American Exceptionalism: Accomplishments--Food Relief Programs

America has saved hundreds of millions of people in Europe and the Third world from starvation. The Left and Islamists have attempted to hid this, but the simple fact is that no country in all of history has come even close to saving the number of people America has saved. In fact, more often inhistory, countries have been nthe bsiness of waring and enslaving other countries then in ending them. The United states began this humanitarian effort at a time for which there was no predeent. No country have ever set out to save an entire country vefore, let alone an entire continent. This egan in Belgium and the onset of World war I. It continued during the war, although the war impeded efforts to reach much of Europe. It continued after the war on on even larger scope. This includes both frienfly countries as well as countris that have waged war with America (incluing Germany, Austria, Hungary, the soviet Union, Japan, and others). And it did not end withWorkd war I. It continued after the war and hasnever ended . Since world wr I, Ameica has delivered food and relief tooeople all over the world threatened by conflict, plague, famine, and natural disasters. Incredably whille left wig up groups and Islamists dream up imagined deaths they attribute to america, there is not a word about the hundreds of millions that America has saved. Communists often can not produce even enough food to feed their popultion in time of plenty, let alone aleviate famine. And Islamists despite charity being one of the pillars of Islam are noticable absent in interntional relef efforts, even when Muslims are endangered. Europe today is active in these efforts, but it was America who establishe the precedent of such efforts. We are going to list American food aid and relief programs along with the program of the great totalitarian powers o use food as a weapon to kill people who for social or racial reasons they want to kill. There is no country on earth that has a record even rempotely close to the Unites States in poroviding food to starving people around the world.

The 19th Century

The United States essentially invented the idea of international humamitarin aid. We see several examples in the 19th century. The quantitities involved were relatively compared to the 20th century, but the vrious efforts were an innovative approach to foreign relations. We see efforts to aid people in Africa, Asia, Europe, and Latin America. America’s food assistance programs actually began soon after the creation of the American Republic. The fifth American president, James Madison, dispatched emergency aid to earthquake victims in Venezuela (1812). The United States sent a ship to feed the starving people of the Cape Verde Islands off Africa (1832). The desperate islanderes rowed out to a ship they spotted hoping to barter for food. They were stunned to learn that America had sent the ship to assist them. [Bremner] The unfolding tragdy in Ireland with the Potato Famine motivatd Anerica to send aid (1840s). One historian tells us that 'the contributions of Massachusettes lone requited two sloops of war, our merchant menand two steamers.' [Bremner]

World War I (1914-18)

American food aid began in a major way with food shipments to Europe World War I (1914-18). The first recipient was German occupied Belgium. The Germans seized the Blgian civilian food supply. Starvation was only prevented by massive American Food Relief. Herbert Hoover became a revered figure in his non-stop efforts to save lives. A system for this was not in place. It began as an unprecedented private humnitarian effort. As the aid effort expanded, The american Red Cross came to play a major role. American Relief often worked through the Red Cross. A huge numbers of committees, church groups, organizations launched efforts to collect money and supplies or European relif. Most had no contacts or offices in Euroe or any way of getting what they collected to Europe. The Red Cross played a major role in both coordinating the volunteer effort and getting the neeed supplies to Europe. This was because Red Cross effort to assist as a neutral, such as offering ambulance servives meant that the American Red Cross established an infrastructure network in Europe well before the arrival of the American Expeitionry Force (AEF). This of course expanded massively when America entered the war (1917). At first it was food and supplies collected by private groups. Eventually the need proved so great that Governmental action was required. The U.S. Food administration provided the much larger quantities rquired. Unfirtunately Russia proved impossible to aid because if the difficulties of shipping food and suppolies and Central Powers opposition. America would eventually supply vital relef aid to virtually all of Europe.

Figure 1.--This photograph was marked 'Armenian Relief' which we believe means Near East Relief. They are cpollecting bread for destribution to hungary Armeians who managed to escape the Ottoman Armenian genocide. The flour used to bake the bread came from America. We are not sure where the photograph was taken, but believe it was either Syria or Palestine. Source: Bain News Service. Librry of Congress.

