The Papers of Robert A. Taft: 1889-1939 - Vol. 1

By Robert A. Taft; Clarence E. Wunderlin, Jr. | Go to book overview

CHAPTER FOUR
With Hoover in Europe (1918–1919)

The armistice of November n, 1918, signaled not merely the end of hostilities, but the beginning of a period of postwar relief and reconstruction. The Food Administration turned from supplying 230 million people among the Allied and Associated Powers and neutral nations to preventing famine among Europe’s population of 600 million. As early as October 1918, Food Administrator Herbert C. Hoover, who encouraged the production of agricultural surpluses, sketched the outlines of a European relief mission to President Woodrow Wilson. In his capacity as Allied director general of relief and head of the American Relief Administration after its inception in February 1919, Hoover coordinated delivery of four million tons of food, valued at $1,000,000,000, in nine months of operations.1

As an assistant counsel in the Food Administration’s Legal Department and a director of the Sugar Equalization Board, Robert A. Taft had impressed Hoover. When he assembled his staff for the relief operation in early November 1918, Hoover chose Taft, then aged twenty-nine, to be his executive assistant and legal counsel. In his new position, Taft would untie the knots, secure financing, and coordinate the almost daily shipments of food, clothing, and medical relief to central and eastern Europe. With little advance notice, he hastily made living arrangements for his wife, Martha, and their two sons, William Howard III and Robert, Jr., then boarded the SS Olympic, which was docked under heavy security at New York’s North River Pier 59, joining Hoover and other administrators charged with the relief of war-torn Europe.2

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