Numbers appearing in square brackets (ex. ) within the transcript indicate the pagination in the original, hardcopy version of the oral history interview.
Opened June, 1977
Oral History Interview with
July 14, 1975
by Richard D. McKinzie
MCKINZIE: What prompted you, as a young man, to seek out a Government career?
RINGLAND: I shall have to go back to when I was 18 years of age. I had just finished school in Montclair, New Jersey, and was interested in what I had read. There was not much known or published at that time about forestry. I was fortunate to be one of the young men recruited by Gifford Pinchot, who at that time was the chief of the Division of Forestry in the Department of Agriculture. He later carried through to what is known today as the U.S. Forest Service.
I was in that Service under interesting conditions which I'll not detail here, but I do feel that experience was very stimulating. There was one phase of it where Mr. Pinchot had meetings about once a month in his residence. Distinguished men in public service would come and talk informally about some of the problems related to the conservation of natural resources. You must remember that at that time (the turn of the century), it was the era of exploitation rather than conservation, but it was a very fortunate thing we had men of Pinchot's vision to marshal public opinion. To see what could be done to the great public domain is what was in mind. Pinchot believed that vast areas, mostly in the West, should be put under some form in the public interest.
These meetings were known as the "Baked Apple Club," because Mr. Pinchot always served baked apples and gingerbread. What impressed
me as a young man was listening to men like James [ Rudolph ] Garfield, [ Frederick Haynes ] Newell, and even Theodore Roosevelt himself. He came one time, after a walk with Pinchot, wearing a sweater and talking in his vigorous manner. It was he, with Pinchot alongside of him, who really made conservation as we know it today. I think sitting there and listening to these men did instill one with an idea of public service, and I was fortunate to carry on in that service until the outbreak of World War I, when I went overseas. It was after the armistice of 1918 that I was ordered home; but I didn't want to go home. I was completely independent of any responsibility. I had in mind trying to go across Siberia to Vladivostok and going home that way, but by chance I met an old friend in Paris and had dinner with him. He told me he had just joined the American Relief Administration, which was then being organized
by Herbert Hoover, the Allied Director General of Relief. He was about to leave for Prague in Czechoslovakia, and he said, "Why don't you join up?" I went around to the personnel office, and they said they would like to have me go with a destroyer to Archangel in Russia, but wanted to be sure that I was in physical condition. When they saw the result of my examination they said, "No, you cannot go to Russia, but you can go to Czechoslovakia." I was convalescent and they said I could go there because I could get attention if necessary.
I did go to Czechoslovakia and served under inspiring conditions. Fortunately I did know President [ Tomá G. ] Masaryk and his family, and visited them in Lang, their country home; and later [ Edvard ] Ben. s, who succeeded him. Before the liquidation of our mission we were feeding about 600 thousand children a day. The greater
number reflected malnutrition, not starvation, but malnutrition due to war shortages. Here was an example, in my recollection, of how public-spirited were the Czech men and women. They organized committees throughout the whole country, to preside over the kitchens that were set up. We brought in the major supplies to our warehouses and the Czech Government made provision for foods that we did not have. It was an impressive example of public service in a time of need, and I recall that before the war, even under the austere Austrian-Hungarian administration, the social services were well-organized in Czechoslovakia. That stood them in stead when the war was over and it helped a great deal in carrying out our program.
The President's daughter, Dr. Alice Masaryk, was the head of the Red Cross and Children's Welfare. She was a noble woman and an inspira-
tion to the Czech people in their time of need, and certainly to those of us who were cooperating and carrying out these relief projects.
When that was over I was sent to Constantinople because of the situation there that developed due to the defeat of Wrangel's Army, by the Bolshiviki.
This was in 1922, and our task was to help the Russian refugees that came into Constantinople after the defeat with no means of support. They were a source of embarrassment to the Turkish Government. The British and the French had been helping out as well as they could, but there was a hard core left who were in real distress. An appeal was made to Mr. Hoover, who obtained a substantial fund from the Laura Spellman Rockefeller Memorial. This fund was made available for me to carry on relief.
