FEATURED ARTIFACT: ITALIAN MESS KIT
Mess kits are some of the most ever-present artifacts from World War II. Every soldier carried a mess kit made up of a plate, knife, fork, and spoon, and would sometimes even eat meals out of their helmets. The artifact here, however, shows that some mess kits — particularly those belonging to officers — were quite impressive.
In reality, this Italian officer’s mess kit is more akin to a field kitchen equipped to feed three officers. Not only does it include plates and silverware, but the kit’s Italian origins are reflected in the inclusion of a cheese grater, a pot with a built-in colander, and oil and vinegar bottles. Though not included in the Museum’s example, officer’s mess kits would also include a coffee pot and steel stove. The kit itself can be fitted with four legs to create a tabletop for mealtime.
The kit was picked up in North Africa by Capt. Laurent A. Charbonnet (pictured, center, in the slideshow photo above) of the 88th Infantry Division before disembarking for combat in Italy. Once there, Charbonnet, the commanding officer of F Company, 350th Infantry Regiment, participated in the Rome-Arno, North Apennines, and Po Valley campaigns. He was wounded on 15 April 1945 in fighting during the Bologna Offensive. Charbonnet managed to keep the massive kit with him through discharge.
Gift of the family of Laurent A. Charbonnet, The National World War II Museum Inc., 2000.192.