Doughnuts and the Salvation Army

Doughnut Lassies

            During the first World War, female agents of the Salvation Army became known as “Doughnut Lassies”. This name arose from the constant making and delivering of freshly made doughnuts to the boys on the front line.  The idea of making the doughnuts came from trying to lift the spirits of the homes, American soldiers.

            At first, though, these lassies were not there to make doughnuts or any other baked goods. They were there to set up camps for soldiers. They would put up tents, infirmaries, and other quarters near or close to the front lines. Once the camps were set up, they would go about making coffee, and refilling canteens, and taking care of other amenities for the soldiers.

            It didn’t take too long though, for these lassies to find their camps full of flour, sugar, milk, water and cooking oil. Utilizing what they had, from the goods they found to empty bottles to use as rolling pins, to used shell casing to cut holes, the Lassies began to make their first doughnuts.  

            The doughnuts the Lassies made were simple and easily produced, but they elicited strong feelings from the soldiers that were served them. One story claims the American soldier found the doughnut more than a “little bite to eat”. Rather, the doughnut transported him magically from the front line back to his home, where he had his thoughts fixed on the things he was fighting for, and gave him the courage to laugh in the trenches and to face bravely and unswervingly the purpose which had brought him to Europe. Theodore Roosevelt Jr., claimed, “Before the war, I felt that the Salvation Army was composed of a well-meaning lot of cranks. Now, what help I can give them is theirs.”

            The Lassies gave these feelings to the soldiers throughout World War I. The lassies continued to show support for the soldiers even after the war, as they continued to produce and provide anyone with their famous doughnuts after the Great War.

            In 1942, the Lassies were back, as America entered into World War II. Instead of the Salvation Army, this go around, the American Red Cross borrowed the tradition (if you can call it that) and began to serve the men doughnuts. This time, though, the doughnuts and “doughnut dollies” as they were called this go around, were not stationed on the front lines, but behind the fronts. They did, however, make trips to the front lines in vehicles they called, clubmobiles. (After the invasion of Normandy, before, they were mostly in Great Britain) Most clubmobiles were single decker English Green Line buses fitted with coffee and doughnut making equipment. The clubmobiles also carried chewing gum, cigarettes, magazines and newspapers, a phonograph with loudspeakers and records. A lounge in the back of the bus provided a place to sit and talk.

            Again, these Lassies or Dollies were there to provide a touch of home. The clubmobiles and the dollies became beloved and the symbol of the Red Cross during the war. It is the images of the Dollies that remain in our minds to this day.

            The importance of these dollies was not lost on businesses back home, and the Doughnut Corporation of America loaned the Red Cross 468 doughnut machines, each which could turn out 48 dozen each hour. The Doughnut Corporation of America, remembering how it got its start up, helped in World War II to supply the soldiers with a taste of home as well.

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