National Doughnut Day was created by The Salvation Army in 1938 to honor the women—known as Salvation Army Lassies– who served the doughnuts to soldiers in World War I. This day began as a fund-raiser for Chicago’s Salvation Army. The goal of their 1938 fund-raiser was to help the needy during the Great Depression.
In 1917, the original “Salvation Army Doughnut” was first served by the ladies of the Salvation Army. It was during WWI that the Salvation Army Lassies went to the front lines of Europe. Home cooked foods, provided by these brave volunteers, were a morale boost to the troops.
The doughnuts were often cooked in oil inside the metal helmets of American soldiers. American infantrymen were then commonly called “doughboys.” A more standard spelling is donut.