William Remsburg Grove


Photo: „New York Times”, 1917

American military officer, ­Herbert Hoover’s ­associate in the U.S. Food Administration assistance effort. ­Born in Montezuma, Iowa, to Silas Wright and Angeline Grove. From an early age he helped with the family business in the newspaper market.

At the age of twenty he enlisted in the National Guard. After ­the outbreak of the ­U.S.-Spanish War in 1898, he took part in hostilities in the ­Philippines. He demonstrated bravery, which earned him decorations ­(including the military’s highest decoration, the Medal of Honor) and the attainment of successive officer ranks. After returning to the United States in 1901, he joined the regular armed forces with the rank of captain, and as part of his service dealt with food supply issues (as quartermaster).

After the United States entered World War I, Grove became involved in army supply activities in the office of the ­chief quartermaster of the US Army in Washington. In 1918 he was appointed to the rank of colonel, and a few months later was sent to France with the task of supplying the front lines. His ­activities in the armed forces attracted the attention of Herbert Hoover, who engaged him in the work of the U.S. Food Administration after the war ended. In the early 1919 Grove was sent to Poland to ­oversee relief activities. He was awarded the Order of the Rebirth of Poland for his services in this regard.

After returning to the United States, he left the army and began working in the private sector, which he did until 1940. In 1920–21 Hoover again involved him in ­Eastern European relief efforts­, this time conducted in Ukrainian territory. In 1940 Grove published War’s Aftermath: Polish Relief in 1919, a book detailing his memories of his time in Poland.


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William Remsburg Grove. Photo: www.talesofhonorpodcast.com

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January 1919: Members of the American Food Mission to Poland. Left to right: Aleksander Znamięcki, Colonel William Remsburg Grove, Vernon Kellogg, Lieutenant Chauncey McCormick, Captain Leon M. Czaja. Photo: www.researchteacher.com

Organising aid

Paris, December 20, 1918

[…] Capt. Gregory telephoned that Mr. Hoover would like to see me. […]

Mr. Hoover said he understood that I might be able to get away for a special mission. I replied that I thought I could, but would have to consult the Chief Quartermaster, A. E. F. Mr. H. said he wanted me to go to Poland to make a report on the food situation, as the reports he had received were confusing. […]

Warsaw, January 5, 1919

[…] Two-hour conference with Ministers of Finance and Aprovisation, discussing questions of financing the food supply necessary. […] D. K. made it clear that any delay would be due to the Poles, as we were ready to act. […]

At 2:30 delegation from Lemberg called, and presented a terrible picture of the suffering there. Town surrounded on three sides: north, east, and south by Ukrainians allied by Germans and Austrians, and on the west railroad is commanded by artillery, so dangerous to travel, two being killed on train these men came on. […]

January 7, 1919

[…] Saw many cases of very poorly dressed people, some absolutely in rags, many without stockings. One boy of perhaps 11 or 12 without, absolutely in tatters.

Day warm for January, no snow; long bread lines, and with cold weather would have been great distress; thousands of Jews of long-whiskered type we see on the stage; passed one large open public market where clothing and foodstuffs were being sold; visited five kitchens and restaurants; at some free distribution is made; at others very low prices […] Some high class restaurants serving good clean food, with china and paper napkins, at 2.20 marks […] one had separate room for literary men who insisted that they be served separately. […]

The food arrangements were well organized and orderly; there were no excessively long lines, no crowding or quarrelling; children ragged in some sections, but faces clean; did not as a rule look to be in desperate condition, but underfed. McCormick says that the children never laugh. Poles do not claim actually starving now, but say that by first or middle of February their supplies will be out. […]

At 4:00 committee of Jewish Poles called (three of them) to say that they desire that the Jews be properly considered in relief work. […]

Lodz, January 10, 1919

[…] Shown through large factories, Scheibler (cotton), 7000 former employees; Allard (French company) cotton spinning; 3000 former employees; Barcinski (wool); 3000 former employees. […]

Not one [factory] working now. Employees all idle. and getting in rather desperate condition. Ripe for Bolshevism. […] Visited poorest section of Lodz outside of the factory district. […] Children not in good condition, but not in same degree of raggedness as in some poorer districts of Warsaw. People of Lodz certainly need help quickly […].

Krakow, January 13, 1919

[…] District of Silesia and Galicia have about 4,500,000 people who need help. Need 90,000 tons to August 15; frost killed beans and potatoes; ordinarily a great food deficit in Galicia account being an industrial center. […]

Charities are under control of the Bishop; Jews also get help from them. […] Question of Jews not serious here, says man. Except some excesses by mobs, no difficulty; reports of excesses greatly exaggerated; ruling committee of Cracow has twelve Jewish members; trouble caused by returning soldiers.

Twenty-three people’s kitchens in which are distributed about 30,000 daily; number falling off because they can get nothing to eat. […] Rode through poor districts of the town; not as bad as in Warsaw or Lodz […], [however] much worse than any place in U. S. […]

Lviv, January 14, 1919

[…] We had stopped for a moment at the public market, where the situation was most pathetic. Women, men, children crowding around a butcher with a small piece of meat or some entrails, fine respectable-looking people; at the city butcher shop where one butcher was struggling with a four-quarter of lean beef as crowd was waiting in line, controlled by a Polish woman soldier with a fixed bayonet; the waiting women had been in line since 3 a.m. (7 hours).

Visited people’s kitchen, one bowl (about a quart) of barley soup, not thick, once a day per person; many ragged children, all had dark lines around their eyes, many with diseases from lack of proper food and soap to wash; withal a very orderly crowd, as they seem to realize that nothing better could be done at this time; formerly separate kitchens for Jews and Christians, but now all must eat together; saw both classes eating. […]

Letter from Herbert Hoover to William Remsburg Grove

April 14, 1919

[…] I have the feeling that we must, from financial and national grounds, retire from this entire relief business at the forthcoming harvest. If we are to get any initiative in – to these people at all must be a sharp cut off when they are thrown on their own responsibility. Therefore, the foodstuffs that we will deliver into Poland prior to the end of July should comprise their consumption for the month of August 1st. We are going to make a try to deliver the complete stock of food they will require not later than July first, at which date we would withdraw the organization. […]

All hope that peace will come within the next month, although I am not certain about this event.

source: Hoover Institution Archives, American Relief Administration European Unit, box 370, folder 6.