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WWI Crusaders

Adult; History & Military; (Market)

During WWI (1914-1918), the American-led Commission for Relief in Belgium (CRB) initiated, organized, and supervised the largest food relief program the world had ever seen. The CRB and its Belgian counterpart, the Comite National (CN), fed for four years nearly 10 million Belgians and northern French trapped behind German lines. Young, idealistic Americans volunteered to go into German-occupied Belgium to guarantee the relief food would not be taken by the Germans. These humanitarian crusaders had to maintain strict neutrality as they watched the Belgians suffer under the harsh German regime. WWI Crusaders is the first book for general readers that tells in one volume the interlacing stories of German brutality, Belgian resistance, and the young Americans who went into German-occupied Belgium. Through lively personal stories, this nonfiction book follows a handful of young CRB delegates, a 22-year-old Belgian woman, two American diplomats, the leaders of a Belgian underground newspaper, and the founder of the CRB, who would become known to the world as the Great Humanitarian. It is a story that few have heard.
Miller expands upon his previous volume (Behind Enemy Lines) to provide the complete story of the Commission for the Relief of Belgium, a private American-led relief organization that supervised the import and distribution of food to the people of German-occupied Belgium and Northern France, from its beginnings in 1914 through America’s entry into the war. Much of the book focuses on the volunteer American delegates who worked inside Belgium under commission chair Herbert Hoover, and who were harassed by the German military and always in danger of arrest. Meanwhile, German submarines sank numerous CRB ships and threatened to shut down the relief effort; the Allied military was not in favor of the operation and at one point accused Hoover himself of spying for the Germans. Among many impressive characters, Hoover stands out as an incredible organizer and powerful personality without whose efforts 75% of the population of Belgium might have faced starvation. Though its length will be daunting for most general readers, those with a serious interest in WWI history or the life of Herbert Hoover will find this lively and engaging book fascinating. (BookLife)
BlueInk Review -- Starred Review

 In WWI Crusaders, Jeffrey B. Miller provides an exhaustive and absorbing portrait of a mission to prevent the starvation of the Belgium civilian population during the first four years of World War I.

Miller chronicles the overarching efforts of Herbert Hoover, leading the American organization Committee for Relief in Belgium (CRB), and its Belgium counterpart Comité National (CN), to bring food and other forms of relief to millions of Belgians and Northern French ensnared behind German lines. Miller illuminates the intriguing political ramifications of these efforts through their tenuous collaboration. A particularly fascinating portion of the history chronicles antagonism between Hoover and the leader of CN, Émile Francqui, which could have severely undermined the international relief effort in the critical years 1916-1917. This information relies on previously unpublished reports and is a testament to the impressive level of Miller’s scholarship (as are the extensive Notes and index at book’s end).

Miller also captures the individual efforts of CRB delegates, generally “young, idealistic university students” who operated in the occupied territories and facilitated the day-to-day operations of the relief effort. The poignant stories of these delegates (sourced from a trove of primary material, including diaries and letters) illuminate the unique human achievements behind the statistical enormousness of the operation. Miller himself is the grandchild of Milton M. Brown, a delegate who is featured prominently in the history.

WWI Crusaders also details the ongoing Belgian struggle to publish the underground newspaper La Libre Belgique. The publication’s history, and its related intrigues are thrilling. Interspersed throughout the narrative of the CRB’s operations, the struggle of La Libre Belgique drives the larger history of the relief effort forward, serving as a microcosm of the entire endeavor

The volume of statistical data in WWI Crusaders can be overwhelming and could be tempered by a heavier editorial hand; however, for any student of WWI history, Miller has created an invaluable addition to the scholarship.

Kirkus Reviews -- STARRED REVIEW

Posted Sept. 7, 2018

Miller (Behind the Lines, 2014, etc.) offers the second volume of a tour-de-force history detailing a little-known World War I humanitarian rescue mission, led by a future American president.

During the early years of the First World War, an amazing organization, the Commission for Relief in Belgium, gathered together a group of idealistic young Americans to keep the people in German-occupied Belgium from starving.

Popular historian Miller continues detailing the history of this organization, which was formed and run by none other than Herbert Hoover, who left his own successful business and mining-engineering interests to lead it. He and his intrepid CRB delegates constantly struggled with German military and governmental authorities and with the Belgian relief agency Comité National, but they managed to manipulate, cajole, bluff, and fight their way to providing the most extensive food relief program in modern history. They did so by preserving their absolute political neutrality and winning the respect and support of even the German aggressors.

To succeed, Hoover and his band knew they had to be on the right side of worldwide public opinion: “Hoover’s understanding of this concept, and of the way the world’s news media worked, would serve him and his cause extremely well from the very beginning.”

Miller delivers compelling portraits of young idealists who interrupted their lives to serve the CRB for no pay. He engagingly parallels this tale with the story of La Libre Belgique, a scrappy underground newspaper that continually poked the Germans in the eye; he shows how even though the Germans jailed and executed Belgian patriots associated with the paper, nothing could stop it from getting published.

Miller is an accomplished writer who never gets in the way of his intriguing story, eliminating tiresome footnotes and in-text citations that might have detracted from the gripping historical narrative.

A magnum opus that celebrates the qualities of compassion, honor, and humanitarian virtue.

Jeffrey B. Miller to Speak at the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library

On Thursday, October 25, 2018, author Jeffrey B. Miller will be making two presentations at the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library in West Branch, Iowa. At noon he will be speaking to middle school children. At 7 p.m. he will be speaking to the general public.Both speeches will highlight Herbert Hoover's little-known humanitarian work during World War I. Hoover, along with a small band of Americans, formed the Commission for Relief in Belgium (CRB) that ended up becoming the largest food relief program the world had ever seen. Working with its Belgian counterpart, the Comite National (CN), the CRB helped to feed and clothe nearly 10 million Belgian and northern French civilians who were trapped behind German lines during the war. By the end of the war, Hoover had become known as the "Great Humanitarian."It is an inspiring story of compansion, honor, and humanitarian viriue that few have heard.Miller has written WWI Crusaders, that details the work of the CRB and what was happening in Belgium during this time. The official publication date of the book is Veterans Day, Nov. 11, 2018, to honor the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I. The book has already earned a Kirkus Starred Review that stated it was a "tour-de-force history" and a magnum opus."

Jeffrey B. Miller to Speak on Veterans Day at the Tattered Cover Bookstore in De

Jeffrey B. Miller's new book, WWI Crusaders, will be officially published on Veterans Day, November 11th to honor the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I.

Denver's famous Tattered Cover Bookstore has kindly agreed to give Miller a book signing at its Colfax store on Veterans Day, Sunday, Nov. 11th at 2 pm. Miller will make a presentation about the book's topic -- one of America's greatest humanitarian efforts that is little known today.