This was done by bringing in a shipload
of basic supplies. Before we actually launched the program, I had made an inspection with the help of Rear Admiral [ Mark Lambert ] Bristol, who was our United States High Commissioner. (We had no diplomatic relations at that time with Turkey.) He and I felt that there would be no end to relief unless provision was made for the evacuation of the people to countries where they could obtain employment. I reported that to the head offices in London and said I felt we should obtain support from the Allies for this evacuation, if we carried out the relief.
I went to Geneva, and with the help of Fridtjof Nansen, the famed Arctic explorer, who was High Commissioner for Refugees for the League of Nations, I was invited to appear before a special meeting of the Council of the League. Our proposal was presented that we were prepared to finance relief, if during that period provision
was made for evacuation. I always remember the pungent remarks of Lord Balfour, who was the British delegate to the League. He said it would be to the indelible shame of the League if it did not cooperate. He offered, on the spot, ten thousand pounds sterling on behalf of the British. The other delegates were sympathetic and Belgium, Brazil, China, Czechoslovakia, Japan and Switzerland supplemented the British contribution. Evacuation was provided for, with aid from the American Red Cross, and provision for social services in the host countries by the American YM and YW Christian Association. We carried out our part in Constantinople.
At the conclusion there were left several thousand refugees who wanted to come to the United States. Admiral Bristol asked me to chair a committee to consult with these men and women, to see if they could take care of
themselves when they got to this country. We finally obtained about 2,000 visas.
The initial costs of transportation was made possible by the American Red Cross. It's interesting to remark that the money was returned by all of them. There was eventually no loss at all. These homeless Russians had the courage and the fortitude to meet extraordinary and trying conditions.
When I finally returned home, I wanted to continue my interest in conservation. That took me into a period which carried on until World War II. Then, because of the background experience I had had in relief work, I went into the State Department and was a consultant to the President's War Relief Control Board (I was later the assistant director). It was set up at the request of Secretary [ Cordell ] Hull to bring some coordination into a time of
confusion. The ethnic groups in this country were very concerned about their relatives and friends overseas who were in distress.
There were commercial organizations here that tried to send packages, but some of them were fly-by-night outfits and none of them could assure delivery. That was when, 1945, the President's War Relief Control Board gave the impetus and the guidance to the creation and organization of CARE. I might remark that President Truman bought the first CARE package. Those packages, I should explain, were surplus Army ten-and-one. They would feed ten men for one day, and there was a great surplus available when the war concluded. We obtained a great quantity of those, and it just remained to set up a body that could take over the supplies and assure their delivery. We brought together 22 voluntary agencies into one body
to establish what then became known as CARE; Committee for American Relief Everywhere. And I was awarded for my part as a co-founder. CARE carries on today in a most fruitful way, and it's interesting to remark that what we thought was an organization to meet a temporary emergency has become an international institution of world-wide recognition.
MCKINZIE: Those agencies which came together to form CARE had a common objective, but were there any problems with which you had to deal?
RINGLAND: They were strong organizations like the Catholic Relief Services, Church World Services, Protestant groups, The Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, and ethnic groups like American Relief for Poland and American Relief for Italy. By coming under the umbrella of CARE they could carry out a program at a critical time which
they were not able to do or equipped to do individually. I'm speaking now of the delivery of packages, a vital element in this kind of emergency. There were thousands of people throughout mid-Europe and the war-ravaged countries who had blood ties in this country. It was they who were asking for help.
The predecessor of CARE was Herbert Hoover's organization in World War I. He had initiated, with the American Banker's Association, a provision where you could walk into any bank in America and pay ten dollars for one type of package, or 54 dollars for a much bigger one, and have it delivered to an individual. It was done in this manner (a little different from the CARE operation). The food was sent (there were no packages as such in those days) to warehouses where Mr. Hoover's American Relief Administration was operating. In
Czechoslovakia we had a number of warehouses, and a person who received an order from a relative or friend here at home would present that at our warehouse. He would get the equivalent in substantial foods, be given them right over the counter in the warehouse.
