Herbert Hoover to Woodrow Wilson


Herbert Hoover to Woodrow Wilson


Hoover, Herbert, 1874-1964




1918 April 8


Herbert Hoover writes to Woodrow Wilson about shipping food to various European countries.


Hoover-Wilson Correspondence, Hoover Institution, Hoover Institution Archives, Stanford, California


Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library & Museum


United States Food Administration
Wilson, Woodrow, 1856-1924--Correspondence
Hoover, Herbert, 1874-1964--Correspondence




Dear Mr. President

The War Council of the War Department has apparently decided that no shipping can be afforded to the Belgian Relief Commission. I fully appreciate the extreme gravity of the present situation, yet I have the feeling that this decision was taken without consideration of the whole of its bearings and it does seem to me that it should be reviewed.

The Belgian Relief Commission has a fleet untouched by this decision which is able to transport to the population of Belgium and Northern France an average of under 60,000 tons of food per month. The amount of food which we have always considered as the minimum on which this population could be maintained in even reasonable health is about 120,000 tons of food per month. We have felt latterly that under this great shipping stringency and with the approaching spring, we could reduce it to 90,000 tons of food a month temporarily without bringing about a disaster; thus leaving 30,000 tons to be carried monthly by new shipping - needing, say, 65,000 tons deadweight.

In the original Dutch agreement we were to have 100,000 tons of Dutch shipping. Upon the failure of this agreement, Mr. Hurley undertook to do his utmost to supply the Relief Commission with some 70,000 tons of shipping at once and three Norwegian steamers have been assigned, but under this last direction there is some uncertainty as to whether even these will not be taken away and no more provided.

Aside entirely from its deep humanaitarian aspects, the Relief problem has very great political importance. So great has the political aspect been regarded by the Allied governments that during the whole of these years they have not only supported it in shipping and money, but at the recent Inter-Allied Council in Paris it was decided to be of such extreme importance that the Belgian Relief was given a priority in shipping, money and food, over all Allied needs. This political importance hinges around:

1st. The prevention of an agreement between the Flemish population and the Germans as to the establishment of a separate and independent government under German tutelage.

2nd. The fact that the Belgian government itself and the Belgian Army may consider the cost in sacrifice of life of their civilian population too great to pay for constancy in the war.

3rd. The loss of morale to the French people and the Frency Army by a debacle amongst their own civilians in the North of France. The French Premier has expressed himself vigorously on this point.

5th. There are some 2,000,000 workmen in Belgium who have, with the most extraordinary constancy, refused all these years to work for the Germans and even under the terrible suffering of actual forced labor they have so resisted as to give the Germans no adequate return for the measures they adopted in this manner.

I believe we can maintain the Relief and the whole of its objectives if we can have (a) No interference with our present fleet, including the three ships already assigned by the Shipping Board. (b) The assignment of five more ships promptly for April loading and four further ships for May loading.

The whole matter seems to me of such importance that it should at least be referred to the Supreme War Council in Europe for decision before any action of the nature proposed is taken here.

Yours faithfully,
(Sgd) Herbert C. Hoover

His Excellency
The President of
The United States,
Washington, DC

Original Format



Wilson, Woodrow, 1856-1924




Hoover, Herbert, 1874-1964, “Herbert Hoover to Woodrow Wilson,” 1918 April 8, WWP19395, Hoover Institute at Stanford University Collection, Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library & Museum, Staunton, Virginia.