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Still better off than our brethren in the field though...

Here’s what the mess served Navy shipmates on Christmas Days of the past


In San Pedro, California, this was the Christmas menu for the battleship Colorado. Note creepy Santa. (Naval History and Heritage Command)

Whether onboard ship or at an undisclosed location ashore, I don’t need to tell you how much it sucks to be away from home on Christmas.

Hopefully you get some phone time with your family or an LPO that isn’t a total poop head today.

And a good meal of course, at least something better than BBQ beef cubes or whatever dish you most dislike on board.

Those who wore the uniform in generations before you seem to love saying how hard they had it back in the day, and that today’s Navy and sailors are soft.

But looking at the Navy’s Christmas mess menus from decades past, it’s hard at times to parse out whether the offerings are better or worse.

Some items look good to this day, while others legit make me scratch my head.


With that in mind, enjoy this stroll through Navy Christmas meals of yore, brought to us by the folks over at the Naval History and Heritage Command.

The Year: 1917, about eight months after the United States entered World War I.

The Ship: The “Bulldog of the Navy” Oregon, a pre-dreadnought, Indiana-class battleship commissioned in 1896. Old school.

The outstanding: Oyster soup, chestnut dressing, whatever “Hard Sauce” is, cigarettes.

The unsat: Oyster soup on a ship commissioned in 1896; the prominent placement for celery and radish atop the menu; cluster raisins, which sounds like when you take raisins out of one of those little boxes.


Menu - Relishes: Ripe olives, Celery, Green onions, Radishes; Soup: Oyster soup; Entrees: Spiced sugar cured ham; Roasts: Roast young Tom turkeys, Cranberry sauce, Giblet gravy, Chestnut dressing; Vegetables: Candied sweet potatoes, Poatato croquettes; Salad: Fruit salad; Desert: Fruit cake, Hard sauce, Lemon meringue pie, Assorted candies, Assorted nuts, Cluster raisins, Ice cream, Candy canes; Cigars, Cigarettes, Coffee - George H. Upton, Chief Commissary Stweard, United States Navy.
The Year: 1918, Christmas falls a few weeks after Armistice Day and the world is watching the United States take its place on the global stage.

The Ship: The Monterey, the sole Monterey-class monitor in the American fleet.


The Outstanding: Grape juice punch, cigarettes.

The Unsat: This was a time before printers, when OG Seaman Timmy (RIP, probably) had to type up every damn menu. Typos likely abounded. Maybe that’s why turkey is listed with tartar sauce, and baked red snapper was served with giblet gravy.


U.S.S. Monterey ...Menu... Christmas Day, December 25, 1918 - Soup: Cream of tomato; Relishes: Celery, Ripe olives, Green onions; Salads: Fruit, Mayonnaise dressing, Combination; Meats: Roast turkey, Tartar sauce, Baked red snapper, Giblet gravy, Roast loin of pork, Apple sauce; Vegetables: Creamed mashed potatoes, French peas, Buttered asparagus tips; Dessert: Fruit cake, Mince meat pie, Rainbow ice cream; Fruits: Oranges, Apples, Bananas, Grapes; Beverages: Grape juice punch, Iced tea, Lemonade; Cigars, Cigarettes - J.H. Kohli, Acting Commissary Stweard.
The Year: 1926. The Great Depression had not yet hit, but World War I was over. “What now?” America asked.

The Ship: The battleship Colorado, first of its class, steamed under the Golden Gate Bridge in 1942 in case of a Japanese invasion, then took the fight to the Pacific, which meant surviving 22 shell hits from shore batteries during the Battle of Tinian in 1944. At the time of this Christmas meal, she was just a young thing, having been commissioned three years prior.

The Outstanding: The pickled eggs (excellent, actually), the oyster stuffing, the cold roast pork, the cigarettes!

The Unsat: The cold boiled ham, this creepy Santa on the menu’s cover. Those kids are like, “naw.”



U.S.S. Colorado, San Pedro, California: Programme for Christmas Day 1926, Franklin D. Karns, Commanding, Louis P. Davis, Executive Officer. (Naval History and Heritage Command)
The Year: 1932. A time of relative interwar peace even as Hitler was set to take power the following year. He’d rebuild the Germany military and then the French would fail to nip his Nazi hordes in the bud and then World War II.

The Ship: USS NITRO! Oh, come get you some! With a name like that, how could it be anything BUT an ammunition ship? Old girl was commissioned in 1921 and strolled into the scrap yard right after WWII.

The Outstanding: “Roast Young Princess Anne Turkey” sounds like something you’d pay too much for at Whole Foods; cigarettes.

The Unsat: Celery hearts? Toasted crackers? That like a CS today saying, “today I can offer burgered ham featuring ketchup.”


