Hershey Foods Corporation's involvement with the production of military rations bars began when Army Quartermaster Captain Paul Logan met with William Murrie, President, Hershey Chocolate Corporation and Sam Hinkle, Chief Chemist, in April 1937. This initial visit started the experimental production of a ration bar which was to meet the needs of soldiers involved in a global war.
When Murrie and Hinkle told Milton Hershey about the visit by the Army Quartermaster Captain, he was very interested in hearing every detail and instructed them to get started on the project right away.
The standard Milk Chocolate bar, which melted readily in summer heat could never be adapted to being carried in a soldier's pocket. So, a small quantity of four-ounce bars was produced in molded form. Captain Logan was pleased with the samples. The original formula and shape of the ration bar were only altered slightly when thiamine hydrochloride was added as a source of Vitamin B1 to prevent beriberi, a disease likely to be encountered in the tropics. These bars were originally called "Logan bars" and later were referred to as Field Ration "D."
According to Hinkle, "Even in the experimental stage it was obvious to the chocolate technologists that sweat and toil, if not blood and tears, lay ahead when the time for quantity production of Field Ration D' arrived." Normal chocolate is produced at a flowing consistency when warm and all chocolate machinery is constructed based upon this physical property. The "Field Ration D'" could not flow at any temperature, and therefore required the development of special processing methods and machinery.
In June 1937, Hershey Chocolate Corporation undertook the production of 90,000 bars for the Quartermaster Corps. A sufficient number of molds were built; the chocolate paste was produced according to the formula; and each four-ounce portion was weighed, kneaded and pressed into the mold by hand. Three weeks were required for production.
The first of the "Field Ration ‘D’" bars (see picture above) were used for field tests in the Philippines, Hawaii, Panama, the Texas border, and at various Army posts and depots throughout the United States. The results of the test were satisfactory and "Field Ration D'" was approved for wartime use.
Between 1937 and 1941, at irregular intervals, small contracts were awarded to Hershey Chocolate Corporation for production of this ration. As war became more imminent, it became necessary to develop an automated method of molding.
After the attack on Pearl Harbor by the Japanese on December 7, 1941, the Quartermaster felt it necessary to protect "Field Ration D" as well as other rations, from possible damage by poison gas. New specifications called for the placing of each bar in a heavy cellophane bag, closing the bag by means of a heat seal, inserting this into an individual cardboard carton, securely gluing the carton ends, dipping the cartons in a wax mixture, packing twelve waxed cartons in a master carton, gluing the master cartons top and bottom, packing twelve master cartons in a wooden case, and nailing and steel stripping the case.
Each of these operations had to be carried out with approved materials exactly according to the instruction. Nothing was left to the imagination, not even the type of glue for the cartons nor the ink used in marking the cases. The Quartermaster General, Major General Edmund Gregory, issued orders that all shipments be coded so that quantities and destinations would be confidential. This resulted in a number of ration packet designations that varied by ordering source.
In 1939, Hershey was able to produce 100,000 units per day. By the end of 1945, production lines on three floors of the plant were producing a total weekly output of approximately 24 million units. It has been estimated that between 1940 and 1945, in excess of three billion ration units were produced and distributed to soldiers around the world.
Also produced was a three pack of the four ounce bars intended to furnish the individual combat soldier with the 1,800 calorie minimum sustenance recommended each day (see picture above). These were heavily sought after by both military and civilians, making the "Hershey's Tropical Chocolate" bar second only to cigarettes as a premium wartime trading commodity.
Source: US Army Quartermaster Museum, Ft. Lee VA.