Winter Sunlight

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Here's an esoteric historical question for you: what did WWII-era soldiers in the field do with the packaging from c-rations and other trash of that nature? My intuitive feeling is that they'd just drop it wherever they happened to be, because a) carrying useless weight is highly impractical when you're tired and underfed and people are trying to kill you, and b) our modern-day cultural value regarding "littering is bad" had yet to take hold, and wasn't really something most people thought about, so just chucking a can into the bushes was a perfectly valid way of dealing with it, if you didn't have an immediate use for it.

(For that matter, my general experience has been that there's still sort of an urban/rural divide about it, with a lot of rural/semi-rural people not really thinking too much about dealing with trash in the old-fashioned "just drop it wherever" style. We're always having to clean up after hunters and picnickers in the gravel pit. Read a book not too long ago on Montana ranching that describes how one ranch where the writer worked as a ranch hand would just bulldoze the bodies of dead cows off a handy nearby cliff. Out of sight, out of mind!)

It's a strangely difficult detail to find via googling, though.

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I'm pretty sure that at the front they couldn't care less about the environment. Also, did they already had plastic wraps? cause otherwise, all the trash was mostly degradable. Nothing worse than piles of dead bodies anyway and you know, bombs, shells, shrapnels...
Yeah, that's pretty much what I'm going with (and they didn't have plastic packaging yet, so it's basically cans and boxes). It's interesting how ingrained the "don't litter!" idea has become in the last few decades that it's really difficult to write characters just tossing cans off mountain paths and whatnot!
In town and in normal life, by then they had probably learn not to litter.
It's well known in France that the bin (poubelle in French) was invented by the Parisian prefect Poubelle to improve hygiene of Paris. It was at the end of the 19e century (1883).
I have a close friend who's a Vietnam vet. I know that's more recent than WWII-era, but I can ask him if you want.

As far as bulldozing dead cows off a cliff, we have a similar situation going on right now at our (very rural) homestead. We still don't live there full time and only visit on weekends. I recently discovered that a neighbor had pushed three dead goats over the "cliff" at the edge of their property...which drops down into the lowlands that surround our creek frontage. So, um. Yeah. Their dead goat carcasses are now on our property. Lovely. Smelled pretty bad for a week or two, but now nature has mostly taken its course, so we're just left with bones and some scraps of hide (which will wash away the next time the creek floods). And a bone (pun intended) to pick with the neighbors. >_>

I appreciate the offer, but you don't have to; I think I'm feeling pretty confident about going with what I'm going with (which is basically just "drop it wherever you are"). And oh wow, how incredibly unpleasant! Ugh. We have an ongoing problem with poachers dumping carcasses on the edge of our property, or in the adjacent gravel pit, because we're just far enough from town to seem suitably remote, but close enough to be easily accessible. Worst of all possible worlds!
I was going to say, "They probably just dropped it where ever..." but then I started thinking about different types of missions.

For a reconnaissance mission, especially near or behind enemy lines, I would guess that soldiers were trained to keep their trash with them and disguise their tracks to avoid detection by the enemy.

Oh, that's actually a really good point about not giving yourself away! I think mostly, they probably wouldn't have worried about it too much, but for infiltration, that makes a lot of sense.
I would imagine anything that could be useful and repurposed would be retained. This article on K-rations (invented for WWII) has a detailed description of the packaging, and mentions using the outer containers for small fires.

More interesting pics and photos of C-rations:

I'm pretty sure plastic wrap wasn't yet invented, so everything was in cans, cellophane, or some sort of coated waxed paper. Again, some of these may have been reusable, so lightweight items may have been folded up and carried in pockets. As long as there was no reason for secrecy or to hide troop movements, they probably just dumped anything that was excess.
*nods* Yeah, it makes sense to keep anything that was useful. I expect that they would have repurposed what was useful and just tossed what wasn't.
I would agree with allanh & margec01. In some situations I'd imagine you'd just drop stuff where it was most convienent unless you were trying to hide your trail and reuse whatever might be useful.
I go with the others - I'd say they dropped it unless they were trying to stay hidden... and all these years later, archaeologists are very glad they did (if no one else is :)
Re: environment, a friend of mine who was deployed with the Americans in Afghanistan (haven't asked my Canadian military buddies) mentioned once that they generated a whole lot of litter that they just left there, so littering is _still_ the done thing.
Ha. I can totally imagine that being the case. .... and really, when people are shooting at you, packing out your litter is not going to be at the top of your to-do list.
I would have asked my grandfather but unfortunately he isn't around anymore.. the British imperial war museum might know.. they have an impressive archive of stories from actual combatants of the era who may have mentioned it..

I personally think it would depend on where they were.. if they were in enemy territory discarding such things wouldn't be advised as it lets the enemy know you are there.. if they were at 'home' then there is a good chance the wrappings and other such waste would have been burn't or possibly saved for kindling or used as toilet paper, etc..