Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Cooking in the Trenches, German Army, 1915

Kochbuch für den Schützengraben
(Cookbook for the Trenches)

     Kochbuch für den Schützengraben (Cookbook for the Trenches) was a booklet of recipes published in 1915, before the worst of the wartime food shortages began to be felt in the front lines. Food shortages in Germany increased as World War I slogged on, reaching crisis level by the end of the war. The British naval blockade and the non-availability of Russian exports eventually reduced the importation of food, fertilizer and animal feed to a fraction of their prewar levels. Agricultural production suffered as a result of forty percent of German male farm laborers being taken away by the war effort. The situation was further exacerbated by the potato crop failure of 1916, when potato production dropped to less than half that of 1915. This forced the cultivation of yellow turnips and the resultant “yellow turnip winter” of 1916-1917, when potatoes were in extremely short supply or simply unobtainable in many German cities.
     Although the war was in its early stages, some ingredients in Kochbuch für den Schützengraben were listed as optional; it was noted that they might not always be available. But eggs, meat, dairy products, and sugar were still obtainable, at least in theory. It was a time when soldiers could still enjoy, at least occasionally, meat cutlets, potato pancakes and thick sauces.
     Most of the recipes were quite rudimentary: they often did not include the amounts of ingredients and gave only very basic cooking directions. Some recipes need no further embellishment, and one should feel free to use whatever amount of ingredients are available, or whatever seems an appropriate serving size. In other recipes I have estimated the ingredient amounts based on daily rations, sound cooking techniques and the proportions used in similar recipes of the time. The recipes are scaled for one serving. This post will take a look at the basics: meat and potatoes.
     The German soldier’s daily meat ration at the beginning of the war was 375 grams of fresh meat or 200 grams of smoked meat or sausage. The meat recipes are scaled to 200 grams of meat, which is approximately half of the daily meat ration.

Pork, Mutton or Veal Cutlets 
US                   Metric             Ingredients
7 oz                 200 g               pork loin, mutton, or veal (preferably loin)
1 each              1 each             egg
2 fl oz/¼ cup   60 ml                grated bread or bread crumbs
1 tbsp              1 tbsp              butter

1.      Cut the meat into finger-thick slices (about ¾ inch or 2 cm thick).
2.      Flatten the meat and well beaten to about 1/4 to 3/8 inch thickness (1 cm).
3.      If a meat mallet is not available, a heavy object may be substituted: skillet, wine bottle, beer stein, etc.*
4.      Sprinkle with salt
5.      Roll in beaten egg, then in grated bread.
6.      Add to browned butter or other fat in a pan on a good fire and fry for two minutes on each side. To serve, top with butter sauce.

(*Cooking tip: To determine the amount of force needed to flatten the meat, lightly hit the heel of one hand with a meat mallet or other object held in the other hand. It should not be painful. This is the amount of pressure you need to apply to the meat. Any more force than that will tear the meat or turn it into mush.)

Wiener Schnitzel 
US                   Metric             Ingredients
7 oz                 200 g               veal
to taste            to taste             salt
1 tbsp              15 ml               butter

1.      Wiener schnitzel was cut from the leg of veal. Pieces of any size may be used.
2.      Flatten veal slices to about 1/4 inch thickness (0.6 cm).
3.      Rub with salt, then fry in hot butter.
4.      Serve with slices of lemon, anchovies, or Pfeffergurken (“pepper gherkins”: small cucumbers pickled in vinegar with chili peppers and other spices), or whatever is available.

US                   Metric              Ingredients
7 oz                 200 g               beef loin

Procedure is the same as for Wienerschnitzel.

Chopped Beefsteaks (Gehackte Beefsteaks)
US                   Metric              Ingredients
7 oz                 200 g               beef , finely chopped
1-2 tbsp*         15-30 ml*        fat (lard, butter, cooking oil)
to taste             to taste             salt

1.      Mix the meat with salt and pepper.
2.      Add the additional 1 tbsp fat to the meat only if the beef is very lean.
3.      Shape into round, flat dumplings.
4.      Heat 1 tbsp fat in a frying pan. Fry the steaks for a few minutes (3-5 minutes) on each side.

