This photo is of a North Carolina WWI Army volunteer, also a Princeton grad I am researching. According to the photo this was his third ambulance during the war. My first is question is the six digit number beside the Red Cross emblem a military assigned number? Second question is concerning number behind the siren, is this some type of unit identification? Thank You, Stephen
Stephen, I think you're right on the numbers. In WWII and later, our military used numbers like: USA followed by a 7 or 8 digit number often on both sides of the hood, and a unit number on the bumper.
Some of you may have more knowledge on this. Ron in Mass.?
Thank you Keith
I was familiar with the WWII markings as Dad served as an ordinance officer in WWII and was in charge of a vehicle assembly plant in England. My assigned Army vehicle in Vietnam had similar markings!
TY Again Stephen
Here's what little I found out when I researched numbers for my War Wagon. The US had not adopted the vehicle registration system until after the war. Just as it had not adopted a uniform standard for olive drab paint.
Any numbering on vehicles would have been very basic and numbers usually had only 4 or 5 digits with the first digut being a 1 for a passenger vehicle and a 2 if it was a light truck. The next few digits were the order in which they were assigned to a unit and if the numbers were followed by an X, the vehicle was conscripted for service and expected to be returned to the owener after hostilities. There were no uniform standards as to font, size or location of numbers and identification.
If you look at photos of WWI ambulances, you will find almost as many different size white circles and red crosses as there are ambulances.
In addition, the Ambulance Corp was a separate military entity and ambulances would not be assigned to a particular unit like jeeps and staff cars were in the second Wrld War.
Having said all that, I am sure the numbers on this photo mean something and should be able to be traced to a branch of service or sector. The beginning of the word America means that it was in service during the 8 months that the US military was in action in WWI.
If someone can post the numbers and words so my computer can read them to me, I will try and help.
Now you know what I know.
Another forum member sent me this link:
Robert,stumbled across this online. Check Page 129 and on.
The number next to the red cross is the French registration number. As it is a American Field Service ambulance it was registered under a French registration because the AFS resorted under the french army medical Headquarters. The number on the side of the seat is the AFS number, every car that was bought by the AFS got a number in the order of purchase so this was the 976th car. The story of the AFS is a very fascinating story, the AFS still exists and are a student exchange organisation now.
The AFS have a very good website with all their archives digitized, so you're bound to find a lot more info on the driver there.
Hello again Stephen,
Some extra info that will make your search easier, The man in the foto was not an Army volunteer, he was obviously with the AFS. The AFS was a volunteer organisation that provided Hospitals and Transportation services (not only ambulances but later in the war also regular transports) to the French. The picture looks like a picture taken by the AFS, almost all AFS drivers and their ambulances were photographed and are still available through the AFS archives, comparing your hpoto with those in the AFS archives should provide you with a name and that should lead you to his AFS service records.
Good luck with your research !
Pretty neat stuff.
PBS ran a program about the WWI Model T ambulance drivers over the weekend. It went over the history of the AFS and did some in depth stories about some of their drivers. I'm not too sure about the stories of the drivers using warm water from the radiators to make coffee as reported by their Model T "expert", but it was worth watching. I haven't checked, but it may be on the PBS website (KPBS in San Diego)
With a new engine, radiator, and hoses there would have been minimal rust etc. And they probably filtered the water they poured into the radiator if they followed the Instruction Book (owner's manual) (ref: http://www.mtfca.com/books/1911Inst.htm in 1911 it said: "Fill the Water Tank, which is incorporated in the radiator, with clean, fresh water, preferably straining it through muslin or other similar material to prevent foreign matter getting into the small tubes." There is even a good chance that the radiator water was better quality than some of the water that was available to make coffee near the front. And it was already hot.
Obviously they would not do it if any sort of poisonous antifreeze had been used. But as late the early 1970s we routinely used plain water and drained the water out of our T after we drove it during the winter.
Note folks in the military or supporting the military are often very resourceful. During WWII it was not unheard of for fighter pilots to take off a plane with the ammunition trays filled with cans of beer instead of ammo. Why? Because as they climbed to altitude the temperature drops a lot. After a little whild of circling high above the field they would come back and land so folks could have a "cold one." Ref the book "The Checkertail Clan" available at: https://www.amazon.com/Checkertail-Clan-325th-Fighter-Africa/dp/0816897506 -- my Father-in-law was a member of that group.
Hap l9l5 cut off
According to Arlen J. Hansen, in "Gentlemen Volunteers" (about the AFS in WW1) the ambulances were painted slate blue (also called "war grey".
A poem from one of the ambulance drivers:
The Ford is my car;
I shall not want another.
It maketh me to lie down in wet places;
It soileth my soul;
It leadeth me into deep waters;
It leadeth me into paths of ridicule for its name's sake;
It prepareth a breakdown for me
In the presence of mine enemies.
Yea, though I run through the valleys,I am
Towed up the hill;
I fear great evil when it is with me.
Its rods and its engines discomfort me;
It annointeth my face with oil;
Its tank runneth over.
Surely to goodness if this thing follow me
All the days of my life,
I shall dwell in the house of the insane forever.