U.S. Army Eating
History,  News

Turkey & Fixings Served Soldiers on Island in 1934

An army travels on its stomach. Every private hears that in recruit training. But what if you were in the U.S. Army stationed on Governors Island during Thanksgiving, and not going anywhere? Army cooks and bakers were ready to serve. According to a Fort Jay Thanksgiving Dinner menu for November 29, 1934, the men ate well.

The menu consisted of:
Roast Turkey
Stuffed Olives
Hearts of Celery
Oyster Soup and Oyster Dressing
Giblet Gravy
Cranberry Sauce
Mashed Potatoes and Candied Sweet Potatoes
Fruit Salad
Sweet Relish
Vienna Rolls

For Dessert:
Pumpkin Pie and Mince Pie
Cocoanut Cake, Fruit Cake, and Chocolate Cake
Ice Cream with fruit, assorted nuts, and mixed candies

Since the Army provided everything back then, also on the menu in addition to coffee and punch were cigars and cigarettes.

The menu listed more than 250 members of those stationed on Governors Island of the 2nd Corps Area, the Fourth Signal Service Company, and the Quartermaster Corps. The majority are enlisted members. Perhaps the officers could eat dinner with their families in their quarters.

After the big dinner, what to do? If the men were lucky, they could get a liberty pass and take the ferry to Manhattan and see the new Cole Porter musical Anything Goes at the Alvin Theatre. Or if they wanted a movie, The Thin Man with William Powell and Myrna Loy was a hit.

That was eighty-two years ago. Exactly fifty years ago, in Vietnam, Army cooks were still making turkeys for the troops. A film from the National Archives shows the cooks taking the turkey on a helicopter to Special Forces in the field:

November 22, 1966
Traditional Thanksgiving Day Turkey Enjoyed By Special Forces In Vietnam
(Official U.S. Army film released by the Department of Defense)
A Thanksgiving Day dinner including the traditional turkey and all the trimmings was enjoyed by members of A Detachment, 5th Special Forces located at Xom Cat, thanks to Sergeant First Class Lonnie Mitchell (Supply, North Carolina).

For more history stories, pick up The Governors Island Explorer’s Guide (Globe Pequot).

Kevin C. Fitzpatrick has written and edited seven books with ties to New York history, including "The Governors Island Explorer's Guide" and "World War I New York: A Guide to the City’s Enduring Ties to the Great War." Kevin is a licensed sightseeing guide and has been leading walking tours since 1999. He resides in Manhattan.