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How Chocolate Helped To Win The War

Seventy-five years ago, more than 160,000 Allied troops stormed the beaches of Normandy during the D-Day invasion.  And while we all know that day served as a huge turning point for the Allied cause, you probably haven’t thought much about what those soldiers carried with them to eat during and after the invasion.

Food had to be lightweight, nutritious and very high in energy; after all, these men were about to invade Nazi-occupied land.  As it so happens, the one substance that could fulfill all those requirements was a very unlikely it — a Hershey’s chocolate bar.

D ration chocolate bar

The Hershey Chocolate company was approached back in 1937 about creating a specially designed bar just for U.S. Army emergency rations.  According to Hershey’s chief chemist, Sam Hinkle, the U.S. government had just four requests about their new chocolate bars: (1) they had to weigh 4 ounces; (2) be high in energy; (3) withstand high temperatures; (4) “taste a little better than a boiled potato.”

The final product was called the “D ration bar,” a blend of chocolate, sugar, cocoa butter, skim milk powder and oat flour.  The viscous mixture was so thick, each bar had to be packed into its 4-ounce mold by hand.

As for taste, well – most who tried it said they would rather have eaten the boiled potato.  The combination of fat and oat flour made the chocolate bar a dense brick, and the sugar did little to mask the overwhelmingly bitter taste to the dark chocolate.  Since it was designed to withstand high temperatures, the bar was nearly impossible to bite into.

Troopers had to shave slices off with a knife before they could chew it.  And despite the Army’s best efforts to stops the men from doing so, some of the D-ration bars ended up in the trash.

Tropical chocolate bar

Later in the war, Hershey introduced a new version, known as the Tropical bar, specifically designed for extreme temperatures of the Pacific Theater.  By the end of the war, the company had produced more than 3 billion ration bars.

Soldier with a Tropical bar

But “Hitler’s Secret Weapon”, as many infantrymen referred to the chocolate bar, was hardly the only candy in the D-Day rations.  Candy was an easy way to pep up the troops, and the quick burst of energy provided by sugar was a welcome addition to kit bags.

Along with the D rations, troops received 3 days worth of K ration packs.  These were devised more as meal replacements and not sustenance snacks like the D rations, and came complete with coffee, canned meats, processed cheese and tons of sugar.  The other chocolate companies would soon join in with the production.

Cadbury ration bar

At various points during the war, men could find powdered orange or lemon drink, caramels, chewing gum and of course – more chocolate!!  Along with packs of cigarettes and sugar cubes for coffee, the K ration packs provided plenty of valuable energy for fighting men.

Click on images to enlarge.

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Current News – 

The Lost 52 Project has located the ‘late and presumed lost’ US submarine, USS Grunion off the Aleutian Islands.  She sunk with 70 crewmen on board during WWII.

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Farewell Salutes – 

George Beckwith – Ossipee, NH; US Army, WWII, ETO, US 6th Army / Korea, 187th/11th Airborne Division

Ralph Bennett – Ames, IA; US Army, WWII, CBI, KIA

Lonnie ‘L.D.’ Cook – OK; US Navy, WWII, Pearl Harbor, USS Arizona

Frederick Haberman (100) – Bloomfield, NJ; US Navy, WWII

Claude Honeycutt – Gadsden, AL; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, P-47 pilot, 34 FS/437 Fighter Group

Roy A. Knight Jr. – Millsap, TX; US Air Force, Vietnam, Colonel, 602 Special Operations Squadron, KIA

Anthony Lewis Sr. – Watervliet, MI; US Army Air Corps, WWII

John McRoskey – San Diego, CA; US Army, WWII, Major, 515/13th Airborne

Myron Stone – Tacoma, WA; US Army, Vietnam, 101st Airborne Division

Harry Walton Sr. – Allentown, PA; USMC, Korea

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