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