CHAPTER 40
THE TROUBLED BELGIANS

Both the Belgians in Belgium and their exiled Government at Le Havre could not know our many difficulties of protecting the people in Belgium, dealing with the submarine war, squeezing exports from the American people from a statistical vacuum caused by drought and previous drains, and finding ships to carry the priority in supplies which we had established for them over all other nations.

Their anxieties came to the surface in a dispatch from King Albert to President Wilson on October 18, 1917:

HIS EXCELLENCY MR. WOODROW WILSON,

President of the United States of America, Washington

During more than three years the American Commission for Relief under Mr. Hoover's able leadership has achieved with marked success and under the most trying circumstances the task of supplying the Belgian nation with the bare necessities of life. Moreover, Your Excellency's Government has lately assumed the burden of financing the Commission. Those unmistakable marks of sympathy make me feel confident that whatever the difficulties may be, the United States will never allow their noble work to be jeopardized. However, since several months the imports of foodstuffs have been inadequate and the last reports which reach me from the invaded territory are such that I consider it my duty to make a personal appeal to your intervention. The Belgian population is confronted not only with hardship and suffering but with actual famine; the death rate is steadily increasing. Infantile mortality is appalling. Tuberculosis is spreading and threatening the future of the race. Only by immediate and energetic action can the lives of many of my unhappy people be saved during the

-340-

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An American Epic - Vol. 1
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