A Haunting Artifact from D-Day

If only it could speak.

This Coke bottle was found buried in the sand at Normandy beach. It is of personal interest to me as I am a native of El Centro, California.

The obvious question I have is this:

How did this Coke bottle migrate from the California desert to the beaches at Normandy?

We can see from the embossed markings that the glass was manufactured at El Centro in 1941. Coca Cola operated bottling plants across the United States where they molded the glass and bottled their soda.

This particular bottle was manufactured and filled prior to the invasion of Normandy on June 6, 1944.

El Centro was a staging area for troop deployments to Europe and the Pacific. There was an army base, air field and a 10,000-acre military reservation where Patton trained his First Armored Tank Corps at the Desert Training Center in the Imperial Valley. Charles Lindbergh and John Glenn instructed Navy and Marine Corps pilots at Marine Corps Air Station El Centro.

The president of Coca Cola said that it was his mission to ensure that every American soldier had a bottle of Coke within arm’s reach. Just as Hershey supplied chocolate bars to the troops, Coca Cola supplied bottled soda.

We can only imagine that this particular bottle of Coke was stored in the duffel bag of a soldier who was later deployed to Europe where he received orders to participate in Operation Overlord (D-Day).

Approximately 156,000 Allied ground forces stormed the beaches at Normandy in what was code-named Operation Neptune. The soldier who carried this bottle most likely survived the landing and paused to drink the Coke for good luck.

However, a historian told me that it’s just as likely that the bottle was brought ashore days later when 875,000 troops disembarked on a mission to invade Germany.

How a bottle of Coke traveled from an isolated desert town in California to the beaches of WWll Normandy is nothing short of amazing.

Whatever scenario you choose to imagine, I can’t help but think that it was carried by a young man unsure of his fate. The bottle of Coke was a piece of home that he carried for good luck.

He probably decided beforehand to save the Coke for just the proper occasion. It was customary for troops to break open a bottle of wine or liquor and share a toast to their success and good fortune. Surviving the invasion of Normandy would certainly be an occasion to celebrate.

If only that bottle could speak then we might know … the rest of the story. Whether it was taken ashore on 6 June 1944, or arrived days later with the supply train, we can only surmise. Still, the bottle’s compelling journey is a fascinating story to ponder.

D-Day was the turning point in the war. Germany surrendered less than a year later on May 7, 1945.

Copyright © In Pics and Words


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