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Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Who Wins the Battle Between American and German Soldier Rations?

Hello Again, Friends!

A few months ago when I was putting up the artifacts after a school program, I was curious about the contents of the German ration kit we used for school programs. We didn’t open it like we did the American K Ration reproduction box to limit its wear and tear due to the number of school groups we see each year. I had heard that the German rations were better than the American, and I wanted to see it for myself. So today on the blog, I am going to be comparing the two ration kits and talking a little bit about the importance of rations.

What are Rations?

Rations are packages of food designed to feed members of the military. They are made to be distributed quickly, and designed to be prepared and eaten in the field. Therefore, they are designed to have a longer shelf life.

An American Ration Kit

For this blog, we will be using the K Dinner Ration. They were packaged in cardboard with an interior cardboard box that was coated with wax to waterproof the box, because who wants wet food or cigarettes? Definitely not the American GI.

Here is a list of what all was inside of the box:
·         Napkin, or really just toilet paper since soldier’s on the warfront typically don’t care much about wiping their face or hands while eating
·         Pack of cigarettes
·         Stick of chewing gum
·         Matches
·         Crackers, or biscuits as they called them
·         Packet of sugar
·         Bouillon Powder—used to create soups or broths
·         P-38 can opener
·         Chocolate bar
·         Canned meat that was typically beef or pork luncheon meat

I always save the canned meat for last when showing the K Ration to school groups. Usually, the student who is holding it finds it disgusting because it jiggles, and then I give the entire group the opportunity to guess what is inside of it. I always ask if they ate the meat warm or cold during the first few days of the invasion. While many cringe at the thought of eating it cold, it is always rewarding when they connect that this was a part of the sacrifice that soldier’s made for our freedom.

A German Ration Kit

Unlike the American ration boxes, the German rations were in what appears to be a smaller cardboard container. There is no separate interior packaging for these kits.

Here a list of what all is inside this box:
·         Fruit and Nut Bar
·         Chocolate bar
·         Pack of cigarettes
·         Hartkek—hard and nutritious biscuits
·         Milupa BC—chocolate caramel candies
·         Kraft Keks—more biscuits
·         Coffee


Packaging: Without a doubt, the Americans win in regards to packaging. Not only were the boxes more durable, but the inside waxed box gave the food more protection from water.

Contents: I have to give it to the Germans. Not only did they have a greater variety of options, it was also seems more edible. Also, they had larger portions than the Americans, including the number of cigarettes – the Americans received 3 cigarettes in each box while the Germans received 6.

While the Americans may not have won in regards to the content of their ration kits, they were able to win the war! While it may not have been the most delicious, it was just what the Americans needed to end the German occupation of Europe.

Until Next Time,


Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Our D-Day Fallen: Charles Albert Rippon

Hello Friends!

I am excited to feature a blog written by our Director of Education, John Long. On top of all of his other job responsibilities, he’s been working tirelessly on reorganizing our collection while accessioning new artifacts at the same time. One of both of our favorite aspects to artifacts is how they tell a story. Today, John is going to tell you about some artifacts we have received and how they tell a story of one of our D-Day fallen, Charles Albert Rippon.

We’re all born…we all die. It’s an inevitable sequence of events.

Between those two happenings (which as a rule we like to be as far apart as possible) we live our life. We work and play, have happy and sad moments, impact other people, make a difference in some degree. Along the way, we leave behind a legacy; that legacy is often revealed in the “paper trail” that inevitably survives us in the modern world.

One of the more fulfilling aspects of working with the National D-Day Memorial Foundation is being able to take the documentary ephemera of a single life and use it to recreate a person’s story. In the archive of the Memorial (now over 10,000 items) you’ll find quite a few stories of the WWII generation preserved, just waiting for the right researcher to come along and do the detective work and reveal the hidden history.

Not long ago we took time to explore and catalog a collection of letters, documents, and photos associated with Charles Albert Rippon, one of 2,499 American fatalities on D-Day. Some would look at the box of yellowed documents and faded photos and see only a hodgepodge of old paper. But we saw a legacy, a way to tell the story of an American hero, to pay tribute to a man who gave his life for his adopted nation.

Photograph of Charles Rippon with his
signature at the top
No one’s ever heard of Charles Rippon, so we’d like to tell you his story. It’s a story emblematic of the valor, fidelity and sacrifice of all of the D-Day participants.

Charles was born August 26, 1908, in the parish of Crowle in Lincolnshire, England, to Edward Graystock and Ann Elizabeth Hinchliffe Rippon.  But he spent only a few months of his infancy there. In July 1909 the family boarded the good ship Haverford at Liverpool and crossed the ocean for a better life in America.

The Rippons settled in Johnsonburg, PA where Charles grew up in an idyllic American childhood, eventually with four brothers and three sisters. Like every boy in the small hometown in Elk County, he played baseball on the local Little League team, learned to fish, went to school. He graduated from Johnsonburg High in 1927; a year later his father died and presumably Charles became one of the family’s breadwinners. He worked for a local paper mill and supported his mother and siblings.

How much he loved his adopted nation might be deduced from the painstaking process he undertook in 1938 to become an American citizen. At that time, Britain was inching closer and closer to war, and perhaps Charles was concerned that unless he became a naturalized American, he could be drawn into British service. If so, it’s ironic that the war would eventually put him in an American uniform and ask him to lay down his life anyway.