Meat Patty (Buletten)
“Buletten” to Berliners, these pan-fried ground meat patties are known elsewhere in Germany as Frikadellen, Frikandellen, Fleischpflanzerl, etc.

US                   Metric             Ingredients
7 oz                 200 g               boiled or roasted meat
4 fl oz               120 ml             bread crumbs
1 each              1 each             egg yolk
1 tbsp              15 ml               fat (lard, butter, cooking oil)
to taste             to taste            salt
to taste             to taste            pepper

1.      Mince the cooked meat and combine with breadcrumbs, fat, egg yolks, salt and pepper.
2.      Mix well, shape into 6 balls and flatten slightly.
3.      Heat the fat in a frying pan and fry for about 2-3 minutes on each side, until well browned.

Potato Dishes
     Potatoes were an important part of the German soldier’s ration. Early in the war, the daily allowance was 1500 grams (53 ounces) of potatoes. While this may seem like a huge amount, it is only approximately 1200 calories: about 1/3 of a soldier’s daily requirement. I have scaled the potato recipes to 375 grams (about 13 ounces). This is the weight of raw, unpeeled potatoes. 

Fried Potatoes
Peel the potatoes, cut into slices about 3/8” (1 cm) thick. Fry in hot fat until browned. Sprinkle with salt. You can also add thinly sliced apples or onions in the middle of cooking.

Potato Pancakes
One large russet potato works well for this recipe and yields about 5-6 small potato pancakes.

US                   Metric              Ingredients
13 oz               375 g                potatoes (any type)
1 each              1 each              egg yolk
2-4 tbsp           30-60 ml          flour
 to taste            to taste              salt
1-2 tbsp           15-30               fat, for frying

1.      Peel and grate the potatoes.
2.      Mix with egg yolk, salt and flour.
3.      Heat the oil in a frying pan with a cover.
4.      Take a rounded tablespoon of the mixture and place it in the heated pan.
5.      Flatten the potato mixture with the back of the spoon into a small circular fritter.
6.      Cover the pan and cook for about 4-5 minutes on each side, until lightly browned.
7.      Remove from heat,

Sprinkle with sugar and serve with stewed fruit.
Serve with a bacon sauce made from fried bacon bits, a few tablespoonfuls of broth, a little vinegar and sugar to taste.

Meat Sauce for Potatoes
I scaled this recipe large enough to suffice as the meat ration for a meal. These are only guidelines, and the amount of ingredients can vary according to taste and to what’s available.

US                   Metric            Ingredients
8 fl oz              250 ml             leftover ham, salt pork, or any type of roasted meat, chopped
1/2 tbsp           15 ml               fat
4 fl oz              120 ml             meat broth (add more broth if the meat is dry)
1 tbsp              15 ml               cream
2 fl oz              60 ml               bread crumbs
1-2 tbsp           1-2 tbsp          grated Parmesan or Swiss cheese

1.      Chop the meat into small pieces.
2.      Heat the fat in a pan.
3.      Add the meat
4.      Once the meat has been warmed, add the broth, cream, bread crumbs and cheese.
5.      Serve over boiled and sliced potatoes or cooked dehydrated potatoes.
6.      Alternately, place the potatoes in an oven-proof pan, cover with the sauce, then dot with small pieces of butter and grated cheese. Cover the pan and cook in a field oven or on a fire with hot coals placed on top of the lid. Bake until ingredients are heated through, and the cheese has melted.

Potato Salad:
US                   Metric              Ingredients
13 oz               375 g               boiled potatoes

Cut the cooked, cooled potatoes, into slices 3/8 inch (1 cm) thick.
Mix with one of the following salad dressings.
These dressings may be mixed with leftover (cooked) fish to make fish salad.

