Vets wax poetic about their P-38s

Discussion about e-wallets morphs into stroll down Memory Lane

One of the more enjoyable aspects of my job is hitting on a topic every now and then that proves surprisingly meaningful - in a good way - for a surprising number of readers. Such has been the case recently with a post headlined: No e-wallet will ever replace a John Wayne. (It also ran in our March 7 print edition.)

A John Wayne in this context is a small can opener used by U.S. military personnel to open field rations from World War II until the 1980s. Some are still in circulation today, with some of their owners carrying them in their wallets. Here's what a few of them had to say:    

The proofs of my aging grow longer daily, but none has hurt as deeply as your amazement at the beloved P-38.  Maybe it really is time to buy that little cabin in the Montana woods and pull the gate closed after me.


I wore a P-38 with my dog tags for a brief period.  When I dropped to the ground and had it stab me in the chest once, I decided to switch it to my key chain. One stab in the leg and I came to the realization that the wallet was the only logical place to carry it.  It was a little more work to get to it when you needed it, but a whole lot less painful to carry.  That was 35 years ago.


With airport security as it is, my P-38 has been moved to a dresser drawer and is more of a keepsake than a useful tool.  Thanks for the article.  I hadn't even thought of a P-38 in years!


Thanks for the article on the P-38. Carrying mine since '78. My most prized military possession next to my Ranger tab and dog tags. Good to see I'm not the only one!


I would like to also point out that the hole on the end was just big enough to allow the beads of a dog tag chain to get pushed through.

It hung around my neck and was always conveniently handy - especially after the push to put so many pockets and pouches into the design of the Vietnam-era uniforms... (sigh)


Just wanted you to know that most of the "Old Timers" in the Army carry the famous P-38; don't know how popular it is with the younger soldiers.  I wear mine on my dog tag chain.  One handy tool.  My Dad was always was asking me for mine every time I went to visit; I think he was passing them out to all his buds.  Every time I see one discarded or left laying around I grab it.


Every real man carries a P-38 in his wallet. Also $100 bill, Band-aid, and spare unused credit card. I have had my P-38 since I was in Boy Scouts. When younger I carried another item, but that is another story.

Thanks to all of you who wrote.

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