Tons of Toys Being Shipped to Europe. 900,000 toys, collected in the American Legion’s “Tide of Toys” program, are loaded aboard the SS American Defender in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, for shipment from American children to the toyless children of The Netherlands, Austria and Western Germany. Pic. #NYJA000214 was first published on 02/09/1950. Permission to publish this pic. kindly accorded to the MDFDE by the Harry Ransom Center, The University of Texas at Austin.

Michael Bublé | Cold December Night


Cold December Night from Michael Bublé’s album ‘Christmas’ 2011.

Seasons greetings





In Memory of Mariee JUAREZ, 19 months old. Wilmer Josué RAMIREZ VASQUEZ, 2 years old. Jakelin CAAL MAQUIN, 7 years old. Felipe GOMEZ ALONZO, 8 years old. Darleen VALLE, 10 years old. Juan DE LÉON GUTIÉRREZ, 16 years old. And Carlos Gregorio HERNANDEZ VASQUEZ, 16 years old. SEVEN innocent immigrant children, forced to flee their native country with their Mom, Dad or another relative to escape regional warfare, local gang’s kidnapping and torturing, lawlessness and political violence… Only to die horribly and needlessly in U.S. custody between December 2018 and May 2019.

In solidarity with every refugee child currently held for profit inside unsanitary cages set in U.S. detention camps — every precious baby, every toddler, every teenager — seeking safety and a better way of  “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.Only to be ripped from his parents’ arms and put in cages as soon as he/she reached our southwest border once part of the Land we proudly called our “golden shores.”

Until each one of these beautiful children is freed and reunited with his/her parents in a very, very safe place…

In solidarity with our Sisters and Brothers Resisters trying to deliver toys, children’s books and blankets to the correctional facilities only to be rudely turned away and even arrested.

In solidarity with every lawyer working pro bono for the refugees, every protesting doctor and healthcare worker such as Doctors for Camp Closure trying to provide free medical service, immunize the detained children against deadly childhood diseases, only to be arrested right on the spot…

And last but not least…

In solidarity with every food stamps recipient — about 700,000 hungry Americans — who now also fear they won’t have enough to feed their families at Christmas time and throughout this Winter…

Love and hugs to ALL! E.J.



December 26, 1949 – January 2, 1950

OTD: December 26, 1949 – January 2, 2020


Andrew Russell (Drew) Pearson (1897-1969), a Democrat, Washington D.C. Journalist, Father of the “Friendship Train” & “Tide of Toys Europe” in partnership with the American Legion.

George North Craig (1909 – 1992), a Republican, was the 39th Governor of Indiana (1953- 1957). A lawyer and veteran of World War II who served in a division command staff, Gov. Craig first gained popularity in Indiana as National Commander of The American Legion.

TWO SCOTTISH children skip the ceremonies and get off to a head start with “Tide of Toys” steam shovel while Walter Allessandroni, Pennsylvania Legion Commander, makes formal presentation at Bridge of Weir Orphan Home near Glasgow, Scotland.

Dear MDFDE Members and Friends Worldwide,

My Dear Fellow Americans,


As many of us are feverishly preparing to enter a brand new decade, worrying about what the near future holds for us all… When so many of us proud American citizens are leaving the 2010s shaken to the core like never before, painfully reassessing all the saddest facts. The TRUTH. The serious damage inflicted on our national conscience by greedy, cruel, corrupt, lawless men and women abusing their power. Making our United States of America less safe, voiceless, while diminishing our leadership and grand standing around the World…  

Let’s not despair, let’s not feel sorry for ourselves! Once again, this is the time to reclaim our glorious past! Now is the time to shout from the roof tops how generous we, the good People of the United States, have always been and always will be in time of humanitarian crisis!

And what better way to end this year than to tell you all a beautiful Christmas-New Year story, right? So please let me share with you another real miracle of Christmas only America could have so successfully produce. Let me take you 70 years back when neighbors not only helped each other at home but also helped foreigners suffering from hunger and despair overseas…

An era when immigrants were truly welcomed. When America was not detaining, abusing children in cages. An era when homelessness was not rampant all the way to California. An era when our citizens, including our brave Veterans, could afford to get sick, pay rent and eat.

As part of our French-American project #MDFDEFriendshipMerciTrain70 which celebrated the 70th Anniversary of the Merci Train this year… Prelude to our unique French-American-Italian project #MDFDEFriendshipMerciTrain75 in celebration of the 75th Anniversary of the Friendship Train in 2022… Based on my own extensive research complimented by excerpts from “How you made 3,000,000 Kids Happy,” written by Robert P. Pitkin for the August 1950 Issue of American Legion Magazine… The MDFDE is thrilled to celebrate the 70th Anniversary of the American Legion’s Tide of Toys Campaign by sharing with you here the real, inspiring story of the First Christmas-New Year TIDE of TOYS.’

