Thursday, October 10, 2013

Letters During Wartime: Cola Wars

One of the greatest resources an historian can use to gain insight into any given time period is the first person account of its citizens on the world around them. This has proven especially true during times of war, since, when a nation's populace is thrown into disarray by conflict, often times the only surviving historical records are those written and kept by partisan officials, who by their nature will be biased as to the health and stability of their political charge. Surprisingly, it has proven time and again, that the most reliable and numerous accounts during times of military action come not from those at home, but from the correspondence of the soldiers themselves, who would send regular letters to loved ones in an attempt to alleviate and assuage their fears of the dangers at the front line.

Those letters recovered and preserved from the Cola Wars, remain as some of history's greatest social document resources to date. Here are excerpts from some of the most revealing letters kept on record.

- Dudley P. Ackleman Ph.D., Professor of Refreshment Studies

The Futility of War

The most common theme of soldier's letters home was the philosophical musing on the true purpose of war, and what would become the ultimate cost of both the lives and souls of those that fought in it.

My Dearest Beatrice,

  It has been five long months since I left you and the children, and there has not been a day of it that I have not thought of you and wished I could hold you all in my arms.
  Every night I am able to sleep, I close my eyes praying that I will dream of your smiling face, only to wake screaming from another nightmare of fields strewn with broken bottles and cans dented beyond repair. I have seen many horrible things since I joined the ranks, and to my shame, I admit that I have done far worse than I thought I was ever capable in the name of refreshment.
  There was a time when we all fought under the same banner, Thirst our common enemy, but this war of soda against soda...I just don't know the point of it anymore, and I fear what kind of cola I will be when, God willing, I return home.

Love, Coca-Cola

Morality and Consequences

The ethical costs of war weighed heavily on the hearts and minds of those who served during the Cola Wars. Historians are hard-pressed to find a soda who, at one time or another, didn't question the morality of war, and wonder if their actions didn't have ramifications that extended beyond the battlefield.


  Words cannot express my devastation as I read in your letter of our dear Crystal, finally succumbing to the vagueries of consumption.This war has broken my body and spirit in ways I thought not possible, but the loss of our daughter has truly broken my heart in two.
  I am reminded of the day that New Coke finally fell on the battlefield, and was struck down into discontinuation. I admit that I rejoiced in his passing with the rest of the sodas, cursing Coca-Cola's name as we celebrated. I wonder now if the loss of our daughter is God's way of punishing me for my callousness at another cola's loss of their child.
  I will carry on as I must, but I can only hope that I will have the strength of will to forge ahead through this pain.

Yours, Pepsi

The Inequalities of War

While the Cola Wars were primarily thought of as a battle between the major cola-flavored sodas that gave the war its name, much of the fighting was done by other-flavored soft drinks, their contributions on the front lines often overlooked because of their social standing of the time.

Dear Mabel,

  Things are okay here for the most part. They treat me fine for what it's worth, but when it comes time for a place in the chow line or a turn at latrine duties, it's obvious that a cola is a cola, but if you're lemon-lime you're barely a soda to them. From time to time we've heard them call us un-colas when our backs are turned, and yesterday I had to hold Sprite back from hitting an officer who said as much when he thought we wasn't listening. Seems they're happy enough to have us when the fighting breaks out, but the only time they see us as equals is when we're standing in front of a bullet. I know you said that it wasn't our fight and that I was asking for trouble when I joined up, but me and the boys stick together and look out for each other. I still believe that the end of this war will level the field, and a beverage won't be judged by his coloring or flavoring.

Love, 7-up

Deception in the Ranks

One of the most common worries of a soldier during wartime wasn't for his own safety, but for the safety and security of the ones they left behind. A soda was more than likely the main wage earner for a family, and without their presence at the homestead, many were uncertain as to the state of the home they hoped to return to. Some sodas went to drastic measures to ensure that the family was well cared for.

Dear Martha,

  When you finish reading this letter, I beg you to burn it in the stove and hide half of the enclosed money in a place that only you would know about. I know there is more here than you were expecting when I signed up, but the thought of you alone without me home to work put me in a panic, and when I saw at the enrollment station that an army doctor ranked a higher pay grade, I enlisted myself as a medic.
  I've had enough practice tending to the injuries and ailments of the animals there at the farm to make a passing show of it, and I've been seconding to the more experienced doctors here during basic training to learn on what I need to, but I'm scared of what will happen when I'm sent off to the front to tend a regiment of my own.
  A soda came in the other day with his bottle cap taken clean off, and I almost gave myself up right then and there, it was all too much to look at. Then I thought of you and the house, and I knew this was something I had to do to make sure you were safe.
  You can't tell nobody about this or else we might lose everything we've worked for. I'm sorry I've put you in this situation, but just remember I'm doing it for the good of our future.

All my love, Pepper

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