CARE had the advantage and use of the Army surplus packages. They were shipped right from here, and receipts were received. The operation met a need until money could be transferred from a friend or relative here. Until then food took the place of money until conditions permitted the normal marketing.
Refugees are always the aftermath of war, and whereas we were able to help decisively with a relatively small group after World War I, there were refugees in every country after World War II, and that problem still exists today. I can even now speak of Spanish refugees
in France from the civil war. Somewhere there still is a great need.
MCKINZIE: The question always comes up: what's the most efficient way to help victims of war? Through a voluntary organization or through direct government-to-government aid?
RINGLAND: I think I might elaborate on the refugee problem, then come more pointedly to your question. The liberation of the war-bound countries after V-E and V-J Days opened up wider channels for a flow of food, clothing, medicines, and hospital equipment from voluntary sources. A flood of appeals for help followed in '46, particularly from distressed persons in Austria, Germany, Greece and Italy, to their kinsfolk and friends in America. Help was also asked for refugees in Denmark, Sweden, Spain, and Portugal as well as for nationals in the allied
countries. Aid to the Soviet Union, as an ally (which had been substantial during the active war), largely ceased in 1946. It was continued to Bulgaria and Rumania until 1948, to Czechoslovakia and Poland until 1949, and to refugees in Hungary until 1952.
MCKINZIE: Is this assistance which came from private individuals and private groups in the United States to their relations in these countries?
RINGLAND: I said from voluntary sources. That means the constituencies of the various agencies were providing the funds to make their operations successful. One of those was CARE, a form of help a little different from the others. I should refer to the report that was made when I retired from the Department of State on the organization of voluntary foreign aid from 1939 to 1953. Seven years of that were during President Truman's
administration. This report was for the postwar years when the greater part of all this voluntary relief was carried out. (See Appendix I.)
As I said at the beginning of my report, the Marshall plan initiated far-reaching governmental programs of economic and technical assistance with which the public is familiar. The public is familiar, too, with appeals for personal help to the less fortunate in other lands. What is not so well-known is the character, scope, and organization of this help from the time of the invasion of Poland in 1939 to the truce in Korea in 1953, and the collaboration of the government with the agencies entrusted with public support.
I think that's true even now. The question of food seems to be pertinent and the conferences that the Food and Agriculture Organization held in Rome and elsewhere, has spurred a wider
public interest in necessities in the under-developed countries in particular, and at home in our school lunch programs.
MCKINZIE: At the end of the war there existed the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration. Did you try to coordinate activities at all with the UNRRA organization?
RINGLAND: I might refer again to the inception of CARE. The Army had this mass of surplus foods and quite an allocation was made to the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation. It was highly desirable for American organizations to participate in an allocation of the Army surplus. The collaboration that was affected by the voluntary agencies was largely made possible by the coordination of the voluntary groups among themselves, where a number operated in the same country. In such case there were set up councils
for coordination of common problems. A very good example of that is the one that was set up in Germany and worked there directly with the Army. That was the organization known as CRALOG, the Council of Relief Agencies Licensed to Operate in Germany. It was a common body of voluntary agencies brought together in a critical period in 1946. Because of conditions of occupation, the Army couldn't deal with any agency separately. They then came together and did a grand job, helping in a grave period the German children. General [ Lucius ] Clay, who was in command at the time, had a keen interest in this. He worked with our Advisory Committee on Voluntary Foreign Aid and with the combined group, to make that possible. The German Government made available exhibits that were brought to this country for fund raising, silver collections and the like. That was a good
example of the fact that the American people always have had a compassion to be of help to friend and foe alike.
MCKINZIE: In the period when General Clay first took over in Germany, there were rigid Government regulations about how many calories Germans could have per day. They were not to be fed any better than the worst-fed of the rest of the European continent. Do you recall whether CRALOG was under severe restrictions in the amount of food and supplies it might dispense to individual Germans?
