1937, SPAM is born! Originally called HORMEL Spiced Ham, the company holds a contest to create a name as distinctive as the taste. The winner, Kenneth Daigneau, receives the grand prize... $100.
Other important 1937 occurrences: Amelia Earhart, disappears in her attempt to be the first woman to fly around the world; Route 66 is officially completed, total distance: 2,448 miles (that's 39 million cans of SPAM laid end-to-end!); the Golden Gate Bridge opens.
Then comes the '60s, peace signs, hippies, flower children, Vietnam, Timothy Leary, Peter Max, Bouffant hairdos, Twiggy, artificial turf - just about anything and everything goes on in the '60s, including plenty of SPAM Luncheon Meat (history items copied from the official Spam site at www.Spam.com)
This food stuff called "SPAM" can get you into a heated
argument with members of Marine Air Group (MAG) 36 that served on the obnoxious
base called Ky Ha South Viet Nam circa 1965 through 1966 in a heart beat.
Why you may well ask? Well I will attempt to tell the tale.
When MAG-36 sailed from Long Beach California there were two ships involved. An AK (navy cargo vessel like this) I do not know the vessel's name and the USS Princeton LPH-5 with the squadron's helos aboard. The Princeton has a glorious history. During the sailing to Nam brief stops were made in Hawaii and Subic Bay Philippines. At this point the AK had developed a crack in her hull and was diverted to Okinawa for repairs. Here is were the Marines and Corpsmen assigned to MAG-36 would become quite familiar with "SPAM".
We debarked in Ky Ha and began our combat tour. Facilities were rough to start with and the mess hall (tent if you must) was placed in an uneven bit of land. There wasn't any fancy seating here at best you could stand at one of many counters and eat your meal or you could go sit outside and enjoy your repast. A gourmet meal of green scrambled eggs, crunchy bread and SPAM or Split Pea soup and crunchy bread and Spam on really good days you could get Peanut Butter and Grape Jam and crunchy bread and of course SPAM. It wasn't the cooks and bakers fault as all the groups main mess hall equipment was on the AK in Okinawa. For three months it was C rats or SPAM.
The folks in HMM-364 had a scrounge, named Curly, that could get his hands on the Big mess hall cans of noodle soup from the Marine Airbase at Chu Lai and that was always a treat to have something different than crunchy bread, split pea soup and SPAM.
My most memorable meal was after a combat mission it was raining and I went to the Mess tent. It was full and no standing room so I got my mess kit filled with Split Pea soup on one side two pieces of SPAM on the other side and two pieces of Crunchy bread, and a cup of black death and went outside to enjoy yet another outstanding meal. Before I got started the soup was thinner the bread was limp but the SPAM sat there in all its pink greasy glory as if to say nothing you do can change me. This condition of food choices lasted about three months and finally the AK arrived at Ky Ha and the Mess facility was erected . Seating was available and there were fried eggs, vegetables, ham and beef. With some well baked smooth bread and hot rolls for breakfast. Of course there was still SPAM but not as often. I can still see that gray green tin container about 4 X 4 inches and about a foot long with a slimy pink mass protruding from the can next to the cooks grill.
There are those amongst that group of hardy individuals who to this day refuse to have, hold, buy or get near SPAM. In fact many of them become quite bellicose about the subject of SPAM. Doctor Seuss may well have written a poem about Green Eggs and SPAM instead of "Green Eggs and Ham." "I do not like them, Sam-I-Am. I do not like green eggs and SPAM."
Don't forget those "John Wayne" crackers! You could chip a tooth on them! Yes, Bill - to this very day I cannot even stand to look at spit pea soup and spam or any combination thereof. Ugh!
John S. Beeman, former Sgt. USMC
Richard R. Ibach, former LCpl. USMC
Robert R. Bryant, former Sgt. USMC
MSgt. William V. M. Peck's History Index
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