The free canteen for soldiers traveling by train across the US, is one of the many inspirational stories of WWII and is a captivating snapshot of support on the homefront. A grassroots effort across our country meant that trains were being met by volunteers who prepared and served free sandwiches, coffee, cookies, cakes, gifts, and they would give away magazines and other items, but best of all they gave away smiles, and hugs, and encouragement.
There were also canteens that provided entertainment and a place to blow off steam for young soldiers and sailors, a safe alternative to the local bars and dance halls, however I’d like to focus on the track-side canteen.
The train would be stopped for only a few minutes generally, but the goal was to meet each and every soldier traveling by train with food, comfort and kindness.. and give them one last taste of home as they headed off to war. In a time when most things were rationed, the volunteers gave of their own so that food and other items could be given to our soldiers. All of this was made possible by great humanitarianism, patriotism, unselfish love, and tireless dedication from the volunteers. It is a proud moment in time.
The video attached is courtesy of Military Ministries and features the story of the North Platte, Nebraska canteen where they would meet up to 32 trains per day. By the war’s end, they had served more than six million members of the armed forces. Almost 55,000 volunteers were involved over time, and to think this is just one story of many.
Over 125 cities around the United States operated track side free canteens during World War II.