World War II: American Aid to Greece (1940-45)

American aid to Greece
Figure 1.--This 1941 photo shows Greek Americans dressed in traditional Greek costumes and burros carrying baskets of flowers on their backs. The portrait was taken on a New York City street as part of a fund raising drive for the Greek Emergency Fund Source: C. M. Stieglitz.

The United States provived aid to Greece. Both private and government aid reached Greece. The principal private group was the Greek War Relief Association (GWRA). Greek Americans led by Archbishop Athenagoras and Spyros Skouras organized the GWRA within 2 weeks of the Italian invasion (October 1940). The purpose was to collect funds to buy food, medical supplies and clothing. The initial goal was $10 million. Skouras visited Greek communities throughout the United States help form local War Relief committees. The GWRA soon had over 300 local committees (November 1940). The GWRA before the German invasion, cabeled $3.3 million. The funds were used to purchase of ambulances, build bomb shelters, and run soup kitchen. The funds also set up workshops for refugees provide relief to the families of soldiers killed in the fighting. The GWRA functioned 2 1/2 years and paid for the shipment of more than 700,000 tons of food, clothing, medical supplies and other needed commodities valued at more than $100 million dollars. We are not sure why the GWRA ceased operatiion (April 1943), but suspect it was because American Government programs were by that time functioning. We have little information at this time on U.S. Government policy toward Greece after Italy invaded (October 1940). We know President Roosevelt wrote King George, " All free peoples are deeply impressed by the courage and steadfastness of the Greek nation" (December 5, 1940). Just how how the aid was delivered we do not have a lot of detail. We think some aid reached Greece before the German invasion. After the German invasion, delivering aid was more complicated. Greece fell to the Germans, just as Congress passed Lend Lease. America was, however, neutral until Hitler declared war (December 1941). The GWRA in the United Startes sent funds and a Turkish ship the SS Kurtulus made five voyages, delivering food to Athens where it was distributed by the International Red Cross. King George went to America to meet with leaders and help secure aid for Greece. While in America, he addressed both houses of congress (June 15, 1942). There was Lend Lease aid the the Greek Government in exile. And the United States supported the International Red Cross which did play a major role in preventing another famine in Greece after the Great Famine of winter 1941-42. After the Germans withdrew (October 1944), American food aid began to reach Greece directly.


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Created: 5:24 AM 8/15/2010
Last updated: 5:24 AM 8/15/2010