Inventory of American Field Service Ambulance Driver Diary:
19 May-9 June 1915
From internal evidence in the text, the diary's writer was apparently an ambulance driver with the American Field Service ambulance service, Section Two, based in Pont-á-Mousson, France during the early part of World War I. Volunteers from several countries provided ambulance service for the French Army before the United States entered the war in 1917. The group with which this diarist served, the American Ambulance Field Service, was formed in April 1915 under A. Piatt Andrew as an auxiliary of the American Ambulance Hospital at Neuilly hospital, established in 1914 by wealthy Americans living in Paris. Becoming independent of the hospital about a year afterwards, the service's name was shortened to the American Field Service. Section Two began service in the middle of April 1915, assigned to the Bois le Prêtre region, quartered first at Dieulouard, then at Pont-à-Mousson. Section Two remained in this sector until February 1916, when it was moved to the Verdun sector.
The diary itself begins at an entry for 19 May 1915 with the driver's departure from Paris, to report to the Bureau, or main Section office of the service, at Pont-á-Mousson, which he often abbreviates to Pont. in diary entries. The hospital is based in Dieulouard. It seems that, generally, the ambulance drivers would evacuate wounded combatants from the front only a short distance away, to the hospital at Dieulouard, then report to Pont-á-Mousson, where they were billetted in houses. Wounded could also be evacuated to the French railroad base at Belleville, for transport elsewhere. The diary's driver is often under fire, either while driving the roads among convoys, or in the towns being shelled, and, on at least one occasion, even at his billet, called a caserne.
Among other clues, his English grammar and spelling, as well as his use and spelling of French terms, indicates that he was probably well educated. He is also clearly interested in becoming an aviator, and visits a French aviation field with a friend from the American Field Service on his time off. Description of German prisoners in the town square, serious casualties called couchés, episodes of shelling, the hazards of evacuating casualties under fire, as well as the daily life of an American volunteer soldier serving in World War I before the official entrance of the United States is terse and vivid. The narrative presents an interesting contrast of intense activity and intermittent loafing in the French towns and countryside, including a tour of such battle areas as Bois-le-Prêtre, the site of the First Battle of the Marne.
The entries end abruptly with 9 June 1915.
It may be noted that the donor of the diary, George Stratemeyer, probably did not write the diary since he served with the 7th and 34th Infantry divisions in Texas and Arizona until September 1916, immedately after his graduation from the U.S. Military Academy in June 1915. He subsequently became commanding officer of the Air Service Flying and Technical Schools at Kelly Field, Texas in May 1917. The diary may have come into Stratemeyer's possession at Kelly Field from an aviator being trained or otherwise based there. Ambulance drivers who served first as volunteers in France seem to have transferred to other branches of the service, in several cases the Air Service, after serving in the American Field Service for possibly only a few months.
The shiny dark brown paper-covered diary measures 17 x 10 cm., with 26 of its 40 blue-ruled pages filled with entries handwritten in ink. The diary is neither labeled, nor signed, and the entries are dated 19 [May]-9 June 1915. A newspaper clipping is slipped into the diary, dated 1873 by hand in ink, probably from a British newspaper, which contains a poem, "To Loch Skene", on which corrections to the text have been made in ink. The 25 p. paper transcript was made in February 2002 by Aletha Andrew, who processed the collection in the repository.
Copyright is retained by the authors of items in these papers, or their descendants, as stipulated by United States copyright law.
Received as a gift.
Diary found in an issue of the Kelly Field Eagle, which had been published from 25 April 1918 through 30 January 1919 for the Air Base at Kelly Field, Tex., later given to the repository by George E. Stratemeyer.
Processed by Aletha Andrew in June 2002.
Paper transcript of entire diary available in repository.
Detailed Description of the Diary