Armco Ambulance Corps tends to wounded in WWI France
During times of crisis Americans and American industry are always ready to step up.
It’s in our blood.
This month, as we celebrate the 100th anniversary of the signing of the Armistice that ended World War I, MidPointe Library salutes the local citizens who stepped up to :
Fight the battles.
Drive the ambulances.
Finance the “Liberty Loans” (war bonds).
Produce the munitions, the goods and services that America needed.
And make the ultimate sacrifice during war.
In today’s Throwback Thursday historical blog, we focus on the bravery of the men of the Armco Ambulance Corps who volunteered to transport the wounded to medical aid in wartorn France during World War I. Their correspondence to the folks back home provides an up-close-and-personal look at war on a continent far, far away.
Those communications comprise perhaps the most riveting physical display ever presented at MidPointe Library-Middletown. Located in the Local History and Genealogy Gallery, it includes letters, photographs, and a telegram that depict the reality of war as well as the warm welcome the Corps received when its members returned home.
The Armco Ambulance drivers’ story also unfolds on a nearby 70-inch interactive touchscreen. Additionally, the “Armco Ambulance Corps Collection” is featured on MidPointe Library’s Digital Archives, said Adam Wanter, Digital and Special Collections Archivist. It’s available for viewing at: http://www.midpointedigitalarchives.org/digital/collection/p16488coll15.
Altogether, the collection includes more than one hundred letters written by ambulance corpsmen and eighty-one pieces of correspondence written by then-Armco President George M. Verity, who presided over one of the country’s most important industrial plants. Newspaper clippings and other ephemera related to World War I are also included in the collection, Wanter said.
Parts of the collection were originally curated by the Middletown Historical Society. “Through their generosity and dedication to preserving local history we at MidPointe Library are able to make this digital collection available,” Wanter continued. “We also want to extend a special ‘thank you’ to AK Steel (formerly Armco Steel Corporation).”
Wanter will present a free program on “The Armco Ambulance Corps in World War I” Monday, November 12, at 6:30 p.m. at MidPointe-Middletown’s Community Room, 125 South Main Street. The program is part of the Library’s monthly History and Genealogy Speaker Series.
Indeed, the story of the Armco Ambulance Corps is one of courage and duty.
The Corps was formed in the summer of 1917, shortly after the United States entered World War I, Wanter said. Armco and its employees were eager to directly participate in the war effort. The creation of an ambulance corps that would work in cooperation with the Red Cross was their solution.
Fifteen Armco employees were chosen for ambulance duty from the many who volunteered. In August 1917 they left Middletown for New York City, destined for France and an important duty : to transport the wounded from the trenches of front-line battle to field hospitals behind the lines.
The Armco Ambulance Corpsmen included James E. Bryan, Victor S. Collord, Sidney E. Graeff, Newman Ebersole, Scheck Simpson, Vaughan Horner, John B. Marshall, J. Morace Beard, Albert P. Preyer, Raymond P. Myers, Horace W. Rinearson, Sidney S. Gold, William P. Pease, Raymond T. Maneely (Zanesville plant) and Lee L. Ware.
“The men were tasked with driving, either by themselves or with a co-driver, automobiles during the heat of battle,” Wanter said. “Often the drivers would be forced to do so in the dark of night without headlights and under the constant fire of artillery.”
Even in the beginning the group did not go unnoticed. In an August 7, 1917, Western Union telegram to one of the corpsmen, Newman Ebersole, Armco President Verity extolled the corps’s service:
“Your corps has the distinction of being the first authorized group of American men ever given the opportunity of demonstrating Armco spirit in any international service to say nothing of that opportunity being connected with the greatest tragedy in all history. The good wishes and hearty support of your five thousand associates at home should be a constant source of inspiration to you all…”
In time, the drivers’ association with the Red Cross ended because the United States began to absorb ambulance units composed of Americans into military service. As a result, all fifteen Armco employees in the ambulance corps enlisted with “Uncle Sam” and all but one remained ambulance drivers.
Interestingly, despite enlisting in the U.S. forces, the Armco men served in “Ambulance Service Section 646” under the command of the French army, Wanter said. Stationed primarily in the Aisne Sector of the Western Front, they transported the wounded in the Battle of La Malmaison, the retreats of 1918 and the 100-Days Offensives. They served alongside the famous French Chasseurs Alpins and the highly decorated 2nd Moroccan Division.
To show its appreciation to the brave American ambulance drivers, France awarded the corps and several individuals prestigious awards for heroism, including the famous Croix de Guerre and the Fourragere.
Accompanying this TBT blog are photos of:
World War I ambulances on a battlefield between 1915 and 1920
Adam Wanter, MidPointe Library Digital and Special Collections Archivist
Members of the Armco Ambulance Corps. Image from “Armco Men In The World War 1914-1918” from the Cincinnati Museum Center available at https://www.cincymuseum.org/blog/wwi-armco-men-first-world-war#. The image can also be found in the book, “Armco Men Who Served Their Country in the Army-Navy or Marine Corps during the World War 1914-1918,” also by the American Rolling Mill Co., available at MidPointe Library-Middletown.
Front page of an “Armco Bulletin” welcoming home Armco Ambulance Corps members c. 1919. Bound copies of the Armco Bulletin are available for reading in the MidPointe Library-Middletown Ohio Room.