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  • Writer's pictureDavid Connolly

"Coca-Cola Colonels" of WWII

“America never contributed anything to the world but chewing gum and Coca-Cola,” griped Otto Dietrich, the Nazi Press Chief and head of propaganda, in 1942.

An inaccurate statement at best, but Dietrich does hit on something genuine: the affection for and simple pleasure of an ice-cold Coca-Cola.

When US Army General Dwight D. Eisenhower saw the early success of bottling plants established in 44 countries prior to their involvement in World War II, he sent a pressing telegram from his Allied Headquarters in North Africa addressed to Coca-Cola’s headquarters in Atlanta. Dated June 29, 1943, his request included 10 portable factories, 6 million filled bottles of Coke a month, and the materials and resources to provide American GIs with the refreshingly cool and crisp suds that increased their spirits with every sip.

Eisenhower fancied himself a casual Coke drinker and jumped at the chance to bring to life the 1941 promise of Coca-Cola’s president Robert Woodruff. Woodruff wanted “to see that every man in uniform gets a bottle of Coca-Cola for five cents, wherever he is, and whatever it costs the company.” Despite the difficult logistics, a small group of civilian professionals brought more than just a delicious soda — they brought a symbol that united Americans with their allies around the globe.

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