Red Cross in American History

  • Compilation of three historic Red Cross posters calling for people to "Join" "Answer teh Call!" and "Enroll for Service"

The history of the American Red Cross is inseparable from the history of America itself. Since 1881, American Red Cross members and volunteers have been an essential part of our nation’s response to war, natural disaster and other human suffering. We’ve been witness to great tragedy, but more importantly we’ve seen the triumph of the human spirit as people work together to help each other rebuild their lives and communities. Through the links below, you can explore some of the key points when Red Cross history and American history intersect.

Historic photo of a Red Cross woman accompanying a military service member

The Historic Partnership with America's Military Members

Over more than 100 years of service our commitment to the troops, their families and our veterans has never wavered.

Red Cross volunteer in a canteen in WW1

World War I and the American Red Cross

Europe was thrown into conflict in June 1914. At the beginning of the war, the American Red Cross was a small organization still in the process of developing its identity and programs. By the time the war ended in November 1918, the Red Cross had become a major national humanitarian organization with strong leadership, a huge membership base, universal recognition, and a broad and distinguished record of service.

Red Cross woman and soldiers in World War II

World War II and the American Red Cross

The American Red Cross involvement in World War II preceded the entrance of the United States into the conflict. When hostilities began in Europe in 1939, the Red Cross became the chief provider of relief supplies for the civilian victims of conflict distributed by the Geneva-based International Red Cross Committee.

Korean War soldier making an emergency phone call

The Korean War and the American Red Cross

In response to North Korea’s invasion of the south on June 25, 1950, the United Nations Security Council voted to come to the defense of South Korea. The UN placed the leadership of its military forces in the hands of the United States, and the American Red Cross took immediate steps to mobilize a paid and volunteer work force in South Korea.

Historic photo of Red Cross nurses doing first aid

The Proud Tradition of Red Cross Nursing

Whether serving as the military’s Nursing Reserve through both world wars, or providing service in the local community, Red Cross volunteer nurses set the standard for professional, compassionate care.

African American Red Cross man in pickup truck in vietnam

The Contributions of People of Color

Red Cross volunteers and leaders have historically come from diverse backgrounds, including people of African American, Asian, Hispanic/Latino, and Native American descent.

Historic photo of three junior Red cross members

The Contributions of Young Americans

From the earliest days of the Red Cross, to the heroic efforts of the Junior Red Cross during both world wars, to today’s innovative relief and development projects, students and young adults have made impactful contributions to our organization.