The American Ambulance

Over the course of this curriculum, we have discussed a wide variety of topics. We have discussed the influence of women during World War I. We have also discussed the impact and influence African Americans had on the war effort. Though we may have touched lightly about this subject, the topic about hospitals was rarely discussed. Interested, I looked through the archive of pamphlets, and this specific pamphlet immediately caught my eye. The pamphlet is titled The American Ambulance, and it was written by Mr. Robert Bacon, President of the Board of Governors of the American Hospital in Paris.

This pamphlet discusses the activities and history of the American Ambulance Hospital of Paris. What originally was a letter to Mr. Henry W. Anderson, President of the War Relief Association of Virginia, is now archived as a pamphlet here in the University of Richmond’s library. This letter describes that two years before Mr. Bacon wrote this letter, on September 6th the American Ambulance Hospital of Paris took in their first wounded soldier. This hospital consisted of devoted American surgeons, doctors, nurses, and helpers, who all volunteered their services in order to help France during their time of need.

This hospital was erected as a sign of gratitude towards France because the nation of France was there to help the American nation when they were struggling for national independence. Therefore, America’s offer to establish a hospital in Paris was gladly received by the French government. What originally was a large unfinished school-building in Neuilly, was transformed into a hospital in less than three weeks. This hospital would be able to care for 575 wounded. Also, for about 900 patients who had been treated but require additional surgical and medical attention are placed in an auxiliary, near the hospital, that is regularly visited by the staff. Along with this hospital, through the generosity of Mrs. Harry Payne Whitney, Hospital “B” was erected, where 200 additional patients are cared for.

The medical staff is composed of approximately eighty trained nurses and seventy auxiliaries. However, what makes this medical staff so amazing is the fact that they do their job while receiving a payment of $35.00 a month, which is about a quarter of the salary they would normally receive in the United States. Therefore, these individuals gave up the monetary gain, in order to assist those in need in Paris. The hospital itself receives an annual budget of $400,000, which is money entirely raised by contributions from America. With this money, they pay the staff and pay for the supplies. Also, they use this money to ensure that the patients were not being overcharged. When the hospital was first opened, the daily cost for a patient was $1.60. During the second year, the price rose to $2.00, due to the increased price of food.

The erection of this hospital is greatly appreciated by the French. The French believed that the personal service of American volunteers truly connected the feeling of friendship between the two countries. The gratitude of the American Ambulance had been recognized by all, and leading military authorities praised the American Ambulance as the highest type of military hospital in Europe. As a result of this gratitude, General Joffre said this, “The United States of America have not forgotten that the first page of the history of their independence was written with a little of the blood of France.” He said this recognizing the bravery young American men went showed by giving up their comfortable lives back home, in order to risk their lives and serve the French people.

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One Response to The American Ambulance

  1. Eric Yellin says:

    Well, both the Linker and Barry readings addressed hospitals in the war. But you’re right that there’s much more to know, so this is an interesting pamphlet. It’s doubly interesting because the recipient was in our own state of Virginia. Did you get any sense of why? Moreover, given that the letter was reproduced as a pamphlet, we need to consider the intended audience here. Why would someone pay to reproduce this letter? What propagandistic goal might it help meet? Digging more into the purpose and production of this source might yield some analytic answers to these questions.

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