Army Quartermaster Museum -
Fort Lee, Virginia
Food is the most important element in combat efficiency
says the General Chairman of the Conference on Military Subsistence in his
opening address, delivered on April 1st at the Army War College.
You are faced with a great opportunity during these sessions at which the
problem of subsistence for the troops throughout the world will be studied. To
some it may seem that thirty days might be too long a time for this conference.
Far from it. The subject is one upon which many months could profitably be spent
without exhausting its possibilities.
It might be thought that reports of operations filed by Army commanders
should furnish much of the information which will be sought here. Those reports
are available and will be utilized, but this assembly will give us something far
more real and far more effective. The experiences of company grade officers,
Battalion S-4's, railhead officers, and others, through each echelon of supply,
are being brought together to make a complete and authentic story which will
disclose any deficiencies that might take the form of a pattern, with full
consideration of the variables of climate, terrain, and types of operations.
From this cross-section of experience, by analysis, we should be able to
determine basic and minimum requirements for military operations, whether they
be conducted in the South Seas, in the desert, or on the frozen tundras of the
In calling together representatives from the Ground Forces and the
Service Forces, it is realized that we are taking officers from very important
tasks, and former officers from civilian pursuits, at a time when they are
readjusting their lives after many arduous months in the service. The
Quartermaster General, however, desires to explore exhaustively the experiences
in the many theatres to supplement the meager information already available in
official reports. The spirit of helpful cooperation in which you have undertaken
your part of the job is highly commendable, and, I assure you, deeply
We have heard from very high sources that the American Army was the best
fed army in the world. We know exhaustive research and development were
conducted to make it so. We know that the product of that research and
development was a ration superior to that supplied the troops of any other
nation. But we also know that the end-product-namely, the food eaten by the
soldier in the front lines in the combat zone at times fell far short of what it
should have been. You are in the best position to supply knowledge of the causes
and make suggestions for improvements.
As far as I have been able to find out, no one can draw a definite
pattern of the conditions of use of the several rations. We are looking to this
conference to supply the information which will enable us to do so. The desired
characteristics of a field ration are that:
(1) It should be a completely balanced ration containing sufficient
(2) It should be palatable in accordance with the eating habits of the
troops, so that it may be generally acceptable.
(3) It should be transported without undue difficulty.
(4) Its components should have keeping quality, so that depots in the
theatres of operation can keep on hand sufficient stocks to supply the troops
for a predetermined length of time. Methods of use should be readily
(5) Bulk and weight should be reduced as far as possible to permit
simplicity and ease of transport. Too often the requirements relative to bulk
and weight overbalanced other desirable qualities. Great care must be exercised
that too much advantage is not taken of these two factors.
To meet these requirements a ration was designed to meet the functions of
base feeding. Technically it was known as the B ration, no matter how much it
was supplemented. In ETO the supplemented ration was called the A ration; in the
Pacific it was known as the X or Y ration, etc.
In considering operational rations it is necessary to have a clear
conception of the conditions of use for which they were intended. These rations
included the C, K, and 10-in-1. They were designed specifically for operational
needs when kitchens could not be established.
The D ration, now obsolete and entirely off the books of the
Quartermaster Corps, was intended exclusively for survival. The C ration, with a
caloric value of 3700, was intended for operational needs of three to twenty-one
days. The K ration, with a content of 2700 calories, was designed for a maximum
of fifteen meals. Reports indicate that it was used inter-changeably with the C
ration. The 10-in-1 ration, with a caloric value of 4188, was intended for
feeding of small groups for a limited time when they were beyond their field
kitchens, and prior to actual commitment to battle.
These uses should be the subject of careful consideration of this
Much consideration has been given to the needs of beachhead feeding, and
the conference will be requested to review the military necessity and define the
characteristics of a desirable ration to meet the needs of large groups which
are in advance of the kitchens, or which must be subsisted until the B ration
can be made available for issue.
Whether the newly introduced ration known as Type E (of which you will
hear a great deal as the conference proceeds) eliminates the need for the
smallgroup ration-i.e., the 10-in-1-is in doubt.
Field tests will be held to determine that fact, but it is anticipated
that we can close the books on the C and K in favor of the new Type E.
The D ration has been dropped, but a survival ration is certainly
required. Considerable progress has been made in developing one which would
replace the D ration, and, at the same time, eliminate the Life Raft ration. The
military characteristics of such a ration to meet the needs of survival of both
land and sea forces come well within the scope of this conference.
