The New Boom in the Food Industry

Food has often been an important part of warfare. What is less known is how food developed for warfare changed people’s lives after the war. The most important development happened after World War II, though the canning process has been around for a long time.

Canned food started by using tin cans to preserve various items in the early 19th century. British sailors and explorers found that canned food was a relatively easy way to supplement their rations. For example, the Arctic explorer William Parry took canned beef and pea soup on his voyage. By the middle of the 19th century many of the middle class in Europe bought canned food as novelty items.

The American Civil War, Crimean War, and Franco Prussian War introduced hundreds of thousands of soldiers to the novelty and enjoyment of canned foods, which expanded their consumption even more. Yet at this time they still remained relatively fringe items used by explorers and military.

It was the millions of men fighting in World War I and II that created an explosion in demand for canned food. The American government in particular faced problems connected to supplying troops in multiple theaters of combat around the world. They had to supply and feed millions of men with items that transported safely, survived trench conditions, and didn’t spoil in transport.

Canned foods thus became a pivotal part of the wartime experience. The C rations in particular were pre-made meals that could be eaten either warm or cold, so they often became the main staple of the war weary troops.

Sometimes they got lucky in being able to supplement their canned rations with local foods, and in World War II the rations of Allied servicemen often included M&Ms and Coca-Cola. The M&M candies were particularly liked because their hard outer shell prevented the chocolate interior from melting during transport to hot and humid locations in southeast Asia.

“Coke” became the preferred drink of the troops due to a marketing campaign in the States: any American in uniform could buy a Coke for a nickel regardless of its listed price. But there were few sources of the drink for Americans serving in Europe, Africa, and Asia.

Accordingly, General Eisenhower requested 3 million bottles of Coke be shipped to his current location in North Africa, along with the equipment and supplies to refill them as needed so they could maintain a permanent supply of Coke.

Coke machine worked by the refrigeration crew of the 64th Seabees [Naval Construction Battalion] inTubabao, Samar, Philippines. Gift of Joseph Cohen, The National WWII Museum Inc., 2003.083.071

Coca-Cola did one better and sent 148 personnel to install and manage the overseas bottling plants. The specialists were given uniforms and a rank of “technical adviser.” They were often called “Cola Colonels” by the soldiers, and they were often treated very well because they were a great boost to morale.

Both Coca-Cola and canned goods remained popular after the war. Coke products inspired a worldwide thirst, and the canned food companies sold their surplus goods on the civilian market. They also developed a marketing campaign to relate the convenience of canned foods to the demands of busy modern life.

WWII Coca Cola ad

Mass production of instant meals in factories extensively lowered their cost and expanded their use across the lower and middle classes. Some of these items included powdered cheeses, instant drinks, and cured meats, which were all developed during World War II but later became staples in the civilian world. These developments in turn changed the palate of the American consumer and much of the world they had touched.

 

So the next time you don’t feel like cooking and open up a can of soup, or grab some M&Ms and wash them down with a Coke, you’ll appreciate the fascinating history of how your tastes for such foods resulted from developments during wars, and how some of those foods were first experienced by soldiers that were often thousands of miles away.

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Current News –

TF – 102 at award ceremony

The Green Berets of the U.S. Army 10th Special Forces Group received 48 combat awards for the action in Afghanistan.  Task Force 102 were awarded:

5   Silver Stars

7   Bronze Stars w/ Valor devices

15  Army Commendation Medals w/ Valor

21  Purple Hearts

Unfortunately it cost them 3 KIA and 1 non-combat death.

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Blog News – 

Unfortunately, we have lost a wonderful fellow blogger who has been a friend to many of us.  Brian Edward Smith, also know as Beari, ElBob or Lord Beari of Bow, of Australia, passed away on 24 September 2019.  He will be greatly missed.

A note from his daughter, Sarah reads:

If you fancy taking some time to remember dad I know he would love you to listen to Beethoven’s Missa solemnis. He’d be thrilled to think that was being played around the world for him. He also loved Beethoven s Ninth Symphony or Mozart’s Coronation March. If classical music is not your thing – he loved ol blues eyes – Frank Sinatra!

