The M1941 Mermite cans are insulated canisters with a rubber gasket at the top which contain 3 inserts with lids, as seen in the pictures. They were used for storing and transporting food or blood. The container is insulated, and was used to keep food hot or cold while it was being delivered to other soldiers. The 3 inserts would fit in a mermite can and the lid could be latched closed to keep the contents hot or cold. The cans had carrying handles on both ends and could be transported by truck, jeep, or troops. Some M1941 Mermite Cans were used for transporting blood to Army medical personnel. Such cans were designated for blood transport only. The bottles of blood would be packed in ice inside the cans so they could be used later for blood transfusions. It is not certain where the term "Mermite" came from. Some people think that it comes from the French word "marmite" which means "cooking pot".
These pictures show a few items from Army K and C rations and a mess kit we have at the museum.
The following is a description of food rations eaten in World War II:
A-ration: Garrison Ration. Fresh, refrigerated, or frozen food prepared in dining halls or field kitchens. The most valued of all rations.
B-ration: Field Ration. Canned, packaged, or preserved foods normally prepared in field kitchens without refrigeration.
C-ration: Individual Ration. A complete pre-cooked, ready-to-eat canned individual meal.
K-ration: Individual Ration. Designed as a short duration individual "assault" ration for paratroopers and other specialized light infantry forces.
D-ration: Emergency Ration. Bars of concentrated chocolate combined with other ingredients to provide high calorie content.
A-rations were generally whatever meat and produce could be obtained locally, so there could be great variety from one theatre of operations to the next. B-rations were generally used when there was inadequate refrigeration for perishable A-rations. The composition of the D-ration did not change much throughout the war but the C-ration developed many variations.
A- and B-rations were only served at bases or established camps in rear areas as they require cooking. C-rations could be eaten hot or cold and required no special preparation or storage, so these could be served almost anywhere.
The K-ration was an individual daily combat food ration which was introduced by the United States Army during World War II. It was originally intended as an individually packaged ration for issue to airborne troops, tank crews, motorcycle couriers, and other mobile forces for short durations of only 2 to 3 days. The K-ration provided three separately boxed meal units: Breakfast, Dinner, and Supper.
The two parts of the M1938 mess kit, also known as a meat can, could be fastened together as seen in these pictures. The flat-bottomed part with its folding handle extended could serve as a crude skillet to cook raw food, but it was too shallow and thin to be effective for this purpose. Instead, it was usually used for heating up pre-cooked canned food, or for reconstituting powdered eggs. Several versions of the meat can were produced for the Army since this item was first introduced in 1874.
To complement the mess kit, soldiers used a stamped cup especially molded to fit over the bottom of the US Army's standard one-quart (950 ml) canteen. This cup could be used to boil water for coffee, or for heating or reconstituting soup or other foods.
During World War II, the U.S. government tasked the Coleman outdoor camping equipment company to develop a compact stove for military use. The stove had to be lightweight, no larger than a quart-sized thermos bottle, burn any kind of fuel, and operate in weather from −60 to +125 °Fahrenheit. Within 60 days, Coleman came up with what became the G.I. Pocket Stove. Designated their Model 520 Coleman Military Burner, and referred to by the Army Quartermaster Corps as the M1941 Stove, the stove first saw service in November 1942 when 5,000 of the stoves accompanied U.S. forces during the invasion of North Africa. Over 1 million of the stoves were produced for war use, where it won high praise in the field: journalist Ernie Pyle ranked it "just behind the Jeep” in its usefulness. Six small hinged metal pieces on the top fold outward for use as pot supports, and fold inward for storage. The stove came with a two-piece telescoping aluminum case, which can be used as cooking pots. Source: Wikipedia
During World War II, another common source of heat for preparing food was small olive drab cans of jellied wood alcohol. The nomenclature was Fuel-Tablet, Ration Heating. The small can seen here could adequately heat a ration can or even boil water for coffee. The larger fuel can was meant to prepare rations for 5 people. The cans would be opened by prying under the lid. Then, the wood alcohol would be lit with a match or lighter. After use, the flame was extinguished by carefully sliding the lid over it. With the flame out, the can was resealed, thus saving the balance of the fuel for later use.
This month’s featured artifact is the K-11 compensating gunsight, part #655441 serial # 1611 made by the Sperry Gyroscope Company of Brooklyn, New York.
The K-11 was used primarily in the nose turret of the Consolidated B-24 Heavy Bomber during WW2. The K-11 Compensating Gun Sight was a late war innovation that used the aircraft’s altitude and speed with the direct correlation of where the weapon was pointed to calculate the reticle. The aircraft altitude and speed was programmed into the dial shown on the rear of the sight. The correlation was determined by drive lines that connected the K-11 Sight to the turret.
A compensating sight offsets the line of sight only to compensate for the speed of the firing aircraft. These sights did not take into account target range, but based their calculation on the angle between the gun line and the aircraft axis, using two dimensional cams.
