Christmas C-Rations

From the Editor


Feeding soldiers on the front line in a war zone was a daunting task.  During WWII, C-Rations were developed and used on a large scale.  The meals could be eaten hot or cold and consisted of a meat entree (meat with beans, potatoes, or noodles), bread (calorie-dense crackers or cookies), fruit, and mostly inedible items known as sundries such as cigarettes, matches, utensils, instant coffee with powdered cream, sugar, and toilet paper.  Soldiers got creative when it came to heating the meals, using the tailpipes of vehicles or submerging the cans in boiling water.


C-Rations were designed to keep soldiers alive and alert with just under 4,000 calories a day.  Since the meals were sealed in metal containers, they were heavy, about six pounds extra per day, and bulky to travel with.  Many times, the containers would rust and the labels would fall off so beef surprise really was a surprise.  Although the suppliers did their best to flavor the meals, veterans confess that at times, just the sight of a C-Ration can would get their stomach’s churning.  During WWII, the Mars Company invented M&Ms which were sold exclusively to the military, providing chocolate candy that would melt in your mouth, not in your hand and provide tasty energy for the soldiers.


Today, Christmas offers many things to look forward to, especially dinner with prime rib, turkey, or ham.  But for many soldiers during the Korean War, Christmas dinner was consumed in sub-zero temperatures with a bayonet as a spoon and food that froze before they had a chance to chew it.  We are grateful for their many sacrifices.


Major Thomas, age 84, served three tours in the Korean War from 1952-1956 as an Engineman Second Class in the Navy.  He was raised in Owensville, Missouri where he returned after his enlistment.  He and Marge are retired and enjoy working with stained glass, antique tractors, puzzles, and writing his memoirs.

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