The Palm Springs Air Museum hosted a presentation Saturday recognizing the canned meat product’s contribution to the Allied effort during WWII, with a DVD documentary, recipes and samples of Spam’s relatively new low-sodium version.
The event was the brainchild of Harold Willliamson, the air museum’s former president who looked for ways to commemorate the 65th anniversary of the Allied victory.
“A hundred million pounds of Spam were shipped overseas during the war, and it was one of the key impacts on the home front in support of the troops,” he said Saturday.
Many U.S. troops became all too familiar with the canned Hormel pork product, packaged in durable and easy to ship rectangular cans. So much so that, at times many of them found they couldn’t bear to eat another bite.
Others, though, couldn’t get enough.
“We never had enough of it for it to really become a problem,” said Bob McKee, a Palm Springs resident and docent at the museum who fought in the Pacific theater.
He said he was more often fed frozen mutton and other sheep products that came from New Zealand and Australia wrapped in giant burlap bags.
“I couldn’t even stand to look at that stuff,” he said, talking about the mutton.
Spam became a major protein source for the British, and Soviet Union Premier Nikita Kruschev said it saved the Russian Army.
It became a staple for other populations as well.
Author Anke Otto Wolf, appearing at a book fair held Saturday in the same hangar as the Spam exhibit, broke into Williamson’s speech to add, “Spam saved my life.”
She explained that she was born in Berlin before the war, and after German dictator Adolf Hitler’s regime collapsed, Allied troops fed Spam to her family and other Germans.
“I didn’t think about that story until I heard Spam was going to be here today,” she said.
It was also introduced to locals in Hawaii and the rest of the South Pacific during the war, and remains a vital part of the regional diet today.
Air museum Education Director Greg Kenny pointed out it was among the supplies taken to the disabled Carnival Cruise ship that had to be towed back to San Diego last month.
Ken Woodward, a Korean War and World War II veteran who watched the presentation, said there are many groups it could be valuable for today.
It’s made inroads into South Korea, he noted, “and the North Koreans should have it, because they’re starving up there because of that dictator they have.
“That’s part of the difference between democracy and dictatorship.”