(Note: in the original booklet, the following recipes for salad dressings had neither names nor amounts.  I have added descriptive English names only for the sake of convenience. The addition of salt was added for those recipes where it was not included, but assumed to be an ingredient. And although not noted in the original recipe, the sour cream dressing is greatly enhanced by the addition of chopped fresh herbs such as parsley and/or chives)

Lard and Vinegar Dressing
US                   Metric              Ingredients
1-2 tbsp           15-30 ml          lard
1-2 tbsp           15-30 ml          hot meat broth (fish broth if dressing is used for fish)
1½  tsp            8 ml                 vinegar
to taste            to taste              salt
to taste            to taste              pepper

Stir the lard together with the broth, add the remaining ingredients and mix well.
Add 1 tbsp minced onion
Add a pinch of ground laurel (bay leaf)

Oil and Vinegar Dressing
US                   Metric              Ingredients
2 tbsp             30 ml                 oil
2 tsp                10 ml                vinegar
½ tsp              ½ tsp                 sugar
to taste            to taste              salt

Mustard Dressing
US                   Metric              Ingredients
2 tbsp             30 ml               oil
2 tsp                10 ml               vinegar
2 tsp                10 ml               mustard
2 tsp                10 ml               white wine
to taste            to taste              salt

Sour Cream Dressing
US                   Metric              Ingredients
2 tbsp             30 ml               sour cream,
1 tbsp             15 ml               vinegar
½ tsp               ½ tsp               sugar
 to taste            to taste              salt

Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, Volumes 91-94
A.L. Hummel, 1920, pg.132

Germany’s Food Supply, Prof. W.J. Ashley, London:  Jas. Truscott & Son, Ltd, 1916.
Reprinted from The Quarterly Review, October, 1915

Germany, Propaganda and Total War, 1914-1918: The Sins of Omission, David Welch
Rutgers University Press, 2000, pg.119

Kriegskochbuch, Anweisungen zur einfachen und billigen Ernährung. 5. Auflage.
(War Cookbook, Instructions for Simple and Cheap Food. 5th Edition.)
Gebrüder Hoesch (pub.), Hamburg, 1915 

Kochbuch für den Schützengraben, Hans Werder, Otto Janke Publisher, Berlin, 1915

The Scientific American War Book, The Mechanism and Technique of Warfare, Albert A. Hopkins (Editor), New York, 1916

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Biscuits, US Army, Part I: 1896-1949

Evolution of the US Army Biscuit

     The US and UK, according to George Bernard Shaw, are "two countries divided by a common language", biscuits included. The Oxford Dictionary defines the British biscuit as “a small baked unleavened cake, typically crisp, flat, and sweet”; the North American version is “a small, soft round cake like a scone.”
     The biscuit occupies an important place in American culinary history. It is said to have originated in the Southern US and quickly spread to the rest of the United States by the late 1800’s. In the settlement of the American West during the 19th century, food was often described as “the four B’s”: biscuits, beans, bacon, and beef (often in the form of salted beef). As these foods were either dried or salt-cured, they required no specialized conditions for preservation other than to be kept dry. They could remain edible for long periods of time, were inexpensive and commonly available: perfect for military subsistence.
     In the early part of the 20th Century and through World War I, bread came in three basic forms in the US Army: soft bread, hard bread (the official name for hardtack) and baking powder breads. After 1910 the baking powder bread was primarily in the form of biscuits, as the recipes for baking powder field bread were dropped. In 1935 the military specification for hard bread was canceled.
   Army manuals in the early part of the 20th century recommended serving biscuits for breakfast or supper, often with “sugar sirup” or fruit jam.

US Army biscuits of three wars.
(left to right): Spanish-American War (1896 recipe), WWI (1910 recipe), WWII (1944 recipe).
Note how the increased fat content results in a flakier texture in the later recipes.
The 1896 and 1910 versions were cut open, but I was able to simply pull apart the 1944 biscuit.
Techiques for Making Good Biscuits

     “They Say That in the Army”, a traditional US Army marching cadence that dates back to at least World War II, lampoons many aspects of Army life, including pay, training, coffee, food, and living conditions. Even the Army biscuit doesn’t escape unscathed:
“They say that in the Army, the biscuits are mighty fine;
    One rolled right off the table and killed a friend of mine.”

