Tim McAllister's Reproductions Company has noticed that many re-enactors have been asking
about reproductions of various bits of equipment and commenting that it would be nice if someone
would reproduce "this and that."
He plans to offer all the menus as originally made, that is twelve meals per case in exactly reproduced packaging . As a re-enactors himself he means to get the price as low as possible so everyone can benefit.
The detail he has gone to is staggering in that he has located the original food suppliers,
manufacturers of the proper cans and suppliers of the proper cardboard rations boxes and cases.
Even the cans will be made of steel, so you will need a can opener to get into them.
On the cigarettes....
I'll be starting off with Marlboro's naturally and I believe Lucky Strikes. Some brands may be hard to reproduce such as Lark, L&M and Chesterfields, it all depends if I am able to find them off the shelf. But its my intention to reproduce all the brands eventually. I did cut a small slit in each of the twelve Accessory Packets from my 1967 - dated C - rat case and believe it or not, with the exception of two packs of Newports and one pack of Salems, all the rest were Marlboro's!
I may even go so far as to have a small stamp made that will have the original logo embossed on it. This way, for example, I can buy a generic non - filtered cigarette and emboss the end with the L&M or Chesterfield logo. Or buy a generic filtered cigarette and emboss the end in front of the filter with the Lark brand name. These are seemingly minor details but as with any project its always " details son, details! " As we we say in the here!
On the tin cans....
The tin cans will be exactly the same, however the olive drab tone will be different since the U.S. federal government no longer allows lead in any paint used on food items. And it's the lead that gave the C - ration tins their unique appearance. But the tin cans will be marked the same way except for the " packing " company names. These will be changed to prevent a dishonest seller from selling them as originals. Plus, it will also help prevent getting fresh rations mixed in w/ originals.
On the Accessory Packets....
Each will contain fresh items packaged like the originals. Again, the packing names will be different so originals don't get mixed in w/ reproduction or reproductions sold as originals. When a reenactor opens a packet of coffee, he won't find a label underneath indicating it was purchased from a store and simply had a label printed and glued over it. Again, the goal is helping the reenactor reach a total " mental immersion. "
Every ration will also include the plastic spoon. Every reenactor out there probably has one spoon. Those that don't have two! Whether slipped in a helmet band, sticking out of the pen slot of their breast pocket or hanging around their neck. The spoon was just one of those small things, like the P - 38 can opener that was individual to grunt using it. His spoon and his P - 38 were not the same as the others because it was his! It wasn't loaned or borrowed. And each case of C - rations will also contain four P - 38 can openers just like the original cases contained.
On the chocolate snacks....
The C - rations will also contain the chocolate snack items which included a chocolate covered vanilla cookie, vanilla cream cookie, vanilla fudge cookie, coconut cream cookie and a solid chocolate disc. Each of these are going to be reproduced just like the originals. They will also be packaged in the same manner as the originals, except that the name of the manufacturer will be different to keep reproductions seperate from originals.
Another snack item commonly found were vanilla sandwich cookies with a chocolate cream center. These will also be included in those meals that had them. I have seen a " B - 1A " unit tin circa 1968 that was marked " cookies " and inside contained three different cookies. One was a chocolate sandwich cookie, another oatmeal and a third I believe was a vanilla sandwich cookie. As soon as I can locate another example I'll reproduce these as well. Till then I'll have to improvise.
On the meals....
There will be twelve different meals available right from the beginning. They are: Chicken Boned in Broth, Chicken Loaf, Turkey Loaf, Chicken and Noodles, Ham and Eggs Chopped, Ham Fried, Beans with Meat Balls in Tomato Sauce, Beans with Franfurter Chunks in Tomato Sauce, Ham and Lima Beans, Beefsteak with Potatoes and Gravy, Turkey or Chicken Boned in Broth, Pork Steak. Future meals will include Beef with Spiced Sauce, Spaghetti with Meat Balls in Tomato Sauce and Meat Loaf.
Each of the meals will contain their respective " B " unit tin which will contain crackets, a tin of either peanut butter, cheese spread, jam or jelly. Four of the meals will contain packets of cocoa powder, just like the cases produced during the 1960s. Those that don't have cocoa powder will have a chocolate snack included. The jam, jelly and cheese spread selections will also match the originals, right down to the unpainted tins being sealed inside the " B " unit tins. It wasn't until the 1970s that these small condiment tins were painted and commonly found packed seperate with the other C - ration tin cans.
During the 1960s only four meals contained a selection of dessert cakes. I have already tested the reproduction pound cakes. There will also be fruit cake, date pudding and pecan nut roll. All other meals will include a tin of white bread.
Each meal will be packed in a cardboard box just like the originals with the contents printed on the top flap. In time, I'll introduce other C - ration cases and meal boxes to reflect the different suppliers of C - rations.
I also have a tin can of chocolate milk which will be reproduced almost immediately. These small tins will be available as a single item or in cases reproduced from an original. Commonly found around mess halls these will go a long way on hot days for mess hall/ basecamp depictions. Plus, they can be sold by reenactment groups to help raise funds for future projects.
I did receive a sample of the gum on Tuesday. As soon as I saw it I knew it wouldn't work. While its white like the Chiclets, it has green specs applied to the outside. The C - rat Chiclets didn't have any specs and were rectangular, not square. So in both appearance and shape these just don't meet the standards. Sure, I could say that these will be good enough. But good enough never is and then it takes twice as long to correct it!
I want these rations to be the most technically accurate so that in a way, they aren't reproductions. That requires a lot of work. There have been plenty of times when I found something that came really close to what I was looking for but I refused to compromise. Even when others said I should. And for the most part I would later find a perfect match! For items such as the tropical chocolate and some of the cigarette brands, the search continues. Of course there will be some things that are no longer available. And then I'll have no choice but to compromise. Some things are unavoidable!
What we have to remember is that the U.S. government developed the rations and then contracted with civilian manufacturers to produce the rations to government specifications. Nobody bothered to retain those specifications after the contracts were cancelled in the early 1980s. And when the military switched to the MRE any equipment and materials the government laboratories may have provided for production purposes were no longer needed and the civilian manufacturers went back to producing commercial brands of food as they had done previously. So basically, we are starting all over again with the packaging recreating 1960s technology. Some suppliers don't want to deal with it while others look at it as a personal challenge to locate the materials.
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