The failure of the Hungarian Revolution of 1956 and the plight of some 200,000 refugees leaving Hungary in its aftermath constituted an embarrassment for the government of the U.S., which had provided moral support to regime opponents through Radio Free Europe, but then failed to aid the rebels during the revolution. Neutral Austria provided a temporary home to refugees, but many other countries welcomed them more permanently. The United States received a first contingent itself in time for a Thanksgiving dinner at Camp Kilmer in New Jersey. Military authorities chose the recently retired Army base near the main campus of Rutgers University because it was unoccupied yet in good condition and not far from air and sea arrival points for the refugees. Initial organizational confusion convinced the administration to engage an administrator with experience and expertise in this area.
Tracy Stebbins Voorhees (1890-1974) was descended on his father's side from a distinguished New Jersey family of Dutch origin. Born in New Brunswick, he graduated from Rutgers College with an A.B. in 1911 and an A.M. in 1914, then an LL.B. from Columbia Law School in 1915. He was admitted to the bar in New Jersey in 1915 and New York in 1918, and formed his first law firm in New York City in 1919. He was a partner in several firms for 22 years, until 1941.