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Uniform Grouping of Waldo Peirce


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#1 Croix de Guerre

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Posted 17 September 2010 - 05:54 PM

For your consideration is the World War One American Ambulance Field Service uniform and artifacts of Waldo Peirce, who served as a volunteer ambulance driver with the French Army on the Alsace and Verdun Fronts.

Waldo Peirce was born in Bangor, Maine December 17, 1884; the eldest son of wealthy lumber baron Mellon Chamberlin Peirce and Anna Hayford Peirce. He was a member of the “Lost Generation”, a world renowned artist, the “Last of the Bohemians”, and traveling companion of Ernest Hemmingway. Entire books have been written about Waldo but I will focus on his service with the American Field Service during the First World War. If you are interested in finding out more about Waldo Peirce please refer to these links or simply Google his name. http://en.wikipedia....ki/Waldo_Peirce. http://en.citizendiu...ki/Waldo_Peirce.

Waldo volunteered for service with the American Ambulance Field Service in July of 1915. By the fall of that year, he along with the rest of the men of Section Sanitaire Americaine N.3 (S.S.U. 3), were driving American Model T Ford ambulances up and down the narrow, snow swept paths leading up to the front lines in the Vosges Mountains. The Hartsmannswielerkopf or Vieil Armand as it was known to the French was an area of Alsace that was bitterly fought over in the winter of 1916-1916 with some thirty thousand deaths being suffered there over the course of the war. Until the arrival of the American ambulances, the wounded faced a long, cold and bumpy ride down the mountain side on sleds drawn by mules. All through that terrible winter, these brave American volunteers risked thier lives to bring both French and German wounded down off the mountain battlefields to recieve aid. It was there on a cold Christmas Eve night, that the first American Field Service volunteer was killed, Waldo’s friend Richard Hall. http://www.dartmouth...92-KCramer.html

After serving in Alsace, Section 3 moved to Lorraine in February 1916 where it remained in repos (reserve) until it was called to the great battle front raging at Verdun. Wounded twice, once in the face and once in the body; it was at Verdun in July 1916 that Waldo received a Croix de Guerre in recognition for his service.

CITATION SERVICE DE SANTÉ
129ème DIVISION
Le volontaire Américain PEIRCE, Waldo, de la Section Sanitaire Américaine N° 3: --"Volontaire depuis Novembre 1915 à la Section Sanitaire Américaine; a pris part aux évacuations d'une Division en Décembre et Janvier 1915 et aux missions périlleuses du 22 Juin au 2 Juillet 1916. Maintes fois expose’ a des bombardments violents, a ete a deux reprises atteint au visage et au corps par eclats d’obus pendant cette derniere periode.

The horror and carnage at Verdun made a deep impact on Waldo and in a letter to his mother he wrote that he had, “No desire to write or talk about it”, he chided her for her boastful pride in her warrior son, “You say no son of yours is afraid of torpedoes, etc. I say no relation of mine in his right senses isn’t scared to death.”




Waldo sent this letter to a professor friend of his at Harvard;

