Food You Can Eat: The US Marine Corps’ SOS

This really isn't that bad and if you scale up you can feed 400 for pennies per serving

"Pfc Pyle, did you remember to defrost the hamburger for the crew's SOS tonight?"

An early Happy Veteran’s Day/Armistice Day to all! Sadly, unless you’re toiling in the public sector you probably don’t have Friday off work, but you can still celebrate by making SOS, which is short for “Shit On a Shingle.” Oh, those military types do like a good joke! 

If you make this with dried beef this is more politely called ”Chipped Beef on Toast.” My mother used to make that for us growing up. My Dad and all my uncles, both sides, served in the Navy, some of them in Dubya Dubya 2 The Big One, and even they were more than familiar with SOS, so I guess it is served across all the branches of the military.

1 pound ground beef 
1 1/2 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour 
1 cup beef broth 
1/2 cup evaporated milk 
salt and pepper to taste

Brown the ground beef in a medium skillet over medium-high heat, until meat is no longer pink. Drain excess fat and set aside.

Melt the butter or margarine in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Slowly add the flour, stirring constantly, to form a brown roux.

Pour in beef broth and milk, mixing well. Add ground beef, then season with salt and pepper to taste.

The “shingle” part comes in because you serve this over toasted bread, either whole slices, sliced in half, sliced in quarters, whatever. “Cookie,” all the kitchen chefs in the military were referred to as “Cookie,” doesn’t care, and neither should you.

A—not fun, but interesting—fact: Before the armed forces were truly integrated, which didn’t really take hold until the Vietnam War, despite Truman officially desegregating the military in 1948, Black service members were assigned kitchen and cleaning duties, usually. That’s what Better Half’s father did in the Navy (Korea.) When BH was growing up his father was the family cook, much to the delight of his mother.



  1. My father enter the navy at 17 years of age and retired at 40. He liked creamed chipped dried beef, and my son learned to like it from him. He was one of 15 quite poor children, with poor nutrition, which caused his teeth to darken. After receiving highest scores during commanding officer reviews many times over, he was hauled in to see if he could move over from NCO status. He was told that although he had an “officer look”, his teeth spoiled the image and he would forever remain a Chief Warrant Officer 3 and Chief Gunner, mostly on destroyers.

    • Dried beef, I’m not sure you can get it anymore, was, I think, the discarded bits of the cow and not far off from beef jerky. Yes, it is very salty. It’s meant to travel long distances without the benefit of refrigeration and at the same time just healthy enough to not kill 18-year-old recruits until they made their way to battlefields.

      • @MatthewCrawley, you can still get dried beef!😉

        It’s not carried *many* places, but I just bought 4 jars “up home” (for $1.99 each!), to bring back home, so I could make this!

        I thought of your SOS post, when I saw it–(and it had been DECADES since I’d had it!😉)  so tonight I cracked one of the jars & made some gravy to eat over baby-potatoes (I didn’t have any bread).

        THANKS for sharing this recipe last month, and putting that bug in my brain, because it’s definitely something I need to make more often!💖

  2. I will confess (I use that term a lot here on DS, I don’t know why, maybe I should convert to Catholicism) that my original intent was to amend this to reflect last night’s midterm results. But, all things considered, USAmerica2022, we’re not eating SOS metaphorically, so I left it as is. Thankfully.

  3. My dad was a marine and usually only made breakfast for us but every once in awhile he would make this.  My mom, being from New Orleans was such a good cook I have a hard time remembering this being able to keep up with her red beans and rice or other staples we had.

    • That’s Frank Sutton, who’s a very obscure “Lost in Hollywood” figure, because after the cancellation of Gomer Pyle he didn’t do much after and dropped dead of a heart attack at age 50 while preparing for a performance in the comedy play Luv at the Beverly Barn Dinner Playhouse in Shreveport, Louisiana. A tragic loss, and an embarrassing one, because no one should ever find themself in Shreveport, Louisiana.

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