Life in the Early Years and C-Rations
By Corpsman Ronald C. Mosbaugh
  2/1 Hotel Company 1966-1967


Email: [email protected]
Growing up in the mid-west in the 50's and 60's was a good time to raise a family. We were poor, but we were happy and content.  There were seven of us in the family: mom, dad and five of us boys. Incidentally, all five of us made up the Air Force, Army, Navy and Marine Corps! We were all proud veterans. Dad got a deferment from World War II because of a large family to support; mom was a stay at home mom.  Back to the story...
Meals at our family were not very exciting.  Cornbread and beans, cooked with oxtail because ham was too expensive. We would also have cornbread and milk for our main dishes for at least two or three days a week.   For breakfast we either had oatmeal or cream of wheat.  On Sundays dad would always make pancakes, which we thoroughly enjoyed! For lunch we either had a peanut butter and jelly sandwich or a spam sandwich. Of course, we had other meals but the one's I mentioned were our main dishes. 

I also remember when mom would wring the neck from a chicken and we would watch the chicken run around the yard with its head off! This was quite entertaining! She would then dip the chicken in a pan of boiling water and we boys would pluck the feathers off the chicken.  I never remember our family going out to eat at a restaurant while we were growing up. Actually, we never thought too much about it; that's just the way it was.

Milk was only used for breakfast or supper. We could not just pick up a glass of milk and drink it; it was too expensive! With five boys, we never had leftovers and if you were not at the table at 5:00 PM for supper, the
rest of us got your share! A full cake would go at one setting!  Mom would always bake her chocolate cake on all our birthdays and other special occasions.

We moved often. I didn't catch on until several years later that it was probably due to not having the money for rent! After all, why else would we move in the middle of the night! Ha!  Many of the houses we lived in had
outhouses, but than most of our neighbors had them also so no big deal.  One thing I never did understand is why many of them were two holers?  I never once asked someone if they wanted to go to the outhouse with me. Maybe it was if one side was full, you could then use the other side. The part I hated was that my twin brother and I had to keep them shoveled out!

I remember in Vietnam that the detail of cleaning the outhouse was absolutely the worse job you could experience.closely followed by having to relocate the "piss tubes". Burning the feces left a permanent brown stain on our memory. Honestly, once you pour in the diesel fuel and light a match, only two other tasks were required for the reminder of the day: having to stir the mixture every fifteen minutes or so with a large stick  and doing your best to avoid the billowing and shifting thick, black smoke. The hardest and most difficult part of this day-long work detail, was moving the filled barrels to a spot considered safe for burning. Envision this, and yes this is gross, but fifty-five gallon steel barrels were cut in half and used for the collection of waste.

I just wanted to give you some background on the way we were raised, the food we ate, the outhouse we used and the moves we made.  This all prepared me for life in the Marine Corps in Vietnam.

For thirteen months in Vietnam I lived mostly on C-Rations! A lot of the marines complained about the food, but it was better than nothing. Actually I enjoyed some of the rations. Most all the C-Rations were canned between 1938 and 1958. They were used extensively during World War II. My thirteen month Vietnam tour lasted from 1966 thru 1967, which made the food we were eating over twenty years old!  I really enjoyed the fruit cocktail and pears, especially with pound cake. The fruit cake was dry but I still ate it. I didn't drink coffee but I did enjoy the hot cocoa with cookies. Crackers and peanut butter were a good snack. Crackers with pimento cheese were also okay.

My favorite recipe was to get a can of bread from the B-3 unit and a can of cheese from a B-2 unit; open both cans but not take off the lid; place both cans in an empty B unit box. Light the box on fire until it burned
completely. Remove the bread and open it. Pour the melted cheese over the bread; voila, a toasted cheese sandwich.

Most of the food was bland, but most of the Vietnamese people would have loved to have what we were complaining about.  When I arrived in Vietnam I weighed 175 pounds, thirteen months later I weighed 140 pounds! This weight loss program is not recommended for the average person.

I remember on February 25, 1967, I was eating my lunch at the CP and mentioned to a few marines that it was my 20th birthday. The date on the C-Ration can was 1944. The food was processed the same year I was born! I thought that was pretty special!

Later that day, a marine came up to me and told me to get my first aid bag and come to his grass hut; which six marines live in. I rushed to get my unit one bag and met him at the hut. When I walked in there were several marines standing and they started to sing a happy birthday song to me! On a wooden ammo crate in the center of the room, was a C-Ration pound cake with chocolate icing made from a melted chocolate candy disk. They also had one lit candle on the cake which added to the festivities! It was a very emotional moment for me as before this time I was feeling very melancholy. I was missing my family and mom making her usual birthday cake for my twin brother and I. I wish I had a picture of that surprise birthday party. This act of kindness from the marines was over whelming. I was proud to be a member of the Marine Corps that day!

Later that evening I was getting ready for a night ambush when the CO informed me that being that it was my birthday I had the evening off.  I went back to my room in the first aid area, lit the candle that was on my
birthday cake and lay on my bunk, reminiscing about my family back home. I thanked GOD for the many blessings he had bestowed upon me! 

Here is a list of the C-Rations we were issued daily. For those who are interested in if we were getting enough calories; each meal contained approximately 1200 calories. The daily ration of 3 meals provided us with
approximately 3600 calories.

B-1 Units - meat choices (in small cans): beef steak, ham and eggs, chopped ham slices, turkey loaf, fruit: applesauce, fruit cocktail, peaches, pears, crackers, peanut butter, chocolate candy disc, chocolate cream coconut, accessory pack*

B-2 Units - meat choices (in larger cans): beans and wieners, spaghetti and meatballs, beefsteak & potatoes & gravy, ham and lima beans, meatballs and beans, crackers, processed cheese spread with either caraway or pimento, fruit cake, pecan roll, pound cake, accessory pack*

B-3 Units - meat choices (in small cans): boned chicken, chicken and noodles, meat loaf, spiced beef, bread, cookies, cocoa beverage powder, jam (apple, berry, grape, mixed fruit, strawberry, accessory pack*

*The accessory pack had a plastic spoon, salt & pepper, instant coffee, sugar, creamer, 2 Chiclets, cigarettes - 4 smokes/pack like Winston, Marlboro, Lucky Strike, Salem, Pall Mall, Camel, Chesterfield, Kent, matches, & toilet paper. We all carried a "P-38" can opener and usually had heat tabs or C-4 to heat things.

Speaking of the P-38 or can opener; it is actually called by its nickname which it supposedly acquired from the 38 punctures required to open a C-Ration can. It's also known as a "John Wayne" by many because the story
goes that he demonstrated using them in a WW II training film. So when soldiers would ask for one if they forgot the name they would ask for a "John Wayne". Originally they came in individual paper packets with the
directions on how to use printed on it. About a dozen came packed with a case of C-Rations. These handy little gadgets have adorned dog tag chains and key rings ever since.  I know that many of you have one in your pocket to this very day!

Semper Fi,
HMCM Doc Mosbaugh
USNR Retired