to free themselves from final exams. Some came with the urge of adventure. But all wanted to get on with the job and into action as soon as possible. The old Bible stories of many are called but few chosen --- and he that is first will be last --- proved to be the case as the events unfold in this brief outline and often sketchy history of the United States Army Ambulance Service.
From one report of the men who made the trip to Allentown Fairgrounds we quote. "Do you remember hearing things like this, 'The war is 3000 miles away! Why worry?' The prattlers were strong on that stuff, as were the Lack o' Fists' who called themselves pacifists. Yet even with the added security of another half thousand miles which stretched to Johnstown, the distance was not so great but that we were drawn into the conflict.
"France in six weeks! Paris by July 4 sure! Battlefields via rubber tires rather than by shoe leather! Isn't that better than spending long months in a training camp?
"Such were the convincing arguments of one George Wagoner, Jr., and we --- the innocents--- fell, and fell hard. Hesitatingly and perspiringly, and mostly two by two --- perhaps because misery loves company --- we filed into the Franklin Street office, past the big Red Cross recruiting flag; past the desk where we registered, and into the back room where we met the Medical Corps Lieutenant and were ordered to strip for physical examination. 'Strip? Yes, strip! right away.' What! . . . but now our first 'No Woman's Land' is a big laugh to we recruits. The medical examinations concluded and followed with our giving our thumb print to the War Department, answering all questions on the enlistment blank, thrilled at the one that asks 'To whom you want six months' pay sent to in case of your death,' and finally in shaking hand, signed on the dotted line.
"The next day was Sunday and following instructions we assembled that afternoon and were duly sworn into the military service of the United States of America. We were soldiers now in civilian clothes. We then went to the little church on Willow Street where with much impressiveness we answered the first muster roll call, to the proud and saddened friends and relatives. We were then dismissed to await further orders. This notice arrived by mail stating that we were to entrain the following Friday at the Pennsylvania Station.
"Friday began with a roll call or two at the G.A.R. Hall, every man being either present or accounted for and accompanied by the greater part of his family. Information cards that, even at that time, included the last amendment to the Constitution, were issued to us. This card also included much misinformation as to the amount of clothing needed and so on. Happily, we hadn't the need of attempting to assemble the suggested travel ration, as the Ladies of the G.A.R. and the Sons of Veterans, with the appreciated kind of kindness, supplied each of us with a superb shoe-box lunch.
"Train time approached, so shouldering our traveling bags, suit cases and lunch boxes, we formed a 'column of twos' and with the Sons of Veterans' drum corps in the lead we marched down Main Street to the Pennsylvania Station through a drizzling rain. Outside a camera man awaited us and we looked our prettiest for the last time. Of the following minutes on the station platform, little can be said, yet it meant everything in the world to us. That saying, 'Good-bye;' that parting from everyone; those positive assertions of 'of course I'm coming back' were sacred --- just that. It sort of gave one an understanding of that Bible story of Gethsemane we learned in our long ago Sunday School days.
"Remember, that at that time we were leaving home for 'France in six weeks;' that the average life of an ambulance driver was anywhere from 14 to 33 days; that the targets on German rifle ranges were Red Crosses. Yes --- it was grief and tears when 'our boys' went off to war.
"Once on the train, getting acquainted with one another was a matter of minutes. The 'France or bust' painted on one suitcase exemplified our spirit and with the aid of a hastily formed orchestra we put in a long day arriving at Allentown at 8:30 P.M."
One other report of the touching farewells could not be overlooked in our history of these young men going off to war. In this particular instance, we are told, that the day of departure had arrived with a miserable cold rain beating down. Two Boston sections were leaving for Allentown to begin the great adventure. A young man was up betimes and fairly bursting with patriotism and high courage as he threw the last few things into a battered old suitcase. But his enthusiasm sagged a few points when his mother said, as he was about to leave the house, "Hugh, won't you wear your rubbers and take your umbrella?" "But Mother, I'm going to camp, I'm going to war, I can't carry an umbrella to war."
