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The Role Of Chocolate In War

On today’s date chocolate is an important flavour in many food items sweet, savoury or bitter.  But during World War 2, chocolate served dual purposes; ration and reward.

Chocolate was an integral part of Food For The Fighters! 

The Role Of Chocolate In War As Rations

During WW2, the US Army was capable of travelling vast distances rapidly and portable foods became a necessity for the troops. In July 1936, US Military Subsistence Research Laboratory (SRL) developed new rations for the US troops (Hamilton 328). They developed a system of A, B, C, and K rations,. This is all with the design to nourish the troops, some with the facilities of cooking, refrigeration. You also had some that were fully prepared and ready to eat. 

At this time Hershey’s Company had interest in supplying their chocolate bars for the troops. 

But Hershey’s began working with SRL in 1937 when the company was approached by the US Quartermaster Corp, Captain Paul Logan who asked them to make more of a ‘survival ration’.

It was not until 1939 that field ration D had full approval ( Ration D bars).

Chocolate In War
Field D Ration

What sets D ration apart from A, B, C and K is the fact that the D rations did not have any intention to taste good.

Hence Logan Bars or Ration D bars were made to taste like ‘boiled potato’. Soldiers needed not to be tempted to eat their emergency rations until necessary. However it didn’t turn out to be that way. D ration is the supplement for K rations. After long periods of consuming K rations, soldiers were eating only the things they liked. This marks the beginning of the practice of consuming only chocolate bars and discarding the rest. SRL had to meet the requirements of the soldiers’ liking and their nutrition. It was not only making military rations but was also shaping the definition of what constitutes ‘American Food’. When the SRL gave soldiers HERSHEY chocolate bars and other branded commodities, they were defining and promoting what was American food.

Chocolate And Its Many Campaigns

Later in 1943, Hershey’s developed its first-ever ‘Tropical chocolate bars’ that could resist heat up to 120F. This Tropical bar also went on a visit abroad in Apollo 15 mission. This is probably the longest journey by a chocolate bar.

Chocolate in War: Hershey's Tropical Chocolate
Hershey’s Tropical Chocolate

Hershey’s was fairly successful with ration D and received five E awards (Army-Navy E award). 

Hershey’s was not the only company that supplied chocolate. Mars inc. sold  M&Ms exclusively to the military until the end of the war.

M&M Advertisement

Nestle ran an ad campaign on behalf of their ration for the US military which produced the below poster indicating the value of chocolate as ration.

Chocolate As A Symbol Of Hope

All armies require good morale to be effective. The SRL believed that regular serving of palatable food is the greatest single factor in building and maintaining high spirit and morale. The US militaries used cocoa/chocolate as ration, rewards and also a sort of power food, distributing special status upon their soldiers. 

And thus chocolate, a non-native food product became an essential wartime ration. Chocolate delivers not only nutrition but also positive messages of strength, support, and honor to soldiers over 600 years apart.

That is the little unknown role of chocolate in war. Truly an unsung hero.

Written By,

Jeslyn Manuvel

Student, NIFTEM

Also, if you have interests in learning about the saint anthonys fire (food borne pandemic), do check our article.

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