From the AHA: Benevolent Diplomacy

German boys line up to receive food from pots marked USA while a military official snaps a photo.

Read the original article from Kaete O’Connell

Last winter while leafing through the Official File at the Truman Library for material on Herbert Hoover’s 1947 economic mission to Germany, I was struck by a vibrant burst of color. The monochrome of telegrams and correspondence was replaced by colorful sketches of chickens, Lifesaver candies, and a family of beans marching to a can for preservation. The drawings were bound together with thank-you notes penned by young recipients of US food relief. German children clearly appreciated the “gift” of food, pleasing occupation officials keen to capitalize on American charity. German stomachs, particularly young ones, offered an alternate route to hearts and minds in the early Cold War.

At a time when the future of foreign assistance programs remains uncertain and military rhetoric is ascendant, we might look back to the experience in postwar Germany, when the United States practiced altruism as a form of diplomacy. For a brief moment, before Cuba, before Korea, and even before Berlin, the United States cultivated an image that relied as much on beneficence as military might… [read more]