There was a mess hall in Chu Lai, Vietnam inside the company area and, of course, I ate there but not often. That mess hall served three companies. Except for Thanksgiving, the food wasn’t that good. It was powdered eggs for breakfast and similar chow the rest of the day.
Most of the time, I ate C-Rations and heated them with a can of Sterno. If I didn’t have Sterno, I opened a can of crackers or chocolate, took out the contents and vented the bottom, stuffed the can with dirt and soaked the dirt with gasoline then lit a fire and heated the main course on that makeshift stove.
When I was in the field driving a radio Jeep, I’d pop the hood and set the can on the manifold until the food was bubbling. The engine was kept running to power the radio behind the front seats. My favorite C-ration was the ham and limas. Since few in my platoon liked that flavor, I usually ended with more than one can. The chocolate was horrible–not sweet by today’s standards.
Since GIs were eating that chocolate in World War II, there must have been a lot less sugar in candy then. I’ve seen movies where WWII GIs are rolling through towns in Europe or Japan handing out United States military chocolate to kids. That C-ration chocolate wouldn’t sell well today—American kids would throw it in the trash.
Today, the average American eats (156) one hundred and fifty-six pounds of sugar per person annually, that’s thirty-one, five-pound bags. The high school where I taught installed soda machines a few years before I left in 2005. I was told that two thousand sodas were being stocked in those school machines twice a week and there were only two thousand students. I read that in 1600, sugar consumption in the UK was seven pounds per person. In 1850, that was up to fifty-two pounds. In America, diabetes has jumped more than five hundred percent since the 1950s, and kids are getting adult diabetes. Need I say more?
The C-rations I ate in 1966 were stamped on the side of the box with 1945. Every box of C-rations came with four, free cigarettes. I smoked a few but didn’t like what it did to my taste buds, so I gave the cigarettes away. I imagine many young American men were hooked on cigarettes fighting America’s modern wars until the day came when tobacco was removed from military rations. At nineteen, I didn’t know a thing about nutrition. I’ll bet there wasn’t much health left in those cans after sitting for more than twenty years.
Discover Eating out in Vietnam 1966
Lloyd Lofthouse, a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran, is the award winning author of The Concubine Saga.
His latest novel is Running with the Enemy. Blamed for a crime he did not commit while serving in Vietnam, his country considers him a traitor. Ethan Card is a loyal U.S. Marine desperate to prove his innocence or he will never go home again.
And the woman he loves and wants to save was trained to hate and kill Americans.
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