The exploding can


                           We had food (such was the claim) that was called “C-rations” to eat while in the field during my Army days. The Army would say they developed this alleged 3,700 calorie meal prior to World War II. I would respectfully dispute that claim as I distinctly recall in 1974 having a C-ration meal that had a pack date of 1467. Some of the items were actually palatable though I would not care to try any of them today in deference to my aging digestive tract. 

                            Now, a lot of times there was no way to heat this stuff. There is no experience like living in a tent (GP-medium for you vets out there) without heat in sub-zero temps and having to consume something called “Ham and Lima Beans” that was packed in a tin can and looking remarkably like the contents of a can of dog food. The further indignity involved eating this stuff cold. Being the inventive G.I. that I was (all G.I.’s, by necessity, are inventive), I searched and found a way to heat this poor excuse for sustenance. I would wedge a can of whatever that needed warmed up into the exhaust manifold of one of the trucks. Ten to fifteen minutes of engine idle time and I could at least have whatever it was at some temperature above frozen. It worked out pretty well most of the time. 

                            I don’t remember his name. He was a fairly new arrival to our Artillery Battery (Vets: it was Svc Btry, 1/36th FA based in Augsburg, Germany). He had been lucky to get a can of spaghetti and meat balls in his c-rations. As a side note: spaghetti and meat balls were the best C-ration meal one could get back then. Anyway, being a new guy, he did not have the extensive “wisdom” that the old soldiers like me (I was 20 – maybe) so he asked a couple of us how to heat his dinner. He was instructed how and where to wedge his can in the exhaust manifold of a nearby 5-ton truck. What he was not told apparently, was of the need to put a few vent holes in the can. Have you ever seen what happens to a can of spaghetti and meat balls that has been heated without benefit of a vent hole or two? The can exploded with the hood of the truck down. An entire can of spaghetti and meat balls was splattered all over the engine compartment, helped along in its destructive path by a still running engine.  

                          Now, heating one’s c-ration in an engine compartment was strictly forbidden by the powers that be. We had no clue where he got the idea to do that. None of us told him and, of course, we would never do that ourselves. 

                           Sure took him a long time to clean that engine.

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