(Belgrade, Serbia, July 2018)
Relations between Serbia and the United States of America during World War I, the “Great War,” were as friendly allies. July 28, 1918, however, was especially important for Serbs and Americans. On this day America marked the fourth anniversary of the beginning of the Great War, when, according to the words of U.S. Secretary of State Robert Lansing, “honorable Serbian people were forced to defend their country and their homes against an enemy who wanted to destroy them,” and when the Serbian people, “sacrificed everything for freedom and independence.”
Americans clearly expressed their support and sympathy for the Serbian people from the very beginning of the Great War. During 1914, 1915 and 1916, enormous financial support and thousands of tons of humanitarian aid were provided to the Serbian people from the United States. There was money for food for civilians, for refugees, to fight typhoid, seed to plant for the next harvest, agricultural tools, and even funding to lease refugee transport ships.
The United States of America officially celebrated July 28, 1918 as “Serbia Day.” On July 27, U.S. Secretary of State Robert Lansing called on every American citizen to, “gather on Sunday, July 28 in their churches in order to express their sympathies toward this enslaved nation (Serbia) and their oppressed brothers in other countries and to invoke the blessing of the almighty God for them and cause that they are fighting for.” Thanks to a report by the Serbian Ambassador to the United States and an article published in Detroit News, we know today that, “over the White House and other public institutions waved the Serbian flag for the first time.” Other than the American and Serbian flags, only one other has been flown over the White House. That was the French flag, on the 131th anniversary of the fall of the Bastille, on July 14, 1920.
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