    Proper technique is critical to insure that your biscuits are fluffy melt-in-your-mouth delicacies, and not a pile of unpalatable and possibly deadly “hockey pucks”. Here are some tips for making good, possibly great, biscuits:
      1. Dry ingredients (flour, salt, baking powder, fat) should be mixed thoroughly. However, during and after the addition of the liquid(s) ingredients, do not over-mix or handle the dough excessively. This is the most common cause of tough biscuits. Use a “light” hand while mixing and rolling the dough. With each successive batch of biscuits that you make, try to handle the dough a little bit less until you have a feel for the right amount of mixing.
2    2. When cutting biscuit dough, use a floured biscuit cutter. Do not twist the cutter. Cut straight down and lift straight up. Twisting the cutter can seal the edges of the biscuit and inhibit rising while baking.
3    3. Sift the dry ingredients together, using a fine sieve. Sifting introduces air into the dry ingredients, helping to make a fluffier baked product. It also screens out any clumps of ingredients.
4    4. If cooking biscuits over an open fire, I recommend a cast iron skillet or Dutch oven with a tight-fitting lid. Heat the pan over medium heat and grease with oil or fat. Carefully add the biscuits, cover with the lid and place over coals, adding more coals on top. If cooking in a pan without a lid, turn the biscuits over halfway through cooking or when they have browned on the bottom.
Baking-Powder Biscuits, Camp Cookery Version, US Army, 1896
    The 1896 recipe for biscuits was lean and unrefined, well adapted to cooking for an army stationed in isolated posts or constantly on the move. It is somewhat dense compared to later versions of the Army biscuit, but it is still quite good and definitely preferable to hardtack.
     The US Army’s Manual for Army Cooks 1896 edition notes the issue of “baking powder, for troops in the field, when necessary, to enable them to bake their own bread.” The biscuit recipe of the “Camp Cookery” section was well adapted for cooking in the field: the ingredients were measured by volume, it used cold water for the liquid, and for the fat content a relatively small amount of bacon fat rendered from the previous day’s cooking.
     In the field the dough was broken into pieces or spooned into the pan. As this recipe produces a fairly sticky batter, flour your hands well if you are breaking apart the biscuit dough by hand. As per the original recipe, please note that all of the ingredients in this recipe are measured by volume.

Yield: 4 servings of 2 biscuits each

U.S.                             Metric                          Ingredients
13 fl oz                        385 ml                         flour
1½ tsp                         8 ml                             baking powder
¼ tsp                           1.5 ml                          salt
1½ tsp                         8 ml                             cold clear bacon fat
5½ to 6 fl oz                165-180 ml                  cold water (do not use warm water)

1.      Mix together the flour, baking powder and salt and stir thoroughly.
2.      Add the bacon fat and stir again (a wire whisk works well for this)
3.      Add the water and stir to a smooth but not stiff batter. Mix it as little as possible and do not knead it.
4.      Roll or break into equal-sized biscuits; or, best, drop from a large spoon into well-greased pans.
5.      Place the pans in a preheated 400-450°F (205-230°C) oven and bake for 15 to 20 minutes.

Making 1896 US Army Biscuits
Ingredients for 1896 biscuits. This is a very simple recipe and  easily adaptable to camp cooking.
I have placed the mixed dough onto a sheet pan to illustrate the consistency.
It is a somewhat sticky dough, so don't expect your 1896 biscuits to look uniform and  picture-perfect.
The biscuit dough has been spooned into a greased pan.
Note that this is not a cast iron pan; it is made from stamped steel
 and does not require pre-heating before placing in the oven.
If using a cast iron pan, preheat before CAREFULLY placing the dough into it.
The finished biscuits.
Baking-Powder Biscuits, Garrison Version, US Army, 1896
     In the garrison version of the 1896 biscuit, cold water can be used, but milk was “preferable”. The dough is rolled and cut, unlike the field version. Meat drippings or lard are the preferred fats in this version. 

