*** the United States Red Cross World War I country relief efforts

American Red Cross: World War I -- Major National Institution

American World War I Red Cross></a></font></p>

<img src=
Figure 1.--The United States committed to feeding war-torn Europe both during and after the War. The number of lives saved is in the tens of millions, but the actual numbr will never be known with any accuracy. The principalcomduit for American food was the American Red Cross (ARC). THe ARC had various channels for distributing food and other relief supplies. Here in Coneglana (possibly Conegliano), Italy ther was simoly distrubuting food directly to the population. Notice that most of the people are mothers and a few children showing up with ample baskets. Put your cursor on the image for another look. The ARC photographer took another shot

The International Red Cross was created in Europe, primarily to address issues associated with warfare such as captured soldiers, records assoiaed with deaths, and the care of wounded soldiers. Except for the Civil War, the United States did not engage in any wars requirong a major national effiort. Wars were seen as primarily a European phnomenon in the 19th century. When Congress chartered the Red Cross, however, it was required to assist the U.S. military (1881). And Americans had no real interest in getting involved in European wars. The American Red Cross enreed the war almost from the start, nearly 3 years berfore the American military. President Woodrow Wilson chmpioned the Red Cross. He actuvely promoted the Red Cross boyh to support the Red Cross, tv first for humanitarian efforts and then after merica entered the war to support American troops. Hec asked the American people to support the Red Cross. The Red Cross because of its notable humamitarian relief efforts in Europe and tireless work to aid American soldiers and sailors earned an important place in America society. By the time the war ended in November 1918, the Red Cross had become a major national humanitarian organization. It had developed a huge membership base with chapters throughout the country. This enabled the Red Cross to play a major role after the War in fighting the influenza epidemic. Volunteer workers, for example made masks.

Military Role

The Red Cross attacted little interest in America during the 19th century, primarily because it was seen as an indtitution designed for countries involved in warfare, something the United States was not primarly involved with or of interest to most Americams. The Civil War was the only War involving a major national effort that America was engaged in during the 19th Century. Unlike Euroope there was no peacetime draft or significant militay spending. The U.S. Army after the Civil War was primarily involved with mainting the peace in the West and the only real threat were the Plains Indians. The U.S. Army was smller than all of the major European countries and even some of the minor countris. Of course most of Europe was still dominated by malor empires: Austrian, German, Ottoman, and Russian Empires. One of theattractions of America was a way to evade European military conscription. The American Red Cross was active in the Spasnish Anerican War (1898-99), but this was a short war involving a relatively brief period of time. the interest in the Red Cross, however, did not change significantly, primarily when America entrered World War I War (1917). The United States Army was totally unprepared for war. We think it is safe to say that the Red Cross was more prepared than the Army. The Production Corps which was created (1916), expanded services to include the U.S. military. The Red Cross contributed to hospital service, camp servicdes, canteen, motor corps, and home service. Of course it is best known for the nurses aiding injured service menmbers. Unlike World War II, nurses were primarily Red Cross workers, not Army and Navy personnel.

Relief Efforts

It was not only the Red Cross military role that expanded, but also a role in relief efforts. Unlike the American military, the Red Cross was active in Europe almost from the beginning of the War. The American Red Cross did not just conduct programs at home or for American soldiers overseas. It played a major role in American relief efforts overseas that prevented millions of Europeans from starving. This largely occurred by accident. There was no other organization in the United States that had an operation in place to distribute the relief supplies that would save millions of Europeans. This was because of its overseas organization, made it the organizational infrastructure to handle food and other relief programs. This was especially the case after America entered the War. Many charitable and volunteer groups organized drives to collect funds, food, medical suplies, blankets, clothing. For example the food here was collected and packaged by the Greek War Relief Association. Such groups, however, had no way of getting the food and other relief supplies to Europe and destributing it there. It was the Red Cross that proved to have the cability to deliver the relief supplies to desperate Europeans. It essentially acuired this role by default. American Relief started in Belgium with private donations. Eventually the U.S. Food Administration got involved, putting Government resources behind the relief effort. Famine in an amazing list of countries was prevnred by Ameruica. The list of countries It includes just about every European country received American war relief and the Red Cross became the major American orgnization distributing food and other relief abroad. The efforts included almost all of Europe as far east as the Soviet Union and as well as the Middle East. Europe did no starve after the War, primrily becauuse of America. The food went to all kinds of distribution points, including food kitchens, schools, and orphanages. From the beginning, priority was given to saving children. It was a major salvation for refugees, but also civilian populations that had not been displaced, but were experiencing severe food shortages because of the War.


Navigate the CIH World War I Section:
[Return to the Main American Red Cross World War I page]
[Return to the Main American Red Cross page]
[Return to the Main American World war I volunteer page]
[Return to the Main American food aid relief page]
[Return to the Main Red Cross page]
[Return to the Main U.S. page]
[Return to the Main country instituional page]
[About Us]
[Aftermath] [Alliances] [Animals] [Armistace] [Biographies] [Causes] [Campaigns] [Casualties] [Children] [Countries] [Declaration of war] [Deciding factors] -------[Diplomacy] [Economics] -------[Geo-political crisis] [Home front] [Intelligence]
[Military forces] [Neutrality] [Pacifism] [People] [Peace treaties] [Propaganda] [POWs] [Russian Revolution] [Terrorism] [Trench warfare] ------[Technology] [Weaponry]
[Bibliographies] [Contributions] [FAQs] [Images] [Links] [Registration] [Tools]
[Return to Main World War I page]
[Return to Main war essay page]
[Return to CIH Home page]

Created: 11:44 PM 1/25/2016
Last updated: 2:53 AM 10/30/2021