On Saturday, June 24, 1950, while enjoying a family weekend in Independence, Missouri, President Harry S. Truman learned that North Korea had invaded South Korea. The next day, he flew back to Washington, DC, and called an emergency meeting of senior officials to be held at Blair House that evening. (Blair House was the President’s official residence while the White House was undergoing renovation.)

The President’s emergency meeting precipitated a crisis for another leader in the nation’s capital, Alonzo Fields, Chief Butler at the White House, who also had been enjoying the afternoon off; with the President and First Family out of town, Fields had dismissed the White House kitchen staff until Monday morning. At 4 p.m., Fields received a call from the White House usher, informing him that fourteen of the President’s senior advisors would soon assemble at Blair House for dinner. The guests would arrive for cocktails and hors d’oeuvres at 8 p.m.; dinner would be served at 8:30 p.m., when the President was expected to arrive.

Fields sprang into action. Marshaling his forces with the help of Washington, DC, police who located two of the White House cooks, he headed to Blair House, composing along the way a menu based on his recollection of the food supplies on hand. The butler who was to help Fields serve the meal arrived only five minutes before the guests.