The purpose of this article is to provide the essential facts pertaining to operational rations, food packets, and ration supplements used by the Armed Forces. Current design data and operational use concepts are also included. In the interest of clarity and mutual understanding, the terms describing various assemblies of food components are defined as follows
A ration is the allowance of food for one person for one day as prescribed by military regulations. Rations are designed for group and/or individual feeding and must be nutritionally adequate.
A meal is a nutritionally balanced food unit consisting of approximately one third of the prescribed daily requirement of a ration. Meals designed for use in the operational ration system are engineered to permit inter-changeability with other operational meals while insuring nutritional adequacy. A combination of any three meals would constitute a ration as defined by Army regulations.
A food packet is a short-term source of nourishment in special operational situations. It consists of prepared foods, specially selected for maximum nutritional value, palatability, and stability commensurate with the requirements for minimum weight/cubage and utility factors One or more food packets do not necessarily constitute a nutritionally complete ration.
A ration supplement is a collection of food, beverage, condiment, or comfort items intended to add to the minimum essentials of a food item in terms of nutrition, palatability, and enhancement of morale.
As we follow the evolution of the Armed Forces Operational Rations through the history of the United States, we find that from the Revolutionary War, through the Civil War, and on to World War I the basic military ration was composed of meat, bread, and beans. Changes were few and in the main were inspired by changes in the National food pattern-the increasing use of canned foods, for example. The soldier generally received his allowance of one to four days' rations at one time. These he either prepared by himself or pooled with those of a buddy who assisted in the preparation. That portion not immediately consumed was transported in his rucksack, or saddle bag, until the next meal.
The first of the Army Rations was established by Congressional Resolution on November 4, 1775:
The ration for U. S. troops in the Civil War was little improved over that of the Revolutionary War. Added, however, were coffee, tea, seasonings, and potatoes "when practicable." This Civil War Ration was estimated to have cost 15 cents per man per day (in contrast to the Field Ration cost of 96 plus cents per man per day as of 1 October 1962). Preparation of the food and feeding of the troops, however, was accomplished for whole companies rather than for individuals. In 1896 an Emergency Ration was established and subsequently followed by additional special rations. In 1901 the rations consisted of the Garrison, Emergency, Field, and Travel Rations. These were reduced to three in World War I and were identified as the Reserve, Trench, and Emergency Rations.
The Reserve Ration was the standard meat and bread ration which weighed 2¾ pounds and furnished approximately 3300 calories per man per day. The Trench Ration was designed to feed 25 men for one day. The Emergency Ration contained three 8-ounce cakes of beef powder and cooked wheat and three 1-ounce chocolate bars.
The development of operational rations used in World War II, Korea, and in improved form today, began in 1934, when the Quartermaster Corps undertook the development of a ration to replace the old emergency ration. This replacement, subsequently designated the D Ration, was developed by the predecessor agency of the Subsistence Research Laboratory in Chicago, later to become the Quartermaster Food and Container Institute for the Armed Forces.2 During the period 1941-1945, 23 different rations and ration supplements were developed for use by U. S. Armed Forces throughout the world. The most famous were the D Bar, C Ration, and K Ration.
Military nutritional requirements and feeding situations have not changed basically since the days of Hannibal and Genghis Khan. Essentially, it has always been necessary to supply rations on the basis of (1) the individual, (2) the small group (squad or crews), and (3) the large group (company size or larger).
Conceding the foregoing basic feeding situations, it is found that modern concepts of ration design have changed considerably to accommodate the ever increasing demand for greater mobility and dispersion of combat forces. To assure utility under anticipated future combat conditions, all rations must be not only minimal in cube and weight but also in manpower and equipment requirements associated with their supply, storage, issue, and preparation. Requirements for nutritional adequacy, acceptability, and stability, however, remain relatively unchanged. To fulfill current and future operational ration requirements, off-the-shelf, conventional foods would be quite inadequate. Needed are foods preserved and packaged by new and ingenious methods. Consequently, the resources of modern science and technology are drawn upon all the way from design to finished product. New technologies have been brought to bear on foods for military use-for example, freeze-dehydration and radiation preservation.
