The “Dakota Queen,” piloted by George McGovern, had been hit hard by enemy fire while over the Skoda works at Pilsen, Czechoslovakia – a facility that produced arms for the Nazis. One engine had fallen off and the other was in flames. The plane was going down.
McGovern quickly launched his bombs, turned the plane away, and began to figure out how long the crew could stay in the B-24 Liberator. Most expected to be bailing out shortly, but McGovern had other ideas.
At about same time, and really not so far away, in Italy’s Apennine Mountains, the U.S. Army’s famed 10th Mountain Division was taking on the Germans on the ground. An enemy machine gun sprayed the upper right arm and back of a U.S. Army lieutenant with bullets.
Except for a large dose of morphine, the young officer spent nine more hours on the battlefield without treatment. It took three years for Bob Dole to recover and he’s gone through life with a paralyzed right arm, often holding a pen in his right hand as a signal that he shakes with his left.
The Distinguished Flying Cross was awarded to McGovern, and two Purple Hearts and a Bronze Star with the combat V for valor were awarded to Dole for his attempt to save a wounded radioman.
McGovern and Dole both served long terms in the U.S. Senate, both lost Presidential elections, and both ended up making modern day food and nutrition policies for the U.S.
Everybody old enough to remember Robert Kennedy’s campaign for President can recall his visit to areas of Mississippi to see that hunger in America looked a lot like hunger in Africa.
What came from that historic field trip was the Senate Select Committee on Nutrition and Human Needs, which existed from 1968 to 1977, with only one chairman, Senator McGovern of South Dakota. The “McGovern Committee” carried on the hunger issue after Senator Kennedy’s death.
Senator Dole of Kansas was the Republican member who seemed to pop up beside McGovern every time something big was being pushed up the hill. The two war veterans from farm states did not fear going where nobody had gone before.
My exposure to all of this came when I was in college in South Dakota and was on multiple occasions able to sort of tag along, or hear from McGovern and his staff. I recall one time when the committee was out taking testimony about the balance between food stamps and the federal commodity program, which was best known for handing out those big blocks of cheese and other food stuffs.
Senator McGovern was trying to draw a little more out of an elderly gentleman from the Smokey Mountain area, finally asking “Are these commodities useful to you, sir?”
“Oh, yes Senator.” the man said. “I had some holes in my back wall and I’ve used some of that big cheese to fill ’em up.”
The McGovern-Dole era for these programs is remembered for a couple of things. It brought about the shift away from handing out commodities to issuing food stamps as the federal government’s main tool against hunger. And the Select Committee was the first to recommend that Americans eat less fats, cholesterol and refined and processed sugars.
I’ve always thought since those days that the reason food stamps trumped hunger in America is that McGovern and Dole allowed basic human dignity to trump everything else. It’s long been difficult to tell a food stamp shopper from anyone else, especially states where grocery stores do not sell liquor.
The Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) is the new name for food stamps and SNAP is included in the 2012 Farm Bill. For reasons including the continued weakness in jobs and housing, the Farm Bill’s allocation for SNAP is up to $770 billion over the next decade.
That’s a bucket of money. In the McGovern-Dole era, about 1 in 50 people received food stamps. After rising steadily and then doubling in last four years, that figure is now up to about 1 in 7 Americans. If and when we get some economic recovery, the Farm Bill expects that number to improve to 1 in 9. Let’s hope we do better.
With officials and bureaucrats out there like Mayor Bloomberg who want to ration food and drink purchases for the entire population, it’s almost unbearable for some that SNAP recipients are still free to make their own grocery decisions.
But free they shall remain. Let’s just be happy for once that thanks to a couple of veterans of the Great Depression and World War II that we had this food stamp program in place during the past four years. It expanded to fill a need.
I did not see anyone selling apples on a street corner or any uptick in dumpster diving. Next to a workable unemployment insurance program, which also did not exist during the Great Depression, SNAP provides people with food security and non-alcoholic beverages.
We really don’t need people getting snippy about the details. We need more people who are thankful that we did not crash or get shot up because we had an effective food program in place when people needed it. And if you happen to see 90-year-old McGovern or 89-year-old Dole, you might thank them as well.
Pictured: George McGovern (above right); Bob Dole (above left)
Rare B-24 over a recent Paris Air Show© Food Safety News