K-Rations were first made available during WWII (World War II) by the U.S. Army. These were designed as combat food rations and were to be consumed each day. They were created for the tank corps, airborne troops, motorcycle courier and additional mobile forces. K-rations were to be consumed on a short term basis and were available for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Dr. Ancel Keys was given the job of creating meals that were ready-to-eat and non-perishable. They also needed to be able to fit in each soldier’s pocket. After being assigned this task by the military, Keys decided to go shopping locally and pick out foods that were cheap but which would adequately fill up the solider and meet his or her energy needs. Initially, the fare was rated as palatable or better than nothing. These obviously weren’t five star ratings but the rations did what they set out to do, eliminate hunger and provide energy.
Originally k-rations weren’t supposed to be eaten by soldiers for more than 15 days, after which meals would be replaced with A (fresh food) or B (packaged, but not prepared) field rations. (The previously discussed C-rations were food that was pre-cooked.) The K-ration prototype was first given to paratroopers. One sample included pemmican biscuits, bouillon paste, peanut bar and raisins. The second one included a D ration bar, lemon beverage powder, canned processed meat and pemmican biscuits. Later the meals would be turn into a breakfast, diner and supper combo.
K-rations were first given to soldiers in 1942. The United States Airborne troops were the first to be administered them. They were well received, particularly because of their variety and light weight. They were easy to transport.
As mentioned above, K-rations were designed to only be used for a short time, as an emergency ration. However, their use was extended until the World War II was over. They became staples because they were lightweight and met the basic needs of soliders.
There were, however, some criticisms of K-rations. These revolved around the vitamin and caloric content of the rations. Neither was considered adequate. Generally, only one ration was given to soldiers per day. This was fine for some soldiers but not all of them. Soldiers that performed a lot of physical labor would burn more calories which those that didn’t. The caloric content of the K-ration thus proved to be inadequate for the former.
Overuse of the rations where considered a problem as well. Eating the same meals over and over would eventually become monotonous. Even still, the k-rations played a major role in the world’s second war world. They helped keep soldiers fed and their energy levels high enough to continue fighting.