Beer & the Military in WWII

Happy G.I.s w/ their beer!

During WWI, the U.S. struggled to supply “the comforts of home” to the Doughboys.  The Red Cross and various other groups helped, but it wasn’t enough.  During WWII, the U.S. government was determined to do a better job and reserved a certain percentage of comfort items, such as beer and cigarettes, for the servicemen.

Service members could buy such items, along with gum, pop, candy, books, etc. at a PX.  When feasible, small mobile PXs were set up, sometimes in the back of jeeps, to supply such items to those on or near the front.

Breweries were required to set aside a 15% of their production for military use.  The prohibitionists were still around and active and tried to convince the military to ban alcoholic beverages totally.  Instead the military supplied only 3.2% beer to servicemen instead of the 4-7% alcohol content.  Theoretically, servicemen could not get drunk on 3.2 beer, but obviously the person who said that never saw the PX after a long desert march.  Not every brewer made the 3.2 being as it had to made separately.

WWII beer cans

During the war, the military used both bottles and cans to send beer overseas.  Cans were lighter, more compact and didn’t break as easily as the bottles, but while both glass and metal were rationed, bottles were somewhat easier to replace than cans, so both were used.

At first, the breweries used cans with the same labels as the pre-war cans.  All they did was change the tax statement on the label to indicate that the relevant taxes were not applicable.  The new statement read, “Withdrawn Free of Internal Revenue Tax for Exportation.”  In 1944, the military switched to olive drab cans, apparently in an effort to make the cans more uniform in appearance.

The U.S. began to ease rationing restrictions in late 1945, although it took several years to eliminate all rationing and price controls.  Beer cans became available for civilian use again in early 1947,  Cab companies began advertising that “the cans are back!”

WWII beer

Beer had long been more popular in the U.S. than ale.  Schaefer had been the first brewery to introduce lager beer to the U.S. in the mid 19th Century.  By the early 20th Century, only New England drinkers still preferred ale to beer.  After WWII, New England tastes switched to match the rest of the country.  It is supposed that the returning servicemen developed a taste for beer during the war.  The government did not supply much ale as the alcohol content is usually higher in ale than in beer.

Article first appeared in “The Voice of the Angels”, the 11th A/B Division Association newspaper.

Click on images to enlarge.

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Military Humor – 

A new War Terror – Beware of Dog on Rations!

G.I. envelope home humor, 1945

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Quarantine Humor – 

A Stephen King warning from “The Shining”

 

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Farewell Salutes – 

Kenneth Adams – Des Moines, IA; US Army, WWII / National Guard Reserves (Ret.)

Harvel ‘Jack’ Baines – Oplin, TX; US Navy, WWII, SeaBees, Shipfitter 2nd Class

Michael J. Cox Sr. – Kewanee, IL; US Army, Vietnam, 2nd Lt., 25th Infantry Division

Dale Doran Sr. – Port Angeles, WA; US Army, 11th Airborne Div. / 822nd Aviation Engineer Battalion, Korea

Julius Heins – El Paso, TX; US Navy, WWII, PTO, Pharmacist’s Mate 1st Class

Thomas McCartney – Schenectady, NY; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO

David O’Connor – Capa, SD; US Navy, WWII, PTO, SeaBee / US Army, Korea

Bill Rodgers – Le Flore, OK; US Army, Korea, Sgt., Co. A/1/32/31st RCT/7th Infantry Division, KIA (Chosin)

Samuel Smirna – East Bruswick, NJ; US Army, WWII, ETO

William Waggoner – Patagonia, AZ; US Army Air Corps, WWII, ETO,glider pilot, 440/95th Squadron

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About GP

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

Posted on April 13, 2020, in Uncategorized, WWII and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 140 Comments.

  1. Christopher Rumm

    It sure would be great to come across some of these WWII era cans!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I never really understood what “PX goods were”, now I do!

    Like

  3. I love this story! And look at those beer cans. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Outstanding article on something a lot of folks don’t stop and think about. We sure didn’t gt any in the Gulf War. As Cpl Eric McArtor put it, “No booze, no dope, no babes. What the hell kind of war is this!” At least we had the Andrew’s Sisters courtesy of Baghdad Betty.

