- Historic Sites
The American Field Service
EQUIPMENT WAS HARD TO COME BY, RED TAPE WAS RAMPANT. BUT AMERICAN VOLUNTEERS IN FRANCE BUILT AN AMBULANCE CORPS THAT PERFORMED BRILLIANTLY IN THE EARLY YEARS OF WORLD WAR I
December 1974 | Volume 26, Issue 1
Meanwhile Andrew ran for Congress again in 1921 and this time, aided by the determined support of the American Legion, was overwhelmingly elected to fill the seat previously held by Augustus Gardner, who had beaten him so soundly nearly a decade before. Re-elected to seven consecutive terms with ever-increasing majorities, Andrew led a tenacious but unavailing campaign for a generous settlement of all prearmistice debts of Allied nations to the United States. Although the romance between France and America ended in the disenthrallment of the igao’s, Andrew never lost an opportunity to summon up remembrance of past glories.
He was spared the agony of 1940, dying at his home in Gloucester on June 3, 1936, at the age of sixty-three. Succeeding him as head of the quiescent field service his erstwhile deputy, Stephen Galatti, found these words to describe his predecessor as he remembered him during the great days in France: He couldn’t bear to have people around him who didn’t want to do the job. He couldn’t understand how anyone could be taking part in such stupendous events without throwing every effort into what he was doing.… It wasn’t smooth sailing by any means. Half the story was the jealousy, the clash of wills. If Andrew had catered to everyone, the service would have collapsed. There were all kinds of Americans associated with the war work, and many only to be fashionable or for some personal gain.… But Andrew had his vision, always. And he wouldn’t let anything stop him.
At the outbreak of World War II Galatti immediately organized a section of ambulances and dispatched it to France under the command of Levering Hill, who had been a section leader in the original A.F.S. Hill proceeded to obtain from General Gamelin the same privileged status Andrew had won for the service twenty-five years before. But during the drôle de guerre there was no ambulance work; and when the German offensive began in May, 1940, the American Field Service ambulances hastened to Amiens, only to be bagged at once by General Guderian’s tanks. After the French surrender Galatti offered the American Field Service to the British government, and, with Churchill’s hearty endorsement, new sections were attached to the British Eighth Army in Egypt in 1941. The service thus once again stood in the vanguard of American participation.
After 1945 Galatti transformed the American Field Service into a student-exchange organization of worldwide scope. Gentler than Andrew in his style of management, he was no less stubborn in pursuit of his objectives. Admired and loved by two generations of students, American and foreign, he died, replete with triumph, in 1964. Today the American Field Service awaits yet another transformation, but meanwhile the bust of Andrew by Walker Hancock standing at A.F.S. headquarters in New York honors the martial dedication to which the service owes its origin. And at the unjustly neglected Musée de la Coopération Franco-Américaine at Blérancourt, a little town thirty miles northeast of Paris, this same likeness of Andrew, ensconced in a place of honor, surveys the courtyard as if to evoke events and sentiments that now seem distant not merely by decades but by centuries.