Gentlemen Volunteers: The Story of the American Ambulance Drivers in the Great War
The tale of the American volunteer ambulance drivers of the First World War is one of gallantry amid gore, manners amid madness. Until now this stirring example of wartime courage has been recounted only in fragments. Arlen J. Hansen's Gentlemen Volunteers brings to life the entire story of the men - and women - who formed the first ambulance corps, and who went on to redefine American culture. Some were to become legends - Ernest Hemingway, E. E. Cummings, John Dos Passos, Malcolm Cowley, Walt Disney, Dashiell Hammett - but all were part of a generation seeking something greater and grander than what they could find at home. What the volunteers found in France was carnage on an unprecedented scale. Shrapnel and barbed wire, the machine gun, flamethrower, and poison gas - all then-recent inventions - were producing casualties that overwhelmed medical facilities. Wounded soldiers spent hours, sometimes days, lying in squalor while waiting to be transported to hospitals on horse-drawn wagons. What was most critical was to get the wounded from the front lines to the field hospitals, and quickly. It was here that the ambulance drivers covered themselves in mud and glory. Featuring firsthand accounts, letters and diaries, and a trove of previously unpublished and rare archival material, Gentlemen Volunteers is the definitive book on this fascinating chapter in American history.