OTD: October 11, 1947 – October 11, 2017
70 years ago today, legendary American journalist Drew PEARSON, worried about the starving People of Europe in post-World War II–worried about the lack of food, medicine and other essential necessities in France and Italy especially–worried about the Soviet Union taking advantage of the worst situation to spread Communism abroad, used his Washington Merry-Go-Round column, read every day by as many as sixty millions Americans, to share his vision of European recovery.
In a letter (see copy below) addressed to Charles LUCKMAN, Chairman of the Citizens Food Committee created by President Truman two weeks earlier, Drew Pearson laid out his own concept, an efficient and speedy people-to-people plan he named the “Friendship Train.”
With winter fast approaching, Drew PEARSON, who had just returned from France, as well as his younger brother journalist, Leon PEARSON, then-Paris bureau chief of the International News Service (1945-1947), knew first hand the situation. They both knew it would take more time, perhaps months of heated discussions before Congress would approve the Marshall Plan.
The Brothers PEARSON knew that, despite President Truman’s recent, urgent call to all Americans to share what they had with the nations of Western Europe, there was just no way the U.S. Government could deliver–right away–the nutritious foods desperately needed by the most vulnerable victims of the war: the babies, the orphans, the wounded, the widows, the elderly in France and Italy.
Bureaucracy could not stand in the way of Democracy: It was time to “rock the boat” back home, in Washington D.C.!
On this historic day 70 years ago, Drew PEARSON did not just call for immediate action. His “Friendship Train” had not yet left the station but… As the People of France and Italy were soon to find out, American help was on the way! Led by his heroic conductor, Drew PEARSON, the most famous columnist and investigative reporter of his time, the wheels of the “Friendship” Train were set in motion for a new kind of Humanitarian assistance, a cultural Revolution… All Aboard!
The Story of Drew Pearson and His Friendship Train:
An Extraordinary Patriotic Lesson in American
Leadership And International Diplomatic Relations
Flight Distance from Washington D.C. to Puerto Rico, a U.S. Territory (1898)
2,506 kilometers or 1,557 miles.
Flight Distance from Washington, D.C. to Paris, France
3,840 miles or 6180 km
Flight Distance from Washington D.C. to Rome, Italy
© The Official French-American Project entirely conceived by Ms. Elisabeth JENSSEN to celebrate the 70th Anniversary of the Friendship Train and the Merci Train (2017- 2019).
Chair, Elisabeth Jenssen Co-Chair, Tyler Abell
Honorary President: The Comte Gilbert de Pusy La Fayette
The Friendship Train Timeline (1947-1948)
June 5: During his speech at Harvard University, Secretary of State George C. Marshall launched the post-war European Recovery Program (ERP), a multibillion-dollar program of economic aide. The Marshall Plan, as it was ultimately called, took time to get through Congress and wasn’t signed by Truman until April 3, 1948.
June 27: Following the offer of American aid for European reconstruction made by the US Secretary of State, George C. Marshall, on 5 June 1947, France, represented by Georges Bidault, the United Kingdom, represented by Ernest Bevin, and the Soviet Union, represented by Viatcheslav Molotov organized a tripartite summit conference in Paris, France for all European States, including Germany, with an interest in this offer.
July 2: After a few meetings, the Franco-British-Soviet initiative soon led to disagreements over the structure of the aid program. On Stalin’s orders, Molotov definitively walked out of the Paris summit conference on the Marshall Plan.
September 20: The 16 European countries submitted a plan to the United States, asking for $19 billion to carry out the Marshall Plan.
September 25: After receiving the official report of the Committee of European Economic Cooperation prepared by the representatives of the 16 participating nations in Paris, President Truman called a Press Conference and announced the formation of a Citizens Food Committee to lead America on a campaign to save food for Europe. Charles Luckman, thirty-eight-year-old president of Lever Brothers in Cambridge, Mass., was named chairman by President Truman. http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/index.php?pid=12753
October 5: In his radio and first ever televised address from the White House, President Truman unveils his administration’s food-saving program and all the measures proposed by the Citizens Food Committee to help feed Europe and save peace. Citation: Harry S. Truman: “Radio and Television Address Concluding a Program by the Citizens Food Committee,” October 5, 1947. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project. http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=12766
October 11: Drew Pearson doubted the effectiveness of a program that called for Americans to take food off. Determined to do all he could to help the People of France, Italy and other Europeans nations, his letter to Charles Luckman was his first public call to action…https://www.amazon.com/Washington-Merry-Go-Round-Pearson-Diaries-1960-1969/dp/1612346936
SATURDAY, OCTOBER 11, 1947
DREW PEARSON’S MERRY-GO-ROUND: CALL FOR ‘FRIENDSHIP TRAIN’ OF U.S.
