The Origins of American Military Chocolate
The first emergency chocolate ration bar commissioned by the United States Army was the Ration D, commonly known as the D ration. Army Colonel Paul Logan approached Hershey’s Chocolate in April 1937, and met with William Murrie, the company president, and Sam Hinkle, the chief chemist.
Colonel Logan had four requirements for the D ration Bar. The bar must:
1. Weigh 4 ounces (112 g)
2. Be high in food energy value
3. Be able to withstand high temperatures
4. Taste “a little better than a boiled potato”
Chief chemist Hinkle was forced to develop entirely new production methods to produce the bars. Each four-ounce portion was an extremely hard block of dark brown chocolate that would crumble with some effort and was heat-resistant to 120 °F (49 °C). Three bars sealed in a parchment packet made up a daily ration and was intended to furnish the individual combat soldier with the 1,800 calories, the minimum sustenance recommended each day.
Despite Hinkle’s reservations, the U.S. Army insisted the chocolate have a bad taste in order to keep soldiers from snacking on their emergency rations in non-emergency situations. As a result, the D ration was almost universally detested for its bitter taste by U.S. troops, and was often discarded instead of consumed when issued. Troops called the D ration “Hitler’s Secret Weapon" for its effect on soldiers’ intestinal tracts. It could not be eaten at all by soldiers with poor teeth, and even those with good dental work often found it necessary to first shave slices off the bar with a knife before consuming.
During the war years, the bulk of the Hershey Food Corporation’s chocolate production was for the military. Between 1940 and 1945, an estimated 3 billion of the specially formulated candy bars were distributed to both American and non-American soldiers around the world.