To stay abreast of new concepts and techniques of warfare, rations and feeding systems are under the constant scrutiny of the military analyst. The military and civilian food and container research specialists are continually seeking component and design improvement as well as completely new and revolutionary ideas. As new requirements in military feeding operations become evident, or as advances are made in experimental work leading to new or improved items, ration and/or entire concepts may be changed to reflect these advances. Typical of the ration modernization program designed to improve the individual feeding situation is the development of the Meal, Combat Individual as a replacement for the C Ration (Ration, Individual, Combat). The Meal, Combat, Individual more closely fits the requirements of current operational concepts and has the desired flexibility of use compatible with those concepts.
To meet food needs under the various conditions imposed by modern land, sea, and air operations new approaches have been taken to insure feeding systems of greater logistical flexibility and simplicity. This has resulted in the design, for instance, of a system of nutritionally interchangeable family of meals. At the present time, by contrast, the major portion of available stocks of bulk and packaged operational food is designed for issue on the ration basis. To fully understand the advantages accruing from a system of nutritionally interchangeable meals, one must first consider the limitations imposed by the use of the ration system.
As previously mentioned, a ration consists of food for one man for one day and therefore must contain minimally 3600 calories as well as prescribed levels of the dietary nutrients essential to nutritional balance. An obvious limitation is that the entire ration must be eaten during the course of the day in order to maintain that balance. This means that one ration cannot be broken down into three basically interchangeable units as is the ease in the system of nutritionally interchangeable meal families.
It is the intent of this. booklet to place these rations, meals, food packets, and ration supplements in proper perspective with relation to their intended use and to provide current data on the composition and status of each item. To this end the reader is informed of (1) what items are presently available in the system, (2) where they are intended to be used, and (3) what items can be expected to be available in the future. This can best be presented by covering four broad categories
(1) General Feeding Situations; (2) Special Feeding Situations; (3) Survival Feeding; (4) Future Feeding Concepts.
General Feeding Requirements. The need for an "operational" ration for the subsistence of the military man operating away from conventional field ration supply lines was recognized as early as pre-Revolutionary War days when our military action consisted principally of a guerrilla type of warfare on both the land and sea. As will be evident, most operational rations and ration components have been designed to fulfill a general feeding requirement.
The operational food items in this category--Ration and Meal-- were designed to satisfy the feeding requirements as dictated by the large group, the small group, and the individual feeding situations. The degree of flexibility allowed the commander in fulfilling his feeding requirement is determined by the type of operational ration available for his use.
Food items considered to fulfill general as opposed to special feeding requirements may be used by all of the Armed Forces --Army, Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force.
Special Feeding Situations. The various rations, packets and supplements classified and described in this group include those which, while authorized for use by all Services, are not routinely procured and stocked. Such items would, of course, be made available in the event of mobilization. Also included are those items authorized for limited or special purpose use, such as items developed to meet the specific requirements of one Service.
Survival Feeding. Survival food packets are used only in emergency situations. Since the space provided for them aboard lifeboats and aircraft is extremely limited, the foods are highly concentrated. They are designed to fulfill one purpose--sustaining personnel over a period of emergency.
Future Feeding Concepts.. Changing tactical and logistical
requirements have made mandatory the simplification of logistics. The new family of
nutritionally interchangeable meals is responsive to this requirement in the area of food
logistics. Fortunately, modern advances in the food sciences and technologies have made
possible the development of high quality meals capable of rapid preparation in the field.
Presently being developed are the Meal, Uncooked, 25-Man; Meal, Quick-Serve; Meal,
Ready-to-Eat, Individual; and the Food Packet, Individual, Combat. These rations will
eventually replace a number of current operational rations.
The Standard B Ration is the field ration which is used for mass feeding in areas where kitchen facilities, with the exception of refrigeration, are available. The ration consists of approximately 100 non-perishable items mainly canned and dehydrated-and is supplied in bulk. Hot meals furnishing approximately 3900 calories a man per day are prepared using a 15-day cycle of menus. Caloric content may be varied to meet requirements of varying climatic conditions or degree of physical activity of the troops as determined by the local medical authority.
The Meal, Combat, Individual is the first ration which has been adopted to meet the new subsistence concept of supplying nutritionally balanced meals rather than rations. It replaces the Ration, Combat, Individual (C Ration) which was used so extensively in World War II. This latter item will be issued as a limited standard item until current supplies are depleted.
