Author’s note: This story was adapted from Dr. Martin’s narrative in The Joy of Living: An Autobiography, Volume II.*
Franklin H. Martin, MD, FACS, founder of the American College of Surgeons; his wife, Isabelle; and Isabelle’s niece, Inez Stone, sailed for England in early July 1914, despite the tensions in Europe following the assassination of the Archduke Ferdinand of Austria on June 28. Upon their arrival, Inez left her aunt and uncle and made her way to Munich, Germany, to visit friends at Miss Pattee’s Boarding School.
In London, Dr. Martin presided as the Secretary-General of the Clinical Congress of Surgeons of North America, a gathering of approximately 1,100 American physicians. As the conference concluded, the Americans were stunned to learn of Germany’s declaration of war on Russia on August 1, on France and Belgium a few days later, and Britain’s declaration of war on Germany on August 4. While the Americans maneuvered to secure passage back to the U.S. in the face of travel restrictions and cancellations, Dr. Martin decided he had to travel to Munich to rescue Miss Stone, who had not been heard from since leaving for Munich.
Executing the mission
Dr. Martin arranged for Isabelle to stay with friends in England and set out for Munich, but his trip ended in Paris, which was under military rule. Travel from France to Germany was prohibited, so he returned to London. By chance, Dr. Martin met Mr. John Morron, of New York, NY, and Chicago, IL, at their hotel. Coincidentally, Mr. Morron’s wife was stuck in Munich, and he needed to rescue her. Mr. Morron informed Dr. Martin that he had met Mr. S. Bergman, a wealthy, influential German, who was traveling to Cologne, Germany.
The three men crossed the channel to The Hague, took a train through the Netherlands to the German border, and hired a chauffeur with his canvas-topped Benz to take them to Cologne, where gasoline, embargoed by the military, was unavailable. Mr. Bergman was able to secure a tankful and several additional cans through his car dealership; 60 of his cars at the dealership and 600 in his factory had been taken by the German military.
They followed the Rhine River, only a few miles from the battle lines, passing troops and ammunition wagons without being accosted only because they were mistaken for German officials.
In Munich, Mr. Morron found his wife and joined a group of Americans who were leaving for the U.S. Dr. Martin was greeted at Miss Pattee’s Boarding School with, “‘Uncle Frank!’ from the most surprised and delighted girl in Munich.”
Dr. Martin and the chauffeur were alarmed because automobiles were being conscripted by the military. They decided they must leave Munich at once, but visited a haberdashery first, replacing Dr. Martin’s English derby with a semi-military Prussian cap. Miss Stone wore a gray Bavarian cape with a high, gold-trimmed collar. With a small German flag attached to the radiator, they resembled German officials and were waved through roadblocks as they proceeded to Ingolstadt, where the chauffeur was able to procure more gasoline. After a night in Ansbach, they put the top down, donned goggles, and used the car’s siren to fly unimpeded through the German cities of Frankfurt, Coblenz, Bonn, and Krefeld, where they spent the night. In the morning, they safely crossed the border into Holland at Venloo, but officials confiscated the little flag that had helped save them.
Safe in London, Dr. Martin and Miss Stone visited Ambassador Walter Hines Page at the American Embassy. Impressed by their fearlessness and knowing that the U.S. War Department would be interested in details of their observations in Germany, Ambassador Page sent a reporter to interview Dr. Martin. Within hours, the story was cabled to The New York Times, and Dr. Martin instantly became a war-time hero among his friends (see Figure 1).
Figure 1. Dr. Martin’s New York Times article
*Martin FH. The Joy of Living: An Autobiography, Volume II, 1–33. New York, NY: Doubleday, Doran and Company; 1933.