Lewis Army Museum

Inspire. Educate. Preserve.

Artifact of the Week

Here we will be sharing a new feature, the Artifact of the Week. Each week we’ll chose an artifact or group of artifacts that is not currently on exhibit and share it here, on our Facebook page and in our museum lobby. This gives us a chance to share artifacts that you may not have seen in our museum and offer more information about the history of Camp Lewis, Fort Lewis and Joint Base Lewis McChord Soldiers and their contributions to history.

US Army Rations


Army rations must stand up to long storage periods and be easily distributed when needed. The current U.S. Army ration is the Meal, Ready-to-Eat (MRE). Take a look back at Army rations and how they have changed over time.



The mixture of flour and water to make loaves, wafers and rolls has been around for at least 10,000 years. Hard biscuits were issued to Roman armies as part of their rations. Hardtack is a simple mixture of the above ingredients, sometimes with salt added, that is baked until hard. As long as it stays dry, hard tack can last for years. During the Civil War, both Union and Confederate troops subsisted off hardtack. In order to soften in it up, and therefore make it more edible, soldiers would soak the hardtack in water, coffee, stew or whiskey. Sometimes they would drop it into the fire first to cook out the insects that had nested during storage.


Meal, Combat, Individual (MCI)

The Meal, Combat, Individual (MCI) replaced the WWII-Korean War era C-Rations in 1958 and was replaced by the Meal, Ready-to-Eat (MRE) in 1980. Although notably different in packaging and content from earlier field provisions, Soldiers continued to refer to the MCI as the C-Ration.

The MCI consisted of three units:

M-Unit – meat

B-Unit – bread and candy

D-Unit – dessert

To prepare the meal, cans could be converted into miniature stoves using the P-38 can opener and trioxene fuel tablet. However, some adventurous Soldiers discovered that C-4 plastic explosives burned just as well as the fuel tablet and that the cans could also fit into vehicle exhaust pipes and readily be heated up by the vehicle exhaust.



The K-ration, or survival ration, was created for U.S Forces to subsist on when other types of meals were not available. The rations came in three boxes, one each for breakfast, dinner and supper. The menus in the three boxes are follows.


Meat and eggs

Assorted biscuits


Fruit bar


Chewing gum






Assorted biscuits

Lemonade or orangeade


Chewing gum









Chewing gum



Meal, Ready-to-Eat

The Meal, Ready-to-Eat (MRE) replaced the MCI in 1981, and is still in use today. It comes in plastic wrapping and includes the following:

Main course


Dessert or snack

Crackers or bread

Jelly, peanut butter, cheese

Beverage mix

Flameless ration heater


Beverage bag

Chewing gum



Moist towelette


Coffee powder



The historic Luger semiautomatic pistol is one of the most famous firearms of the 20th century. It’s distinctive toggle lock and sleek lines make it very recognizable. This pistol was a standard sidearm of the German, Swiss, and other armies for a period spanning nearly a half century, and produced in large quantities.  The Luger has tight manufacturing tolerances, excellent grip angle and shape, good trigger pull, and the fact that the barrel stays in a fixed position relative to the rest of the pistol except in the front-back dimension. These reasons contribute to it being well known for accuracy.

George Luger who was an employee of Loewe & Co., took the Borchardt pistol of 1893, as a starting point for designing the first pistols resembling what we would call a “Luger.” The changes he made included development of a new cartridge, the 7.65 Parabellum or 7.65×23 cartridge (also called .30 Luger in USA), a slightly shorter version of the Borchardt cartridge with a different powder charge. In addition to the new cartridge, Luger also redesigned the complex mechanism behind the grip. He retained the toggle-locking action of the Borchardt, but replaced the Borchardt’s unusual mainspring and the large housing it necessitated with a leaf spring in the grip, improving the balance of the pistol. He also angled the grip for better pointa-bility. A grip safety was added to the rear of the frame by 1904. The first patent was in 1898.

After making these changes, Loewe sought military contracts for production of the pistol. The first major success came in Switzerland, which adopted the Luger as its service pistol in 1900 in 7.65 caliber.  A number of other countries evaluated the Luger, including the United States, for which Loewe & Co. manufactured a number of Lugers in caliber .45ACP. The Luger was defeated in trials by the Colt-Browning pistol that later became the model 1911.  The Luger was sold commercially, but was never a big seller due to its high cost.

The Luger was the standard German sidearm throughout World War I. Luger production continued on and off during the post-war period, in part due to restrictions on German arms manufacture imposed by the Treaty of Versailles. The allies permitted official production to begin in 1925 at Simson and company. Simson, however, was Jewish-owned, and the company was liquidated when the Nazis came into power. The Luger manufacturing machinery was purchased by Krieghoff. Mauser purchased DWM’s Luger manufacturing machinery in 1929, and produced Lugers until the later part of World War II. The Luger was officially replaced for German military use in 1940 by the Walther P38 double-action 9mm Parabellum pistol, but certainly Lugers remained in service throughout the war.


German Army motorcycle helmet, helmet, Luger and garrison cap.



This week we bring you a small display in recognition of the 30th anniversary of the beginning of Operation Just Cause—the United States contingency mission in Panama against Manuel Noriega.

After launching an invasion of Panama in December 1989, US Forces captured Noriega at the Vatican Embassy in Panama City. Noriega was then tried in the US, France and Panama for a series of crimes related to drug trafficking and abuses of power. Noriega remained imprisoned until he died of complications from a brain hemorrhage in May of 2017.



The TEC-9 is a 9mm semiautomatic pistol. This TEC-9 was recovered during operations at one of Noriega’s compounds. The top of the pistol and the magazine are inscribed with the name “Lius del Sid” a colonel in the Panamanian Defense Force and Noriega’s deputy.



The ZPU-1 is an anti-aircraft machine gun made in the former Soviet Union. This type of weapon would normally be mounted on a chassis alone, or with up to three other ZPUs.


Service Shirt

The service shirt was reportedly taken after a raid on one of Noriega’s compounds. Decorating the shirt are a Jungle Warfare School patch and Parachutists badge.



Viet Cong shirt and combat equipment. The equipment belonged to one of the Viet Cong commandos who attacked the American embassy in Saigon, January 31st, 1968, and was donated by a former U.S. Army Military Police officer involved in the fight to take back the American embassy that day.

Launched in the early morning hours of January 31st, 1968, the “Tet” Offensive signified a turning point in the war in Vietnam.  Simultaneous and coordinated attacks launched by communist forces throughout the Republic of Vietnam (South Vietnam) were ultimately defeated by rapid and decisive action. American and other allied forces, in concert with the South Vietnamese military, counterattacked, inflicting heavy Viet Cong and North Vietnamese Army casualties.


View of the American embassy in Saigon as seen through one of the holes blown in the embassy’s outer wall by Viet Cong commandos on January 31st, 1968.

Along with the attack on the ancient Vietnamese city of Hue, the most iconic action occurred when a team of Viet Cong commandos stormed and occupied the American embassy in Saigon.

The attack commenced at 3 a.m. and lasted six hours.  After a brutal fight U.S. and South Vietnamese forces killed or captured all the Viet Cong attackers and reoccupied the embassy.


A Viet Cong commando is led away from the American embassy in Saigon by U.S. Army Military Policemen, January 31st, 1968