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American Field Service, France 1916, USMC France 1917-19


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William Lawrence Clark was born on July 16, 1897, in New York City. He was a student at Columbia University where he was recruited to be an ambulance driver for the American Field Service in France. Clark served with the AFS transporting wounded French soldiers from the front to the closest hospital for six months during 1916. The AFS was created as the ambulance arm of the American Hospital of Paris. They actively recruited its drivers from the campuses of American colleges and universities. Individual ambulance units were made up exclusively of drivers from particular universities. All drivers worked without pay, and ambulance driving required the volunteers to serve under extremely dangerous missions at the front. After returning home from France, Clark joined the United States Marine Corps in 1917. He served with Company M, 13th Regiment, 5th Brigade as a military police sergeant in France and Germany until 1919. On October 23, 1919, Clark was appointed as a second lieutenant in the 12th Regiment New York National Guard. Clark resigned from the National Guard as a lieutenant colonel in 1926. Clark worked as an engineer until accepting a position as curator of Mediaeval and Modern Coins, at the American Numismatic Society, New York City, New York, in March of 1937. He retired August 1, 1962. William Lawrence Clark died on August 16, 1971.

 

 

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Magnificent! Thank you SO much for writing this up and sharing!

 

John

Top dollar paid for WWI AEF Tank Corps uniforms, medal groups, equipment and photos,
unit histories and rosters...especially anything associated with

301st (Heavy) Tank Bn
Drop me an email and let me know what you have.

 

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Great write up on this brave man. Thanks for sharing.

Collecting WWI 26th Division Machine Gun and Infantry related Helmets, Equipment, Groupings, Photos and Dog Tags!


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Clark was the curator of Mediaeval and Modern Coins, at the American Numismatic Society, New York City, New York, from March of 1937 until he retired on August 1, 1962. William Lawrence Clark received this piece as a joke when he retired from the ANS.

 

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Incredible AFS Ambulance grouping and then the follow-up USMC & NY Guard stuff.... Awesome!

"There is no such thing as an expert, only students with different levels of education."
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Fascinating! Any idea why he went from SGT to PVT in the USMC between 1918 and 1919?

Only a weak society needs government protection or intervention before it pursues its resolve to preserve the truth. Truth needs neither handcuffs nor a badge for its vindication. -Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy

Peace is not the absence of war, but the defense of hard-won freedom. -Anton LaGuardia


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Thanks for the comments. Dave, I have no idea why he was reduced to Private. I have all of his original papers and they all say Very Good. This is one of my favorite groups. I should re-post one of my other favorites, the Russian group.

Dick

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  • 2 years later...

Truly an amazing group of artifacts but also it raises many questions.  Please don't infer my questions as doubting the validity of the group, but they are simply my efforts to decipher the clues presented before me.  These questions are not indictments,  I'm just ticking off puzzling clues.  I exclusively collect AFS and American Ambulance material, which doesn't in any way make e an expert but I have been studying these men for fairly long period of time.  

 

What I do know is William Lawrence Clark is an omit from the final roster of the American Field Service.  Meaning that he was left off the final roll.  That doesn't mean an immediate disqualification as some mistakes were made or some unknown transgressions were possible committed by the volunteer.  Likewise I cannot find his name listed in any AFS Bulletin or reunion which again doesn't mean much.  

 

The collection of artifacts are very interesting. It appears that his first service and possibly only was with the "Paris Squad" which was the name given to the squad of ambulances assigned to the American Ambulance Hospital of Paris which was located in the Lycée Pasteur building in Neuilly-sur-Siene.  By the middle of 1916 there was a break in the relationship between the director of the American Field Service, A. Piatt Andrew and the Transportation Committee of the American Ambulance Hospital.  The pink card is his French drivers license one of the first of many documents he would've been required to get in order to operate a motor vehicle in France.  The little book to me is one of the coolest items in the ambulance material. as it is his "pick-up" booklet, that he would've used to document the wounded he picked up at the Paris train station at La Chappel and the destination hospital that he was directed to take his blessés or wounded.  He would place the carbon paper in-between, write the appropriate information and then when he arrived at whatever hospital he was assigned to, he would then tear out the top copy, leaving his carbon record in his booklet. The tag marked "American Ambulance Neuilly Paris France" is very interesting.  I've never seen on before and my best educated guess is that is was a luggage tag that was attached to his suitcase or steamer trunk when he loaded all his gear aboard ship to go back home.

