Armies of Peace

Armies of Peace: Canada and the UNRRA Years

SUSAN ARMSTRONG-REID
DAVID MURRAY
Copyright Date: 2008
Pages: 448
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.3138/9781442687370
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  • Book Info
    Armies of Peace
    Book Description:

    Armies of Peaceis the first comprehensive investigation of Canadians' influence on the establishment and operation of The United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA).

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-8737-0
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. Maps
    (pp. xi-2)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 3-14)

    On an April afternoon in 1945, a senior member of the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA), Alex Edmison, was overwhelmed with excitement as four UNRRA trucks passed him on a road in Germany. Why all the fuss? Edmison had been appointed as UNRRA’s chief liaison officer at Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force (SHAEF) to oversee the launch of UNRRA’s field operations in Germany. At the sighting of those four lone UNRRA trucks, dramatic images flashed through his mind, recalling all the obstacles already overcome to bring the UNRRA teams here ‘within a few hours of taking up the...

  6. Part One. The Diplomacy of Relief, Rehabilitation, and Repatriation

    • 1 Creating UNRRA
      (pp. 17-40)

      In the middle of the darkest period of the Second World War, long before victory over Hitler was in sight, the Allied leaders were already thinking seriously about post-war reconstruction. As the Battle of Britain continued over the summer of 1940, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, in an attempt to soften his uncompromising refusal to allow any supplies through the continental blockade, promised future assistance to the occupied countries of Europe: ‘We shall do our utmost to encourage the building up of reserves of food all over the world, so that there will always be held up before the peoples...

    • 2 Canada at the Council Sessions
      (pp. 41-75)

      The first meeting of the representatives of the forty-four nations that had signed the UNRRA Agreement in Washington on 9 November 1943 took place the very next day and closed on 1 December in Atlantic City. In all, there would be five more Council gatherings: in Montreal, London, Atlantic City again, Geneva, and Washington (the last dealing with all the administrative, financial, and legal issues involved in closing down the operations and liquidating the assets). The first four meetings, where the major policy decisions were taken, provide the focus in this chapter for an evaluation of Canadians’ contribution to the...

    • 3 The Politics of Procurement
      (pp. 76-98)

      Canada’s contribution to UNRRA was impressive in many respects. Canadians demonstrated capable and constructive leadership within UNRRA’s Council, technical committees, and country missions abroad. But Canada’s participation was especially significant in the actual supply of funds, food, and material goods. Without Canada’s aid, it is hard to imagine how UNRRA would have fulfilled its mandate to provide extensive programs for health, agricultural, and industrial rehabilitation as a bridge from war to peacetime stability. The range of those supplies was staggering, encompassing food, clothing, medical supplies, sewing machines, locomotives, railroad cars, fishing trawlers, and nets.

      Canada’s procurement program, as we have...

  7. Part Two. A World Uprooted:: Canadians, UNRRA, and the Challenge of the Displaced

    • 4 Personalities and Bureaucracies
      (pp. 101-124)

      Canadian relief workers soon discovered that caring for and repatriating those driven from their homelands by war proved a far more complex and divisive task than anticipated. Like the displaced persons themselves, the relief teams were a new phenomenon and they would have to learn their job within an untried and ill-defined administrative structure. The international composition of UNRRA teams meant that issues of nationalism, gender, and professionalism could be sorted out only after the UNRRAIDS were in the field. Moreover, UNRRA’s dependence on the military for basic food supplies, shelter, transport, and security further complicated the UNRRAIDS’ work with...

    • 5 UNRRA Takes Command: The First Field Operations
      (pp. 125-160)

      The Atlantic City conference had raised expectations that relief would soon be available to those who had suffered unbearable hardships during the war. A misinformed public failed to realize, however, that UNRRA’s mandate covered only those countries that lacked the ability to pay and that its supplies could be delivered only as fast as victory could be achieved on the battlefield. One of the results was that ‘if 1943 could be called UNRRA’s year of organization, 1944 was the year of effort and frustration.’¹ In the eyes of many military commanders, UNRRA was just another unwanted layer in the command...

    • 6 Soldiers of Peace or Agents of Repatriation: The Displaced-Persons Operations in Germany
      (pp. 161-195)

      David Wodlinger, the Canadian who was promoted from the field to become UNRRA’s deputy director of the American Zone in Occupied Germany, wrote that the country was ‘a kaleidoscopic picture of humanity in chaotic disorganization’ in a period ‘of almost unbelievable disorganization.’ UNRRA’s staff all had ‘quickly come to realize that their situation was in every way entirely different from anything in their previous experience and that they had to conform or collapse.’ ‘Being able to take it,’ he argued, required a ‘lively sense of humour, a deeply felt respect for the individual and his experience coupled with an inexhaustible...

