History of the Quartermaster Subsistence Research Laboratory
A QUARTER of a century ago at this Depot a new procedure in Army subsistence was inaugurated. A step was taken which was to revolutionize the whole subject of troop feeding. In the fall of 1920 the Quartermaster Corps Subsistence School began its first classes. Experience with untrained men in World War I had convinced the QMC that in some future war an untrained supply service might not be able to overcome subsistence difficulties readily, and that it was essential for the Army to have well-trained commissary specialists.
This persistent general opinion in the QMC finally brought the School into existence. Two men who did much toward its establishment were Brigadier Generals A. S. Kuiskern and C. R. Krauthoff.
The main function of the School was to instruct selected officers and enlisted men regarding the procurement, processing, inspection, transportation, storage, and issuing of subsistence supplies, and this course of instruction was to supply the Army with a nucleus of trained subsistence specialists.
The Commanding Officer of the Chicago Depot was always
considered the Commandant of the School, and the first Assistant Commandant was
Major Norris Stayton. The Army
itself was so short of qualified instructors that a civilian, Mr. F. J. Butler,
was engaged as technical adviser, and Dr. Jesse H. White was transferred from
the Navy (Veterinary Department) as a technical expert. Other Assistant Commandants of the School were Major (now
Major General) Robert M. Littlejohn; Captain (now Colonel) Robert T. Willkie;
and Captain (now Colonel) Paul P. Logan. It
was due to the earnest endeavors of these pioneers that the work of the
Subsistence School soon attracted widespread attention.
Only two students were enrolled in the first class at the
School. The following year there were sixteen students, and the course was
lengthened. As no suitable printed
material was available for textbooks, the staff prepared its own training
manuals. Fifty two monographs
appeared between 1920 and 1936, among them The Army Cook and The Army
Baker. The importance of the latter can hardly be estimated as the best of
food can be completely spoiled if improperly prepared.
Beginning in 1922, the Navy sent Supply Corps officers to
the School every year. In 1926 the Marine Corps followed the Navy's example, and
the School each year attracted many U. S. officers outside of the Quartermaster
In June 1936 the Subsistence School was merged with the general Quartermaster School at Philadelphia, and part of the technical library and equipment was transferred to Philadelphia.
Hardly had the School been merged before it was benefit
from a laboratory devoted to research in Army subsistence problems, and the
growing world crisis foreshadowed the imminent necessity for new and better
emergency rations. It was felt that
such a research laboratory, with teaching eliminated from its program, would
serve an entirely new function--that of providing the Quartermaster Corps with
the new subsistence developments made necessary by the changing conditions of
On July 24, 1936, the School reopened in Chicago as the
Quartermaster Corps Subsistence Research Laboratory. The new laboratory was authorized to test foods and design
modern packaging of foods; to prepare drafts of proposed specifications and
modify those which became obsolete; to conduct studies and make analyses of
various reserve and emergency rations or components thereof; to prepare
informative bulletins and maintain liaison with other government agencies.
The Laboratory staff began with three members, two of whom
were graduates of the Subsistence School, the third a civilian expert who had
taught at the School during its entire existence. Paucity of funds and of
personnel limited research, but with the cooperation of industry, the willing
hearts and hands of the limited staff, and only a few hundred dollars, boneless
beef was developed and Field Rations C and D were partially developed.
During the first stages of the present emergency the
Laboratory was rapidly expanded. On August 15, 1939, Colonel Rohland A. Isker
became Commanding Officer of the Laboratory. Because of his knowledge, his
training, and his vision, Colonel Isker was eminently suited to assume this
The Laboratory staff, which had begun with three members,
by September 1941 totaled thirteen, and by April 1942 had twenty-two members.
The clerical and administrative staff had grown accordingly. Today the staff
numbers several score highly trained technical men, one of the most noteworthy
of whom is Lt. Col. Jesse H. White, who has been on the staff of the School or
Laboratory since its organization. Although retired from the Army in September
1943, Colonel White continues his valued work as a civilian.
The Laboratory is primarily an administrative center for
the initiation, direction, and coordination of research. This coordination
involves the Army, other armed services, the universities, federal agencies, and
food industries. The Laboratory
undertakes to correlate the research being done and adapt it to military use.
The technical laboratory, however, is equipped for testing and
developmental work. Chemical, bacteriological, and vitamin studies and analyses
are made; foodstuffs are tested for susceptibility to bacterial spoilage and
insect infestation; vitamin stability in ration components is investigated; and
many other research projects are conducted.
Army-Navy subsistence is coordinated through a Navy liaison
officer stationed in the Laboratory; Air Corps experiments are carried out with
the Aero Medical Research Laboratory; and close liaison is maintained with the
Veterinary Corps. Specifications, inspection, and instruction manuals receive
The critical period of 1940-41 found the Laboratory at work
on ration problem of the K ration, special Air Corps rations, combat and
emergency ration -- subsistence under all conditions. The newest ration is the versatile 10-in-1. Laboratory
research contributions have been made to dehydration, to compression of
foodstuffs, packaging, conservation, storage, transportation-in fact to every
aspect of subsistence.
With the expansion of laboratory activities space has
become inadequate, and today we have come to inspect the new Quartermaster Corps
Subsistence Research and Development Laboratory
which has emerged from the small School of 1920.
Let us pay homage to the staff whose untiring efforts
produce modern miracles; and to the men who foresaw this crisis and gradually
prepared the nucleus of trained men capable of directing subsistence in the 1943
brand of warfare. Let us also acknowledge our appreciation to industry,
educational institutions, and federal agencies for their cooperation in solving
our food problems. It is such combined cooperation that enables us to win wars.
as of 25 Sep 00