(Editor’s Note Drew Pearson’s column today takes the form of a letter’ to Charles Luckman, chairman of the Citizens’ Food Committee.) – Charles Luckman, Citizens’ Food Committee, The White House, Washington, D.C.
Dear Mr. Luckman: I HESITATE to butt into your business, but since yours is a Citizens’ Food Committee, I, as a citizen, take the liberty of making a suggestion regarding your tough job of getting food to Europe.
It seems to me the hardest job we face is making sure this food is genuinely appreciated by the people of Europe as a friendly sacrifice from the people of the United States.
Last year, when we sent food to Europe, several million tons were unloaded efficiently and unostentatiously at the Havre docks—all accepted by most Frenchmen as a matter of course.
Simultaneously, in Marseilles Harbor, a cargo of Soviet wheat entered with flags flying, bands playing. There were street parades, a municipal holiday and paeans of praise for the great benefactors of the French people— Soviet Russia. Actually, the Russian cargo of wheat was a mere driblet capable of feeding the French only a week or so. Actually, It was American grain which supported the French people for months. And contrary to the propaganda generally believed by the French, the Soviet wheat not only was paid for by the French government, but was paid for in hard-to-get dollars, not francs.
Measure of Friendship
FINALLY, that Russian wheat came direct from the Soviet government— not from the Russian people. Not more than a handful of Russian people even know about it. The American wheat, on the other, hand, was saved and collected after a mass campaign by all the American people in which farmers shipped wheat early and every housewife cut down on her use of bread.
In other words, ours was a genuine gesture of friendship to the people of France and Europe from the people of America, but the people of Europe never fully realized that this was the case.
This time Communist leaders in France and Italy already are preparing to unload a few cargoes of Russian wheat with great fanfare in order to repeat their successful propaganda of one year ago. They want history to repeat. And if we are not very careful it will.
So my suggestion to the Citizens Food Committee is that this time we take steps to see that the people of Europe evaluate this campaign for exactly what it is— a genuine sacrifice from the heart of America.
From Heart of America
To that end I make the further suggestion that we arrange for the collection of this food direct from the heart of America in such a way that it can be visualized and dramatized and that the real story will be told to the millions of people we are trying to help.
Why not dramatize the story of America’s sacrifice by running a “Friendship Train” straight across the United States, straight through the heart of America, collecting food as it goes, inspiring the housewives and farmers of the nation to spare a bag of flour or a bushel of wheat and bring it down to the Friendship Train as their contribution toward friendship with the people of Europe?
I am sure that patriotic Governor Earl Warren would accompany the train through his state to Nevada, and that Governor Pittman would then carry on across Nevada to Utah, with other governors cooperating in their states. I am certain also that every newspaper editor in the cities through which the Friendship Train passes would be eager and anxious to explain its mission. And I know that some of the patriotic actors of Hollywood could and would accompany the train in order to dramatize the story of Europe and the part food can play in building a new democracy.
From Coast To Coast
FINALLY, I am sure that the original “Friendship Train,” starting at Los Angeles with one boxcar to hold the sacks of flour and bags of wheat donated by the people of each city, would add new boxcars at San Francisco, Sacramento, Reno, Salt Lake City, Cheyenne, Denver and Omaha, until it became a great rolling tribute from the heart of America rumbling across the continent to New York and thence to Europe.
This visible gesture of the generosity of America would more than offset the cooked-up fanfare of Communist leaders of Europe and would convince the people of Europe that this food comes not from the United States government as a part of its foreign policy, but is scraped together from every dinner table in America—a sacrifice from the American people to their less-fortunate fellow men.
Getting food to Europe, no matter how it’s sent, is important. But how much better that it be received not as barter between governments— a deal whereby the foreign minister of a country pawns his political support to the USA in return for a mess of American pottage!
How much more important, if the recipients of this food interpret it not as a cold and calculated move, but rather what it really is—a movement by the American people to stint their own dinner tables to help neighbors in distress, who in turn are helped to make democracy live!
Perhaps I’m cockeyed on this, or perhaps you have a better way of getting this idea across. In any event, this is merely a suggestion from one citizen vitally interested in the success of your Citizens’ Food Committee.