Yield: 4 servings of 2 biscuits each

U.S.                             Metric                        Ingredients
13 fl oz                        385 ml                         flour
2 tsp                            8 ml                             baking powder
¼ tsp                           2 ml                             salt
1½ tsp                         6 ml                             dripping or lard
6-7 fl oz                       240-295 ml                 cold water (or milk), enough to make a soft dough

1.      Put flour into a deep dish; add the baking powder and salt
2.      Rub in the dripping or lard.
3.      Put in enough cold water or milk to make soft dough. Handle as little as possible.
4.      Roll quickly into a sheet three-quarters of an inch thick.
5.      Cut into circular cakes, with a floured biscuit cutter, or an empty can; roll the dough that is left into a sheet, and re-cut.
6.      Lay the biscuits thus cut into a well-greased baking pan close together and bake five or six minutes in a quick oven (400°-450°F/205-230°C) until they are browned.

Biscuits, US Army, 1910
   In the aftermath of the Spanish American War the US Army transitioned from being a small frontier force to one responsible for an ever-expanding global mission. The expansion and modernization of the US Army and its logistics is reflected in the cooking manuals of 1910 and afterwards. Outdated recipes such as pemmican “made of the lean portions of venison, buffalo, beef, etc.”* were deleted, and the section on Camp Cookery was dropped. All biscuit ingredients were now scaled by weight, a small amount of sugar was added, and the fat content more than doubled. This version of the biscuit remained in use until 1935.

*The inclusion of buffalo was likely an oversight or wishful thinking, as by 1896 the American bison was nearly extinct.

Yield: 4 servings (8 biscuits)

U.S.                             Metric                          Ingredients
10.7 oz                                    305 g                           flour
1.3 oz                           38 g                            fat (lard preferred)
0.13 oz/1 tsp                4 g                              sugar
0.13 oz/¾ tsp                4 g                              salt
.7 oz/2 tsp                    28 g                             baking powder
6.75 fl oz                     200 ml                         cold water or milk

1.      Sift the flour, salt and baking powder together and mix well.
2.      Work the fat into the mixture.
3.      Add the water and mix into a soft dough. Do not over-mix.
4.      Roll out about one-half inch thick.
5.      Cut out with a biscuit cutter and place in a baking pan, about ½-inch apart.
6.      Bake in a 400°F (205°C) oven for about 10 minutes. 
Baking Powder Biscuits, US Army, 1935
     This version of the biscuit first appeared in print in 1935, and in subsequent versions until superseded in 1944. The 1935 biscuit again saw an increase in the fat content. Milk (either canned evaporated milk or powdered skim milk) completely replaced the water referred to in previous recipes.
Yield: 8 biscuits (4 servings)

U.S.                             Metric                          Ingredients
10½ oz                        300 g                           flour
0.12 oz/1 tsp                3.5 g                            salt
0.44 oz/1 tbsp             20 ml/12.5 g                baking powder
2.5 oz                          75 g                             fat (lard or lard substitute)

1.6 oz                          45 g                             powdered skim milk
4.8 oz water                140 ml                         water
3.5 oz/4 fl oz               25 g/75 ml                   canned evaporated milk
4 fl oz water                110 ml                         water

NOTE:  If using fresh milk, add approximately 6½ fl oz/190 ml.

1.      Sift the flour, salt and baking powder together 3 times.
2.      Work the fat into the mixture.
3.      Make a well in the middle and add all the milk at once. This should make a soft dough, if not, add more milk.
4.      Turn out onto a lightly floured board and knead quickly for not more than 1 minute.
5.      Roll out about one-half the thickness desired in the baked biscuit.
6.      Cut out with a biscuit cutter and place in a baking pan, just touching each other.
7.      Bake in a 400-450°F (205-230°C) oven for about 12 minutes or until brown.

Cheese Biscuits
Ingredients as for baking powder biscuits with the addition of 2 oz/55 g finely chopped American cheese. Mix the same as for baking powder biscuits, except that the cheese is added with the milk and mixed in thoroughly.

