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Hormel Foods History with the U.S. Military

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Supporting the American dream of freedom and success

In 1891, George A. Hormel started a company built on pride, hard work, innovation, and the belief in the quintessentially American notion that success is within reach. So it is little wonder that Hormel Foods has held fast to a commitment of service to the country whose freedoms and opportunities made its success possible.

Throughout the company’s history—and in the face of several wars—Hormel Foods has supported the United States armed forces.  We continue to honor this commitment with both pride and a sense of great privilege.

Support from the home front since 1898

During the ten-week Spanish-American war of 1898—a mere seven years since the company’s founding—George Hormel gave $10 as a show of support and promised full benefits and a job upon return to three employees who enlisted with Company G of the Minnesota National Guard. The absence of even three employees was significant given the size of the company at that time. Among the three enlistees was Ben Hormel, George’s brother, and his enlistment is in itself a testament to the patriotism that was so deeply a part of the Hormel family’s values.

WWI soldierIn 1917, the company joined the effort as World War I erupted in Europe. George Hormel was called to Washington to hear the wartime measures instigated by Herbert Hoover, head of the U.S. Food Administration, to regulate meatpacking operations in order to conserve and increase the supply of meat, stabilize prices and keep packers from selling on the black market. 

Jay C. Hormel, George’s son, was the first enlisted man from Minnesota to report for service at Camp Dodge, IA, a member of the 351st Infantry, 88th Division—even though he could have deferred due to his role in the important food industry. He was promoted to Chief Quartermaster at Tours, France, in 1918.  Even after leaving the Army, Jay continued to support the military by assisting the government in ongoing food-related programs and policies. He became the second president of Hormel in 1929.

Hormel Foods on the battlefront: the World War II years

At no time in its history has Hormel been more involved in—and committed to—its country’s war efforts than during the Second World War. 

With the passing of the Lend Lease Act of 1941, the United States agreed to provide as much “aid short of war” as possible to our Allies who were already enmeshed in the conflict. For Hormel Foods, this meant shipping up to 15 million cans of meat per week overseas, most of which was the iconic SPAM® luncheon meat.  By 1944, more than 90 percent of the company's canned foods were shipped for government use.  By early 1945, 65 percent of all Hormel Foods products were consumed by U.S. troops in the European and Pacific theaters.

Buy War BondsOne of the biggest efforts by Hormel Foods in support of the war was the Liberty Bond (called War Bonds after the bombing of Pearl Harbor) purchasing program, whereby employees could buy bonds with funds taken directly from their paychecks. By 1942, a full 90 percent of employees were buying bonds this way.

Hormel Foods also gave employees who were called to serve a great measure of assurance when Jay Hormel announced that returning military would retain their old jobs without any loss of seniority. He informed military members of this good news in a personal letter—in fact, writing letters to his employees in the service was something that Jay did faithfully and regularly.

Altogether nearly 2,000 Hormel Foods employees were called to active duty, 65 of whom gave their lives.  While male employees were away serving, Hormel Foosd hired 1,300 women replacements to ensure that the company was able to keep up with production. Even after the war, Jay Hormel’s patriotism and commitment were evident, as remained active in the American Legion for many years. 

1942 saw the introduction of the first military K-ration, the much maligned but lifesaving battle-field meal. Hormel Foods provided the ingredients for these rations, which included pork with apple flakes and carrots; veal loaf; chopped pork and egg yolks; and ham and eggs.

Spam can vintageA letter from Dwight D. Eisenhower to Hormel Foods, to mark the company’s 75th anniversary, comments on the company’s products that were eaten daily by American GIs.

“… I ate my share of SPAM along with millions of soldiers,” he wrote.  “I’ll even confess to a few unkind remarks about it. As former Commander In Chief, I officially forgive you your only sin: sending us so much of it.”

Support during every conflict

Hormel Foods continued it tradition of supporting the military during the Korean, Vietnam and Persian Gulf wars. Once again, military leave was granted freely to the hundreds of employees called to duty, with the promise of a job waiting upon their return.

Persian Gulf:
Members of the military in our country’s most recent conflicts in the Middle East are once again being well nourished thanks to Hormel Foods. Top Shelf® packaged dinners—the same meals sold to consumers in grocery stores—became a new source of sustenance, a most welcome change from the ubiquitous MREs. The company also supplemented the military salaries of any employee serving, helping the soldier’s families get through the difficult time apart.

Spamville campVietnam:
In addition, the company again came to the aid of the country by supplying food for the Armed Forces, facing and overcoming the challenges of meeting supply for huge orders from the U.S. Quartermaster.  SPAM® once again became the go-to canned meat for Americans in Korea and Vietnam alike providing much-needed protein to soldiers far from home.

Our support is constant, in war and peace

Making food is what we’ve been doing for more than a century, always in step with the needs and trends of the times. That includes our customers in the United States military, whose needs are so important in terms of both nutrition and taste. Today, we supply the military soldier womanwith exciting foods that offer our military men and women a taste of home—providing a measure of comfort and familiarity when they’re far away.  Healthier products like our Natural Choice® line of meats, authentic global flavors like Café H® and comfort foods like Austin Blues® BBQ deliver that much-needed variety and enjoyment. 

Hormel Foods will continue its support of the U.S. military for as long as it takes.  It’s a history and a partnership that makes us proud.

We salute you all.