Wednesday, January 25, 2017

World War Wednesday: The Sweet Stuff of WWII

     In case you hadn't already noticed a trend, or if you're new to World War Wednesdays and don't know that we've been going strong for almost two and a half years, the World Wars have everything to do with, well... pretty much everything. We've delved into some delectable topics a few times in recent memory (I know I doughnut have to remind you about the WWI Salvation Army doughnut girls post), but I thought it would be interesting to look into the Second World War's connections to some of the commercial candy brands we all know and love.

1. M&M'S

     The story goes that Forrest E. Mars, Sr. (son of Frank Mars, who founded the iconic candy company Mars, Inc.) invented this classic treat in 1941, after having seen soldiers during the Spanish Civil War in the 1930s eating chocolate pellets coated in tempered chocolate. He secured a patent for the product that same year, dubbing it "M&M'S," and set up shop with M&Ms Ltd. headquartered in Newark, NJ. Advertised as M&M'S Plain Chocolate Candies, the tubes of candy also hit the market in 1941, and came in brown, red, green, blue, orange, yellow, and violet. Within months, however, the US entered the war following the attack on Pearl Harbor in December, and M&M'S became reserved for exclusive military use. Since their trademark candy coating prevented them from melting in warm climates such as the Pacific, M&M's were included as part of soldiers' C-Rations. Tubes were also sold in post exchanges and ship's service ports. When the war ended in 1945, they were once again available for purchase by the general public, and the original tube packaging was replaced with the familiar bag in 1948.

2. Hershey Bars
Ration D bar and Tropical Chocolate bar, ca.1942-1944, Hershey Community Archives
     Hershey Chocolate Corporation became involved with the war effort with the production of military ration bars, for which American troops became well-known during their time overseas. Much like M&M'S, the bars had to stand up to the more demanding combat conditions, so a change in the formula was required before they were fit for duty. The original commercial bars melted too easily and tasted too good to be only used on the brink of starvation. The ration bar, then, had to be able to withstand heat, be high in protein and food energy, and taste bitter. This formula required a more complicated production process, using special methods and machinery, but the Ration-D bar nonetheless became a staple for American troops. Between 1940 and 1945, over three billion Ration-D bars were distributed to soldiers in combat around the world. They came in packs including three bars, each of which could supply a single soldier with 1,800 calories (the recommended daily intake of a combat soldier)! As a result of their wartime contributions, Hershey Chocolate Corporation won the Army-Navy 'E' production award in 1942, and also received a flag to wave at their plant and pins for every single employee. At the end of the war, the company received five more 'E' production awards.

3. Whitman's Chocolates
     The story of Whitman's Confections and wartime actually goes back as far as combats before the First World War, and the company, which was one of the first to produce boxes of assorted chocolates, prided itself on sending their goods to men and women serving overseas. During the First World War, they continued that tradition by sending boxes to the soldiers. The company even fared quite well during the Depression, and actually ran the most magazine ads during the 1930s than ever in its history. By the time the Second World War broke out, Whitman's once again sent chocolates to the troops, and female factory workers even placed handwritten notes inside the packages. Some of those eventually resulted in friendships and even marriages!

4. Tootsie Rolls
LIFE Magazine, 26 Oct 1942
     Tootsie Rolls also picked up the theme of the public giving their beloved candy to the troops during the war with its advertising, and they were also included in American soldiers' rations. They were intended to provide 'quick' energy, and earned even more fame at home during the 1940s with endorsements from celebrities like Gene Autry and, famously, Frank Sinatra, who is said to have been buried with Tootsie Rolls!

     I hope you enjoyed this little foray into the sweeter side of wartime history. Many thanks to Candy Professor, The Huffington Post, Carrie Ledgerwood's History of Candy blog, and Tootsie's interactive timeline for information and images.
     Thanks for reading,
Delany (@DLeitchHistory on Twitter)

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