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which has become extremely alarming. Immediate help is needed and an appeal is made to the humanitarian feelings of the President, his country having already done so much to save Belgium (and northern France) from starvation.

The text of the telegram is here included and I should be much obliged to you for causing it to be placed as soon as possible in the hands of the President.

Believe me [etc.]



The French Premier (Clemenceau) to President Wilson

PARIS, May 13, 1918. I received from M. de Broqueville the following alarming despatch:

I have just addressed to Mr. Lloyd George the following telegram:1

I have received alarming news concerning the food situation in the occupied portion of Belgium. The National Committee predicts a real famine during this month. The bread ration will be reduced to 180 grammes beginning on the 15th of May. The ration of starch foods is reduced because of the lack of stocks and of deliveries; compensation in fat is insufficient. Resources in native food products do not exist. The Council of Ministers brought together by the urgency of the situation addressed a direct and pressing appeal to the chief of the British Government in order that immediate measures be taken to assure the execution of the contract explicitly undertaken that they should furnish the tonnage and food products for the famished population. The King and the Belgian Government decline all responsibility for the moral and material disaster with which Belgium is menaced if efficacious measures are not undertaken without delay. This responsibility is a duty which falls to the Allied Governments. I am certain that I am able to count on your humane sentiments, your political reasoning and your generous comprehension of the duties of your country towards the Belgian people who oppose the enemy with an indomitable resistance. I come to London with my colleagues of Finance and of the Navy to ask of you a prompt solution of the problem on which hangs the existence of the Belgian people.

I appeal to your friendship and to the solidarity of France whose population in the north suffer as ours do, in order that the Government of the Republic associate itself with us in our measures taken with the Cabinet in London and aid us to assure the safety of the populations of the invaded regions. I ask of you the personal cooperation of your high political and moral authority in presenting this to Mr. Lloyd George and President Wilson. Signed, Broqueville.

I can do nothing but transmit this despatch to the President of the United States whose humanitarian sentiments have manifested them

1 The appeal of the Belgian Prime Minister was also transmitted to President Wilson by the Belgian Minister at Washington in similar terms except for the following in place of the last two sentences; "Knowing by experience the high sense of justice and pity which characterizes the policy and inspires the acts of the United States Government, I herewith appeal to you personally with the hope that you will take up at once this urgent question in view of insuring all possible relief to the Belgian population whose resistance has so far remained indomitable." (File No. 855.48/772.)

selves with so much brilliance, at the same time supporting the measure with all my energy. I know too well what is the frightful situation of the Belgian population, as well as that of the occupied French territory. I do not know what means you will utilize, but I do not doubt that an understanding with the British Government could fairly quickly bring a remedy to the menacing famine which would take the proportions of a world-wide catastrophe if the Allies did not intervene promptly. It goes without saying that the French Government is ready to adopt all measures demanded of it which are possible for it to take.

File No. 855.48/796b


The Secretary of State to the Secretary of War (Baker)

WASHINGTON, May 21, 1918.

SIR: The Belgian relief situation has reached an acute stage from the political no less than the humanitarian point of view. From a message to the President received from Baron de Broqueville, the Belgian Prime Minister, it appears that the King of Belgium and the Belgian Cabinet decline to assume the responsibility of the moral and material disaster which confronts Belgium if immediate and thorough measures be not resorted to at once, De Broqueville adding that, "this responsibility rests with the Allied Governments." Mr. Clemenceau, the French Premier, with whom the matter was taken up, states that he could do nothing but transmit Mr. de Broqueville's appeal to the President, at the same time supporting the measure with all his energy.

Mr. Hoover believes that actual starvation in Belgium could be averted if the Commission for Relief in Belgium could have at once 40,000 tons of shipping for May loading, 55,000 tons for June loading, and 26,000 tons for July.

In view of the international importance of this critical situation, I considered it advisable to take the matter up with the President and am now in receipt of his reply stating that he regards this question of Belgian relief as of capital importance from every war point of view as well as from every humanitarian point of view; that Mr. Hoover has obtained a little additional tonnage by subtraction from the Cuban sugar trade, but far from enough; and that the President does not think that we can too earnestly press the matter home to the serious attention and early action of those who control shipping.

I beg to bring the foregoing to your attention for such urgent action as may be taken in the premises.

I have [etc.]



Public Statement Issued by the Food Administration 1

Mr. Hoover to-day (Wednesday) issued the following:

President Wilson to-day settled the arrangements by which the fleet of steamers employed by the Belgian Relief Commission were restored to their normal number and the grave peril which for the past month has overhung the 10,000,000 Belgian and French people in German-occupied Belgium and France is removed.

As a result of the diversion of a large part of the shipping employed by the Relief Commission to other war purposes, it had been necessary to reduce the bread ration to 6 ounces per diem, this being 1 ounce below even the present German ration, with corresponding reductions in the other foodstuffs.

