You’ll love your mother’s cooking after you've had the Army's.
I’m at the flea market. I spy a box under a table labeled “C-rations.” My stomach churns.
Our first whiff of C-rats came after a 25-mile “combat hike” in the woods of Kentucky. I was a platoon leader, so I had to requisition our ration box. It was stamped “Made in 1951.”
My guys instantly discovered C-rats went far beyond sustenance. Some military genius invented this scheme to consume most of our free time bartering.
Every third ration box contained a little knife opener, called a P-38 or a John Wayne, critical if you wanted to eat. The lucky guy who got the P-38 then “rented” it to two others, in exchange for the packs of six stale cigarettes.
The P-38s were sharp enough to open two sets of cans. The third users always had Plan B, a BFR (big friggin’ rock). Whack it on your bayonet handle. The food squirts, no need for a spoon.
If you had a campfire or some plastic explosive (it burned like Sterno), you could heat water and a can in your steel pot (helmet). The aroma of boiling head sweat sent our appetites soaring.
Each rat box contained a variety of “meat” courses: beans and franks, beef and potatoes, ham and something. Most were indescribable, perhaps gray or green. One had green eggs. The years fossilized all into a mass of glop. You sliced the gravy.
Getting mini-franks was like hitting the lottery, worth two “stones” of chocolate fudge.
The most important part was the file-card size sheets of toilet paper, there for a purpose. The digestion rate of C-rats was about 11 minutes, eight if you ate the fruit.
C-rats are long gone. Today, it’s M-rats, the MREs, Meals Ready to Eat. The ground beef includes a fluorescent yellow cheese sauce. The Thai noodles are “die noodles.” Troops call the mini-frankfurters “the four fingers of death.” They barter the little pack of Skittles (no more cigs).
I passed on the box of C-rats at the flea market, deadlier than a land mine.
Contact Jim Hillibish at email@example.com.