They were young and idealistic, most of them students and all but one of them male, many on a six-week break from their studies as they drove around Belgium with the ever-present sound of gunfire and shelling in the distance. They were neutral Americans thrust into the fraught war zone of WWI, only to be harassed by ‘battle-hardened’ German soldiers occupying Belgium and ‘buttoned-up’ native businessmen navigating their own pride and interests.
The Yanks were trying to feed a nation, supervising as provisions were shipped to and distributed through German-occupied Belgium. They were delegates with the US-led Commission for Relief in Belgium, an oft-forgotten effort spearheaded by future president Herbert Hoover which sent naïve, well-meaning Americans behind German lines before the US entered the war.
And the CRB succeeded; not only that, the effort became the largest food relief program the world had ever seen.
‘No one ever thought it could be done,’ says author Jeffrey B. Miller, who has written a new, comprehensive book about the CRB – published 100 years after the end of WWI – titled WWI Crusaders: A band of Yanks in German-occupied Belgium help save millions from starvation as civilians resist the harsh German rule, August 1914 to May 1917.
Read the rest of the article at the Daily Mail.