Near East Relief

American food aid also went to the Middle East where the Ottoman Turks had launched the Armenian Genocide (1915). America did what it could to save the Armenians through Near East Relief. The Ottoman actions against the Armenians was widely published in the Western media. The resulting publicity generated considerable support for the Armenians. Relief funds were collected to aid those Armenians who managed to escape from Turkey. One of the most important groups was in the United States was Near East Relief. Ambassador Henry Morgenthau, Sr. urged the U.S. government to act. One of those actions was to provide emergency humanitarian assistance. The Department of State asked the American Board of Commissioners of Foreign Missions to urgently collect funds. James L. Barton and Cleveland H. Dodge led the effort and founded the American Committee for Armenian and Syrian Relief (1915). President Woodrow Wilson supported the effort. The Committe held well publicized public rallies to save "the starving Armenians". They convinced churches throughout the country to take collections. The Committe also received extensive support from many charitable organizations and foundations. The Committee succeeded in raised millions of dollars. Because America was still neutral, The Committee was able to forward funds to the American Embassy in Constantinople which used missionaries and consuls to reach the Armenians. The Turks did much of the the actual killing in Anatolia. Armenians who reached other sections of the Ottomon Empire (such as Syria and Palestine) could be saved with the Committee's finds. The United States entered the War (April 1917) thus cutting this conduit to the Armenians. The Committe was only able to resume its operations after the War.

Post-World War I Food Relief (1918-21)

World War I substantially reduced European agricultural harvests. Several fctors were involved. The war had absorbed inputs tht nirmally went into agriculture (equipment, fertilizer, livestock, etc.). Rural workers had been conscripted. Millions of men in armies engaged in war had to be fed, but were engaged in no productive enterprise, The military and industrial prodyuction had proirity over rail traffic. Military operations had disrupted harvests. As the War progresedd, food supplies in many countries plummeted, especilly in the Central Powers which because of the Allied naval embargo couldmot import food. The Allies could import food. Unlike the Continent Formal rationing was not introduced in Britain until late in the War. Even in Britain, however, rtioning finlly haf to be introduced (February 1918). The Defence of the Realm (DORA) ensured that food shortages were prevented. The Central Powers were in a much worst place. They could not import. Food shortages were the primary cause of the Russian Revolution and help bring down the Austrian and German monarchies. Food shortages had mostly affected civilians on the home front. Each country made sure their soldiers were fed. Thus many civilns by the end of the world were in a serious state. Europeans were ot only hungru, but mny faced starvation. Millions faced starvation. Rationing programs were poorly administered in seveal countries and the Central Powers unlike the British made no serious effort to maintain the rural work force or to use women to replace men on the farm. After the Armistice (1918) famine and mass starvation threatened Europe. Prices for food rise. People with money could alwys find food, but not only were hrir hortages, but large numbers of people had been impoverished. Workers conscripted could not support families in their military pay. and if killed or woumded, thecfamily was left without their major bread winner. The War ended (November 1918), but it would be months before a new crop could be planted, but nearly a year before the 1919 crop could be harvested. In addition, it would take another year before the beligernt countries could begin to begin to begin bringing its agricultural sectors back to normal. And the huge losses would mean labor shortages in rural reas for some time. Before the war, Russia had been a major grain exporter, supplying many European countries. The Russian revolution nd than Civil wa, not only affected Rissian food supplies, but that of the countries it once supplied. And it would be This was only prevented by American food which America made available to both its Allies and formner enemies. Not only had no country in histoy so generously supported starving people in war time. Never before in history had a country aided starving people in peace time. They were both acts of unparalled generosity.

Figure 1.--Here some very happy Moscow children around 1922 enjoy soup and bread outside the office of American Relief Administration where it operated a food kitchen.

Russian Famine (1921-22)

Russia was racked by Civil War (1919-22). The Bolsheviks wanted to use food as a weapon, this delayed a food program to save starving Russians. The terrible food shortages are commonly referred to as as the Russian Famine, but the entire Soviet Union was affected, including Belarus and the Ukraine. The Russian famine of 1921-22 in a country that was Europe's breadbasket was one of the worst human disasters of the 20th century. It resulted from a combination of natural and political human causes. Theprincipal cause was four years of World War I followed by the Bloshevik Revolution and resulting Civil War. The result was a sharplly reduced harvest leaving tens of millions of Russians without adequate food. In addition to ouright starvation, malnutrition and epidemics hightened by the weakened condition of th populatiomn killed so many Russiasns that neither the Bolsheviks or foreign observers could accurately record the stunning death toll. All we have are estimates. The consensus accepted by historians is some five million Russians died in what became known as the Great Famine. Some estimates are much higher. Some hitorians estimate as many as 8 million people may hve perished. The Bolsheviks were aware of the disaster from the very beginning, but sought toise food as aeapn in the Civil War and did not want to admit its failure to produce suffucent food. The death toll would have been dramtically higherhad not american provided massive food relief. The Famine reached such enormous levelks that in 1921 the Bolsheviks finally afmitted the despette state and accepted food relief from foreign charities, most importntlky the American Relief Association (ARA). The ARA insisted that the food be destributed without the political direction the Bolsheviks demsnded. The ARA saved millions of starving Russians. And this was people in a country openly dedicated to the destruction of capitalism and Ameica as well as democracies throughout Europe.

