North Platte Canteen Research Paper

The North Platte Canteen affected the mentality of six million troops in World War II and gave the soldiers a reason to fight for America (The North Platte Canteen). The canteen started officially on Christmas Day in 1941 and did not stop serving American troops till the very last cargo train rolled into the North Platte Depot on April 1, 1946. Sixteen million troops fought in World War II; there was a one and three chance the soldier standing next to you paid a visit to the little town of North Platte (The North Platte Canteen, Nebraska Studies. Org, Statistic Brain).

One young lady, Rae Wilson, wrote a letter to the editor in the local newspaper about the soldiers at the train station. This tiny article caused this amazing organization to take place (Letter to the Editor). She then banded together the most influential people in North Platte on December 22, 1941 and started the canteen three days later (Nebraska Studies. Org). Mrs. Wilson and the town of North Platte were completely unaware of what this small idea would lead to.

Fifty thousand volunteers from across Nebraska and Denver made long trips to North Platte, not only donating their own family’s dinner, but also missing a day of work (Lecture). One of these thousands of workers was seventeen year old Rosalie Lippincott (Letter). Picture young men shoulder to shoulder on huge rattling trains, thinking about the war to come, but when the train skidded to a halt they gazed out the window and they unexpectedly saw young pretty girls with baskets of popcorn balls waving them into the depot lunchroom (Life Article, The North Platte Canteen).

They heard music playing and suddenly they were not worrying about the war (Life Article). For the next ten to fifteen minutes all they thought about was cookies, coffee, and any other food imaginable (The North Platte Canteen). People were laughing and telling them everything was free, eat what you want (The North Platte Canteen). People treated them like celebrities and when they left North Platte they had hope. There was laughter as that train pulled out of the North Platte Depot however, for many troops that would be the last time they would smile for a long time.

North Platte was not unlike any typical town during the United States in World War II. This meant they still had ration books given to citizens during the war. North Platte and all the surrounding towns had limitations on sugar, coffee, gasoline, among many other items (The North Platte Canteen). People cut out the coffee, and children stopped asking for birthday cakes. Together the town pooled together all of their rations to make food for the soldiers. Only one month did the town keep track of how much food they gave away and the numbers were staggering.

In one month they gave away a total of forty thousand cookies, thirty thousand hard boiled eggs, six thousand doughnuts, one and a half tons of sandwich meat, and twelve dozen other items around the same proportions (The North Platte Canteen). Exactly a week from Christmas Eve the people of North Platte gathered at the depot to see their loved ones that were a part of the Nebraska National Guard (The North Platte Canteen). When the train pulled into the station the crowd hushed. No one knew these soldiers.

They said they were from Kansas and then after a long awkward pause, people began passing their Christmas presents meant for their family and friends through the train windows (The North Platte Canteen). Rae Wilson was at the depot that day and she wrote in the local newspaper with a simple idea. She wanted to restart the World War One Canteen at the North Platte depot. She said “Let’s do something and do it in a hurry! ” (The North Platte Canteen). Rae Wilson was not one to sit around.

She went to depot on December 17th, wrote in the newspaper on December 18th, met volunteers on December 22nd, and shortly after began the canteen on Christmas (The North Platte Canteen). In an eight day span she started something that affected six million soldiers’ lives at age twenty-six (The North Platte Canteen). She wrote that, “An officer told me it was the first time anyone had met their train and that North Platte had helped the boys keep up their spirits”(Letter to the Editor) . Rae became very ill, and moved to California for health reasons and left the canteen to Helen Christ (The North Platte Canteen).

The women of North Platte thought of everything possible for the soldiers. On Thanksgiving there was turkey, on Easter there was Easter baskets, on May Day there was May Day baskets, and if it was your birthday you got a cake (Lecture). They did all of this on a very limited budget. One time, a volunteer was making the birthday cakes and realized she had no chicken eggs for the cake. She found some eggs from a turkey and realized she actually needed less eggs if she used turkey eggs (The North Platte Canteen). They gave away around twenty birthday cakes a day (The North Platte Canteen).

To put in perspective the generosity of small towns in Nebraska one teeny town in the Sandhills donated all of this to the canteen; They donated fifty-three birthday cakes, one hundred twenty-seven fried chicken’s, six hundred ninety-six cookies, three hundred eighty-four cupcakes, seventy-three pounds of coffee, one thousand nine hundred fifty-six eggs, eight hundred sixteen donuts, forty-one quarts of home canned pickles, three and a half crates of oranges, nine pounds of hams, one hundred sixty loaves of bread, forty popcorn balls, fifty pounds of sandwich meat, four hundred packs of cigarettes, four decks of cards, and six hundred dollars in cash (Lecture).

