Pursuit of an 'Unparalleled Opportunity'
The American YMCA and Prisoner of War Diplomacy among the Central Power Nations
during World War I, 1914-1923.
by Kenneth Steuer


Harte's First Inspection Trip of Siberia

Russia Harte Trip June

Archibald C. Harte, the American YMCA's International General Secretary for War Prisoners' Aid operations, contacted the Russian government in May 1915 to ascertain the possibilities of establishing POW relief operations for Central Power war prisoners in the Tsarist Empire. German authorities demanded the establishment of reciprocal relief services for their men in Russian POW camps similar to those received by Russian prisoners through WPA activities in Germany and Austria-Hungary. Harte and George M. Day, an American YMCA Secretary assigned to the Miyak (the Russian YMCA), received permission to visit Russian prison camps in Siberia from tsarist military officials in late May. Harte and Day began their journey by rail, leaving Moscow on 1 June 1915 and traveling as far east as Tomsk, arriving more than two weeks later. The two YMCA secretaries met with German, Austrian, and Hungarian prisoners, distributed comforts, and established contacts. The pair returned to Petrograd on June 21 and reported to the Russian government. While Harte identified problems with sanitation, mail delivery, and Russian record keeping, his report was optimistic and sympathetic. As a result, Russian officials agreed to support War Prisoners' Aid operations within the empire and to allow Harte to conduct a second visit of prison camps in eastern Siberia at the end of the year.

Source: Archibald C. Harte to John R. Mott, 25 June 1915. Box X391.2 War Prisoners' Aid, YMCA, 1914-1920. Folder: War Prisoners' Aid of the YMCA's, Russia." World's Alliance of YMCAs Archives, Geneva, Switzerland.