Figure 2.--Here Greek and Armenian refugee children as a result of the Greco-Turkish War are in Athens (1923). They are being fed and cared for by American Near East Relief. American aid prevented hundreds of thousands of Armenians and Greeks from starving.

Greco-Turkish War (1922-23)

TheGreco-Turkish War created a huge refugee problem, especially in Greece which received the largest number of refugees. The population exchanges created a huge refugee problem--more than a million reople that had to be cared for and resettled. This would have been a problem for any country--but Greece was a very small country of less than 6 million. There are few instances in history where such a small coutry had to care for so many refugees. In fact there is no way Greece could have cared for these people. Grece was not self-suficent in food producrion, abd adding a million poeople who had to be fed meant that tens of thousnds if not more would have strved. Adding to the problen, most of the military-age men had been killed or taken prisoner. This men that the rfugeees were mostly women, children and elderly--meaning people who were most capable of supporting themselves in the best of circumstnces. Again as was the case throughout World War I, it was america that prevented mass starvation. Fortunately American relief workers in place, im part beccause of the Armenian Genocide. The Brutish, French, nd Italian Governments showed little interest in interveming. The american Government and private chritable groups in America did act. Not only did American naval personnel help feed nd evute Greeks from Smurna, but th american Red Cross and Near East Relief provided vital food and supplies to the refugeees that reached Greece. One source estimates that hinresa of housnds of lives were saved among the refu=ges from Asia Minor, Pontus, and Easten Thrace. "These two organizations practically single-handedly undertook the extremely difficult task of providing aid on the spot to Greek refugees who otherwise would have likely been condemned to death by diseases, malnutrition, and other hardships. The gravity of the situation demanded immediate and effective action and the United States was by far the first to respond to the Greek appeals for help." [Klapsis, p. 103.] The U.S. Goverment and private charities provided $2.6 million to the Red Cross to assist the refugees. And that was 1920s dollars, many times the vkur of modern dollars. Morethan 0.5million refugees were aided. Near East Relief aid thousands more including many orohans like the chilren seen here (figure 1). A Greek acadeician reports, "It is quite obvious that, without this assistance, the Greek government would not have been able to cope with the extremely heavy burden of providing the means of survival to hundreds of thousands of Greek refugees and it is easy to imagine what the fate of many of them would have been if in the critical first months after the Asia Minor Disaster the United States had not offered its generous help to Greece.' [Klapsis, p. 103.]

Ukranian Famine (1931-32)

America was unable to aid the victims of Stalin's genocidal Ukrainian famine. Stalin kept his killings in the Ukraine a secret from the West. As part of his colleivization effort, Stalin was determined to crush the devotely Christian Ukranian peasantry, but to continue to oerpetuate the myth of the Soviet Union as a workers and peasant paradise. As part of his Collectivization program he ordered the NKVD to murder through starvtion most of the best farmers in the country and their vfamilies -- the so called kulaks. The Ukraians caught the brunt of the cmpaign, but kulaks in Blarus and and Russia were also murdered in large numbers. And here the killing included the whole family, women and childen and not just the men. The result was not only the horific death of millions, but that the Soviet Union from that point on changed from an important food exporter to country that had trouble feeding itself, eventually having to import grain from America.

World War II

Despite the Depression and Dust Bowl America again mobilized its agricultural bounty for World War II. This time the need was even greater than in World war I. The Germans in World War I caused a humanitarian crisus in Belgium and other countries, but their goal was not to kill. In World war II the Axis, esoecully the Gemans set out to kill people in the tns of millions. The Axis starved millions of people to death. The NAZIs even concocted the Hunger Plan to murder people by the millions. One of the purpose of forcing Jews inton ghettoes was sothey could be starved. The Japanese caused famines in many countries they occupied. American in contrast saved people by the million through Food Aid. Food delivered through Lend Lease kept Britain in the War and millions of hard-pressed Russians from starving. Much of American aid was distributed through UNRAA. And again famine was prevented after the War, in both countries victimized by the Axis as well as the Axis countries themselves. The Japanese prevented American food aid from reaching China, but food delivered after the Japanese surrender prevented millions more from starving (1945).

