United States Charities: Red Cross


Figure 1.--After its superb performance in World War I, the Red Cross geared up for what was increasingly looking like American participation in another World War. The press caption here read, "Rally for Red Cross: Nurses, civic leaders, boy scouts, American Legion men, and citizens assembled about the courthouse steps Saturday afternoon for the Red Cross Roll Call which opens Monday for 20,000 members." This was the Lancaster, Pennsylvania Courthouse. The photograph was dated March 15, 1941.

The Red Cross was formed in Europe just as the Civil War was ending in America. It thus did not play a role in the War although its services were desperately needed. Clara Barton helped found the American Red Cross (1881). Some Red Cross staff in the 1890s wanted to organize junior chapters in schools, but there was not much interest at the time. School students on their own engaged in their own activities, both with and without the Red Cross. They worked with disaster relief, fund-raising, and other activities. The Red Cross played an active role in the Spanish American War (1898-99). Some students got involved in the efforts to provide medical support and comfort to American soldiers and their families. America after the Kaiser resumed unrestricted submarine warfare declared war on Germany (April 1917). There was an outpouring of patriotic feeling as America entered World War I. As part of the effort to support the War, a group of educators and American Red Cross officials developed a plan for a partnership between schools and the Red Cross. President Wilson officially announced the formation of the Junior Red Cross--JRC (September 15, 1917). The President asked American youth, "Is not this perhaps the chance for which you have been looking to give your time and efforts in some measure to meet our national needs ...?" Youth could join the new JRC for only 25-cents a year. The response was overwhelming, 8 million students joined the JRC that first year and membership reached 11 million in 1919. The American Red Cross in World War II played a role similar to that of World War II. That role was by then well established, except that the totalitarian powers that played such a major role in the War, were not prepared to allow humanitarian efforts to reach millions of people, in some cases people targeted for death. The Red Cross sent millions of packages of food to American POWs held by the Germans and Italians. The Germans behaved correctly in delivering the packages, although not in adequately feeding POWs. There were also shipments to POWs held by the Japanese, but only a few hot through. The Red Cross also began a blood collection service to aid the wounded. They also established clubs like the famous Rainbow Corner to offer entertainment and food to servicemen. After World War II, the American Red Cross acting on its war-time expertise established a civilian blood collection service (1948). The Red Cross has continued to offer aid to victims of disasters and wars, playing a major role in disaster relief. They added classes in CPR to lifesaving classes. Another new effort was a Holocaust and War Victims Tracing and Information Center (1990).

Intrnational Red Cross

Battle of Solferino in Northern Italy as part of the Austro-Franco War prompted Henry Dunant to propose an international relief organization to asist the war-injured (1859). The International Committee of the Red Cross was founded in Geneva, Switzerland (1863). The First Geneva Convention protecting the war wounded was adopted (1864). The Red Cross symbol of the red cross on a white field was accepted as a neutral protective emblem.

Civil War (1861-65)

With the outbreak of the Civil War in America, Clara Barton began aiding wounded soldiers (1861). The idea of females nurses at the time was unheard of. She became known as the 'Angel of the Battlefield'. The International Red Cross was formed in Europe inspired by the Swiss just as the Civil War was ending in America. It thus did not play a role in the War although its services were desperately needed. Not onky were battlefield losses staggering, but the care of the wounded was also dreadful. At the end of the Wae and just before his assaination, President Lincoln authorized to open The Office of Correspondence with Friends of the Missing Men of the United States Army to identify the fate of missing soldiers for grieving parents, family and friends (1865). Barton closed the office after answering 63,183 letters identifing 22,000 missing men (1867). As a result of her work had become the most respected woman in America.

Foundation (1881)

Despite her respected image, it took some time to sell the idea of the Red Cross to Americas. Barton and her friends and acquaintances founded the American Chapter of the Red Cross in Washington, D.C. (1881). Barton had heard of the International Red Cross network while visiting Europe after the American Civil War. When she returned to the United States, she began campaigning for an American Red Cross. There was at first little interst in the Red Cross which was at first founded to assist wounded soldiers. Most Americans saw wars as more of a European phenomenon and saw no real need for a Red Cross. Barton also campaigned for ratification of the Geneva Convention protecting POWs and thev the war-injured. The United States ratified the treaty (1882).