I am hoping it will warm your heart, boost your self-confidence (if needed) in what we can accomplish together to save our planet from climate change #ParisAccord, rebuild our moral infrastructure, promote democracy, social justice and human rights to better protect and expand our rich cultural heritage and hard-won international friendships in the weeks, months and years to come… And please make sure you read this story to your children and grandchildren. They MUST know how loving and thoughtful their parents and grandparents — the Greatest Generation — were back then, fighting to keep the Peace alive. So, are you ready? HERE WE GO…

Seventy years ago this Christmas-New Year Week 2019 in America…


Two years after so many caring Americans had famously filled the “Friendship Train” with $40 million worth of foodstuffs — a genuine gift from our nation’s heart which did so much to feed the hungry in France and Italy in December 1947 and January 1948 — while counteracting the unfavorable Russian propaganda going non stop all over Europe…

Ten months after the triumphal arrival of the “Merci Train” in New York City, France’s grateful reciprocation to her oldest Ally in the name of the Marquis de LA FAYETTE, serving as an eloquent testimony of just how effective the “Friendship Train” had been in building world understanding and goodwill.

As millions of very patriotic Americans, led by President Harry S. TRUMAN, the nation No. 1 Legionnaire, were happily celebrating the true spirit of Christmas throughout the Land…

TWAS the day… after Christmas. The day when most Christians and people of all faiths and beliefs were supposed to relax and be grateful for their blessings. While most American children were home, playing with all the new toys they had just received from dear old Santa Claus…

Back in our nation’s capital… Drew PEARSON, Washington D.C. most famous columnist and radio commentator of his time, Father of the “Friendship Train.” And George CRAIG, National Commander of The American Legion, were going full speed as they were conducting their newest humanitarian campaign overseas. It was called the “TIDE of TOYS” (TOT).

Truly amazing “work in progress” since “Operation TOT” had only been launched… 17 days earlier… So, how did they pull it off, you may ask? Well, here is how Drew PEARSON and Cmdr. CRAIG teamed up to full VICTORY!

Washington D.C., December 8, 1949: Drew PEARSON was having lunch with Cmdr. CRAIG. Reflecting on the not-too-distant painful past, as the two men noted it was now the fifth Christmas since the end of World War II, they kept on talking about “the poor, innocent kids of Europe born during and since the war into a world of violence, wreckage and insecurity—with hunger and fear for bedfellows and bomb pits for playgrounds.”

“What a swell thing it would be,” they agreed, “if each kid in America would look under his Christmas tree this year and pick out one toy to send to a child in Europe.”

And so, once again, Drew PEARSON lost no time designing another one of what was now his signature “person-to-person” program, a genuine idea founded in international friendship. The challenge was huge. Could America pull “TOT” through during the busiest family time of the year, no less? Could Americans possibly comfort the orphans left behind, the most distressed, toyless children — 3 million of them — still living in precarious conditions? Still struggling in their daily life in post WWII Western and parts of Eastern Europe despite the effectiveness of the Marshall Plan now in full swing over there? You bet America could!

Sponsored and organized nationwide by Cmdr. CRAIG and the American Legion right before Christmas-New Year week when many an American boy and girl received more toys than they either needed or cared for, the “TIDE of TOYS” was born! Originally scheduled to run between Dec. 26, 1949 – Jan. 2, 1950, TOT” would definitively seal the success of additional “TOT” campaigns in the following years…

December 11, 1949: Three days after that decisive lunch, Drew PEARSON went on the air with the story.

December 14, 1949: Three days after PEARSON’s launching of the TIDE of TOYS” on the radio… Cmdr. CRAIG, calling on all American youngsters to join with The American Legion in dispatching a “tide of toys” across the Atlantic; then sending his marching orders to the 17,332 Posts of the American Legion, asking each Post to set up an emergency meeting so collections drives would start on Monday, December 26, was surely THE call heard ’round the nation.

Under the active plan outlined by Cmdr. CRAIG, each child was asked to contribute to “TOT.” To tide an extra, brand new Christmas toy and with it a signed note of greeting to a child in France, Great Britain, Belgium, Germany, Austria, Italy, Holland, Finland, Denmark, Norway and even Czechoslovakia and Poland—if authorities there permit…

Taking into account that so many of these European kids never even had a toy of their own… It was not hard to believe that despite the fact the gifts will reach their destination way past Christmas, their eager, young recipients would care not a whit about such delay…

“We are not shooting for leftovers or discards,” Cmdr. CRAIG clearly stated. “We are asking our children to give up a real prize which the youngster over there may cherish as coming from a pal who wants his understanding and friendship.”

“In Europe today are millions of youngsters who were born into a world of war. They drew their first breath in fear, took their first steps in flight. Because of hatred and suspicions in which they had no part, again this year their Christmas will be barren. The American Legion urges the children of America to speak to them through “TOT”—to give them the assurance of a child’s toy and a child’s word that the spirit of peace and fellowship introduced by another child two thousand years ago still lives.”

According to Paul C. FRENCH, Executive Director for CARE (Cooperative for American Remittances to Europe) all collected toys were to be packed and shipped directly to “The American Legion, Pier 38 South, Philadelphia, Pa.”

