Skip

A history of modern military rations
September 22, 2005 2:30 PM   Subscribe

A history of modern military rations from canning to MREs. Also, reproductions of American, Russian, Italian, British, and Japanese WWII rations.
posted by milovoo (49 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

 
I bet this was prompted by the recent post about the UK rations.
posted by alumshubby at 2:59 PM on September 22, 2005


[this is (very) good], thanks milovoo!
posted by PurplePorpoise at 3:26 PM on September 22, 2005


Fascinating stuff! Had anyone else heard of solidified alcohol before? It was part of the trench rations and I'm curious now as I've never heard of it before.

Ahh, nevermind, solidified alcohol is basically Sterno. Damn, I was hoping for a vodka flavored candy bar.
posted by fenriq at 3:30 PM on September 22, 2005


I used to love C-Rations, which you could still get I think into the early 1980s - we used to get them surplus from the local navy base. They were great for camping. I wouldn't want to eat them for months on end, but for a week they were pretty cool. Compact enough to carry a good bit of food a long way, and filling if not particularly imaginative. Also there were all those other neat items in the box, the heating fuel tablet, the little wire frame to set the can on over the heating tablet, and the tiny fold-flat can opener. They have those at most surplus stores, I have probably 8 or 10 of them.

Good times.
posted by zoogleplex at 3:32 PM on September 22, 2005


I bet this was prompted by the recent post about the UK rations.

True enough, I got distracted while I was looking stuff up and it seemed more like an FPP than a reply. I posted the first link back there, and even that seemed a little out of place.

I also just found an interesting page about vegetarian MREs.
posted by milovoo at 3:36 PM on September 22, 2005


the tiny fold-flat can opener

Everyone, let's take a moment to give it up for the P-38!
posted by WolfDaddy at 3:36 PM on September 22, 2005


[this is good]

I have a massive craving for potted meat right now. I recall this post from Salon (it's gone now) about the 3-year sandwich.

If I remember correctly, the scientist interviewed said about 70% of the food on our grocery store shelves is possible because of military food technology
posted by MiltonRandKalman at 3:39 PM on September 22, 2005


I'm still looking for descriptions and pictures of modern ration packs and variants from other countries, if anyone happens to find any. (that was actually my original search)
posted by milovoo at 3:46 PM on September 22, 2005


The bean and rice burrito was the biggest pain in the ass. Most of the MRE entrees are called 'pumpable' which is just what it sounds like. Make up a vat of stew like stuff, get a pre-formed puch that is sealed on three sides, fill and seal. The bean and rice burrito was a 'placable' which is more difficult to manufacure. I also bought kosher and halal MREs. Good times.

The Tray Packs shown in your 'MREs' link are part of UGR-A and UGR-B which are Unitized Group Rations and technicaly not MREs. We make a distiction between group feeding (enough food for a small unit packed on a pallet) vs. individual feeding.

One of my best trips ever was a plant visit to Oregon Freeze Dry which made the LRP (long range patrol) or lurp ration. They sell backpacker food under the Mountian House label. Freeze dehydrated food is almost like mom's cooking, but much too expensive for regular issue. Anyway, I got to take my bike with me and was able to ride along the Oregon coast for a few days after getting my work done. Good post.
posted by fixedgear at 3:51 PM on September 22, 2005


The three US producers (all of whom just got additional orders today, BTW) are Wornick, SOPAKCO, and Ameriqual.
posted by fixedgear at 3:55 PM on September 22, 2005


milovoo: Do they have to be military? This seems like a spinoff for the civilian market.
posted by alumshubby at 4:10 PM on September 22, 2005


Do they have to be military?

no, but I was more wondering about what flavors end up in rations and it's relationship to the general cuisine. My original search was for modern Japanese rations, I just wondered what regional dishes made for easy portability.
posted by milovoo at 4:18 PM on September 22, 2005


Ya see, this is how you make a post based on current events.

Excellent post, milovoo.
posted by Cyrano at 4:26 PM on September 22, 2005


Wow, WolfDaddy! Geez I need to just look up everything I think is cool on Wikipedia. I had no idea they'd named it after the fighter plane, haha!

