"This man is not to be stopped anywhere under any circumstances." So reads the passport given Herbert Hoover by the Germans in 1914. "Perpetual" is stamped on the passport given Hoover by theBelgian government after World War I. The first was given to aid his work, the second in recognition of it. That work, so necessary in time of war, helped launch Hoover to the Presidency in time of peace.
His work was Belgian relief. The German thrust into Belgium that had brought the West into war had left Belgium occupied, and hungry. An importer of food, Belgium was affected by the blockade imposed by Britain on Germany. The spectacle of starving Belgium moved the neutral nations, but the Allies wanted guarantees that food sent to Belgium would not feed German armies. Who better to oversee the relief effort than a neutral, long a resident of one belligerent, and who had the confidence of major industrial and financial tycoons of an opposing belligerent?
Hoover's pre-war mining work in China had involved him with both German and Belgian financiers. He had been besieged in Tianjin in China during the Boxer rebellion, and had protected certain German and Belgian financial interests during the aftermath. This, combined with his long association with British mining interests and his citizenship with the major neutral power made him acceptable to all sides.
He organized the relief, overcoming the obstacles of insufficient staff, petty personal conflicts, and the tremendous impediment of managing a massive logistical effort in an occupied land. That he managed to succeed was considered nothing short of miraculous. His efforts continued after the war, in a lesser known episode in Poland and Central Europe. Some have suggested the Polish endeavor enabled Poland to fight off the new Bolshevik Soviet Union in the 1920's.
After America's entry into the war, he headed food production and distribution efforts in the US. While he had enormous power in this role, it was his Belgian efforts that gave him the fame and prestige that won him the Presidency in 1928.
Burner, David, Herbert Hoover: a Public Life.
Smith, Richard N., An Uncommon Man: The Triumph of Herbert Hoover.
Lyons, Eugene, Herbert Hoover: A Biography.
Hinshaw, David, Herbert Hoover: American Quaker.
Moley, Raymond, Twenty-Seven Masters of Politics.
Also consult the Herbert Hoover Library