Best Defense

Thomas E. Ricks' daily take on national security.

Observation of the day: On brewing coffee with C4

During an email discussion of the explosive used by the testicle-toasting terrorist of Detroit, my friend retired Col. John Meyer commented on his own use of the stuff — and offered a warning. “I’ve heated many a cup of coffee on C4, rolled into little balls,” he said. “The trick was to never try to ...

574921_091231_Beirut2.jpg
574921_091231_Beirut2.jpg
BEIRUT, LEBANON - APRIL 28: Beirut residents sit next to their coffee truck and watch a building collapse 26 April 1992 after a controlled explosion during demolition work in the Lebanese capital. The city is beginning to rebuild after 16 years of civil strife. (Photo credit should read NABIL ISMAEL/AFP/Getty Images)

During an email discussion of the explosive used by the testicle-toasting terrorist of Detroit, my friend retired Col. John Meyer commented on his own use of the stuff -- and offered a warning. "I've heated many a cup of coffee on C4, rolled into little balls," he said. "The trick was to never try to stamp out the fire when you were finished."

During an email discussion of the explosive used by the testicle-toasting terrorist of Detroit, my friend retired Col. John Meyer commented on his own use of the stuff — and offered a warning. “I’ve heated many a cup of coffee on C4, rolled into little balls,” he said. “The trick was to never try to stamp out the fire when you were finished.”

Asked to explain this use of C4, he added:

The small balls of C4 used to heat rations were about the size of spitballs.  C4 can be ignited with a match.  As one ball would burn out, you rolled another up next to it, so it would ignite.  We used a modified C-ration can for a stove.  One side was cut open, so there was plenty of air for the ‘rapid combustion.’

As a side note, long before there was a Starbucks, we figured our C4 heated coffee was pretty expensive.  A one-pound block of C4 was reported to cost about $90. 

NABIL ISMAEL/AFP/Getty Images

Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at ricksblogcomment@gmail.com. Twitter: @tomricks1

More from Foreign Policy

U.S. President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping shake hands.
U.S. President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping shake hands.

Xi-Biden Meeting May Help End China’s Destructive Isolation

Beijing has become dangerously locked off from the world.

The exterior of the Russian Embassy in Stockholm, Sweden, is pictured on March 27, 2018.
The exterior of the Russian Embassy in Stockholm, Sweden, is pictured on March 27, 2018.

Sweden’s Espionage Scandal Raises Hard Questions on Spy Recruitment

Intelligence agencies debate whether foreign-born citizens are more targeted.

President Joe Biden gestures with India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi as the two leaders met in a hallway as Biden was going to a European Commission on the Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment on the sidelines of the G20 Summit in Nusa Dua, on the Indonesian island of Bali, on November 15, 2022.
President Joe Biden gestures with India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi as the two leaders met in a hallway as Biden was going to a European Commission on the Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment on the sidelines of the G20 Summit in Nusa Dua, on the Indonesian island of Bali, on November 15, 2022.

The G-20 Proved It’s Our World Government

At a time of global conflict, world powers showed that cooperation can actually work.

An illustration for Puck magazine from 1905 shows the battle against bureaucracy.
An illustration for Puck magazine from 1905 shows the battle against bureaucracy.

Only an Absolute Bureaucracy Can Save Us

The West will only restore its stability when civil servants are again devoted to the public rather than themselves.