RINGLAND: I'm not aware of that. I think you must be wrong. Where did you get that information? I don't recall any punitive formula, and I'm quite sure that the CRALOG wouldn't have operated if they had to contend with one.
MCKINZIE: I mean "punitive" only in the sense that they could not create in Germany a living standard that was any higher than the lowest living standard of any of the victors of World War II.
RINGLAND: I cannot add anything to that.
MCKINZIE: Would you further discuss the cooperation of the Army with the voluntary organizations in Germany?
RINGLAND: Both CRALOG and CARE operated with the indispensable help of the Army and of General Clay. It was necessary, of course, to coordinate with the Army; the Army was there in occupation. That was true in the French and British areas too. Upon completion of CRALOG's mission, a history of its service was published by the authors, Elizabeth Reis of the American Council
of Voluntary Agencies for Foreign Service and Eileen Egan of Catholic War Relief. General Clay wrote the foreword and in it he said, "We who were serving in Germany were proud of its program."
MCKINZIE: How did you personally feel about the programs of UNRRA?
RINGLAND: I had misgivings.
MCKINZIE: Did you believe in the early postwar period that personal aid to people would be sufficient and that there would be no necessity for large-scale government aid?
RINGLAND: Personal aid would be insufficient, and I would like to be specific. In the postwar period 1946-1953 public relief programs provided primary food, such as the bread grains, to deficit areas through rationing or otherwise. This
was a task that only governments could finance or undertake. Voluntary help through the provision of the protective foods, dairy products and fats of high nutritional value, medicines and clothing, reached selective and vulnerable groups. Children, mothers, invalids and others were in need of this supplementary aid. These people in food deficit areas were best reached by voluntary agencies collaborating with their indigenous counterparts through schools, hospitals, orphanages and other institutions.
Even from the beginning, we anticipated that there would be necessary public aid programs. Government aid was made possible in those post-war years, but even today it is important to note the organic act under which Food for Peace is operating. Public Law 480 is the one. Provision is made for the voluntary agencies, and it is an important element now of the relief that is being
carried on by the Food for Peace.
There were other forms of government aid that were made available to voluntary agencies. Financing of freight charges was one. A provision was made by Congress, a generous one, to move these supplies to the ports of entry where the agencies operated. It was complemented by agreements with the host countries on customs entry and transport to the needed areas.
MCKINZIE: In this period one of the most needy groups in Europe was those Jews who had been interned by the German Government or had fled from Eastern Europe into the Western Zone of Germany at the end of the war. There was a need not only to render immediate relief, but to relocate very many of those people. Did relocation of Jews displaced by the war enter at all into the operations of your office?
RINGLAND: Voluntary agencies received many immigrants and helped relocate them here at home. This was particularly true of the church groups, Protestant, Catholic and Jewish. Of these Hadassah, American Art Federation, the Hebrew Sheltering and Immigrant Aid Society, and the American Joint Distribution Committee were active in Israel and at home. In this respect I want to attach as an exhibit my memorandum of June 20, 1950 to the Advisory Committee on sources of income. Here is revealed that the contributions of the Jewish agencies is well over half of all in the years, 1946-1949. Our Committee enjoyed close cooperation with these agencies. (See Appendix II.)
It was a constructive form of assistance; meeting these immigrants on arrival and helping locate them.
MCKINZIE: There was a wheat crop failure in the winter of 1946, and in addition to the work
that your organizations and the voluntary committee were undertaking, there was an attempt to have the American people participate in a voluntary food conservation program. Did your organization have any contact with the organization that was trying to bring about conservation of food in the United States?