Christmas Dinner: Sweet Pickles, Ripe Olives, Celery Hearts, Cream of Chicken Soup, Toasted Crackers, Roast Young Princess Anne Turkey, Cranberry Sauce, Spiced Baked Virginia Ham, Candied Sweet Potatoes, Asparagus Tips, Drawn Butter Sauce, Fruit Cake, Ice Cream, Mince Pie, Candy, Assorted Nuts, Cigars, Cigarettes, Coffee.
The Year: 1941. Possibly the worst December in American history. The Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor just 18 days prior.


The Ship: The humble Bridge, the lead storeship (AF-1!) of her class, serving proudly through World War I and World War II.

The Outstanding: I never met a sweet pickle I didn’t like, spiced ham is never bad, and sign me up for whatever a parkerhouse roll is; cigarettes.

The Unsat: Mr. Fancy Culinary Specialist coming with the Tomato Madrilene, a cold tomato/gelatin soup. You think you’re better than me??? Crisp saltines, thousand island dressing as its own menu item.


Christmas Dinner 25 December 1941: Tomato Madrilene, Crisp Saltines, Ripe Olives, Sweet Mixed Pickles, Roast Young Turkey, Cranberry Sauce, Oyster Dressing, Baked Spiced Ham, Giblet Gravy, Glazed Sweet Potatoes, Mashed Potatoes, Buttered Peas, Radishes, Cauliflower Au Gratin, Hearts of Celery, Combination Salad, Thousand Island Dressing, Parkerhouse Rolls, Butter, Pumpkin Pie, Hot Mince Pie, Apple Pie, Candy, Fruit Cake, Ice Cream, Mixed Nuts, Cigars, Cigarettes, Coffee.
The Year: 1948. Enjoy that post-WWII high, American troops. The carnage of Korea is right around the corner.

The Ship: The aircraft carrier Coral Sea, aka “The Ageless Warrior,” which is also my nickname in the Military Times newsroom.

The Outstanding: “Snow flake potatoes,” giblet gravy, them parkerhouse rolls, cigarettes.


The Unsat: Saltines as a menu item, “fresh frozen french peas,” the uber-religious message of the carrier’s skipper, aka What Could Get You Fired in 2018:


The Year: 1956, Cold War in full effect. Duck and cover, kids!

The Ship: The Barry, a workhorse destroyer that roamed the world and earned two battle stars in Vietnam.

The Outstanding: Not much to rip here — prime rib, squash, Yorkshire pudding (aka the gravy cup you eat), clover leaf rolls, CIGARETTES!

The Unsat: Not sure I’d take salmon-stuffed celery, but otherwise the CS squad was aces with this one.


USS Barry (DD-933) Commanding Officer J.C. Kidd, CDR, USN; Executive Officer D.R. Jex, Lt, USN; Commissary Officer R.G. Pearson, LTJG, SC, USNR; Chief Commissaryman T.A. Greaves, CSC, USN; Crabill, C.L. CS2; Creech, W.R. SN - Christmas Day Dinner: Roast prime rib beef, mashed Irish potatoes, Yorkshire pudding, natural beef gravy, butter whole corn, butter baked squash, salad bar selection, salmon stuffed celery, cheese stuffed celery, Russian dressing, assorted olives, assorted pickles, relish, butter, hot mincemeat pie, ice cream, fruit cake, mixed nuts, holiday candy, cigars, cigarettes.
The Year: 1982.

The Ship: The Cavalla, a Sturgeon-class submarine from back in the day when you could smoke on the boats.


The Outstanding: No one’s hating on the prime rib, almondine string beans are old-school good, shrimp cocktail but only if you saw the triad eat them first.

The Unsat: No cigarettes.


Christmas Dinner Menu, 25 December 1982, Roast Prime Rib of Beef, Natural Beef Au Jus, Yorkshire Pudding, Rice Pilaf, Almondine String Beans, Glazed Baby Carrots, Shrimp Cocktail, Assorted Relish Tray, Cheese Cubes, Waldorf Salad, German Chocolate Cake, Fruitcake, Hot Dinner Rolls, Mixed Nuts, Candy, Coffee, Tea, Milk, Iced Drinks.
There were of course many other Christmas dinners on countless other vessels over the years, but this was the extent of the Naval History and Heritage Command’s listings, so there you go.

If you are spending this Christmas away from home, just remember that you’ll be home again and will reflect on this Christmas in Decembers future, when you’re among those you love.

It’ll make you grateful to be home.
 

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Yes! May a God bless our Soldiers, Marines, Sailors and Airmen while they are away from thier families this time of year and....... hopefully a spectacular menu to ease the suck!
 

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Spent 6 holidays away from home, most of them by choice. I wanted to use my leave for spring and summer, because thats when Florida shines.

