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

Appendix 5a

Archibald Harte Correspondence

image As the General Secretary of the War Prisoners' Aid program, Archibald C. Harte served as the Young Men's Christian Association's chief diplomat during World War I. He conducted negotiations with belligerent and neutral governments; coordinated relief activities with German, Austrian, Hungarian, and Russian welfare organizations; and addressed the concerns of families and friends regarding the condition of their loved ones behind barbed-wire fences. He proved to be an adept negotiator; he succeeded in gaining YMCA secretaries access to prison camps in most of the belligerent countries and in expanding the WPA's program through the Principle of Reciprocity. Harte overcame a great deal of suspicion regarding the YMCA's intentions by addressing concerns for all soldiers in prison camps. Even after the United States broke off relations with Germany in February 1917, Harte succeeded in maintaining the WPA program and even had continued access to Berlin and Vienna despite his belligerent status.1

Harte maintained a wide range of correspondence during the war, which ranged from the exchange of letters with the heads of state to peasants and workers seeking information about missing loved ones. Unfortunately, Harte lost many of these papers in Petrograd in early 1917. He left his briefcase in a cab one afternoon to run a quick errand. When he returned, both the briefcase and cab were gone. The police treated the incident as a theft, but Harte had private suspicions that his briefcase was the target of a tsarist secret police investigation. His travels to Berlin and Vienna did not encourage mutual trust with some elements of the Russian government. The following are a selection of some of Harte's surviving correspondence in support of the War Prisoners' Aid program.

Appendices to Chapter 5:
Appendix 5a:
Archibald Harte Correspondence
Appendix 5b:


Note 1: Biographical A Records, Box: Harmon, S. A. to Harty, Folder: Harte, Archibald Clinton, Biographical Data, 1865-1946, 1 A; Folder: Harte, Archibald Clinton Letters, 1915-1918, 3, Kautz Family YMCA Archives, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN. back