The U.S. military has a secret weapon to keep soldiers energized and motivated during combat missions – chocolate.
Chocolate has been a key ingredient in soldiers’ diets since World War II. Chocolate remains part of soldiers’ field rations today. The sweet, sugary treat serves two important functions with the U.S. military – it provides a morale boost to soldiers and it works as an energy boost when operating in strenuous, physically demanding situations. Over the years, there have been many different versions of military chocolate made, ranging from the "D Ration" bar used in World War II to the "Tropical Bar" given to soldiers during the Vietnam Conflict, and the "Desert Bar" that is part of ration kits issued in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Chocolate issued to U.S. military personnel has long been manufactured by the world famous Hershey Company based in Hershey, Pennsylvania. Between 1940 and 1945, it is estimated that the Hershey Company manufactured and distributed about three billion chocolate bars to Allied soldiers stationed around the world – including British, Canadian, French and American troops. By the time, World War II ended, the Hershey Company was producing nearly 25 million military chocolate bars each week.
Military-issued chocolate bars are designed to give soldiers a sugary energy boost. However, the chocolate given to soldiers has to be specially made and take into consideration a number of factors such as heat, potential poisons in the environment, as well as size and weight. As a result, military chocolate does not always taste the same as regular chocolate – leading some soldiers to complain about the taste. One directive issued to the Hershey Company by U.S. military commanders demanded that the chocolate given to soldiers taste "only a bit better than a boiled potato." The concern is that if the chocolate tastes too good, soldiers will eat it quickly rather than wait until they need an energy boost.
Following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour in World War II, the U.S. military ordered that all chocolate issued to soldiers had to be "poison gas proof." Modern military chocolate’s biggest problem is melting in hot desert environments such as Iraq and Afghanistan. Chocolate given to soldiers today has to be able to withstand extreme desert heat, as well as body heat when placed in the pocket of an overheated soldier. Some military chocolate has been designed to withstand temperatures as hot as 60 degrees Celsius / 140 degrees Fahrenheit.