The museum’s piece is a nice clean example and shows the bore sighting instructions on the side as well as front and rear folding sights. It also features the rear sun shield, which you don’t find on many surviving examples. This could also be folded down rearward and out of the way when not required. Note the placard that states that it can only be used in the nose cone position only. The K-11’s sister sight, the K-13 was another compensating gun sight that could be used in the side and waist gun positions and was mounted directly on the rear housing of the .50 caliber machine guns in those positions.
Recently the local Home Depot Store in Inver Grove Heights donated two Milwaukee battery operated Jobsite light systems to our wing. It was a fantastic donation that will help us improve safety by reducing extension cord clutter on the floor of our WW2 hangar. This was one of the many donations we have received over the years from individuals and companies.
Their donations help us keep our museum open, airplanes flying and WW2 vehicles at local events and parades.
During this season of giving we would like to thank a few of our generous corporate donors.
Lucus Oil Products, Inc
Advance Auto Parts
From all of us at the Commemorative Air Force Minnesota wing, a big thank you!! Our mission to inspire, honor and educate could not continue without their generous support.
The Honeywell C-1 Autopilot was an electronic-mechanical system designed to reduce the amount of fatigue that pilots felt while hand flying the aircraft for long periods by automatically flying an airplane in straight and level flight. It could also be used to fly the aircraft through gentle maneuvers such as banks, turns and slight altitude changes. When coupled with the Norden bombsight, it created a stable platform that was necessary to bomb targets accurately from high altitude.
This autopilot consisted of two spinning gyroscopes located in cases attached to the airplane. One gyroscope, called the Flight Gyro, was located near the aircraft’s center of gravity and detected changes in roll and pitch. The Directional Gyro, located in the bombsight stabilizer, detected changes in yaw. Using a series of electrical signals, the C-1 Autopilot controlled the aircraft with servos connected to the control surfaces of the aircraft. Either the pilot or the bombardier could control the aircraft.
The C-1 Autopilot system was used extensively in WW2-era bomber aircraft of the US Army Air Forces, including the B-17 Flying Fortress, the Consolidated B-24 Liberator and the B-29 Superfortress. The control panel would typically be installed at the pedestal between the pilot and co-pilot. The C-1 revolutionized precision bombing in the war effort, and was ultimately used on the Enola Gay and Bockscar B-29 bombers that dropped atomic bombs on Japan in 1945, bringing the end of hostilities of WW2.
We have a proud local connection in that these panels were manufactured by Honeywell here in the Twin Cities. Prior to WWII, Honeywell had gone through a successful period of growth and global expansion in the technology sector. With the outbreak of war, Minneapolis-Honeywell was approached by the US military for engineering and manufacturing products and included the C-1 autopilot, the turbo supercharger along with tank periscopes, camera stabilizers and more accurate fuel gauges, among other things. During the war and post-war years, Honeywell manufactured over 35,000 autopilots and thousands of the Norden bombsights under contract.
This rifle was used by Japan in World War II from 1939 to 1945. It is a bolt-action rifle firing a 7.7mm caliber bullet, and was designed by Japanese Army Colonel Nariakira Arisaka. It is called the type 99 because it was introduced into service in the Japanese calendar year of 2599, which corresponds to the year 1939.
The Type 99 was produced in several versions, and the original standard rifle came with a folding wire monopod intended to improve accuracy in the prone position. It also had a folding rear sight that featured folding horizontal extensions intended for greater accuracy when shooting at aircraft. The monopod and antiaircraft sight extensions were not very effective during the war, so they were eliminated on later rifles. As the war progressed, the quality of manufacture and of the materials it was made of steadily diminished. Despite this, rifles made near the end of the war still shot just as well as the early war rifles.
Another feature of the Type 99 was an engraving of the imperial chrysanthemum on top of the rifle receiver. An image of the chrysanthemum flower is a national seal and a crest used by the Emperor of Japan and members of the Imperial Family. It was placed on an item of military equipment to show that it belonged to the emperor, and was used under his authority. When Japanese weapons were surrendered at the end of the war, Japanese soldiers would deface or remove the chrysanthemum. This was done to indicate that the rifle no longer belonged to the Emperor, and also to preserve his honor.
U.S. Marines and U.S. Army soldiers returning from the Pacific theater brought these rifles home with them as trophies and souvenirs at the end of the war, so there are many Type 99 rifles available in America. As luck would have it, an early version of this rifle is owned by the Minnesota Wing of the CAF. Our rifle is an early version, complete with monopod, antiaircraft sight, and defaced chrysanthemum.
Mickey Nelson worked for the US Defense Dept in 1942-1943 building the Alcan Highway through British Columbia to Alaska and was a US Army Private First Class at Ft Knox in the motor pool in 1944-1945. He maintained tanks in an armored division during WWII.
Mickey Nelson made headlines as he walked 100 miles the Summer of his 100th birthday and raised $100,000 for the Salvation Army food shelf! During the Depression his family always had enough food to eat but he remembers the breadlines in those days and people lining up for something to eat. It left a mark on him and he wanted the money to go to food. During the COVID-19 pandemic the requests for food assistance from the Salvation Army had risen greatly so the fundraiser came at just the right time.
