This is how you got away with drinking during prohibition
After a long shift, troops have the option to relax by kicking off their boots and cracking open a beer. However, this privilege wasn't available to the veterans of World War I. On Dec. 18, 1919, a little over a year after The Great War, alcohol was an illegal substance in the United States. The veterans who fought in the most destructive war at that time were now denied the right to a cold brew. Imagine winning WWI, yet a civilian tells you you're not allowed to drink. Fat chance.
The Eighteenth Amendment wasn't perfect, which was perfect, because the loopholes allowed veterans to consume alcohol without directly violating the Constitution. The Lance Corporal underground of today can get away with some mischief, but they have nothing on the post-World War I veterans scoring some booze using a real underground.
They bought it before it was illegal
"I'll start my own country, with blackjack..."
Troops returning from the European theater had a valuable head start to legally purchase as many bottles as they could before Prohibition came into effect. It was legal to drink alcohol that was purchased prior to the 18th Amendment, in the privacy of your own home. The loophole in the law was the 'manufacture, sale, and transportation of intoxicating liquors,' not consumption, which is an important distinction if you're dodging an NJP.
Modern troops that are stationed in Okinawa understand the essential skill needed to stockpile booze in preparation for monsoon season. Proper prior planning prevents piss-poor performance, every second counts.
They made their own wine
Vino Sand Co.
If you've never tried the Navy's Well Wine, don't.
Vineyards during prohibition ceased producing wine for distribution and instead sold bricks of dried grapes. These bricks could be mixed with water and left to ferment over the period of three weeks or more to create wine. Troops could purchase these bricks and accidentally let them ferment in a dark cupboard somewhere.
They made their own beer too
Blatz Products Company
Malt syrup was not an illegal substance, but it was the key ingredient to make beer at home. By adding water, yeast, and sugar to the syrup, a troop could buy one can and patiently wait for the fermented ingredients to produce 50 pints of beer.
This wasn't legal, and raids were conducted on stockpiles of malt syrup, but if a troop wanted to get away with drinking beer, this was one they could get away with in their basement.
They would get a prescription for whiskey
A troop could legally purchase a pint of hard liquor every ten days at a drug store with a doctor's prescription. It was during this time that Walgreens happily contributed to providing people with the medicine they so desperately needed in those trying times. Their aid in the legal sale of alcohol allowed them to flourish into 500 chain stores during the 1920s.
A troop could get it from their Chaplin or religious leader
"Extra, Extra, read all about it. Terminal Lance Corporals become clergymen en masse!"
US Navy 100912-M-2275H-196 A command chaplain holds church services aboard USS Kearsarge
The Yorkville Enquirer reported the ban on sacramental wine on Sept. 1, 1922 had been lifted.
Imported or Domestic Product now allowed for Sacramental Use. David I. ltlair, commissioner of internal revenue, has definitely removed the ban from sacramental wine, in a decision which repeals two former decisions placing restrictions on wine for 'sacramental use, and amends the regulations governing its distribution.
Incredibly, troops mysteriously became devout attendees to services because:
If a bonded winery for the purposes of manufacturing ceremonial wines for general distribution, but not for his congregation only. A priest, rabbi or minister of the gospel also may be employed as a qualified winemaker to supervise the production of the needed wines.
Naturally, the number of religious leaders also rose by dubious amounts after 1922.
Alcohol has a special place in our military history, and we can take solace in the fact that our forefathers got equally sauced as we do today using legal -- or questionable methods.
- Prohibition | Definition, History, Eighteenth Amendment, & Repeal ... ›
- Prohibition: Home | PBS ›
- Prohibition - HISTORY ›