5-in-1 Small Detachment Ration

The Ration, Small Detachment, 5-in-1, was designed for use by small groups of military personnel to prepare hot meals with basic cooking facilities, or where larger groups may be divided into units of 5 to 10 for feeding purposes.

Ration, Small Detachment, 5-in-1, typical menu from the early 1950s
Ration, Small Detachment, 5-in-1, typical menu from the early 1950s.

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U.S. Military 5-in-1 Small Detatchment Ration

Ration, small detachment, 5-in-1 displayed at the Quartermaster Subsistence Research Laboratory in Chicago, March 1943.  Besides the canned food showing, there are numerous other items in the large container, such as coffee, instant rice, tea, lemon juice powder, hard candy, grape juice powder, cocoa with sugar and biscuit squares
Ration, small detachment, 5-in-1 displayed at the Quartermaster Subsistence Research Laboratory in Chicago, March 1943. Besides the canned food showing, there are numerous other items in the large container, such as coffee, instant rice, tea, lemon juice powder, hard candy, grape juice powder, cocoa with sugar and biscuit squares.

The initial thinking for the Ration, Small Detachment, 5-in-1 was its usefullness for armored vehicle crews in combat, gun crews widely separated from battery HQ kitchens, or for troops traveling by rail without kitchen cars. The first version of the 5-in-1 was issued in 1942, early in World War II, along with the 10-in-1 ration. The 5-in-1 saw action successfully in North Africa and was produced in volume during 1943. Then it was deemphasized relative to the 10-in-1. Following World War II, the 10-in-1 was eventually deemed less flexibile and its program ended in 1948. To replace it, the 5-in-1 ration was re-developed as the "Ration, Small-Detachment, 5-in-1". Under that name it was used in Korea, but was then discontinued as the post-War C Rations became the standard field ration.

Supplies of the 5-in-1 remained available and showed up in odd places such as the DEW line (Distant Early Warning) encampments of the late 1940s and early 1950s. Supplies were eventually exhausted or became too old for use.

Components of the Original 5-in-1 Ration

As its name indicates, the ration provides food for 5 men for one day. The components of the ration are placed in one case, about 18" square and 24" deep. The case and contents weighed 27 pounds, and it can easily be carried by one man. When transported in bulk, 5-in-1 ration boxes were shipped 60 fiber boxes per pallet, weighing more than a ton.

There were 5 menus that contained combinations of 10 canned meat items, canned bread, or type V biscuits, 3 types of pudding, 5 kinds of jam, 6 kinds of vegetables, sugar, milk, beverages, confections, cheese spread, butter spread, and accessory items consisting of cigarettes, can openers, toilet tissue, soap, water-purification tablets, sponge, cellulose tape, and paper towels.

The five different menus of this ration provided variety in cases where small detachments were forced to use the ration for more than one day. Each case contains one menu; the case is properly labeled Menu No.1, etc., enabling the consumer to select the desired menu.

Field cooking equipment was required for the preparation of this ration in the form of a small detachment cooking outfit, or potentially individual mess equipment. The meals were much better than field rations C or K, but they had to be cooked over a fire. This meant that troops in the field rarely used the 5-in-1 without kitchen equipment and cooks available to handle the preparation and feeding.

The ration averages 4000 calories, and adequately meets all other nutritive requirements for active soldiers in the field.

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