Military Rations

In honor of Veteran’s Day, this post will contain a brief history of military rations, from WWII to 2012.

During WWI, soldiers who did not have access to a mess hall carried around a Reserve Ration, which consisted of a one-pound can of meat (usually corned beef), two 8-ounce tins of hard bread, 2.4 ounces of sugar, 1.12 ounces of roasted and ground coffee, and 0.16 ounce of salt. These meals, 2 3/4 lbs in weight and coming in at about 3300 calories, were meant to be sufficient for an entire days food. Though the contents were not heavily criticized, the packaging, cylindrical cans of 1 lbs capacity, was highly inefficient.

WWII saw some inovation to the Reserve Ration with the development of the Type C Ration. This daily ration, consisting of 3 M-units (16 ounces of canned meat and beans, meat and potato hash, or meat and vegetable stew) and 3 B-units (a bread-and-dessert can). These meals provided the entire days supply of food for a soldier.

Image

WWII C Ration

Over the years, the Type C Ration transformed into the MCI (Meal, Combat, Individual) for the Vietnam and Korean Wars. The MCI was issued by the US Armed Forces from 1958-1980, and it introduced better packaging and more variety than the Type C Ration. The MCI was composed of an M-Unit, a B-unit, and a D-unit. In 1978, the complete menu looked like this:

Image

Example MCI Ration

Menu 1
Beef w/Spiced Sauce

Halved Apricots
Peanut Butter
B-1 Unit – crackers, candy

Menu 2
Tuna Fish

Quartered Pears
Peanut Butter
B-1 Unit – crackers, candy

Menu 3
Ham and Eggs, Chopped

Quartered Pears
Peanut Butter
B-1 Unit – crackers, candy

Menu 4
Pork, Sliced, Cooked with Juices

Halved Apricots
Peanut Butter
B-1 Unit – crackers, candy

Menu 5
Beans w/Frankfurter Chunks in Tomato Sauce

Blackberry Jam
Fruitcake
B-2 Unit – crackers, cocoa beverage powder

Menu 6
Beef Slices and Potatoes w/Gravy

Pineapple Jam
Orange Nut Roll
B-2 Unit – crackers, cocoa beverage powder

Menu 7
Spaghetti w/Beef Chunks in Sauce

Peach Jam
Cinnamon Nut Roll
B-2 Unit – crackers, cocoa beverage powder

Menu 8
Beans w/Meat Balls in Tomato Sauce

Grape Jam
Pound Cake
B-2 Unit – crackers, cocoa beverage powder

Menu 9
BeefSteak

Sliced Peaches
Cheese Spread, Cheddar Plain
B-3 Unit – crackers, candy

Menu 10
Chicken or Turkey Boned

Cheese Spread, Cheddar Plain
Fruit Cocktail
B-3 Unit – crackers, candy

Menu 11
Ham Sliced, Cooked with Juices

Cheese Spread, Cheddar Plain
Fruit Cocktail
B-3 Unit – crackers, candy

Menu 12
Turkey Loaf

Cheese Spread, Cheddar Plain
Sliced Peaches
B-3 Unit – crackers, candy

In 1980, the MCI became the MRE (Meal, Ready to Eat), which is still in use today. The MRE is a completely packaged meal, self contained in a weather and damage resistant package. Today, and MRE includes the following:

  • Entree – the main course, such as Spaghetti or Beef Stew
  • Side dish – rice, corn, fruit, or mashed potatoes, etc.
  • Cracker or Bread
  • Spread – peanut butter, jelly, or cheese spread
  • Dessert – cookies or pound cakes
  • Candy – M&Ms, Skittles, or Tootsie Rolls
  • Beverages – Gatorade-like drink mixes, cocoa, dairy shakes, coffee, tea
  • Hot sauce or seasoning – in some MREs
  • Flameless Ration Heater – to heat up the entree
  • Accessories – spoon, matches, creamer, sugar, salt, chewing gum, toilet paper, etc

One complete MRE looks like this:

Chili with Beans
Corn bread
Cheese spread, Jalapeño 
Crackers
Ranger Bar
Beverage, carb fortified 
Spice, red pepper
Accessory packet A
Spoon
Flameless ration heater
Hot beverage bag

Image

2009 Spaghetti MRE

Taylor Reiter (Dunster House FLP)

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