Wednesday, August 20, 2014


When I was in the Marine Corps, we had lots of food choices when in the field. Unfortunately, they all came in cardboard boxes marked MEAL, COMBAT, INDIVIDUAL. These were C-Rations (AKA C-Rats). I remember once unloading cases of them off a chopper and seeing the cases date-stamped 1944. At least they didn't go to waste.

Here is a sealed case:

Here is an open case:

The meal selection included: Beef Steak; Ham and Eggs, Chopped; Ham Slices; Turkey Loaf; Beans and Frankfurters; Spaghetti and Meatballs; Beefsteak, Potatoes and Gravy; Ham and Lima Beans; Boned Chicken; Chicken and Noodles; Meat Loaf; Meatballs and Beans; and Spiced Beef. There were 12 of these meals to a case.

Each meal came in a cardboard box, and was made up of several cans that contained a main course, plus additional food, such as canned fruit, pastry, cheese or peanut butter, crackers, and the like. Here are the canned components of a Beans and Frankfurters meal (we called them Beans and Motherfuckers):

Note the can marked B-2 Unit. Other meals included B-1, B-1A, or B-3 units. These B-units contained crackers (we called them John Wayne crackers), candy, or chocolate bars (we called them shit disks). Here is an open B-3 unit, with 2 shit disks and 4 John Wayne crackers:

There also was an accessory pack with every meal, which contained a plastic spoon, instant coffee, sugar, creamer, salt, gum, a pack of 4 cigarettes, matches, and a little roll of toilet paper. Here is an open one:

Cans were opened with P-38 openers (we called them John Wayne openers). We typically kept one on our dogtag chains. Here's one:

If you were lucky enough to have the time, and you were in a place where you could use them, the meal could be heated up with trioxin tablets (AKA heat tabs). As I recall, these were pale purple lozenge-shaped tabs, which burned extremely hot. They also put out fumes not unlike tear gas. In fact, once during gas mask training, coffee cans full of heat tabs were used instead of tear gas. I don't want to think about the permanent pulmonary damage caused by those things. I couldn't find a picture of one. If heat tabs weren't available, a chunk of C-4 could be used. It burned very hot, but didn't explode when ignited.

The C-Ration main courses were uniformly awful. Here is an opened can of what I believe is Beef Steak. It must be heated, because the slab of congealed grease that was always on top is melted:

The canned fruit was so shockingly sweet I could barely get it down. The fruit cake and pound cake were dry as toast. The B-units weren't bad, nor was the peanut butter or jam. I remember one time getting a packet of hot chocolate powder in a meal. I was pretty excited until I added water, and about 50 tiny dried-out worm carcasses floated to the top. I just scooped them off and drank it anyway. My biggest complaint was that there was never enough toilet paper.

Here is a properly set table:

The only thing missing is the aluminum canteen cup, which added so much pizzaz to the instant coffee:


Anonymous said...

I was a Navy Corpsman who spent most of my 14 yrs with the Marines. you just brought back a lot of memories of God-Aweful meals! Don't forget about eating them with hands that had not seen soap and water in 5 days!

yarnwhore said...

I heard from Navy friends that Marines would eat anything and eat it fast, but this puts it in a whole new light.

pfongk said...

I know when we have combined exercises on, the Aussie rat-packs are sought after by the US guys. And I've actually been known to carry a F.R.E.D.(p-38 eating device) in my handbag before as they can be quite useful when you have a child.