How Ice Cream Helped America at War

For sailors during World War I, ice cream was a delectable dessert that took the place of alcohol aboard ships during Prohibition. In 1914, General Order No. 99 banned liquor aboard naval vessels, and it was shortly followed by the 18th Amendment, which made alcohol illegal across the entire United States. As a result, ice cream became the de facto staple for boosting morale. In 1942, the aircraft carrier USS Lexington sustained damage from a Japanese torpedo and began sinking. As sailors abandoned ship, they grabbed containers of ice cream from the freezers and began chowing down. That fierce dedication to ice cream led the Navy to spend $1 million on an ice cream barge. They borrowed a concrete barge from the Army and retrofitted it as an at-sea ice cream factory. The ship, which was stationed in the Western Pacific, carted ice cream around to ships smaller than a destroyer that didn’t have their own ice cream-making factories aboard. The floating factory was able to make 10 gallons of ice cream in just 7 minutes, meaning one shift on the barge could produce approximately 500 gallons of frozen dessert for sailors. To accommodate the large amount of ice cream made, the barge could hold 2,000 gallons at a time. The barge wasn't the most practical ship in the Navy — it had no engine of its own and had to be pulled around by tug boats — but it was a sailor-favorite because it brought them a pretty good reward for their service.