Better food for our fighting men

by Matthieu Nicol

BETTER FOOD FOR OUR FIGHTING MEN contains a selection of images, produced mostly in the 1970s and 1980s, from the archives of the U.S. Army’s Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center near Boston, Massachusetts. The center is still operational today, and employs both military personnel and civilian contractors in its mission to improve the daily lives—and diets—of American soldiers.
For the world’s most formidable army, feeding the troops is fraught with logistical, psychological and food safety challenges. Bacteria is an enemy; supply chains are vital, intricate delivery systems. The goal is to provide sustenance and boost morale across the full range of terrain and troop configurations, from mess halls for the officers and selfservice buffets for the rank-and-file to battlefield canteens and survival rations for commandos behind enemy lines.
Solving this logistical puzzle is like trying to stuff a square peg into a round hole: once you have devised ways to optimize the daily nutritional requirements of the bodies in question, you need to work out the best solutions for preserving and transporting the food, and still guarantee a minimum level of flavor to keep the soldiers happy.
A glossary with 24 entries explains some of the acronyms used in the image captions, describes the staples of a typical soldier’s diet and traces the new technologies that enabled the food industry to manufacture and supply those rations.


Dental liquid ration, 1988

Food taste kitchen, taste test, volunteer sampling food, 1977

Overbaked (burnt), optimum, underbaked, 1987

Proposed bread alternative, pizza bar, 1984

A typical tray pack, canned white bread, 1982

Desert Shield, candy bar on sand with flag, 1991

Foreign technology, shelf – stable sandwich, 1994

Freeze-dried carrots, compressed, 1969

G.I. in new helmet eating thermo-processed food, command briefing, 1970-93

Irradiated foods: shrimp, potato, 1978

Speed kitchen, 1969

Tray pack, hamburgers with rolls and condiments, 1988

Vending machine with Air Force officer, 1977