Many say the P38 can opener was named after 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, 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 apiece, 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 issues 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 let’s face it, who wants to carry large kitchenware around when you’re fighting the bad guys.