Negotiations have been for some time under way between the British, French, and American Governments through Messrs. W. B. Poland, in Europe, and Mr. Prentiss Gray, of the Relief Commission, here, with the cooperation of Mr. Hurley, of the United States Shipping Board; Mr. Franklin, of the ship-control committee; and Mr. Stevens, their representative in Europe, and the British shipping executive, by whose combined efforts arrangements have been made through which the American and British Governments have each undertaken to find one-half of the necessary shipping in order to restore the volume of foodstuffs necessary for the maintenance of these people.

Ships have been assigned from those formerly plying in the Allied food trades and adjustments have been made in the American shipping position, amongst others, to take 50,000 tons of shipping from the Cuban sugar trade applying it to equivalent purposes. This latter has been made possible by the reduction in sugar to the confectionery and sweet-drink industries, through the rationing scheme now in operation by the Food Administration.

Our President and Premiers Clemenceau and Lloyd George have all personally interested themselves in finding a solution to the situation. Shipping providing for the dispatch of 90,000 tons of foodstuffs in the next 30 days has been placed at the disposal of the Commission, and further arrangements settled for the future.

Even with this additional shipping, the Belgian ration must be of the most meager character, but I am confident that actual starvation on a wholesale scale has again been saved.

1 The Official Bulletin, Washington, May 23, 1918 (vol. 2, No. 317), p. 1.

File No. 855.48/797

The Chargé in Great Britain (Laughlin) to the Secretary of State


LONDON, October 11, 1918, 5 p. m.
[Received 8.11 p. m.]

2728. Rathbone 1 from Davis: 2 706. British Treasury informed me today that in view of present military operations in Flanders and the imminent evacuation by enemy of territory hitherto occupied, Belgian Government and Director of Commission for Relief have obtained approval of Foreign Office for relief of liberated Belgian population to be undertaken at present by Relief Commission who are in consultation with Hoover. According to confidential military information this relief will be required within next few days and to avoid complicating position by calling upon Commission to divert floating cargoes, British War Office has agreed, subject to approval of British Treasury, to supply immediate requirements up to 20,000,000 rations from army stocks. British Treasury desired to know today if we will allow Commission for Relief to reimburse them in dollars for supplies so furnished such as flour, meat, condensed milk, at [same price] purchased by them from us in order to replace corresponding amount of stock. I informed them I could not make any commitment and could not consult Crosby because of interruption in telephone line, but that on account of urgency and importance of situation, would recommend it as an exception not to be considered as a precedent. War Office requiring immediate answer in order to augment its stocks in proportion to anticipated demands. British Treasury gave its approval but requested me to submit matter to you. Understand civil population will necessarily have to be supplied for short time from supplies of occupying army. Total value for 20,000,000 rations estimated at $5,000,000 of which approximately one-half represents above items for which dollars or replacement would be requested. While rations supplied to population under such circumstances will probably be more liberal than ordinary allotments, understand this will eventually reduce correspondingly purchases of Relief Commission in America.


1 Albert Rathbone, Assistant Secretary of the Treasury.


Norman H. Davis, Treasury representative at London and Paris.

File No. 851.48/29

The Chargé in Great Britain (Laughlin) to the Secretary of State


LONDON, October 14, 1918.

2779. For Hoover [from Poland]:

[Received 7 p. m.]

C.R.B. 129. Monday. Please advise New York. Have just returned from France after having conferences with French and Belgian Governments and Red Cross regarding ravitaillement of released territories. Advised Governments that our attitude is, while willing to assist in every possible way, we should relinquish all ravitaillement as soon as French and Belgian Administrations are able to handle it. Governments however desire us to continue for present wherever possible to assist in feeding released region, finally relinquishing to Governments several months hence when they are better organized. Have requested Belgian and French Governments to consult and determine exact course they wish followed to meet emergency, strongly recommending at least 50,000 tons balanced. rations be accumulated at Channel ports or strategical points behind lines to meet sudden demands sure to come. Has been suggested Commission deliver such emergency supplies at Channel ports which I have agreed to provided Governments make necessary arrangements for the additional ships and food required, and it is understood our responsibilities end there, distribution being undertaken by French and Belgian authorities. This food would not be imported under German safe-conducts. This tentative arrangement to be temporary and Flanders and French cities to be again fed via Ghent when possible. Brown 1 under date of 11th advises:

Von der Lancken informed Francqui on 9th that he expected Germans would leave Brussels within 15 days proposing to turn over civil administration of evacuated Belgium temporarily to Comité National. Also no breaches of guarantees up to the present. Evacuation difficulties of Lille and West Flanders have caused some stoppage of lighters which are now being concentrated at Antwerp, Brussels, Louvain, and Mons. Shipments forward being made as necessary. On October 5, Labbé reported four weeks' stocks of bread grains in Lille and other principal stocks largely in same proportion. Situation apparently well in hand. All possible steps being taken to meet or anticipate rapidly changing conditions.

In case of partial evacuation of France and Flanders we have advised Rotterdam that every effort be made to continue to feed liberated people via Terneuzen Canal and Ghent. Endeavoring to arrange with German authorities that distribution from our supplies


Walter L. Brown, Director of C.R.B. at Rotterdam.

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