RINGLAND: There were a number of efforts of that character. For example, the Friendship Train in France and Italy was made possible by Drew Pearson of journalism fame. There were a number that were like the Friendship Train. There were several temporarily organized collections of funds and gifts in kind undertaken in 1947 and 1948, notably the American Overseas Aid and the United Nations Appeal for Children, sponsored by some 40 voluntary agencies. The friendship train for France and Italy was
supported by the voluntary agencies in those countries, and the friendship train for Germany was sponsored by CRALOG and supported by donations of wheat, clothing and other gifts in kind from farm communities of the northwestern states. Through the facilities of the U.S. High Commission for Germany and the Army, paintings were loaned to the National Gallery of Art and exhibited in a number of cities. The proceeds of the silver collection were administered by CRALOG for the relief of German children. In 1951 and in 1953, special pleas were proclaimed by President Truman in support of voluntary collections for civilian war victims in Korea, in response to joint resolutions of Congress.
The White House requested help to draft the proclamation for this Korean project. That was an interesting experience. I remember the President
walking in while we were sitting down and naturally we stood up. He said, "Oh, no, carry on."
The only other time I saw President Truman was with my chairman Mr. Charles Taft. He and I were alone with the President in the Oval Office, except an assistant taking notes. Mr. Taft was speaking of the Advisory Committee which the President had requested be established. I remember so well when the President took us over to the corner where he had a big globe. He turned it around and around, put his fingers there and there saying, "There's trouble there, there's trouble there, and trouble there."
No matter whether it was in '48, or today in '76, we have these outcrops of misery, and the appeal is always made to this country to help. As I've remarked before, we always have tried to meet it.
An interesting part of the meeting of these needs were two organizations that command my respect: The Christian Rural Overseas Program, known as CROP, and the Heifer Project Committee. CROP had collected from farmers thousands of freight-car loads of agriculture products which were allocated to the operating agencies in the field, the Mennonite Central Committee, and the Brethren Service Commission, for example. The Heifer Project Committee shipped thousands of heads of livestock to many countries, including bulls, milk cows, heifers, goats, swine and chicks, as well as hatching eggs to improve production. These organizations have proved to be singularly effective in supplementing the money donations of the urban areas.
MCKINZIE: Was there any political precondition or overtone to the operations of the voluntary
committee on foreign aid?
RINGLAND: There were none here at home.
MCKINZIE: When the Marshall plan was being considered, were the people in your office consulted about their experiences in administering aid to foreign countries?
RINGLAND: I want to make a reference to the report made by a subcommittee of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs following an inspection of the voluntary relief provisions in Europe. They reported that American voluntary relief is an essential counterpart to foreign relief and recovery programs conducted by this Government.
Each Congress has recognized the complementary value of voluntary foreign aid to public programs of assistance, and has authorized
material support to the voluntary agencies whenever such public programs were authorized. When the Marshall plan was under consideration, the report of the House Subcommittee on Voluntary Foreign Aid (which I've referred to) made possible appropriate representations to Congress.
MCKINZIE: There was a committee under Averell Harriman that did a study of how the public aid program should be worked out. Do you recall whether anybody ever came over to your office and asked for personal experiences, in dealing with the planning for the Marshall plan?
RINGLAND: Yes, we had liaison with the early preparations for the Marshall plan. Let me quote first the organization of the voluntary relief agencies. President Truman in a letter of May 14, 1946, to Secretary of State Acheson and Secretary of Agriculture Anderson wrote the charter that governs the Advisory Committee on Voluntary
Foreign Aid. He said:
During the present critical period it appears desirable that provision
be made for
On May 18, 1946, Secretary of State Acheson, with the concurrence of Secretary of Agriculture Anderson, invited Charles P. Taft to be chairman of a committee on voluntary foreign aid.
Mr. Acheson and I are of the opinion that the success of the committee
Fortunately Mr. Taft accepted; he is now emeritus chairman.