But you know how it is with a fellow when it's his poor distraught mother's last wish, so to speak. "Besides," she assured him, "I'll take them from you at the station before the train goes."
Of course there was lots of excitement at the station where a great throng of mothers, wives, sweethearts, fathers, brothers, sisters, and yes, even old Aunt Agatha, was assembled to speed the heroes on their way. Finally came the cry "All aboard!" - A scramble for the train and we were off.
The section occupied a special car and the trip was proceeding pleasantly enough with groups here and there of boys getting acquainted, when at about New Haven, someone shouted, "Look at the soldier with the umbrella!" There it was, hanging neatly on the rack was that damned umbrella. Such was my initiation into the ambulance service.
His comment later to one of his buddies was the hope that whoever, walking along the tracks of the N.Y., N.H. & H. R.R., found a pair of rubbers and an umbrella, was able to make good use of them!
Inside the gates to the Fairgrounds, soon to be called a "Concentration" camp and to take on the name of Camp Crane at a later date these same light-hearted recruits were in for a real let-down as they lined up in front of the cow sheds, horse cooling stables, and pig pens, to bed down for their first night of grin-and-bare it. Some men had been there ahead of them and prepared the buildings to double as barracks. That even went for the grandstand as several real rows of seats were removed and replaced with cots, as thousands of volunteers from all over the United States poured into Camp Crane. It is easy for the early arrivals in camp to remember their move from the Sheep and Hog exhibit to the Poultry and Pigeons building at least that is what the signs said. But youth in those days, even at a dollar a day, had not lost the ingenuity and love for fixing up. Flags from all the colleges and universities soon decorated the bare walls and the spirit of rivalry crept in, which was to help the morale in the long days ahead.
The earlier rumors of swift action in getting on with the war soon began to fade in the dust of the oval racetrack in front of the grandstand or in the endless inspections and inoculations. The rumors changed to the usual gripes of when do we eat --- how about a blanket--- these shoes don't fit --- where are the ambulances, and so on --- to when or where do we go from here? As one volunteer tempered his gripes in a letter home. "We moved today from the Cow Shed to Poultry and Pigeons, a nice airy building six feet from the ground and very open on the sides. The nights are cold, especially just before dawn about 4 A.M. Everyone wakes up from the cold and waits for the 5:15 AM. Reveille. The food is still pretty rotten but we expect to get fed by the regular army after June 30th if we are still here by then." (See that faint spirit of hope.) And later --- "The food seems to have improved however, liver again for breakfast yesterday. liver and boloney hash for lunch. Had the rest of the boloney last night. Not much organization here as yet, but all in its time however, as this is the first time Uncle Sam has tried anything like this so we'll have to be a little easy on him!"
That brings us to --- why use a fairgrounds for a training camp? How come so many men rushing to this camp? The answers are easy to explain now, as we look back over the years. Long before the United States entered the World War on April 6, 1917, the sentiment of the American people had been leaning toward the side of the Allies. The work of other volunteer units to relieve the suffering of the civilian populations and even on the fighting fronts were well known. As a result many cities had formed Red Cross units as early as a year or eighteen months in advance. These units had been trained in the rudiments of First Aid and even in marching formations. Colleges and universities had started ROTC programs. Along with this trend a group known as the Stonemens' Fellowship in Philadelphia had been meeting in front of a doctor's office learning to drill. As the events unfolded, --- with the Zimmerman notes to Mexico (which, by the way, were seized by our State Department), the sinking of the Lusitania with the loss of more than a hundred lives, and German notes declaring unrestricted submarine warfare, brought the declaration of war by the United States.