I SPENT the winter in Haute Alsace — around a certain old nubbin — "a protuberance of terra firma," a la Dr. Johnson — called Hartmannsweilerkopf. I wish to God I were still there.
When I was there I usually wished I were anywhere else in the world. The bottom of a sewer to the armpits and over in liquid manure would have seemed a wholesome and savory situation — provided the sewer were profound enough and the manure resistant enough to defy obus, and all their kind.
To see the old nubbin itself — spur of the Vosges, concealed between the parallel spurs — one must grind up the old mule paths — since broadened into fair wood roads — quite close. Leave the main arteries, go out toward a battery or observation paste, crawl into an old shell-hole, and where the trees have snapped like straws to the obus, take a good look through. Below you are still trees, but as the ground rises en face, they dwindle and disappear, as disappears all vegetation in great altitudes, or diminishes toward the north — quietly, quietly toward the ice-fields. Here, however, no great altitude, nor any ice-fields. First come the maimed trees, then the skeletons of those dead with their boots on, then a bare stump or two — a few ankle bones — then nothing. Before the war all was forest — and a damned thick one at that. Then, all this timber, grown to its prime, lulled into a false security, sun-basking en beau temps, buffeting and jostling their neighbors in the wind — crash one day out of a clear sky! . . . The nubbin, the old ridge, the spur, the razor-back, whatever you call it, loses its pelt; after its pelt, its hide; after that, its whole scorched anatomy is drubbed, hammered, ploughed, furrowed, ripped, scoured, torn, shattered — consult dictionary of synonyms — and beplastered with every calibre of obus that whines. For they whine, the bastards, they whine to tell you of their coming, and give the flesh a moment to goose itself in, and damned pagans like some of us to find a religion. No Moslem ever curved his vertebrae with a quicker parabola at the sight of Mecca — or the antics of the sun. No armadillo or ant-eater ever entrenched his proboscis in the ground with the despatch of our hero at the whine of an obus, to all intents and purposes about to land between the eyes. Mud, manure, . . . down into it, nose first, and make thy world therein, while she whines and whines overhead! Sometimes the whining becomes a drone, feebler and feebler — perhaps she is n't going to make the grade. You help her on her way with every muscle in your prostrate form. Once I dove into an abri, side of the road, and stuck at the entrance — a damned narrow passage, not for maternity girdles — leaving two friends outside, alternately pushing and pulling in vain. I was known as the human bouchon (stopper) thereafter — another man, the human "magnet," attracting always tons of metal. . . . Another man is called the human "earthworm," always to be found in a cellar or gutter. ... I have hit cellars too, consoling good nuns — sisters of charity of German stock, that is Alsatians — who gave me underclothes of the dead, gratefully received, for my sympathetic attitude. One was killed one day of bombardment in the valley. I wear still a good khaki jersey she gave me. I've forgotten her name — probably Ursula.

I started out to give you a description of our mountain. I left you peering through the gap in the trees — n'est-ce pas ? — Eh bien — before you, the old scalped nubbin — the most awful monument of war I have seen. It's inhabited, this mass of terra infirma — muy, muy inferma — as the Spaniard would say (this being Cervantes' tricentenary, have to heave in a bit of old Castilian). There are small ants of men who crawl about amid its boils, ruptures, and gaping sores. Some are French, some Boches. The lines are about a yard apart at the top, for no one side can hold it against the other, though taken and retaken many times. Thus they live together — only in the fear of killing one's own lies their security. It's a sort of terrific altar of war, against the sky, drenched with a thousand sacrifices, rising grim and naked, and scarred alive — the valley and her slopes treecovered. It was always a spectacle that chased the red corpuscles in my veins down into my heels, and brought every white one to the surface. The last time I looked at it, perhaps we were seen — we were there — the obus began whining at us from somewhere in Bocheland — I measured my length ... as I will measure it again. Somewhere on the Vosgean steep . . . there must be a perfect mould — the life-mask of one Peirce, conducteur d'ambulance. I have not seen the old nubbin since.

By autumn of 1916 S.S.U. 3 at the request of the French Government was asked to be sent to serve in the mountains of the Balkans as members of the French Army of the Orient then fighting at Salonika. It was at this point that Waldo retired from the Field Service. Details are sketchy but it appears that he alternately worked as a contract artist for the American Red Cross and may have actually worked for a short time as a member of the Secret Service. He remained in Paris throughout the war and well into the 1920’s.

Waldo traveled the world, ran with the bulls and Hemmingway in Pamplona, drank, ate and thoroughly enjoyed life to the fullest. He was married four times and had five children. His paintings hang in museums throughout the country. He died in Bangor, Maine in 1970. I sincerely count my self fortunate to be able to preserve a small piece of his history.

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  • Grouping_002.jpg

Edited by Mark M, 18 September 2010 - 03:03 PM.


#2 Croix de Guerre

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Posted 17 September 2010 - 05:57 PM

Some of the items in the group. Note the souvenir German trech signs.

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  • Grouping_005.jpg


#3 Croix de Guerre

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Posted 17 September 2010 - 05:58 PM

Some of the items in the group. Note the souvenir German trech signs.

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  • Grouping_007.jpg


#4 Croix de Guerre

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Posted 17 September 2010 - 06:01 PM

A photo from the book; "our Part in the Great War" by Arthur Gleason taken near Verdun in 1916. Note, Waldo is wearing the same coat as in this post.

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  • American_Ambulance_Hospital_01.jpg

Edited by Croix de Guerre, 17 September 2010 - 06:01 PM.


