71 West 23rd Street
New York, NY 10010
AFS was founded by American-born A. Piatt Andrew (1873-1936). In 1915, Andrew secured from the French Army an authorization for American volunteer ambulance units to serve with the French divisions at the front to rescue soldiers who were wounded in battle. AFS was the first organization to be granted this privilege. Andrew built up an organization that sent more than 2,500 volunteers to aid France prior to U.S. entry into the war. Under his leadership, AFS took part in every great battle in which French troops were engaged between 1915 and 1917, until the U.S. entered the war.
Stephen Galatti, an AFS ambulance driver, became Director General of the organization in 1936 and reactivated AFS in 1939, when the Second World War started. From 1940 until 1945, the AFS volunteer ambulance drivers served in France, North Africa, the Middle East, Italy, France, Germany and in India and Burma. Its 2,200 men carried more than 700,000 casualties. For many of the volunteers in both wars, it was their first experience with the wider world beyond the United States. These volunteers, all men, as the mores of the times dictated, represent an important part of American history and are an exemplary testimony to the value and spirit of volunteerism. The records document the history and gallant service of American volunteers during WWII and the post-war creation of the AFS exchange programs. The programs began by bringing the children of our former enemies to live with American families within a few years of the end of the war and later sent thousands of young Americans from all ranks of society abroad, thus inventing a new form of U.S. public diplomacy. The records are evidence of the U.S. post-war cultural shift that welcomed and engaged in public diplomacy and sharing of the societal and cultural norms of other countries and communities.