Baking Powder Biscuits, US Army, 1944

     By World War II the US military biscuit was largely relegated to breakfast, the meal which it is most often associated with today. The biscuit is the perfect accompaniment, in my not-always-so humble opinion, to the Army’s once-ubiquitous creamed beef or creamed chipped beef (aka “SOS” when served on toast).
     In the 1944 version, shortening replaced the lard, a reflection of wartime economics. The dimensions (prior to baking) were now specified: ¾ inch (2 cm) thick and 2½ inches (6.5 cm) in diameter. Otherwise, this biscuit is nearly identical to the previous version. While the recipe itself listed only canned evaporated milk, dry skim milk was in widespread use and instructions for its use noted in the manual’s section on dehydrated foods. If using dry skim milk, substitute an equivalent amount (approximately 6 fluid ounces) of reconstituted milk for the evaporated milk and water. Add additional liquid if necessary to make a soft dough.

Yield: 8 biscuits (4 servings), each 2½ inch diameter

U.S.                             Metric                        Ingredients
10½ oz                        300 g                          flour
0.18 oz/1 tsp                5 g                             salt
0.4 oz/1 tbsp               15 ml/ g                       baking powder
2 oz                             55 g                            shortening
 2.5 oz/2¾ fl oz           80 ml                           evaporated milk
 3.2 fl oz                     95 ml                            water

1.      Sift the flour, salt and baking powder together.
2.      Add shortening; stir until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
3.      Mix milk and water. Add to dry ingredients, mixing only enough to combine dry and liquid ingredients.
4.      Place the dough onto a floured board and knead lightly.
5.      Roll ¾ inch thick.
6.      Cut dough into biscuits with a floured biscuit cutter. Place in a baking pan.
7.      Bake in a 450°F (230°C) for about 15 minutes.

Biscuits may be brushed with melted shortening or milk before baking.
If using fresh milk, substitute 8½ fl oz (250 ml) for the evaporated milk and water.

Sources, retrieved January 16, 2012
Holbrook, L.R., The Mess Sergeant’s Handbook, George Banta Publishing, Menasha, WI, 1916
Manual for Army Cooks 1896, War Department Document No. 18, U.S. GPO 1896
Manual for Army Cooks 1910, War Department Document No. 379, U.S. GPO, 1910
Manual for Army Cooks 1916, War Department Document No. 564, Military Publishing Company, 1916
War Department, TM 2100-152 The Army Cook, April 2, 1928, U.S. GPO, 1928
War Department, TM 2100-152 The Army Cook, December 31, 1935, U.S. GPO, 1935
War Department, TM 10-405, The Army Cook, June 9, 1941, U.S. GPO, 1941
War Department, TM 10-405 The Army Cook, April 24, 1942 (+Changes 1-3), U.S. GPO, 1942
War Department, TM 10-412, Army Recipes, August 15, 1944, U.S. GPO, 1944

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

The French P-38 Can Opener

The French P-38 Can Opener.
    Can opener, scraper, screwdriver, chisel, pick, the tool of a hundred thousand uses, "The Greatest Army Invention", "invented in just 30 days in the summer of 1942 by Maj. Thomas Dennehy at the Subsistence Research Laboratory in Chicago"*, was actually invented 30 years earlier by a Frenchman.
Several of my P-38s.
The two on the right are from the mid-1970's and still quite functional after 35+ years of use.
     In 1911, Etienne Marcel Darqué invented a pocket-sized can opener ("ouvre-boite") that was adopted by the French Army in the following year. Similar in appearance to the folding P-38, it was of rigid construction and was issued with a grooved wooden block to protect the user from the point on its cutting end. The weight of the opener was 15 grams (about 1/2 ounce), and the block another 15 grams. 500,000 were manufactured initially and served with the Poilu in the trenches alongside older model can openers.
Ouvre-boîte Darqué, modèle 1912
Dimensions, Ouvre-boîte Darqué, modèle 1912
But the story of Mr. Darqué's ouvre-boite does not end there. In 1913 he invented a folding version. Sacrebleu! The P-38 "John Wayne" that I had worn for so many years on my dog tag chain was not the product of American ingenuity! "How can that be?" thought I, but there it was, U.S. Patent number 1,082,800 of December 12, 1913, for E.M. Darque's "Tin Box Opener".

