Published In People in AFS

Alexander, Charles Butler, Jr.

* 1908/02/03† 1945/04/09

WWII driver
Mediterranean, France
Gilman Country; Princeton '30

Courtesy of The Archives of the American Field Service and AFS Intercultural Programs

Indicator Details


CHARLES BUTLER ALEXANDER, JR, of Eccleston, Baltimore Country, Maryland, died on April 9th [1945], shortly after he was wounded by machine-gun fire and captured by the Germans in the town of Niefern, near Pforzheim, Germany. "C.B.", as he was known to family and friends, had been a member of the AFS since 1943. He served with the British Eighth Army during the Desert Campaign and in Italy, and in August, 1944, transferred to the French AFS Unit, where he served until his death. His outstanding courage as leader of an AFS Section will long be remembered by the men who served with him.

__ AFS Letters, No. 37


The situation was pleasant but demoralizing. There were accidents and serious illnesses. On 14 September, Aspirant Addoms and C. B. Alexander obtained permission to drive to Commandant Coster in Mâcon in an effort to do something about it. They brought the first information to HQ, from the General down, of the arrival of the Battalion in France. Commandant Coster, taking advantage of the impression this created, obtained an order directing that the 1st Company, as soon as completed, should move inland for forward assignment, without waiting for the rest of the Battalion. Then, C. B. Alexander was commissioned a Lieutenant and left in charge of the AFS HQ office.


The HQ to run this shrinking unit was kept at a minimum. At first, Commandant Coster had only B. D. Chancy, who joined him in Mâcon after a long illness. C. B. Alexander acted as Adjutant until on 15 November he resigned his commission in order to drive an ambulance again.


The situation came to a head in what Commandant Coster called "'The Thanksgiving Day Rebellion' . . . a friendly and reasonable discussion on both sides in the Section's billets after Thanksgiving dinner." At this time, the Section requested that, as all their troubles were Coster's fault, command should be given to C. B. Alexander.


In the first week of January 1945, the two new sections were assigned: [...]The next day Section 2, commanded by Aspirant C. B. Alexander, was attached to the 431st Medical Battalion, a reserve formation like the 43rd, with the 3rd Algerian Infantry Division at Gérardmer.


On 9 April, Aspirant Alexander left Bretten early in the morning to visit his Section's advance posts at Maulbronn and Pforzheim. With him in his jeep was the French MO, Captain Berthelot. The chief MO of the Battalion was in another jeep. They took the road from Muhlacker toward Pforzheim, a more direct road being known to be still held by the enemy. However, when the 7 jeeps entered Niefern, a machine gun opened fire on them. As they turned around in an attempt to flee, a bullet passed through Captain Berthelot's sleeve, then entered Alexander's back and pierced his left lung. The two were taken prisoner, Alexander unconscious; but only Berthelot was released after his papers had been examined. He reported these events to the AFS group at Battalion HQ in Maulbronn, adding that he thought it suspicious that the Germans had refused to allow him to see or to treat Alexander. [...]

However, C. B. Alexander had already died of his wound while being evacuated by the Germans, although this they would not have known in Niefern. From the doctor who had attended him, who was shortly thereafter taken prisoner, and from the civilians in the town, when it was taken a few days later, the location of his grave was learned. W. T. C. Hannah and Captain Berthelot identified the body, which was placed with proper ceremony in a military cemetery. "Energetic, courageous, persistent, direct, inspiring to his men," Commandant Coster wrote, "he was certainly and most deservedly one of the most-admired and best-liked men in the unit."

__ George Rock. Chapter 14. "Victory 3. The Return to France (March 1944- July 1945)" History of the American Field Service, 1920-1955. New York 1956.



FR 3-T, CM 50
Home at time of enlistment
McDonogh Postoffice, Baltimore County, Md, USA
died or killed

Decoration(s) received while volunteer of the Field Service

  1. Croix de Guerre WW2
  2. Purple Heart
  3. Decorated in WWII

Roll of Honour 1939-1945