Once Upon a Town: the Miracle of the North Platte Canteen
by Bob Greene
Written in 2002, this is a portrait of the North Platte Canteen in North Platte, Nebraska. From December 17, 1941 until the end of World War II more than six million GIs traveling in troop trains stopped in North Platte on their way to the Pacific coast. In this small city of 12,000, the young men and women were welcomed, thanked, and treated to a feast. There they enjoyed coffee, home-cooked food, and friendly conversation.
From 1941 until the canteen closed, 55,000 volunteers from 125 different towns, some 200 miles away, gave both food and time to make sure not one of these trains were missed and that each soldier was fed. Given the shortages and rationing at the time, it was a miracle. (The only federal funding received was a $5.00 bill from President Roosevelt. He had heard about the Canteen and wanted to help.)
The original idea for the Canteen came from Rae Wilson, a young salesperson at the local drugstore. The citizens of North Platte were expecting Company D.134th Infantry of the local National Guard unit to pass through the town on the way to the Pacific Coast on Christmas Day 1941. That day there was a Company D that came through, but it was a Kansas unit of the National Guard. The community shared what they had with those soldiers and decided to make it their mission to welcome all GI’s that passed through.
For more information you will want to take a look at the following website. https://lincolncountymuseum.org/the-north-platte-canteen1.