The design of the military mess kit was influenced by 2 factors. First, it was meant to serve men and women waiting in a food line. Second, it was never designed for hunting and foraging for food and then cooking, although, certainly that can be done. But even in the field of combat it was designed for mainly reheating and serving rations.
The mess kit is perfect for campers,hunters,boy scouts,preppers,survivalist, as well as the military because of its size and versatility. One side of the 2 piece kit has the handle which also serves to lock the other side down. This handle side swings open to help form a skillet of sorts so that you can warm or heat food on a fire and keep your hand away from the heat. The other side is divided in 2 sections to help separate side dishes.
One of the best parts about a real military issue messkits is how easy they are to clean. The side dish tray has a ring that can be slid over the handle on the skillet side and the whole kit can be dunked into a pot of boiling water for sterilization. This is very efficient for large groups of people to clean their food trays quickly. after wiping clean of big food particles, each man could walk by the giant pot of boiling water to dip and sterilize. Most of the later issue kits after 1942 are made from stainless steel, rather than galvanized, or aluminum like the early predecessors. The canteen cup along with the three piece chowset is a perfect complement to the messkit, as it can be used to boil water for coffee or cocoa.
Omahas has all three types of the US mess kits for sale on our website. They include m-1926,m-1936, and m-1942 style kits.
Most of the ones we have available are used, but we also have the later 1990’s dated kits new in the box.
Many say the P38 can opener was named ofter the P-38 lighting fighter plane because you can get into a can of rations so fast . Others point to the fact that after you open a can of k-rations or c-rations with one of these little busters, you can count 38 puncture marks around the outside of the lid. However the can opener also has a big brother called the p-51, but it leaves less puncture marks because of the size. Still another theory is that they are named after their measurement in millimeters
They sit right there in front of any cash register, in any army navy store, all across the US. An army surplus staple, every other customer either has a question about, or wants to tell you about, the p-38 can opener. Whether you call them a “John Wayne” like the US Marine Corps, or just a can opener, they are an absolute essential impulse item for those that have never seen them or those that already have one,or two, or ten.
At 98 cents a piece, you can’t go wrong. They do not take up any room in your gear bag or your pocket. Lightweight, strong and long lasting, they never run out of batteries. they never dull and you can open a can quicker with one of these than any other manual can opener on the market. There is a hole on one end so you can put one on your keychain and never be without a way into vintage can of k-rations, or beenie weenies.
Omaha’s has them available in all original issue or current production. We still have some of the issue in original brown paper wrapping with instructions. Most of the ones you see now are manufactured by “Shelby’, but there were others who made them as well.
Why are they called a John Wayne? Good question.
They were actually developed back in World War 2, but back in the 60’s, the Duke did some training films for our boys in the military. One of those films just happened to be all about the can opener the military developed as a way for our boys to get into the cans of c-rations without having to carry a large scissor-type of kitchen utensil in their backpack . Cause lets face it, who wants to carry large kitchenware around when you’re fighting the bad guys.