As first former port of departure for the “Friendship Train” hauled into the “Friendship Ship” which had sailed for Europe via New York on Dec. 1, 1947… One could be sure “Operation TOT” firmly set in the “City of Brotherly Love,” and now run by Department Commander Walter E. ALESSANDRONI of Pennsylvania, rose once again to the occasion by providing the donors all the necessary assistance in receiving and shipping their millions of toys to Europe.

December 21, 1949: As time was of the essence to ensure the TIDE of TOYS” would be highly understood by Americans of all ages, Drew Pearson’s amplifying message via his latest article, “Christmas Toys For Europe,” published in his popular Washington Merry-Go-Round column, was a poignant reminder to millions of his faithful followers of how far we had come as a nation. How more meaningful it would be now if their own children were the inspiration…

“Last year,” PEARSON wrote, “American G.I.’s spending Christmas in Germany, raised $247,000 to bring a brighter Christmas to the German children of the U. S. zone.

A G.I.’s pay is not munificient, and most of them were spending rather lonesome themselves compared with that at home.  However, they contributed generously to the children of men who once had been their enemies.

“This Christmas, the American Legion led by far-sighted Cmdr. George Craig, has launched an appeal to all Americans to collect toys one day after Christmas for the children of Europe. Coming as it does from the veterans who fought the war, this represents one of the most significant moves in America.

“Leaders of the old Legion, in the days following World war I, were among those who helped take this country back into its shell of isolation, helped inevitably to head us back on the path of war again.  But the new Legion is fully aware of the fact that wars usually come in 20-year cycles, that the children of todav can be our friends or the enemy soldiers of tomorrow, and that the time to prevent war is by building good will long in advance of crisis.

“To this end, the Legion is asking the nation to cooperate in collectinsg toys immediately after Christmas for shipment to the kids of Europe, where toys are scarce this year.  A message from an American child is to be attached to each toy— which may start a train of friendships lasting for years.

Note—The toys will be distributed by Care, the nonprofit organization which has machinery already set up in all Atlantic pact countries and some iron curtain countries.”  (Copyright, 1949, by Bell Syndicate, Inc.)

December 25, 1949: As Americans were celebrating Christmas Day, reports reaching the American Legion National Headquarters in Indianapolis, Ind. showed that in all sections of the nation, countless American Legion Posts were already in high gear on “Operation TOT.” 

And what a wonderful civic push it was, keeping the toy drive on rolling that very special Christmas-New Year Week 1949!


Thanks to a third of the Governors of States who had already issued “TOT” proclamations! Mayors of cities, big and small, who had designated “TOT” Day or Week! Schools, police, firehouses, department stores, churches of every faith and local business establishments cooperating wholeheartedly with the American Legion Posts, millions of toys were piling up at every corner of America… And last but not least with the backing of the press and radio stations headed by Drew PEARSON who, besides his own columns and broadcasts, filled no less than fourteen “TOT” spots via his frequent appearances on other programs, giving such free publicity to the TIDE of TOYS” almost everywhere… Letters to the Editor of most newspapers expressing favor of the children’s drive kept pouring in nationwide…

LEGIONNAIRES, like these of California’s Memory Post and San Jose Post, acted as collectors and agents for their towns and sent more than three millions toys to Europe in 1950.

So much so that in our Golden State, bearing the ambitious slogan “One Million Toys from Southern California Alone” and San Bernardino County, where toys for “TOT” were being left at the city hall, any fire station, or at the Legion clubhouse throughout that designated week, one enthusiastic (anonymous to this day) mother could not resist writing to the Editor of the Sun-Telegram. Right on Christmas Day, December 25, 1949, here is what she said:

“I wish you to thank whoever in the American Legion is responsible for this new “Tide of Toys” program whereby we can make friends abroad by letting the poor children of Europe have our extra toys.

My little Bobbie was told of the plan at the breakfast table this morning and a shiny red fire engine is going to some little Belgian or French boy as a result. I mention this personal application because I believe the hearts of our children are generous and they have an opportunity to feel that, they are doing the giving, which incidentally they will not miss much at this time of year. I feel this is a wonderful and yet a practical way to assure world peace, and again, thanks to the Legion.” MOTHER

Not to be left out, Central California, led by the Madera American Legion Post, was sponsoring a “TIDE of TOYS” drive there too with extra time.  Indeed, all who could were urged to take their toys to Stephenson’s, 318 East Yosemite avenue, not later than Jan. 7.

The most serious hurdle yet to overcome for every Post engaged in “Operation TOT” was the cost of the freight bill to Philadelphia, Pa., warehousing and ocean shipping charges to Europe.

So Eddie MCGINNIS, the Legion’s National Publicity Director, took over. He called on William T. FARICY, President of the Association of American Railroads the best possible way yes, the same AAM which had magnificently hauled Drew PEARSON’s Friendship Train and the Merci Train for free… While Mr. Faricy agreed to recommend free shipping of the toys all the way to Philadelphia, he also reminded the Legion that each American railroad was to make the decision for itself, pointing out that “by law the railways were forbidden to carry freight free unless written notice were furnished that this was in the interest of the United States Government…” Game on!

