Daily readings about people, places, and events in American history.
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December 27th
The North Platte Canteen
The whole effort started by mistake. Several days after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, people in North Platte, Nebraska, heard that their own Company D of the Nebraska National Guard would be passing through town on its way from an Arkansas training camp to the West Coast. A crowd gathered at the Union Pacific train station to greet the boys with cookies, candy, and small gifts. When the train arrived, it turned out it was transporting a Company D from Kansas, not Nebraska. After a moment of disappointment, someone in the crowd asked, “Well, what are we waiting for?” And they began handing their gifts to the war-bound soldiers.

The next day, Miss Rae Wilson wrote the North Platte Daily Bulletin to suggest that the town open a canteen to greet all troop trains stopping there. “Let’s do something and do it in a hurry!” she wrote.

Beginning on Christmas Day 1941 and continuing through World War II, the town offered itself as the North Platte Canteen. For 365 days a year, volunteers from the remote community of 12,000 and surrounding hamlets provided hot coffee, donuts, sandwiches, and encouragement for young soldiers passing through. Hundreds of families, churches, schools, businesses, and clubs pitched in to help raise money, buy supplies, and make food. They greeted every soldier on every train with gifts and good wishes. By April 1, 1946, its last day, the North Platte Canteen had served more than 6 million GIs.

“You don’t forget that when you’re overseas,” one veteran told Bob Greene, author of Once Upon a Town: The Miracle of the North Platte Canteen. “There was no place I ever knew of, or ever heard about, that went to that great effort. A lot of people might be willing to do it. Or at least they might say they would be willing. But in North Platte, they did it.”

American History Parade
1900
Prohibitionist Carry Nation begins her campaign of destroying saloons when she smashes the bar at the Carey Hotel in Wichita, Kansas.

1927
Showboat, a play that revolutionized musical theater, opens at the Ziegfeld Theater in New York City.

1932
Radio City Music Hall opens in New York City.

1941
The newly opened North Platte Canteen serves war-bound troops.

1947
The children’s TV program Howdy Doody premieres.

1968
Apollo 8, the first spaceflight to reach the moon’s orbit, returns to Earth.
This content is courtesy of The American Patriot's Almanac
© 2008, 2010 by William J. Bennett and John T.E. Cribb
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