Here’s a pretty interesting graphic showing the evolution of the K-Ration throughout World War II.

Right click and open image in new tab to see the whole thing.


The K-Ration was produced in Breakfast, Dinner, and Supper menus.




Originally conceived for paratroopers, it was later adopted for widespread use throughout the Army. It was only intended to be used for three to five days before troops switched to regular meals from the mess kitchens, but many troops ended up subsisting on K-Rats for weeks at a time. That was pretty problematical, because the K-Rat just didn’t have enough calories in it. Troops in combat can easily burn through 6000 calories a day, and the 3000 or so calories from a K-Rat diet would seen see signs of malnourishment spreading through a force.

Some of the menu choices might seem a bit weird, but most were generally well accepted at first. It was the monotony of having to eat K-Rats over and over that lead to a great deal of dissatisfaction with the K-Rat by the end of the war.

[I first wrote about 3000 words on all Army rations during the war, then decided it was crap, and threw this together instead.]

6 thoughts on “K-Rats”

  1. I remember readinsomething about the guy who developed the K-ration originally. Part of his choices had to with whether the foods involved had cholesterol or not because he was one of the early anti-cholesterol advocates. Makes me laugh in light of the fact that they’d include cigarettes in the pack.

    1. While popularly referred to as C-rations, or “C-rats”, the field ration in the Vietnam era was the Meal, Combat, Individual. Each meal consisted of two cans, one an “M Unit” containing a meat product, and a “B Unit” containing a bread- usually crackers of some sort. There were two other cans containing other foods such as a cheese spread or peanut butter, and perhaps a pound cake.

      While they were an evolution from the C-Ration of World War II, they were a distinct entity in the history of the Army field ration.

      Ham and Motherfuckers was simply ham and lima beans. It wasn’t the best meal on the planet. If you only had to eat it once or twice, it wasn’t bad. But, like most of the C Rations and MCI meals, the sheer repetition of eating them again and again led to low acceptance.

      The replacement for the MCI, the Meal Ready to Eat, or MRE, suffered from the same repetition problem. For the first decade, there was no significant change in the menus. After 1992, the menus were changed, the meals enlarged, and later the total number of menus increased to 24. Annually, the least popular menus are replaced by new menus.

  2. My favorite factoid about MREs was that in Desert Storm, it was the first time in recorded history that an active combat unit engaged with the enemy in the field GAINED weight (due to the caloric content of the MREs).

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