872.142/63½

The Ambassador in Austria-Hungary ( Penfield ) to the Secretary of State

My Dear Mr. Secretary: Being aware of your keen interest in the work of the American Red Cross, I feel warranted in departing from my strict official duty by writing you briefly on the subject of the American relief in Serbia.

Yesterday and the day before I had long conversations with Dr. Edward W. Ryan, a man prominently identified with the American Red Cross, and who has just returned from a lengthy journey in the interior of Serbia undertaken as chief distributor of flour and other staple foods contributed by American generosity.

Dr. Ryan assured me that there is now no necessity for sending food into Serbia, as the year’s crops are so phenomenally abundant that grain is actually being shipped from Serbia into Austria-Hungary, leaving a sufficient supply for the needy of Serbia. He found willing recipients of American food everywhere, but he insists that there was no actual need for it.

Ryan I regard to be honest to the point of not readily making friends with persons whose knowledge of Serbian conditions is gained from newspapers. He knows Serbia thoroughly, speaks some of the language, and has the confidence of all grades of people there. He told me that it was his judgment that it would be more honest to relieve distress in the cities of America than to continue to send supplies and money to Serbia, where these are not really needed.

Dr. Ryan is making a detailed report on his visit to Serbia to your Mr. Ernest P. Bicknell, which to me is not half as convincing as what he has told me verbally.

For months whenever the Embassy has negotiated with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Vienna for the visits of Americans intent upon relieving distress and hunger in that portion of Serbia under Austro-Hungarian military control, we have always been assured that outside food was not required.

On the other hand, it is a fact admitting of no dispute, that this Monarchy’s conquered territory in Montenegro and Northern Albania is filled with peoples suffering almost to starvation.

This information I write in confidence that my motives will not be misunderstood.

I am [etc.]

Frederic C. Penfield