Role

Clara Barton led the Red Cross for 23 years. The International Red Cross created as an organization to aid soldiers, gradually developed domestic civilian roles. In America the transitiin occured almost instantly. Within days of its foundation, the American Red Cross undertook its first disaster relief effort aiding victims of Michigan forest fires. Thus from the beginning, the American Red Cross began engaging in domestic and overseas disaster relief. Here American led the International movemement. The American Red Cross eushed aid to Johnstown, Pennsylvania, struck a flood killing over 2,000 people. Clara Barton provided aids 30,000-mostly African-American-homeless victims of a hurricane on the Sea Islands of South Carolina (1893). Clara Barton and associates travel to Constantinople and launch a 5-month campaign bringing relief to Armenian victims of Turkish oppression (1896). The Americans campaigned for the inclusion of peacetime relief work as part of the global Red Cross mission. This became known as the American Amendment. And it at first met with considerable resistance in Europe. The Red Cross received its first congressional charter (1900) and a second (1905). Barton resigned from the organization (1904). The charters state the original purposes of the organiz(1905). The charters included the initial purpose of aiding POWs and wounded soldiers. The Red Cross was also authorized to serve as a medium of communication between members of the American armed forces and their families. Also added was the mission of providing both domestic and international disaster relief. The Red Cross introduced its first aid, water safety, and public health nursing programs which have become important institutions. Clara Barton's last relief mission was an operation to aid the victims of the devastating hurricane and tidal wave that hit Galveston, Texas (1900). President Theodore Roosevelt calls on the Red Cross to lead a major relief effort to aid San Francisco devestated by an earthquake and fire (1906).

Youth

Some Red Cross staff in the 1890s wanted to organize junior chapters in schools, but there was not much interest at the time. School students on their own engaged in their own activities, both with and without the Red Cross. They worked with disaster relief, fund-raising, and other activities.

Spanish-American War (1898-99)

The Red Cross played an active role in the Spanish American War (1898-99). Some students got involved in the efforts to provide medical support and comfort to American soldiers and their families.

World War I (1914-18

Germany launched World Warv In by invading neutral Belgium (1914). The Red Cross dispatched a Mercy Ship to Europe with medical staff and supplies. Home Service for the military begins its work with help to U.S. troops along the southern border of the during a series of Mexican raids on civilian in towns along the border (1916). America after the Kaiser resumed unrestricted submarine warfare declared war on Germany (April 1917). President Woodrow Wilson appoints a War Council to guide operations of the Red Cross during the War (May 1917). There was a massive outpouring of patriotic feeling as America entered World War I. The number of local chapters rapidly increased from 107 (1914) to 3,864 (1918). Membership expanded incrediblybfrom 17,000 to over 20 million adult and 11 million Junior Red Cross members. The public contributed $400 million in funds and material to support Red Cross programs, including those for American and Allied forces and civilian refugees. The Red Cross staffed hospitals and ambulance companies and recruited 20,000 registered nurses to serve the military. Additional Red Cross nurses volunteered at the end of the War to fight the worldwide influenza epidemic (1918). As part of the effort to support the War, a group of educators and American Red Cross officials developed a plan for a partnership between schools and the Red Cross. President Wilson officially announced the formation of the Junior Red Cross--JRC (September 15, 1917). The President asked American youth, "Is not this perhaps the chance for which you have been looking to give your time and efforts in some measure to meet our national needs ...?" Youth could join the new JRC for only 25-cents a year. The response was overwhelming, 8 million students joined the JRC that first year and membership reached 11 million in 1919.