Sarah’s email is – suzziqqt@hotmail.com

 

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Military Humor – 

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Farewell Salutes – 

Gerald Abel – London, CAN; Merchant Navy / RC Army, WWII

John R. Bayens – Louisville, KY; USMC, WWII, PTO, Pvt., Co. B/1/6th Marines, KIA (Tarawa)

Norman A. Buan – Long Prairie, MN; USMC, WWII, PTO, Co. C/2nd Marines, KIA (Tarawa)

George Clark – Rome, MS; US Navy, WWII, PTO, USS Astoria

Bill Etherton – Buffalo, IL; US Army, Occupation, 11th Airborne Division

George Flint – Lima, OH; US Army, WWII, 87th Infantry

Morris Maxwell – Gentry, AR; US Army, WWII, PTO

David Pershing (101) – Houston, TX; US Navy, WWII, PTO, pilot, USS Belleau Wood / USNR, Capt. (Ret.)

Clyde Sheffield – Daytona, FL; US Army, Korea & Vietnam, Major (Ret. 22 y.), Bronze Star

Louis Wieseham – Richmond, IN; USMC, WWII, PTO, Pfc, E Co./2/8th Marines, KIA (Tarawa)

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About GP Cox

Everett Smith served with the Headquarters Company, 187th Regiment, 11th A/B Division during WWII. This site is in tribute to my father, "Smitty." GPCox is a member of the 11th Airborne Association. Member # 4511 and extremely proud of that fact!

Posted on October 7, 2019, in Korean War, Vietnam, WWII and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 174 Comments.

  1. Thank you! This is some great history right here and I love that!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. very nice

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I enjoyed reading this 🙂 Family and relatives recall the food air dropped by the Americans for the locals as well. One was a cook for the soldiers–the last group left him all the surplus food–mostly tinned–he had to hire a boat to load them, was so heavy they dismantled the roof and threw it into the sea. Food memories include: Hershey’s Kisses, powdered eggs, oatmeal, Spam, tinned salmon.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I remember my dad craving C Rations once in awhile…actually going on post to find some! Who’da THUNK that would happen?!

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Just back from Malaysia where tin mining was a huge part of the economy. Most of it ended up used for canned food. When I was a child canned food was a major part of our diet in Scotland. We didn’t have a fridge until 1968 when I was 8.

    Liked by 2 people

    • This post turned out to be something someone from every generation can relate to. I hadn’t realized that when I posted it, but I’m certainly glad I did. Thank you for telling us your story, Kaiti.

      Like

  6. Awesome Storytimes & Discussions!! Check it out here: http://yupstorytime.wordpress.com

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Very sorry to read about blogger, Brian Edward Smith.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. That is an interesting bit of food history, GP!

    On another food topic, I know of one Vietnam veteran who told me part of their training was to be dropped off with no food in an uninhabited, isolated area with a companion. They had to forage for food for a specified time while making their way to a pickup point. Our friend’s companion was a boy from the southeast hills who was an excellent hunter and forager, and the pair came out weighing more than when they were dropped off. They were accused of cheating. I don’t know if the Army still does this as part of their training.

    Liked by 3 people

  9. Interesting history. Didn’t know about importance of coke and I love it

    Liked by 3 people

  10. WOW that was interesting, we dont know how lucky we are.

    Liked by 3 people

  11. Great post gp, had to re read the bit about Coke sending over technicians and setting up the in field bottling plants, unbelievable and amazing the innovative thinking at the time.
    Cheers.

    Liked by 3 people

  12. Thank you I had never thought about this.

    Liked by 2 people

  13. This really was an interesting read. I always think of canning as dual track; there’s commercial canning, like you showed here, and home canning, like my grandmother and mother did. I’m not sure when home canning in Mason jars began, but I’ll bet it was about the same time.

    Today, commercially canned veggies and fruit have profited from new techniques. Canned goods are part of food pantries and emergency kits, for sure. I’ve known a few circumnavigators, and while they don’t carry a lot of canned goods because of the weight, they do take some, and they varnish the cans. It keeps them from rusting in the salty environment — I know some tomatoes that made it to Phuket and back to the Panama Canal before they got eaten!

    Liked by 2 people

  14. Thank you for linking to this article. It doesn’t just apply to the US or the US military.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Thank you very much!

    Liked by 1 person

  1. Pingback: The New Boom in the Food Industry — Pacific Paratrooper – Truth Troubles

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