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C-Rations After World War II
Following World War II, the U.S. Army attempted to replace the World War II C rations. The first attempt was Ration, Combat, Type E intended to replace both the C rations and K rations. Reports from overseas indicated that the rations were often used interchangeably, and that both rations had certain desirable and certain undesirable characteristics. A ration combining the favorable features of both rations, and completely fulfilling the military requirements of combat conditions would avoid the possibility of duplication. It was in answer to this need, that the E ration developed. By actual use of the E ration, it was discovered that the bread component of the ration was undesirable. Because of this fact, the ration was declared obsolete, and was replaced by ration, individual, combat, C-2.
The C-2 ration
The C-2 ration was described in TB QM 53, Department of the Army, dated March, 1948, as an individual ration which consisted of packaged precooked foods which could be eaten hot or cold; it replaced the World War II C ration, and later, the E ration. It could be carried and prepared by the individual soldier. The ration was designed for feeding combat troops from a few days to an extreme of three weeks. Due to the required individual portability of this ration, maximum nourishment had to be provided in the smallest physical unit. The components of this ration were prepared in five different menus. Each menu included an accessory packet which consisted of essential toilet articles, tobacco, and confections.
The C-3 ration
The figure "3" in "C-3" represents the third revision of specifications for components of what was known originally as the C ration. C-3 was composed of five full menus of a greater variety, and in addition to the new and improved B (bread) and M (meat) units, each menu contained an accessory packet, fruit, and cigarettes. The ration weighed 88½ oz., and was packed in 8 small cans; 3 of the cans, 1 for each meal, contained M (meat) components, which offered any one of 10 different varieties of meat; 3 more cans, again, 1 for each meal, include B (bread) components consisting of a unit of 5 crackers and 2 cookie sandwiches, a unit of pre-mixed cereal, jam, crackers, soluble coffee, sugar, cocoa disc, and another unit of crackers and jam. In addition, the C-3 contained one 12 oz. can of fruit, the accessory packet, and cigarettes with matches. Field cooking equipment was not required for the preparation of this ration. The C-3 ration was more adequate than the original C ration in respect to its nutritional value.
The C-4 ration
Ration, Individual, Combat C-4 (MIL-R-1504C) was developed as a modification of the C-3 ration. The C-4 ration included the issue of two 6 oz. cans of fruit for 2 meals to replace the one 12 oz. can issued for one meal in the C-3 ration.
MCI: Meal, Combat, Individual Replaces C Rations
The "Meal, Combat, Individual," or MCI, replaced C Rations in 1958. The MCI was very similar to the C Rations in concept and packaging but had more nutritionally balanced meals and greater variety. Because of the similarities it was often called "C Rations" even if it was technically a new ration. MCI was the main field ration used during the Vietnam War and was still in service until the 1980s. The photo to the right shows a 1st Cavalry Division soldier taking a C Ration/MCI break in Vietnam. MCI rations continued in use until replaced by the Meal, Ready to Eat (MRE) in the early 1980s.
One major change came in 1975 when a revision of Department of Defense policy reversed a long-standing practice. In that year, cigarettes were discontinued in rations given to U.S. servicemembers.
Markings on C Rations Cartons
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