While there are many stories of Coca-Cola during World War II, one of my favorites is about a special bottle of Coke. According to the great war correspondent Ernie Pyle, two soldiers in the 13th Field Artillery Brigade outfit stationed outside Naples, Italy received two bottles of Coca-Cola from Stateside member of the battalion. While one of the bottles of Coke was quickly consumed, they decided to raffle off the other bottle to raise money to help children whose fathers had died in battle. Another soldier then donated one of the small collectible bottles as a second prize. Pyle wrote that the soldiers publicized the raffle in their mimeographed newsletter and sold the chances for a quarter a piece. As the word spread, according to Pyle, "The money came in quarters, dollars, shillings, pounds, francs and lire. They had to appoint a committee to administer the affair. Just before the grand drawing the fund reached $ 4,000.00" Sgt. William de Schneider of Hackensack, N.J. was the prize winner. He thought the bottle was too special to drink and said he would send it home as a keepsake.
The photo to the left is not Sgt. de Schneider, but it was taken in Italy later during the war.
The story takes a twist 35 years later as Joseph P. Mastrangelo, a Washington Post correspondent read about the raffle and bottle in Ernie Pyle's book, Brave Men. In 1979, Mastrangelo attempted to locate Sergeant de Schneider to see what had happened to the bottle. After extensive searches with the Veterans Administration and American Legion, he could not locate the Sergeant. However, Mastrangelo was able to find Sgt. Lawrence Presnell who won the miniature bottle and wrote the story about the bottles for the Washington Post in May, 1979. At this point, The Coca-Cola Company entered the scene and launched a nationwide PR effort to find Sgt. de Schneider and the raffle bottle - all to no avail.
I did some computer searches yesterday to see if I could locate Sergeant William de Schneider after all this time and did not have any luck either. So if anyone knows where he ended up after the war, leave a comment. I would love to hear the rest of the story about the $ 4,000 bottle of Coke.
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