WW II Emergency Rations

Emergency ration pack for aircraft crews during World War II.  The transparent amber plastic container was very innovative for the time
Emergency ration pack for aircraft crews during World War II. The transparent amber plastic container was very innovative for the time.

Part of the equipment consigned to a lifeboat includes a box of survival biscuits and other concentrated food, 1942 photo
Part of the equipment consigned to a lifeboat includes a box of survival biscuits and other concentrated food, 1942 photo.

Today in WW II: 10 Oct 1939 Soviet Union forces Lithuania to sign a treaty permitting USSR to establish military bases on Lithuanian soil.  More 
10 Oct 1943 Double Tenth Incident: Singapore's Japanese Military Police (Kempeitai) arrest and torture 57 civilians, suspecting them in the Operation Jaywick Australian commando raid on Singapore Harbor.
Visit the Olive-Drab.com World War II Timeline for day-by-day events 1939-1945! See also WW2 Books.

Emergency Rations for WW II Air Crews

U.S. Army Air Corps Parachute Kit Bailout Ration
U.S. Army Air Corps Parachute Kit Bailout Ration.

Starting in 1942 "Bailout Rations" were provided for air crews to be used in case the plane had to be ditched and the crew would be on its own for a time. Individual rations were developed to be included in the kit of parachutists, an assault ration to be used until resupply could catch up with the airborne troops. The photo above shows an "Emergency Air Corps Ration" in a parachute kit, during World War II. Note the can opener "key" attached -- this type of "sardine can" ration was typical packaging for the time.

In the final procurement in 1943, the ration included a combination of D Ration bars, fruit bars, hard candy, lemon-juice powder, and K Ration biscuits. After 1943, the bailout was abandoned in favor of the "ration, parachute, emergency," a pack designed to fit the pocket of the Air Force emergency vest. The components for the new parachute pack included sweet chocolate, hard candy, dehydrated cheese and crackers, bouillon cubes, sugar, cigarettes, water-purification tablets, soluble coffee, chewing gum, and a small cellophane bag to contain the uneaten food after the can had been opened. The ration weighed 11 ounces and contained about 1,062 calories.69 The parachute ration went through the war without major change and remained in official standing until February of 1952 when the specification was cancelled.70

It is also documented that the 5-in-1 or 10-in-1 group rations were placed aboard aircraft to be used to sustain the crew if the plane had to land in an unexpected location.

Lifeboat Rations During World War II

A ration pack for lifeboats was required by Merchant Marine and Coast Guard regulations during WW II. The typical ration requirement included canned water (10 quarts for each person), survival items and these food provisions (fourteen ounces for each person):

  • Biscuits, U.S. Army "Type C" ration
  • U. S. Navy Aircraft Emergency Ration Pemmican
  • Chocolate tablets
  • Milk tablets

Canned lifeboat rations and emergency water.  WW II era packages, photographed in 2004.
Canned lifeboat rations and emergency water. WW II era packages, photographed in 2004. Photo: Courtesy of eBay seller calcanmac13.

All items were required to be in waterproof packages or containers, and further packaged into hermetically sealed containers, stowed in provision lockers on the lifeboats. Rations of this type were procured starting in 1942.

Ration, Lifeboat Charms

For military use the Quartermaster Corps developed the "Ration, Lifeboat", basically a candy package for bare survival. The confections selected were fruit-flavored hard-candy tablets, commercially available as "Charms". Ten packages of these candies were contained in a key-opening, rectangular metal can approximately 4x3x3 inches in size. Chewing gum and six B-complex vitamin tablets were included to utilize all the can's space. Directions for use printed on the can declared that "one to two packages of candy and one vitamin pill should be eaten each day by each man--chewing the gum will help keep your mouth clean." Additional instructions appeared on a printed sheet placed in the can.

In 1944, another ration was developed to be included with a lifeboat dropped into the water for the crew of a downed aircraft or parachutists lost at sea. It was called the "Airborne Lifeboat Ration" and contained food for two men for one meal. Rations for a breakfast and supper unit were produced, made up of two menus for variety. The breakfast menu included a B unit from the C ration, a canned meat-food combination (four types were specified), condensed soup, matches, and toilet paper. In the supper menu, the B units and meat items were augmented with Liferaft Rations. Each menu was packaged in a fiberboard container and stowed in the lifeboat at the boat manufacturer's plant.

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