Shealy, Gwendolyn C.
About the author: Gwendolyn Shealy holds an MA in history from Winthrop University, Rock Hill, South Carolina. She earned a BA in journalism from the University of Texas at Arlington. Shealy has been an adjunct professor for Francis Marion University, South Carolina and Flathead Valley Community College, Kalispell, Montana.2003 0-7734-6706-8
This revisionist perspective on the history of the Red Cross reflects its transformation from its genesis to become the government’s humanitarian agency, and the subsequent effect this change may have had on American prisoners of war held captive in Germany in World War II. Around 1898, Clara Barton’s simple charity for aiding the wounded and comforting the dying was transformed by persons of influence, such as Mabel Boardman, into a bureaucratized amalgamation of expansionism, progressivism, and egocentrism. Renovated by government, military, censorship, the International Committee of the Red Cross, and vanity, the Red Cross desire to serve soldiers, particularly prisoners of war, was thwarted by politics during World War II. It was assumed by many, including the Red Cross, that the Geneva Treaty was being honored, that food parcels were reaching the starving Allied prisoners, and that the Red Cross was relaying accurate information to the homefront concerning the welfare of captive soldiers. Shealy’s work provides data from declassified military documents and Red Cross documents deeded to the National Archives and the Library of Congress. Coupled with mainstream sources, her research offers a revisionist perspective of the American Red Cross era from 1882 to 1945. Additionally, the Red Cross, usually above reproach, turned the mirror on itself with candid monographs written post-WWII to 1950. These discourse, documents, and letters reveal the agency’s struggle to reconcile itself with policy not always in step with its recipients.