Tag Archives: Armistice Day

Century-old armistice unveiled brutal foe of hunger

World War One destroyed communities and farmland which led to food shortages.

One hundred years ago, the Armistice of Nov. 11 brought the fighting of World War I mercifully to an end. The U.S. and Allies had defeated Germany and the Central Powers in what was called the Great War.

As we reflect on this history, let’s remember the timeless lessons of war and peace that emerged. World War I showed not only the horror of armed conflict, but its brutal partner: Hunger.

When President Woodrow Wilson addressed Congress about the Armistice, he warned of hunger in the defeated Germany, Austria-Hungary and other Central Powers. Wilson said, “Everything that is possible in the circumstances will be done to supply them with food and relieve the distressing want that is in so many places threatening their very lives… Hunger does not breed reform; it breeds madness and all the ugly distempers that make an ordered life impossible.”

No armistice can be signed against the enemy of hunger. The battle against food shortages continued long after Nov. 11. Herbert Hoover, who coordinated food aid, described how in France “when the curtain was raised at the Armistice, there came into view destroyed cities, homes and farms.”

With farmers displaced from their homes and unable to grow food, famine became the threat. Hoover wrote, “A belt of once fertile land on both sides of the trench lines was so torn that it required years for restoration.”

Americans donated to help feed France and other nations in distress. The Congress also passed appropriations supporting food aid for the war victims.

It’s vital we remember the Armistice and the hunger that followed. The tragic thing is 100 years later there are still nations affected by war and at risk of famine.

The civil war in Yemen has caused the worst humanitarian crisis in the world. Yemen is on the brink of famine. Carolyn Miles, the president of Save the Children, says, “This brutal conflict continues to claim the lives of more than 100 children per day – not just from conflict but also from disease and extreme food insecurity, which have been exacerbated by the ongoing violence.”

Yemen desperately needs a ceasefire, a peace treaty and food aid.

The civil war in Syria has destroyed agriculture, which will also take years to recover. Refugees from Syria are scattered throughout the Middle East and with the loss of livelihood they suffer from hunger.

South Sudan, a country with fertile land, has seen its farming industry also devastated by civil war. In the Sahel region of Africa conflict and drought have left millions with food shortages.

All these nations need emergency food aid. Catholic Relief Services, The World Food Program, Save the Children, Mercy Corps and other humanitarian agencies provide life-saving aid with the generosity of donors. As was the case after the Armistice the goodwill of the public through food drives and fundraisers is needed.

With enough funding these nations can rebuild agriculture and grow their own food.

Like after the Armistice, Congress is needed to back humanitarian relief through spending bills. Today’s Congress should increase funds for the Food for Peace program to fight hunger in today’s war and disaster affected nations.

One thing that was done after the Armistice was providing school meals to children in countries impacted by the war. Congress could further support school meals overseas today by increasing funding for the McGovern-Dole Food for Education Program.

With the Armistice came hope of a lasting peace and the end to war and famine. We should never give up on these noble dreams that can inspire us this Armistice (Veteran’s) Day on Nov. 11.

William Lambers is an author who partnered with the UN World Food Program on the book Ending World Hunger.

Originally appeared in the Bakersfield Californian.

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On Veteran’s Day, thoughts on building a lasting peace

Just eight days before the Nov. 11, 1918 Armistice ending World War I, my great uncle, Ira Pitzer, was killed during battle in France. His mother was overcome with grief for the rest of her life, a tragedy shared by so many families who have served in the military.

Veterans Day is to honor the service and sacrifice of the men and women in the armed forces. But Veterans Day also should mean something more, an inspiration to win a lasting peace.

As President Dwight Eisenhower once proclaimed on Veterans Day: “Let us reconsecrate ourselves to the task of promoting an enduring peace so that their efforts shall not have been in vain.”

See my full commentary in the Des Moines Register:

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Veterans Day and the gospel of food for hungry children

As we celebrate this Veterans Day, let’s recall a recent U.S. military mission led by a teddy bear. When the Air Force was called upon to drop humanitarian supplies in Iraq, a soldier attached a teddy bear to the cargo.

Read the full article at Examiner.

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Veterans should not go hungry

After the Armistice of 1918, ending the fighting of World War I, soldiers began to head home to build their future. Just three years later newspapers were filled with stories of hundreds of thousands of these veterans out of work

Read the full article at Examiner.

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Veterans Day and Fighting World Hunger

This Memorial Day we can remember the World War One Legacy of Humanitarianism (National World War I Memorial)

This Memorial Day we can remember the World War One Legacy of Humanitarianism (National World War I Memorial)

They were 150 Navy officers on a mission. Yet, their task fell after the Armistice of November 11, 1918, which ended the fighting of World War One. Their objective was to help defeat the enemy “that knows no Armistice:” hunger.

War destroys food production. Farmlands, factories and roads, all the things you need to produce and move food can be leveled by just one battle. These cannot be fixed overnight. Even if all guns go silent, hunger can continue to attack a population. The consequences of malnutrition, particularly for children, can be deadly.

