A History of the Army Field
Ration- Page 2
History of Army Field Rations (Continued)
Due to the natural lag between development and supply and the extensive stockpiling of "old" C rations, this "new" version was not
procured in sufficient time to win in wartime the praise that later became attached to "Ration Combat, C-2". The criticisms of
monotony and unacceptability, though often made for reasons attributable to misuse of and overuse rather than the ration content,
held true as for as WWII users of the C ration were concerned.
The K Ration:
The K ration was the laboratory's answer to the demand for an individual, easy-to-carry ration that could be used in assault and
combat operations. It was noted for compactness and superior packaging and was acknowledged as the ration that provided the
greatest variety of nutritionally balanced components within the smallest space.
Although other related items appear in its ancestral background the actual prototype of the K ration was a pocket ration for
paratroopers developed at the request of the Air Force early in the war. Two original samples (one with pemmican biscuits, a
peanut bar, raisins and bouillon paste; the other with pemmican biscuits, a small D bar, a meat preparation and beverage powder
evolved into the one-package breakfast-dinner-supper combination used first by paratroopers. The three-meal combination
contained such common units as pemmican biscuits and gum. In addition, the breakfast unit furnished malted milk tablets, canned
veal loaf, soluble coffee, and sugar; the dinner package had dextrose tablets, canned ham spread and bouillon cubes; and for the
supper unit there were the D bar chocolate, sausage, lemon powder and sugar. The Army quickly noted the success of the new
ration with paratroopers and in 1942 the item was adopted for all-service use as "Field Ration, Type K". The instantaneous
success of the ration with attendant popular publicity was a source of amazement to the developers.
Success was not a deterrent to continued research. Many changes were effected in the components and packaging of the K ration
during the seven revisions of the ration before the final WWII specifications were published. During that period the variety of
biscuits was increased, newer and more acceptable meat products were introduced, malted milk tablets and D bars gave way to a
variety of confections, additional beverage components were provided in improved packages and cigarettes, matches, salt tablets,
toilet paper and spoons were ultimately included as accessory items.
The cartons containing the individual meals also were subjected to many changes. The first cartons were coated both inside and
out with a thermoplastic compound. Later they were wax-coated on the outside only, wrapped in waxed paper and then coated
with a commercial product made from "un milked crepe rubber and blended waxes" specified not to melt at 135 degrees nor
"crack, chip or otherwise become separated" from the surface of the carton at minus 20 degrees below zero. Other types of
packages were tested, including a "thread opening fiber bodied can with metal ends". The wax impregnated materials prevailed,
however, and the ultimate requirements were for the familiar wax-coated inner carton placed in a second carton labeled and
colored to indicate whether its content was breakfast, dinner or supper.
As finally specified, the breakfast packet contained a canned meat product, biscuits, a compressed cereal bar, soluble coffee, a
fruit bar, gum, sugar tablets, four cigarettes, water purification tablets, a can opener, toilet paper and a wooden spoon. The dinner
packet had a canned cheese product, biscuits, a candy bar, gum, a variety of beverage powders, granulated sugar, salt tablets,
cigarettes and matches, a can opener and spoon. The supper packet included a canned meat product, biscuits, bouillon powder,
confections and gum, soluble coffee, granulated sugar, cigarettes, can opener and spoon. The biscuits, beverages, sugar, fruit bar,
confections, gum and spoon were packaged in a laminated cellophane bag while the canned meat and cheese products were put in
a chipboard sleeve-type box. The two units were assembled and sealed in a waxed carton enclosed in the non waxed outer
carton labeled with the K ration design and color. Twelve complete rations were placed in a fiberboard box which was over
packed in a nailed wood box for overseas shipment.
The first million K rations were ordered in May 1942 and were followed by increasing millions. In 1944, the peak year of
production, more than 105 million rations were procured. Toward the end of the war, the usefulness of the K ration was coming
to an end as a result of the emergence of a superior C ration.
Like other unpopular items, misuse was a contributing factor to the waning popularity of the K ration. Although designed to be
used for a period of two or three days only, the ration occasionally subsisted troops for weeks on end. There were times when
this application was unavoidable; there were occasions when the K ration was employed because it was easiest to issue.
Continued use reduced the acceptability and diminished the value of the ration.