December 28, 1949: Just as he did when he was pitching for the symbolic values of the Friendship Train… While Cmdr. CRAIG  and the American Legion were handling all the logistics… Working tirelessly, night and day, Drew PEARSON kept the “TIDE of TOYS”‘ momentum going. He kept America informed and excited with visions of cargo ships bravely riding the winter waves of the Atlantic… Trains filled to the top with her late Christmas toys soon to be dashing through the snow, distributed to smiling, grateful children across Europe…

“The American Legion’s friendship train of toys to the kids of Europe is really beginning to roll,” Drew PEARSON wrote. If the veterans aren’t careful, they’ll get so many toys that Philadelphia’s pier 38 from which the toys are to be shipped by CARE, will be swamped.”

“Not only the Legion but all sorts of people all over the country are remembering that, while food is better in Europe, toys are scarce, and that it’s Europe’s children of today who are either our friends or the soldiers of tomorrow.”

“In Virginia, for instance, dynamic Governor William Tuck has issued a proclamation urging Virginians to get behind the train of toys. “This program,” said the governor, “is designed to bring happiness to children, is also planting seeds of faith, trust, and goodwill in the fertile young minds of Europe’s children.”

“The Ministerial Association of Richmond wrote a letter to all Protestant preachers asking them to explain the toy program on Christmas Sunday, while the Catholic bishop of Richmond and the rabbis of the city have done the same. Richmond’s police stations and firehouses are serving as collection depots for toys.” (Washington Merry-Go-Round, Drew Pearson Says… Copyright, 1949, by Bell Syndicate).

Washington D.C., December 29, 1949: In the morning, George KELLY, MCGINNIS’s assistant and Fred BLUMENTHAL, Drew PEARSON’s right hand man, met with Howland SARGEANT, the State Department’s Acting Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs. Upon hearing the matter, the STATE was so convinced that, indeed, “TOT” was both “sound and desirable” that within an hour the Government had okayed the free-freight request in writing. Before nighfall Mr. Faricy had written to his 131 members, recommending affirmative action. And within a few days, every member of the railroad association was definitively… on board!

And to make sure adults without children would participate in the “TOT” drive, the Legion set up a special bank account in Philly so cash gifts could be accepted to purchase more toys.

That got the attention of Irving GEIST, the legendary New York City philantropist, who quickly offered his personal services to the “Tide of Toys” along with writing a big check  $2,500 for the noble cause. Several thousands of smaller cash gifts brought the total cash receipts to $5,257.18 by mid-April, every cent of which was spent directly on “TOT.” Two of the most moving stories about “small donors” was a two-dollar bill from a California woman who lived on a $38 pension; and a $10 gift for the children of Bastogne, Belgium. It came  from a veteran in Tacoma, Washington, still hospitalized from wounds received in Bastogne…

Meanwhile, as the American Legion was still considering the offer made by the Economic Cooperation Administration (ECA),* which was agreeing to cover the cost of ocean shipment for “TOT.” And each country receiving ECA aid was pledging to reimburse CARE for internal freight expenses abroad… It was understood that going that route would be that part of the said cost would have been borne by the U. S. taxpayer as an acknowledged supplement to the Marshall Plan. Could the organizers possibly solve that burden quickly? Wait and see!

January 1950: Three years after the Friendship Train, HOLLYWOOD returned glamorously to join forces with Drew PEARSON and the American Legion… Backed by the news and entertainment agencies, both could once again count on the legendary Harry M. WARNER/ Warner Bros., former national chairman of the Friendship Train Committe and the National Committee to Welcome the French Gratitude Train (Merci Train). With Doris DAY, beloved American actress and singer, named honory chairman, who plugged her first spot on TV for the Tide of Toys” Drive… Along came Bob MONTGOMERY, Kate SMITH, Jack BENNY, Bob HOPE, Amos ‘n” ANDY, Ted MALONE and many other stars along with their own networks and sponsors.

As duly recorded by News Service, the American Legion Public Relations Division (No. 164 January 1950), here is a sample of the contributions sent to “TOT” via Philadelphia, Pa.,:

“Omaha, Neb., Post 1, largest post in the world with more than 16,000 members, sponsored a special television show to promote Operation TOT. Collections are being made at the city’s 25 fire department stations.

In Denver, Colo., Commander Robert E. Lee of the Leyden-Chiles-Wickersham Post 1 said, “We are the second largest American Legion post, with 10,400 members, but we intend to be the largest one in Operation “TOT.”

At Little Rock, Gov. Sid McMath issued a proclamation calling on all children in Arkansas to contribute toys to “TOT.” His two children were photographed giving the first toys in Arkansas.

At Toledo, Ohio, the Mayor issued a proclamation designating a “TOT” Week.

At Flint, Mich., 13 posts joined together for an all-out drive. A Flint radio station was making arrangements for transcribed programs in Philadelphia, London and elsewhere to follow a typical toy through in its destination overseas. Eleven posts at Lansing, Mich., were cooperating there in a similar overseas radio coverage.

