3-577 Memorandum for the President, March 29, 1943

Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Date: March 29, 1943

Subject: World War II

Memorandum for the President

March 29, 1943 [Washington, D.C.]


Subject: Food Conservation and Food Reserves in the Army.

As a result of your comments last Friday, I have outlined below more in detail the steps which have already been taken to effect the conservation of foodstuffs in the Army.1 This matter has been the subject of an elaborate investigation by specialists for the past year.

Elimination of Waste.

The principal factor in wastage was found to be the preparation of food for more men than were present at the mess table. Food was issued on the basis of the morning report strength and cooked accordingly. By predicting the number of absentees from meals with reasonable certainty, food is now requisitioned and prepared on the basis of the number of men expected at meals rather than on the paper strength (morning reports) of the units. This measure together with the elimination of unpopular foods from the menus has already resulted in a 10 per cent economy.

With a few minor exceptions the Army as a whole has been changed from the garrison (issue of money value of ration to local company commanders who do their own buying), to the field ration (issue of the food itself), which has resulted in additional savings and much less interference with local markets. Mess officers have been designated for all camps, posts and stations with the primary responsibility of preventing waste. Special instruction is given at the numerous Cooks and Bakers Schools emphasizing the necessity for conservation, and posters on this subject are given a wide distribution. All fats are now being reused until completely spent and the use of skinned hams and bacon and boneless beef is resulting in greater conservation at packing houses. A wastage of as much as 25 per cent in coffee, for example, has been corrected by a strictly supervised requirement to follow the method prescribed in the cook’s manual.

Reduction in the amount of food issued.

Great emphasis has been placed on the conservation of critical food items, such as coffee, tea, sugar, and canned goods. As a result, sugar has been reduced from 5 ounces to 2_ ounces per man per day, coffee from 7 pounds per 100 men to 3 pounds, and butter from 9 pounds for 100 meals to 7 pounds. The use of meat has been reduced by 14% through the introduction of three meatless meals per week.2

Conflicts with civilian demands.

To insure a minimum conflict with civilian food demands, the Army buyers are under instructions carefully to avoid consuming the entire quantity of any available fresh foods in the local market centers. The use of canned fish of all kinds in the United States has been restricted, and fresh fish has been substituted.

The problem is being approached on the basis of command responsibility for conservation or economy measures, meaning that we are holding senior commanders responsible and we are checking the situation constantly with special inspectors. A vigorous educational campaign is now being conducted throughout the Army and reports indicate that very substantial savings have been made in comparison with the amount of food issued per man at this time last year.

Reserve stocks.

The Army reserve stocks of foods are being carefully watched, to avoid accumulations in excess of normal needs and the necessary safety factor. There must be certain reserves available in storehouses to meet sudden overseas demands without delay of cargo ships. Army stocks at times may appear unusually large, but this in part is because the Army also buys many canned foods for the Navy and Marine Corps. Also, a full year’s requirements of fruits and vegetables have to be purchased from the canners during the canning season, which means that the major portion of a full year’s supply is for a time (initially during this season) carried on hand.

Official statistics show that the principal canned vegetables in 1942 available to the civilian population (i.e., after deductions were made for all the armed forces) were greater than the total average packed for the five-year period 1935-1940.

Note: I think you would be much interested in an illustrated chart presentation by experts of the result of the food survey. It would take about 30 minutes.3

Document Copy Text Source: George C. Marshall Papers, Pentagon Office Collection, Selected Materials, George C. Marshall Research Library, Lexington, Virginia.

Document Format: Typed memorandum.

1. See Marshall Memorandum for General Somervell, March 26, 1943, Papers of George Catlett Marshall, #3-571 [3: 608-9].

2. In the left margin next to this paragraph was typed, “Pennote: The soldiers do not know this. It has been confined to U.S. (GCM).”

3. See Marshall Memorandum for General Somervell, April 1, 1943, Papers of George Catlett Marshall, #3-586 [3: 625].

Recommended Citation: ThePapers of George Catlett Marshall, ed.Larry I. Bland and Sharon Ritenour Stevens(Lexington, Va.: The George C. Marshall Foundation, 1981- ). Electronic version based on The Papers of George Catlett Marshall, vol. 3, “The Right Man for the Job,” December 7, 1941-May 31, 1943 (Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1991), pp. 615-616.

Digital Downloads




Holding Rights: Public Information
Holding ID: 3-577

Rights: Public Information