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P-38 Can Opener "The Real Deal"


Salvage Sailor
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Salvage Sailor

Aloha Everyone,

 

Recently, I've seen quite afew P-38 can openers on eBay, at swap meets, surplus stores, etc. that purport to be "the real deal". I've also seen some obvious fakes or modern reproductions.

 

So for reference purposes, I submit my own P-38, still firmly attached to my dogtag chain where it's been for over 30 years.

P_38_001.jpg

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Salvage Sailor

This essential field weapon has opened many a can of beanie-weenies and searats.

P_38_002.jpg

P_38_003.jpg

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Salvage Sailor

And it's still sharp enough to cut an unwary finger when operating under famished conditions

P_38_004.jpg

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Salvage Sailor

As usual with USN & USMC units, we were issued surplus 'last war' gear.

 

Note the date on my P-38

 

US G.G. GREENE 1951

P_38_005.jpg

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One occupational hazard about having them on your dog tag chain was hoping that the thing was folded shut if you threw yourself to the ground.

 

Having it open and pointed towards your chest when you went flat on the ground could make your day very exciting!

 

I solved the problem by keeping them wrapped against my dog tags with a heavy duty rubberband. That kept the dog takes from rattling as well.

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That's a neat pic. A very common practice among GI's from what I understand. I wanted to share a pic of my grandpa's dog tags from WWII (with P-38 still attached also!) Looks like he had his tags taped together.

Nick

 

post-3661-1218425867.jpg

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  • 1 month later...

Can anyone tell me how to tell a WWII P-38 from the later ones? I have one I picked up at a flea market for $2 because it had an obvious age patina to it. It's identical to issue P-38's I own, but this one is completely unmarked. Can anyone help?

 

Camonick, is your grandfather's P-38 marked in any way?

 

Thanks,

 

Bill

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Can anyone tell me how to tell a WWII P-38 from the later ones? I have one I picked up at a flea market for $2 because it had an obvious age patina to it. It's identical to issue P-38's I own, but this one is completely unmarked. Can anyone help?

 

Camonick, is your grandfather's P-38 marked in any way?

 

Thanks,

 

Bill

 

Bill--

I am looking at my grandpa's P-38 right now and I can't see any marks on it whatsoever.

I have no clue as to tell what era a P-38 came from, but I can guarantee that his is 100% WWII 1945-46.

Nick

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El Bibliotecario
I know they were issued in brown paper like a sweet -n- low packet. Printing and date are on the packet. That's the way they were issued in ww2 anyway.

 

they were provided in brown paper wrappers into the early 70s--*laff* or maybe earlier, depending upon the date of ones meals. I have no idea they were "issued" in WW2--later there were just several loose P38s in each case of rations.

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they were provided in brown paper wrappers into the early 70s--*laff* or maybe earlier, depending upon the date of ones meals. I have no idea they were "issued" in WW2--later there were just several loose P38s in each case of rations.

 

I've done some research on how to identify P-38's. I found a website that indicates surplus P-38's from the '50's era has a "US" stamped on it and on the paper package with the date. Note how the one belonging to Salvage Sailor has the "US" on it and 1951. Maybe plain ones are from an earlier period? (WWII). think.gif Still not positive though. The website is olive-drab.com. Here is the link to the P-38 page. http://www.olive-drab.com/od_rations_p38.php There is a picture of the instructions and a picture of the individual packet they came in towards the bottom of the page.

 

P-38's weren't "issued" to WWII GI's like boots, weapons, etc. They came "issued" in the cases of C-Rats. I read somewhere that there used to be 12 included with a case of C-Rats but the GI's were starting to "collect" them so then there were only 3 included in a case. (It's either on another post here or on the web somewhere)

 

Hope this gives you some ideas.

If anybody else has a better way, please correct me. Now I'm curious to know how.

 

Nick

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They came with C-rations? OK. I have seen them with ww2 dates.

 

As the web page suggests, P-38 may mean the cans can be opened with 38 perforations.

 

P-38's weren't "issued" to WWII GI's like boots, weapons, etc. They came "issued" in the cases of C-Rats. I read somewhere that there used to be 12 included with a case of C-Rats but the GI's were starting to "collect" them so then there were only 3 included in a case. (It's either on another post here or on the web somewhere)
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They came with C-rations? OK. I have seen them with ww2 dates.