I actually have one of those attached to the little chain on my Swiss Army knife, because it's a much better and faster can opener than the one in the knife itself. And I've used one of these for several of the "creative uses" on that list. Impressive how a ridiculously simple little piece of cheap metal is so useful.

As far as the food in the C-Rations goes, I liked the spaghetti and meatballs and the mac & cheese best. There was some sort of beef stew that was okay. I don't remember what the other ones were.

You could get about 6 of them in a standard "camping" backpack load that had everything else you needed for 5-7 days out. Of course, we weren't carrying 100 rounds of ammo (usually)...
posted by zoogleplex at 4:40 PM on September 22, 2005


I think it is totally awesome that the British ones have a mini set of darts in them!
posted by fenriq at 4:48 PM on September 22, 2005


Mountian House meals are awesome for camping. Lightweight, hydrate with boiling water, and much better tasing than any MRE's I've eaten.
posted by Balisong at 4:51 PM on September 22, 2005


Actually, now that I think about it, those little microwaveable one-pack dishes from Hormel/Dinty Moore/Chef Boyardee - the beef stew, chicken with noodles, mac & cheese, are pretty similar to what was in the C-ration, and I'd take those camping too (haven't been in forever, boo).

I'd think you could assemble an equivalent to a C-ration using (list is from the Wiki, slightly modified):

* 2 Cheese bars (1.5 net ounces) - PollyO String Cheese
* 1 Can Beef Stew- Dinty Moore microwave beef stew
* 3 Type XII Style 1 Enriched chocolate bar (1 ounce) -
- Hershey bar
* 1 Can Fruit Cocktail - small Del Monte canned FC
* 2 "Fruit Cake Bars" (2 ounces) - Nutri-Grain bars
* 3 sticks Topps peppermint chewing gum - Wrigleys
* 3 Domino sugar packets - still available!
* 2 Nestea "soluble tea product" - this too!
* 1 Pure soluable sugar - ??
* 1 "Soluable cream product"
- Dry non-dairy creamer packet
* 1 bottle Water Purification Tablets, Individual, Iodine
- Get at the surplus store or camping store
* 1 plastic bag
- Glad Baggie

And then a pack o' matches, heating tablets (surplus/camping store) & the P-38.

Hm, how much you wanna bet all the companies above actually made the C-ration food - and thus massive profits - during WWII? I know Chef Boyardee did.
posted by zoogleplex at 4:51 PM on September 22, 2005


Research and development of military foods is done at the Department of Defense Combat Feeding Directorate at the U.S Army Soldier Systems Center in Natick, MA.

Their recently-developed HOOAH! Bar is now available to civilians.
posted by ericb at 5:10 PM on September 22, 2005


It's all from the same site (commercial, though) and not nearly so detailed, but a little information and pictures (sometimes) for Canadian, British, and Russian rations from ~WW2-ish.

Gonna have to hit the Mil Surplus store tomorrow and nose around, now.
posted by PurplePorpoise at 5:22 PM on September 22, 2005


HOOAH! bar is at least ten years old, so not-so-recently developed, but yeah, Natick.

Actually, now that I think about it, those little microwaveable one-pack dishes from Hormel/Dinty Moore/Chef Boyardee - the beef stew, chicken with noodles, mac & cheese, are pretty similar to what was in the C-ration, and I'd take those camping too (haven't been in forever, boo).

During Gulf War I, when the three producers linked above were stretched thin, we bought the "MORE' ration. Meals, Ordered, Ready to Eat. The entree and the rest were sort of as you described. Strictly a stopgap since they just don't have the shelf life. Fun fact: Many, many MRES are stored in caves at Carthage Underground Storage. It's cheap and centrally located.
posted by fixedgear at 5:32 PM on September 22, 2005


HOOAH! bar is at least ten years old

You're right -- developed in 1996.
posted by ericb at 5:34 PM on September 22, 2005


I'm in the business.
posted by fixedgear at 5:36 PM on September 22, 2005


In Canada they're called IMPs. I was always fond of the bun, which, in true bilingual style, we called "petit pain bread".
posted by Popular Ethics at 5:55 PM on September 22, 2005


whoops - totally missed those links in the fpp
posted by PurplePorpoise at 5:56 PM on September 22, 2005


Oh it's been 13 long years since a nutritious IMP crossed my lips. I'd soon die of starvation than eat a pack of Sausage and Hash Browns (or Macaroni and Cheese at 5am bleach). Now tempt me with a Beef Chop Suey or the chicken breast with gravy (and freeze dried stuffing too!!) and I'd be game.

