3. C- Rations
These were developed in 1938 to replace the reserve rations that were used in World War I: those were standard and had canned corned beef or bacon, cans of hardtack biscuits, together with sugar, salt, ground coffee, and tobacco with rolling paper. There was not much variety so for any upcoming war, the Quartermaster Subsistence Research and Development Laboratory in Chicago designed the C-Rations in hopes for more variety and better-tasting food for the soldiers deployed.
They were designed to be in 12-ounce cans, which could be opened with a key, and had a wide variety of meals, at least compared with what was presented before: chopped ham, eggs and potatoes, meat and tomato spaghetti, pork and beans, meat and noodles, ham and lima beans, chicken and vegetables. There were three courses and were supplemented by candies, chocolate, gum, biscuits, and cigarettes. They provided 3,700 calories per ration to keep the soldiers full of energy.
Unfortunately, these rations were not that popular with people, despite the variety, as the soldiers said they were monotonous and very heavy, as everything was packed into tins. This brought them the nickname C-rats. You truly cannot please everyone.
Together with the C-rations, World War II saw the introduction of K-rations. These were more limited in number and generally given to the people who were going on short missions, such as paratroopers participating in airborne operations. They were lighter than the C-rations, netting only 2,830 calories, and they got even more bad reviews from the people who tried them.
They were made out of three meals: breakfast, lunch, and dinner. And they generally contained four ounces of meat and/or eggs, a cheese spread, “biscuits” (we know how popular these were), gum, salt tablets, candy, and a sugary drink, together with a wooden spoon, cigarettes, and toilet paper.
They received a lot of pushback, both from the fact that the calorie intake was less than an active man being in adverse conditions needed to function at full capacity and also because of the taste. The best review they got from soldiers was “palatable” and “better than nothing”, which are less than stellar reviews. They worked but not to the extent they should have, so some troop leaders ended up supplementing these K-rations with rice, bread, or C-rations when needed.
These types of rations were discontinued after the end of World War II.