On April 6, 1917, the U.S. declared war on Germany and formally entered World War I. By late June, American infantry troops began arriving in Europe. One thing they couldn’t do without? Coffee.
“Coffee was as important as beef and bread,” a high-ranking Army official concluded after the war. A postwar review of the military’s coffee supply concurred, stating that it “restored courage and strength” and “kept up the morale.”
In fact, U.S. troops had long looked toward coffee as a small source of salvation amid the hell of war. During the Civil War, Union soldiers received around 36 pounds of coffee a year, according to Jon Grinspan, a curator at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History.
“Some Union soldiers got rifles with a mechanical grinder with a hand crank built into the buttstock,” he told NPR. “They’d fill a hallowed space within the carbine’s stock with coffee beans, grind it up, dump it out and cook coffee that way.”