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Converting an M1937 Fire Unit to Propane

By David Jarvela

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I am not a trained cook or chef, nor have I ever been employed as one. My years in the Army were spent in engineer battalions in Georgia and Kansas. The closest I ever got to an M59 field range was eating food cooked on one.

My military field feeding equipment collection
My military field feeding equipment collection. The converted M1937 fire units are in the foreground.

Nowadays I enjoy cooking, especially outdoor cooking. Pair that with the fact that I am a military surplus aficionado. Surplus equipment is well built, takes a good deal of punishment and lasts forever. Most of my surplus gear comes from Fox Surplus, a dealer in Virginia, Minn. Retired Army National Guard First Sgt. Bob Fox owns the store. Iíve been doing business with him since 1979, and after I returned to Northern Minn. in 1993 the relationship grew (read: I spend more money there).

I walked into his store earlier this year and there sat this huge silver thing with a number of pots and serving utensils surrounding it. After he explained what it was to me, I remembered seeing them in the field while in the army. After tossing it back and forth for a few weeks, I decided it would be worth the investment. By then the new one had been spoken for, but Bob said he could sell me a used one for less. 

Before I knew what happened, I had two M1959 field ranges with M-2 burners, two 15-gallon pots with lids and splash shields, two 10-gallon pots with lids, one squarehead with lid, one marmite insert divider for the squarehead, two marmite cans with inserts, a baking shield for one range and two M1937 fire units.

Now for the disclaimer: This information is provided for informational purposes only. If you plan to proceed with an M1937 fire unit conversion, please  thoroughly read all of the instructions before starting. You are responsible making a safe conversion . Consult your local propane dealer or gas plumbing contractor if you have any questions. Remember that this article only deals with conversion of the M1937 fire unit to propane. It does not apply to converting the M2 or M2A burner unit to propane.

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  1. Converting an M1937 Fire Unit to Propane

  2. Fire Unit Conversion

  3. BTU Rating of the Burners

  4. Supplies and Tools

  5. Conversion Procedure

  6. Flame and Pressure Control

  7. Safety Tests

  8. Cooking with the propane burners

David Jarvela is a native of White Pine, Mich. He currently lives in Hoyt Lakes, Minn. Questions or comments? E-mail him at:

Copyright © 2000 by David Jarvela. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

October 2000

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