Developed for during World War II, the C-Ration was eaten by millions of soldiers and marines when fresh food was unavailable. As an early form of hot food on the go, the C-ration paved the way for the modern MRE and HeaterMeals self-heating meals. We’ve come a long way since 1938, but the concept of delivering hot food quickly is still important today. In 1938, the Field Ration, Type C was developed by the Quartermaster Subsistence Research and Development Laboratory in Chicago. The goal was to create a ration that tasted better, was more nutritious and kept better than previous rations.
The C-Ration was first field tested in 1940, and was used by land forces throughout World War II and the Korean War. In 1958, the C-Ration was replaced by the “Meal, Combat, Individual”, or MCI Ration. However, the MCI Ration was so similar, that troops continued to call the new rations “C-Rations,” or “Charlie Rats” for short. These MCI rations were used until 1978, when they were replaced with the MRE or Meal Ready-to-Eat ration, which is still used today.
C-Rations were packaged in 12 ounce cans, and included 3 different types of meals: Breakfast, dinner (i.e. lunch), and supper. Troops would be supplied 6 cans per day, with two cans for each meal. There was an M Unit can for the main entree, and a B Unit can for bread and dessert, as well as an accessory pack wrapped in brown butcher paper.