 

As the web page suggests, P-38 may mean the cans can be opened with 38 perforations.

Wow, that is very intersting, I didn't realize that is what the number stood for.

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Wow, that is very intersting, I didn't realize that is what the number stood for.

 

I saw that also about the number of punctures required to open a can.

Supposedly another theory of the name of the P-38 came from the fact that it is exactly 38mm (1 1/2") long. There is also a larger version called the P-51 that is, can you guess? ------ 51mm long.

 

Just for thought

Nick

 

PS Thanks for the web link DALBEY58--- that is where I read about how many were included with a case of C-Rats. (I can't keep track of all the web sites I read and where the info comes from)

Thanks!!!

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  • 2 years later...
airborne1968
They came with C-rations? OK. I have seen them with ww2 dates.

 

As the web page suggests, P-38 may mean the cans can be opened with 38 perforations.

 

Thought it was time to revive this thread. Some of the info appears to be misleading, such as this comment. What if I use my P-38 on a larger can? It will take more than 30 perforations to open.

 

BTW, the P38 was provided in T ration cases during Desert Storm (actually from the late 1980s into the mid 1990s). For those not samiliar with T-rations, they are large tins approx. 12" by 16" by 2" deep and contain eough food to feed approx 16 personnel. They were taken out of a case and placed into a plastic container with hot water. After soaking for a period of time they were opened with the P-38 that was provided in the case (usually there were about 6 P-38s/case). The tins consisted of a main meal, a side, and also as a bread/desert. This was a field ration served up on a paper plate (rarely a mess kit) and the guys in the unit would file through to receive their meal. Thats the way we did it in the 1st Bde, 1st Cavalry Division and in the Divarty, 82nd Airborne Division.

 

So, let's see how many P-38 dates and manufacture names we can accumulate on this thread.

 

We already know about these companies:

MIL-J-0837

SHELBY CO

CLARK METAL PROD

SPEAKER

KAY

GG GREEN

 

I have two that are also dated 1949 and 1962.

post-4228-1302788426.jpg

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I hate to throw a wrench into things, but you can purchase P-38's at almost every Army museum. I bought one in the gift shop at the Air Defense Museum at Ft. Bliss. I think I paid 50 cents for it.

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I hate to throw a wrench into things, but you can purchase P-38's at almost every Army museum. I bought one in the gift shop at the Air Defense Museum at Ft. Bliss. I think I paid 50 cents for it.

 

 

Very true, nearly every decent surplus shop I've been to sells them in the "last minute buy" area near the front. I have an original 60's-70's era P-38 I found in a VN era Field Jacket on my (cogtag) necklace (dog tag style! :packin heat:) and a more modern one from the local surplus shop on my keys.

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Garandomatic

I have a bunch of the ones from the last minute section, too. Keys, kitchen, yup. Our can opener crapped on us and it got the viking funeral treatment from me. Been using a P38 ever since. Only thing it doesn't work on is the large 6 lb. cans of tomatoes, beans and corn you get for big servings of chili.

 

Very true, nearly every decent surplus shop I've been to sells them in the "last minute buy" area near the front. I have an original 60's-70's era P-38 I found in a VN era Field Jacket on my (cogtag) necklace (dog tag style! :packin heat:) and a more modern one from the local surplus shop on my keys.
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  • 2 weeks later...

Further to Airborne68's post which included a pic of a grouping with a larger can opener, could members assist with identification of my can opener which is similar to the larger one previously shown? It was given to me by my office manager back in the 70's. He had received it in a ration pack whilst beseiged at Anzio in April 1944, where he reached is majority, ie 21years of age. I always thought it to be of British manufacture. As the photo shows it is marked with an N and M.M & S - 41. It is 46mm in length. Anyone identify manufacturer? I have taken the 41 to be it's year of manufacture.

 

I have also shown a pic of a Shelby P-38 on dog tags and a British army 1957 can opener for comparison.

post-13573-1303637420.jpg

post-13573-1303637658.jpg

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Having googled m.m&s the return is Marks and Spencers. Interestingly they use m.markesandspencers.com in the narrative.

 

Thus this suggests it is UK manufacture.

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