just think that in five days the Croix de Guerre will be presented to the
section, and pinned upon this beautiful flag, for our unit has been cited for its
splendid work, and it has been officially announced that we have a Croix de
Guerre coming. Hasn’t Stanford a right to be proud?”
Summer 1917, American volunteer Arthur Clifford Kimber.
In 1917, when the United States entered the war, he left Stanford University to
carry the first official American flag to the Western Front. He stayed in
France as a volunteer ambulance driver, before becoming a fighter pilot. Sadly,
he was killed in action, on September 26,
1918, the first day of the Meuse-Argonne offensive, one of the last great
drives of the war.
Story of the First Flag – Photo: 1917, in Champagne
sector, France, The American flag proudly displayed on an American ambulance. Source:
Awesome photo featured in article “Volunteer Ambulance Services” by Patrick
Gregory, also co-author of the book “An American on the Western Front: The First World War
Letters of Arthur Clifford Kimber, 1917-18” @1914-1918-online. International Encyclopedia of the First World
“Almost at once sprang among us an
idealistic spirit, which made us one unit. So, because of this spirit, drudgery
became rather a play and discomfort less hard to bear. We saw the good in
each other and grew strangely tolerant. Danger became vastly less important
than getting to a poste, and never once was there hesitation in going
where ordered; never once was there a second call for volunteers.”
1917, American ambulance driver’s notes – History of the American Field Service in France. Photo: September 1917 – American ambulance drivers in Chassemy, Aisne, France. (Great slideshow: La Grande Guerre des Américains : des voulontaires pour la France and a aweet colorized photo of these same drivers)
August 21 1914, when the war eclipsed the eclipse
‘August 21 191, Paris – Twentieth day of mobilization. Threatening
weather with overcast sky. Northwesterly wind. Temperature at 5 P.M. 19
degrees centigrade. No clouds prevented the eclipse of the sun from being seen
in Paris. Most people however were profoundly indifferent to the celestial
phenomena. Thousands of foreign volunteers assembled on
the Esplanade des Invalides this morning to offer their services for the war.
These young foreigners are strong, active, and have all received more or less
military training. They marched through the streets in detachments of two
to six hundred, grouped together according to nationalities, bearing French
flags alongside flags of their own countries. There were about five thousand
Russians, five thousand Italians, two thousand Belgians, numerous Czecs, Slavs,
Roumanians, and Armenians, together with smaller contingents of Americans,
British, and Greeks’
War Days: Diary of an American in Paris – Photo: August 21 1914, American volunteers in Paris.
Meanwhile, at home.
1917, flag shop, Brooklyn Navy Yard – A
man and women at work. Library of Congress
is now en repos, but we are
expecting to move to the front any day. The country here is most beautiful; it’s hard to believe that a few miles away the Germans have
lost 800,000 men and have failed in their attacks. I wish I could tell you
where we are, but I can’t. The boys all go swimming in a neighboring canal — lots of fun! Our food is well cooked
and plenteous. We are comfortable and warm at night; will send pictures of our
quarters as soon as I can. The flag presentation has not yet taken place, but
will in a day or so with all the military splendor that one could hope for. A French military band will play; companies of
French soldiers will march, and I will hand the flag over to the French General in charge, after making my speech, and he
will present it to our Lieutenant, both making proper addresses. I will
write you more about it after the ceremony. I will also send you pictures.’
Young American ambulance driver whose mission was to bring the
very first official American flag to the French front.
Mission accomplished, the First Flag had arrived!
June 1917, the flag was unfurled in France near the village of Tréveray in
the Meuse department in France – First Flag, An American
on the Western Front – Photo: 1917, en repos and having fun – Gallica.
Running a tight ship.
WW1 – Training on board an American Navy ship. Gallica France.
June 1st 1917 – Arthur C Kimber,
young student from Stanford University, volunteer ambulance driver, and later aviator, leaves Paris for Ligny-en-Barrois with the mission to deliver America’s first official Government flag to be unfurled on the batteflields of Europe
after US entry into the war. More about this awesome story here and here.
‘May 30 1917 – This was Decoration Day. We put up a flag, and we all lined up and
officially saluted. It was the first time that we
observed such ceremony!’
American ambulance driver’s diary in Muizon, France – From Poilu to Yank