The Meal, Combat, Individual, is designed for issue as the tactical situation dictates, either in individual units as a meal or in multiples of three as a complete ration. Its characteristics emphasize utility, flexibility of use, and more variety of food components than were included in the Ration, Combat, Individual (C Ration) which it replaces. Twelve different menus are included in the specification. Each menu contains one canned meat item; one canned fruit, bread or dessert item; one B unit; an accessory packet containing cigarettes, matches, chewing gum, toilet paper, coffee, cream, sugar, and salt; and a spoon. Four can openers are provided in each case of 12 meals. Although the meat item can be eaten cold, it is more palatable when heated.Each meal furnishes approximately one-third of the minimum nutrient intake prescribed by Army regulations.
On larger aircraft, special equipment is available for heating the meat and dessert items. However, all components can be eaten cold. Hot water is required for the coffee and tea. The food is packaged in a telescoping container which may be used as a tray and in which to dispose of waste.
In addition to the thin crackers, which have replaced canned bread in recent procurements, each menu contains one of each of the following commodity groups. All items of the Accessory group are included.
The Ration, Individual, Trail, Frigid, is designed for trail use under cold weather conditions. While hot meals can and are intended to be prepared from this ration, all components, except dehydrated soups and beverages, may be eaten without preparation. The processed cheese, fruit-cake bars, and candy components arc especially adaptable to trail consumption. The inclusion of several condiments in the one menu provided enables maximum flexibility in component preparation.
The ration supplies a minimum of 4400 calories instead of the 3600 calories required for temperate climates. Intended for use by members of small patrols or trail teams for a short period of time during which resupply is not feasible, it is minimal in weight and cube.
Although a standard item, this ration is not routinely procured and stocked. The ration is packed in a corrugated box inclosed in a waterproof bag. Three sheets of non-woven fabric are inclosed for use in cleaning cooking and eating utensils.
Air crews must be maintained at peak physical condition at all times. Palatable nutritious food for flight feeding purposes is therefore essential. The efficiency of crew members is directly related to their capacity for resisting fatigue and food is the chief physiological factor that dispels fatigue and replenishes energy.
The precooked frozen meal is designed to provide a highly acceptable hot meal for the large, long-range aircraft in which it is necessary for several meals to be consumed on a flight. This meal requires refrigerated storage and an oven for heating aboard aircraft. Hot cups are also provided for heating water needed for hot coffee or tea.
The meal is in an expendable aluminum tray, covered with sheet aluminum foil which is crimped under the protruding lip of the tray. The only preparation required is placing the tray in the specially designed oven to heat. About 25 minutes is required to heat the food to 160°F. internal temperature.
As these meals are perishable, special precautions are taken to insure sanitation in the processing. They are held at 0°F. storage temperature until heated for consumption. Maintenance of low storage temperature is necessary to retain high acceptability, since the meals are often held for periods of three months or slightly longer.
To avoid monotony-and to increase procurement resources-eight menus are being procured on a monthly basis. Of the eight menus, two are breakfast menus and the other six, dinner or lunch menus. All trays have three compartments so as to provide for three separate food components. The meal weighs about 10 ounces net and to he complete should be supplemented with a beverage, dessert, salad, and bread.Following is a list of eight precooked frozen meals presently procured:
Menu No.1 Roast turkey w/gravy, dressing, lima beans, and mashed sweet potatoes.
Menu No.2 Swiss steak, mushroom gravy, peas, and au gratin potatoes.
Menu No.3 Chopped beef, green beans, and mashed potatoes.
Menu No.4 Chicken breast and thigh w/gravy, corn, and oven-browned potatoes.
Menu No. 5 Beef pot roast w/gra~v, mixed vegetables, and steamed potatoes.
Menu No.6 Beef steak, browned mushrooms, green beans, and mashed potatoes.
Menu No.7 Waffles, pork and beef sausage, and applesauce.
Menu No. 8 Beef flaked steak, french-fried potatoes, and sweet roll.
Research and development effort is being expended to lengthen the shelf life, to enhance quality, and to simplify and improve specified production requirements.
The Food Packet, Survival is suitable for use in any survival situation under all environmental conditions, including those where potable water is limited. Four food bars of uniform nutrient content comprise the major constituents of each food packet. Six different bars have been developed for random assembly into the packet. The protein content of these bars is rigidly controlled so that the food packet conserves body water yet assures maximum value from protein at any level of consumption. This unique nutritional design allows the adjustment of issue and consumption to anticipated needs. It was recently adopted by all branches of the Armed Forces as a standard survival ration and will replace both the Food Packet, Survival Arctic, SA and the Food Packet Survival, ST when available for issue.
