Pheasant Sandwiches Fed World War II U.S. Troops

In honor of Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day yesterday, I'd like to share a story of pheasants and patriotism that I learned of on a recent upland hunting trip to Aberdeen, S.D. As you know, on Dec. 7, 1941, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor and shortly thereafter the United States joined the Allied war effort.

The Chicago-Milwaukee Railroad transported an average of 500 U.S. troops through Aberdeen each day, and soon local residents began discussing what could be done to support the troops. On August 19, 1943, the Red Cross/USO Canteen was opened at the Aberdeen train depot to provide free meals for up to 1,500 troops per day. Soon the meals' staple became a delicious sandwich crafted from the most readily available meat in the area—pheasants! Hunters donated roosters, and large organized hunts were also held to round up birds for the canteen—one local historian tells me the game warden simply looked the other way. Up to 1,000 frozen pheasants were kept in storage to feed hungry soldiers.

The sandwiches were so delicious that rumors of their flavor spread down the rail long before troops' arrival. By the time train stopped in Aberdeen, troops were already asking about the "Pheasant Canteen," as it came to be known. Until the War ended, the Pheasant Canteen fed more than 500,000 troops and such dignitaries as General Dwight D. Eisenhower and President Harry S. Truman.

So, if you're ever hunting pheasants in Brown County, S.D., be sure to visit the WWII Red Cross Canteen Exhibit. As the Red Cross puts it, "The WWII Red Cross Canteen will honor the 600,000 service men and women who passed through Aberdeen on their way to war and to remember the dedicated volunteers from the surrounding area who made the soldiers, if only for a short time, feel special, appreciated and loved."

If you'd like to try making an authentic Aberdeen pheasant sandwich, here is the very specific recipe I was given:

3 cups cooked pheasant, chopped fine
2 hard cooked eggs, chopped fine
2 carrots grated
1/2 medium onion finely chopped
1/2 cup finely chopped celery
2 tsp sweet pickle relish
Salt and pepper
Mayonnaise or salad dressing to blend nicely

Mix all ingredients together. Add dressing to taste, chill. Spread on sandwich bread

The Red Cross historian noted that the pheasant should be chopped, not grinded, and only Pullman loaf bread should be used—doing otherwise would be an affront to Uncle Sam.

I love this story. Can you think of a more patriotic use of wild game?

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1 Response to Pheasant Sandwiches Fed World War II U.S. Troops

Susan Krogman wrote:
November 09, 2012

Loved the story on the Aberdeen train depot history and the famous pheasant sandwich.