In the small City of Allentown, Pennsylvania, not more than fifty miles north of Philadelphia, the Lehigh County Agricultural Society was considering the plans for the Great Allentown Fair during the coming summer months of 1917, when war changed everything. Now the activity in Philadelphia snowballed into the streets in front of Cooper Battalion Hall, at 23rd and Christian Streets. This building had been placed at the disposal of the Government for the purpose, by the Episcopal Church of the Holy Apostles. Here members of the Medical Enlisted Reserve Corps were first inducted into active service on May 22, 1917. In the meantime the group in Allentown had offered the Fairgrounds to the War Department as a training camp for a rental of $30,000 per year, and after several weeks of negotiations a telegram was received by the Chamber of Commerce on May 28, 1917, stating that the Secretary of War had approved and signed a lease for the rental of the Fairgrounds for a year at the figure of $37,000.00 plus $7,500.00 for additional alterations.
An officer of the Regular Army was directed to proceed to Philadelphia to begin recruiting for the Ambulance Service. Medical men were assigned to make physical examinations. A seasoned sergeant from the Spanish-American War stood on the marble steps outside Cooper Battalion Hall barking orders to the raw recruits in an attempt to get them into line for drills. He was forty-two at the time but that did not stop him from signing-up for the Ambulance Corps.
When word spread to the cities and colleges, mentioned before, where Red Cross Units had been formed, contacts were made with Washington and the wheels began to turn in the direction of Philadelphia or Allentown, depending on the time their offer was received. Many of these men were inducted into service before leaving their home base for Allentown. They came from Battle Creek, Michigan; University of Washington; Pasadena, California; Cleveland, Ohio; University of Minnesota; Washington, D.C.; University of California; Stonemen's Fellowship, Philadelphia; University of Michigan; Johnstown --- usually based on the Army Standard and later reorganized into three Ambulance Service Sections. These were the ready made units which began to tax and overflow the Allentown Fairgrounds which was formally turned over to the Government on June 9, 1917. In letters sent home by the early arrivals they said, "Address me in care of Unit So and So, U.S. Army Ambulance Corps, Concentration Camp, Allentown, Pennsylvania." Thus was the beginning of the unique organization, later to be known as the United States Army Ambulance Service, as part of the Medical Department.
We now take up our burden day by day
LONG before the United States Army Ambulance Corps was established in May 1917, a small group of volunteers went from the shores of our country to be of service to the gallant fighting men of France. They in truth represent the foundation stone of our Service and the real purpose of Camp Crane. Before we tell their thrilling story, let us begin by unfolding the events leading up to the establishment of the United States Army Ambulance Service.
Soon after our declaration of war with Germany, the great hero of the Marne," Marshal Joffre, accompanied by the French statesman, M. Viviani, with other representatives, came to the United States as the French War Commission. Early in May, they called upon the Surgeon-General, William Gorgas in Washington. General Gorgas asked Marshal Joffre what immediate service the United States Medical Department could do for France. The Marshal's reply was a request that the United States should undertake, as far as possible, the responsibility of caring for the wounded of the French Armies at the front. As Mr. A. Piatt Andrew states, "A more satisfying tribute could scarcely have been paid the American Field Service." As a consequence, General Gorgas authorized, through the Secretary of War, the organization of the United States Army Ambulance Service.
We feel it is important to clear up many misunderstandings regarding the relation of the United States Army Ambulance Service with the original volunteer units which became the American Field Service, the Norton-Harjes Units, and Red Cross Ambulance Companies. It is fortunate that we have this information recorded in the records compiled by Surgeon General Ireland (who had replaced General Gorgas upon the latter's retirement in 1918), in "THE MEDICAL DEPARTMENT OF THE UNITED STATES ARMY IN THE WORLD WAR," published in 1927, --- and also in the volumes of the "History of the American Field Service in France," published in 1920.