Charles Rippon, March 1, 1943
War, of course, came to the small town in 1941. Charles Rippon, like most of the patriotic men of his generation, was quick to enlist. He joined the Naval Reserve and trained as an electrician’s mate, eventually rising to the rank of EM 1/C. In the summer of 1943 he again crossed the Atlantic and returned to his native country, quipping in his first letter home to his mother that “It has taken me a long time to make the round trip.”

Rippon’s frequent letters home to his mother spoke of side trips to see the sites of England and visits with long-lost relatives, but only vaguely hinted at the dangerous business that brought him to the United Kingdom. Like many a serviceman in many a war, he tried to allay mom’s fears with encouraging news and confidence that he would probably never face the enemy in combat. “This winter we will no doubt train and I doubt very seriously if we will ever see an action…they must really be pasting the Axis on the continent,” he wrote in Sept. 1943 (Italy had recently surrendered at the time and Mussolini had been deposed, although Rippon was wrong about the fighting there being conclusive or even quickly concluded).

We know, if he could not directly get such info through the censors to his family at home, that Rippon and his fellow sailors were training to cross the channel as part of Operation Overlord. He was assigned to a Landing Craft Tank, LCT-458, with the assignment of delivering an artillery unit to Utah Beach. It would not be an easy task—slow moving LCT delivering tanks or big guns would be obvious targets for German fire and vulnerable to mines. Nonetheless, he remained positive and confident in his letters. In one of his last letters home, dated May 23, 1944, he referenced a recent letter from a sister about how she had to cut the grass herself. “Picture me coming home with lots of lawn to mow—oh no! After this easy life I will hire someone to cut the grass.”

Sadly, it would never happen. At about 9:00 AM on June 6th, LCT-458 hit a German mine about a mile off of the French coast, sinking almost immediately in one of the greatest tragedies of the Utah Beach sector. Only three men from the naval crew survived the sinking; Rippon was not one of them. His body was never recovered and his name appears on the Wall of the Missing at the Normandy American Cemetery above Omaha Beach.

The Landing Craft on which Rippon gave his life for his adopted nation was transporting Battery B of the 29th Field Artillery, 4th Infantry Division. Altogether 39 of about 60 soldiers in that battery also died. Only three soldiers on that LCT would ever return to the fight in France. The full story of what happened to LCT-458 has never been told, perhaps because there were so few survivors. We hope to uncover more of that heartrending tale through further research.

Charles Albert Rippon was only one of 4,413 Allied servicemen to pay the ultimate price for the liberation of Europe from Nazi tyranny. On June 20, his brother-in-law Paul Mellander, not yet aware of what had happened, wrote to Charles “We thought of you and how busy you must be. It was something to think about when D-Day came, and [it] gives one a funny feeling when you think of the size of the undertaking and lives lost.” His sister Mabel added in the margin “I hope you’re safe and sound in Good Old England.”

The letter, of course, was never delivered. It was stamped “return to sender—unclaimed” and sent back to the grieving family, who by then had received the dreaded telegram from the Secretary of War. That poignant letter is now part of our archive, helping to tell only one of the countless stories which form the tapestry of our history.


Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Education Updates for 2016

Hello Friends!

I always enjoy New Year’s Day because it often feels like a brand new start. 2016 is no exception, especially for the National D-Day Memorial. After a strong year for the Education department in 2015, we are positioned to expand our educational offerings in 2016. It’s an incredible opportunity we have to share the legacy of our D-Day and World War II veterans and we do not take that for granted. Here’s a little bit of what we have coming up in 2016:

New Director of Education

John Long, Director of Education
National D-Day Memorial Foundation
Shortly after Felicia left in the fall of 2015, the Memorial started a search for someone with extensive experience in curating, grantwriting, historical research and an education background, particularly related to WWII and specifically D-Day. In October, the Foundation hired John Long as the new Director of Education. John previously served as the Executive Director of the Salem Museum and Historical Society and has taken over educational initiatives at the monument while working on evaluating the Foundation’s archival and artifact collection as the Memorial considers future plans for an educational facility. His experience is an incredible asset to the Memorial as we expand on-site and virtual programming in the coming year. Be on the lookout for blogs from him this spring on various artifacts in our collection and topics related to WWII and D-Day.

Prelude to Invasion

Living historians from previous education
events at the Memorial
Each year we host an event open to the general public called Prelude to Invasion that also serves as our annual Scout Day. However in 2016, we are revamping this event to focus on the Allied preparations for D-Day through WWII era encampments, interactive activities with living historians, military gear, live 1940’s era radio broadcasts, and more! There will also be WWII veterans present who will share stories of their time in the war throughout the day.

Our scouting component of the event is also more extensive this year with activities based on the Memorial’s values of valor, fidelity, and sacrifice, to earn a special patch featuring our arch. We are also offering the opportunity for Boy Scouts to complete a merit badge, Scouting Heritage, during this event for an additional fee. Prelude to Invasion: Meet the Allies will be on April 23, 2016 from 10:00-5:00 with discounted pricing of $4 for scouts and scout leaders who pre-register. Contact for more information.

Virtual Field Trips

Another exciting development for Education at the Memorial is the expansion of our virtual programming. In 2016, we are updating our technology in our virtual studio and expanding our programming to cover topics that hit vital history curriculum standards, such as STEM in WWII, Minorities in WWII, and others. These upgrades will allow us to reach more classrooms and groups across the country, and even the world, through video conferencing to share the legacy of D-Day for future generations.

This is only just a glimpse of what’s ahead, but I am excited for what 2016 has in store for the National D-Day Memorial and I hope that you are too!

Until Next Time,