Specialized demands, in so far as possible, were resisted during the
course of the war. However, the pressure became so great it was necessary to
provide the hospital supplement pack and the first-aid station pack, even though
it was realized that additional types of rations would complicate the situation
and make the supply of basic requirements to the combat soldier more difficult.
The types of rations should be kept to a minimum. Intensive research is
currently being conducted by The Quartermaster General, with the assistance of
the laboratories of leading universities and commercial concerns, upon such
subjects as appetite levels and food acceptability, to determine basic
physiological factors upon which an adequate ration must be based and from which
knowledge the types of rations may be limited to the number actually required by
conditions of use.
Can the needs of the Army be satisfied with a survival ration, a combat
ration, and a base ration? Is a 30-in-1 ration, or its approximate equivalent,
the solution to the beachhead and bivouac feeding rather than the 10-in-1? These
and similar questions must be considered.
In that consideration-and this not only applies to rations but to
accessory items related to the preparation of rations, every effort should be
made to modify those with a general purpose in order to broaden their utility
before new items are provided for specialized groups.
An important requirement, never satisfactorily met during the war, is
that pertaining to packaging and marking. Reports from the field have suggested
that the need for change is very great. Packaging must be devised to provide
balanced rations flexible enough to meet varying demands. Marking must be simple
in order that it may be readily detected and understood by the relatively
unintelligent labor oftentimes employed. If the committee on packaging can
assist in solving these problems it will have rendered an outstanding service.
Much is being said these days regarding the effect the Atomic Age will
have in planning our future requirements. We are not prophets and we cannot
undertake to foresee the shape of things to come, but the need for more
intensive research is evident. It is sometimes said that developmental research
is not necessary because the Quartermaster can adapt to military usage the
results of private research geared to meet civilian economy. Our experience in
the recent war has proven the fallacy of that conclusion. Fundamental research
must probe deeply into the principles underling the use of food, specifications,
packaging, storage and issue, preparation and consumption, and accessory
equipment. All these must be related to the individual equipment of the soldier
and his needs in the field. The statement by General Doriot before the War
Department Budget Committee that there is not a single item of Quartermaster
supply or equipment that is not now obsolete cannot be ignored, and should be a
guiding principle for all who may be charged with this great responsibility.
Now, with respect to equipment used in the past war, a list has been
compiled of the various heating and cooking devices, with their predetermined
military characteristics and conditions of use. The committee charged with
reviewing these data in the light of assembled field experience will have a
fertile field of endeavor. There is a broad spread between the organic field
kitchen equipment and the means provided for the individual soldier to heat a
tin of rations. At one extreme there is the M-37 range, and at the other is the
simple heating tab. Unfortunately, with the years of research and endeavor
invested in the field range, we have not yet found a satisfactory stove to meet
the military requirements which were laid down in the middle 'thirties. Yet, in
a much shorter time, industry has produced the B-54, and, prior to that, the
B-29; it has produced radar; recoilless guns. Is it too much to ask and expect
that it produce a satisfactory field range? The deficiency in the field range is
well known to The Quartermaster General, and you may be assured that radical
efforts are being made to produce a more satisfactory item. In between that item
and the heating tab there has been a demand for a variety of heating implements,
and this conference is asked to consider the military necessity of these
Mess gear available to the Army was designed to meet the needs of a 1917
field range and is obsolete. Should mess gear be completely eliminated and the
cafeteria mess tray substituted as organic equipment! It is hoped the conference
will supply the right answer. Centralized messes, butcher and pastry shops, have
advantages under some circumstances. To what extent is centralization possible
or desirable in the Theatre of Operations?
In the field of bakery operations we have many vexing problems before a
standard operating procedure, uniform for all conditions of use, may be
formulated. Conditions related to bakery operations are sufficiently broad to
warrant the exclusive consideration of a subcommittee. Among the conferees there
are representatives of several theatres who will match their experiences, one
with the other. It is hoped that they will come up with conclusions on the
military characteristics of a bakery unit which will meet the needs of all
troops, whether they be serving in the jungle, in the mountains, or in the
Equally difficult are the problems relating to refrigeration. A
subcommittee on this subject should cover the entire picture, from reefer ships,
reefer barges, fixed installations, through portable refrigerators, down to the
lowly meat box. Clarification and centralization of functions are essential if
we seek improvement.
Materiel-handling equipment is required in loading, unloading, and
stacking supplies. Fork-lift trucks and conveyor equipment are indispensable for
efficient operations. The sufficiency and availability of such equipment come
within the scope of this conference. What lighting and power equipment are
required at railheads and elsewhere? Should a bulldozer be included in organic
equipment of railhead or other units? There are many such problems.
