Mmmm, C-Rats

They just don’t make pound cake like they used to:

Col. Henry A. Moak Jr. digs in to an Army ration pound cake from 1973 at his retirement party. (Staff Sgt. Sun Vega/U.S. Army)

Col. Henry A. Moak Jr. digs in to an Army ration pound cake from 1973 at his retirement party. (Staff Sgt. Sun Vega/U.S. Army)

Forty years later, Henry A. Moak, Jr., still loves his pound cake. The Army colonel popped open an old military ‘C’ Ration can of pound cake from 1969 at his retirement ceremony, and dug in. Moak got the drab olive can as a Marine helicopter pilot off the Vietnamese coast in 1973. He vowed to hang on to it until the day he retired, storing it in a box with other mementos.

After a formal retirement ceremony, dozens of friends and relatives joined Moak in the Pentagon’s Hall of Heroes as he opened the can to cheers. Moak joked earlier this week that he hoped the can wouldn’t explode. It let off a whooshing sound as the pressure seal broke.

“It smells good,” Moak said as he put a handful in his mouth. He jokingly staggered back a few feet and loudly cleared his throat, while one person yelled out, “Eeww, gross!”

Moak pronounced the cake “good.” “It’s even a little moist,” he said, wiping his mouth. He dared anybody “gutsy” enough to join him, and retired Lt. Gen. Paul T. Mikolashek, who was the U.S. Army Europe commander when Moak served overseas, took an even bigger piece. “Tastes just like it always did,” Mikolashek mumbled with a mouthful of cake as Moak laughed and clapped.

The Army is a little less hubristic than its retired colonels and generals, however:

Moak said he wasn’t worried about getting sick from any bacteria that may have gotten into the old can, because it looked sealed. But the military discourages eating from old rations. “Given the risks … we do everything possible to ensure that overly aged rations are not consumed,” said Lawrence Levine, a spokesman for the Defense Supply Center in Philadelphia. Levine named the threats as mold and deadly botulism if the sealing on the food has been broken, which isn’t always visible.

The Army had transitioned to MREs by the time I entered service as a cadet in 1984 but I had a few of my dad’s old C-rations in the early 1970s.  As I recall, they were decidedly less than delicious even then.

via OpFor

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. My dad used to bring home C-rations. I liked the chocolate bar that could also be used as an entrenching tool.

  2. 11B40 says:


    C-Rats Pound Cake without sliced peaches is like an M-16 without any bullets.

  3. Mike says:

    Two things – 1st did anyone catch the sign behind him which says no food or drink allowed in conf room – i guess c-rats don’t count as food.

    2nd – MREs, esp the ones that have come out in the last few years are better than anything I could cook for myself back when i was single – the 90s generation with the tuna or ham slice was pretty bad. I use MREs when camping if I am too lazy to attempt to cook.

  4. gary says:

    Ah C’s!

    When I was in the field with the 2/35 in 69-70 we subsisted on C’s (actually MCI’s). We seemed to get all the “M” and “B” variations but I only remember fruit as the “D” portion. We carried our kit on our backs so the usual deal was to snarf the fruit, the Crackers and Candy Can, the Accessory Packs and only a few “M” parts: “Beans and Grease”, “Ham and M*fckers”, “Spaghetti w Meatballs”, “Ham Slices”, “Pork Steak” were about the only things I could tolerate – and then only when seriously burned (we cooked with C4 stuck to the bottom of the tin). Everything else was pitched.

    The major food group was the “B” can. You ate the crackers w cheese if constipated and the crackers with peanut butter if loose. You hoarded the cocoa powder for those rare mornings when you needed a mocha cappuccino to get yourself started. If you ran short on rations because of a resupply problem, the cheese and pb also worked reasonably well on leaves.