U.S. Army Field Rations
Modeling the U.S. Army in WWII

The C Ration

The American infantry soldier began WWII with the "combat" meal known officially as Field Ration, Type C. There were three individually boxed meals for breakfast, dinner (i.e., lunch), and supper. Soldiers quickly tired of these meat-and-hash meals because they were also served in the central mess tents when soldiers rotated off the front lines and yearned for more variety.

1943 C-rations contents

The first version of the C rations offered a simple menu consisting of:

Package of Biscuits
Package of Graham Crackers
Package of Sugar Tablets
Meat Can of Ham (Breakfast), Chicken (Dinner), Turkey (Supper)
Fruit Bar (Breakfast), Caramels (Dinner), Chocolate Bar (Supper)
Powdered Coffee (Breakfast), Bouillon (Dinner), Lemon (Supper)
Piece Chewing Gum
4-Pack Cigarettes
Package of Toilet Tissue
Wooden Spoon

In early 1944 specifications for the C rats increased variety by alternating combinations of the "B," or bread, units, and the "M," or meat, units. An accessory pack included nine "good commercial-quality" cigarettes, water-purification tablets, matches, toilet paper, chewing gum, and an opener for the meat cans. A soldier's daily ration was three cans of B units, three cans of M units, and one accessory pack.

M unit varieties
Meat and beans
Meat and vegetable stew
Meat and spaghetti
Ham, egg, and potato
Meat and noodles
Pork and rice
Franks and beans
Pork and beans
Ham and lima beans
Chicken and vegetables

B unit components
Compressed and premixed cereal
Candy-coated peanuts or raisins
Powdered coffee
Powdered lemon or orange juice
Cocoa powder
Hard candies

C Ration Packaging

Reproduction boxes

Actual WWII boxC rations boxes contained three meals for each of eight men: three M units and three B units per man per day, for a total of 48 cans.

There were three distinct versions of C ration box markings. You'll notice the fresh-looking wooden boxes above, used by re-enactors from Strictly GI, come close to matching the samples of two types of actual WWII boxes from the collection of WW2 Ration Technologies. These styles are different from pre-1944 boxes seen in the first two images on this page. The early style was specified in C.Q.D. No. 6D, Amendment 2, March 30, 1943, which spelled out the following packaging requirements:

Top of actual WWII box"Unless otherwise specified two tiers of 24 cans each shall be packed in nailed, wooden boxes.... The two tiers will be separated by a chip board pad.... The nailed, wooden box shall have inside dimensions of 18" x 12" x 7 1/8", with a tolerance of plus or minus 1/16 of an inch. The ends of the boxes shall be manufactured of lumber 5/8 of an inch thick....

All boxes shall be stenciled or printed on both ends as follows:

U.S. Army Field Ration C
8 cans Meat and Beans
8 cans Meat and Vegetable Hash
8 cans Meat and Vegetable Stew
24 cans Bread Unit
1.12 cu. ft. Gross
___ lbs.

The container shall be printed on one side panel as follows:

48 B Units, Ration C (Abbreviation for beverage C, L, or CB)
Contract Number (The contract number shall be given without the words "Contract Number")

The directive also specifies the size of the crescent moon symbol (3" tall, 2" wide, and 7/8" thick at the center of the moon.)

When the menu expanded to include greater variety of M units in 1944, the box dimensions grew slightly to 19 1/4" x 12 3/4" x 7 3/4" while still holding 48 cans. The displacement of the box was now 1.16 cubic feet, with a gross weight of 40 lbs. ("Ration Development," Vol. 12, Office of the Quartermaster General)

Gerald Peterson's example of a vintage wooden box seen here measures 19 5/8" x 12 3/4" x 8" externally.

Later in the war, C rations were packaged in V1 corrugated fiberboard containers of the same approximate dimensions and labeling as the wooden crate, and packed in the same manner. They were usually sleeved and banded with metal straps. Unfortunately, I have not come across any photos of the carton, nor has Gerald Peterson of WWII Ration Technologies been able to find an example.

Actual WWII box

Actual WWII box

1/35 Scale C Rations

It turns out that, product labels to the contrary, there are NO bona fide C ration cartons or boxes on the market today! However, I include Plus Models here because their items don't specify 10-in-1. Actually, as you'll see they don't really specify much of anything.

Product Plus Model #2: U.S. Field C-Rations Cartons Plus Model #3: U.S. Combat Rations Cartons

Number of items

8 fiberboard cartons 9 fiberboard cartons.
Historical dimensions 19 5/8 x 12 3/4 x 8 19 5/8 x 12 3/4 x 8
Product dimensions 19 x 12 1/2 x 12 19 x 12 x 6 1/2
Material and color Light card stock, more brown in color. Light card stock, fibers visible; color more brown than others.
Instructions Yes (in Czech) Yes (in Czech)

!MENU 4 U.S. Field C Rations Cartons, Unterbrech Ordrer, Quartrage lelse, Turnment 2 Slek im Brut

Do not cement
has pat coller
2acha. GWA 4151 2G


The only resemblance of this product to a real rations container is its shape and color.

The marking "U.S. Field C Rations Cartons" is handprinted. The rest of the words, even without magnification of my computer scanner, are nonsensical.

Metal strapping is represented by a band of broken line that is printed around the circumference.

This is a very poor product with no resemblance to any real rations carton other than its shape and the half-moon symbol.
Finished Product
Final Thoughts Avoid these like the plague. No redeeming value.



Modeling the U.S. Army in WWII © 2002—2007 Timothy S. Streeter