An Impressive Mission

Tuesday, October 6, 2009
Herbert Hoover (right) and Hugh Gibson
Herbert Hoover (right) and Hugh Gibson
Hugh Gibson and Herbert Hoover disembark from the “Faithful Cow” during their international food mission, undertaken at the request of President Truman. (Courtesy of Michael Gibson)

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.