K ration, photo (i), crates

G-3. Packing. Twelve K Rations shall be packed as specified in G-3a or G-3b, and G-3c.

The arrangement of the cartons shall be 12 in length (major panels facing), 3 in width, and 1 in depth.

One row of 12 cartons shall be for breakfast, one row for dinner and one row for supper.

-C.Q.D. No. 28H, 31 August 1945

The Fiber Box

Two methods of packing the rations for overseas shipment were used: a solid fiber carton packed in a wooden case, and a corrugated carton sealed in a laminated bag placed in a wooden case.

case 1942

The first and prevalent method is the placing of twelve rations (36 units) in a solid fiberboard box that was overpacked in a wooden case. Early fiberboard boxes were marked on one end with the nomenclature, packing date, contract number and the packing company's name.

Fiber box 1942 (c)

Early fiberboard box, the markings says it all.

fiber box sept 1942

Early Fiberboard box. Note that the month is hand stamped, not printed as the box shown above. (photo: 1944Supply)

Later the markings were simplified and a crescent was added identifying its contents as food. But many variety in markings exist, differing from time and contractor.

fiber box

A simplefied stenciling on a fiber box. The stencil appears rather crudely  hand made.
(photo: 1944Supply)

Kboxfib 1

A more neatly done simplified label on a December 1943 box.
The side is labeled with both the V3s label and the weatherproof logo, see photo further below. (photo: 1944Supply)

Fiber box 1944 (a)

Simplefied markings on a 1944 fiberboard box.

Marine with K fibre box

Here a Marine is carrying rations to the front. Two gas cans are being carried containing drinking water. These cans were thoroughly cleaned and stenciled "water" and were to be used exclusively for drinking water. On his shoulder he is carrying a fiber box with K Rations. The empty wooden cases were often reused back at the ration depot.

Other markings were placed on the side or bottom indicating the type or quality of fiberboard used. Early shiping containers were of commercial grade of weatherproof fiberboard. For overseas shipment, however, these were considered inadequate.
The Army developed new shipping containers of a sturdier fiberboard, both solid and corrugated, with better waterproofing qualities known as V-board. Three grades were developed: V1, V2 and V3*.
The type used for the K Ration is the V3 type. (The Ten-in-One Ration was packed in the V1 or V2 type.)

* The V1-board was made of 100% virgin fiber, where the V2-board was made of a mix of virgin and used fiber, and the V3-board was made of almost entirely of used fiber and was therefor to be over packed in a wooden case for overseas shipment. The addition of the letter “S” or “C” indicates whether the fiberboard is solid or corrugated. An “R” added to the V1- and V2-board means that the fiberboard is reinforced with sisal, a fiber from the leaves of the Agave plant. This sisal fiber is laminated with asphalt between two layers of kraft paper. The asphalt serves as an additional protection against water.

Fiber box 1942 bottom

On the bottom of the 1942 box is placed the Box Certificate label stating the quality of the fiberboard.

fiber box 1942 (b)

Weatherproof marking on the same 1942 box, shown above, as used on the early commercial shipping fiberboard containers.

Kboxfib 2

Here's an interesting shipping case! Not only is it marked with the V3s label, but also retains the commercial weatherproof logo. Perhaps the manufacturer of the box used both by mistake. Note the date stamp: December 1943. (photo: 1944Supply)

Fiber box 1944 (b)

Box Certificate label on a 1944 V3 type fiberboard box.
Note the metal staples, sometimes referred to as metal stitches.

The Corrugated box

As an alternative a second method was used. Instead of the fiberboard box a corrugated box was used. The use of corrugated boxes was probably approved at the end of 1943 and usage started in 1944, as indicated by the box shown below, dated Januari 1944.

corbox 1

Above: The stenciling on the end panel of a corrugated box. The bottom of this box was closed with metal stiches. This was done before inserting the K Ration units.

Below: the side of the same corrugated box. This example is dated Januari 1944. Note the V3c marking indicating that it is corrugated V-board grade 3.
(both photos: 1944Supply)

corbox 2

Corrugated box 1944 (a)

Corrugated box as used by the H.J. Heinz Company in 1944.
Unfortunately the date line isn't filled out.

Corrugated box 1944 bottom detail

Box Certificate label on the bottom of the corrugated "Heinz" box stating that this box is made of recycled paper. Note the paper tape used to close the bottom (partially) before inserting the K Ration units.
(It has been pointed out to me that the Colombia Corrugated Box Co. was founded in 1967 and that this box might be a reproduction.)

