The Jewish Salami War


Although keeping kosher was not a priority for most of the 500, 000+ Jews who served in the US military during World War II, kosher salami was among the most sought after Jewish comfort foods.

American rabbis worked unceasingly to satisfy the demand, and distributed salamis everywhere from Belgium to Burma. Archived correspondence of civilian rabbis and military chaplains reveals that the “salami war” was a frequent source of discussion, humorous and otherwise. But along with more critical supplies salamis were sometimes lost amid a vast military bureaucracy.

“Malodorous,” was the term used by one chaplain upon locating a misplaced, spoiled cargo of salami meant for the Pacific Theater of Operations. “I’ve heard of incompetence in the Army,” he wrote civilian colleagues, “but this is rank.”

One civilian rabbi jokingly suggested that famed General Patton deploy the fragrant delicacy as a “lethal weapon” against Germany. Writing from New Guinea, another chaplain joked, off-color, that a “whole Jap company, smelling the delicacy, had decided to surrender.”

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