Have you ever wondered what the difference is between C-Rations and K-Rations? During WWII, US military officials had to find a way to feed the troops when they weren’t near a mess hall. Rations were prepackaged meals, easy to prepare, and intended to be eaten in the field. The Unit History of the 63rd Infantry Division breaks down some of the different types of rations that fueled troops and helped Allies win the war.
A-Ration: A-rations were the most preferred by US fighting forces and consisted of fresh, refrigerated, or frozen foods. The meals were prepared in kitchens or field kitchens and generally served in permanent dining halls.
B-Ration: B-Rations were prepared by trained cooks in a field kitchen while on the move. Ingredients consisted of canned and dehydrated foods that did not require refrigeration. Thus, the food could be kept in a truck or wagon for months without spoiling.
C-Ration: Often called C-Rats, these rations were designed for individual combat troops and consisted of precooked food in tinplate cans that opened with a key. Initially, officials calculated that C-Rations would only be consumed for no more than three days at a time and produced just three varieties. As fighting forces relied more on C-Rations, they quickly tired from the lack of variety, and the military eventually expanded the offerings. C-Rations could be eaten cold but tasted better heated and included an entrée, such as pork and beans, or spaghetti and meat sauce. They also contained biscuits or crackers, gum or candy, and cigarettes.
D-Ration: The D-Ration was a heat-resistant, fortified chocolate bar intended to provide high energy in a small package that soldiers could carry in a pocket. Formulated with help from Hershey Food Corporation, the 1,800 calorie D-Ration contained concentrated chocolate, vitamins, and other ingredients meant to sustain a soldier during an emergency. It did not taste appealing, preventing soldiers from nibbling on the bar unless necessary.
K-Ration: Originally developed for paratroopers by a University of Minnesota physiologist Ancel Keys, the K-Ration had lightweight but durable packaging. Three K-Ration meals provided 2,830 calories but proved inadequate for some soldiers who required more calories per day based upon their strenuous output. A sample supper ration included a meat product, biscuits, a chocolate bar or caramels, bouillon, coffee, sugar, wooden spoon, cigarettes, chewing gum, and a packet of toilet paper.
In addition to the rations above, the military had additional field rations and modified existing rations throughout the war. What stories have you heard about WWII military rations? Search Fold3® to learn more about military rations and see our complete WWII records collection.
I was the aboard the Kitty Hawk in 1975 (WestPac75) when for some reason during a drill, they passed out the C-rats. Some of my buddies reported that some of the C-rats were dated back to the 1940’s. The peanut butter tasted like chalk, and the two cigarettes we the strongest I’ve ever had. I’ve wondered since then if the Navy replaced these C-rats with MRE’s since then.
We saw a LOT of them in Vietnam. The Pentagon used them until they were gone, then replaced them with much better-tasting MREs. We all looked for the pound cake, the best-tasting desert of any.
YUP. MY DAUGHTER WORKS AT 29 PALMS MCLB, IN CALIF. SHE MANAGED TO GET SOME MRE’S ABOUT 5-7 YEARS AGO. DATED AROUND HE SAME TIME.THEY WERE THE SIZE OF 2 SHOE BOXES TAPED TOGETHER. SHE DID SAY THAT THEY WERE PRETTY GOOD. SHE ONLY ATE FROM THE ONE BOX, SAVING SOME FOR POSTERITY !!
I ate C-Rations in Vietnam when we were flying & not back at our base camp for long periods of time. This was in 1967-68. I would open a can of bead/Weiners, heat them by getting some of JP-4 from the release value into the Hershey can. They were great & the Hershey bars were great. We would take C-Rations to the troops out in the field & if possible take hot meals out to them.
Basic Training 1983 – we were still gnawing on C-rats from the 40’s!
C Rations we’re useless in the winter in Korea. Frozen so hard you could not open the cans
My Dad often spoke about how wicked cold it was in Korea during the winter. He once tried to heat a C-rat can of beans over a candle and it exploded. He also talked about eating with troops from other countries. His favorite was eating with the Ethiopians. Their food was supposedly prepared fresh even out in the field.
Heated with a little hot sauce C’s we’re not that bad.
Working for the Forest Service in the late 70s we regularly used some of these C Rats on large fires where crews were in the wilds for a week or so at a time. Certains ones became more favorite than others. All in all, they weren’t bad…Depends on how hungry you are.
Haha, that has changed. I feel like my best meals ever were on fires. On the Okonagen Complex in 2015, we had two galleys with different menus. But even with only one galley, my fires since then have fed well. Even the sack lunches are fresh.
I have a 12 case box of C rations from 1964 unopened with the original wire bands. The heavy cardboard outer box is a little rough but all lettering is clear and readable. It takes up space in the garage and I probably should put it on E-bay. Any interest?
Look for Steve1989MREinfo on YouTube. His fans would probably buy them if you post in the comments.
Donated my and my family’s military memorabilia to a museum (Sons of Liberty Museum), including C-rats and K-rats from WW2/Korea (Vietnam was my war). They accept anything, including crumbling paperwork such as training materials which they preserve in acid-free covers, and as much as possible is transcribed. This helps preserve things for the next generations. You may want to look into that as an option.
You should keep for the upcoming zombie apocalypse.
I was in the U.S. Army stationed in Ft. Devens,Mass. 1956-1958. Once a month the
mid day meal was C Rations. They must have been WWII surplus since the Lucky Strike cigarette package had that red bullseye logo from the 40’s.
I was stationed in Germany from 1958-60. We often had ‘C’ rations dated as being from 1937-1940’s. It was often remarked by us young guys ‘these rations are older than me.
I was a salvage diver US Army 1969-72 and issued C rations on off post jobs. Manufactured 1952-54! “Beef with Spice Sauce” made excellent bait for crab traps and our crab meat spaghetti. Trick was just 3-4 punctures with P-38 can opener (can’t talk about C without remembering these) and we’d bring in full traps every time!
Also could mix “Aquavelva” with peanut butter and light to heat up main meal.
Amazing that you found a use for those!
I still have my original p-38 that I kept slid into the clear rubber dog tag holder next to my Army dog tags so it was always available – you couldn’t open the cans in the C-rats without them. (I still use these at home – more reliable than most can openers). During the blizzard of ’78 in the Guard I was assisting people from their cars to hotels, and hospital workers to work. Other teams were rescuing people from their flooded coastal homes. C-Rats were distributed to us but were useless because there were no P-38s to open the cans with. (That’s why soldiers kept them with their dog tags…couldn’t eat if you didn’t have one).
Before going into the service I saw them on a tour of Natick Army Labs where these meals were developed. Years later, I took my Cub Scout group on a tour of “the Labs”, and the Scouts saw the MREs the Labs developed.
i was air force communications in germany 1966-69. during field exercises we ate korean war era c-rations. favorites were beans & franks, fruit salad, fruit cake. no one liked the ham & lima beans. bs
You forgot LRRP Rats! These were the best when in the field. Freeze dried! Just add hot water. I was a platoon sergeant w/ 82nd Abn in Vietnam in ‘68.
Lerps! They were pretty good my fav was the chili.
As a Scout Dog handler, we were issued LRRPs because we had to
carry our dog’s food & water.
Between 1958 & 1964 while on active duty, at least twice a week we ate C rations. As a WO, I had to set the example how great the were. Good yes………:-)
Between 1994-2001 while in the AF Aux, we had C’s during Search & Rescue missions, easy yo eat while flying a aircraft. The boxes were dated 1950-54, OMG strong and we didn’t have a WC on board the ship.
Vietnam-era C’s in the Texas Army National Guard in 1979/82 were tasty enough.
I can remember an interview that Actor James Garner gave in the 1990’s. He said, “I was assigned to Supply while I recovered. (From being wounded) this give him an opportunity to see the shipments of Frozen Turkeys that came in. He continued, “They were marked 1939!” The look he gave the interviewer, was funny. Just like comedic disgust at the memory. This was about his time stationed in Korea, during the War. I’m going to guess about 1952. Thanks for letting me remember that story.
I don’t miss the C-rats, but I miss that guy. Never seemed too big for his britches, even when he was. I still watch Rockford Files. Just an everyday joe. Blessings.
Vietnam 1965 flying out of ton son nhut Market Time missions we were issued 1943 C-Rats. Most of us refused to eat them after a couple of missions and waited until we landed. Saigon had plenty of places to eat.
I was a rifleman in the infantry in Vietnam 11/68 – 4/69 when I got wounded. We had C-Rats daily on patrol, which was almost every day. We had a special name for the Ham and Lima Beans. Everyone over there will know what we called them. The boxes they came in were dated 1954 and the cigarettes were, Lucky Strike, Chesterfield, Pall Mall, and Camels. We spit a lot of tobacco when we ran out of our filtered brands. There were also “Sundry ” boxes for Squads which we got maybe once a month. They contained cartons of filtered cigarettes, cigars, chewing tobacco, gum, candy, etc.
I loved C-Rations! Peaches with the peanut butter was my favorite. Well, my problem is I loved all food. When in the field, I used to take anyone’s throw aways. With all those cans clicking together, in my backpack, I sometimes sounded like a tank clanking through the jungle.
Two tours in VN, 66 and 69 flying UH-1s and getting served up C-rats with mystery meat and Salem smokes. Heated up the rats in the tail pipe exhaust, just had to make sure you didnt cook too long. Reading this has given me a flash back. Thank you for your service.
Yep, nothing like cold ham and lima beans for breakfast at 4:00am. Really bad since, even as a kid, I hated lima beans. Still love ham, but haven’t eaten lima beans once since leaving the Army!
Done that with the frozen breakfast limas and ham, once, in the wilds of Fort Lost in the Woods in a state of Misery. Any other time, well, they’re probably still in the place I chucked them, waiting for a metal detector in the year 2099…..
Good stuff. C rats were around till at least the mid eighties. On a summer 82 USAF ROTC “survival” training, after our day or so of no grub, unless you wanted to eat the ants they said were very nutritious, we were given a box of c-rations. We ate them up, sitting around the dirt road in the woods where we got it, waiting for our turn to get the one or two? p-38 John Waynes in the box to open our cans. Nothing to heat them with, but we were hungry so it was all good. The date on the box was, if memory serves, 1973, so they made some more after WWII. An Army pal shared some MREs he had brought back from a reserve gig several years later. Definitely much better.
I have a website where I am honored to post (and include in the print version of the site eventually) people’s service related stories at the URL below (follow the links to the particular branch). Check it out if interested. Thank you all for your service!
Justin Museum of Military History, Veteran Voices
I served in the USS Iredell County (LST 839), which worked mostly out of Danang, Vietnam, during 1966-68. To take on cargo for transshipment to Cua Viet and Chu Lai, we often beached at what then was called Bridge Ramp, just upriver from the main part of town. The ramp was guarded by soldiers who were stationed there for a full shift with only a couple of packages of C-rats to sustain them. When dinner (lunch) was served aboard ship, these guards would often ask to come aboard and eat in our mess hall. We always welcomed them because, aboard our small ship, the more people we served in our mess hall, the more different kinds of foods (including steak, pork chops, etc.) we were qualified to draw from the Navy. During any given month, we probably fed 100 more personnel than served aboard our ship (8 officers, 96 enlisted). The soldiers would give our enlisted men their C-rats in exchange for coming aboard to eat or use the head. Our guys loved the C-rats and ate them as snacks while they were working or standing watch late at night.
Stationed in West Germany in 1976 to the 2nd armored Cav. Was assigned as a Driver on a Sheriadan tank during reforger 1976. Our Sheridan had a heater in the Drivers compartment that actually worked. Would heat my C rats on the heater. Loved the Ham and egg C rats
We had a terrible flood here with no electricity for weeks and we had a bunch of MREs to give out to people. Okay if you were desperate, but really pretty horrible
My father was a mechanic in the Army Air Force during WWII and was stationed on Tinian in 1945 (yes, the one Enola Gay flew from). He told us children that many of the men didn’t like the biscuits or crackers in the C-Rations so they gave them to my father. He liked them, but not because of the taste. He couldn’t taste them because he had no sense of smell. He just liked the way they were crunchy.
i was statation in germany 62 to 64 we had c rations from ww2 everytime we were in the feild up next t
o chez border , saw apc driver get hisass kick for getting into the cases of c ration arond so that he always got the good crations that were the best tasting in the freezing weather. after that he always got the bad stuff. beans and franks or beans with little meat balls were the best. had susage patties once in k rations a big glob of grease with suags paties in the gtrease bad stuff.
i was statation in germany 62 to 64 we had c rations from ww2 everytime we were in the feild up next t
o chez border , saw apc driver get hisass kick for getting into the cases of c ration arond so that he always got the good crations that were the best tasting in the freezing weather. after that he always got the bad stuff. beans and franks or beans with little meat balls were the best. had susage patties once in k rations a big glob of grease with suags paties in the grease bad stuff.
i was station in germany 62 to 64 we had c rations from ww2 every time we were in the field up next t
o chez border , saw a pc driver get his ass kick for getting into the cases of c ration around so that he always got the good c rations that were the best tasting in the freezing weather. after that he always got the bad stuff. beans and franks or beans with little meat balls were the best. had a can of pork patties once in k rations a big glob of grease with pork patties in the grease bad stuff.
I loved reading all your posts. Thank you all for your service and I mean that from the bottom of my heart. My dad was in WWII and Korea, my husband had 2 tours in Viet Nam, and my brother was on board a ship close by Viet Nam. I remember as a kid my dad showing us what a C-ration was and it didn’t look very appetizing. I wish he shared more about his time in service. Thank you all again.~
This past Xmas I decided to give a box of assault rations dated 1962 I had saved to a vet friend as a joke. I had a case of them and they all had gone bad and the cans were leaking.
The late summer of 1967 I lived in Alaska and was in a very bad flood. We were on the U of Alaska campus with thousands of others. Helicopters brought in C Rations and they were a life savor as there was no way to get food. We were actually like an island. As a graduate student we did not have much money and for the rest of the year until we left in November we lived on the C Rations thrown army on the College Alaska dump. The canned bread was OK but it made the best French Toast! Yes much of our food came from the dump where people threw them away but all was sealed in cans. I remember the turkey was really great and a favorite.
Then in 1968-9 I was in Vietnam and remember the Koreans we worked with would trade their rations for us. I really became fond of the Kimchee they had in cans. They thought we were kings because our C Rations came in bigger portions then theirs. The trading of rations was a big deal and the black market had the full selection available for all. When our in the field, I would rather eat C Rations then just about anything else available. Always reminded my of our time in Alaska when the C Rations were our main food for our last three months in Fairbanks, Alaska.
In Hue in 1969 I had a room mate who was the teacher of Tae Kwan Doe Instructor for the 1st ARVN Division. He received Korean rations once a week. We had a great mess hall but he lived for his rations. I can still smell the Kimchee he would receive . He would open the can with a P-38 and the smell of Kemchee would explode into the room. It was unbelievable. I did develop a love for Kimchee. In the 1990s I was in North China in Dalian not to far from Korea and we would go to the Korean restaurants and I loved the Bull Dogie and Kimchee.
I was in the Army from 1956-69 and 1964-89. I had all kinds or rations in a varied locations. As has been stated rations taste better with Louisiana Hot Sauce.
I was at Fort Leonard Wood for Basic Training in 1981. We were issued C-rats all the time. I especially remember how we were allowed to have the cigarettes, but they took our chiclets because gum was not allowed. “At Ease…Rest… Smoke ’em if ya got ’em.”
I ate C rats back in the late 80s during ROTC training. I recall the special forces sergeant assigned to us instructed me to open the case of C-rats and turn it over and dump them upside down so their labels were on the ground. That way nobody could pick and choose. It was all luck of the draw
In May of 1971, I was with the advanced party of MCB 40 on Diego Garcia Island. We ate cold C-rats for 30 + days because we were unable to find the heating tabs. The only wood we had was pressure treated so a cooking fire was out of the question. About 2 months into our deployment, we found the tabs packed into hollow cubes of concrete blocks! B-rats were a welcome change!!!
How many remember the GREEN eggs with ham? We called them “Ham and MF-ers.”
Saw them issued in the I.O. in 1979. The reason? They were about to EXPIRE.
Waste not, want not….
I had LRRP rations during field training at Ft. Sam Houston. No matter how much hot water you put in them they were still crunchy.
The last time I ate C-Rats was in 1984 at Black Rapids Training site in Alaska, the were the last case on the training site. The other none guys had MRE’s and when we are supper the first night some had the dehydrated fruit, I had canned peaches.
While stationed in Germany in 1967-68, we had c-rats quite often in the field. Everyone fought to get the can of fruit in select boxes. The ham and Lima beans were not bad if you had a way to heat them. I used to set them in front of the heater in my APC. I think it was date nut bread in a can, was also a prized item.
I was in the Air National Guard in 1990s and we would have Chemical Warfare Exercises. We would have to eat MREs and, while I would not want a study diet of them, they were OK.
When in the California National Guard (1964-1970) our infantry unit ate a lot of C’s. The migration of the manufacturing dates was interesting. While I do not recall exact numbers, early on they were from the 40’s, then a bunch from the post-Korea 50s, and by the time I left and the build up in Nam had passed, they were often almost current.
I was on a stake out (mid 80’s) as a Tx game warden watching an illegal netter. I had a box of C rats from 1943. I was afraid to eat the peaches because the can was swollen. I melted a chocolate bar and peanut butter together, and made my own Reeses Peanut Butter Cup. It was wonderful. I don’t remember the other items, but I enjoyed smoking the 40 year old cigarettes.
In 1954-55 the Armored Infantry Carrier was an M75. Until a later MWO, the exhaust came out of the top of the engine and turned to discharge over the top of the hull on the right side. With the engine at a high idle, you could throw a c-rat can of meat down the exhaust, maybe a foot or more if you practiced. It would rumble around and work its way back to pop out of the end of the exhaust pipe. You would catch it bare handed, judge the degree of heating, and throw it back if needed. Usually three tosses would do it. If you misjudged and threw too many times, the can would explode in the pipe and blow hot beans over your head. The exhaust deflector on the M48 tanks worked well too.
I still have the can opener that my brother came home with from his two tours in the Vietnam War. I remember the c-rations he brought back, too. He never complained about the food. Unfortunately, my brother passed away at 40 due to complications of hepatitis C that he contracted while getting a blood transfusion in his service.
Where’s the LRRP rats?
We had OD Rats from WW2 in 1954… Scram & Ham in a can! Instant coffee, tea & soup. Thanks to ALL who serve during good & bad times. Let All be mindful of those who work for Peace , Safety & Preservation… Be One! I overlook our Middle Tennessee Field of Servers & Dreamers by our Hidden Lake State Park where we need an Inn & meeting place for our Veterans & Friends. It is our Tennessee Veterans Park & Rest near I-40 & along US 70 or the Memphis to Bristol Highway built in 1920. Many in our Dreamland Estates Subdivision are Veterans & are Proud Americans!
When working as a newspaper reporter in the late 1990s or early 2000s, I had the opportunity to visit a training base in central Minnesota and sampled some of the MRE’s at lunch time. They weren’t that bad, but unless you were a soldier burning off a lot of calories and sweating off your water you would not want to make a very steady diet of them. Huge amount of calories, fat and sodium. But the taste was tolerable and it was interesting how you cooked the main course in what amounted to a bag with a chemical heating pack.
Thank you all for your service – my dad was in the Navy served on the USS Cowpens during WWII
I spent six month in the field in 1981-82 eating nothing but WWII and Vietnam Era C-Rats. I got so tired of them I ended up losing 40 lbs.
They were easy to heat up though. Just empty the box, tear one side down the middle and put it down with the torn side facing up. Puncture the can two or three times with the P-38 and put it in the box, then light the box with the matches supplied with the cigarettes.
A couple of minutes later you have a vaguely warm meal and you’ve managed to get rid of a lot of your trash.
C4 works well as sterno
My Father was in Germany during WW11 and wasn’t fond of the MRE’s, but saved them from starvation! Other than never eating Spam, he would not talk about serving. I’d personally like to thank all of you that served. Also I have a DAV calendar and it says that March 29 is Vietnam War Veterans Day!
Yes, it is! Here locally the Kiowa-Comanche-Apache Indian Veterans Association is having a program to honor Vietnam veterans and surviving spouses, of which I am one. My father served with the Big Red One in Vietnam 1965-66 and my husband served with the 1st Air CAV in Vietnam 1967-68. Both died service connected/combat related due exposure to the herbicide, Agent Orange…
In AFOTC in 1967 we were given what they called “In-Flight Rations”. They sound similar to C-Rations. Anyone know if that’s what they were? Some of them had small packs of Lucky Strike cigarettes with green circle on the front instead of the more common red one. One of the TOs said they must have been very old indeed to have that green circle since they were only made in certain Years, I think he said during WWII. Anyone else have experience with the green circle Luckies?
Cut the C-Rats box corner to corner, put a hole in the top of the can(s) and place them in the X of the box. Set the box on fire. Beats cold rats any day. (Have some fun by leaving one thin tin sealed. Then have a flaming peanutbutter stomping contest. Run)
In 1966 I was in the 3rd Mobile Comm Squadron at Tinker AFB in Oklahoma. We convoyed to a remote location to test our procedures. We only had K-rats to eat.
The first day, most ate the items that seemed tasty, and gave the rest to anyone that wanted them. The second day, they ate a little more and sold the rest. The third day, everybody ate everything.
Adding insult to injury, at night we could see the lights of a burger place.
My father, who fought from Normandy to Germany with the 28th infantry division, received two Bronze, one Silver Star and the French Croix de Guerre with Palm. But, he became a war casualty at age 74 from his addiction to the Lucky Strikes packaged in his C-rations. He could never stop.
Same story here: my dad was in 102nd InfDiv, BronzeStar, Purple Heart, Normandy to Torgau. Got hooked on cigs, said to him they meant warm, dry, not being shot at. Died of cancer at 67. RIP Dad.
Are you going to blame his addiction to cigarettes on uncle Sam. Don’t you think we are responsible for our own actions. Sorry to hear about your
I am actually in the camp that blames cigarette/tobacco addiction to their experience in the military. My father enlisted during WWII and served for nearly 30 yrs. As a teenaged soldier he began smoking, and couldn’t stop until his 70s when he died of the resulting cancers. From our childhood all of us brats recall how he smoked 3-4 packs a day! When the last of the non-filtered cigs were available he simply removed the filters.
I too discovered how easy it was to get started when I went in during the late 60s. Cigs were $0.11 a pack, $1.10 a carton! I was the only one in my family who did not ultimately begin smoking, but if I had wanted to begin … Kudos to the government for ending the discount programs.
My father to was there in Germany. He was a royal Canadian engineer. He was wounded one moth before the end of the war. He went on to serve in Korea where they dusted then with over 100 different chemicals. He died as a result from cancer in 1976 but our government’s still deny they were responsible. Your father may not have died because of smoking it was and still is a great excuse to blame death on.
I have all the documentation now of what happened to my father.
Thanks for your dad’s service and sorry for your loss.
Was in Alaska at Eielson AFB and the galley went down in the Fire House and we were sing WW2 K Rats for about 4 days till the parts needed came up from the lower 48. Opened multiple cans and cooked together over a portable stove in the truck bays. Kept us going
My dad was an Army cook in Alaska during WWll. Not sure which base he was at. Said it was worse than Okinawa, where he actually was MIA for 3 days while lost in the jungle with another guy. Reason was, he said many guys had real mental challenges dealing with the weather, white outs etc. Some had complete breakdowns that he never saw while overseas. I have many photos from his time in Alaska. Sure wish he was still here.. 🙁
Thanks for your dad’s service and sorry for your loss.
You didn’t mention MREs, or Meals Ready to Eat, known in the field as Meals Resistant to Excretion.
Read the thread; it’s about WORLD WAR II rations.
Irrelevant to the article but I was amazed when we received LRRP rations in VN. Freeze dried food was light weight, easy to make with a little water and C4 supplied heat.
Only good things in C rations was the fruit cocktail and pound cake. We received boxes with regular cigarettes. Didn’t need the dried out things in C rations.
That box was called a “sundry pack,” and contained 10 carton of cigarettes, writing paper, and a lot of other things. I got hooked on the M&Ms.
Since my memories of military life goes back into the 1940s with my late Army Dad, I remember from colorful dialog his raves about army life and those C and K rations. My first thoughts on A-Rations were that they were for the horses and mules. Glad that only some were mules!
WW2 C RATIONS ARE STILL GOOD TO THIS DAY IF YOU CAN FIND ANY
It’s so funny you said that. I was just telling my husband how my dad dragged about a dozen little army green boxes of K Rations from house to house whenever we moved from the 50’s to the 70’s ( I’m thinking to be ready for the bombs to drop). Either he or my mom decided it was time to part with those boxes and of course curiosity got us all and we opened them. And yes, 30 yrs later, they were still good, the entrees, chocolate and cigarettes. Even those crackers. We tasted the hash in a can, crackers and chocolate (Hershey), My parents smoked the cigs. I was 12 then, 66 now.
I know that we had them in 1960-62, well after wwII, my memories of them was the chocolate that you were to put in your canteen cup with hot water (if you had it)
They were so hard that we used the butt of our M1 to break them up.
When my former husband was deployed in 1981, I couldn’t go because I was pregnant, the wonderful Navy screwed up our allotment checks and we had zero income coming home for over 6 weeks. I called my childhood friend’s Dad who was the Master Chief of the Regiment who within his had a deuce and a half pull up to my apartment with a butt load of C-Rats that would have lasted me a good 6 weeks. My allotment checks were back on track within a week and I donated the unused C-Rats. I gotta admit, I actually liked them…LOL But the grayish scrambled eggs were a little off-putting. They tasted great (with a little seasoning even better).
No mention of soya links – a marmite food for those who were issued them. Ersatz sausages which are listed in the limited rations issued to RN Motor Launches in the Med & Aegean & other theatres in WW2.
As an Army Brat, 49-54, 57-60 in Germany, we were required to keep blankets and huge boxes of K and C rations in the trunk of our car just in case the balloon went up and Russians came through the Fulda Gap. We used to take them on camping trips. The bread and bacon were delicious. We had evacuation practices a few times a year. Once in Kassel, the COL called an exercise on Sunday, which we never did. So we’re all in lines headed for the Autobahn, but we had to turn back because all the Germans in Kassel thought the Russians were coming. They knew it wouldn’t be an exercise on Sunday! Had to be real.
I was stationed in Germany in the early sixties, and some of the old timers still talked about incidents such as you mentioned. The policy became that there would be no NEO(non-combatent evacuation order) practices, because of the reaction by the Germans. They still required C Rations and blankets in the cars, though.
Your comment brought back many memories for me. I was born in late 1944 while my father was already fighting in the major battles [ Aachen, Hurtgen Forest, the Bulge, etc.] He enlisted in 1940 and then remained in the Army until 1960 when he retired. As kids, we sampled C rations when we camped in the backyard of our base housing. We also participated in evacuations – wish I still had my dogtag from then! As the years passed, I came to realize how significantly my years as an Army Brat influenced me in many different ways. I wouldn’t have had it any other way!
Faint memories of Turkey loaf. I thought the pound cake was great.
One time were eating. C rations or B rations (I guess) which seemed like forever.
Mess sergeant was called to pick up a “forced issue”. Turns out it was fresh A type rations. All chicken. Wow! It was great. But then we had so much of it day after day we were ready to go back to Cs. Cookie was a great guy. Always trying something different to please the troops. He just ran out of ideas with the chicken. So he had an idea to make some “bug juice”. We had plenty of coffee and water and cokes but nothing to have with a meal, say.
For some reason he had a fair sized lot of cherry jelly. He boiled a huge pot of water and dumped in the jelly. He let it cool, packed some ice around the pot and served it to the troops at evening mess. It was unbelievably bad. Troops would go thru the chow line, take one sip, and toss it out. Everyone just had to try it. We had a big puddle at the end of the line.
My father was in the 32nd Infantry as they worked their way from Australia to the Philippines during WWII. Not sure which rations he had, but Spam was never in our cupboards! I remember having some toy ration kits that we played “army” with growing up in the 50’s. They had crackers, chocolate and candy cigarettes. Couldn’t quite get what my dad was complaining about!
My grandfather spent 2 years in the trenches in WW1 with the Canadian Army. For him it was canned corned beef he would never eat.
What about LRRP Rations?
Different war period.
At the outset, Thanks to all who served!! My grandfather, grand uncles, cousins served in WW ll , only person I heard talk of anything was my grand uncle Hubert Connett. He said, “We didn’t like what we had to do, but we got it done”. He passed away a few years back and I wish I could have learned more from him. R.I.P uncle Hubert. I love nostalgia. Thanks for the history lesson on the rations.
My dad was a sergeant in the Army during WWII. He was older, so never left the States. When I was a child in the ‘fifties, he used to talk about SOS. SOS was creamed corned beef on toast, commonly referred to as “s*** on a shingle.”
Yep, my Dad was in the 101st Airborne at the Battle of the Bulge and he remarked often about $**t On A Shingle and K rations.
We were served SOS at Fort Bragg for Breakfast – it was great. I grew up with it so I was used to it. When POOR you ate what was available. You did not complain about food in my house, or you went hungry. What was on the table was what there was for meals.
My father in law was in Vietnam and referred to that the same way.
Been there, done that. With the right amount of salt and pepper, great. But often screwed up. Often served for breakfast in the ’50s mess halls.
I was in the Air Force ’77 – ’83, and SOS was a staple in the chow halls every morning. Instead of corned beef, it seems they made it with crumbled sausage in the gravy. I would MUCH prefer it that way, as I never cared for corned beef.
When we deployed (I was Combat Communications, so that was often), we carried the Air Force equivalent of Cs: “In-Flight Rations”. I don’t recall the production date, but I’d bet those would last quite a while. I think I was the only guy on my crew that actually LIKED them. I guess being a kid of the 50s and frequenting the Army & Navy Surplus stores every Saturday, I’d gotten accustom to the C Rations I used to buy there. In the late 1950s those were overflowing with WW2 and Korean War surplus.
When I was a Boy Scout, our Scoutmaster was also the CO of the local Army Reserve Armory. We got to sample C-Rats from time to time. On one “survival hike” that began on a Friday nit and ended on Sunday afternoon, we covered 25 miles and the only food items we got were the coffee and tea rations out the packages. Worst powdered coffee that I ever drank…but I guess it was better than nothing! At least it covered the flavor of halizone water purification tablets…LOL!
I worked in the summer of 1956 for the U S Forest Service and we ate K rations while working fires.
My dad was in CIA and when we lived on base we would sometimes take K or C rations with us when we went hunting. That was in mid to late 70’s. I thought back then they were good especially the chocolate bar. Dad said the rations were left over from WWII.
When I was a submarine officer in the 70s, we still had k-rations in our lifeboats. Our CO told us to inventory them and get rid of anything that seemed ridiculously old. The chocolate was okay, and the cigarettes (Lucky Strikes in the wartime green package) were still harsh but smokable. I don’t think we risked anything else.
In 1969 at Ft Lewis Wa we ate c’s for a couple of meals while doing field training. Worst ones were the eggs and whatever then the lima beans and again whatever. Best were the pork patties followed up by the john wayne bars and the pound cake. Some had fruits like peaches or pears. Forget what the code was for the better ones which mainly was meat and cracker,
the spaghetti ones were somewhat ok. Used to mix mosquito repellent with the Pnut butter to make a field stove for heating stuff up.
So C’s were around for a long time for active duty folks. Was curious about the MRE’s that were coming out but never saw one until the late 80’s early 90’s
Later we had them in the 70’s for field exercises. Saw more than a few UH-1 with the beanie- weinies all over the tail boom from when they were stuck in the tailpipe to heat up and someone forgot to poke a hole in the lid!
In the US Army from 1970 to 1994. The A rations of course were the best, although both the Meal, Combat, Individual rations, commonly called ‘C rations’ because they were packaged similarly to the older C Rations, and the Meals Ready to Eat (MREs) were actually very good. Of course, people had their favorites. The newer ‘C rats’ also had a wider menu selection with a main menu item, canned dessert either cake or fruit, and usually with a small tin of crackers and a tin of cheese or peanut butter spread. Each C rat box (3.5 x 6.5 approx) also contained a spoon and a brown foul packet with packets of instant coffee, creamer, sugar packet, salt, chewing gum, 4 cigarette pack (my memory is Marlboro, Winstons, LuckyStrike, or Newport), matches, toilet paper(Meal, Combat, Individual).
Twenty-five years after the end of WW2, I was eating leftover surplus C-rats in the Navy, usually during times of General Quarters. With the notable exception of tenders, the ages-old notion is that the larger the ship, the worse the food…quantity v. quality. My last ship was an aircraft carrier. So, I actually looked forward to C-rats as a reprieve from mess deck food and found it quite tasty, even if it was more than a quarter of a century old!!!
I served in the Military Police in Germany in an Armoured Brigade in the mid 1960’s and we were called to a farm on the Luneburgh Heide, the farmer took us to a field of potato plants of which two rows of the plants had wilted, the farmer then plunged his hand into the soil and pulled out large tins of British Army potatoes. As we found out later the Black Watch had stolen his fresh potatoes but kindly left him the army ration tinned variety. I was also in Berlin and we were given tinned soup which had a wartime date on it and you pulled a ring on the top and the soup was heated by a phosphorous filled tube in the centre. Never saw them again.
We were eating C rations packaged during the Korean War, 1952 to be specific during the mid 70s.
Ditto, I was in an Air Force mobile radar Squadron in Germany, 1976-77. We also ate Korean War Packaged Rations in the Field.
In 1981 we had a can of corned beef (called corned dog) for 9 O clockers in our HM ship CPOs mess marked “Submarine Emergency Supply 1943”. It was the tastiest corned dog I have ever tasted, sealed in a metal container with a key attached weighing approx 10lb
During infantry training in the Vietnam war era, we were eating C rations that we assumed were leftovers from World War II. Ham and eggs in a can, no fires allowed, so we ate it cold. l still gag when l think about it.
Still a lot better than what my dad had in New Guinea during WWII. The food came from Australia and he said it was virtually inedible. Proof was that he went into the army lean and tough, and after 14 months in the jungle building landing craft, he came home skinny as a rail. He was that way the rest of his life.
When my former husband was deployed in 1981, I couldn’t go because I was pregnant, the wonderful Navy screwed up our allotment checks and we had zero income coming home for over 6 weeks. I called my childhood friend’s Dad who was the Master Chief of the Regiment who within hours had a deuce and a half pull up to my apartment with a butt load of C-Rats that would have lasted me a good 6 weeks. My allotment checks were back on track within a week and I donated the unused C-Rats. I gotta admit, I actually liked them…LOL But the grayish scrambled eggs were a little off-putting. They tasted great (with a little seasoning even better).
Yup … had C rations in the late 60s. When they were handed out there was much moaning by whoever got the Ham and Lima Beans … clearly the worst meal. Pound cake … one of the best desserts
In Vietnam in 69-70, and again in 71, Ham and Lima’s were NEVER called that! The term was “Ham and Mother ******’s.” The Lima’s were the little green ones, not the fully ripe ones that I will now eat. “Little Green Boogers” are never allowed in my house because of the “Charlie Rats” I endured in Vietnam.
Korea 1952-1953 stationed on a mountain top RADAR site, for 6-weeka at a time, we lived on C and K -Rations. After rotating off the mountain, we had a field kitchen until the next rotation. We used a P-38 can-opener, instead of the key and boiled the hard Hersey Bars to make Hot Chocolate. All the cases we had on the RADAR site were dated 1944 from WW-II.
While stationed in Alaska in 1959 at Elmendorf AFB we were served “C” rations prepared by our Mess Hall once a week. On one of the days when we were served “C” rations our Group Commander came to the Mess Hall to join the troops in the Mid-day meal. Being busy with talking to the troops while waiting in the serving line he did not pay attention to the food being served. When he got to the front of the cook serving the food and he saw what he was being served, he asked what the heck this food was. He told the cook he had looked at the menu before he came to the Mess Hall and it said it was to be Steak. The cook explained: Yes Sir! that this is what the “C” Ration can said it is: “STEAK”. We have a lot of this stuff to get rid off. Our Group Commander was so shocked at what we ‘poor’ guys had to eat. He worked hard to get things changed. A month later, we went from eating “C” rations once a week to once a month. We loved the Guy!
Served in Germany in the early 60’s, while traveling in convoy from Bremerhaven, my shotgun out two cans of spam rations on the manifold of the 2 1/2 , he forgot to open up the cans. I still can’t stand the smell o spam cooking. 15 years later while working in a fallout shelter in the mountains of New Mexico we discovered cans of “Emergency Rations, survival, general purpose” . I still a couple in my shed, still edible.
When I was in the 1st Division, 28th Infantry in 1964-65, we spent about 9 months in 64 in the field training. Fort Riley, the swamps outside of Eglin Air Force Base, Fort Leonard Wood, Fort Rucker so we ate C-Rations from 1945 most of the time out in the field. I really didn’t mind them at all. The ham (Spam) and eggs were my favorite. The B-Rations we had were nothing but C-Rations thrown into a garbage can of water heated by immersion burner. While out on maneuvers we would get some new recruits and they where always very picky about what C-Rations they would eat , throwing the unopened cans away, choosing not to eat. My best buddy and I would police up the discarded Rations and stuff them into our fatigue shirts. And in the next day or two we would miss our food drop or it was picked up by the enemy and the new kids would be starving while we ate what they had discarded.
My dad didn’t smoke, so he traded his cigarettes for chocolate until someone told him he was being foolish; he could do what the other nonsmokers did: sell the cigs for a lot of money on the black market. So he found out who to contact & where to go. It required walking down a creepy, narrow alley that made him feel like he was walking into an ambush, but there at the end was a guy sitting at a desk who bought the cigarettes.
Dad was USN WWII Pacific Theater. He and many others who served from the area, had many colorful descriptions of the alphabet meals on shore and shipboard and combat. In polite company can’t say exactly but one included “blank a shingle” another “#2%46 on toast”. Coffee was in descript and ketchup was known as “red lead”. to name a few. After the war my grandmother said had a new dislike for chicken and rice. Never said much of why.
Hello, any have family that were stationed at Mareeba Airfield during WW2? Would love to make contact for a project the Historical Society of Mareeba is doing on the airfield. Happy to exchange info and photos. email [email protected]
Forgot to say in m y previous post, Mareeba, Far North Queensland, Australia.
My dad found 2 cans of K-ration tins on the beach in the town of Babylon, Long Island, New York in the 60s. We opened them and tried a few things!
I love this post.
And I don’t smoke a cigarette often, and I can tell you, sometimes it is your best friend. I figure during a war in particular. Tobacco was never meant to be used continually, but medicinally. Alcohol, too. My parents were children in WWII but their uncles went even though my grandpa did not — medical heart condition and he never did get over being left behind — my uncles and aunts all fought in Nam, and a couple of cousins in the Gulf War, and one niece is a Marine, but I managed to stay away from the action. So far. Appreciate all of you who served.
I served in Viet Nam during 1969-1970 with the 5/42 Artillery, “C” Battery. I worked 12 hours on and 12 hours off in the Fire Direction Control. At night the Mess hall (if we were lucky to have one) was closed so we resorted to “C” Rations. Everywhere we went we’d carry a big box containing many different meals. We’d pick thru and got what we wanted to eat. We were usually hungry and would eat about anything. I especially liked the pound cake or the cans of peaches if you could find them. A lot of the locations we were at had a Mess Hall. Poor cooks did their best to cook the food that was available.
I was born in New Jersey in 1937, and I still have my one partial filled War Ration Book #3 M. It has pages with stamps from #1-48 and each page has either drawings of ships, airplanes, tanks, or guns. My brother had one also and he was born in 1942.
I remember that my parents had little heavy cardboard round red or blue tokens too. I know that these stamps and tokens were used for food purchases, and to buy gasoline and tires for their 1931 Dodge coop car with a rumble seat. I also remember the fear we children had when the Air Raid siren blew, and remember the Air Raid inspector came down our street checking for the houses to be all dark inside. We had thick blackout shades on the windows and couldn’t use any lights or candles inside the house.
I was an Army brat, and have fond memories of raiding the C-Rats in my parent’s closet, when stationed in Germany, for the round bricks of chocolate. They were supposed to make hot chocolate but we just ate the bricks… I was one of the dependants who were enacted in duce and 1/2 during the Cuban missile crisis.
I was active duty in the early 60’s. The cigarettes were dirt cheap. Tech Reps were always pestering us to get them out of the commissary for them. I never used. The health effects of smoking were well known, even back then. It seemed to me that the powers that be promoted smoking because of the health problems they would eventually cause. Pension liabilities are less if the retired GI’s are passing years before their time because of tobacco issue.
“Alright. Let’s get this out on to a tray. Nice!”
Steve1989MREInfo has entered the chat.
In seriousness, if you are researching your ancestors and want some great insights into field rations, I highly recommend the Steve1989MREInfo channel on YouTube. He samples, or at least reviews when inedible, various rations from all over the world and from different timeframes.
He’s looked at everything from rations being produced in the past few years all the way back through Vietnam, Korea and even the US Civil War. If you want to get some idea of how an ancestor ate during combat, Steve’s your go-to.
I was an infantryman in Vietnam. We had WW2 C-rations. How did I know? The can of applesauce said canned in 1944. I was in Nam in 1970. The applesauce was actually good. The worst was “Ham and Lima Beans,” which also had a different name that cannot be used on this site. The C-Rations came with a little pack of Lucky Strike cigarettes with the “GREEN” logo. The chocolate disc was inedible and used when mixed with C4 to keep the rats under control.
In the early 80’s we had C-Rats, they were actually good and the P38 was a treasure. MREs were okay, the freeze dried fruit cocktail was the best, with no water.
As for the cigarettes, I came into the US ARMY smoking and quit smoking 2 years later, still on active duty. It’s a matter of choice.
My Father was with 4 INF DIV, 8th INF REG, HQ 2nd BN, Co G shared that he collected the 3-pac cigarettes to use as “cash” in poker games or to buy fresh food from the locals or “Don’t tell your mother.” favors from the the ladies. He smoked before inlisting but realized the value of the 3-pac and stopped. He died at age 97 on his birthday.
To W Martin: My Dad was also in the 28th Division, 110th Infantry Regiment. As a boy he told me many stories of the Hurtgen Forest, Battle of the Bulge and Achen Germany.
My Uncle was in the 2nd Battalion, 258th Field Artillery deployed to Normandy July 2nd 1944. How did anyone find out what metals your loved ones received? I have only been able to find out he was a Corporal and not much else.
Ate lots of C-Rations during a tour in Vietnam in 1967. The basic meal items were different flavors of monosodium glutamate. The canned fruit was the most edible.
My Dad served in France about the time of crossing of the Rhine. He never allowed SPAM in our house. He said he had it boiled, fried and raw- no more ever!!
My dad smoked Lucky Strikes, too. I think that came from his time in the army in the Philippines during WWII. He got malaria there. He died at age 48 from Lupus which evidently originated there or at least was around there.
I ate C-rations in Korea, Gemany and Stateside and liked them very much (1960’s-1970’s). i would trade my cigarettes for pound cake to someone addicted to smoking.
My dad was a cook in the Army during WW2. He was in Oklahoma, Okinawa, Philippines and other places also. I have his cookbook.
Wow! That’s one cookbook I’d love to see. Thank you for mentioning it.
Thank you so much for this information. My stepfather served in four campaigns in WWII and I once saw his 3 purple heart medals. He spoke of the rations briefly, but seemed to have a sense of humor about them. As a military wife myself, I fully understand the sacrifices our Marines, Soldiers, Airmen, and others who served have made. Those rations, to my mind, kept our troops as healthy as could be in unimaginable situations. Okay, so everyone loved the chocolate, but my children and I are the only ones that ever ate Spam…and it had to be fried. In the 1960s, I tried various ways to fix it. Cloves and cinnamon did not help for my husband.
As kids, my brother and I loved Spam … it was like being daddy.
My neighbor made spam jerky. He sliced it, marinated it, and put it in a food dehydrator. I thought it was actually pretty good.
I heard the Rations we’re not so good.
My Dad was always hungry when he was in the Army. He told us how small the servings were and how bad they tasted. What made him really angry one time was when he opened a can of what was supposed to be beef stew and there was nothing but a chunk of gristle in the can. I guess thee wasn’t any quality control back then. He survived the war though and never was hungry again. My mother fed him well when he came home!
I can’t even begin to imagine!
My father got a purple heart and an oak leaf cluster for his 2 woundings. He said you only got a 2nd purole heart when you were killed .Is this true ?
Honestly, I don’t have an answer to that one. I only know that I saw the three my stepfather had, and he was very much alive. Of course, each had its paper accompaniment. He served in the Hell on Wheels Division under Gen. Patton. These were during WWII. Perhaps things have changed?
Dan, I decided to investigate the medal. quite a history to it. One of the items answered how many one can receive, Although my stepfather’s were for wounds, there are “hidden” wounds, such as brain injury, that are and should be recognized.
Copying here the answer to how many.
“How Many Purple Hearts Can You Receive? Who Has the Most Purple Hearts?”
Service members can receive multiple Purple Hearts throughout their military career.
Curry T. Haynes currently holds the record for the largest number of Purple Hearts bestowed upon a single service member.
Haynes, who served in the Army during the Vietnam War, was awarded his first Purple Heart after an ambush in the jungle, where he was shot in the arm. After surgery in Japan, he returned to the front where his actions would later result in being awarded his nine additional Purple Hearts. In the span of one assault – which involved dodging multiple grenades – Haynes sustained a series of injuries, including the loss of two fingers.
He later received nine Purple Hearts – one for each wound – and passed away in July 2017 from cancer.
-This story was first published on USO.org in 2018. It has been updated in 2021.
I have a dear friend that is still living that received 2 Purple Hearts during Vietnam. So maybe things changed between WWII and Vietnam??
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