World War I box car

This box car that carried American troops to the front in World War I may be needing a new home in the next year. Provided

A military group dedicated to honoring the soldiers who fought in World War I is trying to find a new home for a symbol of America's role.

A "40 & 8" train boxcar that could carry 40 men or eight horses to the front may have to be moved from its current home in Columbia within the next year or so.

The car has a long history. Forty-nine of the boxcars were given to America in 1949 as part of a gift from France in recognition of the U.S.'s role in both of the World Wars.

When the cars came to the U.S., they came as what was known then as the "Merci Train to America." Each state received one of the cars, with Hawaii and Washington, D.C., sharing the 49th. They contained gifts from French citizens.

The South Carolina car was accepted in Spartanburg by then-Gov. Strom Thurmond.

It was originally kept in Cleveland Park in Greenville until 1994 when it was moved to the grounds of American Legion Post 6 in Columbia.

The car may have to be moved now, however, because the group in charge of it, known as the "40&8," is no longer associated with Post 6.

"We're looking for a more visible and permanent home for it," said Dave Hill of North Charleston, a member of a national veterans organization La Societe des Quarante Hommes et Huit Chevaux, aka the "40&8."

The group was chartered by World War I veterans of the American Legion in 1920, though it is no longer associated with the legion.

Hill said his group is reaching out to officials at Fort Jackson, the S.C. State Museum, Patriots Point and any others willing to take the boxcar and help with donations and its permanent display.

"Since we are in the centennial years of World War I, we would like to give the public some history about the boxcar and the importance of keeping the memories of World War I alive," he said.

The cars were a quick and ready method of moving troops and equipment.

But because the cars were multi-use "they did not get much cleaning done in-between," Hill said, referring to their role in carrying horses.

Anyone wishing to help can reach Hill at 517-673-6767.

Reach Schuyler Kropf on politics at 843-937-5551. Follow on Twitter at @skropf47.

Political Editor

Schuyler Kropf is The Post and Courier political editor. He has covered every major political race in South Carolina dating to 1988, including for U.S. Senate, governorship, the Statehouse and Republican and Democratic presidential primaries.