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U.S. Army Ambulance Service, Section 539 Records, 1917-1941
1 records storage box, 1 oversize flat box (1.5 linear ft.)

Abstract:
World War I ambulance unit, recruited in Amherst, Massachusetts in June 1917 from Amherst College students and local residents. Collection consists of clippings, photographs, a photograph album, maps, books, correspondence, pay and enlistment records, and other materials documenting the activities of the U.S. Army Ambulance Service Section 539, also called S.S.U. 539, in France during World War I.

Terms of Access and Use:

Restrictions on access:

There is no restriction on access to the US Army Ambulance Service Section 539 Records for research use. Particularly fragile items may be restricted for preservation purposes.

Restrictions on use:

Requests for permission to publish material from the US Army Ambulance Service Section 539 Records should be directed to the Archives and Special Collections. It is the responsibility of the researcher to identify and satisfy the holders of all copyrights.

Amherst College Archives and Special Collections

Historical Note

This World War I ambulance unit, recruited in Amherst, Massachusetts in June 1917 from Amherst College students and local residents, comprised twenty-five Amherst College alumni and undergraduates, as well as thirty other soldiers, five officers, and eventually a number of French personnel. After training in Allentown PA, and departure on August 7, 1917, they arrived in France. Their original designation, unit 39, was amended to S.S.U. (Section Sanitare Unis) 539 on January 1, 1918. The unit adopted the image of the black cat for its insignia. Over nineteen months of service attached to both the French and U.S. Armies, it received two army citations and 22 individual citations, including the Croix de Guerre with Palm. It was involved in three major military operations: the Aisne-Marne, the Oise-Aisne, and the Ypres-Lys offensives. They also collaborated with the French army in four minor operations in the Tahure, Souvain, St.Hilaire, and Jumel sectors. The unit returned to America on April 2, 1919, and the majority of the Amherst soldiers were discharged on April 14, 1919 at Camp Devens, Massachusetts.

Scope and Contents of the Collection

Clippings, photographs, a photograph album, maps, books, correspondence, pay and enlistment records, and other materials documenting the activities of the U.S. Army Ambulance Service Section 539, also called S.S.U. 539, in France during World War I. Although the history of the unit is fully detailed in the albums, books and newspaper clippings, a significant amount of personal information is to be found as well, in correspondence, photographs and anecdotes; in particular, personal letters and other documents of Howell Shepard are included. Most of the Howell Shepard correspondence is to his father, Amherst postmaster Frederick Shepard. The rest of the correspondence consists of round-robin letters exchanged among the 51 former members and affiliates of the unit from 1920 to 1926.


Information on Use
Terms of Access and Use
Restrictions on access:

There is no restriction on access to the US Army Ambulance Service Section 539 Records for research use. Particularly fragile items may be restricted for preservation purposes.

Restrictions on use:

Requests for permission to publish material from the US Army Ambulance Service Section 539 Records should be directed to the Archives and Special Collections. It is the responsibility of the researcher to identify and satisfy the holders of all copyrights.

Preferred Citation

Please use the following format when citing materials from this collection:

[Identification of item], in US Army Ambulance Service, Section 539 Records [Box #, Folder #], Amherst College Archives and Special Collections, Amherst College Library

History of the Collection

Part of the collection was received in 1943 from Mr. Arthur Davenport. Another part was donated in 1981 by Hugh L. Hamilton (AC 1920) of New Providence, New Jersey. Accession numbers: 81-015 and 81-016

Processing Information
Processed:2003 June
By:Graham Leach-Krouse '05, Student Encoding Assistant


Additional Information
Contact Information
Amherst College Archives and Special Collections
Robert Frost Library
PO Box 5000
Amherst, MA 01002-5000

Phone: (413) 542-2299
Fax: (413) 542-2692

Email Reference Form: http://www.amherst.edu/library/archives/askus
URL: http://www.amherst.edu/library/archives
Language
English.
Sponsor
Encoding funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Contents List
Series 1: PHOTOGRAPHS, ca.
1917-1919


Series 1, PHOTOGRAPHS, ca. 1917-1919, contains a number of photographs, negatives, and a photograph album detailing the tour and membership of S.S.U. 539. There are a number of group photographs, and images of individuals, as well as images of Ypres, and various battlefields.