Post-World War II Food Relief (1945-50)

American Food Aid continued after World War II. Again Europe was starving. An again America rose to challenge and prevented the deaths of cuntless millions. The War had devestated the Continent. Millions of people were dispalaced without food, shelter,and medical supplies. Transportation systems wre destoyed. Farmers were left with out livestock, seed, fertilizer and equipment. Tbe Germans, Soviets,and other contries. used draft aminals to move artillery and supplies. They had ime from farmers. These amimals were now gone. And farmers, many left without sons, and no draft animals. All of this seriously limited food profuction even aftervthe War. And without a transport system there was no way of getting what ever they transported home. And to make matters worse, Europe was experiencing some of the coldest winters in decades. America this time not only had to feed Europe, but China and other devestated countries as well. At first America food aid flowed to the European and Asin countries that had their economies devestated by Axis military actions and exploitation. This includes Allies and well as Axis countries. The United States offered to continue to aid the soviet Union and the countries seized by the soviets in Eastern Europe. America only insisted that the Soviets not use their military succes over the NZIs to impose Communist dictarorships and police state terror in the countries in which thy had driven out the NAZIs. Stalin aanently refised. Throughout Eastern Eurioe he used the RedArmy and NKVD to supress democratic political parties and install Communist police states. Both the U.S. Government and private chritable groups organized food andother reluef efforts.

Third World

As Europe revovered from World war II, Americam food aid programs shifted to the Third World. President Eisenhower launched what became known as the Food for Peace Program (1954). Under the program, America shipped huge quantities of food and other relief supplies around the world. Third World countries suffered from primitive agricultural methods as well as both natural disasters and ecological events. American aid flowed into coyntries throughpit Africa, Asia. Ltin america and the Middle East. Aid programs consisted of both Government and private charitable effort. Another major problem affecting food was the Cold War. Eforts by Communist governments in countries like Cuba, Camoodia, China, Ethiopia, Mozabique, North Korea and other counbtries. The Cold War and Communism imposed anoher set of food problems. Rather than primitive technology, the Communists set out to modernize agricultre. Despite tractors and modern fatm equipment, imposing Marxist policies on the countries farmers in country after country meant a decline in food production. . Despite experiencesdating back to the Bolshevik Revolution, Communist leaders insist on adopting the same failed policies. And they experienced the same declines in harvests, primarly because they insist on attacking farmers and private land hodings. The current crisis in Veneuela is just one more tragedsies in the long hitory of Communism. Some of these countries America was able to help. othgers it was not.

Green Revolution

One of the most important, but least recognized events of the Cold War was the Green Revolution. While the Communisrs (Soviets, Chinese Communits, Ethioppia, Kymer Rouge, and North Koreans) like the Facists before them caused famines, America generated an explosion of farm productivity. Even before World War II, populations in many developing countries began to grow at extremrly fast rates. These high rates were in part the results of historical trends. A major factor was also improvements in health care made possible by health care programs financed by Europe and America. While populations were increasing, farming technology in much of the Third World had remained unchanged for centuries. Economists by the 1950s began to talk about a world-wide Malthusian famine because population growth would outrun the food supply. Agromists had been increasing crop yield by using mpre and more nitrogen fertilizer. This was possible because a German Jewish scientist, Fritz Huber, before World War I had figured out a chemical process for fixing nitrogen. This made possible increased food production by increasing the avialabilitt and cost of fertilizer. Farmers by the 1950s, however, had reached limits on the use of nitrogen. They found that seed heads were growing so heavy that stalks would collapse. An American agricultural scientist, Norman Borlaug, began working for the Rockefeller Foundation and began working on a project to help Mexico conquer hunger. Borlaug found a strain of wheat with a stubby stalk that could support a heavy seed head. He then transferred the gene to tropical weat and produced a strain that could support large sead heads. Bourlaug's work resulted in a wheat strain that could produce yields four times per acre than what was previously possible. This was just the first step in what is now known as the Green Revolution that eliminated famine in much of the Third World. The number of lives he saved are virtually impossible to calculate, but musr be in the hundreds of millions, if not billions. About half the world now eats grains descended from Borlaug's work. Bourlaug was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize (1970), surely one of the indivuals most deserving of the award.

Modern Era (1989- )

American food aid has continued with the end of the Cold war (1989). The United states has dispatched emergency food supplies to the victims of virtually every major disaster around the world. Often in countries like Indonesia after the 2004 Tsunami or Haiti after the 2010 earthquake , it was Americam aid that was the first to arrive and arrive in the greatest quantity.


Bremner, Robert. American Philantrophy.


Navigate the Children in History Website:
[Return to the American Food Aid preveting starvation and famine]
[Return to the Main American exceptionalism -- The achievements page]
[Return to the Main American exceptionalism page]
[Return to the Main U.S. history page]
[Introduction] [Animals] [Biographies] [Chronology] [Climatology] [Clothing] [Disease and Health] [Economics] [Geography] [History] [Human Nature] [Law]
[Nationalism] [Presidents] [Religion] [Royalty] [Science] [Social Class]
[Bibliographies] [Contributions] [FAQs] [Glossaries] [Images] [Links] [Registration] [Tools]
[Children in History Home]

Created: 2:36 AM 3/31/2016
Last updated: 4:05 AM 3/1/2018