Yesterday I was working on a small project that hopefully will come to pass in 2017. I don’t want to go too much into the details just yet; we’ll see how things go. I did come across something I thought worth sharing: this 26 November 1939 New York Times article about the next generation of American Field Service ambulance drivers heading off for Europe. This is the cohort that would serve in the Second World War. Oddly enough, their departure fell between Franksgiving on the 23rd and Thanksgiving on the 30th. The AFS story began in 1914 when idealistic young men, usually from America’s finest universities, left their campuses for the field hospitals of Flanders, Italy and elsewhere. We had a reconstructed WW1 AFS ambulance at Governors Island on Doughboy Day this past September which drew large crowds.
When war came to Europe again in September 1939, the AFS picked up where it left off after the Armistice and Treaty of Versailles twenty years earlier. It’s interesting to note the initial centers were Paris and New York City, as they were during the First World War. November 1939 was of course six months prior to the German occupation of Paris. I imagine that by summer 1940 the Parisian offices had relocated either to Vichy France or to another European city.