Now all roads lead to France and heavy is the tread
Of the living; but the dead returning lightly dance.
Edward Thomas, Roads

Monday, April 25, 2016

Who Was H. Herman Harjes and What Did He Do During WWI?

Lt. Col. Harjes, AEF
Herman Harjes (1872–1926) was a banker, senior partner of the Morgan-Harjes Bank of Paris founded by his father John Harjes (1830–1914), and played a significant role behind the scenes in World War One by negotiating sizable loans for the Allies. In time, the Morgan Bank system became the exclusive purchasing agents in the U.S. for the Allies. Harjes was a prominent member of the American colony in Paris; he and his father had been among the founders of the American Hospital in Neuilly.

He became involved in relief work as soon as the war broke out. As head of the American Relief Clearing House, he presided over the channeling of American contributions to France in currency and in kind. 

As chief representative of the American Red Cross in France from 1914–1917, he founded the Harjes Formation, a volunteer ambulance driver group which later merged with Richard Norton's American Volunteer Motor-Ambulance Corps to become the Norton-Harjes. When relief work was militarized under the American Red Cross in July 1917, Harjes stepped down and became chief liaison officer for the AEF with the French High Command.

Norton-Harjes Ambulance Drivers (Note Distinctive Overseas Caps)

Harjes, said to have introduced polo to France, was killed in 1926, in a polo accident which occurred during the "just one more game" he had promised his wife would conclude his polo career.

Source: World War I Document Archives


  1. Doesn't this support the argument that the American government had to ensure an Allied victory in order to secure the loans made to the Allies?

  2. It certainly appears that could be a reason to enter the war, except that President Wilson said he asked for a declaration of war because of the submarine threat. He denied he talked to the financiers who loaned money to the allies or considered their potential losses if the allies lost the war.