Memphis, Tenn., Post 1 was using city fire department stations as collection depots.

From Seattle came a report that Operation “TOT” was in full blast throughout Washington State with great activity locally in Spokane, Tacoma and other cities.

High enthusiasm and lots of local publicity were reported by the Hugh A. Carlisle Post 13 at Albuquerque, N. M.; Sioux Falls, S. D, Post 15; Davenport, Iowa Post 26; Beaumont, Texas Post 33; Jefferson Post 15 at Louisville, Ky., and many others.

At Fort Wayne, Ind., Post 47, Indiana’s largest collected $300 worth of toys the first day of its campaign. Special sheriff’s reserves were making pickups throughout Allen County.

The Horace Orr Post 29 at Marietta, Ga., promised an entire boxcar of toys. At Richmond, Va., churches were being used as collection depots after the project was plugged from all pulpits.

Note: On Dec. 23, 1949 in South Carolina, Gov. J. Strom THURMOND also issued a proclamation designating the period of Dec. 26, 1949 – Jan. 2, 1950 as American Legion Tide of Toys Week for his State. E.J.

That’s around the time the best of news came from, where else? Philadelphia. Their recent “Shipping Conference, prompted by Weaver of CARE, had authorized its member steamship lines to carry the toys at their own expense, should they so choose.”

Washington D.C., January 5, 1950: Fired up and ready to share more exciting news with his audience, Drew PEARSON wrote…

“The world has read a lot of great Christmas stories, from Dickens’ Christmas Carol to Heywood Bronn’s famous column, but this year we have a Christmas story of doing which ranks with any of them.

It’s the story of veterans who have fought our wars, led by the American Legion, who don’t want to fight any more wars and do want to build up friendship abroad. Recognizing that wars have come in cycles of about every 20 years, they have gone out to woo Europe’s children of today—who can be our best friends or the enemy soldiers of tomorrow.

That’s one factor behind the “Tide of Toys” campaign, by which American children who can spare an extra toy immediately after Christmas are urged to send it, via the American Legion, to less fortunate children in Europe.

There was a time when the public thought of Legionnaires chiefly in connection with roughhousing at annual conventions.  But a new sense of international responsibility and determination to play a part in world diplomacy is growing in the Legion today.  And that is one reason why Legionnaires, at this, the busiest time of the year, have been cutting short their holidays to promote what amounts to a friendship train of toys to Europe.

The Tide Flows Here is how Legionnaires and the public all over the country are putting across the Tide of Toys: Gen, Lucius Clay’s home town. Marietta, Ga., was one of the first to respond, through Commander John Roy, with a pledge of one boxcar of toys . . . Emperor Hirohito’s white horse is being used  to collect toys at Nashville, where an admission fee of one toy is being charged to get in to see the famous steed . . . Harry Warner of Warner Brothers, who so patriotically chairmanned the Friendship Train committee, produced a newsreel, telling the story of the “Tide of Toys” . . . Thirty lowa cities responded immediately to the Legion’s call, with Des Moines printing special greeting cards for American children to send to European children . . . Mayor Mike Di Salle of Toledo, recently returned from Europe, proclaimed “Tide of Toys” week, while Chairman Frazier Hearns arranged for the schools to be open even during the Christmas holidays, to receive toys.

In Poughkeepsie, N. Y., the Region used the French Merci train “40 and 8” boxcar, sent to New York by the people of France, to collect toys.  Poughkeepsie Legionnaires have already adopted the town of St. Lo, France, and all toys collected in the Poughkeepsie area will go to St. Lo . . .  Special proclamations were issued by Governors Bowles of Connecticut, McMath of Arkansas, Browning of Tennessee, Tuck of Virginia, urging support for the Tide of Toys …  In Los Angeles, Mayor Fletcher Bowron has decreed this week as “Tide of Toys” week, and Chairman Louis Goff of the Los Angeles area has fixed California’s goal as “a million toys for a million boys.”

(…) Here is an indication of how concerned the American people are with peace: After Leon Pearson had Quaker leader Clarence Pickett as guest on his television broadcast, he got almost as many requests for the Quaker booklet on U. S. – U. S. S. R. relations as another TV show. “Who Said That?” which staged a contest for a free TV set . . .  (Washington Merry-Go-Round, DREW PEARSON SAYS… ‘Tide of Toys’ Sweeps US. Copyright, 1949, by Bell Syndicate).

HERE ARE some of the lads of Lokkeberg Boys Home in Oslo, Norway, amazed that such wonderful playthings exist.

That’s when the U.S. Lines, which had also previously transported part of the enormous Friendship Train/Friendship Ship cargo free to France and Italy, decided their American Defender will load and deliver a big shipment of “TOT” toys to Amsterdam, Holland, along with three other cargo ships of their lines going to France, England and Scotland at their own expense. And so did Moore-McCormack Lines sailing to Norway. Maersk Lines going to Germany while Concordia Lines carried a shipment of toys to Italy and Greece at no cost.

