© 2024
Prairie Public NewsRoom
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Cookies for U.S. Soldiers


War has two themes: Love and Death.

The death theme is grimly obvious – soldiers could die any day in combat. The love theme involved families who said farewells to loved ones going off to war, hoping beyond hope that they might be reunited.

The twin themes of love and death played out in Minot during World War II, as millions of soldiers crisscrossed the nation by rail en route to basic training; traveling to warfronts; and going home on leave. Minot was a major stopping point along on transcontinental railway, giving servicemen and servicewomen a short break – time to get food and refreshments at the USO canteen in the Great Northern Railway Station.

Local volunteers at Minot’s canteen sold sandwiches, beverages, and goodies to soldiers at a nominal charge, and the smiles were given for free. In one year alone, 1944, Minot’s canteen served 104,000 servicemen and women, distributing

70,182 sandwiches; 47,080 bottles of pop; 5,914 bottles of milk; and 44,000 cups of coffee. The canteen also sold apples, oranges, cigarettes, cigars, chewing-gum and candy. But the best goodies at the canteen were the home-baked cookies, made in warm ovens in mothers’ kitchens, given free-of-charge

The cookie jar was kept full by caring women and organizations from Minot, with additional help provided by townspeople from communities like Burlington and Sawyer.

Making and serving thousands of sandwiches and cookies took much time and work by the women from Minot’s churches, clubs and lodges. Overseeing the canteen was Mrs. Betty Deleen, supervising a venture staffed and funded entirely by volunteers.

Minot’s canteen was a small part of the national U.S.O. – United Service Organizations. It provided entertainment and assistance to the military at home and overseas. It was on this date in 1946 that the national president announced that the organization would soon conclude its war work.

Minot’s U.S.O. Canteen should be remembered as a place where volunteers gave love and hospitality – and free cookies – to GIs passing through during wartime, the overflowing cookie-jar a heartwarming tale of the World War II Home Front in North Dakota.

Dakota Datebook written by Dr. Steve Hoffbeck, Professor of History, MSU Moorhead.

Sources: “U.S.O., . . . Final Curtain,” <i Bismarck Tribune, February 13, 1946, p. 7.

“U.S.O. Canteen In Minot Served 104,000 Servicemen, Women in 11 Months in ’44,” <i Ward County Independent, January 4, 1945, p. 1.

“USO Serves Snacks to Selectees,” <i Bismarck Tribune, October 21, 1942, p. 8.

“The Canteen Spirit,” Nebraska ETV Network, npcanteen.net, accessed on September 4, 2012.

“Historic North Platte Canteen Recalled In Documentary,” July 28, 2004, Nebraskastatepaper.com, accessed on September 4, 2012.