    • 7 Torch of Sadness: The Mothers and Children of War
      (pp. 196-222)

      Canadians assigned to the UNRRA Child Welfare Division arrived in Europe knowing that they would be involved in providing care for mothers and children who had survived unbelievable suffering and deprivation during the war. Social workers, such as Jean Henshaw, served as child-welfare officers either within assembly centres or in separate child centres established to deal with the problems of ‘unaccompanied children’ under the age of eighteen. What many workers had not expected, however, was that they would have to deal with what Henshaw described as ‘the methodical, inhuman plan of Nazi Germans to deplete the surrounding nations of their...

  8. Part Three. Carrying Florence’s Lamp:: Canadian Nurses and UNRRA

    • 8 Launching UNRRA’s Nursing Brigade: From the Middle East to Greece
      (pp. 225-248)

      With the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939, international public-health work virtually ceased until the formation of UNRRA. At a time when there was a global shortage of the personnel, medical supplies, equipment, transport, and facilities essential to the maintenance of medical care and public health, UNRRA formed a much-needed conduit between the pre-war international health organizations, such as that of the League of Nations, and the post-war World Health Organization (WHO). UNRRA laid invaluable foundations for the WHO by assuming responsibility for administering the International Sanitary Conventions and handling epidemiological intelligence. UNRRA’s Health Division’s mandate went well...

    • 9 Nursing with the Enemy: Germany
      (pp. 249-286)

      Canadian UNRRA nurses in Germany shared many experiences in common with their nursing counterparts elsewhere in UNRRA’s farflung missions; they, too, adapted conventional nursing practices, often without the administrative support or even basic supplies taken for granted back home. Nevertheless, their mandate was distinctive in several respects. In Occupied Germany, the Allied Control Commission rather than UNRRA had responsibility for the de-Nazification and restoration of the national nursing services. The Nursing Division in Germany therefore focused primarily on providing health services for displaced persons housed within UNRRA’s assembly centres and during their repatriation trips back home by boat or train....

    • 10 The Bridge of Sorrows: The Canadian China Contingent
      (pp. 287-320)

      For UNRRA, no mission was more challenging than that of China, which not only had suffered greatly as a result of the Japanese invasion but had also been embroiled in a civil war for two decades. The upheaval had begun in 1926 with the takeover of the Nationalist or Kuomintang Party (KMT) by the right-wing General Chiang Kai-shek and subsequent purges of leftist and Communist members. At the end of the Second World War, General George Marshall, representing President Truman, arrived to negotiate a ceasefire between the Nationalist Party and the Communist Party of China (CPC). The terms of the...

  9. Part Four. Life after UNRRA

    • 11 Ties That Bind
      (pp. 321-342)

      Back home, the debate on post-war immigration policy had been launched well before UNRRA’s end was announced, but as yet the question of what changes would be made remained undecided. Many Canadians returning from service with UNRRA threw themselves into the national debate as passionate spokespersons for a more liberal approach to Canadian immigration policy. The UNRRA years had clearly reached into their hearts and minds in a way that helped to reshape social attitudes. Similarly, by 1945, the widening rift between wartime Allies was already altering the dynamics of post-war relief. The Iron Curtain that Churchill described as descending...

    • 12 Legacies
      (pp. 343-360)

      Collectively and individually, Canadians were profoundly changed by their years of international service, an experience that had caused many to reassess Canada’s social policy at home and the terms and expectations for the country’s continued involvement in international humanitarian organizations. Those who worked closely with the displaced persons were sobered by UNRRA’s impotence with shelter and resettlement needs and many remained unconvinced that its successor, the International Refugee Organization, would fare any better unless nations like Canada changed their immigration policies. Many healthcare and social workers also recognized, not only that ‘new Canadians’ would require specialized social services to help...

  10. Conclusion
    (pp. 361-374)

    As the end of UNRRA drew near, many UNRRAIDS, such as George Mooney, executive secretary, ERO, in London, reflected on their time with the organization. ‘I have enjoyed meeting people like you and others and to have worked with them in facilitating the relief and rehabilitation needs of desperate people through the world,’Mooney wrote. ‘It has been a great show, a high enterprise, and though it has been crowded with bungling and stupidity and with gross inefficiency at key directional points, the job has been done, perhaps not as well as it could have but, nonetheless, done.’¹ Years later, Lester...

  11. Appendix A: UNRRA Assistance
    (pp. 375-375)
  12. Appendix B: Headquarters Organization
    (pp. 376-378)
  13. Appendix C: UNRRA Salaries
    (pp. 379-380)
  14. Appendix D: Canadian UNRRAIDS
    (pp. 381-396)
  15. Notes
    (pp. 397-442)
  16. Bibliography
    (pp. 443-456)
  17. Index
    (pp. 457-482)