K-RATIONS KEPT TROOPS KICKING by Ruben Flores
In an effort to greatly improve the subsistence needs of military personnel in combat situation in 1940 the Quartermaster Corps
introduced the lighter and better tasting K ration.
Originally developed for paratroopers as an easy transportable food source during WWII, the K-ration was a welcomed addition
to the infamous C-ration.
While the military continued to experiment and create advancements in food technology for combat soldiers, K-rations were
initially a favorite for many troops. In fact, it was so popular, large loads of K-rations were heavily guarded from stray soldiers
and civilians across the European and Pacific fronts.
The Wrigley Company packaged k-rations in three units: breakfast, dinner and supper.
Breakfast consisted of an egg and meat product, along with bread, fruit bar, coffee, sugar, wooden spoon, chewing gum, water
purification tablets, toilet paper and cigarettes. Dinner included more bread, a cheese product, candy bar, lemon orange or grape
juice powder, more cigarettes,, matches and salt tablets. Supper had a can of meat, bread, chocolate, chewing gum, and even
more highly prize cigarettes. The chocolate bar was produced by the Hershey Chocolate Company and was known as the "Logan
Bar" after developer Capt Paul P. Logan. It was a smaller version of the D-ration, an emergency combat ration carried by all men
for use when no other supply of food was possible. This energy bar weighed two ounces and was made of chocolate, sugar, milk
powder, cocoa fat, oat flour and vanilla. It was fortified with vitamin B-1 and contained 600 calories to provide a quick boost in
combat. In fact, the D-bar was so well fortified it was said to be "harder than an armor plate". One marine claimed the chocolate
bar saved a
Sergeant when it "stopped a fragment of an exploding 105mm shell" while being carried in his shirt pocket.
First developed at the University of Minnesota by Ancel Keys (Note first letter of his last name) K-rations indeed were an
improvement in combat rations for troops in the field.
THE 'D' BAR RATION
Field Ration D:
An emergency ration, proposed for the cavalry in 1932, is generally considered the direct forerunner of Field Ration D. The item
then suggested was a 12-0unce bar of equal parts of bitter chocolate, sugar and peanut butter. Although palatable, the
experimental bar had poor keeping qualities, was thirst-provoking, and had poor acceptance. While it did not progress beyond the
experimental stage, it did provide groundwork for experiments on a concentrated ration which were initiated by the Subsistence
School in 1935.
Originally, the 1935 development was called the Logan bar in recognition of Col. Paul Logan, then head of the Subsistence
School. The Logan bar was designed to provide the highest possible caloric value in the smallest package and yet retain sufficient
palatability to be used daily. The ingredients were chocolate, sugar, oat flour, cacao fat, skim milk powder, and artificial flavoring.
Three 4-ounce bars wrapped in aluminum foil, then over wrapped and sealed in parchment paper, constituted the ration. Despite
the requirement that it qualify for continued daily use, the Logan bar was never considered by its developers for other than
emergency or stopgap purposes. It was procured on an experimental basis in 1937 and was submitted for field trials during the
ensuing year. Although judged by tests to be satisfactory only as an emergency ration, the bar was proposed for "standardization"
in 1939 in the dual capacity of both a "reserve" and an "emergency" ration. The spirited discussion of the conflicting concept of the
new ration implied in this dual designation had the happy result of bringing a revision of the Army regulation covering rations and of
identifying the bar as Field Ration D, the official emergency ration
I have the loving memories of carrying by "D" bar in my field jacket pocket, unwrapped, and gnawing on it from time to time for
quick energy or when eating one of our other great rations wasn't possible. To feel that dirt encrusted chocolate bar in my jacket
pocket was to know that I always had something to chew on until our next meal, wherever that would be. I suppose the worse
effect of the "D" bar was when we would kindly give an extra "Chocolate Bar" to a child and give them a half-hearted warning to
"don't eat this all at one time". Kids being kids and understanding little or no English I suppose that most of them wolfed if down
only to suffer the consequences of an aching stomach or a case of the "GIs". Some of them are probably still wondering if the
generous GIs were passing out something that was intended to make them ill.
So that's the story of those wonderful rations that kept us going during our days of combat in WWII. I suppose we owe a debt of
gratitude and thanks to the Quartermaster guys and gals who developed them.
Now go on the next page for other exciting information about Army Rations.
17 Oct 13