First Advisor

David A. Horowitz

Date of Publication

Spring 7-9-2018

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.) in History






United States President's Famine Emergency Committee, World War (1939-1945) -- Civilian relief, Food relief, Herbert Hoover (1874-1964), Harry S. Truman (1884-1972), Presidents -- United States



Physical Description

1 online resource (vi, 126 pages)


Famine and destitution stemming from the Second World War had spread across the European continent and parts of Asia by mid-1945. Recognizing the need for recovery and survival in those regions, President Harry S. Truman at the recommendation of several Cabinet members, summoned ex-President Herbert Hoover for advice on how the United States should proceed in offering aid beyond the earlier efforts of the United Nations Rehabilitation and Relief Administration and other relief sources. After an absence from the White House and official government participation for many years, Hoover readily provided crucial advice on addressing famine relief in Europe and Asia based on his previous humanitarian leadership during and after the First World War.

Recognizing that further action needed to be taken, Truman asked Hoover, as Honorary Chairman of the Famine Emergency Committee (FEC), to go to Europe and Asia to personally assess the famine relief needs. Hoover and several colleagues travelled 50,000 miles to thirty-eight different nations from March and into June 1946 to witness and evaluate famine needs in the afflicted nations, or arrange for food supply resources from various other countries; making a second trip to a struggling Germany and Austria in 1947.

This thesis initially examines the narrative of the period between Hoover's reentry into public service, as requested by Truman, and the chronicle of the FEC missions. At the same time, it considers the purposes of the FEC missions, from both Hoover's and Truman's perspectives, and despite differing political viewpoints, the efforts of the two leaders to merge their activities into a common goal. The aim, amid early Cold War challenges, was to encourage both freedom and democracy in Europe and elsewhere, while sustaining free market economies and guarding against the spread of communism. As Hoover focused his efforts on American based humanitarian aid through the mechanism of food relief to promote economic prosperity, stability, and political freedoms, Truman endeavored to protect democracy as expressed in the Truman Doctrine. Both standpoints coalesced in a synthesis of anti-communism, global stability, and U.S. geopolitical interests.

This thesis also will analyze the friendship that developed between Hoover and Truman during the FEC missions. This helped lead to further collaboration between the two leaders, as the President asked the ex-President to assist in the creation of the First Hoover Commission, leading to a Second Hoover Commission under President Dwight D. Eisenhower. Despite ongoing political dissimilarities and occasional disagreements, the friendship of Hoover and Truman strengthened and endured for the remainder of the lives.


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