Coca-Cola is one of the most popular and recognizable brands in the world, but did you know that it also played a significant role in World War II? In this article, we will explore how Coca-Cola provided a fresh Coke to the front lines of the war, and how it became a symbol of American culture and morale, as well as a tool of diplomacy and propaganda.
It all started with a promise. In 1941, Coca-Cola’s president, Robert Woodruff, pledged to deliver a bottle of Coke to every American soldier in uniform for five cents, wherever he was and whatever it cost the company. He believed that Coca-Cola was more than just a drink, it was an American symbol. He wanted to boost the spirits of the troops and make them feel closer to home.
To fulfill this promise, Coca-Cola dispatched technical observers, nicknamed Coca-Cola Colonels, to set up bottling plants in military bases around the world. They were given special privileges and access to transport and materials. They ended up establishing 64 bottling lines during the war, producing over 5 billion bottles of Coke. They also faced some challenges and dangers, such as enemy attacks, sabotage, and shortages.
One of the most remarkable stories of Coca-Cola’s involvement in the war was the secret delivery of a clear version of the drink to Soviet General Georgy Zhukov, who led the Red Army to victory over Nazi Germany. Zhukov was a fan of Coca-Cola and asked for a colorless version that would not look like a capitalist beverage. The US secretly arranged for a chemist to make a colorless Coke and shipped it to Zhukov in special bottles with a red star on the cap.
Coca-Cola also became a tool of diplomacy and propaganda during the war. It was used to win over allies and undermine enemies. For example, Coca-Cola sponsored radio broadcasts that featured popular American music and celebrities. It also distributed free samples of Coke to civilians in liberated countries, such as France and Italy. It even created a slogan that said “The pause that refreshes on the Axis’ time”.
Coca-Cola’s impact on the war was not without controversy. Some people accused Coca-Cola of profiteering from the war or exploiting scarce resources. Some countries banned or restricted the sale of Coca-Cola as a foreign product. Some soldiers preferred other drinks, such as beer or coffee. However, for many others, Coca-Cola was a source of comfort and joy. As one US soldier in North Africa said: “Coca-Cola was the nearest thing to home that I had seen in months” .
– Quench Warfare, HistoryNet, February 11, 2020
– How Coca-Cola Provided a Fresh Coke to the Front Lines of World War II, Coffee or Die, April 2, 2019
– The History Of Coca-Cola In WW2, History Oasis, September 9, 2021
– US Secretly Tried to Get Clear Coca-Cola to Soviet Gen. Georgy Zhukov, Business Insider, July 28, 2021