SPAM was included in Red Cross parcels sent to Allied POWs in Germany.
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   As America entered World War II, SPAM luncheon meat (SPiced hAM) — first produced in 1937 — played a crucial role overseas. With Allied forces fighting to liberate Europe, Hormel Foods provided 15 million cans of food to troops each week. SPAM immediately became a constant part of a soldiers' diets, and earned much praise for feeding the starving British and Soviet armies as well as civilians. It needed no refrigeration and could be served cold or cooked in any number of ways. It also became popular on both the British and American homefronts since all "real" meats were severely rationed.

   World War II generated a huge sales boost for Hormel Foods. Between 1939 and 1942, its net sales doubled to almost $120 million and annual pork processing reached an all-time high of 1.6 million head, mostly because of Uncle Sam. By 1944, 90 percent of all Hormel canned goods were going to military forces or military aid programs. That following April of 1945, more than 100 million pounds of SPAM luncheon meat had been shipped abroad.

   Here are some wartime SPAM facts:

  • SPAM was used as a B-ration — to be served in rotation with other meats behind the lines overseas and at camps and bases in the States. However, many times GIs were eating it two or three times a day.

  • SPAM was incorporated into the language of the war. Uncle Sam became Uncle SPAM, while food supply depots were SPAM Canyons. One military encampment in the South Pacific went so far as to dub itself SPAMVILLE. A photo of the camp showed the word SPAMVILLE painted on a makeshift watertower. A replication of SPAMVILLE is on display in the SPAM Museum.

  • Throughout 1943, Hormel Foods hired 448 women to replace men serving in the war.

  • Soviet Union leader Nikita Khrushchev wrote, "Without SPAM we wouldn't have been able to feed our army."

  • The British relished the SPAM that came to them. Margaret Thatcher, then a teenager, vividly remembered opening a tin of SPAM on Boxing Day (an English holiday observed the day after Christmas). She stated, "We had some lettuce and tomatoes and peaches, so it was SPAM and salad."

  • Eric, from Olive and Eric writes "SPAM became a substitute for real meat and, for years after the war, one of my favourite foods. We served it up as batter-covered fritters or just grilled thick slices of it and served it with chips. Genuine SPAM became an expensive luxury compared with cheaper substitutes, most of which came from Denmark."

  • In wartime Britain, a 10-oz (284-gram) tin cost 12 ration book points or 1 shilling and sixpence in old money.

  • 100 million pounds of SPAM were issued as a Lend-Lease staple in the rations to American, Russian, and European troops during World War II.

  • GIs called SPAM "ham that failed the physical."

  • The Red Cross parcels that were distributed to POWs in Germany contained SPAM. A can of SPAM could be traded for three packs of cigarettes in the camps.

  • President Dwight D. Eisenhower, in a letter acknowledging the role of SPAM in World War II, stated that he ate his "share of SPAM along with millions of other soldiers." The letter was sent to retired Hormel President H. H. Corey in 1966. A copy of this letter is on display in the World War II section of the SPAM Museum.

Portions of the text reprinted courtesy Hormel Foods.


1940s SPAM Ad.