Friday, May 6, 2022

Milton Hershey Does His Bit During WWII

Photo: Public Domain
Last month, I shared about Milton Hershey’s Orphanage ( This month I’m continuing to focus on the chocolatier by telling about how he “did his bit” during World War II. 
By the time the U.S. entered the war, Hershey was in his early 80s but still playing an active role in the company. Vitamin-enriched foods became popular, and in his continued quest to convince the public that chocolate was nutritious, he experimented with many combinations and additives. Most of the mixtures were an abject failure with the exception of a sweet potato-chocolate bar that tasted good. Most folks couldn’t fathom the idea of the two together, so the bar faded into obscurity. 

As early as 1937, military officials knew another global conflict was coming, so they approached Hershey to discuss the production of a “life-sustaining” chocolate bar. The commissioned bar had to be more caloric-dense than a regular candy bar, but intentionally less tasty so the soldiers didn’t eat it in non-emergency situations. (Reports claim the Army demanded that it “taste a little better than a boiled potato.”) Additionally, the bar had to be pocket-sized and survive high heat. 

The final product, called Field Ration D, weighed two ounces and was rich in calories but little sweetener. The high percentage of cacao gave the bar a bitter flavor and the bar was known for causing constipation. Milton was not happy about the complaints about its taste. A second bar required for troops stationed in the tropics was developed in 1943. Named the Tropical Bar, the item had better flavor than Field Ration D and could stand much higher heat, surviving up to an hour at 120 degrees. 

Three floors within the factory were dedicated to war production, allowing the company to produce 500,000 bars per shift operating three shifts per day. This high production rate earned the company the Army-Navy “E” Production Award, an honor they would receive five times during the war. By the end of the war, the plan was cranking out bars at a rate of twenty-four million each week! 

In addition to the Field Ration D and Tropical Bars, Hershey products were part of seven ration packs: Army Field Ration K, 10-in-1 Ration, U.S. Army Field Ration C, Aircraft Snack Ration, U.S. Navy Life Raft Emergency Ration, Emergency Accessory Kit, and Prisoner of War Package. 

Milton passed away in October, 1945 having seen the company through the end of the war and beyond, no doubt pleased at the opportunity to support his country. 


Linda Shenton Matchett writes about ordinary people who did extraordinary things in days gone by. A volunteer docent and archivist for the Wright Museum of WWII, Linda is a former trustee for her local public library. She is a native of Baltimore, Maryland and was born a stone’s throw from Fort McHenry. Linda has lived in historic places all her life, and is now located in central New Hampshire where her favorite activities include exploring historic sites and immersing herself in the imaginary worlds created by other authors. Learn more about Linda and her books at

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  1. Thank you for posting today! I love the idea that the "war bar" couldn't taste good enough to be eaten outside of a crisis situation! And I never would have thought of something like sweet potato being combined with sweet potato.

    1. Thanks for stopping by, Connie! I wouldn't have thought to add sweet potato either. I love them but not in my chocolate!