Sunday, November 11, 2018

Armistice Day and the Robert Frank Hodge World War I Papers

By Sara Horne

November 11 marks 100 years since the signing of the Armistice that ended World War I. Here at the Tennessee State Library and Archives, we are lucky to house many collections that help us understand and honor Tennesseans who took part “Over There.” One such collection is the Robert Frank Hodge World War I Papers.

 Robert Francis (Frank) Hodge was born July 7, 1893, in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Frank attended Chattanooga High School and then the University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee.

Robert Francis (Frank) Hodge in uniform. Hodge served as a private and clerk for his unit in France.

Shortly after the United States joined the war on the Allied side, the French high command requested 6,000 volunteer Americans to man field ambulances on the Western Front. That call was directed mainly at college men, initially from Ivy League and eastern universities, to join the American Field Service (AFS), an American volunteer ambulance corps under the French Army. In May 1917, while still a student at the University of the South, Hodge joined the 36-man unit recruited from Sewanee. Once in France, the AFS was divided into smaller sections called Sections Sanitaire [Etats-] Unis (SSU). Hodge and the other Sewanee men formed SSU 558, in which he served as a private and clerk.

David Van Alstyne Jr. commanded SSU 558 and kept journals (placed in Hodge’s care as clerk) where he recorded when the unit transfers to a new city or village and his responsibilities and actions during their time in France. On Armistice Day he writes, “we hollered” and it was “the beginning of a perfect day.”

Hodge and SSU 558 were in Etroeungt when they learned of the signing of the Armistice. In one of his journals, Van Alstyne wrote it was “the beginning of a perfect day.”

Stretcherbearers from SSU 558 load an injured soldier into the back of their ambulance.

David Van Alstyne Jr. was commander of SSU 558 and wrote journals that were left in Hodge’s care.

The Robert Frank Hodge World War I Papers are fully available to view on the Tennessee Virtual Archive (TeVA). You may also browse some of our other digitized World War I collections such as the Puryear Family Photo Album and Over Here Over There.

The Tennessee State Library and Archives is a division of the Office of Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett

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