Air Force Museum receives WWII boxcar.
The boxcar, donated by the French National Railroad Company and the American Prisoner of War Association, will be used to complete a POW display at the museum.
"When the American POW Association offered the donation, it took us about two seconds to say 'yes,' " said retired Maj. Gen. Charles D. Metcalf. "What better artifact could there be to recreate the POW experience than an original rail car?"
Downed American pilots were sent to Germany and Poland on this type of car during World War II said Gen. Francois Beck, the French air force's air mobility commander.
Since cars like these, built between 1941 and 1944, transported prisoners of war, it's believed to be a part of military history. Although records can't be found to trace the background of this box car, it bears the inscription "Hommes 40 - Cheveaux 8," which translates to 40 men and eight horses because it was capable of transporting that many people or animals.
The project started more than 18 months ago when the car was found in Dijon, France, for the POW Association. It was in poor condition and needed to be rebuilt.
During the restoration, which began in December 2000, many of the rusty original pieces were salvaged. All of the planks of the wood structure had to be replaced, and vintage supplies were used to maintain its antiquity.
For Beck, who became involved in the project six months ago, it's more than part of the job. He has a personal connection.
"My father was a prisoner of war during this time and was rescued by American soldiers," he said. "This is my chance to help give back to Americans."