Inter-War Era

After World war I, the Red Cross focused on service to the returning veterans. The Red Cross set up a National Children's Fund to aid youth people in war devestated Europe (1919). Red Cross aids thousands of earthquake and fire victims in Tokyo and Yokohama, Japan (1923). One of the major disasters during the inter-War era was the Mississip River floods (1927). Following weeks of heavy rainfall, one of the important levees broke along the Mississippi River beginning a flood that would eventually cover 27,000 square miles. Red Cross relief efforts lasted 5 months. A much larger disaster occurred on the southern Plains with the appearance of the Dust Bowl. The Red Cross began distribution of government surplus wheat and cotton products to victims of drought in the Dust Bowl (1932). The Dust Bowl would covered more than five states including Colorado, New Mexico, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas. The Depression created a whole new set of needs for the organization (1930s). Meanwhile the Red Cross expanded programs in safety training, accident prevention, home care for the sick, and nutrition education.

World War II (1939-45)

The American Red Cross (ARC) did not play such an imprtant role in assisting refugees abd civilians as it had durung Worlds War I. It was in World War II primarily focused on aiding the troops. This effort was by the time of World War II well estavlished. Mrs. Roosevelt was a representative of the ARC when she visited the troops in the South Pacific (1943). The first war action was an early blood processing program for relief of English war victims (1940). It was called called Plasma for Britain and was overseen by Dr. Charles R. Drew. The Red Cross enrolled more than 104,000 nurses for military service, prepared 27 million packages for American and Allied prisoners of war, and shipped over 300,000 tons of supplies overseas. A new program requested by the military was a mational blood program that collected 13.3 million pints of blood for use by the armed forces. One major difference in World War II was that the totalitarian powers that played such a major role in the War, were not prepared to allow humanitarian efforts to reach millions of people, in some cases people targeted for death. The Red Cross sent millions of packages of food to American POWs held by the Germans and Italians. The Germans behaved correctly in delivering the packages, although not in adequately feeding POWs. There were also shipments to POWs held by the Japanese, but only a few hot through. The Red Cross also began a blood collection service to aid the wounded. They also established clubs like the famous Rainbow Corner to offer entertainment and food to servicemen. Other agencies were created to specifically aid refugees and other civilians, especially (UNRRA). This was vital becuse the German war gaoal was in addition ro murdering Jews was to kill tens of millions of civiians, chiefly by starvation. The ARC did, however, support efforts to aid civilains. This was mostly done indirectly. The ARC supported the International Committe for the Red Cross (ICRC). It was the latrgest single contributor to the ICRC which played a vital role in dealing with Prisoner of War (POW) issues. The ARC also assisted other national chambers. This was somewhat complicated by bthe fact that the Gernan Red Cross was thorougly Nazified. The Germans did allow of the nationla chambers of occupied countries to operate. With meager resourcces they did a great deal of good work. While it was primarily working on the POW problem, it did play a major role in ending the Greek famine. As the War began to go against the Germans, available resources became less and less available. As the liberation of occupied countries began (mostly 1944), supplies from the Allies became available. at first only in the West. After the German surrender, some moistly American supplies began to reach Eastern Europe. This included both countries in Western and Eastern Europe. As the Soviet Union began to establish Communist police states in Eastern Europe, these efforts were discontinued. But they did occur for some time after the War. Austria was a special case because like Germany, it was divided between the Soviets and Western Allies. There was also a dispute over the ICRC and the League of Red Cross Sociries which the Cimmunists favored. The ARC and other national chapters as well as the ICRC were existing instititions even before the War. As a result there was cooperation with UNRAA. We notuice uniformed ARC staffers at UNRRA Dispalced Persons Camps after the War.

Post-War Era

After World War II, the American Red Cross acting on its war-time expertise established a civilian blood collection service (1948). The Red Cross has continued to offer aid to victims of disasters and wars, playing a major role in disaster relief. They added classes in CPR to lifesaving classes. Another new effort was a Holocaust and War Victims Tracing and Information Center (1990).







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Created: 4:00 AM 11/10/2013
Spell checked: 10:02 PM 11/10/2013
Last updated: 3:22 AM 4/5/2020