Since corrugated board is not wheater proof, the corrugated box was placed inside a laminated bag for protection. This laminated bag is referred to as a "case liner".

This laminated bag (case liner) was composed of either a triple ply kraft paper laminated together with asphalt, or a metal foil with cellophane laminate that is laminated with asphalt to kraft paper. After placing the corrugated box in the bag, all air is to be pushed out, without creating a vacuum. The bag is closed with a waterresistant adhesive.

case liner

Here's an opened case showing the "case liner". Due to the asphalt compound used in laminating the kraft paper the liner appears quite dark. (photo found on the internet)

Oddly, a recently opened case, dated July 1945, contained a corrugated box placed directly in the wooden case without the case liner. It was stamped "for training purpose only". These surplus K Rations were often used during post war training exercises. Probably it was repacked after inspection without its case liner.

The Wooden Crate

K set 1944

A fiberboard box rests on the wooden shipping case it came in.
Used by the Phillips Packaging Co. Inc. dated April 1944.

For mechanical protections the fiberboard or the corrugated box (that is placed in a laminated bag)  is overpacked in a wooden shipping case.
The ends and sides are usually made of one-piece panels. (Two-piece panels with tongue and grove connection are used as well.) With the sides having a minimum thickness of
11/32 inch, and the ends are made of 3/4 inch thick wood.
The top and bottoms are usually both made of two pieces, with the same thickness as the sides.  The two pieces preferably having a tongue and groove joint.

Construction of the case is made using cement-coated sixpenny nails.

One end of the wooden case is marked with the letters KS (sometimes placed between quotes) with crescent and its weight and size. Weight increased over time from 39 pounds, to 43, to 45 pounds. Cubic displacement goes from 1.17 (or 1.2) feet to 1.3 or 1.4 feet.
Early cases are also marked with the Quartermaster's contract number. On its side the letters KS are repeated and the packers name and packing date is stenciled.

Crate early (a)

A shipping case with typical late 1942 or early 1943 markings.
Someone at the Campbell Soup Co. forgot to stencil the date on it.

Later this contract number was stenciled on the side of the case together with the Company's name and packing date. Later in the war the top and bottom would be marked additionally with a K.

Crate 1944

Contract information stenciled on the side of the wooden case, showing April 1944.

Crate b

On the inside of the upper part of the side panel can be seen stencilled "KS" of this wooden crate. It is unclear if the panel was installed like this at the packaging plant, or that it was repaired with a panel from another crate at some point in time.
(photo: 1944Supply)

Crate a

Another variety of the stenciling. (photo: 1944Supply)

It should be noted that the front stenciling is actually printed with a metal stamp and is usually pressed firmly into the wood. The shipping information is usually stenciled on the side by using a mask and brush.

I haven't found out yet why the K Ration fiber boxes and cases are marked "KS". My theory is that the "S" stands for subsistence. The boxes of the Jungle Rations, according to the specifications for this ration, were to be marked with "JS".

Scene on Omaha Beach soon after the D-Day landings

An empty K Ration case (circled in red) is lying on Omaha beach. Note the KS marking.

After closing the shipping case it was strapped with either steel wire (referred to as round straps in the specifications) or flat steel straps. The first strap applied ran the length of the case, running from end to end over the length of the top and bottom. Two more straps were applied running from side to side across the top and bottom. Each strap is positioned 1/6th from each end.

USMC war dogs & K rations

A dugout of Marine war dog handlers showing two cases of K Rations. Both cases are strapped with the flat steel straps. Note the empty C Ration can in front of the sand bags.

Although the fiberboard cartons were of a natural tan or beige color and required no additional camouflage coating, the army was concerned that the light wooden boxes would stand out in the field. The investigation of the possibility of camouflage coating the boxes was requested. A proposed method of spray paint the outside of stacks of rations was deemed impractical because after shipping the boxes needed to be restacked in exactly the same order. Another idea was to paint the boxes on three adjoining sides (end, side and top or bottom) with a sand color and the other three sides with a green color for desert or jungle environment, depending on how they were stacked.
Ultimately it was decided that it was the contractors responsibility to camouflage the wooden boxes on the outside with a light brown water soluble stain that would not obliterate the markings. This was implemented as of March 1943.