For instance, chocolate was a common ration for both Mayan and Aztec warriors. Further, in 1757 during the French and Indian War, the French officers of Fort Ticonderoga issued two pounds of chocolate to energize their troops. Many other instances are noted of how chocolate was used over the years to provide troops with an easily portable high energy food .
As trouble stirred in Europe, the US military began to look ahead to the conflict they felt was sure to draw in their troops. Experience told them that soldiers on the front lines would not have access to field kitchens. Somehow food would have to be delivered to these troops. In 1937 chocolate came to the mind of Captain Paul Logan of the office of the U.S. Army Quartermaster General to solve this problem, and he approached the Hershey Chocolate Corporation. He asked them to develop a chocolate bar emergency ration that could meet the conditions of the military in the field [2,8].
Logan had some unusual requirements [2,3]:
- bars were to weight 4 oz
- withstand high temperatures (120F)
- taste a little better than a boiled potato
The result was the Field Ration D bar. These bars were made from a thick paste of chocolate liquor, cocoa butter, sugar, oat flour, powdered milk, and vitamins. Most important to the military, they delivered a full 600 calories per serving [2,3]. Each bar was wrapped in foil, then three packaged together and wrapped in a parchment packet. The packet would supply the soldier with 1800 calories, their recommended daily sustenance allowance .
In mid-1937 the Army ordered 90,000 D ration bars for testing . Considering the test successful, the army ordered more. In January of 1942, the army ordered 300,000 more of the four-ounce D Ration bars. While these bars met the criteria set out by Captain Logan they were not received well by all. Many troops detested their bitter taste and discarded them rather than eat them [3,4,8]. Many soldiers gave them the nickname “Hitler’s secret weapon” due to their disliking of the bars . Many who ate them said that they would have even preferred the boiled potato instead of the D ration bars .
Others actually liked the bars and would trade other rations for more. They were also distributed widely to civilians as US troops displaced the German forces in Europe and North Africa . Part of the dislike came from the tough to chew bars. Many soldiers took to grating the chocolate, turning it into small pieces, so they could more easily chew it . Officially the problem was attributed to stale bars eaten too quickly. These bars were meant to be eaten in small pieces over time. Instructions on the early boxes of the D Ration even stated that the bars were to be eaten slowly over a halfhour period.
They had to be of some success as between 1940 and 1945, an estimated 3 billion units of the specially formulated candy bars were distributed to soldiers around the world . By the end of the war, Hershey alone had won five awards for production and quality while making 40.2 million 2-ounce and 4-ounce D Ration bars, and 380 million Tropical Chocolate Bars . In fact, during the war years, the bulk of the Hershey Chocolate Corporation production was dedicated to the military.
In 1943 Hershey developed the slightly better tasting Tropical Bar. As the name implied it was targeted at soldiers in the Pacific Theater. In spite of their efforts, the soldiers did not find these much better than the original bars [2,4].
When the more than 160,000 US troops landed in France on D-Day, chocolate was with them, sustaining them during the first days of combat .
- A Salute to Chocolate
- Ration D-day: Chocolate’s role in Warfare
- World War II: The chocolate’s role in obtaining the victory
- The Wartime Chocolate Bar You Don’t Want to Eat
- CHOCOLATE! THE WARS SECRET WEAPON
- D-Day Rations: How Chocolate Helped Win the War
- “Chocolate is a Fighting Food!” – Chocolate bars in the Second World War
- United States military chocolate
If you are a student of the World War II era in history, you may find my pages “World War II Sources” (a collection of museums, websites, Facebook pages, and Twitter feeds with information on the World War II era in history) and “World War II Timeline” of interest.