This was certainly the case in Northern France, which had suffered through years of German occupation and fighting during World War One. When the Armistice came civilians, who had been forced to flee, now wanted to return to their homes.

What would be left of them? As Herbert Hoover described in his memoirs there was tragically little remaining of these homes and villages. There was very little food supply as well.

Then came the Navy to save the day for the refugees. These were 150 volunteers under Admiral Thomas Craven. They came ready to work. Hoover and newspaper accounts describe how almost overnight these men put up barracks near the French villages that had been destroyed. Next they put beds and kitchens inside these structures.

Imagine a family trekking along a road toward their home, tired and hungry. Thanks to the Navy they could find food and a place to rest. This aid would be needed in the weeks and months ahead as they tried to rebuild their lives and towns.

The Commission for Relief in Belgium (CRB) had provided aid to Northern France during the war. A lot of the American staff though had joined the U.S. Army. Once the armistice came, these officers returned to their duties with the CRB to fight hunger. In the coming years CRB and American Relief Administration officers, with support from people back home, fed millions of people.

These are lesser known tales of heroism from those who have served in our military, but for the greatest of causes. This humanitarian tradition continued into the Second World War. So many tales of heroics from the 1945 airlift to the starving Dutch in Nazi-occupied Holland to U.S. Army led school lunch programs for Austrian and German children.

All these stories, great or small, are noble. Last month I told a UN Development Goals class at the College of Mount St. Joseph about an Army major who once lived not too far from the school. Major Charles Arnold headed a UN Civil Assistance Team that fed refugee children during the Korean War. The Cincinnati Enquirer reported, “After only a few weeks of this milk-and-rice diet you could actually see the children’s cheeks fill out and a healthy sparkle come to their eyes.”

The U.S. Air Force also evacuated Korean war orphans who were trapped by the fighting. They flew them to safety on an island away from the approaching enemy. The Air Force made a return visit later to the orphans bringing food and gifts from the American people.

These meals can save and change a life forever.

In President Woodrow Wilson’s proclamation of Veterans Day he said America has the great opportunity “to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations…” That is our best hope to for spreading peace across the globe.

We know that hundreds of millions of hungry and sick people around the world is not peace. It is certainly not the peaceful world that veterans of World War One hoped to see come about. Yet as we speak people are starving and displaced from wars in Syria, Central African Republic, South Sudan, Sudan, Afghanistan and many other parts of the globe.

On this Veterans Day we can remember the many who have served in the armed forces and built a great humanitarian tradition. A tradition that carries on.

Originally published at The Huffington Post.

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Armistice Day, World Peace, and Feeding the Hungry

One of the guns of Battery D, 105th Field Artillery, showing American flag which was hoisted after the last shot had been fired when the armistice took effect. Etraye, France. 11/11/1918Credits: National Archives

It was just a piece of paper. Yet on the morning of November 11, 1918, it meant peace.

For on that paper was a message from United States General John Pershing, ordering ceasefire on all fronts at 11 a.m. Germany had accepted the armistice. The Great War, or World War I, was over.

While the battlefields were filled with the most devastating firepower ever assembled, it was a small piece of paper that was the most powerful instrument of that day.

The announcing of the armistice on November 11, 1918, was the occasion for a monster celebration in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Thousands massed on all sides of the replica of the Statue of Liberty on Broad Street, and cheered unceasingly. Philadelphia Public Ledger. (National Archives)

Celebrations sprang up across the world. The Cincinnati Enquirer wrote, “It was Victory Day, and all Cincinnati helped celebrate this most momentous event in the history of the world.”

Americans fought and died right up to the armistice. Many who survived lived with the effects of shellshock . A whole world was in fact left shellshocked by the Great War, and millions of people were threatened with starvation and poverty as a result.

“Hunger knows no armistice,” a poster for the Near East Relief Committee stated. To tell the full story of World War I and its aftermath is to tell of hunger and great humanitarians.

The article in the Cincinnati Enquirer made it a point to mention the city’s impressive record providing relief throughout the conflict. In fact, in 1917 the paper printed the appeal of Frederick Chatfield, a leader for Belgium relief, who said one dollar a month would save a Belgian child from starvation and give him the extra food needed to keep him from disease. The newspaper even printed the names of those who sent in donations.

Cincinnati adopted the town of Hastiere in Belgium in order to help it rebuild from wartime destruction. Among the buildings damaged was a little church, built in the eleventh century, that was bombarded by shells.

The men and women who suffered through World War I deserved a lasting peace. However, the world was at war once again just two decades later. The Second World War would bring even more destruction than the first.

But on this Armistice Day, 2011, let’s remember that dream of world peace that should have followed the First World War, and not give up on that dream. The pursuit of world peace is the best memorial we can leave to the generation that sacrificed so much in the horror of the first World War.

Lands struck by war can recover. Interestingly, I recently received two messages from Belgium, one confirming that the country is a donor to the UN World Food Programme to help this agency fight hunger in conflict and disaster zones around the globe. The second message is from Hastiere. All is well there, and the little church is rebuilt-the Great War long in the rearview mirror.

Article first published as Armistice Day, World Peace and Feeding the Hungry on Blogcritics.

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