Dunbar M. Hinrichs uf St. Petersburg, Florida, has sent us some interesting comments about the article on Piatt Andrew and the American Field Service that appeared in our December, 1974, issue. Mr. Hinrichs knew Mr. Andrew and served with the A.F.S. in both wars. He writes: “Mr. Gray’s article is excellent, but I must take him to task for failing to mention the Mallet Reserve, which was a major factor in helping to shorten World War I.”
At the time of our entry into the war, says Mr. Hinrichs, there were more A.F.S. volunteers than ambulances. On April 5, 1917, Mr. Andrew asked Commandant Doumenc of the French Automobile Service how the A.F.S. could best serve the French army. Doumenc said that he needed seven thousand truck drivers to serve on the same terms and conditions as the ambulance drivers. This request was passed on to the men themselves and drew an immediate response from the Cornell contingent, which had just arrived in Paris:
That Cornell section was the first combatant unit to unfurl the American flag on the western front. It was sent forward on May 8, 1917, and was soon followed by a unit from Dartmouth. Eight hundred A.F.S. men eventually took part in the Mallet Reserve. They served in the battles of the Chemin des Dames and the Somme attack, where tanks were Rrst used in warfare. They can, in fact, wear eight out of eleven battle bars on their victory medals—more than any other unit in the American Army.
In 1917 the United States was not equipped to handle motor transportation on the western front. The French-trained Mallet Reserve filled the gap. It was first to discover a way of quickly transporting a 75mm cannon, caisson, and crew from one frontline position to another; it figured out how to carry the famous Whippet tanks to a jumping-off place, thereby saving wear and tear on their delicate treads; it took the’ 2nd Marines into position at Torcy, next to Belleau Wood; and it transported more ammunition than the entire American Army needed.
The skill and dedication of the Mallet Reserve drivers undoubtedly played a major part in bringing the war to a close, and Mr. Gray should be proud of the action his great-uncle took that fifth of April, 1917.