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Fall 1998 | Volume 14 |  Issue 2

War Fare

I WAS SURPRISED THAT IN HER OTHER wise comprehensive history of rations (“Dinner Goes to War,” Summer 1998), Barbara Moran made no mention of the Long Range Patrol (LRP) ration, introduced during the Vietnam War and known to almost every field soldier of the time as “the Lurp.” Packaged in a dark-green foil-lined pouch, it provided a lightweight dehydrated main meal in a plastic bag. Adding hot or cold water resulted in a surprisingly tasty entrée, and it came with a chocolate bar. It also provided the significant advantage of relative silence.

In the seventies and eighties I was always amused to find that the main dehydrated backpacking foods that were commercially available were the same flavors made by the same firms as the Lurps we ate in Vietnam.

Philip J. Gioia
Sausalito, Calif.

War Fare

THE ARTICLE MENTIONED THE FLAME less ration heater developed by the Army’s Natick Labs but did not indicate the source of the technology on which it was based. In the seventies and eighties I was involved in developing a method for providing heat for divers at the Navy’s Civil Engineering Laboratory, in Port Hueneme, California, and we devised the supercorroding alloy technology that provides the heat for the flameless ration heater. The activity of the alloy arises from a galvanic corrosion between magnesium and iron. When the magnesium-iron alloy powder is exposed to a corrosive environment (in the flameless ration heater a solution of salt in water), the alloy corrodes rapidly enough to boil the added water. The rapidity of the reaction is primarily due to the large electrochemical-potential difference between the magnesium and the iron and the large surface area of the powdered alloy. This technology was later adopted not only by the Army but also for use in a product called Heater Meals, whose outer container advertises “There’s a Stove Inside!” and whose manufacturer pays royalties to the Navy.

James F. Jenkins
Cambria, Calif.

War Fare

VICTORY IN THE POST-NORMANDY WIN ter campaign of 1944-45 is often attributed to superior organization and at least good, if not great, military strategy. I think from a worm’s-eye view more credit should be given to the fact that those of us on the front never ran out of food, ammunition, or fuel. We seldom captured an enemy position that had much in the way of those things. The German emergency ration was a loaf of “never-go-stale Kasernebrot,” which was dark, black, and heavy, plus a container of butter. Although bread and butter may not sound like much, the Germans found the combination easy to distribute, durable, and high enough in energy and fat for a soldier to survive on for quite a while.

Gordon H. Millar
Daytona Beach, Fla.

War Fare

YOU OMITTED ONE OF THE BETTER FEA tures of the K ration: burning the wax container to get a smokeless flame that was just right to bring a canteen cup of Nestlé’s to a boil. A hot mocha-fruit pudding could be had by adding the fruit bar and biscuits to the brew. The ration had printed instructions saying that burning the box for this purpose was part of the design rationale.

A. James Crawford
Fairfield, Conn.

War Fare

WHAT I CAME TO LIKE BEST WAS THE chocolate milk. One night during the battle on Iwo Jima, I and another Marine collected enough of the powder to make a helmet full of chocolate. We both knew that showing a light of any kind was a sure invitation to get killed, but we decided that we could rig a lightproof canopy over my foxhole and heat the helmet of chocolate without attracting the enemy’s attention.

After I made up the lightproof cover, we found some small rocks to put the helmet on and set about lighting some plastic explosive to heat the water. The foxhole was so small we were forced to sit facing each other with our knees touching. As soon as the water reached the boiling point, my friend let out a loud scream, stood straight up, knocked off the canopy, and jammed his foot into the boiling water. To say that I was shocked would hardly be accurate. I expected to be killed by sniper fire or an artillery shell within seconds.

As I slowly regained my senses, I discovered that a rather bizarre series of events had taken place. First, we hadn’t drawn any fire because my friend’s action had splashed the water and put out the flame. But why had he stuck his foot in the water? Iwo Jima is of volcanic origin, and many of the rocks on the island were formed with gas trapped inside, which when heated can expand and make the rock explode and throw off fragments. The rocks used to hold the helmet were of this type, though we didn’t know it at the time. One of them burst and sent a red-hot shard down my friend’s shoe —socks were a luxury we were doing without. The pain was so intense he jumped up and screamed. Then he needed to cool the piece of hot rock. His theory was that even though the water was boiling, it would be cooler than the rock in his boot.

After I reconsidered what had happened and why, I had to admit that under the same circumstances I might have acted the same way.

Paul H. Wright
Indianapolis, Ind.

We hope you enjoyed this essay.

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