The folding version was apparently not adopted by the French Army, although it was manufactured in France post-WWI France for a salmon cannery in Newfoundland. In 1932, Darqué followed up with an improved version which included a blade locking device. In 1933 the patent was approved in the US as patent no. 1,921,911 and in the UK as patent GB386235(A).
Can Opener, Patent 1,921,911, August 8, 1933
     However, contrary to popular perception, the Army did not initially recognize its potential and issue the P-38 in massive quantities with canned rations. In fact, the P-38 got a somewhat slow start. The cans in C-Rations and K-Rations still utilized a steel-wire key ("sardine key") opener. Early in 1943 the K-Ration meat can was re-designed with a special light plate top "that may be opened with any knife blade, thereby dispensing with the need for a key and permitting the saving of metal used for keys.", but still retained the key through the end of the war.
Note the "key" (can opener) in the accessories section at the bottom of the illustration.
     In October 1942, it was recommended that with the initial issue of the 5-in-1 ration (so named as it was intended to feed 5 soldiers for one day) "certain can openers now on hand" (probably the P-38) were to be issued at the rate of two per vehicle. Eventually, a can opener was supplied in the main carton of each 5-in-1 ration. In May 1943, two "pocket-style can openers" (P-38's) were added to  the 10-in-1 rations.

     C-Ration cans were still manufactured with a scored key-opening band below the top of the can. This caused problems when some of  the contents of C-Ration meat unit would often spill out of the top of the can. Continued attempts at raising the band approximately 3/8 inch proved unsuccessful, as it weakened the container. "Nevertheless, the (Subsistence Research) Laboratory recommended that further efforts be made to develop a can with raised score that would withstand rough handling."; not exactly a rousing official endorsement of the P-38.
1945 C-Ration Menu 1: note the key method of opening the can.
     Meanwhile, soldiers (being pragmatic creatures) solved the problem by attacking the top of the C-Ration can with knives, bayonets, or can openers. Eventually it was determined that the most cost effective method would be to issue can openers. By the summer of 1944 an accessory pack with a can opener for the C-Ration was procured. In April 1945 the specifications for a new C-Ration were published, which incorporated the accessory packet including a "small can opener".
     Researching patents in the United States Patent and Trademark Office database for patents with "can opener" in the title from October 1940 through the end of WWII revealed that the first P-38-style can opener patent filed during this era was patent number 2,412,946, filed July 3, 1944 and approved on December 24, 1946. The patent related to improvements on existing designs, primarily in locking the blade against the body of the opener when not in use to eliminate the danger of injury to the user.
    "But", one might argue, "why would the government allow one of its officers to patent such a device, rather than throwing it out into the public domain?" There is definitely a precedent for such a patent. On October 17, 1939, in order to prevent commercial exploitation without the permission of the inventor of that culinary delight known as the D-Ration (formerly known as the "Logan Bar"), the US Government took out a patent. for  Major (later Colonel) Paul P. Logan of the Quartermaster Corps Technical Committee. Patent 2,176,086 "Concentrated Emergency Ration" was apparently filed without having to wait for approval.

      Given the P-38's ancestry and preponderance of hard evidence in Mr. Darqué's favor, I for one am convinced that Etienne Darqué is the true father of the P-38. Major Dennehy may have been the stepfather who brought it to the Subsistence Research Laboratory, but credit must certainly be given to the individual GI who truly recognized the P-38 for the great piece of equipment that it is, and for popularizing it to the point of becoming a military and cultural icon.

* The original article proclaiming Major Dennehy as the inventor of the P-38 was originally published in 1985 by Maj. Renita Foster, and reprinted in 2009 (but no sources were cited in the article). The article may be found at

QMC Historical Studies Number 6, The Development of Special Rations for the Army, September 1944
QM Corps CMH Pub 10-12-1, The Quartermaster Corps, Organization, Supply and Services, Erna Risch, US GPO, 1953.
Quartermaster Food & Container Institute for the Armed Forces, Operation Studies Number One, Volume XII, Ration Development, June 1947