Production tests of four of the six new bars developed for use in this new survival food packet are scheduled to be conducted in the near future. Soon after these tests are completed the packet should be available for use.
The food packet is packaged in a 12-ounce rectangular can (key-opening type) and consists of the following:
Food bars, survival-type (four of six types randomly selected)
This Food Packet, Survival, ST is no longer a standard A item and will remain in the inventory of military survival rations only until such time as the new standard all purpose item, the Food Packet, Survival, becomes available for its replacement.
Components of the ST food packet are:
The packet is contained in a flat, rectangular can which is easily carried in the pocket. A can opener is taped to the bottom.
When the Food Packet, Survival becomes available for issue, the Arctic food packet will no longer be procured or used.
The following components are included in this food packet:
The austerity of an all meat bar ration is relieved through the inclusion of a variety of high carbohydrate foods. The meat bars can be browned or made into gruel by the addition of water, onion powder, and chili seasoning which are included in the packet. The bars can be eaten without preparation. Packaged in two rectangular cans, this food packet provides a total of 3600 calories.
From a physiological standpoint, it is necessary that adequate water be consumed with this food packet. At present it is included in some Air Force survival kits and is also used in training and indoctrination at the Air Force Survival Training School.
Each ration consists of the following components
Used in survival kits and in life rafts of naval aircraft the Food Packet, Life Raft, Aircraft is intended for short term use while awaiting rescue or air-drop of supplies.
User requirements are stringent. The packet must (1) withstand extreme temperature changes, (2) be of minimum cube and weight, and (3) consist of food which will be beneficial even when water supply is critically limited. The kinds of food suitable for use in this packet are therefore severely restricted. Recently revised to assure maximum stability when exposed to high temperatures (up to 160°F.), the food packet now contains 20 special sucrose tablets and two packets of gum. Half of the tablets are fortified with ascorbic acid and are provided in a variety of fruit flavors and colors to enhance acceptability. The remainder of the tablets are mint-flavored lozenges. Three hundred and six calories are furnished in this all-carbohydrate food packet.
The ration is packaged in a flat metal, key-opening can. A waterproof bag is provided for storing unused tablets. An instruction sheet and a piece of twine are also included in each packet.
The purpose of this packet is to sustain life until rescue or until other food is available. It is to be used only when personnel are required to abandon ship and is supplied to lifesaving craft aboard ships.
The Food Packet, Abandon Ship consists of two starch jelly bars, four mint tablets, chewing gum, and matches, and is packaged in a sealed waterproof bag. Fifteen food packets and a cigarette packet are packaged in a carton; eight cartons are packed into a shipping case.
Each packet provides 474 calories. It is issued on the basis of one packet per man per day. The components have maximum stability for storage in on-deck craft under all climatic conditions. In fact, since the Navy has indicated that this food must be stable at 140°F. for one month, even the starch jelly bar component must be specially formulated. Canned water in limited quantities or water-making equipment is provided on the life-saving craft.
(Data based on 1962 3-day cycle assembly.)
Individual food components are scheduled for gradual integration into the supply system during the period FY 1964-1966 to accelerate production capability. Production testing of the Quick-Serve Meals is scheduled for completion during FY 1966.
6-MAN MODULE (1962 assembly)
25-MAN MODULE (1962 assembly)
A variety of approaches is currently being taken toward component development. Initial Engineer Test menus are in the early planning stage. This Ready-to-Eat Meal is scheduled for adoption in FY 1966 with availability projected for the following year.
The packet will not exceed 5 ounces in net weight and will furnish about 500 calories. Two packets must provide adequate nutrition so that when eaten as a sole diet for 10 days a man will not suffer physiological damage that cannot be counteracted by a short recuperation period without evacuation from his assigned unit. It will have the highest possible ratio of food to packaging. Edible packaging may be used. Maximum use will be made of dehydration, compression, food fabrication, and other means of conserving weight and cube consistent with caloric and nutrient requirements.
Six food packets will be packaged in a bandoleer so as to provide two packets per man per day for a period of three days. Nine bandoleers will be packed in a storage/caching case. The caching case, when filled, will not weigh more than 25 pounds. It must be able to withstand delivery by air without parachute. The case must protect the contents in storage above or below the ground.