Even one young boy by the name of Gene Slattery raised two thousand dollars for the canteen by working different jobs and even selling the shirt off his back at cattle auctions (The North Platte Canteen). People raised money for the canteen every way they knew how. Somehow, the canteen never ran out of food and they never stopped serving till the very last train rolled through the depot (Nebraska Studies. Org). About sixty percent of the total American troops were draftees. There was a total of four hundred seven thousand three hundred sixteen deaths of American soldiers in World War II. Most of the men killed were a part of the Army and Air Force (By the Numbers). Arnulf Oster, Lieutenant of Reserve of Germany said this about the American troops, “Americans are good fighters with nerve and recklessness (Quotes).

These men fought hard even when they forced to, and the good people of North Platte helped give them that motivation to preserve America. As stated earlier the war ended the Great Depression in America. Our industrial economy boosted because of the need of our products in other European countries. War bonds also became reinstated by President Roosevelt (Economy). Nebraska ended up buying two hundred forty million dollars of bonds. Bond drives were so popular celebrities would come to help create a bigger audience. There is one famous image of comedic duo Abbott and Costello (Nebraska State Historical Society). They are performing in front of the state capitol building at a bond drive (Nebraska Studies. Org).

This duo had a radio show, signed with Universal Pictures, had a show on NBC, and a morning show on ABC (Abbott and Costello). The North Platte Canteen was not the only canteen in America. There were canteens in Nevada, Ohio, Iowa, and Pennsylvania. The goal at each canteen was to give some comfort to the soldiers. At every canteen everything was free. The Nebraska and Pennsylvania canteens were the largest canteens. The Pennsylvania canteen served one million two hundred thousand troops in their four year span. Marie Moran similar to Rae Wilson opened the Pennsylvania canteen. The troops that stopped in Connellsville, Pennsylvania were moving to Africa, and Europe.

A volunteer at the canteen in Pennsylvania said this, “We treated the soldiers like they were the most honored guests at a fine banquet — and they were (Canteens Supporting). ” Bonnie Glo Aubushon was a young girl serving troops by giving them cakes, oranges, and deviled eggs. Some of the boys she exchanged addresses with. They became pen pals. Bonnie also recalled at how the soldiers would waltz and warble around the piano (Life Article). Another outspoken volunteer Rosalie Lippincott recalls her time at the North Platte Canteen. Rosalie Lippincott at age seventeen woke up at two in the morning to travel to the North Platte Canteen to volunteer.

Her journey to North Platte would include a two hour and thirty minute train ride and a short journey in an old car. She catalogued books and magazines and helped assemble fifteen birthday cakes. She peeled hundreds of boiled eggs, she then made sandwiches for three hours. In one day she helped serve eighteen trains and around two to three thousand soldiers. Rosalie wrote a letter the next day and in one line she captured the reason why every volunteer worked hard at the canteen day after day. She wrote, “… it was fun and darling, those fellows really appreciated what little we did for them. No matter how tired you were, you were repaid a hundred times because you made them happy for a few minutes at least. I hope we can do it again”.

Rosalie did not get home till thirty minutes after midnight. She spent ten and a half hours straight that day traveling and working for the canteen (Letter to a Loved One). Throughout her life, even though she lived in a meager town in Nebraska, she was always close to the war. On August 17th, 1943 she saw a B- 17F fall through the sky and watched it smash to the ground in Kearney, Nebraska (B-17 Crash). Rosalie Lippincott continued a journey of telling the North Platte Canteen to over fifty organizations. The legacy of the North Platte Canteen lives through her (Personal Email). Eventually, the railroad company destroyed the North Platte Depot.

This import monument being demolished caused lots of grief to North Platte natives. They knew the significance of the building and they realized all of the happiness that took place there despite the ugly war. The town built a museum honoring the past workers and told the story of when their little town fed six million (Lecture). The North Platte Canteen affected World War II, in many ways. Groups of people gathered together and created something that helped six million soldiers. They gave them hope and inspired soldiers to fight for the honest people in North Platte. Across the country, there are still today hundreds of men and women who experienced the North Platte in one way or another (The North Platte Canteen).