With these records before us, we will first quote from the pages of the Introduction of the A.F.S. History by their leader, A. Piatt Andrew:
"American war activities in France that preceded the entrance of the United States into the war can trace some parentage to the small American Ambulance (Hospital) in Neuilly-sur-Seine, that had been maintained by member of the American Colony in Paris for some years before the great war began in 1914. It should be remembered that early in August 1914, when transportation of wounded was still in that antique condition which relied largely upon our friend the mule, a small group of men who had volunteered their services to the American Ambulance, were charged by that organization with the creation of an automobile service, it was at this time, that the choice was made of the Ford car, for down at the premises of the Ford Company at Lavallois, some touring cars were stripped of their bodies and through the efforts of several men there, the ambulance body was constructed. From the use of this car, the "Convois Automobiles" developed many of the regulations which carried through the early days of the war and became the foundation for the American Field Service.
"Later a large hospital had been equipped and opened in the Lycée Pasteur in Neuilly --- all of these endeavors began in the name of and under the auspices of the little antebellum hospital of Neuilly in Paris.
"Other hospitals were established after the start of the war at Montdidier, sponsored by Mr. Herman Harjes . . . and a number of ambulances with the British Armies sponsored by Mr. Richard Norton . . These later combined and formed the Norton-Harjes Ambulance Units."
Also the American Red Cross had volunteer ambulance units working with the French armies at the hospitals and at the front.
The above Photograph was taken at the time when the retiring Surgeon-General Gorgas, shown on the right, was about to turn the reins over to the newly appointed Surgeon-General Merritt W. Ireland. This was an important and difficult change to make in the middle of a war. However, at the time this took place, it was no doubt known by the highest officials involved in making this decision, that the Hun was surely on the run. This had been a gigantic task, but General William C. Gorgas had won his appointment the hard way. His fame followed him from the Spanish-American War, into the Panama Canal Zone, when he was named Surgeon-General of the Army on April 6, 1914, and handed an efficient organization over to General Ireland, on October 14, 1918.
To continue, the AFS History records: "Upon the entry of the United States into the conflict, there swiftly followed for us complexities great and small... The most potent factor, however, necessitating our enrollment in the United States National Army," was the result of the request made by the French Commission to the Surgeon General Gorgas to perpetuate the work at the front of the American volunteer ambulance drivers.
The Field Service, according to Andrew, had 33 Sections to incorporate into the U.S. Army Ambulance Service with the French Armies. There were 14 Camion Sections subject to militarization into the American Mission with the French Army Motor Transport Corps, the so-called Reserve Mallet, formed in May 1917.
Except for the volunteers in early 1917, the Réserve Mallet as an American factor in the French Army, would in all probability never have existed. To the old T.M. volunteers, therefore, from Cornell, Andover, California, Dartmouth, Marietta, Tufts, Princeton, Yale, and other American universities, be the honor that is their due. Their work was hard and often carried to the limit of human endurance.
These volunteers had come to France to drive ambulances for the American Field Service and learning of the great need for camion drivers, to a man they agreed to put aside their original intention and to respond to the new call to meet the request of Commandant Mallet. In the autumn of 1917, the American Army consented to adopt the Service. The formation then because an official American adjunct of the French Army and subsequently much enlarged by contingents of troops from the United States, it continued to serve with the French Army.
About October 1, 1917 when the American Army sent men up to enlist the Field Service men in the Motor Transport Corps, over 600 enlisted, 300 of these men were commissioned, the rest stayed with the Réserve Mallet, which in February 1918 was filled up with men from the regular United States Army. In 1918, the Réserve under its old Field Service officers, established a record better than ever made by a similar service in any of the allied armies. They served in eight of the twelve major engagements officially recognized by the American Army. It is said that between June 6 and November 11, the American drivers alone hauled more ammunition than the American Army fired during its whole participation in the war.
When the work of these volunteers of the Reserve Mallet was over, Commander Doumenc, the head of the whole French Automobile Service (which included the ambulance cars), wrote from the French General Headquarters: "I shall ever recall with pride that I had them in my Command during the Great War, for they were equal to every task that was entrusted to them."