The Quartermaster Generalís Office is making a continued study of the
advantages and desirability of palletization, particularly the palletization of
rations. The necessary mechanical lifting equipment is a collateral problem.
There is place for labor-saving devices in practically every echelon of
supply-devices which will make more manpower available for the front lines.
There has been much demand for the packaging of the combat ration in a
sardine-type flat can rather than in a cylindrical can. Some of the data
relating to this matter, collected in the field from returned combat soldiers,
will be made available to the conference. The conference should realize that
industry is geared for commercial packing in the cylindrical tin. There are
meager resources in the country to provide the sardine-type tin in the
quantities that would be required for the C ration. A military characteristic of
the new E ration, however, includes this type of packaging. It is hoped that
this conference will help in finding a working solution to this problem.
Assuming that the combat ration is packaged in a sardine-type tin, should
it be bandoleered much in the fashion ammunition is bandoleered? Proponents of
this plan urge that it will not only assure the variety of the day's ration to
each soldier but will give a simple and easy means of transport not now possible
with the round tin. The conference is requested to consider the military
necessity and possible value of this item.
I will not attempt to point out the problems of distribution, for my
information would be that of personal experience in the 6th Army. We all had our
"distributional crosses" to bear. Whatever the cause or causes may
have been, they must be ascertained and corrected if the ultimate consumer, the
combat soldier, is to benefit.
The selection and training of cooking and baking personnel, as well as
the shortage of trained and seasoned officers of the combat arms, especially
come within the scope of this conference.
During the war Quartermaster Bakers' and Cooks' Schools trained more than
enough cooks and bakers to serve an army of 16,000,000 men. Yet we observed on
every hand inexperienced and unqualified personnel performing these important
duties. Sample testing in the Zone of the Interior itself showed, at the time of
VJ-day, that the percentage of properly trained personnel in messes had dropped
to 20 per cent.
The entire scheme of selecting and training culinary personnel must be
gone into thoroughly and, in itself, constitutes enough work to last a
subcommittee many days. Minimum requirements-educational and otherwise-must be
established for the men who are to be entrusted with the most important duties
pertaining to the handling of subsistence. These requirements must be much
higher than the averages which have existed in the past. Means of supervising
and improving the techniques of cooks and mess management personnel must be
carefully studied, and responsibility inescapably established.
Let us recognize some of the facts with which an expanded American Army
must be confronted. In the old Army, when an officer was a lieutenant for ten
years and a captain for fifteen years or more, he attained a seasoning and
indoctrination that we cannot expect to find in the officers of a quickly
expanded Army. The old line captain learned through the bitter school of
experience that his men came first in all things. He knew as much about his
kitchens as he knew about firing his battery or leading his company in combat.
The cook was his personal selection, and the captain's professional fitness was,
in large part, gauged by the morale-satisfying qualities of the company's mess.
Under such circumstances the company commander appointed the right kind of
personnel to the job and gave it the required supervision. His own future was
determined by such things. However, when young and immature officers are given
command, as inevitably they must be in a quickly expanded Army, while jealously
maintaining that the appointment of a company cook is their prerogative, they
fail to exercise the responsibility which goes hand in glove with the
prerogative. And, in practice, we see the soldier who has not made good as a
combat soldier relegated to the kitchens, and, through attrition, eventually
attaining the prime job of company cook. The very qualities that made him a poor
soldier in the first place insure that he will likewise be a poor cook. The poor
selection of personnel, plus the lack of supervision, which has also been
characteristic of messes in an expanded Army, conspire to the detriment of the
entire organization. It is utterly useless for The Quartermaster General to
design, procure, and ship, over extended lines of supply, food of the finest
quality and have that food wasted, or lose a great proportion of its nutritive
value because of poor cooking. It is also useless for The Quartermaster General
to train bakers and cooks if they are to be frittered away through misassignment.
Is a Bakers' and Cooks' School needed in the Theatre of Operations to
supplement those in the Zone of the Interior?
That which has been said about the company cook applies in even more
striking manner to officers charged with duties of food supervision. The company
mess officer, assigned to such duty as a chore, will perform that duty in an
indifferent way. His presence in the mess does not improve the cooking. Too
frequently the duty is imposed upon the junior lieutenant, or upon another for
punishment duty-the nearest approach to KP that can be meted out to an officer.
