Friends of France: The Field Service of the American Ambulance Described by its Members (Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1916) was published by the American Ambulance Field Service during World War I.  The first edition was published in August 1916, and the second edition (in large-paper and regular formats) was published in October in 1916. A French translation of the book was completed in 1917. This month, the Archives of the American Field Service and AFS Intercultural Programs digitized 38 photographs that were used in the production of this book and made them available for reference online under Subseries 1F: Friends of France Matted Prints in RG1/002, the American Field Service World War I Photographic Collection.  The photographs were arranged on 27 pieces of mat board that appear to have been used during the editing process, as captions and other production notations were made on the front and back of the mat board.

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Americans in their gas masks in front of the bomb proof shelter outside of their headquarters.

Friends of France provided Americans on the home front during World War I with the opportunity to understand what life was like for an AAFS ambulance driver in France during the war. In the introduction to the book Inspector General A. Piatt Andrew wrote, “the following pages, written, and edited in the course of active service in France, tell, however imperfectly, something of the experiences of a small group of young Americans who have not been inert onlookers during the Great War” (page xvii). Friends of France was also used as a fundraising and promotional tool for the organization. Since it was a volunteer service, AAFS relied on donations from Americans who were witnessing the war from a far. Stories and images were gathered with the hope of provoking a desire for more Americans to do their part and contribute to the war effort.

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Sharing a meal at a poste de secours.

Drivers were depicted in this book from all different aspects of an volunteer’s life. There are images of the men watching an airplane battle, and several of them working through the cold winter weather in Alsace. The volunteers risked their lives and braved the shellings of the enemy, which is apparent through the words and images that appear in the book. For example, volunteer ambulance driver James R. McConnell reflected on the diligence of the American volunteers in his chapter “The Section in Lorraine.” He wrote: “In spite of the danger, the Americans render their service with fidelity at any and all times. A French captain once remarked that, no matter how much the town was being shelled, the little field ambulances could be seen slipping down the streets, past corners, or across the square on their way to and from postes de secours back of the trenches” (page 69).

All digitized photographs from RG1/002, the American Field Service World War I Photographic Collection can be found online here.

This is one of a series of posts by Elizabeth Alleva, AFS Archives Summer 2014 Intern, about her project to create online accessibility to several hundred World War I photographs under the supervision of the AFS Head Archivist and Historical Publications Editor.


Banner image: Lieutenant Duboin, A. Piatt Andrew, Robert Bacon, Dr. Edmund L. Gros, and Lovering Hill on an inspection trip in Alsace, France. All photographs are courtesy of the Archives of the American Field Service and AFS Intercultural Programs, and cannot be used outside the guidelines of United States Fair Use (17 U.S.C.,Section 107) without advance permission.