War and Chocolate

Deb Morris Blog, food facts

A tasty history.

Not many people associate war with chocolate. It may surprise you to know that chocolate has always played a role in how American troops survive during wars. It aided soldiers for centuries in different forms over the years and even today, though it’s probably not the chocolate you’re used to eating. 

  1. Revolutionary War – During America’s fight for independence, chocolate was used as payment to soldiers; unfortunately for them, it wasn’t Snickers or Twix they received. Back in the 18th Century, chocolate was just becoming popular in America. Ben Franklin, one of the founding fathers, not only loved chocolate, but he sold it as well. Back then, chocolate tended to come in the form of a drink, like hot cocoa, but solid chocolate was quickly rising in popularity, which caught the attention of General George Washington. It was his idea to use solid chocolate as a form of payment, which was quite a luxury in an otherwise bitter war. It was also said to have healing effects, and was deemed medicinal by Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson! Suffice to say, if not for the deliciousness of chocolate to keep the troops going, America may have never gained its independence.
  2. World War II – A couple centuries later, World War II broke out and the availability of chocolate began to grow. It still played a major role in the lives of soldiers. Rather than as a form of payment in lieu of money, chocolate became a survival method with the Hershey’s Chocolate bar becoming a widely popular emergency ration. Sounds delicious right? Wrong. Hershey military chocolate was vastly different than what is on the shelves today. In 1937, the U.S. Army teamed up with the popular chocolate company to create a chocolate that was temperature resistant, yet provided nutrients and vitamins for short term survival in emergency situations. The goal was for the chocolate to not be tasty enough to crave or eat for fun. The combination of chocolate, sugar, cocoa butter, skim milk powder and oat flour created a thick, chalky texture that was too heavy to bite off and had to be cut with a knife. Called the D Ration Bar, the bars were hand molded in four ounce blocks and given to the soldiers, some of whom compared them to a plain potato, stressing the lack of taste and tough texture. On the bright side, because of the sugar’s effect to give a burst of energy, soldiers were occasionally given real chocolate (the sweet kind) with their meals to boost morale and give them motivation. Later, it was altered again and called the K Ration Bar. 
  3. Vietnam and Korean Wars – After the war ended, Hershey then went to work on creating a better tasting bar with even higher heat resistance. In 1943, they released the Tropical Bar, which, despite its more intense flavors, still received poor reviews from those who ate it. Regardless, the Tropical Bar came to replace all others in the military and was provided to soldiers during Vietnam and the Korean War. It even made it to space during the Apollo 15 mission in 1971. However, the Tropical Bar was discontinued and declared obsolete following the Vietnam war. 

Curious? If you are interested in ever trying these military chocolate rations, you can find some for sale on sites such as eBay! Though be warned, some say they would rather starve than survive off of those chocolate bars.