P-38? No, not the twin engine plane built by Lockheed, nor Walther’s semi-automatic…the P-38 designation invading my memories stems from the little metal device I was issued when I joined the service. Originally designed to open the K-rations issued in the forties, ours were meant for the C-rations we might at some point have to endure.
The U.S. Army Pocket Can Opener, Folding, Type 1 had many names official and otherwise as well as uses. Fortunately mine was seldom used as intended but used it was. The tough little tool opened many a can of shoe polish in basic training. Late at night, we’d sneak into the well-lit latrine area to shine our boots with polish lit on fire and applied while hot. Ah, the memories…
The handle of the P-38 worked as a screw driver, the curved blade a pen knife and of course it was used as a can opener. A larger device called the P-51 was also available but not part of our regular issued gear. The similarity of the names with WWII fighter planes was mere coincidence. The P-38 was approximately 38mm longs and the P-51 measured approximately 51mm long…thus lending heavily to their monikers.
Although the P-51s apparently are still included in “Tray-Rations,” the P-38 was discontinued when C-rations were replaced by the much more tasty MREs that were issued beginning in the eighties. Meals Ready to Eat come in plastic packages.
Every day I was in the service I wanted to be anything but in the service. The chain of command, the drills, the inspections…all lent to a life difficult for a young rebellious kid like me to respect or enjoy. Today, for some odd reason I recalled the P-38 and other memories surged like flood waters from a broken dam.
Today, I’d give anything to be in the service. Army, Navy, Air Force or Marines… Semper Fi!