*** World War I American relief American Relief Administration

United States Post World World War I Relief Efforts: American Relief Administration (1919-23)

American relief countries
Figure 1.--The American Relief Administration (ARA) was the American government and charitable post-World War I effort to save a starving Europe. America managed to deliver food to Belgium and a few other countries during the War. Only with the end of the War, however, was the United states able to deliver food to the starving people of Central and Eastern Europe. Here we see a ARA team operating in Samara on the Volga River. Samara, known from 1935 to 1991 as Kuybyshev, is the sixth largest city in Russia. The ARA had an especially difficult saving starving Russians. The Bolsheviks despite a deadly famine, refused to allow the ARA and American food into the country.

With the end of the war, the United States wound down the United States Food Administration (USFA). Europe was, however, in crisis. The war had damged and dirupted the continents economy. This included the agricultural sector. Europe was not producing enough food to feed its people. Europeans were going hungary and facing famine on a collosal scale. This was not only the industrial countries that imported food before the War, but the agicultural countries that had a food surplus before the War and exported food. Here Poland and Russia were in particularly desperate states. Hoover accompanied President Wilson to Europe as an adviser to the Paris Peace Conference. Hoover because of his work to save the Belgians and to incrase americam food production seemed the perfect choice to head an Allied relief effort. Problems immediately surfaced. Britain and France both demanded more relief supplies and blocked relief efforts to the defeated Central Powers. President Wilson decided to end distracting diplomtic wrangling and to simply create an American relief effort--essentially to go it alone. This made sense because it was America who had the food to deliver. Presidebt wilson created a successor agency to the USFA with the sole purpose of saving starving Europeans and a focus on Central and Eastern Europe where the situation wss increasingly desperate. The sucessor organization to deal with post-War relief was the the American Relief Administration (ARA) (February 1919). USFA Director Herbert Hoover was put in charge of the new effort. The ARA inherited the USFA staff with extenive relief experience. The ARA was funded by both the U.S. Congress and private donations. The ARA set about opened missions throughout Europe. The ARA opend missions in both Allied countries as well as the former Central Powers, the enemy countries during the war. The ARA even tried to open an office in Bolshevik Russia. Bolshevik Russia was a state which from the beginning was dedicated to destroying the capitalist United States. Even so the ARA offered to aid the Russian people as a humanitarian effot (1919-20). The Bolsheviks despite the desperate need of the Russian people at first refused, demanding total control over any food relief efforts. They could not believe that the United States, the great capitalist power would be so insane as to aid a country devoted on destroying America and capitalism. The plight of the srarbing Russian masses was simply dismissed. Wjile the ARA was unabke to help the Rusian people, it did launch a massive effort to aid the rest of Europe. The primary goal of the ARA was to provide food relief, but it actually did much more providing warm clothing, blankets, medical aid, relocation services, and much more. Hoover placed a special focus on saving the children. The ARA was invisioned as a short-term effort lasting a few months. Hoover who went to Europe in 1919, however, saw immediately that a longer term effort was desperately needed. Tragically for the Russian peoole, millions perished durung a horible winter famine (1920-21). Only after respected author Maxim Gorky personally petitioned Vladimir Lenin to allow America to establish a relief effort did the situation change in Russia and the Bolsheviks relent. ARA European Director Walter Lyman Brown and Soviet assistant Commissar of Foreign Affairs Maxim Litvinov finally reached an agreement for an ARA Russian Mission (Summer 1921). Only because of this did millions of Russians survive the winter. In all American relief efforts saved some 350 million during and after World War I. Most modern Russians are familiar with the Allied interventiin in Russia during the Civil War. Vrry few Russians know about the tens of million of Russian lives saved by the Americans.


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Created: 10:24 PM 4/28/2017
Last updated: 10:24 PM 4/28/2017