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American contributions to Europe before April 6, 1917


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From the New York Times archives. (Thankfully, articles from the time of the Great War can be accessed for free.)

Headline and first paragraph:

OVER $8,000,000 EXPENDED FOR WAR RELIEF; Rockefeller Foundation's Contribution in 1916 Was One-Tenth the Total Amount Received from All American Relief Agencies

March 25, 1917, Sunday

Section: Special Articles, Page XX3, 932 words

THE appropriations of the Rockefeller Foundation for 1916 were $8,249,088,96, or something more than double the expenditures of 1915 and the Foundation's item of war relief for the second complete calendar year of the European hostilities was almost five times as great as that of the first year.


Note: I hope to add to this thread in the upcoming days.

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An interesting research report I found on the Web. The author posits that the first international humanitarian aid effort was launched by the Americans at the opening of hostilities in 1914. His title is Band of Crusaders: American Humanitarians, the Great War, and the Remaking of the World.


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Pete, thanks for your comment. Many young man headed over to Europe as drivers for the American Ambulance Field Service and the Red Cross long before America's declaration of war.

Interestingly, difficulties came for many of them with America's entry, as described elsewhere on the forum. In short, the U.S. Army wanted the drivers to enlist with them immediately. Commissions could be obtained only in America (with some exceptions, of course.) Many of those who did enlist with the Army wrote about how the excitement of their contribution faded in their new life with the Army. Where once they were 'gentleman volunteers,' now they were mired in bureaucracy and, on top of that, expected to behave like any other enlisted man, including being subject to drill and inspections.

General Pershing was furious when Richard Norton wrote that a militarized driver "will henceforth ... be nothing more than a mere private." It was a denigrating phrase, he maintained, though Norton was never allowed to explain himself more fully. I believe the great majority of the volunteer drivers were men with some education and would have been eagerly approached for candidacy for a commission had they been in the States. Instead, they were already at war. I wonder what I would have decided had I been in their shoes.

Another thorn in the side of some of the volunteers was that once they were militarized they were not permitted to wear any French decorations they had earned. (I don't think this policy was altered until well into the war.)

A great read about the AAFS can be found here: http://net.lib.byu.edu/estu/wwi/memoir/Buswell/AAFS1.htm

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This is the Army, Mister Green

We like the barracks nice and clean

You had a housemaid to clean your floor

But she won't help you out anymore

--from "This Is the Army" by Irving Berlin, 1942, also a film starring Ronald Reagan in 1943

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I am currently working with two sets of letter from AFS volunteers and hope at some yet to be determined date to get at least one of them published. I am 2/3rds of the way through annotating the letters. One went on to be an air-service pilot - the other continued in the AEF once the AFS was militiarized and was indeed "demoted" as you suggest - and his letters reflect a degree of resentment too. Not so the chap who transferred to the Air Service, this it appears he saw this as the quickest way to a commissioned rank (as most of the air training was done in France anyway) and to judge by the relatively large number of AFS volunteers who later served in the Air Service this was quite common.


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Pete, you've caught the spirit of the thing!

And, Chris, good luck with your work. If you ever want to share an excerpt or two here, I for one would be delighted!

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