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The two trunk-uniform grouping of Lewis C. Gilger; American Field Service SSU 69

Article about: It's a dream ! to see that kind of history have been kept in that state wow! simply wow ! Thanks for sharing it with us ! Frenchy

  1. #1

    Default The two trunk-uniform grouping of Lewis C. Gilger; American Field Service SSU 69

    Lewis Chapman Gilger was born in Seattle, Washington on July 14, 1893. He was the first child of William and Sarah Carroll Gilger. Soon after his birth the Gilger family, relocated to Norwalk, Ohio where Lewis’s father opened a thriving jewelry business. The Gilger family grew again on November 20, 1895 with the birth of little brother William Carrol Jr.

    After graduating from Norwalk High School and two years at Kenyon, Lewis enrolled at Williams College in Williamstown, Mass. Following his graduation in 1915, he then entered Western Reserve Law School in Cleveland, Ohio.
    In the spring of 1917, cutting short his second year of Law, Lewis along with his younger brother William who was attending Yale, joined the American Field Service to serve as volunteer ambulance drivers for the French army.

    The American Field Service was an all volunteer organization comprised primarily of college educated young men who felt compelled to help defend France against German aggression and tyranny.

    The American ambulance service were organized under the French abbreviation Section Sanitaire Units or S.S.U. and given a numeric designation. Each section would then be assigned to a French division. Field Service volunteers were strictly viewed as non-combatants although they were paid the same as French infantrymen and they were expected to follow military courtesy and regulations. The men had to pay for their own passage to France and to provide for their own uniform.

    Lewis and William arrived in Bordeaux, France on July 3 and were initially attached to Section 21 before being permanently assigned to Section 69. According to Gilger’s diary, they received their baptism of fire on August 20, 1917 when the division to which they were attached moved forward toward the slaughter house at Verdun.

    Although they served as non-combatant ambulance drivers, the men of the Field Service operated right up on the front lines, driving their ambulances through artillery barrages and poison gas attacks and many of these young men were killed in the service of France.

    By the fall of 1917, the United States had finally been drawn into the war and the American volunteers were being pressured to either join the newly arriving American army or to leave France. At the same time Lewis had the unnerving pleasure of reading his own death notice that had been erroneously reported in a Boston newspaper.

    Lewis resigned from the French army and sailed back to the U.S. aboard the S.S. Rochambeau in November, 1917. After spending the Christmas holidays with his family, he enlisted in the United States Army in February of 1918 and quickly rose through the ranks to receive a commission as a 2nd Lieutenant. During his training period as an officer with the US Motor Transport Corp he was assigned to Camp Joe Johnston in Jacksonville Florida.

    Jacksonville at this time was considered to be the “Winter Film Capital of the World” as the fledgling New York film industry would spend the winter months in the warm climate of Florida. It was there that Lewis; a young dashing Lieutenant met and fell in love with Florence McLauglin, a young comedic actress who by 1918 had 32 short films to her credit with the King Bee Film Studio. Florence appeared in many films opposite a young country boy from Georgia known as “Babe” that world would soon know and love as Oliver Hardy.

    The First World War ended on November 11, 1918 with Lewis still assigned to stateside duties and by the spring of 1919 Gilger was discharged from the army and soon after married his sweetheart.

    The newlyweds returned to Lewis’s hometown of Norwalk, Ohio where he resumed his studies at Western Reserve receiving his law degree in 1922. That same year he joined the Corporate Trust Department of the Union Trust Company and in 1933 changed to the City Bank of Cleveland, Ohio. He was made vice-president of the bank’s trust department in 1937 and served in that capacity until his death on November 30, 1959 at the age of 68. He was survived by his wife Florence, a son Dr. William Gilger, a daughter Mrs. Sara Barnes, his mother and his brother William. Lewis rests in the Gilger Family plot in Woodlawn Cemetery, Norwalk Ohio.
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  2. #2

    Default Re: The two trunk-uniform grouping of Lewis C. Gilger; American Field Service SSU 69

    Examples of some of the items contained in Gilger's American Field Service trunk. Note the overcoat is a standard US Army coat with French ball buttons and French automobile "flaming bombs' insignia.
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  3. #3

    Default Re: The two trunk-uniform grouping of Lewis C. Gilger; American Field Service SSU 69

    More detail of the his AFS uniforms and equipment
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  4. #4

    Default Re: The two trunk-uniform grouping of Lewis C. Gilger; American Field Service SSU 69

    Detail of the French tailor label; Gilger's signature and his French issue haversack, cup and gas mask canister.
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  5. #5

    Default Re: The two trunk-uniform grouping of Lewis C. Gilger; American Field Service SSU 69

    The second steamer trunk contains the uniforms and equipment of Lewis's time as an officer in the US Army Motor Transport Corps. Note all the uniforms have a single blue stripe on the sleeved denoteing less than six months overseas. Lewis never served in France as a US Army officer, so he must have been given credit for his time in France with the AFS.
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  6. #6

    Default Re: The two trunk-uniform grouping of Lewis C. Gilger; American Field Service SSU 69

    The trunk itself was a mystery at first for it had the name "Florence McLaughlin King Bee Company" painted on the lid. My research reveled that this trunk had belong to his wife Florence back when she was a film actress with the "King Bee Comedy Troupe".
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  7. #7

    Default Re: The two trunk-uniform grouping of Lewis C. Gilger; American Field Service SSU 69

    Simply stunning!

    Cheers, Ade.

  8. #8

    Default Re: The two trunk-uniform grouping of Lewis C. Gilger; American Field Service SSU 69

    Here are a couple of better photographs of Lewis's American Field Service tunic and French issue equipment.
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  9. #9

    Default Re: The two trunk-uniform grouping of Lewis C. Gilger; American Field Service SSU 69

    Although the AFS man in this photo is not Lewis Gilger, it illustrates the same type of uniform as the one in the post.
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  10. #10

    Default Re: The two trunk-uniform grouping of Lewis C. Gilger; American Field Service SSU 69

    stunning collection and post the above pic should have a caption attached , french bomb proof ammo bunker 1917.

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