Second World War: Boxcars and C-Rations

Veteran recalls a 1,200-mile trip to Oran, Algeria, eating C-rations and riding in a cramped boxcar.

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On an afternoon in January 1944, our shipment of about 600 troop replacements boarded the small 40-and-eight boxcars for the 

l,200-mile trip to the Army Depot at Oran, Algeria. The capacity of the cars was 40 men or eight horses. We loaded 30 soldiers and their equipment on each boxcar for the unforgettable trip across North Africa.

We spent two days and three nights on the cars. There was a commissioned officer on each car. We also had our boxed C¬ rations and drinking water on board. It didn't seem too crowded until we began bedding down for the night. I picked a corner position - when the others stretched out I really had no decent place for my legs and feet without going under or over the top of someone else's.

Quite frequently the train would stop. One time I needed to get off and had to run to get back on. One of our men did not make it. He finally showed up in camp a few days later.

At longer stops during the day, Arab boys and men showed up to barter their oranges for our candy and cigarettes. "Business, Johnny" was their English expression. They liked to get our mattress covers to wear. They would cut holes for their heads and arms and have ready-made long gowns, which the older Arabs usually wore. Though they had little schooling, they seem to know the value of their francs and tried to drive a bargain.

Chester Larson
Griswold, Iowa

Back in 1955 a call went out from the editors of the then Capper’s Weekly asking for readers to send in articles on true pioneers. Hundreds of letters came pouring in from early settlers and their children, many now in their 80s and 90s, and from grandchildren of settlers, all with tales to tell. So many articles were received that a decision was made to create a book, and in 1956, the first My Folks title – My Folks Came in a Covered Wagon – hit the shelves. Nine other books have since been published in the My Folks series, all filled to the brim with true tales from Capper’s readers, and we are proud to make those stories available to our growing online community.