M-1937 Field Range

M-1937 FIELD RANGE (12 K)
A WW II vintage M-1937 Field Range.
Photo reprinted courtesy the Seabee Cook Web Site.

   The M-1937 served as the Army’s primary field stove from the beginning of World War II until the end of the Vietnam War. Each range was equipped with a gasoline-powered fire unit (or "burner"), 10- and 15-gallon stockpots, a heavy aluminum roasting and baking pan (one deep, one shallow), a cradle, and a set of knives and utensils.The following description comes to us via Lawrence P. Belmont of the 225th, who used to use them in the ETO.

   "The M-1937 Field Gas Range could cook and bake anything. They were about three feet tall and about 15 inches wide; they had compartments with rails where you could put the burner if you wanted to grill items. It had a square roasting pan with a cover — you would use the cover for a grill and put the gas range right below it. If you were cooking potatoes or making coffee, it had 10- and 15-gallon stock pots and you would put the gas burner on the bottom. Before this very versatile and portable stove, the Army had wooden and coal stoves that they used to use on troop trains. The M-1937 was so easy to move and set up. It had handles on each side and two guys could move them easily since they didn't weigh much when they didn't have the pots in them. You could put them any place: in the back of trucks or in searchlight trailers. In Normandy I had mine in a wooden lean-to shed that my buddy Sgt. Kravarik help me make. I had two stoves set up there and used to make hotcakes every morning. I can still smell them! The biggest problem was that after cleaning them you were very dirty because the gas would clog up the pipes on them. The other thing was that they were prone to blowing up! They had a round disc on the top of the burner and you had to use graphite to seal it, so you'd get really dirty cleaning them. But the guy that invented it was sure a smart person. In the German Army, the cooks had a 30-gallon tub and they made a fire in the bottom." [The photos below show a trio of M-1937 ranges in the back of a truck (top) and in a kitchen shack (bottom).]



   The following article, by Steve Karoly, is reprinted from the Seabee Cook Web Site.


   A picture, as they say, tells a thousand words — if you know what you're talking about. Like the picture above, which is a U. S. Navy photograph from World War II. If you know what you're looking for, it tells quite a story. This picture gives you a good look at World War II – era field feeding equipment. [ Click on the photo to view an enlargement in a separate browser window. ]

   The baker is mixing cake batter. Of the four cakes cooling on the makeshift serving line, two are lopsided. Baking cakes in a M-1937 field range was tricky. The baker had to turn each cake three times to ensure even baking. Often the cakes came out lopsided despite the extra care.

   The second cook from the left is removing roast beef from the first field range. Cooks used the large, square pan, called a squarehead, for baking and roasting. The cook placed the squarehead on the top shelf of the field range and placed a lid over the pan. This set up worked much like a cast-iron Dutch oven.

   Two different sized pots are seen in the photograph. The baker is using a 10-gallon pot (called an insert in the M-1937 field range technical manual). A 15-gallon pot is sitting on the ground to the right of the cook . The 10-gallon pots would nest inside the larger pot to form a double boiler.

   The cooks used the pots for a multitude of uses: they cooked sauces, vegetables, and casseroles in them; used them to mix batters; and used them as serving pans.

   When you see pictures of field chow lines, you'll see a mixture of pots and pans. The cooks would serve the soup out of a 15-gallon pot, the vegetable and starch from 10-gallon pots, and the main entree from a squarehead (a large aluminum pan — it's not pictured here). Salads would be served from any available pot or pan, while cakes, rolls, and bread would be served from the flat sheet pans.

   The objects sitting on the deck behind the center tent pole are pot cradles. It was used to steady the pot when it was placed inside the field range. It looks like the spare pots and pans were being stored behind and to the right of the fourth cook.

   This photograph shows at least three field ranges. There may be a fourth range located directly behind the second cook. With three ranges, this mess could support 225 sailors. Add a fourth range and it could have fed 300 sailors. Each field range was equipped with all the pots, pans, and utensils needed to cook a meal in the field. A fire unit was added as the heat source for the range.

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