40 & 8 Voiture 306
The Forty & Eight, is a charitable honor society of American wartime veterans, was formed in 1920 by American Legionnaires as an honor society of wartime Veterans. From its earliest days it has been committed to charitable aims, something carry forward by members of Voiture 306. Membership is open to Veterans who have shown exemplary service to country, both during and after their time in uniform, and are willing to help in its charitable causes. Membership in the American Legion is not required, but highly encouraged.
The programs of the 40&8 include Nurses Training, Child Welfare programs, Hansen's Disease Center support, VA Voluntary Service programs, and programs supporting injured American Veterans. Voiture 306 specifically sponsors a nurses scholarship program at the College of Southern Nevada (https://www.csn.edu/departments/nursing), as well as support for the National Boxcar Association (https://www.fortyandeight.org/box-car) and the Merci Train (http://www.mercitrain.org).
The group's terminology and customs, unique among veteran organizations, derives from the experience of American troops in France during the First World War.
The Forty & Eight's titles and symbols reflect its First World War origins. American servicemen in France were transported to the battle front on French railroads (Chemin de Fer) inside boxcars (Voitures) that were half the size of American boxcars. Each French boxcar was stenciled with a "40/8", denoting its capacity to hold either forty men or eight horses. This ignominious and uncomfortable mode of transportation was familiar to all who traveled from the coast to the trenches; a common small misery among American soldiers who thereafter found "40/8" a lighthearted symbol of the deeper service, sacrifice and unspoken horrors of war that truly bind those who have borne the battle.
CSN Nurses Scholarship
In 2016, members of Voiture 306 reached out to the American Legion Paradise Post 149 and proposed a joint effort to create a nurses scholarship program worthy of Las Vegas. After some research of various medical schools in the Las Vegas area, a decision was made to support the Nurses Training Program at the College of Southern Nevada (CSN), as committee members felt that the funds allocated each year would go the furthest for students enrolled at CSN. Each semester, two $500 scholarships are presented to nursing students in their last two years of training. In time, we hope to increase the number of scholarships that will help alleviate our nation's critical nursing shortage.
The Merci Train and the National Boxcar Association
The Merci Train was a train of 49 French railroad box cars filled with tens of thousands of gifts of gratitude from at least that many individual French citizens. They were showing their appreciation for the more than 700 American box cars of relief goods sent to them by (primarily) individual Americans in 1948. Nevada's boxcar can be seen at the Southern Nevada State Railroad Museum in Boulder City (https://nevadasouthern.com).
The National Box Car Association was founded in 1965 as an affiliate of "La Societe' de Forty & Eight" with the primary purpose of preserving the Box Car as the symbol of the Forty & Eight. Over time Locomotives were added to the symbolic rolling stock of the NBCA since they were connected and needed to haul the Box Cars. The National Box Car Association set goals of making contributions to Hospitals, Children's Homes and Orphanages.
How to Join
For information on joining the 40&8, contact the Chef de Gare, Bob Bencsko, at 702-277-3969 or email info@V306.org.