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The members of this Committee, to which many Americans stranded in Europe as a result of the war have reason to be grateful for prompt and efficient help, are as follows:
AMERICANS IN THE WAR ZONE
ERY few Americans traveling in Europe foresaw the war or even anticipated the consequences of mobilization. I had been forewarned. The American Ambassador at Paris, Mr. Myron T. Herrick, had told me what would happen. In fact, as early as Friday, the 31st of July, before war had extended beyond Austria and Servia, and while many well-informed people still believed peace possible, he had cabled to Washington for transports to take home the Americans whom he foresaw would be caught in Europe by the war. Even with this knowledge, however, I did not fully realize what was to come, and it is therefore easy to understand how it happened that scores of thousands of Americans traveling in the various countries of Europe, without access to any authoritative information, continued on their travels or remained in the zone of threatened war until they found themselves suddenly marooned.
It is a credit to human nature that most of the people who were thus cast to one side as so much rubbish by the forces engaged. in this war controlled their nerves and maintained their good humor.
Since civilization seemed to have abandoned us, it was the natural impulse on our part to try to establish a civilization of our No one who has been through such an experience needs to be convinced by argument of the truth of the saying that no man liveth unto himself. And of course we first turned to the American Embassy. On Monday morning (August 3) I went to the Embassy on Victoria Street, London, not with any favor to ask or request to make, but with the expectation that there would be the center for stranded Americans, and there we could find signs of organized society, which seemed to be disappearing rapidly everywhere else. The only sign, however, of anything approaching any means for mutual help and protection was a registration book. There was a crowd of people around the table, each person waiting his turn to record his name and his London address. Here, at least, was the beginning of something like organization. One American had his pen in his hand, all ready to write his name, when an under-secretary or clerk came up, reached over, lifted the book from the
table, closed it, and announced that there would be no more registration.
At that minute it seemed as if America had joined the Powers of Europe in repudiating civilization! ating civilization! That registry book was a little thing; but for the time being it seemed as if it were the only thing that stood between us and anarchy. With that book there seemed to disappear the last chance to find friends or to be found by them, the last chance to undertake any effort for mutual protection. No explanation was vouchsafed except the simple one that the Embassy had no money to distribute, and therefore it was no use leaving names and addresses with the Embassy.
Somebody, however, in the crowd announced that the stranded Americans in London were to have a meeting at the Waldorf Hotel that afternoon. So we dispersed to gather in that London hotel on invitation of we knew not whom.
Thereupon began a most interesting operation of establishing a form of government, so to speak. It was thoroughly American in the way it began. It was virtually a town meeting. Somebody called the gathering to order, and made a cheerful speech. Later it was understood that this was Mr. Fred I. Kent, a banker of New York. It was proposed that the meeting elect Mr. Theodore Hetzler as chairman of a permanent Committee to be appointed later. Mr. Hetzler was unanimously elected, though probably not one in a hundred of those present knew him. How many there were in this large room with galleries it would be hard to say. Some were seated at tables, most of them were standing. Fully half, I should say, were crowded in the large galleries overlooking the rest of the room. Mr. Hetzler rose and made a cheerful speech and called for suggestions from the floor. Many sensible suggestions were made. It proved that most of these had been anticipated by the group of men who had called the meeting into being. There was some criticism-criticism of the Government for not having the transports already on their way across the Atlantic; criticism of the Ambassador for not being present at the meeting, although no one suggested any way by which he could be there and at the For
eign Office settling important diplomatic questions at the same time. Some suggestions were evidently valuable chiefly as relieving the minds of those who made them. Then a request that written nominations for membership on the general committee and sub-committees be sent up to the chairman; finally, Mr. Oscar S. Straus was called upon to speak. He spoke, in substance, as follows:
Fellow-Emigrés, Exiles, Citizens: There is no occasion for alarm. Americans are safe everywhere. There will be a chance for everybody. Be calm. You will all be transported. Americans have least of all occasion to be alarmed. Our one concern is that this calamity be averted the greatest that has menaced the world since civilization began. The men who began this organization have done well.
This word of reassurance and of indorsement from one whom every one trusted was a great source of confidence.
The next day headquarters were established at the Savoy Hotel, on the Strand, with a special entrance for Americans on Victoria Street. The great ballroom of the hotel was supplied with tables and chairs. Cards were distributed for registration. On each card were blank spaces for the name of the person registering, his foreign address, his home address in America; for the name of the steamship on which he had engaged return passage, and the proposed date of sailing; for a record of any loss of luggage; and for whatever additional information might be desirable. Signs were posted about this room and about rooms engaged on the floor above, indicating the various departments which the Committee had established. In one corner there was a post-office, where letters were received and mailed. In another corner the Sub-Committee on Transportation had its headquarters. There a member of the Committee was in constant attendance to answer questions. Occasionally he would stand on the table and make some such announcement as this: "First cabin reservation on the Campania, sailing August 15, for two ladies;" and immediately some one looking for such reservation would make application for these tickets. This was always the most crowded portion of the room. On one side there were bulletin boards where Americans could post notices of various sortsinquiries after lost luggage, announcements of articles found, applications for transportation home in return for services as teacher or governess, and the like. Elsewhere in
this room and the rooms above were headquarters for a Woman's Relief Committee, which gave assistance to destitute women, and arranged for lodgings for women in safe quarters; headquarters for the Diplomatic Committee, which was ready to answer questions concerning problems that involved international questions; headquarters for the Emergency Assistance Committee; for a committee to receive subscriptions to help defray expenses; for a committee that managed cable messages and cable transfers. After a day or two the Embassy established quarters for representatives who supplied stranded Americans with passports. The American Citizens' Committee was working in full co-operation with Ambassador Page. Before the week was out thousands of registration cards had been filled out and were filed in alphabetical order under a card index system, and a committee was always on hand ready to answer inquiries for people who were thought to be in London and who had registered. Other cards, filled out by the score and hundred, recorded inquiries for people who were believed to be on the Continent, and concerning whom some person might be able to furnish information. In brief, the headquarters of this American Committee took on all the appearance of the offices of a wellorganized corporation. All the work that was involved in this organization was carried on by volunteers. The men who occupied responsible positions in this organization went to their work just as they would go to their offices at home, and kept office hours. The General Committee had regular meetings in a room reserved for that purpose, where problems were discussed and decisions made as if they were the board of directors of a great commercial concern.
The creation and management of this organization is a striking illustration of the way in which democracy meets emergencies. Ordinarily one would have expected the Embassy to undertake the task. As a matter of fact, however, an American Embassy has no facilities for doing what this organization did. Indeed, as was said at the time, whether the embassy of some other country might have attempted to do such work, no embassy of any country could have begun to do what this Committee did. Though democracy has its defects and sometimes seems inefficient, no people but a people democratically trained could have done what these Americans did in London. I can speak the