Up through the Battalion S-4, the Regimental Supply Officer, the Division Class
I Officer, on to the Zone of the Interior, we find officers who have had little
experience in the methodology of food service. They learn through bitter
experience, if they learn at all experience paid for in waste of food and loss
of morale and efficiency. The feeling is too frequently apparent that "the
outfit up there has a supply of C rations and they are good enough." Proper
supervision might warrant the pushing forward of cooking equipment, thus
enabling the hapless dough-foot to get a hot meal. This conference is urged to
consider the minimum qualifications of the commissioned officer who should be
entrusted with the supply and supervision of food service. That supervision
should start not lower than the Army level, and should be entrusted to an
officer who knows his nutrients and the means of getting those nutrients to the
men who need them most. The lad who has survived the assault today wonders what
his numerical chances are for further survival, and thinks how nice it would be
back at the kitchens where his more fortunate comrades are faring well.
A hot meal to that nigh-demoralized soldier might mean the difference
between defeat and victory. I know of no way to produce the desired results
except through more careful selection and training of officers who are entrusted
with the highly important functions of food service and supervision in all
echelons of supply, and that starts with the officer who pushes papers from one
desk to another here on the Potomac River.
The Field Service Manual is pretty meager with respect to the methodology
of supply. The schools are still, I presume, teaching the potential commander of
troops that if he but sends a daily telegram the daily train will come to his
back door with all the rations, gas, oil, and forage required to meet his daily
needs. Out of this conference you gentlemen who know better should evolve a
working basis for the enlargement of the training literature to be used in the
schools of the several arms, including the Command and General Staff School-yes,
and even the War College.
It is a tribute to the ingenuity of the American that he could, on the
spur of the moment, devise so many ways to meet so many emergencies. I know the
problems which had to be met in the Pacific were not the problems that had to be
met when the North African Coast was stormed, the Appenines traversed, or the
Siegfried defenses breached. Yet there is a common pattern of basic principles.
If ever we are required to meet similar situations again, let us implement our
command with something other than a telegraph blank! Supplies just do not get to
the front these days following the well-defined lines of communication so dear
to the student of the Battle of Gettysburg.
I have pointed out a few of our many problems; in your minds and
experience I am sure there are many others. In the organization of this
conference we have attempted to bring together officers from all levels of
commissioned endeavor, from the combat lines to the ports of embarkation. You
will be asked to furnish, in factual but objective manner, and along the lines I
have just discussed, your personal experiences. The first five days will be
devoted to these personal reports After that, the conference will break up into
The reading material which was furnished to you when you registered
includes the chart of organization of the conference. A chairman pro tem for
each committee was designated by the Steering Committee for organizational
purposes. He is not necessarily your selection. Each committee will have the
opportunity this afternoon of selecting its own chairman. Each committee will be
augmented by technologist- who will act as a means of reference. That is to say,
these technologists will furnish information, as may be desired by you, upon
developments more recent than those included in your field experience. They are
not assigned to you as counselors but as technical assistants.
In this connection I wish to emphasize that this is your conference, and
it is your thought and your planning which we desire. Neither the Office of The
Quartermaster General nor anyone connected with it will attempt, in any manner,
to direct your thinking. We have nothing to sell but much to learn.
Certain outstanding officers will be brought back from civilian pursuit,
who will lend of their services such counsel and advice as may be desirable to
point out certain features of Quartermaster Corps research and development. In
this category will be Dr. David Bruce Dill of Harvard University, late Colonel,
Q.M.C., and Colonel Rohland Isker, late Director of the Subsistence Research and
I must impress upon you that the problems which we must meet here
comprise a very serious military duty. For each and every one participating in
this conference, these problems are a challenge, and, as I have said, an
opportunity. I ask that you view this month of effort in just that light. Let us
be factual and fair, but let us not hesitate to place the finger upon the sore
spots which, had they been corrected before, would have made your job easier and
the soldier's life happier.
You have been selected because of your experience and proven ability to
undertake this important task. I am sure you will accept the great
responsibility that goes with it, and that you will give The Quartermaster
General, the Army Ground Forces, the Army Service Forces, the Army, and, above
all, the soldier himself, something for which they will be ever grateful. Give
the problem your full time, your earnest effort, your soundest thinking, and
your imagination. Give it your best.
In the business world it is said that once you know what is wrong with a business it is relatively easy to fix it. We want you to tell us what is wrong with the service of food to the soldier. It may or may not be easy to fix, but it is our job to fix it once you have pointed the way.
since 27 May 2001