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UNITED NATIONS CONFERENCE
During the last two weeks of November 1943, the eyes of the free world were focused on Atlantic City, New Jersey, for it was at the Claridge Hotel, recently returned to civilian occupation by the Army Air Forces, that the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration was to hold its world conference. The objective of this conference is recounted from an article in the Atlantic City newspaper, The Evening Union, November 11, 1943:
To shorten the war and save the peace . . . In Atlantic City, representatives of 44 nations are beginning to plan where to acquire and how to distribute the food and other relief supplies necessary to forestall plague and famine in many parts of the postwar world . . .
The importance and significance of this conference were stated in an article appearing in the Philadelphia Evening Bulletin for Tuesday, November 9, 1943, captioned: "Envoys to Plan Feeding of World at Atlantic City Conference: Delegates from 43 Nations and French may Form most Important International Rally Ever Held." In the New York Times, November 10, 1943, a page one headline, written by Russell B. Porter, appeared which read:
"44 NATIONS SIGN RELIEF PACT; PRESIDENT HAILS WORLD AID"
Three of the most important participants against the Axis Powers signed the Pact:
- For Russia, the Soviet Ambassador, Andrei A. Gromyko
- For Great Britain, the British Ambassador, Lord Halifax
- For the United States, the President, Franklin D. Roosevelt
The conference lasted through November, and was chaired by Mr. Dean Acheson. News of the conference location was first aired on radio, October 6, 1943. Information gleaned from the personal correspondence and official documents of then Mayor Thomas Taggart, revealed that Mayor Taggart had lobbied hard with government officials to hold the conference in Atlantic City, in order to assist the hotel owners and the community with the transition from a military status back to civilian status. Since the emergency housing for Army Air Forces Corps (AAFC) recruits was ending and a number of the hotels, previously occupied by the Army Air Forces were being returned to their civilian owners, the mayor was trying to garner as much business for Atlantic City as possible. His efforts were rewarded handsomely; as a result, Atlantic City became known throughout the world. The Sky Scraper by the Sea, the Claridge Hotel, was selected as the host hotel, with neighboring hotels providing accommodations for the delegates. More than eighty-three newspapers (including the Los Angeles Times) and radio stations sent staff to be housed at the Madison Hotel, a short distance away (Evening Union, Nov. 11, 1943). According to one document, Mayor Taggart stated:
I wanted the United Nations Conference, because I realized, as you can all realize, the vast benefit in fine publicity, and increased prestige, it will bring to our city . . . we will be the hub and center of plan-making, which will affect the entire world.
. . . the significance of the United Nations Conference, in the minds and consciousness of all the peoples of the world, will cause them to associate Atlantic City, with places like Locarno, Luzerne, the Hague, Geneva, London and other places of famous International World Conferences.
Many hotels and restaurants, other than the Claridge, benefited from this conference. One of them, Hackney’s Restaurant, was the site of a Thanksgiving Day dinner, hosted by the Canadian Government for fifty delegates from more than sixteen countries (Atlantic City Press, Dec. 14, 1943).
At the final plenary meeting of the UNRRA, held on December 1, 1943, the representative from Poland made the following motion, which was seconded by the representative from Ecuador and passed with a unanimous vote:
It is gratifying for a representative of Poland to have the opportunity of stressing the proverbial hospitality and the generosity of the United States authorities and of the American people.
I am sure of voicing the opinion of all my colleagues in this council meeting when I say that we shall bring away with us from Atlantic City a feeling of warm gratitude and appreciation to His Honor the Mayor, the Commissioners, the so friendly citizens of this bracing ocean resort, and the management and staff of the Hotel Claridge.
I beg leave to move that this Council adopt the following resolution expressing thanks to the Mayor and Commissioners of Atlantic City and to the Manager of the Claridge Hotel:
WHEREAS, the Council is appreciative of the attractive surroundings in which it has met and of the gracious hospitality extended to its members and their staffs; it is therefore
RESOLVED, That the Council express its thanks to the Mayor and Commissioners of Atlantic City and to the Manager of the Claridge Hotel (UN Relief Journal 21, 31).
Atlantic City was then, and is now, a proud city. It was known, the world over, long before the first gambling casino opened it doors in 1978. Ironically, that first casino, Resorts International, currently occupies the same building which was known during World War II as Thomas England General Hospital.