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"Japanese Army Rations" from Intelligence Bulletin, May 1944

[Intelligence Bulletin Cover]  
The following report on Japanese WWII army rations was originally published in the Intelligence Bulletin, Vol. II, No. 9, May 1944.

[DISCLAIMER: The following text is taken from the U.S. War Department Intelligence Bulletin publication. As with all wartime intelligence information, data may be incomplete or inaccurate. No attempt has been made to update or correct the text. Any views or opinions expressed do not necessarily represent those of the website.]



Japanese Army rations have been found to be entirely edible, and ordinarily may be utilized by U.S. forces as supplementary rations when captured. If at all possible, such rations should be examined by a medical officer before being used.

Observers (including high-ranking combat officers) recommend that U.S. troop leaders be informed about the more common Japanese foods before going into battle, so that our troops may utilize captured enemy rations if they are needed. Under other conditions, an enterprising mess sergeant may often break the monotony of his unit's diet, and add to it an unusual touch, by employing some of the less common Japanese foods. He can also use the ever-present rice as a staple when it is captured in quantity.


Contrary to the belief of some persons, the Japanese soldier does not live entirely on rice. To him, rice is a staple food, just as bread is to us; and, if he had only rice for his meal, he would be as displeased as we would be with only bread to eat. However, rice does constitute well over 50 percent of the Japanese soldier's diet.

Both polished and unpolished rice has been captured from the enemy. Polished rice is more common, probably because it can be preserved longer than unpolished rice. To increase the palatability of rice, the Japanese usually season it with a soy-bean sauce (shoyu) or miso paste, which is made of fermented soy beans and which is more commonly used for preparing soup.

U.S. rations weigh more and have a higher calorific value than the Japanese.

Although the Japanese have standard rations, they supplement these whenever possible with various foods obtained locally—even when standard rations are easily available. There have been many instances during the warfare in Pacific theaters when the enemy has run extremely low on rations, due to loss of shipping and successful United Nations attacks against the Japanese land forces.

As a general rule, the Japanese field ration in the South Pacific theaters of operations has not been standardized, but has varied from 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 pounds per man per day. Theoretically, the field ration is approximately 1.5 kilograms (3.3 lbs.). Two types of specially packed field rations, "A" and "B," have been noted frequently. The "A" ration normally consists of 30.7 ounces of rice, 5.3 ounces of meat or fish, and a small amount of seasoning and flavoring. The "B" ration normally consists of 24.4 ounces of hard biscuits in three paper bags (enough for three meals), 2.1 ounces of meat or fish, and a small amount of seasoning (salt and sugar).

In New Guinea (June, 1943) a Japanese table of ration allowances listed three separate categories of issue:

Basic: 1.3 Kilograms (when transportation is adequate)
"A": 1.13 Kilograms (when transportation is difficult)
"B": .86 1/2 Kilogram (when transportation is very difficult)

Under the "A" ration, sweet potatoes, fresh vegetables, bananas, and papayas were to supplement deficiencies to the extent of .85 kilogram (524 calories), while under the "B" issue these local foods were to provide 1.8 kilograms (1,218 calories).

It is known that the Japanese use vitamin pills quite frequently as a part of their rations. Vitamin B is supplied in three forms: (1) tablets, (2) as a liquid, and (3) a tube of paste.

A "Polished Rice Combination Case" captured by U.S. forces on Bougainville Island contained 40 "portions" (mostly rice). The contents were packed loose in an air-tight tin case enclosed in a wooden crate. A single portion was calculated to include the following:

10 1/2 oz. of polished rice
1/2 oz. of dehydrated Miso paste
Vitamin B supplementary food
Vitamins A and D tablets
Powdered tea (to supply vitamin C)
A portion of fuel and matches.

Small extra amounts of all items were included so that the rations could be stretched or slightly increased. The fuel was in 3-ounce cans, one can being intended to cook two portions of rice.

The daily ration per man for the Japanese garrison on Kolombangara from April to July, 1943, was approximately as follows:

Polished rice   .....   1 lb. 7 oz.
Canned goods   .....   2.8 oz.
Dehydrated food   .....   2.8 oz.
Sugar   .....   .7 oz.
Salt   .....   .35 oz.
Pickles   .....   .5 oz.
Soy-bean sauce   .....   .07 pint

The garrison commander on Kolombangara in May issued an order which read: "Burdock, chopped seaweed, white kidney beans, sweet potatoes, and dried gourd shavings will be issued as dehydrated food. Canned goods will be issued mainly from broken boxes in order to get rid of the goods in the broken boxes. Since the fixed quantity of powdered soy-bean sauce and sugar is not available, they will be distributed proportionately from goods on hand."

Emergency air-crew rations found recently in a wrecked Japanese plane (New Guinea) included 20 ounces of unpolished rice and the following other items: puffed wheat, biscuits, a dried fish, two small bottles of concentrated wine (35 percent alcohol), some candy wrapped in colored cellophane, large salt tablets, and a portable water-purifying set. These items were divided among five transparent, water-proof bags.

Probably the most common type of Japanese canned food found to date in the South Pacific is compressed fish (principally salmon and bonito), which may sometimes require soaking and salting to make it palatable. Other items of Japanese food found included: pickled plums, dehydrated vegetables (beans, peas, cabbage, horseradish, burdock, seaweed), compressed barley cakes, rice cakes, canned oranges and tangerines, sake (rice beer), powdered tea leaves, slices of ginger, salted plum cake, canned beef, cooked whale meat, confections, and vitamin tablets.

On Makin Island, stored food found by U.S. troops consisted largely of rice, which was contained in heavy, woven rice-straw bags. It is interesting to note that after the bags were emptied they were filled with sand and used to protect underground shelters, defensive positions, and so forth. In addition to rice, our troops found considerable stores of canned fish (mostly salmon and sardines), meat, vegetables, fruit, and milk.


The Japanese use a variety of methods to obtain supplementary rations, or food to meet emergencies. These methods include gardening, fishing (sometimes by use of dynamite), dealing with natives, and foraging by individuals and small groups.

The Japanese soldier has a fondness for sweets, which he usually gets in "comfort bags" sent from home. He also is issued sweets at certain times, along with a ration of sake. Such issues are usually made to coincide with a Japanese national festival or holiday.2


The packaging of Japanese rations has been varied and inconsistent. During the earlier stages of the South Pacific operations, the enemy lost a great deal of rice and dried food because these were improperly packed for tropical conditions.

To float rations ashore from ships or submarines, the Japanese have used 50-gallon drums, each of which held 120 rations, or enough for one company for one day. On top of each drum was a hole, 2 inches in diameter, which was closed by a water-tight screw cap while the drum was being floated to shore.

The Japanese (in New Guinea) also employed water-tight rubber containers, inclosed within waterproof canvas bags, to float food to shore. Each container accommodated about 130 pounds of rations. One full container was considered sufficient to supply one man with food for one month.

On Bougainville Island the rations for a Japanese landing force were carried in air-tight tin cases which were packed tightly into wooden crates (see par. 2, "Standard Rations").

The Japanese have frequently used sections of bamboo and burlap bags to pack food. For food drops by parachute, the enemy has employed 120-pound cardboard containers. A single light bomber is able to drop six of these containers per trip.

1In connection with this section, reference should be made to a previous Intelligence Bulletin article, "Japanese Food" (Vol. I, No. 1, pp. 77-79).
2See Intelligence Bulletin, Vol. I, No. 3, for a list of Japanese festivals and holidays.


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