Published In People in AFS

Chamberlin, Ward Bryan, III

* 1921/08/04† 2017/02/23

WWII driver
Middle East, India-Burma, Italy
Exeter; Princeton '43; La Sorbonne (France); Columbia Law School.

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

Indicator Details

Ward Bryan Chamberlin, Jr. was a prominent member of AFS, first as an ambulance driver with the American Field Service (AFS) during World War II, then later as a board member and life trustee of the AFS secondary school exchange programs.

Born to Ward Bryan Chamberlin and Elizabeth Nichols on August 4th, 1921, Chamberlin grew up in South Norwalk, Connecticut. He attended Phillips Exeter Academy and was studying at Princeton University when World War II broke out. Chamberlin left Princeton to volunteer as an ambulance driver with AFS in the autumn of 1942, having been classified 4F by the U.S. Army for medical reasons. He went on to serve in the Middle East, Italy, and India during the course of the war. After the Battle of Monte Cassino in the spring of 1944, Ward took over command of his platoon and was promoted to lieutenant. He became captain and later major and commanding officer of 485 Company in June of 1945. He was honored with the British award “Mentioned in Despatches” as well as the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (M.B.E.) award for his services. Toward the end of the war, Chamberlin led two AFS ambulance units to India in preparation for the British invasion of Singapore by the British Army. He was in India when the war ended.

After the war, Ward also returned to Princeton to finish college and then went on to attend Columbia Law School, which led to his work on the Marshall Plan in Paris between 1951 and 1953. During this time, Chamberlin married twice: first in 1945 to Anne Nevin, a journalist, which soon ended in divorce, and then to painter and theatrical producer Lydia Gifford on October 7, 1951.

When he returned to the United States from Paris in 1953 he began working at PBS as in-house counsel. He eventually became the senior vice president of PBS. While at PBS, Chamberlin became involved with WNET as their vice president and managing director in New York, and served as the president of WETA in Washington. Chamberlin was an early supporter of Ken Burns’ documentaries for PBS. When Burns made The War documentary in 2007 Chamberlin was interviewed about his involvement with AFS at the Battle of Monte Cassino.

Chamberlin was a lifetime volunteer for AFS, and his involvement with the organization continued long after World War II ended. He took on an active role in creating and then helping to set up the AFS secondary school exchange programs, established in 1946. He was elected to the AFS Board of Directors in 1947 and served as the general counsel for AFS in the 1950s and 1960s. He was elected as a life trustee in 1966 and served as chair of the AFS Board of Trustees between 1968 and 1974. He was also involved in activities to bring former drivers together for reunions.

Chamberlin received numerous awards and distinctions throughout his life, including the NAFSA: Association of International Educators Cassandra Pyle Award for Leadership and Collaboration in International Educational Exchange, and the Dean’s Award at the 2008 Hubert H. Humphrey Public Leadership Awards.

Ward B. Chamberlin, Jr. passed away February 23, 2017, in Bedford, MA. He was predeceased by his wife, Lydia, who passed away in 2009, and survived by two daughters: Carolyn (Lynn) and Margot, and four grandchildren.

[Bio courtesy of AFS Archives, New York]



CM 104, ME 37, IB 59-T
Home at time of enlistment
South Norwalk, Conn, USA

Decoration(s) received while volunteer of the Field Service

  1. Decorated in WWII

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