On this day in 1947, President Harry Truman writes to his good friend, former President Herbert Hoover, thanking him for his help in investigating post-World War II reconstruction issues in Germany and Austria. Truman’s letter was just one exchange in a friendship that began in 1945 when Truman first consulted the former president for his expertise on foreign policy.
Truman’s letter was in response Hoover’s work in 1945-46 to combat the famine in Europe and Asia that had resulted largely from the devastation of World War II. Truman sought out Hoover for his experience leading the effort to stave off a similar food crisis caused by World War I. In 1914, Hoover had established a food-aid program for Belgium while serving as U.S. food administrator. He had also headed the American Relief Administration from 1917 to 1921 and implemented critical food-rationing and distribution policies for the U.S., Europe and Russia before becoming president in 1929. Truman appointed former President Hoover as honorary chairman of the Famine Emergency Committee in 1946. Hoover, at age 71, worked tirelessly, traveling the world to study the famine and devising solutions to food-distribution problems.
In 1947, Truman assigned Hoover to conduct a survey on the German and Austrian food crisis. He also asked Hoover to propose ways to wean Germany and Austria off U.S. financial aid and retool their economies to be more self-supporting. After filing his report on Germany and Austria, Hoover returned to Washington, D.C., and had barely settled into his new job when Truman asked him to chair the Commission on Organization of the Executive Branch; he agreed. In this capacity, Hoover worked closely with Truman in devising ways to pare down and refine the post-World War II federal government to improve administrative efficiency, curb the powers of the executive branch and loosen what both men considered to be excessive regulatory control of the private business sector. This commission became known as the Hoover Commission.