The United States entered World War 1 on April 2, 1917. The armistice was signed on November 11, 1918. For the U.S., the war lasted scarcely nineteen months, though various American organizations and the government gave aid to the Allies while attempting to maintain neutrality.
In France, the war started on August 3, 1914, and lasted four bloody years. Military and civilian casualties from all countries totaled about 40 million. One-third of those were due to disease and POW camps. France lost 1,397,800, or 3.5% of their population.
During the war, the J.P. Morgan company did its best to aid the allies financially, within the limits of neutrality. Once the United States entered the war, they were avid supporters. But what about the toll after the war? Anne Morgan, daughter of financier Pierpont Morgan, was not content to sit in a Manhattan townhouse and cluck her tongue over the devastation and starving orphans.
“American Committee for Devastated France, the volunteer civilian relief organization that Morgan created with her friend Anne Murray Dike (1879–1929). Morgan, with her commanding presence and social prominence, took the lead in fund-raising efforts, while Dike, trained as a physician, organized activities in the field. Several years of war had decimated the French countryside. “You can travel in a motor going forward in a straight line for fifteen hours and see nothing but ruins,” Anne Murray Dike explained in 1919. People had lost nearly everything—not only their homes and livelihoods but a whole generation of young men. The committee commissioned photographs of the devastation in Picardy as well as the committee’s activities. Full-page images ran in American newspapers, exhibitions were mounted, and sets of prints were sold for three dollars a dozen. The photographs conveyed to Americans the enormous need for relief in the form of monetary support, donations in kind, and volunteerism. “https://www.themorgan.org/exhibitions/anne-morgans-war
The American volunteers had to pay their own way (the equivalent of $27, 692 today ) and make a six-month commitment. Many doctors and nurses as well as women who were simply another pair of hands volunteered and worked alongside French women whose homes, husbands, and livelihoods had been lost to rebuild. Anne was a tireless force, raising funds, providing administration, and raising the consciousness of the needs.
What plucked the heartstrings the most were the children (see Hine’s photograph in the link).
Many children were growing up without ever having seen their fathers, and in some cases, orphans.
“The American volunteers addressed the children’s immediate needs for wholesome food, clothing, and medical care but quickly turned their attention from emergency aid to long-term support in the form of schools, libraries, and socialization, leaving an enduring legacy in the region.”https://www.themorgan.org/exhibitions/anne-morgans-war
Anne’s organization often meant the difference between a life on the streets, and a secure home with food and education.
The French government awarded her the Legion of Honour in 1924.