The Army Best Invention


The Subsistence Research Laboratory in Chicago developed it in just 30 days in the summer of 1942. When soldiers had C-rations, the P-38 was your access to food; that made it the hierarchy of needs. Soldiers discovered it was the tool acquired its name from the 38 punctures required to open a C-ration can, and from the boast that it performed with the speed of the World War II P-38 fighter plane. Never in its 52-year history has it been known to break, rust, need sharpening or polishing. The P-38 was an extremely simple, lightweight, multipurpose tool. In warfare, the simpler something is and the easier access it has, the more you're going to use it. The P-38 had all of those things going for it. The P-38 is one of those tools you keep and never want to get rid of because I can use it as a screwdriver, knife, anything. Perhaps that is why many soldiers, past and present, regard the P-38 C-ration can opener as the Army's best invention.

C-rations have long since been replaced with the more convenient Meals, Ready to Eat, but the fame of the P-38 persists, thanks to the many uses stemming from the unique blend of ingenuity and creativity all soldiers seem to have.

The feelings veterans have for the P-38 isnít hard to understand. They hang on to it for years; it's very hard to give it up. That's why people keep their P-38 just like they do their dog tags. ... It means a lot. It's become part of them. They remember field problems, jumping at 3 a.m. and moving out. A P-38 has a person reliving all the adventures that came with soldiering in the armed forces. Yes, the P-38 opened cans, but it did much more. Any soldier will tell you that.