Published In People in AFS

Balderston, Frederick Emery

* 1923/08/15† 2007/10/18

Professor of economics

WWII driver
Middle East, India-Burma, Italy
Westtown School; Deep Springs College; Cornell '48

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

Indicator Details

Frederick “Fred” Emery Balderston (born August 15, 1923) and Robert “Bob” Walter Balderston (born November 10, 1924) grew up in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in a prominent Quaker family.  The United States had been involved in World War II for almost two years when Fred, then a student at Deep Springs College in California, and Bob, enrolled at the University of Pennsylvania, joined the war effort.  As Quakers, they objected to fighting in the conflict and received permission from the draft board to serve as volunteer ambulance drivers with the American Field Service (AFS).  On January 16, 1943 the brothers set sail from New York City with AFS unit ME 37 and arrived in Port Tewfik, Egypt on March 21, 1943.  As part of AFS C Platoon of 485 Company, the Balderston brothers traveled alongside the British Army to Lebanon, Palestine, Yemen, Italy, and India between 1943 and 1945.  During their service they transported wounded Allied and Axis soldiers, and sometimes German prisoners of war and Italian civilians, in ambulances donated by Americans through AFS.

Before volunteering, Fred worked as a mechanic’s apprentice in order to gain an understanding of automobile maintenance and repair.  Because of his experience he was responsible for ambulance repairs in the field, in addition to his driving responsibilities.  While assigned to the Monte Cassino area in Italy in May of 1944, Fred was driving his platoon commander and friend, Lieutenant Robert C. Bryan, and a British medical officer when their jeep was hit by enemy fire.  Lt. Bryan and the British officer were badly hurt and Fred did his best to quickly pull them out of the vehicle.  He enlisted the help of some nearby British soldiers in a truck to help dress their wounds, put them on a stretcher, and drive them to the nearest medical facility.  Despite receiving medical attention quickly, both men died as a result of the attack.  On July 19, 1945 Fred was mentioned in a dispatch for distinguished service by the British military for his courageous actions.

Both brothers were repatriated in 1945 upon the end of wartime hostilities. After the war, Fred enrolled in Cornell University, earning a B.A. in economics in 1948.  After finishing a Ph.D. in economics at Princeton University, Fred accepted a position as assistant professor at the University of California, Berkeley in 1953.  He would remain at Berkeley in various academic and administrative roles until his retirement in 1991.  Throughout his life Fred remained active with AFS, helping to establish the organization’s student exchange program with AFS director Stephen Galatti and other wartime volunteers in 1946.  He became an AFS trustee in 1969.

On October 18, 2007 Fred passed away at the age of 84 in Berkeley, California, survived by his children Daniel, Jonathan, Sara, and Thomas Balderston and his second wife, Elizabeth (his first wife Judith died in 1993). 

[Bio courtesy of AFS Archives, New York]


ME 37, IB 59-T
Home at time of enlistment
Philadelphia, USA

Decoration(s) received while volunteer of the Field Service

  1. Decorated in WWII

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