 

The small pin with the "six months" service bar is his American Ambulance Service medal, which was awarded by the hospital and not by the AFS.  The "winged badge" as you probably know was his drivers cap badge.  This style of badge was worn by both the Paris Squad and the AFS men at the same time but was fazed out of use by the AFS in late 1916, 1917.  The cloth flaming bomb patch is a collar device, issued by the French government's Automobile Service.  The "A" stood for "Automobile" rather than ambulance.  By 1916, the French Automobile service has assumed nominal control over all of the volunteer ambulance units, including the Paris Squad.  Now the other insignia starts to get puzzling.  He has a discharge letter complementing him on his service and signed in October 1916 by A.W. Kipling "Captain of Ambulances" from the American Ambulance Hospital.  This means he was employed by the American Ambulance until October 1916.  It had to have been at this point that he went over a signed up with the American Field Service but based upon other evidence he would not have had anytime to volunteer with them.  By October 1916 they were an entirely separate service, with the own headquarters at 21 Rue Raynuard, Paris.  But again, no record of him ever joining up.  Passenger records from the SS Lafayette have him arriving back in the US on October 16, 1916 so that rules out any actually "field service" with the AFS.  However, he did receive his AFS Service Medal, signed by Henry Sleeper (A State-Side Representative of the AFS).  His medal is engraved 1916.  This would've been done either by him or a jeweler post-war as the medal were not issued until the early 1920's and were not engraved.  One possible explanation is that he volunteered with the American Field Service, but once in Paris, for whatever reason he never went out into "The Field" and did his volunteer period with the Paris Squad but got credit for joining the American Field Service at first.  There is a passport issued to him in February of 1916, but unlike most there is no mention of his intention to volunteer with any ambulance or relief work which is what you normally see, so that rules that out.  He traveled with his mom and dad and did go to Paris prior to March 1916, so he may have volunteered once he got to Paris and saw the work they were doing.  I still can't figure out why he has all the US Army ambulance stuff.  He never served with them.  

 

 Then he has all of that US Army Ambulance Service material,,shoulder patches from post-Armistice 1919, a service medal from the US Army Ambulance service association which was only for men that had served in the USAAS,,not the AFS. His USMC records had him at Paris Island in December 1917.  He seems to have spent the entire was a Marine and had no time whatsoever driving an ambulance for the US Army Ambulance Service.  In that great picture, you can see his is wearing his American Ambulance pin on his Marine uniform!  Most of the former AFS guys that enlisted in the US Army as ambulance drivers did so in the field.  US Army recruiters actually drove out to their French camps and signed them up.  One day your driving an ambulance for the French as a member of the American Field Service, the nest day you are driving an ambulance for the French as a member of the US Army Ambulance Corps.

 

It is a very cool, interesting and puzzling group of artifacts.  (By the way, I used to own a postcard sized photo of him a few years ago but it was unidentified.)

WANTED TO BUY OR TRADE - AMERICAN FIELD SERVICE, NORTON-HARJES AMBULANCE CORPS, AMERICAN RED CROSS IN ITALY, CZECH AND POLISH LEGIONS AND ANY ARTIFACTS ASSOCIATED WITH AMERICANS THAT SERVED IN FOREIGN ARMIES IN WORLD WAR ONE

 

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"Je meurs content, puisque nous sommes victorieux! Vive la France!

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All of this material was in the collection of George Pradarits who bought it from the family in the 1960's. My guess on the army stuff is that since he was in the AFS and wore the pin on his uniform people gave him ambulance stuff or he asked for it. I never bothered getting his USMC records since I have so much original paperwork. It is anyone's guess what happened in France over one hundred years ago.

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  • 1 month later...

Kanemono, Sending you a private message.

WANTED TO BUY OR TRADE - AMERICAN FIELD SERVICE, NORTON-HARJES AMBULANCE CORPS, AMERICAN RED CROSS IN ITALY, CZECH AND POLISH LEGIONS AND ANY ARTIFACTS ASSOCIATED WITH AMERICANS THAT SERVED IN FOREIGN ARMIES IN WORLD WAR ONE

 

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ecSXx.jpg

 

"Je meurs content, puisque nous sommes victorieux! Vive la France!

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