We have quoted the above passages from the American Field Service History because the majority of these men had originally volunteered for the ambulance service and although we are unable to include them in our Section Reviews, we wanted to make this acknowledgement of their service in this history.
The United States did not take over the AFS Sections in the Balkans, "The Americans were withdrawn but all equipment turned over to the French Army of the Orient."
"Neither the American ambulances nor the transport adjuncts of the French Army which rendered such excellent service in France during the last year of the war (1918), would probably have existed except for their previous formation under the Field Service." This also was true of the other volunteer American units which were absorbed into the USAAS.
Inspector-General A. Piatt Andrew further said on transferring his allegiance to the United States Army, "J shall never forget the loyal and faithful cooperation of the Field Service men at Headquarters . . . and above all without any risk of invidious distinction must be mentioned Stephen Galatti, who reluctantly left his Section at the front in order to help in the complicated administration of the take-over of the AFS by the USAAS." (Steve Galatti will always be remembered as an active member of our USAAC Association.)
The report of this period is found in these official statements in the Volume III of the Medical Department of the United States Army in the World War:
"Before we entered the World War as an official participant, certain American unofficial volunteer groups and individuals rendered service to our future allies in the interests of humanity. Immediately after the beginning of the war in 1914, the American colony in Paris established the American Ambulance, following in their nomenclature the French practice of applying the term ambulance to the type of military institution which Americans call a hospital. Shortly after the organization of this unit, a volunteer field service section was provided for it, this latter organization being developed by the efforts of individuals who had employed their own automobiles to remove the wounded during the first battle of the Marne. It consisted of a volunteer ambulance corps known as the American Field Service, and was composed of sections, each made up of 20 ambulances, a mobile kitchen and a truck. The ambulances were almost exclusively of the Ford type. These sections were equipped by voluntary contributions of the people of the United States. A little later the Norton and Harjes units were organized along the same lines. At first the latter were quite separate, having been organized independently, but eventually they were consolidated into the Norton-Harjes unit, which affiliated with the American Red Cross.
"In these two organizations several hundred young Americans served before the United States entered the war, on much the same status as the American aviators of the Lafayette Escadrille. By the fall of 1917, the American Field Service had 34 ambulance sections organized and 3 sections undergoing organization, while the Red Cross had 12 sections in operation. All of the sections were on duty with the French. Most of them were at the front, but one detachment, equivalent to three sections, was on duty in the entrenched camp of Paris.
"These sections, having been created to aid the French Army, conformed to the French Table of Organization. Each consisted of one Lieutenant of the French Automobile Service, one American sous-chef, about 25 American drivers, and 8 French soldiers. Each section had 20 ambulances, 1 large truck, 1 small truck, 2 touring cars, and 1 kitchen trailer. The ambulances were of two types, viz., large cars which carried 4 recumbent or 8 sitting, and small cars with a capacity of 3 recumbent or 5 sitting. The function of these sections was solely that of transportation and did not include rendition of first-aid, establishment of dressing stations, or bearer work, as is the case with our ambulance companies. The personnel, largely soldiers of adventure, were somewhat free and independent, had developed an esprit de corps and a morale that won high honor for their organization. To evacuate battalion aid stations, they ran their light cars day and night, amid shell holes and under shell fire, carrying wounded to the field hospitals. The success of these formations was undoubted; their aid to the French Army beyond question."
In the Medical Department narration they repeat the request of the French Military Commission's recommendation to the Surgeon General. The request was approved and the War Department, by the following order, directed the organization of the United States Army Ambulance Service.