I also remember the Combat Rats (LMC Light Meal Combat). Lots of cavity inducing sweatness!!
posted by smcniven at 5:59 PM on September 22, 2005


My god, the spelling errors in that:

soon => sooner
bleach => blech, or yuk
sweatness => sweetness.
posted by smcniven at 6:02 PM on September 22, 2005


Well that's the beauty of being able to trade.

"What did you get?"

"Mac n cheese and fruit cocktail."

"Wanna trade for my beef stew and peaches?"

"Dude, totally."

I'm sure a variation of that has been repeated in foxholes/encampments for the entire history of human conflict.
posted by zoogleplex at 6:03 PM on September 22, 2005


My god, the spelling errors in that

smcniven - cheers, have another scotch! ;-)

BTW - I appreciate spelling/typo corrections (as I do it for myself here on MetaFilter).
posted by ericb at 6:08 PM on September 22, 2005


In case anybody's interested, here's the German ration, the Einmannpackung, albeit the site's in German.
posted by alumshubby at 6:10 PM on September 22, 2005


"What did you get?"

"Brauts and sauerkraut."

"Wanna trade for my hasenpfeffer and strudel?"

"Dude, totally."


(Awesome post.)
posted by voltairemodern at 6:14 PM on September 22, 2005


What business, exactly? Your above posts both intrigue and confuse me. It almost seems as if you've assumed we know why you're an expert on the subject. Don't get me wrong - I find the matter interesting and would like to know more. Just talk to us like we're a group of third graders and we'll all be okay.
posted by item at 6:15 PM on September 22, 2005


(the above post was aimed at fixedgear, by the way.)
posted by item at 6:16 PM on September 22, 2005


Oh my god, the flashbacks are starting!!!

Seriously, the Canadian rations where quite good considering. They came in a cardboard box and were loaded with goodies (gum, candy bars, powdered drink mix, tea, coffee). I remember you could take the outer wrapper, line the cardboard box with it, dump in the entree and the side dishes (powered mash potatoes etc...) add water and have a fantastic meal.

The one thing with IMPs was you had to prepare them in a pressure cooker (at least in the Armour Corps that's how we did it). So when you had a break for lunch one of the first things to do was fire up the coleman stove, get the pressure cooker going and add the crew's entree to the pot. And boil water for coffee of course. If you had to bug out, the pressure cooker usually kept them quite warm for a while. I also seem to remember that the Cougars had some kind of a heating element at the back where you could put the meals in and have them heat up. Never found one that worked though.

How are US MRE's done (cold or hot)? I think I tried them once (remember the tabasco sauce bottle clearly) but can't remember how we prepared them.
posted by smcniven at 6:27 PM on September 22, 2005


I'd say anyone who has actually dug into an MRE beacuse they were that hungry, and licked it clean, can speak informatively on the subject.

I used to buy Vietnam/Korea era US MRE's by the case, and ate them at home all the time. I love the little Tobasco(tm) bottles!

But maybe fixedgear is in the buisiness of supplying what goes into a MRE...?
posted by Balisong at 6:42 PM on September 22, 2005


As I remember it, you would put your MRE on the exhaust manifold of the nearest running engine, be it tank or hummer.

The nicer ones had a heater pack that you could add water (cold) and the chem-stove would heat up.
posted by Balisong at 6:46 PM on September 22, 2005


the tiny fold-flat can opener

Everyone, let's take a moment to give it up for the P-38!


From the link: A similar device is currently employed by the Australian Army in its ration kits. It is known by the acronym "FRED" (Fucking Ridiculous Eating Device).

Erm, diggers, you'r supposed to open cans with it, not eat with it.
posted by wilful at 7:37 PM on September 22, 2005


Here is the current ADF "chew and spew" rat pack.
posted by wilful at 7:59 PM on September 22, 2005


I think it is totally awesome that the British ones have a mini set of darts in them!

You might be kidding, but I actually thought that at first because that's what the tin here looked like, but it's a replica tin wrapper for Dart brand cigarettes. Scroll to the bottom here.

