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“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Helena in Phillips County, Arkansas — The American South (West South Central)
 

Arkansas’ Mercí Car

 
 
Arkansas' Mercí Car Marker image. Click for full size.
By Mark Hilton, August 26, 2017
1. Arkansas' Mercí Car Marker
Inscription. This boxcar and the gifts it carried are a reminder of American support of France during two world wars, and of France's gratitude for that support. Such gestures between peoples deserve a lasting place in our memories.

People to People
In 1947, the people of the United States sent 700 boxcars of food, medicine, fuel and clothing to a France devastated by years of Nazi occupation. The Friendship Train was a grassroots effort; it received no government support. In 1949, the people of France expressed their thanks by sending a Mercí Train—a Gratitude Train—to America. Shields representing the provinces of France decorated each of the forty-nine boxcars loaded with gifts.

The Arkansas Boxcar
The French shipped the Mercí Train to New York. There the boxcars, one for each state and one to be shared by Hawaii and the District of Columbia, were loaded onto flatcars. The flatcar carrying the Merci Car bound for Little Rock arrived in the early morning hours of February 13, 1949. People flocked to see the gifts, displayed first at the Rock Island Freight Depot and later the capitol rotunda.

The Mercí Car Comes to Helena
The Mercí Car toured the state before arriving at the Shumaker Naval Ordnance Depot in Camden. In January 1961,
Arkansas' Mercí Train Car image. Click for full size.
By Mark Hilton, August 26, 2017
2. Arkansas' Mercí Train Car
the boxcar was moved to Helena, home of the then-department commander of the American Legion in Arkansas. The gifts the train carried are now in the collections of several museums and state universities.

Inset
"Forty and Eights"
The Mercí Train's boxcars were antiques, built between 1875 and 1882. During World War I (1914-1918) and World War II (1939-1945) armies used the wooden boxcars to transport men and horses to and from the battlefront. The men called them Forty and Eights, in French Hommes 40 Chevaux (en long) 8, because each car held forty men or eight horses. Many French and American veterans remembered spending days in these boxcars, which had no seats, windows or toilets. Soldiers barely had enough space to sit down and had to lie down in rows to sleep.

Photo captions
Top left: The people of Arkansas contributed five boxcars of food to the Friendship Train.
Middle: Thousands of people came out to see the gifts the French sent to the people of Arkansas.
Right top: The Mercí Train, like the Friendship Train, was a grassroots effort. The French people sent gifts from their homes to the people of America. Above are some of the gifts sent to Arkansas.

 
Marker series. This marker is included in the Merci Train Boxcars marker series.
Arkansas' Mercí Train Car image. Click for full size.
By Mark Hilton, August 26, 2017
3. Arkansas' Mercí Train Car

 
Location. 34° 31.652′ N, 90° 35.299′ W. Marker is in Helena, Arkansas, in Phillips County. Marker is on Pecan Street south of Porter Street, on the left when traveling south. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 504 Pecan Street, Helena AR 72342, United States of America.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. The T-33 Shooting Star (within shouting distance of this marker); The American Legion Hut (within shouting distance of this marker); The Irish Immigrant (about 400 feet away, measured in a direct line); Patrick Cleburne in Helena (about 400 feet away); General Patrick Cleburne (about 400 feet away); Phillips County's Confederate Soldiers (about 400 feet away); Seven Confederate Generals (about 400 feet away); Civil War Comes to Arkansas (about 400 feet away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Helena.
 
Also see . . .
1. The Arkansas Merci Train Web site. (Submitted on September 1, 2017, by Mark Hilton of Montgomery, Alabama.)
2. Encyclopedia of Arkansas History & Culture article on the Merci Train. Also known as the Gratitude Train or the Train de Reconnaissance. (Submitted on September 1, 2017, by Mark Hilton of Montgomery, Alabama.) 
 
Categories. Railroads & StreetcarsWar, World IWar, World II
 
Arkansas' Mercí Train Car (west end with Arkansas plate) image. Click for full size.
By Mark Hilton, August 26, 2017
4. Arkansas' Mercí Train Car (west end with Arkansas plate)
Arkansas' Mercí Train car at the American Legion Hut. image. Click for full size.
By Mark Hilton, August 26, 2017
5. Arkansas' Mercí Train car at the American Legion Hut.
 
 
Credits. This page was last revised on September 1, 2017. This page originally submitted on September 1, 2017, by Mark Hilton of Montgomery, Alabama. This page has been viewed 94 times since then. Photos:   1, 2, 3, 4, 5. submitted on September 1, 2017, by Mark Hilton of Montgomery, Alabama.
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