During World War II, The Coca-Cola Company went to great lengths to ensure that American soldiers had access to Coca-Cola at an affordable price. Through the Technical Observer program, representatives from the company went into the field as commissioned officers and were tasked with bringing Coca-Cola to the troops. These dedicated men brought Coke to the far reaches of the battlefields, from Europe, to Northern Africa, to the South Pacific.

These deliveries were not the only way that Coca-Cola reached the troops, however. Sometimes soldiers received bottles of Coca-Cola in the mail from their loved ones who knew how much a taste of home would be appreciated. One of my favorite stories is about one of those bottles.

In 1943, Dudley Glover and Joe Glenn, two American soldiers stationed with the 178th Field Artillery in Italy, received two bottles of Coca-Cola from home. Mailed from Daytona Beach, Fla., and packed in socks, the bottles were a sight for sore eyes. Glover and Glenn promptly drank one of the bottles, slowly savoring every sip until it was gone. They elected to save the second bottle for a time when they could drink it ice cold—as Coca-Cola ought to be.

But after receiving numerous offers to purchase the second bottle, Glenn got the idea of holding a raffle. From within their unit, someone came up a second prize to offer: a miniature Coca-Cola bottle. Their goal was to raise money to support the children of men from their unit who had been killed in action.

The news of the auction was placed in the battalion’s newsletter and spread by word of mouth, and the response was overwhelming. Over a period of several weeks, tickets were sold for 25 cents, though men often gave much more. The finally tally was just under $4,000. The runner-up and winner of the miniature Coke bottle was Sergeant Lawrence Presnell, and the winner of the grand prize Coca-Cola bottle was Sergeant William De Schneider. Upon winning the bottle, de Schneider said he didn’t feel like he should drink the celebrated bottle of Coca-Cola. He planned to send it home instead.



$6,000 Coke Bottle
Winners of the raffle, Sergeant De Schneider and Sergeant Lawrence Presnell, with Elba Carswell.

Reports of the raffle and the $4,000 bottle of Coca-Cola quickly took off. Noted war correspondent Ernie Pyle wrote about it. Glenn, the coordinator of the raffle, became something of a folk hero, particularly in his hometown of Jacksonville, Fla. Numerous news stories detailed the raffle and Glenn’s role in it. The Coca-Cola Company took notice as well, quietly contributing an additional $2,000 to the fund, boosting the total to $6,000. 

Despite many efforts over the years, attempts to track down De Schneider have been unsuccessful. We know that he planned to send the bottle of Coca-Cola home and preserve the infamous bottle, but its whereabouts remain a mystery.

What we do know is how the men used the $6,000 their raffle raised. A committee was formed from several men in the unit, including Glenn, Glover and Elba Carswell. An initial distribution of $3,500 was provided to families in the form of a scholarship fund. Following that, the plan was to have the committee decide how the remaining funds should be used, but with the progression of the war effort, the unit was broken up, and it became nearly impossible to come to a collective decision. Therefore, the remaining balance was deposited into an account at Florida National Bank of Jacksonville in what became known as the Coca-Cola Fund.

As the first of the three soldiers to return to the U.S., Carswell was authorized by his fellow committee members to distribute the remaining funds. He used the remaining money to purchase more than 1,000 Magnolia trees and arranged to have them planted along both sides of State Road 77-A, just south of Chipley, Fla. The tree-lined road was to serve as a monument and enduring testament to those who had served in their unit, made possible by a single bottle of Coca-Cola


Amanda McLeod is a summer intern at The Coca-Cola Company.