    Everything that was coming in was screened carefully, so if anyone tried to mail you a bottle of whiskey, it was a safe bet it wouldn’t make it. One thing that did happened about a month after Christmas. Our mail had finally caught up to us, and Sp4 Arnold called me over. He’d gotten a package of ten wax bottles like the kind we used to get as kids that had Kool-Aid inside. But this sure wasn’t Kool–Aid, but fine wine.

    The closest we got to a beer was a Near Beer in a place back in Saudi Arabia shortly before we left.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Nice article. Why were the called the Doughboys?

    Liked by 1 person

  6. That post brought back memories for me gp, a Chinook helicopter landing next to an artillery base nearby, dropping the back and showing three aisles with stacked shelves and a checkout at the rear exit, even a small bay at the back for trolley’s.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Bill was an 82nd trooper during the Vietnam Era. He said there was beer and cigarettes dispensed through vending machines in the day room. They were heavily utilized!!
    BTW, I’ve been meaning to mention that Bill’s Dad fought in WWII in the Navy (😏), and his first name was also, Everett.
    Blessings~🙏

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I suspect the O.D. cans were used because they were harder to divert to civilian sale. They’d sort of stand out.

    Like

  9. Reblogged this on John's Notes and commented:
    I found this post by Gp Cox very interesting and wanted to share it.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. They are in quarantine, overseas, and on MREs cuz the Chow Hall is closed down, currently. xxx

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I love it. Subdued beer cans! You can drink in the field and not get your butt shot off! 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Hi GP, my brother-in-law in Michigan still hasn’t sent me the manuscript that my wife and I put together about their father Norman P. Brown, 11th Airborne, Pacific. I guess now he’s locked down by Covid.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. A substantial number of the Americans stationed in England found the warm English beer very difficult to like, and certainly the RAF frequently found the beer around their own airbases to be extremely weak, and almost impossible to get drunk on, given the quantities available during rationing. Perhaps it was brewed deliberately weak so that it didn’t upset the bomb aimer’s aim.
    Many officers drank shorts if they were available, and I remember reading years ago that the best cure for a hangover is to take off in your Spitfire with the canopy open and have a cold 150 mph breeze blow through your hair.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yikes! That would be a rough one. Maybe that’s what happened to the Frenchman who had a panic attack while getting a free ride in a fighter jet and ejected himself at 2,500 feet!!

      Like

  14. As always, an informative post, GP, and it is good to see the morale boosting, pleasurable side of things. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Great post. Fun to read about some of the brighter aspects of war. My Dad was an army sergeant, stationed in the Philippines, and he told a few little stories about food and rationing, and he’d be the go to guy if someone needed something. He’d make it happen. Funny, he never mentioned beer to his three impressionable young daughters. I’m sure if he had sons, the stories would have been a lot different. -thanks for always entertaining us with your findings. Take care…be safe. P.S. I always look over the names and cities of the folks who passed away. I get a little misty. But then, when I see some are WWII veterans, I’m happy that they had a good long life. 🇺🇸

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Beer is a great drink! My father always has a couple of beers before lunch, and thanks be to God, he is 97 years old. I started the tradition…great post George, truly enjoyed it! (with a beer as it is almost 2p, lunch time in Spain).
    All the best, and stay safe my friend,
    Francisco

    Liked by 1 person

  17. “Mmmm, beer!” (Homer Simpson)👍

    Liked by 1 person

  18. I enjoyed this brief history of beer in WWII!

    Liked by 1 person

  19. I must be in a mischievous mood. Maybe they kept the cans in khaki so the soldiers could go on manoeuvres and not be discovered in the jungle on account of holding on to a beer. And see the guy with a beer in each hand? That’s how you don’t touch your face during COVID-19 precautions.

    Liked by 2 people

  20. Once upon a time In Colorado, 18-year-olds could buy 3.2 beer and it was like mother’s milk for some. Tulagi’s and the Sink across Broadway at the University of Colorado in Boulder and Clancy’s south of Fort Collins for those who went Colorado State University were the places to be. There was always The Rock in Estes Park. Great times, great days, great music, and great girls. What else could anyone want?

    Liked by 1 person

  21. Imagine beer was a real treat for the men on the war front and have to say they deserved whatever they wanted for their service. Pictures of the servicemen with a beer in their hand always also had a smile on their face.

