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Section Thirty-Three

SECTION THIRTY-THREE left for the front on August 16, 1917, the last Field Service Section to go out. It went via Bar-le-Duc to Issoncourt, and on September 6 to Triaucourt to join the 26th Division. The Section was enlisted on September 25, and the next day went to Grange-le-Comte, and shortly afterward to Clermont-en-Argonne. Early in November it became Section Six-Forty-Five in the U.S. Army Ambulance Service.

'The Ambulance Sections', History of the American Field Service in France, "Friends of France" 1914-1917, Told by Its Members, Volume II (Boston and New York: Houghton and Mifflin Company, 1920)

SECTION THIRTY-THREE

The land of sunshine and of song!
Her name your hearts divine;
To her the banquet's vows belong
Whose breasts have poured its wine;
Our trusty friend, our true ally
Through varied change and chance.
So, fill your flashing goblets high, --
I give you, VIVE LA FRANCE!

OLIVER WENDELL HOLMES

 

I
A BRIEF CAREER WITH THE A.F.S.

A narrative of the brief career of Section Thirty-Three has little to offer the reader in the way of high-explosive thrills, shell-swept roads, or hair-breadth escapes; yet the last ambulance unit to leave rue Raynouard driving Fords must not be left "unwept, unhonored, and unsung."

On August 16, 1917, twenty-one spick-and-span new Ford ambulances, a staff car, and camionnette formed in hollow square in the lower garden, and after an inspection by Mr. Andrew and some officers of the United States Army, rolled out of the gates in obedience to a series of unrehearsed and complicated whistle signals, concocted by our Chef to meet the emergency. Despite the signals and the ill-advised attempt of a car in the hands of a green driver to climb over the car ahead and wreck the stately trees of the garden, we passed out into the street and history, and toward the distant battle-line.

At Montmirail we parked our cars the first night and proceeded to get acquainted. The personnel included as our French Lieutenant, Henry Laurent, Gordon Ware as Chef, and Bruce H. McClure, Sous-Chef.

On the following day we reached Bar-le-Duc, where we had our first view of an air raid, new to us, but an old story to the inhabitants, and also our first experience with troop barracks and army beds, with the compensation of a refreshing swim in the canal outside of town. On August 19 we pulled out of Bar, leaving most of our available cash in the hands of the local shopkeepers, and rolled on to Issoncourt, where we went into camp in what was left of a farm. A cow-stable offered quarters to those of us who did not bunk in our cars, and here we were introduced to several varieties of insect life that were destined to form lasting attachments for us in the days to follow.

At Issoncourt we remained in mud and melancholy until September 6, employing our leisure in the manufacture of camp furniture, perfecting our French, enjoying an occasional tramp over portions of the Marne battlefield near by, and filling ourselves with several delicious varieties of plums growing in profusion about us.

On the night of the 6th, in the midst of a howling rainstorm, we packed up at an hour's notice and were off to join the 26th Division of the Second Army at Triaucourt, where we arrived the same night. Visions of immediate action stirred us, but our hopes of high adventure received another jolt, for here we parked our cars on either side of a main thoroughfare and remained quiescent for eighteen long days. Some of us slept in our cars and others found quarters in a hay-loft whose sole means of entry was a rickety ladder, an inducement to sobriety if nothing else.

On September 25 we departed from Triaucourt with no regrets, and after a night at Grange-le-Comte, the Section moved to Clermont-en-Argonne, where we were soon comfortably established in one of the few comparatively whole houses in town. The advanced postes which we served at Neuvilly and Dervin kept us busy, and offered enough in the way of thrills, but the fates that seem to watch over the destinies of ambulance drivers were good to us, for despite frequent close calls, we suffered no casualties in the Clermont sector.

On the 4th day of November, S.S.U. Thirty-Three officially passed into history and became Section Six-Forty-Five of the United States Army Ambulance Service. Brief though its existence as a volunteer unit may have been, Thirty-Three was thoroughly imbued with the sentiments of the units that preceded it in the field, and the high standards and splendid traditions of the American Field Service in France.

ROBERT RIESER*
*Of Hoboken, New Jersey; Columbia; served with the American Field Service for three months, 1917; subsequently with the Red Cross in Italy and later an Aspirant, French Artillery.

 

II
SUMMARY OF THE SECTION'S HISTORY UNDER THE UNITED STATES ARMY

At the time of its militarization, the Section was in Clermont-en-Argonne, where it remained, getting accustomed to the army life, until Christmas Day, 1917. The month of January, 1918, was spent en repos at Andernay, and on February 6 the Section was sent to Houdainville, below Verdun. For six weeks or more we were extremely busy and had many exciting moments, serving the famous postes east of the city.

Early in April we were ordered to Sommedieue in the Woevre, where the entire spring was passed with not an overdose of thrills. On the 10th of August we started for Soissons, arriving after numberless one-night stands on the 25th. Quarters were taken up in the lowlands of the Aisne near Fontenoy. For four days and nights our infantry attacked, and we were overwhelmed with strenuous work. Our cars were on the road continuously, serving postes which constantly shifted their position, and lent a nervous uncertainty that added to the strain.

On August 29 Hess, a very fine chap, was killed by a bomb, and Naslund and Mackie were wounded. For the work done at this time the Section received a citation.

A ten-day rest and we were returned to the same sector to take part in the Aisne-Oise offensive, which was only halted by the Armistice. Descending then in convoy, we spent the winter at Forbach, in Lorraine, where our troops were on garrison duty. The Section left in March for Base Camp.

RICHARD C. PAINE*
*Of Boston, Massachusetts; Harvard, '17; served with Section Thirty-Three from September, 1917, and after its militarization with the U.S.A. Ambulance Service.

  • Section (WWI): S.S.U. 33