National Geographic : 1945 Jun
Americans Help Liberated Europe Live Again One commander solved a shortage of milk containers which threatened to dry up the cows in a large dairying area by lending thou sands of Army water cans to dairymen to carry milk to market. Mine fields interfere with plowing; so skilled Army personnel help local authorities train farmers to locate and neutralize the buried explosives. A Herring Run Helps Feed Belgium A herring run in the North Sea promised a big supply of food, but Belgian fishing smacks were taken by the Germans. The Army bor rowed 50 boats from the French and moved them up the coast under armed escort. No one can tabulate the aid given in these thousand and one little ways-give it value in terms of dollars. But as you read on, you may come to feel that these little things done for the little people every day combine to make an immense contribution to the recovery and stability of Europe. There is substantial direct relief provided as well in the form of regular Army rations. It is a rare family in the liberated countries that doesn't know and by now have its preference between the ham and egg or cheese spread provided in K rations. Such rations have come to them not only as direct gifts from sympathetic GI's but also on the formal orders of commanders, who often distribute food from regular Army stocks when they find the civilian supply is disrupted. Clothes as well as food are a civilian supply problem (page 749). Skeptics say, "Clothes don't wear out over night. If they had clothes when we got there, why shouldn't they have them still?" Such questioners forget that we moved into Europe as it went into bankruptcy as a result of the German occupation. In Europe today if an elevator breaks down, tenants walk thereafter. There are no parts to fix it. So it is with clothes. Most people have an outfit and a change left, but that is all. Before we could get labor to help us wrestle cargo on the Normandy beaches we had to provide the men with shoes and work clothes. Money is no use to a man who has to stay in bed for modesty's sake. They tell a story of an RAF Christmas party given for children in the Netherlands. One lucky little boy arrived through the snow in a handsome overcoat, but his chilled play mates had only shawls and sweaters. Despite urging by the flyers, the boy kept his coat on throughout the party. The urging stopped when a tactful little friend whispered, "He doesn't have much on underneath." Clothing shortages were anticipated well in advance of the invasion, and the Army im ported for distribution to emergency cases spe cial garments made to a standard design along the lines of British utility clothing. There is one pattern for women and another for little girls, as well as uniform outfits for men and boys. As rapidly as shipping space can be made available, the American Red Cross is moving dresses, shoes, suits, and coats into the lib erated countries from stocks they have ac cumulated in the United States. Largely second-hand but refurbished, these gar ments can't come too fast or in too great quantity. Civilian supply shortages do not end with food and clothes, coal and transport. Machine tools, fertilizer, and spark plugs are in equal demand. The Army, finding itself for the time being in control of the resources and, as a result, the major influence on the economy of Europe, must do all it can to help. The Black Market is rampant. The official price of an egg in Luxembourg is one franc. They sell in the Luxembourg Black Market for five francs. But it is still good business for a Belgian to slip across the border and buy up all he can get. A Black Market egg in Belgium is 18 francs! Prices of processed goods progress geomet rically in the Black Market. A pair of shoes, cut from' a Black Market hide, processed by Black Market labor (shortage of skilled tradesmen is such that employers exceed legal wage rates), and sold through a Black Market wholesaler to a Black Market retailer, under standably winds up costing $100. Thus the purchasing power and, conse quently, the morale of Allied troops are af fected by inflation. It is the lure of Black Market prices which leads to pilferage and consequent shortages at the front. The Army has done much to curb this in flation. Exchange rates were set low to reduce soldier spending. Army gasoline is specially colored so that if pilfered and sold in the Black Market it can be identified. Trials of Army pilferers are widely publicized, as a caution to troops seeking to capitalize on the inflation. 25 Million Away from Homes Army procurement in liberated countries is kept to a minimum to spare further de mands on the economy. Where local goods and services are purchased, the prices paid are agreed on beforehand with the Allied Govern ments.