#5 jagjetta

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Posted 17 September 2010 - 06:12 PM

Outstanding group with some very fine research to back it up...an inspiration for what a collector can achieve! Thank you for sharing,
John

#6 Troy13

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Posted 17 September 2010 - 06:15 PM

Stunning.....simply stunning grouping.

Troy

#7 Croix de Guerre

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Posted 17 September 2010 - 06:19 PM

Some details of the uniform. A close up of the collar. Note the "flaming bombs" of the French Automobile Service. It is my theory that this tunic is in fact a circa 1915 American Ambulance tunic and it was reto-fitted with the "flaming bombs" in 1916. In the fall-winter of 1915 while at Hartsmannswielerkipf; the men of Section 3 were technically still under the authority of the American Hosptial in Paris. This is the difference with the term "field service" as opposed to those men that drove ambulances in Paris ferrying the wounded from the railheads to the hospital. On close examination of photographs depicting Waldo wearing what I believe is this uniform he is shown still wearing a red cross pin on his collar. After the American Field Service severed it's ties with the American Hospital in Paris, the Field Service fell under the direct authority of the French Automobile Service and it was at this point that the familar "flaming bomb" insignia was adopted.

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  • Grouping_002.jpg


#8 Croix de Guerre

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Posted 17 September 2010 - 06:21 PM

Some details of the uniform. A close up of the collar. Note the "flaming bombs" of the French Automobile Service. It is my theory that this tunic is in fact a circa 1915 American Ambulance tunic and it was reto-fitted with the "flaming bombs" in 1916. In the fall-winter of 1915 while at Hartsmannswielerkipf; the men of Section 3 were technically still under the authority of the American Hosptial in Paris. This is the difference with the term "field service" as opposed to those men that drove ambulances in Paris ferrying the wounded from the railheads to the hospital. On close examination of photographs depicting Waldo wearing what I believe is this uniform he is shown still wearing a red cross pin on his collar. After the American Field Service severed it's ties with the American Hospital in Paris, the Field Service fell under the direct authority of the French Automobile Service and it was at this point that the familar "flaming bomb" insignia was adopted.

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  • Grouping_006.jpg


#9 Croix de Guerre

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Posted 17 September 2010 - 06:24 PM

Close-up of one of the arm bands with the group. This one is permanently sewn to the sleeve.

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  • Grouping_004.jpg


#10 Croix de Guerre

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Posted 17 September 2010 - 06:25 PM

The second arm band found in the pocket.

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  • Grouping_008.jpg


#11 Croix de Guerre

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Posted 17 September 2010 - 06:27 PM

The second arm band found in the pocket.


But,,here is the kicker. :w00t:

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#12 Croix de Guerre

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Posted 17 September 2010 - 06:49 PM

This is the largest of the four German souvenir trench signs brought home by Waldo. It reads; "Verwundeten Lagerraum" which roughly translates as "Wounded Storage Room".

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  • Lagerraum_Sign.jpg


#13 Croix de Guerre

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Posted 17 September 2010 - 06:50 PM

This is the largest of the four German souvenir trench signs brought home by Waldo. It reads; "Verwundeten Lagerraum" which roughly translates as "Wounded Storage Room".

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  • Lagerraum_Sign_011.jpg


#14 Croix de Guerre

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Posted 17 September 2010 - 06:54 PM

Waldo was awarded the Croix de Guerre in 1916 for bravery in Hartsmannsweilerkopf and at Verdun. During the actual ceremony the details of the award were read aloud and the medal was pinned to Waldo's chest. After being kissed on the cheeks and saluted, he was given this piece of paper, the original transmittal document for his Croix. This is the only one of these I have ever seen. It is in it's original frame.

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  • Grouping_013.jpg


#15 Croix de Guerre

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Posted 17 September 2010 - 06:55 PM

Waldo was awarded the Croix de Guerre in 1916 for bravery in Hartsmannsweilerkopf and at Verdun. During the actual ceremony the details of the award were read aloud and the medal was pinned to Waldo's chest. After being kissed on the cheeks and saluted, he was given this piece of paper, the original transmittal document for his Croix. This is the only one of these I have ever seen. It is in it's original frame.