Mickey and his family (4 generations) came for a tour and enjoyed seeing the displays, planes and motor pool vehicles. He was thrilled to get a ride in one of the vehicles. Mickey is an inspiration and we were so glad we could show him and his family around.
This months spotlight is on Fleming Field and the original hangars that were built by the Navy in 1942. One of the original hangars is home to the Commemorative Air Force and the museum which couldn't be more fitting.
Fleming Field was established on July 20th, 1943 to provide support for NAS Minneapolis. In 1942, the Navy announced the opening of an naval auxiliary air facility (NAAF) and purchased McInnis Field, a small airfield at South St. Paul, for its B-Base. Fleming Field was planned by Navy Lt. H.K. Laing, and the Navy invested considerably into developing the airfield.
Before the war, it was known first as Hook-Em-Cow Field and used by a local flying club. In 1939, the airfield was little more than a mowed landing strip surrounded by farms. Adrian C. McInnis bought the airfield in 1940 and he started a flight school under the federally funded Civilian Pilot Training Program. McInnis Field had only one hangar up when it was officially dedicated on September 29, 1940. Plans were announced that included building larger hangars, but the onset of World War II curbed those plans.
In September 1942, construction started on the naval auxiliary airfield, which was all designed at the Navy Field Office in Minneapolis. The airfield was quickly transformed into an auxiliary Primary flight school for NAS Minneapolis' Training Squadron 1B. Four wooden hangars went up immediately on the north side of the concrete apron as it was being poured.
Two wooden barracks and ship's services were also constructed immediately east of the four hangars on Airport Road. The barracks only housed ground support personnel assigned to Fleming Field. One of the barracks housed WAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service), which was the
Navy's Reserve unit for women during World War II.
Early additions to Fleming Field (B-Base) included two more hangars and assembly/maintenance shop built on the east side of the apron. A wooden platform tower, and storage facilities for water and gasoline were also added on the apron's north side. The control/signal tower was constructed using wood timber posts and dimensional lumber. A concrete apron was also built and measured approximately 780 ft. x 260 ft., and provided space for one-hundred U.S. Navy primary training aircraft.
Two diagonal taxi strips led from the apron to both the north and south landing pads. Each circle measured 1,500 feet in diameter. Student fliers simply taxied out to the center of the landing circle, revved up, and took off. The take-offs were in all directions taken as fast as students reached the center of the circle. Landings were the reverse of take-offs. Planes landed after lining up over the pylons.
Fleming's north land circle was a grass pad, and it could become packed with dirt, or snow in the winter months. Often the plane's propellers churned up clouds of dust causing visibility problems for cadets.
The south landing circle was situated on very sandy soil that gradually turned into a marsh with a small lake to its south. The circle was paved and received 200,000 square yards of a soil cement mix, but severe weather prevented its completion in the fall of 1942. A local farmer recalled how the south landing pad was built. Preparation for surfacing the field began with clearing and smoothing out the 1,500 foot diameter pad. After removing boulders and large stones, the entire circle was dusted with a layer of dry Portland cement. The top layer of sand and cement was dragged or mixed before the final step of wetting down the surface. When the mix cured it became known as the "earth cement" landing surface. The strength of the rough hardened surface was questionable but the Navy's Primary planes only weighed about 1,900 pounds.
The Navy built six Quonset-style hangars in all, numbered 2-7 (in addition to an existing hangar) and used them to house their N2S and older N3N "Yellow Peril" biplanes. The familiar barrel shaped hangars were constructed of glued laminated wood arch beams and made by Rilco Laminated Products, Inc., of Blue Earth, MN. Wood planks were used for roof decking and green tarpaper was used for roofing. The Navy constructed a total of six hangars, two barracks, a boiler room, power house and storage facilities.
In May 1943, the new Naval Auxiliary Air Field (McInnis Field) opened at South St. Paul, and it began operating as the B-Base for NAS Minneapolis. On July 20, 1943, McInnis Field was renamed Fleming Field in honor of Captain Richard E. Fleming (USMCR), a local aviator who died in the Battle of Midway on June 5, 1942. He was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor. Fleming Field was
officially dedicated on January 3, 1944.
The Link trainer was the first flight simulator created by Edwin Link. Link was an engineer at his father’s organ building business. In 1928 he left the family business to begin work on a “pilot trainer” and in 1931 he received a patent. Most of his first sales were to amusement parks. In the beginning there was very little interest by the flying community in Link’s trainer. In 1934 the Army Air Corps bought six Link trainers to assist in training pilots to fly at night and in bad weather, relying on instruments. By the 1940’s Link sold approximately 10,000 trainers to the military.
An instructor sat at the desk and transmitted radio messages which the student heard through his earphones. The student relied on his instruments to fly the Link through various maneuvers while his navigational course was traced on a map on the desk.
The Link trainer holds a significant place in history, it was the first true flight simulator. It provided safe training to student pilots during the 1930’s and 40’s.
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