The other outstanding citizens, as requested by President Truman to be of this character, were Chester Davis of the Federal Reserve Board,
and William L. Batt, the head of the War Economics Board. Subsequently the Committee was enlarged with the appointment of William I. Meyers of Cornell; Clarence Pickett, prominent in the American Friends; Lessing Rosenwald, the philanthropist; Francis P. Matthews, former Secretary of the Navy; and Joseph P. Chamberlain. Dr. Chamberlain helped organize the American Council of Voluntary Agencies for Foreign Service, and personally financed its inception. The Council is operating today and is an effective body in the coordination of the policies and programs of its members, and in liaison with the Advisory Committee on Voluntary Foreign Aid. So far as the Advisory Committee members were concerned, all served without compensation. As for the small staff of the Advisory Committee, we were all Civil Service. Of course, the voluntary agencies staffs and personnel had their own
President Truman in his letter of May 14, 1946, set up a benchmark that has been the point of reference in the relations of the Government and the voluntary agencies throughout the postwar years and since then. This tying together has resulted in the most productive relief and rehabilitation operations of the registered voluntary agencies. Voluntary aid is most productive when it complements public aid and that of the local agencies in the participating countries.
On July 10, 1946 Mr. Taft informed the Secretary of State and the Secretary of Agriculture that he, Mr. Davis and Mr. Batt had organized the Advisory Committee on Voluntary Foreign Aid in response to their joint invitation. He wrote of the increasing importance and necessity to continue aid to further, in
follow-up of the work of President Roosevelt's War Relief Control Board, the coordination of the programs of voluntary agencies in the foreign field and their relationship with governmental programs. The voluntary programs in Continental Europe, Russia, India, China and the Philippines have been correlated in more or less degree with the Army, UNRRA, the Red Cross and indigenous agencies of the beneficiary countries. Mr. Taft concluded in his letter the terms of reference formulated by the Committee, importantly providing for liaison and consultation with appropriate public and private bodies. Acting Secretary Acheson replied on August 20, 1946 that the terms of reference formulated by the Committee were appropriate and consistent with the basic principles which the Committee was established to carry out.
The Advisory Committee issued a circular letter on July 11, 1946, and advised interested agencies that Federal licensing was no longer required as a war measure. The Committee stated that, pursuant to President Truman's directive, its purpose was to guide the public and agencies seeking support of the public in the appropriate and productive use of voluntary contributions for foreign aid. With this in view, the Committee invited agencies to register voluntarily, with the obligation to record for public inspection periodic audits and current reports of operations.
MCKINZIE: When there was a major policy decision on something like the Marshall plan or the United States' decision to make some change in its stance toward UNRRA, did you meet with Mr. Taft to discuss the implications of all of those things with your own work?
RINGLAND: We had close elbow talks with Mr. Taft, fortified from time to time by the meetings of the Committee. The Committee felt it was necessary to evaluate the work of the agencies and carry out President Truman's request to the Secretary of State and Secretary of Agriculture, to make provision for coordinating relationships with voluntary relief agencies. Mr. Taft, as chairman of the Committee, submitted a memorandum on November 1, 1946, to the Secretary of State for transmission to certain diplomatic missions. The Committee wanted information which would serve to meet its evaluation of the work of the voluntary agencies and a justification for their programs. The Advisory Committee needed in addition a current flow of information from the missions to countries which still imported American voluntary resources of funds, supplies
The Secretary of State then wrote to the various missions to carry out our request for information.
MCKINZIE: As executive director, did you go overseas a great deal to overlook the distribution of this aid?
RINGLAND: I did not go overseas, but I had constant liaison in New York where the headquarters of the voluntary agencies were located. The touch there was close, and effective, and supplemented by frequent visits of agency heads to Washington. I was gratified when I retired to be made an honorary associate of the Council.
MCKINZIE: You mentioned that periodically the Committee met itself. What was your role in those Committee meetings?
RINGLAND: An agenda was presented for discussion by the Committee.
I received a letter from Mr. [ James R. ] Fuchs of the Truman Library [ in reference to emending the draft transcript, June 1, 1976 ]. I sent a copy to Miss Elizabeth Feindt, who served on the Committee staff as the able administrative assistant. She replied in a letter to me of June 27, which I will quote in part:
I found a set of minutes for a June 23, 1950 meeting of the committee,