Thursday, April 12, 2018

A to Z Challenge - K is for K-Ration

The K-ration was an individually packaged daily combat food ration which was introduced by the US Army in 1942 during World War II. It was originally intended for issue to airborne troops, tank crews, motorcycle couriers, and other mobile forces for short durations [15 days maximum].

The K-ration provided three separately-boxed meal units: breakfast, dinner (lunch), and supper (dinner).

The final version totaled 2,830-3,000 calories per day. One major criticism of the K-ration was that its calorie and vitamin content was generally inadequate.  Ration planners apparently did not realize that soldiers fighting, digging, and marching in extreme conditions would require many more calories per day than a soldier marching over cleared roads in mild climates. Nevertheless, one K-ration per man per day would remain the basis of issue, even for mountain troops fighting at high altitudes and infantrymen fighting in thick jungles.

There was also a danger of boredom, because the three meals became monotonous if issued for long periods of time. 

General contents may include:
-Main course (entree)
-Side dish
-Dessert or snack (often commercial candy, fortified pastry, or Soldier Fuel Bar.)
-Crackers or bread
-Spread of cheese, peanut butter, or jelly
-Powdered beverage mix: fruit flavored drink, cocoa, instant coffee or tea, sport drink, or dairy shake.
-Utensils (usually just a plastic spoon)
-Flameless ration heater (FRH)
-Beverage mixing bag
-Accessory pack:
---Xylitol chewing gum
---Water-resistant matchbook
---Napkin / toilet paper
---Moist towelette
---Seasonings, including salt, pepper, sugar, creamer, and/or Tabasco sauce
---Freeze dried coffee powder


Breakfast Unit: canned entree veal (early version), canned chopped ham and eggs (all subsequent versions), biscuits, dextrose or malted milk tablets (early version), dried fruit bar, pre-mixed oatmeal cereal (late version) Halazone water purification tablets, a four-pack of cigarettes, Dentyne or Wrigley chewing gum, instant coffee, a packet of toilet paper tissues, and sugar (granulated, cubed, or compressed).

Dinner (Lunch) Unit: canned entree pork luncheon meat (early version), canned processed American cheese, Swiss and American cheese, or bacon and cheese (cheese entree all subsequent versions), biscuits, 15 Dextrose or malted milk (diastatic malt) tablets (early) or five caramels (late), sugar (granulated, cubed, or compressed), salt packet, a four-pack of cigarettes and a matchbook, chewing gum, and a powdered beverage packet (lemon [1940], orange [1943], or grape [1945] flavor).

Supper (Dinner) Unit: canned meat, consisting of cervelat sausage (early version), either pork luncheon meat with carrot or apple (first issue), beef and pork loaf (second issue); biscuits; a 2-ounce (57 g) D ration emergency chocolate bar (early version), Tropical bar, or (in temperate climates) commercial sweet chocolate bar (late version), a packet of toilet paper tissues; a four-pack of cigarettes, chewing gum, and a bouillon packet (cube or powder).

On-the-go food was used much more frequently than originally intended, and people woke up to the fact that combat servicemembers needed adequate daily meals.  After WWII, the calorie count, nutrition, and variety was greatly improved.  Nowadays, even backpackers and other civilians are purchasing them.

Examples of entrees used in current MRE (Meals Ready to Eat):

-Chili w/ Beans
-Shredded BBQ Beef
-Chicken w/Egg Noodles & Vegetables
-Spaghetti w/ Meat Sauce
-Chicken Chunks
-Beef Taco
-Beef Brisket
-Meatballs w/ Marinara Sauce
-Beef Stew
-Chili and Macaroni
-Vegetarian Taco Pasta
-Elbow Macaroni and Tomato Sauce
-Cheese Tortellini
-Spinach Mushrooms & Cream Sauce Fettuccine
-Mexican Style Chicken Stew
-Chicken Burrito Bowl
-Maple Sausage
-Beef Ravioli
-Jalapeno Pepper Jack Beef Patty
-Hash Brown Potatoes w/Bacon
-Lemon Pepper Tuna
-Asian Style Beef Strips w/Vegetables
-Chicken Pesto Pasta
-Southwest Beef and Black Beans

-Pork Rib

What's next for L?
L is for Life aboard a Navy ship.  What's it like to live on a ship?  How big is a ship?  How many people are in residence?  Come back tomorrow and find out!


  1. Yum! I think I have a few from my father. No doubt, they're still good!

    1. My sons used to take MREs on Boy Scout backpacking trips. Yes, they have a long shelf-life.

  2. I've eaten a few US MREs (from swapping with US soldiers). AS well as MREs we call ours "rat packs".

    An Aussie example to compare (from when I served). This was a 24 hour pack:
    Crispbread bikkies (like a cracker in US I guess), Cheese, Chocolate (always out of date), Sweetened Condensed milk, Chewing Gum, M&Ms, Boiled lolly, Vegemite, Sugar, Tea Bags, Instant Coffee, Salt, Pepper, Curry Powder, Matches (Waterproof), Can Opener, Rubber Bands, Toilet Paper (10 sheets), Scouring Pad with Soap, Bag Plastic, Spagetti & Meatballs, Jam (Plum), Lamb & Vegs Rosemary, Chilli Sauce, Soya Sauce, Tabasco, Rice, Peaches (tinned), Gingernut, Lemon and Tropical Drink Powders, Pea and Ham Soup Powder, Muesli Bars

    1. "Rat packs" is a more creative name than MRE lol.

      Lolly? What's that?

      Vegemite? Ack gag choke hurl

      10 sheets TP? If they're similar in size to our TP, that's an itty bitty amount that won't even do the job!

      Thanks for your info!

    2. I think a boiled lolly is the same as a hard candy in the States (google: humbug)

    3. I just googled it and that's what it looks like. Thanks!

  3. When you read the list of dishes in MREs, they sound pretty good (like chicken pesto pasta), but I imagine they aren't nearly as good as a home cooked meal :-)

    1. Depends. If it's ME cooking, the MREs probably aren't that bad =)