After the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, the nation's young men answered the call to serve. All 48 states including South Dakota sent their finest to save our way of life from fascism. South Dakota being in the heartland of the country contributed in other ways because agriculture was a way of life out here. While many joined to fight, many stayed back to produce the wheat, corn, and livestock needed to feed American soldiers and sailors. Remember, an army travels on its stomach. South Dakota was a small rural state composed of farms and small communities, so it became their call to feed the soldiers fighting in Europe and the Pacific. The work was not easy though. Just coming out of the Dirty Thirties, only a small percentage of the state's farmers had any type of mechanization like tractors. Most still farmed with horses, so putting in and harvesting a crop was a back breaking job. South Dakota's farmers and ranchers went to work. Even with a shortage of laborers, our farmers were able answer the call. Mother Nature helped with ample rain but the determination of our farmers did more.
Besides the agricultural side, South Dakota joined the war effort in other ways. Each small community collected rubber, iron and steel, etc. Everyone chipped in for the war effort. However, one community did something special. Aberdeen is located in the northeastern part of the state. It is known as the "hub city" because after its founding, many rail lines ran through it. It was the center hub of a wheel for transportation until the 1970s. The biggest rail line was the Chicago and Milwaukee which ran from Chicago to Minneapolis and west through Aberdeen. If a person wanted to travel west from Chicago, it was on this line.
During the war, Aberdeen had a busy Red Cross whose volunteers offered an oasis for newly drafted servicemen. The Chicago and Milwaukee line came through the small city several times a day, carrying soldiers and sailors to the west coast for deployment. Aberdeen would be the only stop until Miles City in Montana, so a canteen was set up by the Red Cross volunteers. The railroad offered room in its busy depot located on north Main Street in 1943. At first the usual fare was offered: sandwiches, donuts, coffee, and soft drinks. Soon after its opening, the menu was changed. Pheasant sandwiches were the new menu item. Being famous for these birds, Aberdeen and the surrounding area answered the call for birds. Luckily the game wardens turned their backs. For three years until it closed in March of 1946, the canteen served hundreds of sandwiches daily. Soldiers and sailors spread the word about Aberdeen's hospitality and generosity. At first an average of 500 service men and women came through the canteen daily; it was open and staffed twenty-four hours a day. In December of 1943, 1,500 sandwiches were served. There would also be cake for those men having a birthday. By the end of the war, 586,000 troops had been served Aberdeen's famous pheasant sandwiches.