Product Spotlight: The Backstory on the P-38 Design

Posted by Julia DePasquale on 5th Aug 2019

Product Spotlight: The Backstory on the P-38 Design

The 'I Have a P-38 and I Know How to Use It' phrase appears on several Patriot Depot products. However, many people don't fully understand what it means. I had the opportunity to speak with Ed Kirste, who came to Patriot Depot with this idea, to discuss the background of the phrase and the effect that he hopes it will have on those who see it.

Ed Kirste drove to Patriot Depot's office in Arizona, and he arrived with a sketch of his idea on a sheet of lined paper.

"I met with the head of Patriot Depot, and after I explained my idea and what it meant, he said, 'yeah, that would sell!'" said Kirste. "I told him if he made a million bucks off of it to send me a couple."

Kirste spent a majority of his childhood in San Gabriel Valley, California before moving with his family to Fort Worth, Texas for two years. During his time in high school, he joined the swim team and played in the marching band. However, halfway through his senior year, he decided to leave school and enlist in the army.

"I served three years in Germany driving a tank," he said. "I was in from 1960-1963, so when I got out, Vietnam was just starting to crank up. I saved myself from that."

In 1942, the Army issued the P-38, an inch and a half long can opener. Mess trucks distributed canned foods, called 'C-rations', to soldiers while they were working in the field, and the P-38 allowed them to prepare their meals.

"I remember that every guy had one of those things on his keyring, on his helmet, somewhere," Kirste said. "The Marines got one, but it's a little bigger and they called theirs the P-51. The P-38 is specific to the Army."

The Army began to distribute Meals Ready to Eat in place of Meal, Combat, Individual rations in the mid 1980s. A much lower percentage of the food in these rations came in cans, and as a result, use of the P-38 in the Army was phased out.

P-38 Can Opener

"Nowadays, it's only Korean and Vietnam veterans who are going to be able to understand and relate to what the shirt means," said Kirste.

He acknowledges that when most people see the shirt, they won't understand what it represents. Most would believe that it either refers to a gun or a type of military plane.

"I'm thinking that if they don't know that it's actually a can opener, they're thinking it's a handgun of some sort and I'm almost threatening in nature," he said. "If they are pro-gun, they'd probably be thinking, 'Yeah, right! Let's go shoot something!'. If the person is anti-gun, and they comment on it, you'd laugh and say, 'No, it's a can opener!'.

However, he also believes that the shirt has the potential to draw a very specific community of Army veterans together in a very unique and patriotic way.

"It's an inside thing, which is why I thought it would be a cool idea," he said. "It's a feeling of yeah, cool, I got one too. I know what you're talking about buddy, we're in the same club."

After Kirste finished his time in the Army, he worked for the LA County Sheriff's Department for 28 years, drove a truck for 10 years, and owned a handyman service. Now, he resides in Sun City, Arizona, with his wife, where he spends much of his free time in his garden.

We really appreciate the time and effort that Ed took to present us with this design. The P-38 Shirt is one of Patriot Depot's popular sellers.

We value our customer's ideas! If you have an idea that you would like to see printed on one of our shirts, don't hesitate to submit your idea here. If we choose your design and it sells over $100 worth of profit, we'll send you a free copy of the product!

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