Andrew W. Mellon Undergraduate Fellow in the Humanities
2007—2008 Forum on Origins
William A. Rich and the American Field Service: An Inquiry into the Social Consciousness of the World War II Generation
The broad focus of my research is the role of the American Field Service (AFS), a volunteer ambulance driver’s organization during World War Two. I am exploring the role of volunteers in war through the experience of one group of the AFS, “D” platoon. My grandfather, William A. Rich, served with the AFS in “D” platoon from its creation September 1942 until it disbanded in December 1945. The platoon was attached to British armies in North Africa, the Middle East, Italy, Holland, Germany, and finally India. While overseas, he wrote over 600 letters, half to his immediate family, and half to his girlfriend of the time. The breadth of his experiences and the fact that he was a volunteer for the entirety of the war are of special interest.