Children of St. Joseph Orphanage, Marseille, France, cheer the arrival of toys from America.



As planned, the actual distribution of the toys overseas was mostly handled by CARE and ECA in England and Wales (240,000 toys). In London, Sharman DOUGLAS, daughter of the U.S. Ambassador Sherman DOUGLAS, presented the first toy at ceremonies held in the executive offices of Dr. Bernardo’s Homes, a chain of orphanages. It was the poorest section of London but sure enough its Lord Mayor was there. And along with Scotland and Holland, with each one receiving over 60,000 toys, Norway got 18,000 toys; and Greece was given 120,000 toys.

Next on the list were the communist countries of Eastern Europe. But would they accept some of the gifts for their kids? Uncertain about their reaction, Drew PEARSON first contacted the Czechoslovakia Embassy in D.C. — the most western of the Soviet-dominated nation. A month passed. No response. Finally, the Czech government informed Drew PEARSON that as much as it wanted its kids to receive the toys, it could not accept. They just felt that: “The American Legion was more interested in discrediting communism than making Czech children happy.”

Yugoslavia was another story. Working also through their Embassy in D.C., Belgrade told Drew PEARSON “it will be delighted” to accept the gifts, and would itself transport them overseas.” They surely did because by March 1, 1950, their government-owned steamship Srbija (Serbia) had picked up 150,000 toys at Philadelphia, en route for Rijeka (now Croatia).

Poland was more complicated. For a time it looked like our toys would surprisingly get there. Casimir E. MIDOWICZ of Chicago, Il., vice-president of American Relief for Poland (ARP), had written to the American Legion that his group would gladly accept and transport the 180,000 toys alloted to Poland. As their cargo was ready to be swung aboard a ship at Philadelphia, all negotiations with the Polish communist government suddenly broke down when it ousted the ARP executive in Poland. In a happy ending, Poland’s loss of the “TOT” toys was Israel’s lucky gain when the latter was offered and gladly accepted the Christmas gifts intended for the Polish kids.

Belgium and Finland, which had been through greater woe than most of the other nations, were another matter because CARE was not operational there. So special arrangements had to be made. But they were made, and the Belgium kids and the Finnish kids got their toys.

February 15, 1950: After the American Legion’s initial contact with the Embassy of Finland in D.C., a Finn Lines ship left Philadelphia for Helsinki with over 120,000 toys free of charge to be distributed by the official Finnish Welfare Agency.

Washington D.C. March 4, 1950: Drew PEARSON writes to President Truman.


Honorable Harry S. Truman, President of the United States Washington, D. C.

Dear Mr. President:

While you and I may not agree on some things, we do, I think, agree heartily on the Nation’s desire and need for peace. And I personally have a very high regard for your sincerity and devotion to that cause.

In that connection I believe you will be interested in a letter which I received from a stevedore in Philadelphia shortly after I visited that city in connection with the departure of the first ship carrying the American Legion’s tide of toys to Europe.  The letter, signed by Francis A. Mock of 8525 S. Front Street. Philadelphia, follow’s:

“Today I worked on a ship loading toys for tots, or tide of toys as the program is called.  After loading 12,000 cases of CARE we proceeded to load the toys. I want to take my hat off to the American Legion for sponsoring this program.  There is a lot of thought behind it, and you could almost feel it as I did today.

“During my lunch hour, I strolled around the various piles and looked at the names of the towns and cities of the United States that were represented there.  Big towns and little towns all alike.  You know it made me feel good to look at those various piles of toys.

A pile would measure about 40 ft. by 30 ft. by 10 to 12 ft. high.  Some were marked England, some Italy, some Germany, others Czechoslovakia, Belgium, France.  It was a great feeling to know that the people who sent these toys were Americans, possibly your next door neighbor.

“Get Together” for Peace You know stevedores and longshoremen are a cynical group and it takes a lot to make them proud of anything. Longshoremen are noted for their pilfering ability.  But you can rest assured that cargo wasn’t even considered for that purpose.  Take my word for that.  Every case handled was treated as though it was their own personal property, and we were proud of the privilege of handling them.

“You know when the American Legion and other veteran organizations were organized the cry went up that the vets were organized so they could ride a perpetual gravy train, paid for by the government and playing upon the sympathy of the public for their part in the 1st and 2nd world wars: or perhaps they were out for some personal glory, or for spoil soring a bonus, or other reasons.

“However, this effort belies these rumors.  It looks like a step forward.  I only hope that some people in government have the same trend of thought and have as much farsightedness as the originator of this idea for amity among nations.

“I could go on for ages about career men in key government positions who know little about what is going on in the world today.  In closing I want you to know that all the effort you are putting on this behalf isn’t going to be forgotten.  And perhaps the future holds the solution, and let’s hope that we can get our nations and the various others to get together and have lasting peace.

“Sincerely Yours. Francis A. Mock.”

Legionnaires’ Great Job I thought you would be interested in reading this letter. Mr. President, because it so eloquently expresses how thousands of Americans feel regarding our individual efforts for peace.  They are willing to do anything in their power to improve good will if it will prevent another war.

