Exactly 100 years ago this month, A. Piatt Andrew arrived in Paris to volunteer as an ambulance driver at the American Ambulance Hospital. This civilian-run Hospital was founded before the war by Americans living in Paris, and was used during the war to treat wounded soldiers returning from the front. Andrew was a former director of the United States Mint and assistant professor of economics at Harvard University, and had set sail for France in December of 1914 to volunteer his efforts at the Hospital before the United States had officially entered the war.
As can be read in the letter extract above, Andrew informed his parents that his reasons for volunteering were “the possibility of being of some service in the midst of so much distress- the interest of witnessing some of the scenes in this greatest of spectacles-the chance of doing the little all that one can for France.” World War I, the “greatest of spectacles” according to Andrew, led to the death of millions of combatants and civilians. Although Andrew noted that he planned to stay in France only “two or three months,” he volunteered his time until the end of the war, founding an ambulance corps that ultimately transported more than a million wounded in both World Wars.