Photograph album
ca. 1917-1919

Box 1: folder 1
Group photographs
ca. 1917-1919

Box 1: folder 2
Photographs-Ypres
1918

Box 1: folder 3
Photographs-battlefield
1917-1918

Box 1: folder 4
Photographs - assorted (with negatives)
ca. 1917-1919

Box 1: folder 5
Photographs-assorted
ca. 1917-1919

Box 1: folder 6
Series 2: HOWELL SHEPARD,
1917-1920


Series 2, HOWELL SHEPARD, 1917-1920, is divided into three sub-series:

Correspondence (sub-series A): The correspondence is mainly between Shepard and his father, but contains miscellaneous letters to Shepard, and between his father and others as well.

Personal Affairs (sub-series B) contains a souvenir of 5 French francs, Howell Shepard's pay record book and his enlistment record.

Photographs (sub-series C) contains portraits of Howell Shepard. There are two undersized photographs, and a cross reference to a large portrait in the oversize box of the collection.

Sub-Series A: Correspondence



Outgoing correspondence
1917

Box 1: folder 7
Outgoing correspondence
1918

Box 1: folder 8
Outgoing correspondence
1919

Box 1: folder 9
Outgoing correspondence
n.d.

Box 1: folder 10
Incoming correspondence
ca. 1917-1919

Box 1: folder 11
Envelopes
n.d.

Box 1: folder 12
Miscellaneous
ca. 1919

Box 1: folder 13
Sub-Series B: Personal Affairs



Pay record book, 5 French francs
1919-1920

Box 1: folder 14
Enlistment records
1917

Box 1: folder 15
Sub-Series C: Photographs



Howell Shepard, portraits
ca. 1917-1919

Box 1: folder 16
Mounted photograph, Howell Shepard, portrait
n.d.

Box OS-1: folder 1
Series 3: MAPS, ca.
1917-1918


Series 3, MAPS, ca. 1917-1918, contains two cloth-backed paper maps featuring the northeast Luxembourg frontier and the northeast area of Paris.

Maps of northeast Luxembourg frontier and northeast Paris
ca. 1917-1918

Box 1: folder 17
Series 4: NEWSPAPER CLIPPINGS,
1917-1941 (bulk 1917-1919)


Series 4, NEWSPAPER CLIPPINGS, 1917-1941 (bulk 1917-1919), contains clippings mainly concerning the decoration of S.S.U. 539, especially Howell Shepard's Croix de Guerre, and the unit's subsequent decision to donate their colors to Amherst College. A 1941 article deals with Shepard's resignation from the Andover board of selectmen.

Newspaper Clippings
1917-1941 (bulk 1917-1919)

Box 1: folder 18
Original Newspaper (photocopy in Box 1, Folder 18)
1941

Box OS-1: folder 3
Series 5: EPHEMERA,
1933, 1928, and n.d.


Series 5, EPHEMERA AND OTHER MATERIALS, 1933, 1928, and n.d., contains French wedding invitations, an S.S.U. 539 New Year's card, "Black Cat" stationery, a rail ticket, and the cast of characters for a play, "The Nut's Revenge," and a poster featuring a specimen of a "fancy cancel" designed by postmaster Frederick Shepard and modeled after S.S.U. 539's insignia, father of Howell Shepard; it was used briefly in 1928 as a postage stamp cancel.

Wedding invitations, stationery, "The Nut's Revenge", New Year's card, rail ticket
1933, n.d.

Box 1: folder 19
Cross-reference to poster with information on "fancy cancel" featuring black cat insignia and used briefly in Amherst post office
1928

Box 1: folder 20
Series 6: CORRESPONDENCE,
1920-1926


Series 6, CORRESPONDENCE, 1920-1926, contains a volume of round-robin letters exchanged among members of S.S.U. 539 after the war.

Volume of round-robin letters sent between members of S.S.U. 539
1920-1926

Box 1: folder 21
Series 7: ALBUMS, ca.
1920


Series 7, ALBUMS, ca. 1920, contains three copies of a commemorative photographs album featuring information about the unit. It includes a roster of membership, a long narrative of the unit's history by John H. Bocock, information on citations and orders, maps, a number of poems and articles about the war, and miscellaneous humorous lists and cartoons.

Photograph album (3 copies)
ca. 1920

Box OS-1: folder 2

Search Terms
The following terms represent persons, organizations, and topics documented in this collection. Use these headings to search for additional materials on this web site, in the Five College Library Catalog, or in other library catalogs and databases.

Subjects
  • Ambulance drivers--United States.
  • Amherst College--Students.
  • Shepard, Howell.
  • United States. Army Ambulance Service. Section 539.
  • World War, 1914-1918--Education and the war.
  • World War, 1914-1918--Medical care--France.
  • World War, 1914-1918--Medical care--United States.

Contributors
  • Shepard, Howell.


Questions about this collection? Contact the archives
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