Tuesday, October 6, 2009

An Impressive Mission

Who’d think there’d be a connection between Julia Child and Herbert Hoover? Indeed, after seeing the summer hit Julie & Julia (loved it, saw it twice), I plunged into Child’s memoirs, My Life in France, in which she recalled that Hoover had “impressed everyone on a recent swing through Europe.”

The “swing” referred to was the so-called food mission around the world that President Truman had asked Hoover to undertake in 1946 and 1947. The goal was to assess which, among the forty or so countries visited on four continents, suffered most from hunger and which could most contribute to alleviating it. Having saved millions of lives during and after World War I through his humanitarian relief organizations (whose records are housed at the Hoover Archives), Hoover was the perfect choice.

His closest associate on the tour was Hugh Gibson, a U.S. diplomat who had served in many posts during the 1920s and 1930s. His papers are also housed here, including his daily diary of that mission—a fascinating account of conditions on the ground, heads of state they met, geostrategic discussions, and so forth. Despite the tragic subject of war devastation and ensuing hunger, Gibson infuses his comments about the trip with humor and wit, so it is not only very informative but funny as well. We’re in the process of scanning the diary and will post it on our website, so stay tuned.

In the meantime, you can see Gibson’s diary in the archives reading room, as well, of course, as Herbert Hoover’s own papers on the subject.

Hugh Gibson and Herbert Hoover disembark from the "Faithful Cow" during their international food mission, undertaken at the request of President Truman. Photo courtesy of Michael Gibson.


  1. Wow, that's really neat. I love Julia and had no idea about her contact with Hoover. One more little wrinkle for the history buff!

  2. Yet another reason to admire Hoover - - who knew that he was a foodie! I had no idea of his involvement with WWI efforts either!

  3. A great picture! Do you know of any pictures or other documents from the Latin American segment of Hoover's trip? I've got a few, but more is always better. Thanks!

  4. The diary sounds like an extremely useful resource for NGOs and governments involved in humanitarian food aid - history always has lessons to guide today's practice. Very interested to see this when it is released.

    Nice to discover your writing - I could tell by the tone that it had to be you, Linda! Hope you are well! I am moving to Rwanda this fall with a reconciliation organization. Some call it a "Switzerland of Africa"... :)