"War Department General Orders No. 75
Washington June 23, 1917
II. 1. Under authority conferred by Section 2 of the Act of Congress "authorizing the President to increase temporarily the Military Establishment of the United States" approved May 18, 1917, the President directs that these be organized for the existing emergency, the enlisted strength being raised by voluntary enlistment or draft, as a part of the Medical Department, the United States Army Ambulance Service, consisting of the following personnel:
One hundred and sixty ambulance sections, each consisting of:
Sergeants, First Class
Privates, First Class
2. The following transportation is authorized for each section:
Motor Truck (2 Ton)
Motor Truck (3/4 Ton)
Motor Car (5 passenger)
Motorcycle (with side car)
"The War Department was to amend Paragraph, Section II. General Orders, No. 75 many times. September 30, 1917, changed authorized sections to 169 from 160. November 28, 1917, changed section personnel to 6 mechanics from 2. and 22 privates, first class, from 26..."
The United States Army Ambulance Service occupied a unique position. Though composed of members of the American Army, its personnel in France, so far as the performance of duty was concerned, was under the jurisdiction of the French Government, to whose army it was assigned. Similarly, the personnel assigned to Italy was under the jurisdiction of the Italian Government. While in emergencies the American Expeditionary Forces borrowed many of the sections from both France and Italy, it had no direct military control over them, except when they were thus actually in its service. To all intents and purposes, therefore, the United States Army Ambulance Service was a part of the French and of the Italian armies. The fact should be clearly recognized, that this organization was distinct from the ambulance organizations of the American Expeditionary Forces, which were made up from personnel and equipment authorized by the "Tables of Organization" for the service of American troops. . .
These orders which we have quoted above were based on the general plan that an ambulance section would he assigned to each division of the French Army; that for every 5 sections a repair shop and general supply depot in command of a captain would be established; that for each group of 20 sections an inspector with the grade of Major would be provided, and that the higher administrative work of the service would be conducted by 1 colonel and 2 lieutenant colonels. This general scheme, like many other preconceived plans for the operation of American troops abroad, was ultimately greatly modified. The senior officer of the organization; with 30 sections, went to Italy for duty with the Italian Army, while the large number of sections in France operated under the command of an officer commissioned in the Medical Corps and not in the Ambulance Service.
Plans for securing personnel and equipment were begun several weeks before the first order, which we have quoted above, was promulgated by the War Department. A medical reserve officer was directed to begin recruiting for the Ambulance Service in Philadelphia. Applicants were enlisted in the Medical Enlisted Reserve Corps. Two other medical officers were ordered to Philadelphia to take charge of the recruits.
As soon as practical, Camp Crane was established at Allentown, Pennsylvania, primarily as a mobilization and training camp for the Ambulance Service, though later it was utilized as a general mobilization camp for Medical Department Units. The rumor had spread rapidly that an ambulance service would probably be among the first organizations to be sent abroad, and applications for enlistment by men who were impatient to go overseas were immediately received front all parts of the United States. Colleges asked to be permitted to form complete sections of their own men, and the War Department granted their requests. Over 40 colleges and universities furnished one or more sections of 45 men each, who were sent to Camp Crane in charge of some one of the party who had been selected as leader. In addition to the men recruited at the Ambulance Service recruiting station at Philadelphia, and the large number of men enlisted at the colleges, a considerable part of the personnel was derived from the previously organized American Red Cross ambulance companies, who also desired immediate service. Pasadena, California, the University of California, Washington, D.C., Cleveland, Ohio, the University of Minnesota, and the University of Washington each contributed an ambulance company (U.S. Army standard) which were reorganized into three Ambulance Service sections; some of the companies secured sufficient additional recruits from their home localities to make a fourth section. A number of cities and a few industrial corporations contributed complete sections to the service, and a very considerable number of men came to it from Army recruiting stations throughout the country. Volunteer enlistments furnished all the personnel for the sections of the Ambulance Service except for a few which were organized from drafted men, just before the Armistice. The enlisted personnel as a whole was of a very high grade.
At first officers of the Medical Reserve Corps were assigned to command sections, but they were gradually replaced by officers promoted from the ranks who were given commissions in the American Ambulance Service. So when the Armistice was signed there were few medical officers on duty with the sections, for by this time most of the section personnel were officers who had entered the service as Privates.