The great job of the American Legion in its “tide of Toys” is an illustration.  The legionnaires got busy one day after Christmas, when most people wanted to rest and enjoy the holiday season.  And they put countless hours of effort into the herculean job of collecting toys for the children who can be our best friends—or the enemy soldiers —of tomorrow.

I could cite many other examples.  You would be surprised at the number of American towns which have adopted European towns, not only to help feed and rebuild them, but to exchange citizens.  Then there were the “make democracy live” letters—about seven million of them—that went to Italy during the Italian elections; and countless friendship letters exchanged between Americans and Europeans, many of them following the wake of the Friendship train and the French Merci train.

And there have been the spontaneous movement by scores of American college students to bring European and Asiatic students to this country together with the efforts by various junior Chamber of Commerce to bring young Businessmen over here.

The healthy thing about these various moves, I am sure you will agree, is that they are not government inspired, but are spontaneous gestures by individual Americans who not only believe in peace but are willing to go out and work at it.

There was a time when Americans sat back and said “let the diplomats do it.”  Now they’re not content with that. They want to work at peace themselves.  The reason I am writing all this to you, Mr. President, is that you have a great untapped reservoir of strength among the American people, anxious to help you in any step that will bring about peace.  And I am not sure you realize it, I know how deeply you feel on this subject because you have expressed your views with conviction to various callers; and they have told me how impressed they were with your sincerity.

But you may not realize that thousands of others not only share your concern, but are willing to do something about it.  It may be that they can be one means of penetrating the iron curtain, of making friends with the Russian people, and thus insuring permanent peace.  I do not know.  But I do know that this great reservoir of good will among the American people needs more information, more guidance, more leadership.

They are looking to you.

Respectfully and sincerely yours,

DREW PEARSON (Washington Merry-Go-Round, DREW PEARSON SAYS… Americans Work for Peace. Copyright, 1949, by Bell Syndicate).

Call it coincidence but on the same day Drew PEARSON published his letter to President TRUMAN, a special American Legion Committee including National Chaplain Edward J. CARNEY, OSA.; Herman LUHRS, Chairman of the Legion’s National Public Relations Commission; Walter ALLESSANDRONI (already introduced) and the Legion’s chief worrier at Philadelphia; and George KELLY, Assistant Public Relations Director who was the leg man in D.C. during the entire “Tide of Toys” Campaign, flew to Europe to attend the kick off ceremonies.

Starting in West Berlin, Germany, where 147,000 toys were shipped, CARE. reported that every needy child there got a toy.

“CARE did a beautiful job. Funkturm Casino (radio center) provided an auditorium where three hundred kids from institutions such as hospitals and orphanages were invited for the opening ceremony,” one of the Legion group reported.

“CARE gave a piece of candy to each kid as it came in the door. When Father Carney entered he offered his hand to a little girl who thrust her piece of candy into his hand. Thus Father Carney got a gift before he could give one in Europe.”

Walter ALLESSANDRONI also wrote about the Berlin opening. He said: “The toys were laid out on tables all over the room and there were about 200 adults in addition to the kids — half of them Germans half Americans. There was an orchestra on the stage and there was a puppet show. Clowns circulated throughout the 2-hour program, so the event was a carnival in itself. General Taylor came and spoke and finally the kids were turned loose on the toys.”

“Later, when the ceremonies were in the past and CARE settled down to its real job the children from Russian East Berlin got toys. They just came over to West Berlin and took ’em back to their city of rubble and Russian statues.”

All together, CARE distributed about 300,000 toys in Berlin and the three occupations zones of West Germany, as well as Vienna, the occupation zone of Austria, which received 120,000 toys; 324,000 toys went to the British zone; and 96,000 to the French zone.

Le Havre, France, March 11, 1950:  As the U.S. Lines’ American Flyer carrying 340,000 toys for France was about to arrive, French war veterans, hearing about a possible dock strike that day immediately volunteered to unload the ship themselves. Fortunately, they didn’t have to since no strike took place and all the toys, “many of them earmarked for Normandy by Legion Posts with messages from old friends” were unloaded in the best possible way.

Like Berlin, her former enemy, France, and especially Normandy were showered with toys for old times’ sake. In Avranches alone, 2,000 kids received a gift at ceremonies held in a makeshift field house. Lafayette Post 37 of Poughkeepsie, N.Y. had adopted St. Lo right after the war so, needless to say, the entire Poughkeepsie’s “TOT collection went to St. Lo.

March 21, 1950: Similar to the procedure with Finland, after the American Legion’s initial contact with the Belgian Ambassador to the U.S., Baron Robert SILVERCRUYS, an impressive veteran diplomat,  relayed the problem to his government in Brussels. Without delay, and thanks to the Pennsylvania Railroad which ran the load to New York in two freight cars at its own expense to accommodate the ship the Belgium Lines (unable to sail to Philadelphia) was using, the said cargo picked up nearly 150,000 toys free of charge in New York.

