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Check Six: Field Rations Before MREs…

December 6, 2021

The C-Ration, or Field Ration, Type C, was a prepared and canned wet combat ration intended to be issued to U.S. military land forces when fresh food (A-ration) or packaged unprepared food (B-ration) prepared in mess halls or field kitchens was not possible or not available, and when a survival ration (K-ration or D-ration) was insufficient. 

Development began in 1938 with the first rations being field-tested in 1940 and wide-scale adoption following soon after. Operational conditions often caused the C-ration to be standardized for field issue regardless of environmental suitability or weight limitations.

Note that cigarettes were part of the C-Ration.

The C-Ration was replaced in 1958 with the Meal Combat Individual (MCI). Although officially a new ration, the MCI was derived from and very similar (canned wet combat rations) to the original C-Ration, and in fact continued to be called “C-Rations” by American troops throughout its production life as a combat ration (1958–1980). 

In the middle of the photograph is a P-38 can opener. Review an earlier Retiree News post about P-38s

The Meal, Ready-to-Eat (MRE) is a self-contained, individual field ration in lightweight packaging bought by the United States Department of Defense for its service members for use in combat or other field conditions where organized food facilities are not available. 

Although the replacement for the MCI, the MRE, was formally adopted as the Department of Defense combat ration in 1975, the first large-scale production test did not occur until in 1978 with the first MRE rations packed and delivered in 1981. 

While the MRE officially replaced the MCI in 1981, previously packed MCI rations continued to be issued until depleted.

From → History

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