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  • Grouping_015.jpg


#16 disneydave

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Posted 17 September 2010 - 07:27 PM

I don't collect uniforms and such, but I thoroughly enjoyed this post and seeing these items. Thanks very much...just a great collection of material!

#17 Allan H.

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Posted 17 September 2010 - 09:04 PM

THis is truly a phenominal group and I appreciate getting to see it here on the forum. It is truly historic and unbelieveably rare. I also appreciate the time and effort that you went to in order to craft your displays as well as the time that it took to research and document the grouping.
Well done!
Allan

#18 Troy13

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Posted 17 September 2010 - 09:48 PM

*double post*



Why did I erase my double posting??? :pinch: This is a fantastic and very historic grouping. Seeing the display and knowing the story behind the man really brings everything to life. (I don't know if that makes any sense, but sometimes it is really hard to put into words how some things affect you).

Many thanks for sharing this.

Troy

#19 BEAST

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Posted 18 September 2010 - 02:18 AM

WOW! Tom, that's another nice AFS group! Great job telling his story also! :thumbsup:

#20 trenchbuff

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Posted 18 September 2010 - 06:06 AM

Tom, you just keep outdoing yourself! What a stunning group!

#21 normaninvasion

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Posted 18 September 2010 - 06:31 AM

Wow, that is an important grouping! You don't happen to have any of his artwork as well? I imagine his jacket is igger than normal, do to his size? He was quite the character. Does Harvard have a collection to Peirce? Very well done! Thanks for showing

#22 Belleauwood

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Posted 18 September 2010 - 07:13 AM

Tom, As you know, I've known of this group for a long time. My interest turned to Aviation and to the Marine Corps and away from the American Field Service, while you immersed yourself in the study of the AFS. This group of Pierce's certainly is ripe for research, and I can think of no person that will work on this archive harder than you. It truly is a remarkable group, and I dare say unique. Glad you wound up with it. I'm looking forward to your future postings.

Regards, DJ

Edited by Mark M, 18 September 2010 - 03:03 PM.


#23 Croix de Guerre

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Posted 18 September 2010 - 12:44 PM

Here are a few examples of the many photographs that came with this group. To the best of my knowledge this is the first time most of these have ever been published.

A photograph of a mule supply train making its way up the Hartsmannsweilerkopf, winter 1915. This is a good example of one of the many hazards of operating an ambulance on the Vosges front. Imagine yourself alone at the wheel of a Model T Ford driving down hill on this road in a snow storm in the dark of night, four moaning wounded soldiers in the back begging you to slow down as you bounce over shell holes, German "obus" or artillery screeching over head and exploding around you and then you encounter a column of panicked Missouri mules jostling you off to the side of the road, you knowing all the while there is a sheer drop off into oblivion just inches away!

And you volunteered for this!!!!!

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  • Mule_Train.JPG


#24 Croix de Guerre

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Posted 18 September 2010 - 12:52 PM

A great example of a photograph of a postes de secours or French forward aid station. The soldiers assigned to carrying stretcher were called in French brancardiers. Note in this photo the stretcher bearers are from the famed Chasseur de Alpine regiment known as the Blue Devils. These men were elite soldiers trained to fight in snowy mountainous regions and were much admired by the Ambulance drivers for their courage and esprit de corps

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  • Postes_de_Secours.JPG

Edited by Croix de Guerre, 18 September 2010 - 12:53 PM.


#25 Croix de Guerre

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Posted 18 September 2010 - 01:05 PM

Graham Carey (on left) and Waldo Peirce (on right) of S.S.U.3; Alsace winter of 1915.

Arthur Graham Carey served with Section 3 for 2 years and seven months from 1914 till 1917 when he then enlisted in the U.S. Army. Hailing from Cambridge, Massachusetts he attended Harvard recieving his A.B. degree in the Class of 1914. Promoted to the "sous-chef" he was the assistant commander of Section 3 when it served with the French Army of the Orient in Macedonia in 1917. He assumed this position after its original sous-chef Henry Suckley was killed in a German air raid. Carey enlisted in the U.S. Army, was commissioned a 2nd Lt. in the Field Artillery and served on the HQ staff of the 2nd Division. He was awarded the Croix de Guerre for bravery in 1915.

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  • Carey_and_Waldo.JPG

Edited by Croix de Guerre, 18 September 2010 - 01:05 PM.



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