"Today, whenever there are civilians anywhere in the world in harm’s way—from a natural disaster to an armed conflict—the nearly universal response has been: ‘America will help.’ That was not the case before World War I."

During the First World War, a group led by American citizens, known as the Commission for Relief in Belgium (CRB), saved millions of Belgian and French citizens from starvation when Germany occupied their homelands. CRB was not an official government agency, but became the largest food relief program up to that time in history. Despite that distinction, few people know about it now. That’s precisely why this is such a valuable and formidable addition to World War I scholarship. The veteran author has been studying history for almost half a century. When he inherited a compendium of papers from his grandfather, who was a member of the Commission, he knew he had to chronicle the CRB story. This book is the result—a project that began when the author first heard the tales as a teenager and concluded with a decade of expert research and persuasive writing.

This historical footnote to one of the twentieth century’s most devastating events proves that footnotes can be just as compelling as any other story about World War I. This particular one, about the kind of humanitarian aid effort that was unheard of until then, also proves that the author is as fascinated by the account as he wants his readers to be absorbed and moved by it. Through tireless research and sheer literary skill, he accomplishes his task. Supported by notes, sources, and reader aids, this studious effort is worth the time of anyone interested in gripping real-life stories behind weighty historical truths. As a bonus, readers get to meet many important people, from the famous, such as President Woodrow Wilson, to the relatively unknown, like Walter Page, the U.S. Ambassador to Britain, who was as impressive and dramatic a figure as countless characters in all the best books about war.

A 2022 Eric Hoffer Book Award Category Finalist

RECOMMENDED by the US Review

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