The Canteen at North Platte
Ten days after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, residents of North Platte, Nebraska heard a rumor that soldiers from their town, part of the Nebraska National Guard Company D, would be coming through on a troop train on their way to the West Coast. About five hundred people showed up at the train depot with food, gifts, letters, and love to give the boys.
When the train showed up, it was not the Nebraska National Guard Company D boys on board; it was the soldiers from the Kansas National Guard Company D. The North Platte residents decided to give out their gifts to these soldiers they did not know. It was a spontaneous act of genuine devotion that touched both the soldiers and the people who came to the depot that day.
A few days later, a 26-year-old woman named Rae Wilson wrote a letter to the editor of the local paper recounting the profound experience they’d shared that night. She then suggested the town organize a canteen, so they could do something similar for every troop train that came through. She offered to lead the effort as a volunteer.
For the next four and a half years, the people of North Platte and the surrounding communities met every troop train that came through their town. Every day, they prepared sandwiches, cookies, cold drinks, and hot coffee. They had baskets of magazines and books to give away to the soldiers, and snacks for the train. There were even birthday cakes for anyone having a special day. And they did this, some days, for as many as eight thousand soldiers and sailors.
The statistics are staggering. By the time the last train arrived on April 1, 1946, six million soldiers had been blessed by the North Platte Canteen. Forty-five thousand volunteers had served faithfully until the war was over and most of the troops had been transported home.
If the residents of North Platte were that dedicated to doing whatever they could to help win World War II and serve the soldiers, Christians should be even more committed to serve the Lord any way they can.