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Home Front Friday: Rum & Coke

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Home Front Friday is a regular series that highlights the can do spirit on the Home Front during World War II and illustrates how that spirit is still alive today!

“Drinkin’ rum and Coca-Cola
Go down Point Koomahnah
Both mother and daughter
Workin’ for the Yankee dollar”

-The Andrew Sisters, “Rum And Coca-Cola”

Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, NYWT&S Collection, [reproduction number, e.g., LC-USZ62-111157]

The Andrews Sisters

Rum and coke – the match made in heaven! It’s such a staple of the American bar that few probably have wondered who had the brilliant idea to put them together. During wartime, soldiers made many new discoveries abroad and brought them back to the States. One of those discoveries was the combination of rum and Coca-Cola. Coca-Cola was invented in the 1880s by a pharmaceutical chemist named John Pemberton, and by WWII Coca-Cola had grown into a global franchise operation. Most stories of the invention of the drink spawn from the Spanish-American War at a bar in Havana. But regardless of where it started, it spread throughout the Caribbean.

When the US was threatened by German submarines in 1940, FDR met with Winston Churchill to address the issue. The United States provided England with ships and rifles to aid in the war (remember, we had not yet entered!), and the United States were able to increase their defenses on British-controlled islands in the Caribbean – including the Bahamas, Jamaica, St. Lucia, Antigua, Bermuda, and Trinidad. Thousands of servicemen were sent to these islands, greatly influxing the local populations and affecting a cross-cultural movement. Rum was cheap, and by 1941, the drink of choice (at least on Bermuda) was rum for a mere quarter! Coca-Cola was dedicated to providing the troops with a soda for a nickel – roughly 10 billion Cokes were served to soldiers all over the world during WWII! So, naturally, the two together couldn’t be beat.

Listen to Lucien Laborde talk about seeing the Andrews Sisters perform at the Commodore Hotel when he returned to the States.

The Andrew Sisters’ catchy tune is actually a recording of a song Trinidadian locals were singing around the Island after all the soldiers appeared. It ended up being the most requested Andrew Sisters’ song on USO tours. With the help of this song, rum and Coke became the undeclared national drink of our troops! And to think, it is still an easy, go-to drink!

All you need is rum, coke, and a lime (if you’re feeling crazy), turn on the Andrews Sisters, and be transported by that calypso beat and sweet drink to the Islands!

Posted by Laurel Taylor, Education Intern and Lauren Handley, Assistant Director of Education for Public Programs at The National WWII Museum

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