7 ways military rations used to be a lot better

Military scientists work tirelessly to make modern rations as light, nutritious, and healthy as possible for the warfighter. But they don’t seem to care about them being awesome at all. Here are 7 things they’ve removed from the menu that modern troops may enjoy.

1. Liquor

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Photo: Wikipedia/Bbadgett

From the Revolutionary War through 1832, soldiers received a “spirits ration” of rum, brandy, or whiskey. The standard spirits ration was replaced with coffee and sugar, but leaders could still order special alcohol rations for their soldiers until 1865 when an order from the War Department discontinued the practice.

2. Cigarettes

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Photo: US Army Signal Corps

Cigarettes were included in soldier rations from World War II until 1975.

3. Meals made almost entirely of candy

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Photo: Wikipedia/Hershey’s

The assault ration of World War II contained chocolate, caramel, chewing gum, peanuts, and dried fruit as well as cigarettes, salt tablets, and water-purification tablets. They provided between 1,500 and 2,000 calories but were obviously lacking in important nutrients like protein, vitamins, and everything else that isn’t sugar.

4. Spice packs

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Photo: US Army Signal Corps

Expert field cooks know to bring packets of spices with them to the field, but soldiers used to have them issued. The smallest pack was devised in World War II and served 100 soldiers for 10 days, so soldiers still had to make it to the company headquarters or higher to use the spices.

5. Field cooking equipment

Troops in the Revolutionary War through the Civil War were issued cooking gear. Usually, one out of every five or so soldiers would receive the cooking gear and soldiers would cook as a group. This allowed them to add ingredients they found on the march by just tossing them into the pot.

6. Soap

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Photo: Wikipedia

Troops today are expected to wash with baby wipes collected from care packages and purchased from the exchange, but soldiers from the Revolutionary War through World War II got soap in their rations. The quantity issued varied between .183 ounces up to .64 ounces per day.

7. Extremely high-calorie rations

MREs contain about 1,250 calories each and troops can eat three per day on operations for 3,750 calories. Back in World War II, the Army issued rations with 4,800 calories per person, per day, so there were probably fewer complaints about still being hungry after the meal. But these weren’t nice presents from the Army. These were “Mountain Rations” designed specifically for men cross-country skiing and mountain climbing. There was a similar ration for jungle combat that contained 4,000 calories.