In the early months of World War I, Herbert Hoover—an eminent American mining engineer living in London—organized an international relief effort to deliver and distribute food supplies to the beleaguered civilian population of Belgium, caught between a German army of occupation and a British naval blockade. His volunteer organization became known as the Commission for Relief in Belgium. His largely American-led, emergency relief mission quickly turned into an elaborate enterprise without precedent in world history: the organized rescue of an entire nation from the peril of starvation in the middle of a war. Hoover's monumental undertaking in Belgium and northern France (which lasted until 1919) made him an international hero and the embodiment of a new force in global politics: American benevolence in the form of humanitarian assistance and foreign aid programs. After serving concurrently as US Food Administrator in Woodrow Wilson's administration in 1917-18, Hoover returned to Europe during the Armistice to direct food relief programs on a stupendous scale in more than twenty war-battered nations. Returning to the United States in late 1919, he took steps to institutionalize his philanthropic endeavors and eventually became known as the "Great Humanitarian." During and after the Second World War, he led other humanitarian initiatives and wrote extensively about what he called "an American epic." Hoover's pioneering ventures in global philanthropy during the Great War and its aftermath not only saved many millions of lives. They were also the forerunners of a vast network of transnational, nongovernmental, humanitarian agencies created in the twentieth century to mitigate suffering and heal the wounds of war: a remarkable and often overlooked legacy of the First World War.


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pp. 55-70
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