Brig. Gen. Walter S. McIlhenny

In 1966 during the Vietnam war Brig. Gen. Walter S. McIlhenny son of the 2nd company president of McIlhenny Company from his experiences with C-Rations as a soldier during WWII came up with the idea to send soldiers copies of the Charlie Ration Cookbook filled with recipes for spicing up C-rations with Tabasco Pepper Sauce wrapped around two-ounce bottles of Tabasco Pepper Sauce along with a handful of a P-38 type can openers all in a waterproof canister. It was illustrated by Fred Rhoads. The first thumbnail below is the canister and it's contents.  The next thumbnail is of a Charlie Ration Cookbook that was sent in an envelope without the Tabasco Sauce or openers.

The small cans included in the meal were ideal for making a stove. Using a "John Wayne" (a P-38) pierce a series of closely spaced holes around the top and bottom rims of the can. This stove was satisfactory, but did not allow enough oxygen to enter which caused incomplete burning of the blue Trioxin heat tablet, causing fumes which irritated the eyes and respiratory tract. A whole heat tab had
A better stove was created by simply using the can opener end of a "church key" (a flat metal device designed to open soft drink and beer containers with a bottle opener on one end and can opener on the other commonly used before the invention of the pull tab and screw-off bottle top) to puncture triangular holes around the top and bottom rims of the can which resulted in a hotter fire and much less fumes. With this type of stove only half a Trioxin heat tab was needed to heat the meal and then the other half could be used to heat water for coffee or cocoa. A small chunk of C-4 explosive could also be substituted for the Trioxin tablet for faster heating. It would burn hotter and was much better for heating water.

A stove was usually carried in the back pack or cargo pocket and used repeatedly until the metal began to fail.

For more information about C-Rations
click on the following links:

(Great website about MREs has a page on C-Rations)

Quartermaster Museum: Operational Rations Current and Future March 1963

There is also an Tabasco MRE Recipe Booklet.
click here to view it

The MRE Recipe Booklet is still sold on the McIlhenny website:

Paul Marquis