Military Menus for the Holiday

Our Military & Wartime Cookery Collection (Ms2017-029) includes a wide variety of military/food related ephemera, as well as a collection of associated cataloged publications. Among the materials, we found a 1935 menu from the Christmas Dinner aboard the United States Ship Nevada. The cover includes a color illustration of a decorated ship and a lighthouse, both of which are producing lights that create a Christmas Tree pattern on the water.

The inside includes information about the officers, the date, and the menu itself, which tells us some interesting things about the time. It’s always interesting to see cigarettes, for example, as part of a menu.

We also have a small collection of menus from American forces in Iceland during World War II. Two are for Thanksgiving and the third, below, is from Christmas 1943. The 824th Engineers Aviation Battalion was stationed in Iceland and worked to build airdromes and airfields, as well as provide improvements to the port at Reykjavik.

This menu is actually eight pages long, and contains five pages with a complete list of soldiers in the battalion. In addition, it has the “signatures” page and, at the very end, the menu itself.

Although they are eight years apart, the menus have a fair amount in common: fruit cake, mince pie, candy, nuts, cigarettes, rolls & butter, turkey & gravy, potatoes of one or more kinds, and cranberry sauce. And, in the 21st century, these are things we still associate with the holidays this time of year. The latter menu’s emphasis on “fresh” as a word, though, is a reminder about how special some food items would have been in Iceland in December 1943, as well as a reminder of how rare they might have been at home during rationing of the time.

We at Special Collections hope you have a good holiday season and don’t worry: We’ve got plenty of blog posts planned for 2018!*

*(Your usual archivist/blogger Kira may even get back on a weekly schedule!)

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