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Americans at War in Foreign Forces

                                          1914 -1945


Ambulance and Medical Corps


From Americans at War in Foreign Forces:
​The ambulance services developed by American interests became integral to the fight before America actually entered the war. The Norton-Harjes American Volunteer Ambulance Service in the French Army was an outgrowth of the Red Cross effort. Richard Norton was an eminent archaeologist, member of an historic Harvard family and friend of the American authors Edith Wharton and Henry James, who supported him in the development of the ambulance corps. He had gone to Paris to become a war correspondent, but, like Dale Toland, was drawn into the chaos of care for the wounded. Henry Herman Harjes was an American banker in Paris who had been brokering loans for the Allied cause, and become head of the American Red Cross in France. Now the cars and busses that could be commandeered for a tenuous retrieval and care of the wounded were replaced by convoys of ambulances driven in a formation that brought an organized response to the human damage of war. And the ambulance services began to engender their own medical services and hospitals. Among the Norton-Harjes drivers was the American writer John Dos Passos, and, over time, more American writers would inform their own work with experience driving for ambulance corps. They included Ernest Hemingway, Somerset Maugham, E.E. Cummings and Dashiell Hammett, among many others. 

One of the volunteers to arrive in France in 1915 was A. Piatt Andrew. He had been a Princeton graduate in 1893, an assistant professor of economics at Harvard until 1909, followed by two years as director of the U.S. mint. By the time of the American entrance into the war in 1917, he had developed what would come to be calledthe American Field Service (AFS), an ambulance corps of 300 cars driven by American volunteers and attached to various divisions of the French army. Another 150 cars and drivers were in the pipeline. In the well-recorded history of the AFS, it was present at all the significant fronts of battle, including 120 cars at the height of the fighting at Verdun. After the American declaration of war both Andrew and Norton received the French Croix de Guerre (Harjes had been honored earlier).

​Information.