The speed in which American citizens can be alerted to violent outbreaks, natural disasters, and safety hazards abroad today is just one the significant ways that technology has changed the way we travel.
Today’s travel warnings and emergency messages are sent via email and text messages to Americans abroad within a moment’s notice, but these alerts couldn’t always move so quickly.
U.S. consular officers have warned U.S. citizens abroad about the risks and dangers they could encounter in a location since the founding of the United States, a representative from the Bureau of Consular Affairs explains to Skift.
The practice was formally acknowledged in the 1978 creation of the “Travel Advisory” program. It was later replaced by the current Consular Information Program in 1992, which sends out travel warnings, emergency messages, and country specific information.
So what did one of those early travel warnings look like? Below is a copy of the travel warning released to the press on May 15, 1940, regarding the State Department’s efforts to warn American citizens in Europe about the outbreak of World War II.
One can only imagine the time it took for these reports to make it into the newspapers or pinned on to embassies’ wall abroad.
It states that “the Department’s officials in Europe…have generally and continually invited Americans to leave war areas in Europe unless they have compelling reason to remain.”
Americans were not forced to leave, and the State Department said it would provide those who stayed as much protection as possible. A second release given to the press on May 16 was more foreboding:
The Department has repeatedly and during many months advised Americans in belligerent areas to return to the United States. Every facility has been afforded to them to do so. Ships were sent to Europe to be available for their repatriation, and funds were loaned to those who were destitute or financially embarrassed.
In spite of these warnings many Americans chose to stay, and the Department is today faced with another emergency in helping them return to the United States.
There is also a section that outlines which American embassies in Europe assumed representation for countries including Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Egypt, and South Africa during the war.
The full document is below: