Yes, the key to understanding the generation of the C-Ration munching
GIs, you have to understand the tool of their trade--The P-38 Can opener. Developed during WW2 for the newly introduced "Combat"
ration, it is supposedly named for the pact that it goes 38 times around a c-ration tin. Coming to think of it, We haven't
counted. One thing is for sure. If you run into a GI from the age of C-rations (1940s-1980s), there is better than even odds
that they still tote around a P-38 to this day. Check the keyrings and hunting gear of those chaps, and you are sure to find
Well, before we get too bloody deeply into describing C-Rations, why don't
we have a look at the official US QM description...
"The Meal, Combat, Individual, is designed for issue as the tactical
situation dictates, either in individual units as a meal or in multiples of three as a complete ration. Its characteristics
emphasize utility, flexibility of use, and more variety of food components than were included in the Ration, Combat, Individual
(C Ration) which it replaces. Twelve different menus are included in the specification.
Each menu contains: one canned meat item; one canned fruit, bread or
one B unit; an accessory packet containing cigarettes, matches, chewing gum, toilet paper, coffee,
cream, sugar, and salt; and a spoon. Four can openers are provided in each case of 12 meals. Although the meat item can be
eaten cold, it is more palatable when heated.
Each complete meal contains approximately 1200 calories. The daily
ration of 3 meals provides approximately 3600 calories."
Vietnam...."Home is where you dig" was the sign over the fighting bunker of Private First Class Edward,
Private First Class Falls and Private First Class Morgan of the 1st Battalion, 7th Regiment, during Operation Worth, 1968.
Picture Credit: National Archives
C-Rations were issued in
vast numbers for field use, while forward deployed bases tried to run regular mess halls. Many times, field chow halls would
serve one or two hot meals, and then issue a C-Ration as the third meal. With the limited variety of meal choices in the C-Ration,
this could get very tiresome.
While some troops absolutely
enjoyed C-Rats (or at least one or more items from them), seemingly everybody we interviewed (all services) agreed that the
least liked ration was Ham and Lima Beans (referred to as "Ham and Muthas"), while the most hotly contested ration component
in all branches of service was the fruit cocktail.
Many times, the top shirt
or squad leader would have to dump the box of rations upside down and then shuffle the individual meal boxes to make sure
that a fair chance existed for everyone to have a shot at the good, the bad and the ugly
Inventive GIs would use C-Ration
cans as stoves for use with Hexamine and Trioxane tabs, or, for the more ballsy troopers away from the garrison folks, with
Having done a fair share of C-4
cooking himself, one of the chaps just chimed in that everybody writes about not stepping on a C-4 fire to put it out, but
nobody ever mentions to stay away from the fumes that make your brains into scrambles after you got too much. Valid point!
On patrol, you should be looking
for Victor Charley, not talking to Jimi Hendrix, Santa and imaginary rabbits that look like LBJ... :-)
More coming up, including pictures, as
we eat our way through the research materials we have compiled, and sort our C-Rats out to see what we have for good pix!
Keep checking back!