Military Subsistence Program Historical Background

To sustain troops under the operational demands and logistical constraints of modern warfare, military subsistence must possess characteristics markedly distinct from those of food products successful in the commercial marketplace. No program of research and development to diagnose and meet peculiarly military subsistence problems existed, or was even envisioned, until the then Office of the Quartermaster General (OQMG) established the Subsistence Research Laboratory at the Chicago Quartermaster Depot on July 24, 1936—less than six years before Pearl Harbor.

The World War I experience, without people knowledgeable in subsistence and unaided by systematic scientific investigation of military requirements, left procurement officials often dependent on almost miraculous improvisations by individuals within the food industry and the army. The troops were fed and the war won but the food margin was frequently so narrow that OQMG feared it could easily go the other way in the future if not addressed in time. The OQMG established the QM Subsistence School in 1919 toward generating a cadre of military experts in subsistence procurement, inspection, processing, transportation, and storage. Partly because of budgetary problems, the school was deactivated on June 30,1936.

The new laboratory became heir to the school's research equipment, primarily a reasonably adequate kitchen, and was authorized $300 for supplies and equipment. It began operations with a staff of three: an officer-in-charge and two civilians who had worked at the school. Its official objectives were "to test foods and new style packaging of dryers already have reduced the space requirement three to four times with no reduction in production. Microwave bread baking could mean smaller bakeries located closer to their markets and have a significant impact on transportation costs. Microwave-assisted baking is another process that could find a niche in the supermarket bakeries to provide just-in-time baked products and thereby eliminate the daily loss of excess product to ensure latecoming shoppers of the same choice available to early shoppers.

Existing processes may be improved by including a microwave capability. Depending on the process, microwave heating could be applied as a preheating step, be built into existing equipment for simultaneous application of two or more forms of heating, or added on at the end of conventional equipment to increase the production rate.

Tools are available to evaluate new microwave processes without resorting to empirical methods alone. Microwave-compatible temperature-measuring systems are being used today. Infrared detectors are being used to follow surface temperature changes that can be translated into meaningful feedback data to control subsequent microwave input. Microwave radiometry, which has been demonstrated in measurement of temperature in human muscle tissue undergoing diathermy, could conceivably be used to noninvasively monitor product temperature during microwave pasteurization and sterilization to provide data for FDA approval. Continuous weighing systems have been used to monitor weight changes during microwave processing. There also is a large body of dielectric property data in the literature that can be useful in mathematical modeling and computer simulation in process development. All in all microwave processing has a promising future.

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