THE LIFE OF HERBERT HOOVER by George H. Nash

THE LIFE OF HERBERT HOOVER

Master of Emergencies, 1917-1918
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KIRKUS REVIEW

 The third volume of Nash's definitive biography further enhances the stature of a too often disparaged great American. Nash begins with the US entry into WW I in April 1917, at a point when Hoover's extraordinary humanitarian efforts had already saved nearly ten million Belgians and French from starvation. Nash records the myriad problems Hoover faced when President Wilson made him the national ``food administrator,'' charged with ensuring that Americans had enough to eat while still exporting sufficient food to keep the embattled Allies in the war. Hoover was labeled the ``food dictator'' by hostile Farm Belt congressmen when he tried to mobilize and impose national controls on agriculture, and he quickly aroused the ire of farmers as well. But the former mining engineer was right: He clearly foresaw the problems of runaway inflation and serious food shortages as countries bid for food on the open market during panic times. Ironically, this quintessentially individualist businessman fought for, and got, strict government control of food production, food prices, and export quotas. As Nash shows, Hoover's finely tuned management abilities and determination accomplished the impossible: Neither Americans nor their allies went hungry. (``Food will win the war,'' Hoover argued, and Wilson listened.) He sketches a portrait of an intelligent, exceedingly complex man who lacked social graces but, in contrast to his tough exterior, frequently cried in private at the plight of the Belgian people. He was a marvel of dedication and hard work. Nash leaves the ``Great Engineer'' using his formidable abilities in the postWW I world to halt the spread of Communism over a devastated Europe by monitoring food distribution. Nash's well-researched reporting of Hoover's public life in 191718 should be of interest to scholars, but for the general reader, an entire volume covering two years in Hoover's life may offer more detail than they need. (41 photos, not seen)

Pub Date: May 1st, 1996
ISBN: 0-393-03841-6
Page count: 704pp
Publisher: Norton
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15th, 1996




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