I've got two particular, personal memories of the Red Cross: I was
stationed at Cherry Point when my father died, and the Red Cross
arranged for my notification, leave, and transport to the New York
area, all at no cost; a few years years later, the entire block I was
living in burned, and my wife and myself got out in the clothing we
had on, with much of our cash (pretty much pre-credit card days, and
college students to boot) and pretty much all else of value turned to
ash, at which time the Red Cross arranged for a place for us to stay,
and gave us chits for clothing at a local store, after making sure the
store was open. Again, no charge.
I have to wonder about the situations encountered where the Red Cross
is said to have charged servicemen for coffee and donuts. My two
uncles, one returning from carrier duty in the Atlantic, and one an
Army CB tour in the South Pacific, said their Red Cross coffee and
buns were free. I can see possibilities where a nickel or dime for a
coffee and donut got collected to help supplement overseas offerings.
I've heard of a couple of cases where the the payment was voluntary.
And I've heard the stories about the Red Cross collecting without any
apparent reason, but based on my own experience, and that of my own
family members, I have to say I think we're again looking at a part of
the story, not the whole thing. Were these fund raising events? Do we
know? Did anyone ask, or did they do, as so many of us do, simply get
angry without finding out all the facts?
As I understand it the carge for the coffie and donuts was a "local" thing
mostly in Europe. The British Red Cross had to charge for the items and the
American Red Cross was forced to follow suit. This is what I was told when I
was in Europe wearing green.
The donuts, coffee, and paperbacks books were free in RVN the one time I saw
a contingent of 'Donut Dollies' ... they didn't quite frequent the mostly
Vietnamese (all but me) area I was in.
But I do recall that they had the cutest little butts I'd seen in a good
while, which was worth a damn sight more than the coffee and donuts at the
ARC also did better than FEMA ,when we flooded out a few years back, who
were insisting upon giving me a double wide trailer for my driveway ... all
10' x' 15' of it.
I finally gave up when the dude with the new table notebook showed up to do
a 'damage assessment' but simply wasn't smart enough to work it. He told me
he was getting $100 a house, and he was "doing" 8 to 12 a day.
Working along the gulf coast helping rebuild IT infrastructures after
Katrina I met many FEMA people. I'll never forget one FEMA employee,
staying in a Biloxi casino hotel with free meals, who said that he was
having the time of his life, and said he wished that we'd have a Katrina
every year so he could travel more.
When I was in France near the end of WWll, the Red Cross set up their
business and I bought and paid for many do-nuts from them. Today I
refuse to give to the Red Cross. I still have a few tickets that I
purchased. I wonder if they are still redeemable? George
And while perhaps not hard to understand in the circumstances, as noted
earlier in the thread you're carrying the grudge against the wrong folks
-- it was US military that made the request to the Red Cross to charge a
nominal fee to be in line with the rest of the Allies' (particularly the
Brits) policy to try to help minimize the ill-feeling between the
various groups that was already extant owing to the significantly higher
payrate for GIs.
I just read Churchill's four-volume history of the war last winter and
while I don't recall the Red Cross canteens specifically being
mentioned, the issue of pay differential and discontent over privileges,
etc., was a significant enough item to have come even to the PM's
attention. As Eisenhower's later letter (also referenced earlier in the
thread) indicates, that policy, not any desire on the part of the Red
Cross to try to profit, was the underlying reason.
Then why is it after over 60 years is the Red Cross apologizing for
their actions. They wouldn't even mention it because they figured we
would all be dead by now. But some of us are still here and it is
coming back to haunt their organization. So easy to blame the
government for their actions. George
On Nov 15, 2:11 pm, email@example.com (George G) wrote:
Well, there's this from NBC News:
A bad decision made 65 years ago still haunts the Red Cross. In 1942,
during World War II, the Red Cross was ordered by then-Secretary of
War Harold Stimson to charge soldiers a nickel for the doughnuts and
coffee that it distributed at "Red Cross clubs" behind the battle
lines in parts of Europe.
According to the Red Cross, Stimson's thinking at the time was that
non-U.S. allied soldiers had to pay for refreshments, so in the spirit
of morale, which Stimson feared was suffering, he ordered American
soldiers to pay for refreshments.
The move made soldiers furious. Even today, many of the soldiers tell
their families to boycott the Red Cross.
On Monday, as Americans observed Veterans' Day, a day to honor the
sacrifices of soldiers, the Red Cross officially apologized.
I don't tell anybody what or who they spend their money on. All I'm
saying is, it sure sounds to me like it isn't the Red Cross who should
bear the blame for all those nickels all those years ago.
Still... they probably should have put up more of a fight. Or maybe
given free donuts to the other allies instead. That would have been
the nice thing to do.
To make a gesture to heal old wounds -- but while real, this is one not
of their direct responsibility of causing.
While I don't have a link to an online copy of it, there was, in fact, a
directive from Henry Stinson, FDR's Secretary of War, to the Red Cross
requesting they establish facilities overseas open to _all_ Allied
forces, not just American. Since the Brits and Aussies were being
charged by _their_ supported organizations, for overall morale within
the Allied forces it was considered mandatory to make things even for
As I noted previously, there was discussion all the way to between FDR
and WC on the problems of morale owing to the discrepancies between the
Yanks and the Brits/Aussies/Candians/etc. that were imperative to try to
minimize between them. The Churchill history includes copies of every
telegram/letter/memo he wrote during the war years either as embedded in
the narrative or in the appendices. It gets to be pretty heavy
slogging, but I worked my way through every one before I quit. I
remember the issue being raised on more than one occasion. If the
action in this case taken by the US inadvertently created ill will
against the Red Cross, that was an unintended consequence. (Btw, the
sheer amount of seemingly insignificant detail that came to Churchill's
attention that one became aware of by reading those supplementary
directives is simply mind-boggling that any one person could be so
detail oriented while at the same time directing overall attention to
the largest scale operations of the war and current and present
diplomatic efforts simultaneously.)
Note I'm not saying the RC has no warts -- no organization of that size
can avoid the occasional misstep. Nor am I saying the concept of free
buns/coffee to the troops during wartime wouldn't have been a good one.
It was, however, not within the means of the Brits to provide and so
the US went along as best they knew how.
I think during WWII, it was an unusual event when someone told the
Secretary of War to piss off. It was not considered a matter of
"gonads" but a matter of not lowering the morale of allies that had
already taken one helluva whacking without folding.
More to the point, the conduct of the war _was_ the business of the
Secretary of War (that's why they called him that), and not of the Red
Cross. Further, during WWII, if the Secretary of War "requested"
something, compliance wasn't really optional.
Well, don't know if it's what you meant or not, but the specific words
leave a little bit of the wrong impression at least to me...
The Secretary of War was a Cabinet post which is now known as the
Secretary of Defense. The subtlety being he held the same position w/
the same title before war was declared, not just because of the war
That point wasn't in question and I intended to add that I agreed with
your point that a request was about like "requesting" the kid to take
out the trash but failed to do so.
I only wanted to clarify there wasn't a Secretary of War appointed for
the war itself, rather it was/is the regular Cabinet post. Most of the
regulars here are old enough to know that; who knows who's lurking or
from somewhere else?
Coincidentally, I stopped at the library last night -- on the "new book"
shelf was a biography of Ike. Thinking of this thread I picked it up.
Don't know if this incident is in it or not; probably not, it apparently
didn't really build any legs as an issue until after the war when people
had time again to indulge in petty grudges... :(
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