Grandpa's World War I Service

In these letters, Harvey Ladew Williams II recounts his time as an ambulance driver in France and Italy during World War I.

He enrolled at Harvard University at sixteen years of age, in September, 1916, and took a leave the next spring to join the war effort. Too young for the American military services, he joined a fledgling organization called the American Field Service and set off to France as an ambulance driver.

He served two tours of duty: seven months in France and six months in Italy, separated by six months at home. On December 2, 1918, he sailed into New York Harbor after celebrating the Armistice in Paris.

The letters he wrote to his family and friends were typed and assembled in albums, presumably by his mother, Hannah Haydock Willis Locke, known to the family as "Granny Locke". Photos and papers were also bound and preserved. I found these in some boxes of papers I inherited after he passed away.

These papers reflect a time and attitude in America very different than today. I hope that both family members and historians interested in the early twentieth century will find these papers of value.

The index of letters