7 Things You Probably Never Knew About Thanksgiving And The Military

History
U.S. Army Capt. Jefferson Mason, left, serves Thanksgiving dinner to a Soldier on Joint Combat Outpost Mushan, Afghanistan, Nov. 22, 2012.
U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Kimberly Hackbarth

152 Thanksgivings. That’s how many our country has celebrated since the holiday’s national recognition. During that time, our armed forces have fought in numerous wars and conflicts, and many service members have spent Thanksgiving Day deployed in foreign countries or behind enemy lines. Despite huge nutritional and logistical challenges, the spirit of Thanksgiving has been alive and well in the armed forces for over a century. Here’s seven things you probably didn’t know about Thanksgiving and the military:


1. The first nationally recognized Thanksgiving wasn’t observed by the military.

Blame resources. In October 1863, Abraham Lincoln was the first president to proclaim a national Thanksgiving, with the Civil War in full swing. But the Army’s commissary didn’t have the necessary food, both in type and quantity, to provide a full Thanksgiving meal for the troops. Awkward.

2. Abraham Lincoln is kind of responsible for Black Friday.

Lincoln’s Thanksgiving Proclamation of 1863 stipulated that the American people “set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of thanksgiving.” This means, as a nation, we’re permanently #blessed with Friday following Thanksgiving Day. Leave it to us to pair extra days with more excuses for capitalism.

3. Add Spain to your list of Thanksgiving blessings.

The Spanish-American War was the first overseas war fought by the United States. Transporting food was extraordinarily difficult, with many rations spoiling before reaching their destination. But American ingenuity prevailed by 1905, with the establishment of a cooking school at Fort Riley which made future military Thanksgivings possible.

4. Americans were guilt tripped into rationing.

During World War I, rations for “doughboys” were greatly improved. A greater and fresher array of food was made available, even to troops serving on the front lines. Camps provided a hot turkey dinner for their service members. Despite this, citizens at home were instructed by the government to “Eat less wheat, meat, fats, sugar. Send more to Europe or they will starve."

5. Even Nazis couldn’t stop Thanksgiving.

World War II presented a hugely intricate logistics challenge in supplying our troops with food. During this time, soldiers subsisted largely on canned goods, dried fruit, and powdered eggs. But for Thanksgiving the supply chain went to extraordinary lengths by transporting over 1.6 tons of turkey to ensure the troops ate a traditional hot dinner.

6. Vietnam incepted the MRE.

By the time the Vietnam War rolled around, advances in food preservation and transportation made it possible for the majority of soldiers to eat two hot meals per day. To serve the traditional Thanksgiving meal, soldiers were rotated off the front lines. The amount of food being prepared necessitated standardized guidelines, which gave birth to the Armed Forces Recipe Service in 1968, which means we get chili mac today.

7. Four branches means four different Thanksgiving meals.

The present-day Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps create individual Thanksgiving menus for their forces. But the recipes are standardized by the U.S. Army Natick Soldier Systems Center, aka USSC. USSC food technologists have created over 1,500 standardized recipes, including ones for a traditional Thanksgiving dinner. (Roast turkey can be found under L-161-00.) This means that our deployed troops will enjoy a dinner like they would at home, with I-013-00, aka pumpkin pie, included.

Editor's Note: This article by Gina Harkins originally appeared on Military.com, a leading source of news for the military and veteran community.

Two military bases in Florida and one in Arizona will see heat indexes over 100 degrees four months out of every year if steps aren't taken to reduce carbon emissions, a new study warns.

Read More Show Less

This Veterans Day, two post-9/11 veterans-turned congressmen introduced bipartisan legislation to have a memorial commemorating the Global War on Terrorism built on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.

Read More Show Less

Between 500 and 600 U.S. troops are expected to remain in Syria when all is said and done, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army Gen. Mark Milley said on Sunday.

Milley's comments on ABC News' "This Week" indicate the U.S. military's footprint in Syria will end up being roughly half the size it was before Turkey invaded Kurdish-held northeast Syria last month.

Read More Show Less
Democratic presidential candidate South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg speaks during a fund-raising fish fry for U.S. Rep. Abby Finkenauer (D-Iowa), Saturday, Nov. 2, 2019, at Hawkeye Downs Expo Center in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. (Associated Press/Charlie Neibergall)

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa — On Veterans Day, Democratic presidential hopeful Pete Buttigieg is proposing a "veteran-centric" Department of Veterans Affairs that will honor the service of the men and women of the military who represent "the best of who we are and what we can be."

Buttigieg, who served as a Navy intelligence officer in Afghanistan, said service members are united by a "shared commitment to support and defend the United States" and in doing so they set an example "for us and the world, about the potential of the American experiment."

Read More Show Less
Democratic 2020 U.S. presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders speaks during a Climate Crisis Summit with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (not pictured) at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, U.S. November 9, 2019. (Reuters/Scott Morgan)

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Democratic presidential contender Bernie Sanders promised on Monday to boost healthcare services for military veterans if he is elected, putting a priority on upgrading facilities and hiring more doctors and nurses for the Department of Veterans Affairs.

To mark Monday's Veterans Day holiday honoring those who served in the military, Sanders vowed to fill nearly 50,000 slots for doctors, nurses and other medical professionals at facilities run by Veterans Affairs during his first year in office.

Sanders also called for at least $62 billion in new funding to repair, modernize and rebuild hospitals and clinics to meet what he called the "moral obligation" of providing quality care for those who served in the military.

Read More Show Less