Heating C-Rations

Excerpt from letter home: 8 October 1967:

You asked me once how we heat our C rations. Well about once a month they pass out heating tablets, they’re about 4 in. long about 2 in. wide and 1/2 in. deep, and they burn slow so they’re good to heat food with. It takes about 1/3 to 1/2 of a heating tablet to heat a can of C’s.

I have a can labeled ‘water’, unopened, from a C-ration my dad brought home. There’s still liquid, of some sort, inside as it makes a sloshing sound when moved about. 

First procured in 1961, the Meal, Combat, Individual (MCI) weighed just under 2 pounds and was produced in 12 different menus. Each menu contained approximately 1200 calories and consisted of:

  • One canned meat course
  • One canned fruit or cake
  • One B unit can that contained crackers and either a cocoa beverage or candy
  • One canned spread (peanut butter, jam or cheese spread)
  • Accessory Packet containing:
    • instant coffee
    • cream substitute
    • sugar
    • salt
    • chewing gum
    • matches
    • toilet paper
    • cigarettes

Soldiers opened the cans with the P38 can opener and though the contents were typically eaten unheated, the food could be warmed using a fuel tablet.

Cigarette brands issued to U.S. soldiers were: Pall Mall, Winston, and Benson and Hedges Menthol. By 1972, cigarettes were no longer included.

See also: U.S. Army C-Rations

3 thoughts on “Heating C-Rations

  1. When I was in Vietnam, some of the C rations contained peanut butter. Would open the small can using a P38 (look that up) but leave the lid barely attached. Add some insect repellent to the top and set fire to it. The insect repellent burns quickly but the peanut butter burns slowly. We would warm up the other cans of food with it.


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