The headquarters of the Ambulance Service moved from the recruiting rendezvous at Philadelphia's Cooper Battalion Hall to Camp Crane, Allentown, Pa., on June 9, 1917. Some recruits for the organization had already arrived at the camp, and in a short time over 3000 men were assembled.
The two senior medical officers then on duty there had no Regular Army assistants, either commissioned or enlisted, except eight Lieutenants, recent graduates of the Army Medical School. A few men who had military drill at schools and the men who had had experience in drilling the Red Cross Ambulance Companies rendered invaluable service by helping to establish military procedure and by teaching elementary military principles. (Editor's note --the enlistment of a veteran from the Spanish-American War had whipped the recruits from Philadelphia into good shape.) Then a military man arrived on the scene that gave Commandant, Colonel Persons the assistance he needed. Lieutenant Nels Rasmussen, Regular Army Medical Corps, was sent up from Washington, and appointed Adjutant.
The French High Commission was very insistent in its recommendation that Ford ambulances, touring cars, and light trucks be used. This requirement was based on experience during the preceding years of the war by the early American volunteers. It was stated that the lightness of this car, its durability, and the ease in which it could be repaired and its parts interchanged gave it great superiority for the work to be performed. Therefore orders were placed by the Ambulance Service for approximately 2400 Ford ambulances (with a body design worked out by the combined thinking of the American Field Service and U.S. Army personnel), 120 Ford trucks, 120 Ford touring cars, 120 Packard trucks, and 120 motorcycles with side cars, with an allowance for replacements and a fair quantity of spare parts. By special effort on the part of the manufacturer early delivery was secured. This large amount of motor equipment having arrived at the seaboard, before cargo space was at a premium, was shipped immediately and landed at St. Nazaire to await the personnel for which it was intended.
Although we have mentioned the number of ambulance sections directed to serve the Italian Army, this agreement was not entered into until a later date. It would be well to point out here that the ambulance equipment needed for the Italian front required a heavier gear-shift motor, therefore General Motors Corporation cars were used. This will be covered in detail in a later chapter.
When it became known that our Government had agreed to furnish the French Army a number of ambulance sections, the American Red Cross and the people in the United States who were supporting the American Field Service, proposed to the War Department that it take over the sections they had already formed which were then operating in France. This proposal was accepted. . . . In July 1917, a colonel of the Medical Corps, United States Army, was designated as Chief United States Army Ambulance Service (Colonel Percy L. Jones, MC.), and accredited to the French Government to arrange the details for the operation of that service and for the enlistment in it of the personnel of the ambulance sections of the American Field Service and of the American Red Cross. This medical officer visited Camp Crane before sailing for Europe At Camp Crane it was arranged that the 20 sections which had been organized in the United States, and for which complete equipment had been secured, should sail as ocean transportation was available. These sections sailed on August 7, 1917, and disembarked at St. Nazaire, August 24, 1917.
In the Medical Department history at this point it goes into quite an involved explanation about some discrepancy between the number of sections authorized and the number thought necessary at different times. It was obvious that there was bound to be some confusion in the exchange of directives in the early stages of the transition from French to American supervision of the service. It also was not known, at the time of establishing the headquarters in France, how many of the existing volunteer sections would remain at full strength following militarization.
This may or may not have been the cause for the delays in clearing Camp Crane of men for overseas duty. There was never any thought that the original authorized number of ambulance sections might not be needed, it just came down to where they would be formed. In our research into this matter it seems probable that the final decision to send ambulance sections to Italy was arrived at by the Chief of the American Expeditionary Forces so that they would get over while the discussion went on as to numbers required. Certainly, as things turned out, it was much faster to get ambulance sections brought from Italy to France than to wait for available ocean transportation from America. In our later chapters we will learn that this is exactly what happened. It is a known fact that late in the summer of 1918, as regulation army ambulance companies and equipment for the American Expeditionary Forces had not arrived and as there seemed to be little prospect of them being furnished, a request was sent to Washington that the remaining sections of the United States Army Ambulance Service, authorized by General Orders No. 75 War Department 1917, but which had not been provided, be reorganized and sent to France for service with the American Forces. This request was approved, but, because of difficulty in securing priority transportation, none of those units arrived until after the Armistice.
