C, D, K Rations (1942); MRE (1978)

Dave Wilton dave at WILTON.NET
Fri Feb 7 17:06:42 UTC 2003

> The US Army had "A rations" and "B rations" as well as "C
> rations", but the first two terms don't get used often.
> I can't remember whether it was "A" or "B" that is a hot
> meal cooked in a mess hall.  "C ration" is used quite often
> because it is something specific that has no short synonym,
> whereas you can always say "mess hall" and people will know
> you mean a hot meal.
> If I remember correctly what my father told me, there is no
> "D ration". Instead there is a "D bar", a sort of glorified
> chocolate bar (non-melting) which was intended for emergency
> use only.

>From the "The Officer's Guide," 9th Ed., Military Service Publishing
Company, 1943, pp. 247-48 (not the earliest citation, but includes an
extensive definition; no "K rations" listed, but their invention probably
hadn't caught up with this publication--which is not a government pub, but
rather a book privately published for purchase by new officers; note the
definitions for A, B, and C rations were still in use when I left the
service in 1989, with MREs being a type of C ration):

"A ration is the allowance of food provided by the government for soldiers,
and other authorized personnel during active service, for the subsistence of
one person for one day. Officers are not entitled to rations but may draw
them when in the field. They must deduct the value thereof from their pay

"Kinds of rations. There are several different kinds of rations, each made
up for certain conditions of service. The more common ones are:
  The garrison ration
  The field ration
  The travel ration
  The Filipino ration

"Garrison ration. The garrison ration is that prescribed in time of peace
for all persons entitled to a ration, except under specific conditions for
which other rations are prescribed, and consists of the following:
  Meat: Bacon; fresh beef; fresh pork; fresh chicken.
  Dry vegetables and cereals: Beans; rice; rolled oats.
  Fresh and canned vegetables: Beans, string and canned; canned corn;
onions; canned peas; potatoes; canned tomatoes.
  Fruit: Canned apples; jam or preserves; canned peaches; canned pineapple;
canned prunes.
  Beverages: Coffee, roasted or roasted and ground; cocoa; tea.
  Milk, evaporated and fresh.
  Lard; or lard substitute.
  Butter; wheat flour; baking powder; macaroni; cheese; sugar; cinnamon;
flavoring extract; black pepper; cucumber pickles; salt; syrup; vinegar.

"The garrison ration is always issued in the form of a cash allowance. Each
month the total value of the rations due an organization for that period is
placed to its credit with the Quartermaster. The unit purchases selected
articles of the ration in the amounts desired and obtains a settlement of
its account at the end of the month. Any savings accrued are paid in cash.
This is called ration savings and may be used to pay for food items only.
This procedure is known as the ration savings privilege. It permits the
serving of a wide variety of food.

"Types of Field Rations. Four types of field rations are prescribed for use
under the different conditions of field service. The four different field
rations are as given below:

"a. Field Ration A. This ration corresponds as nearly as practicable to the
components or substitutes therefor of the garrison ration. This ration will
be issued as often as circumstances permit. It is as good as the garrison
ration and is used instead of the garrison ration primarily to simplify
supply in the field and supply large bodies of troops. When ration savings
are suspended in time of peace during maneuvers, or when large bodies of
troops are concentrated, the ration issued is practically field ration A.

"b. Field Ration B. This ration corresponds as nearly as practical to field
ration A, except that items if of a perishable nature are replaced by
processed or canned products--i.e., canned fruits in place of fresh fruits,

"c. Field Ration C. Field ration C consists of previously cooked or prepared
food, packed in hermetically sealed cans. There are 6 cans per ration, as
follows: 3 cans containing a meat and vegetable component, 3 cans containing
crackers, sugar, and soluble coffee. The meat and vegetable cans contain a
mixture of meat and vegetables similar to that used in a good vegetable
soup. This mixture is very palatable when eaten, either hot or cold. The
contents of one can is as much as the average soldier can eat at one meal,
and provides an excellent balanced diet, except for the lack of 'roughage.'
The crackers are saltless and slightly sweet. Packed in the same can with
the crackers are two or three cubes of sugar and sufficient soluble coffee
to make one canteen cup full of coffee. The coffee is soluble either in hot
or cold water. Since the components of this ration are previously cooked and
can be eaten cold as well as hot, this makes an excellent emergency ration.

"d. Field Ration D. This ration consists of three-4-ounce bars of
concentrated chocolate, or other components furnished for emergency use.

"e. Other special-purpose prepared rations.

"Travel Ration. The travel ration is issued to troops, either in time of
peace or war, who, while traveling, are separated from cooking facilities.
It is usually issued in kind but the value of the coffee, milk, and sugar
components may be issued as 'liquid-coffee money' when it appears probable
that hot water and utensils for making the beverage cannot be obtained en

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