Entrepreneurs You Didn’t Know are Veterans

Updated: April 20, 2015

Editor’s Note: This is the first piece in a series from veteranslist.us.  If you you are a Veteran business owner, register with their site. -Rob


Internal entrepreneurship is an integral part of taking organizations to the next level, and that is exactly what Brig. General Walter “Tabasco Mac” McIlhenny did for the McIlhenny company and their iconic Tabasco sauce.

Taking after his father who served, with distinction, as a Rough Rider with Theodore Roosevelt in the Spanish-American War, Walter joined the Virginia National Guard in 1931 and transferred to the USMC reserve in 1935 where he served on the Rifle teams of both services. In 1940 Walter began executive training at the family owned McIlhenny Company, but it was put on hold when he was called up to active duty service at the onset of WWII. Walter served with 1st Battalion, 5th Marines, 1st Marine Division for 31 months in the Pacific theater. Walter saw action at New Britain, Peleliu, and Guadalcanal, where he received the Navy Cross, the Silver Star, and the Purple Heart. Walter received his promotion to Brig. General upon his retirement.

Tabasco Mac returned to McIlhenny co in 1946 and was the President from 1949 until he died in 1985. During that time he helped to grow the business and build the brand into what it is today. During the Vietnam War, Walter released “The Charlie Ration Cookbook” that came wrapped around a two-ounce bottle of Tabasco sauce in a camoflauge, water-resistant container. The cookbook taught troops how to mix C-rats into meals like “Combat Canapés” or “Breast of Chicken under Bullets.” During the 80’s Tabasco was included in MREs and good ole Walter released another cook book titled “The Unofficial MRE Cookbook” and gave it out free to the troops.

Today Tabasco comes in different flavors and is included in many products and is co-branded with other companies like Spam, A-1 Steak Sauce, and Slim Jims but nothing beats that little bottle of Tabasco used to spice up an MRE. I still perpetually have a bottle in my house, well played Walter.



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