Aid Station Beverage Pack & Hospital Supplement

Cartoon by Bill Mauldin taken from his collection published in 1988. Its original caption simply reads “It’s Twins” and shows the versatile nature of the Battalion Aid Station!


Food supplied by the Quartermaster Corps to the Armed Forces has always been among one of the most important items of military supply. Food must be adequate in quantity, varied enough to provide all the ingredients of a properly balanced diet, and acceptable to the soldier. To furnish energy, the doughboy’s diet must contain fats and carbohydrates; to build and repair his body, it must provide proteins and minerals. At the same time, the food must have sufficient vitamins and bulk to foster health, and be palatable, since it will help build and maintain high spirit and morale among troops.

Packaging, packing, and subsistence were continuously researched, while new and improved food products were under development at the Quartermaster Corps  “Subsistence Research Laboratory”. The Quartermaster General also had connections with other Service Laboratories studying food and food packaging, such as the “Medical Nutrition Laboratory” (part of the Office of The Surgeon General) and the “Aero Medical Research Laboratory” (located at Wright Field, working on behalf of the Army Air Forces).

In the development of packaged Rations, the QMC had to take into account many factors which were often in conflict, given the limitations of availability of the nation’s food supply. Out of experience, the “Subsistence Research Laboratory” formulated 4 requisites for a satisfactory Ration:

  1. Acceptability
  2. Nutritional adequacy
  3. Stability
  4. Military utility

The ‘particular’ kind of Ration needed primarily depended on the military operation in which it was to be used, and moreover, it had to be economical of space and weight in transportation and storage, of facilities and labor in unloading, carrying, issue, preparation, and consumption.

Eleven (11) ‘special’ Rations were developed, tested, and standardized to meet specific tactical situations during World War 2. They included Rations designed for survival, combat, group feeding, and rehabilitation … these Rations were:

  • D Ration
  • C Ration
  • K Ration
  • Ten-in-One Ration
  • Life Raft Ration
  • Parachute Emergency Ration
  • Lifeboat Ration
  • Hospital Supplement
  • Aid Station Beverage Pack
  • Kitchen Spice Pack
  • Aircrew Lunch

(above seven Rations were of an emergency character, while the last four types were considered supplemental in nature).

One of the primary functions of an Aid Station during WW2 was to provide casualties with hot beverages, mainly in the treatment of shock and exhaustion. Although the elusive Cocoa Unit seems to have been part of the official Aid Station equipment list since at least March 1942, it would appear that the Quartermaster Corps began to look for alternatives in 1944, when the B-C Ration Pack was submitted for testing.

This article will look at the evolution of the “Aid Station Beverage Pack”, and the other medical-specific Ration Pack of the era, the “Hospital Supplement”.

Aid Station Beverage Pack:

Illustration showing the contents of the Aid Station Beverage Pack.

As mentioned above, the Cocoa Units specified as official beverages destined for Aid Stations serving at Regiment level or below were replaced in 1944 by the B-C (Battle-Casualty or Bouillon-Cigarette) Ration Kit. As its name would suggest, this pack contained bouillon cubes, cigarettes and matches. This package soon proved to be inadequate in the field, and so was dropped in favor of a ration pack that contained varied components such as, coffee, tea, cocoa powder, evaporated milk, and sugar.

As a result the Quartermaster Corps introduced the “Aid Station Beverage Pack Supplement”. The components and packaging of this new supplement package were designed by The Surgeon General, who specified the type of ingredients to be used, as well as the accessory items.

The “Aid Station Beverage Pack” was finally standardized for issue to Battalion Aid Stations in 1944, and contained the following ingredients, in quantities sufficient enough to prepare 290 twelve-ounce beverages:

  • Cane sugar
  • Coffee
  • Tea
  • Cocoa Beverage Powder
  • Plastic Sippers
  • Can Openers
  • Toilet Paper

By the end of the Second World War, it is reported that approximately 9,000 of these units had been produced, and formed the basis for a number of other similar packages in the subsequent decades. The Pack was soon phased out following the close of WW2, after a report conducted by the USMC concluded that the “Beverage Pack did not represent an essential item during peacetime”, it however suggested its possible application in maneuvers, its use by airplane crews and rescue aircraft, and its being included in emergency kits for parachute supply to isolated units…

Hospital Supplement:

US Army Signal Corps photograph showing the contents of the Hospital Supplement, complete in its wooden crate. 

The Hospital Supplement was a Ration pack designed for consumption by patients in Evacuation and Base Hospitals. It provided food which was easily digestible, in the form of soups, broths and fruits. Extensive field tests of the packaging showed it to be faulty, and so in 1943 the “Subsistence Research Laboratory” (Division of the Chicago QM Depot) of the Quartermaster Corps produced a new package for this item, which included the following contents:

  • 1 x No. 10 Can of Fruit
  • 2 x 46-ounce Cans of Orange Juice
  • 20 x 14½-ounce Cans of Evaporated Milk
  • 1 x 1 lb. Tin of Coffee
  • 1 x 5 lb. Package of Dehydrated Soup
  • 1 x 5 lb. Bag of Sugar.

In 1944, a report concluded that the contents qualified as a “Supplement” only, and so more contents were added and changed. Most notable changes included the replacement of soluble coffee for roasted and ground beans, powdered milk for evaporated milk, and also substituted the condensed soups for dehydrated varieties.

Other components were also added to the Supplement, including premixed cereals, cocoa beverage powder, malted milk tablets, tea and tomato juice. As with the Aid Station Beverage Pack described above, the new pack also contained a number of accessories. These included plastic sippers, toilet paper, and paper towels.

This “Supplement” was supplied to Hospitals in a suitably sized wooden box, and by war’s end, 175,000 cases had been produced, along with 87,000 cases of the earlier “Supplement” version; making a total of 262,000 “Hospital Supplements” being procured before the close of the Second World War.

This page was printed from the WW2 US Medical Research Centre on 5th March 2024 at 07:14.
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