The chow hall turkey was always terrible, stateside or in the AOR. I think it was the turkey roll thing. The ham was good, though, and generally Air Force chow halls are the best.
 

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Christmas day 1968 out in the Arizona Territory I opened a can of 1942 turkey loaf. We had a slogan that "Every day is a holiday, and every meal was a feast." Of course that's all in the eye of the beholder.

Those navy menu's look great, but to eat there I would have had to been with sailors, better to open a can of turkey loaf with other Marines. Just saying.
 

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Never saw any hardback brother, just c-rats from the early 40's. Just saying.
 

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They sell MREs at the Commissary on base, or you can buy them here if you'd like Buying MREs | MRE Info
Hard sauce is a sugar and rum sauce, usually used on things like fruitcakes or sweet British style puddings. I guess they call it hard because it has hard liquor in it.

I once traded two Scottish soldiers a full case of MRE's for two fresh eggs. I have no idea where they got them. In southern Iraq, which is pretty much all desert, fresh eggs weren't easy to find. On the other hand we had tons of MRE's. We all went away from that trade happy.
 
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Never saw any hardback brother, just c-rats from the early 40's. Just saying.
Yeah. Just wasn't the same when they switched to MRE's - no OD paint garnish on your food from opening the can. My favorite was the ham pork slices...hated the eggs and bacon. Had an Egyptian Major bitching once how he couldn't eat his c-rat because he got pork slices so I traded him my eggs and bacon. I swear he spent 10 minutes just looking at the can while I ate the pork.
 

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Yeah, he needed a P-38, we called them John Waynes. Or if he had the can opened he couldn't get by the looks. I got so I could only eaten the boned chicken or the turkey loaf.

Today I don't eat turkey or canned chicken.
 

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Yeah, he needed a P-38, we called them John Waynes. .
Yeah, he had the P-38. He just couldn't get over being blatantly screwed. Him and the Captain he came with were always "If you were in my Army I would have you shot." It's why they lose.
 

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Boy do I remember those Shipboard meals. Sometimes C-RATS were better then a lot of time MREs were even Better. However, have several thousand people to feed almost around the clock on the carriers and gator freighters its hard to pleas many it all has to be very generic. THANK GOD for TABASCO SAUCE. With enough of it even the sliders were palatable. Talking to family during the holidays and being deployed was almost a no no Ham radio and ship to shore was for the O's and not enlisted 90% of the time. So Yes being deployed sucked and being deployed during the Holidays was worse. I remember many Christmas's where we put parts in boxes and decorated those RFI boxes. After 16 years of sea duty you kinda get used to it. My prayers and thoughts were sent to all the military folks I can empathize with them. God Bless them all.
 

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Yeah, he had the P-38. He just couldn't get over being blatantly screwed. Him and the Captain he came with were always "If you were in my Army I would have you shot." It's why they lose.
They should have been with us, we ate that crap day in and day out and we had to carry it with us to boot. Most days we only ate one can a day with the heat and loss of the food just not being very appealing. I lost over 30+ lbs in the Nam, came home and I was eating 5 sandwiches a day or 3 What-a-burgers. Was still starving a year later. Not so much anymore of course.
 

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They should have been with us, we ate that crap day in and day out and we had to carry it with us to boot. Most days we only ate one can a day with the heat and loss of the food just not being very appealing. I lost over 30+ lbs in the Nam, came home and I was eating 5 sandwiches a day or 3 What-a-burgers. Was still starving a year later. Not so much anymore of course.
When I got home I couldn't get use to the cold. Less than 80 degrees was freezing. Spent the first summer in an inside out
They should have been with us, we ate that crap day in and day out and we had to carry it with us to boot. Most days we only ate one can a day with the heat and loss of the food just not being very appealing. I lost over 30+ lbs in the Nam, came home and I was eating 5 sandwiches a day or 3 What-a-burgers. Was still starving a year later. Not so much anymore of course.
Spent my first summer back from Central America freezing. Wore an inside-out "Marlboro jacket" when it was 90 degrees out...and I was still cold. Still hate the cold.
 

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You should be down here then brother, the cold ain't so bad here. Of course it was only 41 when I got up this morning.
 

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You should be down here then brother, the cold ain't so bad here. Of course it was only 41 when I got up this morning.
Don’t I wish. Probably won’t make it down there till I finish my Four Corners Tru-X tour this year. Key West is the perfect end to the trip.
 

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Yeah, he needed a P-38, we called them John Waynes. Or if he had the can opened he couldn't get by the looks. I got so I could only eaten the boned chicken or the turkey loaf.

Today I don't eat turkey or canned chicken.
Still have the very first P-38 from my very first RAT pack, on my dog tag chain (the very same dog tags where everyone's SSAN was pounded in them (think of ID theft today). Fond memories? [meh]
 
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