K-Rations: “Food for Fighters” ~ 1943 US Office of War Information; World War II

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On what soldiers should eat.

Originally a public domain film from the Prelinger Archives, slightly cropped to remove uneven edges, with the aspect ratio corrected, and one-pass brightness-contrast-color correction & mild video noise reduction applied.
The soundtrack was also processed with volume normalization, noise reduction, clipping reduction, and/or equalization (the resulting sound, though not perfect, is far less noisy than the original).

Wikipedia license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/

The K-ration was an individual daily combat food ration which was introduced by the United States Army during World War II. It was originally intended as an individually packaged daily ration for issue to airborne troops, tank crews, motorcycle couriers, and other mobile forces for short durations. The K-ration provided three separately boxed meal units: breakfast, dinner (lunch) and supper (dinner)…


In 1941, Ancel Keys, a University of Minnesota physiologist, was assigned by the U.S. War Department to design a non-perishable, ready-to-eat meal that could fit in a soldier’s pocket as a short-duration, individual ration. Keys went to a local supermarket to choose foods that would be inexpensive, but still be enough to provide energy. He purchased hard biscuits, dry sausages, hard candy, and chocolate bars. He then tested his 28-ounce, 3,200 calorie (871 gram, 13,400 kJ) meals on six soldiers in a nearby army base. The meals only gained “palatable” and “better than nothing” ratings from the soldiers, but were successful in relieving hunger and providing sufficient energy. The new rations were initially intended as individual rations suitable for short durations only, to be used for a maximum of fifteen meals before supplementation or replacement with ‘A-ration’ or ‘B-ration’ field rations. They were soon called the “paratrooper ration”, since paratroopers were the first to be issued the ration on an experimental basis.

The actual prototype of the K-ration was a pocket ration for paratroopers developed by the Subsistence Research Laboratory (SRL) at the request of the U.S. Army Air Forces (USAAF) early in the war. Two original samples (one version used pemmican biscuits, a peanut bar, raisins, and bouillon paste; the other used pemmican biscuits, a small D ration bar, canned processed meat, and lemon beverage powder) evolved into the one-package breakfast-dinner-supper combination later adopted as standard. The Quartermaster Command’s Subsistence Branch altered some components and renamed the ration the Field Ration, Type K, or “K-ration”; the final version totaled 2,842 calories a day. The first procurement of K-rations was made in May 1942. Some believed the K-ration was named after Dr. Keys or was short for “Kommando” (as elite troops were the first to receive it). However, the letter “K” was selected because it was phonetically distinct from other letter-name rations.

The K-ration first saw use in 1942, when it was issued to U.S. Airborne troops on an experimental basis… At the end of the three days, the men were weighed, and as no abnormal weight loss were noted, the K-ration was deemed successful. These findings were later used in 1943 to support a decision to discontinue production of the Mountain ration and the Jungle ration…

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