Hoover, Herbert C.

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Hoover, Herbert C. (1874–1964), U.S. president.Born in West Branch, Iowa, son of a Quaker blacksmith, Hoover was orphaned, then raised by relatives in Oregon. Graduating from Stanford University in 1895, he soon became a millionaire as a global metallurgical engineer.

His humanitarian reputation stemmed from his direction of food relief for occupied Belgium, 1914–17. As head of the U.S. Food Administration (1917–18) under Democratic president Woodrow Wilson, and as secretary of commerce under Republican presidents Harding and Coolidge (1921–28), Hoover also established a reputation for efficient administration. Defeating Al Smith, he became president, 1929–33.

Although a progressive Republican, Hoover's popularity was undermined by the onset of the depression. In his foreign policy, he struck a balance between internationalism and traditional U.S. unilateralism, supporting open trade, but accepting a congressional high tariff. Thinking in terms of economic self‐sufficiency for the western hemisphere, he repudiated Theodore Roosevelt's interventionism and withdrew the Marines from Nicaragua.

Hoover emphasized arms reduction and nonmilitary strategies. He obtained some success in the London Naval Disarmament Treaty (1930), extending the 1922 battleship limitation to cruisers and submarines. His pacifism appeared most clearly after Japan's conquest of Manchuria in 1931. When the League of Nations failed to act, Hoover eschewed economic sanctions, which he thought might lead to war in an area not vital to the United States. Instead, he had Secretary of State Henry L. Stimson respond with the doctrine of nonrecognition of the illegal conquest.

Hoover's fear of an expansionist Soviet Union led him to oppose U.S. intervention in Europe on the Pacific before 7 December 1941, because although he abhorred the German and Japanese regimes, he feared Josef Stalin more. In 1942, he co‐authored The Problems of Lasting Peace, emphasizing that military success alone would not ensure peace, and urging a new postwar international organization to settle disputes peacefully; gradual disarmament; and a ban on military alliances. Hoover coordinated European food relief again in 1945–47. During the Cold War, he advocated U.S. naval and air defense of the western hemisphere and island bastions from Britain to Japan, Taiwan, and the Philippines. Against commitment of U.S. ground troops overseas, he opposed NATO and the Korean War, and supported President Eisenhower's increased reliance upon airpower.
[See also Nicaragua, U.S. Military Involvement in; World War I: Causes; World War I: Postwar Impact; World War II: Postwar Impact.]


David Burner , Herbert Hoover: A Public Life, 1979.
Gary Dean Best , Herbert Hoover: The Postpresidential Years, 2 vols., 1983.
Richard Norton Smith , An Uncommon Man: The Triumph of Herbert Hoover, 1984.

Gary Dean Best