Chocolate played a small but important part in the Allied Victory in WWII. The D-Day landings on the Normandy beaches were the largest military invasion every assembled. But before the Americans invaded Germany, they invaded Britain. Britain became a “huge aircraft carrier” for almost 3 million American troops who passed through our country on their way to war. These GIs had a profound cultural influence on Britain and in particular, brought chocolate bars and Coca-cola in a seemingly amazing abundance. For their British invasion, chocolate was one of their “weapons” of choice.
For the British population, who suffered heavy rationing on even basic foods like cream, eggs, and even potatoes – this plentiful new supply of chocolate must have felt heaven sent. Does this explain the origins of the special relationship?
Sugar, sweets and chocolate rationing in Britain started in 1942, only finishing in 1953. Fundamentally all chocolate was directed towards military use and the war effort. Civilians in many cases never tasted chocolate throughout the entire war. For those lucky enough to get chocolate or sugar in their rations, it would only amount to the maximum 16oz to as little 8oz a month. A simple chocolate bar and cola cubes would have been an unbelievable highlight for those lucky few, most likely acquired on the black market.
American and British troops had chocolate bars as standard issue in their 24 hrs D-ration packs, including on D-Day itself. Eyewitness accounts of British and American troops eating chocolate on the front-line, state how much comfort they derived from the simple taste of chocolate. That chocolate accompanied the troops, was no accident. It was provided on D-Day for a specific reason – it is a high energy food and the caffeine provided a powerful stimulant – keeping the soldiers alert and engaged. Chocolate provided an important morale boost at critical moments during the fighting.
In many ways chocolate was one of the most demoralizing weapons employed by America during WW2. When Germany didn’t even have enough fuel for their tanks, America was flying chocolate halfway across the world. The Germans were well aware of this and anytime they captured American supplies it was yet another reminder of Germany’s shortcomings.
The US military had requested a specially designed bar for emergency rations as early as 1937. They had just four requests: the bar had to weigh 4 ounces, be high in energy, withstand high temperatures and “taste a little better than a boiled potato.” The final product was called the “D ration bar”, a blend of chocolate, sugar, cocoa butter, skim milk powder and oat flour.
Chocolate played an important role in winning the War. Between 1940 and 1945 over 3 billion Field Rations D, including the famous chocolate bar were distributed by the American’s to Allied troops throughout the world. If an army marches on its stomach, these rations kept the military powered enough to win the battle at Normandy and claim ultimate victory against the Axis forces. Amazingly these vintage bars can still be eaten today.
US military took a step further as they wanted a chocolate that was designed to be taken into the jungle and eaten as both food and a stimulant for troops in their efforts against the Japanese. They were concerned about chocolate’s tendency to melt into a sticky mess before it could be consumed by their troops. The best brains in America applied their minds to this problem and in 1941 brightly coloured pieces of candy-coated chocolate were designed. They were the product of Forrest Mars and Bruce Marri, from Herseys. Hence the name “M&M”’s – with the slogan “the milk chocolate that melts in your mouth – not in your hand”. We at Melt, handmake chocolates to melt in your mouth.
As the soldiers discovered, dark Chocolate is full of a natural high from phenylethylamine. This chemical which occurs in chocolate in small quantities, stimulates the nervous system and triggers the release of mood enhancing compounds knows as endorphins. When mixed with real Kola Nuts from Sierra Leone, the chocolate bar provides a wonderful boost of natural energy and the feelings of pleasure. Kola Nuts are full of caffeine and were one of the original ingredients for cola drinks. Cocoa from volcanic soil in the Solomon Islands is blended with naturally sourced Kola nuts from the tropical rainforest of Africa. This is ideal mixture for chocolate warriors or those taking exams – who need a burst of natural energy and a morale boost.
Back in June 1944, Thérèse le Chevalier was a 15-year-old boarding school girl living near Bernières-sur-Mer, the stretch of coastline now known as Juno Beach. A gift she remembers most clearly on D-Day is the little tin of chocolate the allied soldiers gave her, which could be heated up as a drink.
Thérèse closes her eyes in ecstasy as she recalls tasting it, watching the battalions of Canadian and British soldiers. “Honestly,” she sighs, “I never drank such chocolate in all my life!”. Melt creates the best hot chocolate in London.
The Aztecs used chocolate as a stimulant for their army and it seems to have worked as they soon dominated their region. Warriors would consume a cup of hot chocolate before battle.
Queen Victoria probably hoping for a similar result, sent half a million pounds of chocolate to her troops stationed in South Africa during the Boer war. Eventually it seems to have worked too.