A new Camp Crane was to become the staging point for Evacuation Ambulance Companies. In November 1917, the Surgeon General wrote the Chief Surgeon of the American Expeditionary Forces, that 3 Evacuation Ambulance Companies were being organized at home, each consisting of 2 officers and 60 enlisted men, that it was hoped to have 1 such unit with each American Division, and that equipment would be that of a motor ambulance company (army standard) with 12 ambulances, less dressing station equipment. The primary duty of these units was to clear the field hospitals and to transport patients to evacuation, base or other hospitals or to points with rail or boat connections. They also were to transport wounded on occasion from dressing stations and from other places in the field. Following the receipt of the Surgeon General's message, the Chief Surgeon A.E.F. replied, advocating 20 ambulances per company instead of 12.
In the meantime the Chief Surgeon, Line of Communications, had recommended (Nov. 27, 1917) that ambulance personnel and transport within his jurisdiction be organized into Evacuation Ambulance Companies, each consisting of 5 sections with 20 ambulances each. He also urged that, if it were possible, 30 sections of the United States Army Ambulance Service, then in the United States, but ready for shipment, be secured for the A.E.F., in order to avoid the complete breakdown in transport which he considered imminent. He remarked that the need of Evacuation Ambulance Companies was becoming more and more apparent, both to the transportation department of the chief surgeon's office and to the hospitalization department, General Headquarters. Here again we go through a maze of communications starting in November 1917 and running through April 1918. Fortunately in time of war they do not wait for confirming War Department orders, and as a result several Evacuation Ambulance Companies organized in Allentown were on the scene helping with the transportation of the wounded in the rear of the lines and in many cases right at the front under fire. Their list of killed and wounded attest to the courage these units showed under devastating bombardment during enemy advances and counter attacks.
Mention has been made of the unique organization of the special ambulance service at Camp Crane. Therefore it was not unusual that the Surgeon General should select Camp Crane for an entirely new type of medical formation. This was called the Mobile Operating Unit No. 1. In August 1917, a medical officer, who had been in charge of a hospital in France, proposed to the Surgeon General that there be provided an operating unit mounted on automobile trucks and provided with well-lighted and heated operating room, electric lighting, steam and sterilizing plants, these to be fully equipped in such a manner as to insure immediate efficient hospital attention for the wounded in a fluid front line. The unit was to be capable of being erected and in action in less than an hour and evacuated and on its way forward with the fighting troops in forty-five minutes. Equipment for this unit was much more elaborate and complete so it was not surprising that the personnel was ready far in advance and was sent overseas to await its arrival. They were concentrated in the training area at Joinville with the enlisted men being used as ambulance drivers or in motor transport. The entire unit did not see service in battle before the Armistice.
So ends the Medical Department's report on the plans for the men brought together in Allentown to form the United States Army Ambulance Service. In subsequent chapters we will quote from both Field Service and Medical Department sources, the division of responsibility of the Reserve Mallet, or transport sections, and ambulance sections. The fact that both branches of the Field Service were transferred to the United States Army, and as the United States did not permit of an automobile service, the Réserve Mallet was to be taken over by the Quartermaster Corps, while the Ambulance Service as we have stated was to be taken over by the newly formed and authorized United States Army Ambulance Service. Before the regular USAAS replacements could reach France in substitution for the volunteers, who did not wish to enlist in either branch of the two U.S. Army services, these same volunteer men could not be released from their contracts at the time of important engagements in the field. As things turned out, many of these volunteers later accepted commissions in the United States Army Ambulance Service and the United States Army Transport Corps.