Posts Tagged ‘New York Times’

As World War II ended 65 years ago, Henry J. Kaiser Led the National Drive to Collect Millions of Pounds of Clothes for Overseas War Relief

posted on May 26, 2010

By Tom Debley
Director of Heritage Resources

Sixty-five years ago Friday, May 28, the New York Times reported that Henry J. Kaiser, as national chairman of the United National Clothing Collection, had announced that more than 125 million pounds had been gathered on the way to a 150-million-pound goal for overseas war relief.

It was a momentous time as America prepared for the first Memorial Day following Germany’s unconditional surrender—VE Day—less than three weeks earlier and the death of President Franklin D. Roosevelt only six weeks earlier.

In an example of Henry Kaiser’s spirit of supporting the social needs of people, he had agreed in January to chair the clothing drive at the request of President Roosevelt.

Said the President in a Jan. 22 letter to Kaiser: “…As many war victims have died from exposure and a lack of adequate clothing as have died from starvation… The importance of the cause demands a leader who will stimulate thousands of our people throughout the land to give vast amounts of volunteer service, as well as inspire all Americans everywhere to contribute all the clothing they can spare. I am confident your personal leadership will command the nationwide cooperation needed for success…”

Henry Kaiser had never led such a national campaign before, but took up the cause with the same gusto with which he had built ships for the war, and which had earned him nicknames as the “can-do” industrialist and the “patriot in pinstripes.”

There is enough spare clothing in America’s clothes closets and attics,” he said, “to go far toward relieving the stress of these innocent people.”

By a mid-March kick-off, Kaiser had 2,500 volunteer local chair people lined up on his way to 7,600 for the drive. The goal was surpassed with a total of 150,366,014 pounds of used clothes, shoes and bedding shipped overseas.

Clothing drive poster was used nationwide in Henry Kaiser-led overseas war relief effort.

As if that were not enough, Kaiser repeated the feat after VJ Day— the surrender of Japan on Aug. 14, 1945.

World War II was finally over and Kaiser this time responded to a request from President Harry Truman.

The sponsoring agency for both volunteer drives was the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration, which had been formed by participating World War II allied nations. It was disbanded after the war, with its functions transferred to agencies of the newly formed United Nations, establishment of which had been supported by Kaiser.

By example, Kaiser further embedded into his organizations a spirit of service to the common good that continues to this day within his lasting legacy, Kaiser Permanente, co-founded with surgeon Sidney R. Garfield and open to the public in October 1945.

As one of his biographers, Albert P. Heiner, summed it up: “…Once again, Kaiser had proved he was more than an exciting industrialist, he was a man with a heart.”

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Replacing ‘Sick Care’ with ‘Health Care:’ Dr. Sidney Garfield’s Ideas in the National Reform Dialogue

posted on April 5, 2010

By Tom Debley, Director, Heritage Resources

It was fascinating to me to research and write a book about the life of Kaiser Permanente’s founding physician, Sidney R. Garfield, but it has become even more so to observe how visionary he was in his time as discussion continues in the wake of President Obama’s signature on health care reform.

Dr. Sidney R. Garfield, a surgeon, co-founded prevention-focused Kaiser Permanente with industrialist Henry J. Kaiser.

A month ago, I wrote a blog about Harvard Business School Professor Clayton Christensen, who argued in the pages of Business Week that health care needs business models like Kaiser Permanente—health care systems in which doctors and insurers are on the same side of the ledger as the patient. I observed that this was an idea Dr. Garfield put forward as the model for Kaiser Permanente in a speech in Portland, Oregon 65 years ago Sunday (April 4).

This Monday (April 5), I was struck by a quote in an article by Robert Pear in the New York Times.

“We don’t have a health care system in America,” said Senator Tom Harkin, the Iowa Democrat who chairs the Senate health committee. “We have a sick care system. If you get sick, you get care. But precious little is spent to keep people healthy in the first place.”

First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, visiting World War II Home Front patient, asked Dr. Sidney R. Garfield to tell her about prevention-focused medical care.

Harkin’s statement is an interesting juxtaposition with an event exactly 67 years earlier—April 5, 1943—when First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt visited a World War II Kaiser Industries shipyard worker, a woman with a seriously injured left leg, as shipyard manager Edgar F. Kaiser looked on in Vancouver, Washington.

Whatever Mrs. Roosevelt heard about Dr. Garfield’s focus on injury and illness prevention efforts as he built the largest civilian medical care program on the Home Front of World War II, she was immediately intrigued. Returning to the White House, she dictated a note to Dr. Garfield, “I am interested in getting medical care, both preventive and curative, at the least cost to the people. What is your program on the preventive side?”

“Your expression of interest in preventive medicine is rather closely allied with our thoughts for medical care,” Dr. Garfield responded in a letter detailing his ideas.

What Dr. Garfield did on the Home Front is, of course, one of the historical stories told at the Rosie the Riveter / World War II Home Front National Historical Park in Richmond, Calif.

Dr. Garfield spent his whole professional life on these ideas. It was not easy, but his vision was central to the evolution of Kaiser Permanente as—in Dr. Garfield’s words—a “total health” system of care.

In the first 15 years of toil after World War II, Dr. Garfield’s big frustration was how challenging it was to move from a “sick plan” to a “health plan,” but he never gave up. His big breakthrough came 50 years ago next month, and I will write about that story in a blog in May.

In the meantime, if you are interested in learning more about Dr. Garfield, my book, “The Story of Dr. Sidney R. Garfield: The Visionary Who Turned Sick Care into Health Care,” is available from the publisher, The Permanente Press, as well as from Amazon.com in both book form and on Kindle.

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