Franklin D. Roosevelt

Letter to the Chairman of the Red Cross on Federal Rescue Work in Flood Areas.

May 07, 1936

My dear Admiral Grayson:

This is to acknowledge and thank you for your letter of April 27th, concerning the participation of organized Federal groups for rescue work in areas devastated by flood.

A study of the situation, pertaining to circumstances of governmental participation in emergency relief work, discloses the fact that such groups have been organized and have cooperated extensively and effectively with the American Red Cross, and with the civil authorities, on every occasion of major disaster of any nature.

The specific steps thus far taken by the Navy and Coast Guard may be summed up as follows:

(1) Navy Relief Force- organized at the direction of the Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Fleet, aboard vessels of the Battle Force and Scouting Fleet, for the purpose of furnishing immediate relief and assistance to centers of population in the event of major disasters temporarily beyond the control of the local civil authorities.

(2) Rescue groups composed of the personnel of the various Navy Recruiting Stations throughout the country organized as required.

(3) Rescue groups of the U.S. Coast Guard which have participated in flood relief and rescue work, in many cases transporting its surf-boats over long distances by land to the scene of operations. In addition, Coast Guard vessels especially constructed for the purpose are in active commission in the performance of flood relief duty.

(4) Rescue and relief groups organized as required from the units of the U.S. Fleet Reserve and the U.S. Volunteer Communication Reserve.

Due to conditions under which the U.S. Naval Reserve operates, as specified by law, no specific steps have been taken to organize special rescue groups within its various units, but these organizations of the Fleet and Volunteer Communication Reserve, located in the various Naval Districts throughout the country, together with their boats and other equipment, have been immediately available on all occasions requiring their services. As Naval Reservists, they cannot, under the present law, be ordered to perform active duty in peacetime without their own consent, but they have voluntarily responded to the many appeals of the civil authorities and have rendered an extensive amount of outstanding service in the rescue and safeguarding of life and property, and on a non-pay basis. As regards the particular matter of boats, Naval Reserve units on, navigable waters have, in general, been provided with boats, but the amount of equipment issued to the Reserve is dependent entirely upon the appropriations made available by Congress.

The files of the Navy Department contain reports of the activities of the Naval Reserve in practically every Naval District of the' country, including disaster by earthquake, tornado, hurricane, fire and flood. Prominent on the list are the California earthquake of March, 1933, centering in and about Long Beach; the Florida hurricanes of 1933 and 1935, and the various floods of the Mississippi, Missouri, Ohio, Allegheny, Susquehanna, Monongahela, Delaware, Connecticut, Merrimack, Mohawk and Potomac River Valleys, including the many extremely serious conditions of the present year.

In these situations, the personnel of the Naval Reserve has evacuated the populace, rationed marooned groups of workers, supplied electric light and current, distributed food and clothing, provided temporary shelter for the homeless, policed the several affected areas and protected life and property. Naval Reserve Medical Officers have treated the sick and injured, without compensation of any sort. Members of the Volunteer Communication Reserve have operated N.C.R. Emergency Circuits at the request of the American Red Cross, in assisting to carry out the Red Cross Emergency Communication Plan, published to the Service in June, 1930, which provides for making emergency contacts by master and alternate control Reserve Radio Stations with Naval District Shore Radio Stations.

In many cases the Naval Reserve maintained the only communication between the stricken areas and the rest of the country. Naval, Naval Reserve, and Coast Guard aircraft have surveyed conditions from the air, directed and coordinated relief efforts and transported food, clothing and medical supplies to the suffering communities.

I am sure that the Navy and Coast Guard will be pleased to consider any suggestions which will increase the effectiveness of their cooperation with the Red Cross in rescue work and that they will be pleased to discuss such suggestions with you or any representative you may designate.

Very sincerely yours,

Admiral Cary T. Grayson,

Chairman, American Red Cross,

Washington, D. C.

Franklin D. Roosevelt, Letter to the Chairman of the Red Cross on Federal Rescue Work in Flood Areas. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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