The Pentagon is trying to cook up Thanksgiving dinner for more than 200,000 soldiers, sailors, Marines and airmen in the Middle East.
Spokesman Pete Williams said Tuesday the Pentagon is preparing 105,000 pounds of turkey and a variety of trimmings to serve to the troops - including as many of the front line forces as possible - and the Saudi Arabian government is kicking in another 60,000 pounds of roast beef to add an extra main course to the dinner plate.In addition, said Williams, officials hope to give virtually everyone at least part of the day off to relax, play sports or attend religious services.
"There will be quite an endeavor under way to try to serve Thanksgiving dinners to as many people as possible. It could well be over 200,000 people," said Williams, adding that Saudis and American families in Saudi Arabia have volunteered to invite troops into their homes, as have residents of other Persian Gulf countries.
President Bush will be visiting a number of units around the country on Thanksgiving Day and will be accompanied by leaders of the House and Senate.
For troops who do not get back to a field kitchen for the fancy meal, said Williams, the Pentagon has cooked up a number of its "T-Ration" trays - ones that can be reheated on steam tables - filled with turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, dressing and cranberry sauce.
In addition, Williams said the Armed Forces Radio and Television Service will be broadcasting two professional football games - Detroit-Denver and Washington-Dallas - on both radio and television on Thursday. The radio service, which is more widely available throughout the country, will also be carrying the West Virginia-South Carolina college game.
Williams said AT&T will be offering soldiers within Saudi Arabia free three-minute telephone calls home.
Williams said satellite ground stations have been beefed up to handle the load. In the early days of access to telephones in Saudi Arabia the volume of troop calls appeared to tax the local telephone networks to the point that other calls could not get out of the country.