April 20, 1950: By then all other shipments from Philadelphia had gone out so Israel Lines had the honor to carry for free on its ship Akka the last load to Tel Aviv. There, the Jewish Relief Agency for Palestine was just as proud to help relieve CARE by distributing the toys.

FIRST ITALIAN CHILD to get a toy also gets a kiss from Lexie Latour, grandchild of U.S. Ambassador Dunn.

In Italy, CARE and ENDSI, the Italian Relief Agency which had also done an amazing job in distributing all the foodstuffs from the Friendship Train, gave out over 240,000 toys to Italy. The actual kick off took place at “The Provincial Institute, on a hill outside of Rome. Three hundred children from crawlers to 12-year-olds, took part — each age group wearing special dress.”

Despite the big meeting of European diplomats in Rome that day, U.S. Ambassasor James C. DUNN, who had also travelled with Drew PEARSON on the Italian leg of the Friendship Train, managed to spend two full hours at the ceremonies with his whole family. How moved he was when his young granddaughter Lexie gave the first toy — along with a kiss — to a little Italian girl her own age! As this place was one of the best orphanages in Italy, the touring Legion Committee was purely delighted to observe that the children there were the liveliest…

After the official Italian ceremonies, the next recipients were the war-mutilated children, thousands of juvenile amputees “caught up and overrun by the shooting war” who were taken care by the Italian government in special rehabilitation centers. From their weay eyes and that grateful look the visiting American Legionnaires could see on their pale face when receiving their gift, they easily concluded that most of these children never had toys to play with before.

So, as our “TOT” story ends on such a hopeful note… “CHINS UP, AMERICA!” Long Live the ideals and virtues of LADY LIBERTY! Long Live Drew PEARSON’s Unsurpassed Spirit of International Friendship and Goodwill! Long Live the American Legion, born in Paris, France — the City of Light — 100 years ago this year and going!

Wishing you all and your loved ones a Merry Christmas and a very Happy and Healthy New Year 2020! All aboard! ONWARD AMERICA!

Faithfully yours,

Elisabeth Jenssen

*The Economic Cooperation Administration (ECA) was a U.S. government agency set up in 1948 to administer the Marshall Plan.

The « Train de la Reconnaissance Française » aka « Merci Train » (1949).





© The Official French-American Project entirely conceived by Ms. Elisabeth JENSSEN to celebrate the 70th Anniversary of the Merci Train (2019-2020) and the 75th Anniversary of the Friendship Train (2022). All rights reserved.

Chair, Elisabeth Jenssen

Honorary President: The Comte Gilbert de Pusy La Fayette


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In September 1950 — for his extraordinary contribution to the “Tide of Toys”  Legionnaire Drew PEARSON, who had been awarded the French Legion of Honor, rank of Chevalier, in recognition of his work in organizing the “Friendship Train” to France on Dec. 19, 1947 — received this very special Citation from the American Legion (see The Congressional Record below).




American Legion National Executive Committee Cites Legionnaire Drew Pearson For His Services


Extension of Remarks


Hon. Arthur G. KLEIN

of New York


Saturday, September 23, 1950

Mr. KLEIN,  Mr. Speaker, under leave to extend my remarks in the Record, I include the following excerpt from the Drew Pearson broadcast of Sunday, October 8, at which time Mr. Pearson received a citation authorized by the national executive committee of the American Legion and presented by George N. Craig, national commander of the American Legion:

Commander CRAIG, I am delighted to be here and also to welcome fellow Legionnaire Dew Pearson.  I only wish all the folks listening could join us in Los Angeles.  To you, Drew, I want to say that millions of Americans have come to admire your achievements as reporter and interpreter of the news, but the great work that you have done through people-to-people relations—to make democracy live—is perhaps not so well known.

Last Christmas the American Legion tried a new pitch in that field.  We asked boys and girls all over the country each to give one of their own Christmas gifts for other children born in lands where Santa Claus is a casualty of war. That was the Tide of Toys—and the good people of the United States, young and old, responded so well that we were able to send 3,000,000 toys to a dozen different countries.

That program never would have started—much less succeeded—without the support and hard work of a man by the name of Drew Pearson.  How we feel about your part Drew Pearson.  How we feel about your part, Drew, in the Tide of Toys, is pretty well summed as in a citation authorized by our national executive committee.  I know that Americans everywhere will share with the privilege of presenting it to you at this time.

It reads as follows:

“In recognition of his bold and diligent efforts since the close of the Second World War to promote reciprocal understanding and good will between the people of the United States and those in Western Europe.

“As mentioned in particular by the sponsorship and delivery to France and Italy of the Friendship Train of food and clothing which contributed materially to a recession of Communist strength in those countries.

“And more recently by his extraordinary cooperation with the American Legion in time planning and execution of the Tide of Toys;

The national executive committee of the American Legion commends the Honorable Drew Pearson on behalf of 4,000,000 Legionnaires and auxiliary members connected by common sacrifice in war and perpetual service in peace.”

MDFDE/USA: WWII: Here Is To YOU Drew & Luvie PEARSON! #MDFDEFriendshipMerciTrain70


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