Being unable to survive without pub games would be just a tad too British, no?
posted by milovoo at 9:39 PM on September 22, 2005


Ham and Motherfuckers. My dad's vietnam vet buddy never forgot Ham and Motherfuckers, said he could eat anything in the world after that. It was ham and lima beans, in a slimy gel. You won't ever catch me referring to lima beans as anything but Motherfuckers.
posted by Divine_Wino at 6:47 AM on September 23, 2005


"What you get?"

"Hunk of mammoth meat."

"Want trade for hunk of giant sloth meat?"

"Dude, totally."
posted by Faint of Butt at 7:13 AM on September 23, 2005


It's odd how all the entrees are based on some sort of real-life dish (even country captain chicken, which I had never heard of until now, but which has a long and venerable history), except ham and lima beans (mothers). I'll bet someone just needed to fill a specific nutritional vacancy.
posted by milovoo at 7:47 AM on September 23, 2005


The link I posted in the original thread had info about all the UK variant 24 hour ration packs including vege, hindu, halal etc. I am far too lazy to crosslink. Yesterday I posted stuff about Soviet Era and modern Russian MREs and some stuff about JSDF rats but it got eated by the JRUN MUNCHIES and I lost it all. Hungry bugger that it is.
posted by longbaugh at 8:07 AM on September 23, 2005


The BBQ veggie burger patty is the best veggie burger I've ever had.

/meat eater
posted by grimcity at 8:20 AM on September 23, 2005




If it weren't for this post, I'd probably have never come across the mind-blowingly odd phrase "assault lunch."
posted by alumshubby at 11:16 AM on September 23, 2005


The BBQ veggie burger patty is the best veggie burger I've ever had.

I thought it tasted like a giant Slim Jim.. Good, though.
posted by mrbill at 1:36 PM on September 23, 2005


balisong and item: Sorry, I thought I told you in a previous thread. I work for DLA which is responsible for the purchasing and management of food for all the armed services.

From 1995 - 2000 I was the buyer for MREs, responsible for writing the solicitations, evaluating the proposals and contract administration. I've been to all the manufacturing plants, visited Natick to sit on taste evaluation panels, and been to a few field exercises where we combed through heaps of trash to see what got eaten and what got thrown away. I even ate the elusive fish (ever wonder why there is no seafood entree?) and lived to tell about it.
posted by fixedgear at 2:00 PM on September 23, 2005


For bonus points what about the Chaplaincy Logistical Support Package, Health & Comfort Pack, Meal Ready to Eat Kosher or MRK (including special Passover edition!), Hot Pocky "Shelf Stable Pocket Sandwichs", or the Transdermal Nutrient Delivery System (referenced by our own brownpau?)

Do I get a prize or something?
posted by longbaugh at 2:04 PM on September 23, 2005


Yeah, like I said above I bought the Kosher and Halal rations. Political nightmare, sort of like the veggie MRE. There was some demand for veggie MREs. At the time, there was cheese tortellini and one other some kind of bean thingie. They were packed six of each in a case (at the time the case pack was twelve) and they had a separate national stock number. That was a logistical problem, since it would be "give us 100 cases of MREs and oh yeah, 2 cases of those veggie ones." Since the cases looked exactly the same there was lots of confusion. The decision was made to go to four entrees and just mix them in the regular MRE mix and do away with the separate case pack.

The Kosher and Halal came about after Gulf War I. Since there really was a coalition and we did support other (arab/muslim) troops, there was some concern about cultural sensibilities. Some said 'just give them the veggie ones' but that seemed wrong. Why shouldn't they get a hunk'o meat if they wanted it?

We accept what are called unsolicited proposals. If you have a better idea or better way to do something, we have to give it a fair hearing. A vendor came in and said "I can make Kosher/Halal shelf stable meals." The big ration producers that linked to above didn't really want to be bothered since it meant shutting down their production lines for cleaning and certifying. So we awarded a contract to a small woman owned business called My Own Meals and the rest, as they say, is history.
posted by fixedgear at 2:38 PM on September 23, 2005


« Older 4 8 15 16 23 42 - Lost in Theory?   |   Cabinet is the new Escapist Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments



Post