The Walter Leland Hopkins papers document his service with the United States Army Ambulance Service during World War I. This period of service from 1917 to 1919 is the only period documented in the records. Little is known about his life prior to or after joining the ambulance service. Hopkins served with the Princeton University Ambulance Section, 523. The papers consist of correspondence, photographs and ephemera collected by Hopkins.
The richest source material is found in the correspondence series which consists of seventeen letters written to family and friends in Columbus and Marysville, Ohio. The letters were written while enroute to Europe by ship and while serving in England and France. His correspondence describes the monotony of the ocean crossing, and frequently complains about the censors who read his letters. Correspondence from France chronicles some of the sights he has seen and activity his unit has been engaged in. Among the activities he describes are the around-the-clock shuttling of ambulances to the front during battle, and the durability of the ambulances.
Eighteen photographs sent home by Hopkins depict ambulances, hospital tents, litter drills, inspections and formations. The pictures were most likely taken during training at Allentown, Pennsylvania. Hopkins appears in a number of the pictures with unidentified comrades.
Ephemera collected by Hopkins includes a French identificationcard, a copy of his medal citation, a menu from the farewell dinner of Section 523, and volume 1 number 3 of The Exhaust, a newspaper composed on the Western Front by members of the ambulance section. Hopkins served as cartoonist and artist for the newspaper. Many examples of his work are contained in this issue along with a chronology of events in the unit's life, and brief biographical sketches of the unit members.
The Walter L. Hopkins papers were given to the Oberlin College Archives in 1971 by Margaret Leonard, daughter of Frederick E. Leonard, and a relative of Walter Hopkins. The papers were not accessioned. They were placed within the Frederick Leonard Papers (30/47). In 1991 they were separated from the Leonrad collection, and designated as a separate personal papers collection (30/220).
For materials in the Oberlin College Archives regarding ambulance service during World War I, the researcher is advised to consult the records in the historical file of the Office of the Secretary (5); Oberlin File (21/1); and the papers of Logan O. Osborn (30/191). Additional material on ambulance service can be extracted from the individual files in alumni records (28). Some photographs are also housed in the photographic record group (32).
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