gas masks pilots in dress uniforms African American Officers African American Soldiers 1 The pilots doughboys with mules Riveters Mule Rearing

How doughnuts helped keep spirits high on the front line of WWI

By Kara Schlegl
via the Australian Broadcasting Corporation News web site

A simple fried pastry delivered to American troops in the trenches of World War I provided not only a sweet treat for officers, but helped change a nation's attitude to war. 

By looking through the lens of history it is possible to understand the true impact of this minute and often overlooked point of change.

9360908 3x2 700x467Women helped bake and distribute thousands of doughnuts during World War I. (Photo courtesy Salvation Army.)Doughnuts were first delivered to the trenches in 1917, during World War I, when American Salvation Army Officers Helen Purviance and Margaret Sheldon were assigned to the front line in France.

They were supplied with gas masks, pistols and a mission to boost the morale of the new American recruits.

The president at the time, Woodrow Wilson, won his second election campaign with the slogan "He kept us out of war".

When Wilson finally joined the war — after the Germans attacked American commercial ships tasked to trade with the Allies — his countrymen weren't too pleased.

The Government had to resort to conscription after their one-million-troop recruitment target was met with only 73,000 volunteers.

This meant Purviance and Sheldon were faced with the near-impossible task of bringing cheer to teenage boys sent to war against their own will. 

Using ammunition shells as rolling pins

After these newly-minted American soldiers were hit with 30 days straight of rain and a hailstorm of German gunfire, the officers realised hot tea and lively conversation wasn't going to cut it.

It was Purviance who had the idea to find eggs, an ingredient that was essential if they were to cook the troops a treat and something that would give these young men a taste of home.

To make doughnuts, they needed to beg the residents of a nearby village for eggs, raid ration packs for sugar, and invent new methods of shaping these doughnuts, including using ammunition shells as rolling pins, and tin cans as cutters.

Some days were spent on their knees to be level with the oil vats they used for deep frying.

Other days were spent dodging bullets to deliver these doughnuts to soldiers in the trenches.

Read the entire article on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation News web site here:

External Web Site Notice: This page contains information directly presented from an external source. The terms and conditions of this page may not be the same as those of this website. Click here to read the full disclaimer notice for external web sites. Thank you.


"Pershing" Donors

Founding Sponsor
PritzkerMML Logo

Starr Foundation Logo