History of Food

History of Food

Friday, June 29, 2012

June 29, General Eisenhower, and Coca-Cola

This day in Food History….

- National Almond Butter Crunch Day
- Feast day of St. Peter, patron saint of fishermen, bakers, harvesters.

1943 General Eisenhower requested that Coca-Cola provide 10 portable bottling plants for U.S. troops overseas.

2005 The USDA confirmed today the first domestic case of mad cow disease.  The 12 year old cow was born in Texas and spent its whole life on the same ranch.

So I took a few days off from writing…no excuse…no reason…just needed a break…now – now break is over. Thank you for your indulgence…

What shall I write about today?  Not much tickles my fancy with the significances of food history.  I am a historian of sorts because I am a veteran, I guess it would be a good topic to discuss Eisenhower sending Coca-Cola to the troops overseas during World War II.

First, a short history (if that is possible) about Coca-Cola

The Coca-Cola recipe was developed at the Eagle Drug a Chemical Company which was a drugstore in Columbus, Georgia.  The recipe was developed by Dr. John Pemberton (a pharmacist) in 1886. It was originally formulated with extracts of coca leaves (cocaine) and kola nuts.  That's where the name comes from. The first Coca-Cola was sold on May 8, 1886 at a soda fountain in Jacob's Pharmacy in Atlanta, either by Pemberton himself, or by clerk Willis Venable. Pemberton sold a 2/3 interest in his company in 1887 for $283.29. Asa G. Candler another Atlanta pharmacist later bought the formula for $2,300, and when he in turn sold the company in 1919, it was worth $25 million.

Coca-Cola was first bottled in Vicksburg, Mississippi in 1894 by August Biedenharn, but was this bottling was only local in scope.  Several years later in 1899, Benjamin Thomas and Joseph Whitehead, two Chattanooga lawyers, obtained rights to bottle Coca Cola in most of the U.S., except for Mississippi, New England and certain areas in Texas. The site where Coca Cola was first bottled in Mississippi is now the Biedenharn Candy Company Museum. The first 12 oz aluminum can was introduced by Royal Crown Cola in 1964. It wasn't until 3 years later that Coke started using the aluminum can. One 12 ounce can of Coca Cola contains approximately 45 mg. of caffeine.

Coca-Cola was originally marketed for its medicinal qualities.  This was a period of time when many patent medicines contained coca leaves or cocaine (an alkaloid extracted from the leaves), the most popular was 'Vin Mariani', invented by an Italian physician working in France, Angelo Mariani. Vin Mariani was widely imitated, and Pemberton at first produced an imitation of Vin Mariani before formulating his own concoction, Coca-Cola.

Coca-Cola never contained much cocaine - and the amount was quickly reduced to almost undetectable amounts after a few years, when cocaine's negative properties started to become evident. (Estimates are the syrup contained 1 part in 50 million - that would be about 1/2 ounce in 25 million gallons of Coca Cola).  Since 1929 there has been no cocaine in Coca Cola. The leaves were still used for flavor, but the alkaloids were completely removed.

General Eisenhower and Coca-Cola plants

A key part of Coca-Cola’s history is that during World War II, the Company’s long-time leader, Robert W. Woodruff, said that every U.S. serviceperson should get a Coke for 5 cents, wherever he was.

And they did pay only a nickel – wherever they were – even though that meant sending portable Coca-Cola bottling plants around the world. Over 5 billion servings of Coca-Cola were distributed to U.S. troops during the War.

At the outbreak of World War II, Coca-Cola was bottled in 44 countries, including those on both sides of the conflict. But far from devastating the business, the war simply presented a new set of challenges and opportunities for the entire Coca-Cola system.

The entry of the United States into the war brought an order from Robert Woodruff in 1941 "to see that every man in uniform gets a bottle of Coca-Cola for 5 cents, wherever he is and whatever it costs the Company." 

Did you know that General Dwight D. Eisenhower actually requisitioned 10 Coca-Cola bottling plants for U.S. troops overseas?

This effort to supply the armed forces with Coke was being launched when an urgent cablegram arrived from General Dwight Eisenhower's Allied Headquarters in North Africa. Dated June 29, 1943, it requested shipment of materials and equipment for 10 bottling plants. It asked for the following:
  • 3 million (filled) bottles of Coca-Cola
  • Complete equipment for bottling, washing and capping 3 million bottles twice a month
  • Sufficient syrup and caps for 6 million refills
Prefaced by the directive that the shipments were not to replace other military cargo, the cablegram also requested shipment of 3 million filled bottles of Coca-Cola, along with supplies for producing the same quantity twice monthly.

Within six months, a Company engineer had flown to Algiers and opened the first plant, the forerunner of 64 bottling plants shipped abroad during World War II. The plants were set up as close as possible to combat areas in Europe and the Pacific. More than 5 billion bottles of Coke were consumed by military service personnel during the war, in addition to countless servings through dispensers and mobile, self-contained units in battle areas.

But the presence of Coca-Cola did more than just lift the morale of the troops. In many areas, it gave local people their first taste of Coca-Cola - a taste they obviously enjoyed. And when peace returned, the Coca-Cola system was poised for unprecedented worldwide growth. From the mid-1940s until 1960, the number of countries with bottling operations nearly doubled. As the world emerged from a time of conflict, Coca-Cola emerged as a worldwide symbol of friendship and refreshment.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Carol!!!

    What an amazing blog you have!!! I can't believe I've never "bumped" into you before. I truly appreciate the amount of time and research that you put into your posts and I thank you. Just wonderful!!! Bookmarked! Actually, I think I'll put your link right in my side bar so I stop back soon. Louise