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On February 3, 1949, a crowd of over 25,000 gathered at New York Harbor to see the arrival of a merchant ship named Magellan. On the side of the French freighter was painted the words "MERCI AMERICA". Aboard was forty-nine French railroad box cars filled with tens of thousands of gifts donated by French citizens. This was the Merci Train, a token of appreciation to the people of the US from the people of France, for the 700 boxcars of food and relief materials that Americans had sent to war-torn Europe in 1947.

The 700-car Friendship Train sent by the Americans was the brainchild of Drew Pearson, an American newspaper columnist and nominee for the Nobel Peace Prize. Pearson was in Europe when he noticed that the Russians were being lauded and 'thanked' for their contributions of a few carloads of grain delivered to Europeans. Being a staunch anti-communist, the great fanfare celebrating these meager gifts rankled Pearson. He believed that the United States could surpass the communists in sending food to the desperate, hungry Europeans.


The West Virginia Merci Train Boxcar, located in Welch at Veteran's Park. Photo credit:

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