Chocolate and Patriotism

Lindsay Morgner


This famous 2014 Sainsbury ad depicts British and German soldiers laying down their weapons to celebrate Christmas in 1914.  The advertisement poignantly captures soldiers singing “Silent Night'' in both languages, playing a soccer match, and concludes with the ad’s featured characters exchanging gifts of chocolate.

Millions of people worldwide love chocolate and the candy is frequently associated with childhood innocence, fun, love, and several holidays.  However, chocolate has also played a central role in fostering patriotism during wartime.  Chocolate and patriotism have been intrinsically linked to both soldiers on the front lines and women on the homefront.  There has been a long history of chocolate playing a role in American military conflicts with generals giving chocolate to soldiers to improve morale by recreating the nostalgic feelings associated with the candy. (2) By examining advertisements, letters, interviews, and images, I analyzed the role that chocolate played in various American wars as well as the importance that this global commodity had in improving morale on both the front lines and on the homefront as well as in saving soldiers’ lives.

First, I examined the advertising campaigns used during World War II that include both housewives and soldiers.  For example, in 1937, the U.S. Army contacted the Hershey Company to manufacture a specially designed bar to be used as emergency rations.  The U.S. government had four requests for their Army chocolate bars, “they had to weigh 4 ounces, be high in energy, withstand high temperatures and taste a little better than a boiled potato.  The army did not want the bar to be so tasty that soldiers would eat it in non-emergency situations.” (3)  

The analysis is principally focused on the role of chocolate in World War II; however, I also discussed the impact that chocolate had in other American military conflicts since the candy was used to improve morale in every American military conflict since the Revolutionary War.  The analysis utilizes research  concerning the following leading American chocolate companies:  Hershey’s, Nestle, Mars, and Whitman's.  

Prior to World War II, chocolate was primarily used to improve morale by providing soldiers with a familiar candy from home.  Chocolate was also used to foster patriotism by linking the homefront to the frontlines through chocolate fundraising campaigns.  However, in World War II, chocolate was used not only to improve morale and to foster patriotism but the U.S. government developed a technologically-advanced, lightweight, and easy to carry chocolate emergency ration.  These chocolate rations literally saved numerous soldiers’ lives over the course of the war.  

1. Sainsbury’s. 1914 | Sainsbury's Ad | Christmas 2014, 2014. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NWF2JBb1bvM.

2.  Archives Foundation. History of Chocolate and the Military, 2020. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JNOEP2LLENA.

3 Butler, Stephanie. “How Hershey's Chocolate Helped Power Allied Troops during WWII.” History.com. A&E Television Networks, June 6, 2014. https://www.history.com/news/hersheys-chocolate-allied-d-day-rations-wwii.

                                                                                  Primary Sources

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