Franklin D. Roosevelt

Letter on Aid to Spanish Civilians.

December 19, 1938

My dear Mr. McDonald:

Factual Reports on conditions in Spain give me deep concern over the extreme hardships and sufferings there of millions of civilians and particularly of the women and children.

Since the outset of the war in Spain the American Red Cross has expended a considerable sum in emergency assistance to Americans stranded in that country and in humanitarian work in the territories of both factions through the International Red Cross Committee. In view, however, of the increased suffering in Spain, the American Red Cross recently contributed the funds necessary to secure 60,000 barrels of flour for impartial distribution among the women and children in proportion to need in order to prevent starvation.

For this purpose the Red Cross obtained wheat from the Federal Surplus Commodities Corporation at a nominal cost and the United States Maritime Commission provided free ocean transportation to France. The Red Cross paid the cost of processing the wheat into flour, the rail transportation and other incidental charges and thus by an expenditure of some $66,000 it was able to furnish flour to the value of about $250,000.

The flour thus furnished by the Red Cross was distributed under the supervision of the American Friends Service Committee which has been carrying on impartial relief activities in Spain. The aid thus far rendered by the American Red Cross and the American Friends Service Committee has been of inestimable value but wholly inadequate to meet the needs. The 60,000 barrels of flour which were shipped will be entirely consumed by the end of January. Every effort should, therefore, be made to supplement considerably what has been done in order to prevent starvation on a wide scale.

I am informed by the American Red Cross that in view of its many other activities and responsibilities in this country and its other fields of work, it is unable to devote additional funds to relief in Spain or to undertake a campaign for contributions for this purpose. It, nevertheless, desires to make its services available and to assist in every other possible way in coping with this distressing situation.

Other countries are also rendering impartial assistance to civilians in Spain but it is estimated that some 500,000 bushels of wheat, representing about 100,000 barrels of flour per month, will be required for the next six months to meet the minimum needs of the women and children for bread alone. The Federal Surplus Commodities Corporation has, accordingly, offered to make available to the Red Cross this quantity of wheat for the next six months to be processed into flour at the same advantageous terms. To the extent that the United States Maritime Commission has empty space, it will transport this flour to France free of charge.

To carry out such a program will require approximately $500,000 to cover the cash outlay for the processing of the flour and other incidental costs. It was therefore thought advisable to form a committee to act in cooperation with the American Friends Service Committee in raising the necessary funds. The funds raised by the Committee are to be applied to cover the cost of additional flour and other surplus commodities which will be secured and made available through the American Red Cross. Thus, for every dollar contributed, it will be possible to furnish food for relief to the value of some four dollars.

Mr. Norman H. Davis, Chairman of the American Red Cross, has informed me of his conversation with you, of your sympathetic interest and of your willingness to serve as Chairman of the proposed Committee. I understand that Mr. Clarence Pickett of the American Friends Service Committee will confer with you regarding the membership and work of your Committee.

This is a great humanitarian service and your acceptance of the Chairmanship of the Committee is deeply appreciated by me. I am sure that many of our people will wish to aid in helping to meet this pressing need.

Very sincerely yours,

George McDonald, Esq.,

149 Broadway,

New York, N.Y.

Franklin D. Roosevelt, Letter on Aid to Spanish Civilians. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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