    Liked by 1 person

  22. What better morale booster than an ice cold beer!!! Had to share this one with my husband.

    Liked by 1 person

  23. This article had me at “Beer” 🙂 Also love the Shining meme in your military humor!

    Liked by 1 person

  24. Always good to provide the moral boosters and a little taste of home!
    HUGS!!! 🙂
    PS…HA! on The Shining! 😮 😛

    Liked by 1 person

  25. People nowadays don’t realize that back in the 1940s (unlike today), practically everyone (especially men) smoked, so a shortage of cigarettes would have been more than an inconvenience for soldiers. On the other hand, I doubt the present generation has any problem empathizing with a shortage of beer!

    Liked by 1 person

  26. Good story on beer, GP. One of my favorite photos of my dad is where he is on an island around a bunch of his shipmates with a beer in his hand singing songs.

    Liked by 1 person

  27. Yes, an article i missed in the past. 😉 Thank you GP! Stay well and save! Michael

    Liked by 1 person

  28. In the tropics, a nice cold beer must be like manna from heaven. Cheers!

    Liked by 2 people

  29. “Beer”?? did somebody say Beer??!
    My Beer days are done GP, but sometimes that bell still rings. I surely imagine that for any soldier it was an appreciated luxury.

    Liked by 1 person

  30. Guys just wanna have fun 🎶 Oh guys just wanna have fun, that’s all they really ever want🇱🇷🍺🍻

    Liked by 1 person

  31. Loved the dog on rations cartoon!

    Liked by 1 person

  32. Great post. Take care of our boys!

    Liked by 1 person

  33. When my dad was in the Vets home the guys usually stayed in their rooms or maybe some other area of the facility but when the Cooties would come with beer and BBQ tons of them appeared from out of nowhere 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  34. “The rum ration (also called tot) was a daily amount of rum given to sailors on Royal Navy ships. It was abolished in 1970 after concerns that regular intakes of alcohol would lead to unsteady hands when working machinery.”

    Keeping military members “buzzed” is a long tradition.

    Liked by 1 person

  35. This is an interesting little piece of history on the morale-boosting use of beer and other ‘luxury’ items, such as candy, chewing gum, chocolate, cigarettes for the common US soldier in WW2.

    Liked by 2 people

  36. I love this blog thank you for sharing friend it’s much appreciated 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  37. This is a fascinating essay. I’d never read about this subject before. I’m going to forward the piece to some friends and relatives.

    Liked by 1 person

  38. Thank you for educating me about the Beer Rations GP! It led me to google what beer related ideas we are currently doing in the UK.
    At the moment, you can donate a beer for an NHS worker at Gipsy Hill Brewery, Brewgooder and Cloudwater Brewery. Thanks for raising my awareness!
    Best Wishes, Charlotte

    Liked by 1 person

  39. Enjoyed that bit of information. Out of curiosity, do you know if this was how production of 3.2 beer originated?

    Liked by 1 person

  40. Loving The Shining meme 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  41. Rheingold, Pabst, Schaefer, Schultz & Balentine; not exactly a craft beer flight, but I’m sure it was a welcome treat. After spending several years in West Virginia, where all beer was 3.2, I can tell you, you can get drunk on it. At least that’s what I heard 😏

    Liked by 2 people

  42. Fun post GP. During Operation Joint Guard in Hungary in 1997, Morale Welfare and Recreation (MWR) ran the only the beer tent in Hungary, which was the only legal place for troops stationed in Hungary, Bosnia-Herzegovina, or Croatia to drink alcohol because of General Order #1. The beer tent was part of the operation I was in charge of (though I did not run it personally). Everyone worked 7 days a week–10-14 hours a day. Every so often soldiers were given a 4-day pass. Many of them would come live in a tent in Taszar so they could drink in the beer tent in the evening.

    Liked by 2 people

  43. I think even I might prefer a cold beer to a warm ale after a long march.

    Liked by 5 people

  44. Supplying the troops with beer must have been morale-building. And who wouldn’t enjoy a cold beer after a long march?
    Best wishes, Pete.

    Liked by 4 people

  45. Thank you for sharing this article.

    Like

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