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Food on Iwo Jima

iwo jima marines wwii

Iwo Jima, Sunday, 25 February 1945:

The Fourth Division gained about one hundred yards, but Hudson wasn’t in the heavy fighting, as Regimental Combat Team (RCT) 25 stayed in Divi­sion reserve. Perhaps this was the day Hudson described when his unit was pulled back in reserve to give them a little rest. “Reserve was only about 100 yards from the front lines, but we felt reasonably safe because we knew we had Marines in front of us.” Still, a bullet could go 100 yards.


They were hungry enough for eight of them to eat as one meal a Ten-in-One Ration, a big box meant to feed ten men for a day—but whether it actually would depended on the men and the day. Besides the Ten-in-One Ration, they had K, C, and D Rations for food. K rations were survival rations, boxed food with a canned main dish and a variety of sides. C rations, the equivalent of today’s Meal Ready to Eat (MRE), were portable pre-cooked substitutes for fresh food: cans of meat and vegeta­bles, bread and dessert. D Rations were emergency food—high-nutrient chocolate bars. The Ten-in-One Ration was in a box or can like the K rations, but included things like scrambled eggs, meat and beans, spaghetti and meatballs, or beef stew.




The food was made to have a shelf life of years, and some of it was quite old. There were jokes about whether the food or its box tasted better. Though there was a variety of food, they ate it all cold; the Marines didn’t make fires, so as not to draw gunfire. But in places, the volcanic ground could heat a buried can of C rations.

Supply lines are vital to an army, which can starve if cut off from supplies, but Hudson never went hungry. His problems were more pressing than that. 

The Japanese attacked that night, and enemy shells fell in both front lines and rear areas. The shells’ gunpowder was one of the constant smells associated with Iwo Jima. Another was the sulfur smell which came both from the sulfur mines all over the island and from Mount Suribachi’s fumes.

Excerpts are from Fighting the Unbeatable Foe: Iwo Jima and Los Alamos, now republished as a 75th anniversary edition in paperback and Kindle.

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