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The P-38 is known as a "John Wayne" by the U.S. Marine Corps either because of its toughness and dependability or because of an unsubstantiated story that the actor had been shown in an as-yet-unidentified training film opening a can of K-Rations. The can opener is pocket-sized (approximately 1.5 inches, 38mm, in length) and consists of a short metal blade that serves as a handle (which doubles as a flat-blade screwdriver), with a small, hinged metal tooth that folds out to pierce the can lid. A notch just under the hinge point keeps the opener hooked around the rim of the can as the device is "walked" around to cut the lid out.

Official military designations for the P-38 include 'US ARMY POCKET CAN OPENER' and 'OPENER, CAN, HAND, FOLDING, TYPE I'. As with some other military terms (e.g. jeep), the origin of the term is not known with certainty; the P-38 opener coincidentally shares a designation with the P-38 'Lightning' fighter plane, which could allude to its fast performance. However, the P-51 can opener, while larger and easier to use than the P-38 can opener, also has a fighter plane namesake in the P-51, which is faster and smaller than the P-38 fighter. One rumored explanation for the origin of the name is that the P-38 is approximately 38 mm (1.5 in) long. This explanation also holds for the P-51, which measures approximately 51 mm (2.0 in) in length. U.S. Army sources, however, indicate that the origin of the name is rooted in the 38 punctures around the circumference of a C-ration can required for opening.

P-38s are no longer used for individual rations by the United States Armed Forces, as canned C-rations were replaced by uncanned MREs in the 1980s. The larger P-51s are, however, included with US military "Tray Rations" (canned bulk meals). They are also still seen in disaster recovery efforts and have been handed out alongside canned food by rescue organisations, both in America and abroad in Afghanistan. The original US-contract P-38 can openers were manufactured by J.W. Speaker Corp. (stamped "US Speaker") and by Washburn Corp. (marked "US Androck"), they were later made by Mallin Hardware (now defunct) of Shelby, Ohio and were variously stamped "US Mallin Shelby O." or "U.S. Shelby Co.".
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  • P-38 C-Ration 4 x Can Openers
    P-38 C-Ration 4 x Can Openers

    4 individually packed P-38 can Openers

    The Greatest Army Invention Ever by Maj R Foster. Army Public Affairs - Friday, August 19 1985 / Pentagram

    'It was developed in just 30 days in the summer of 1942 by the Subsistence Research Laboratory in Chigago. And never in its many years of old history has ever been known to break, rust, need sharpening or polishing. Which is why many soldiers past and present, have come to regard the P-38 C-Ration can opener as one of the greatest Army inventions ever. Small enough to be with your keys, or dog tags chains. Perfect for camping!

    C-Rations have long been replaced with the more convenient Meals Ready to Eat, but the phenomenon of the P-38 continue to sire due to the 1,000 and others uses atemming from the unique blend of ingenuity and creativity all soldiers seem to have.

    "The P-38 is one of those tools you keep and never want to get rid of" said Sgt Scott Kiraly of Port Monmouth N.J "I've have my P-38 since joining the Army 11 years ago and kept it because I can use it for a screwdriver, knife, anything!"

    $12.00

  • P-38 C-Ration Can Opener
    P-38 C-Ration Can Opener

    The Greatest Army Invention Ever by Maj R Foster

    Army Public Affairs - Friday, August 19 1985 / Pentagram

    'It was developed in just 30 days in the summer of 1942 by the Subsistence Research Laboratory in Chigago. And never in its many years of old history has ever been known to break, rust, need sharpening or polishing. Which is why many soldiers past and present, have come to regard the P-38 C-Ration can opener as one of the greatest Army inventions ever. Small enough to be with your keys, or dog tags chains. Perfect for camping!

    C-Rations have long been replaced with the more convenient Meals Ready to Eat, but the phenomenon of the P-38 continue to sire due to the 1,000 and others uses atemming from the unique blend of ingenuity and creativity all soldiers seem to have.

    "The P-38 is one of those tools you keep and never want to get rid of" said Sgt Scott Kiraly of Port Monmouth N.J "I've have my P-38 since joining the Army 11 years ago and kept it because I can use it for a screwdriver, knife, anything!"

    $3.95

  • P-38 C-Ration Can Opener 24 Pack
    P-38 C-Ration Can Opener 24 Pack

    Includes 24 individually packed P-38 C-Ration Can Opener

    $60.00

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