News, WW2

5 Bizarre Superstitions U.S. Troops Believe About Their Rations

According to popular belief, many U.S. Air Force pilots refuse to take off without a go-ahead from their ground crew.

Similarly, the Navy will never whistle aboard a new ship. It is forbidden for a reason. And if a sailor washes a coffee mug, God help that sailor. So what about rations?

Read More: The Largest Battles of World War Two

Sometimes, it is difficult to reason with the superstitions of the U.S. military and deal with matters of life and death. 

K-rations used during WW II and the Korean War. Some rations were seen as a bad omen!

It is no surprise that these superstitions extend to the battlefield as well. These strange beliefs range from the patterns on their military uniforms to the food they eat in the field, including their field rations. For example, refusing to wash your patrol cap might make it smell bad, but will it cause a catastrophe?

The answer for a U.S. soldier is a stern “maybe.”

Black-Eyed Peas

Black-eyed peas are the oldest food superstition in the U.S. military, dating back to the Civil War.

The military folktale tells that when Union troops raided a Confederate food supply during Sherman’s March to the Sea they left the black-eyed peas.

Of course, the Union may not have the tastebuds for the peas. We will never know for sure. 

But whatever the reason, the rebels found the peas lucky mainly because they got to eat some food. 

U.S. Army soldiers loading MREs onto a Chinook Helicopter. But probably no Ham & Lima beans!

Since then, the black-eyed peas have become lucky for the U.S. military. They believe you must eat 365 of these beans to get luck all year round. The tradition has also seeped into the civilian lifestyle. It is now Southern New Year’s Day. 


Cigarettes were once considered crucial to American fighting men. However, in 1975, cigarettes disappeared from rations, but their legacy remained.

As long as cigarettes were in the military allocation, there was a saying amongst U.S. troops that ‘never light three cigarettes from the same match.’

Read More: Point du Hoc – The Lost Battlefield

The saying dates back to British soldiers in the Crimean War. Americans picked it up during World War One.

The belief behind the saying is that the enemy would notice the first cigarette and a second cigarette would allow him to aim. At the same time, the third light would let him take a shot.

So, the third guy must find his own match.

Ham and Lima Beans

Ham and Lima Beans is a dish that the U.S. military thought soldiers would like to eat. Hence, it was in both C-rations and its replacement, the “Meal, Combat, Individual” or MCI.

According to historical facts, the meal was added to ration kits during the Korean War. It was a time when civilians were mixing canned tuna with Jell-O, which was possibly worse.

C Rations
Military Meal, Combat, Individual Ration or C-Ration seen here in the Vietnam War,

During the Vietnam War, soldiers and marines hated the dish so much they refused to eat it. The troops called it the foodstuff “ham and motherf**kers” (or just “ham and muthas”). It came to be believed that speaking the actual name of the dish would bring bad luck, and consuming it would be even worse. 

Apricots: Halved Apricots.

Like ham and lima-oops (sorry, you know who), many C-rations and MCIs included halved apricots. During World War Two, many U.S. soldiers began to notice that every single time their tanks broke down, they always had a can of apricots on board. Tank operators of armoured vehicles started to suspect that the apricots were a bad omen.

And surprisingly, they still do. The popular superstition carried through the Vietnam War and even spread throughout the Marine Corps. Even seeing someone eating apricots was enough to make a soldier switch bunkers. 

Read More: The Greatest Surprise Attacks and Victories in Military History

Some Marine Corps units will even give non-judicial punishment to someone just for having them.

Charms Candy

Maybe to us, Charms might be a roll of average fruit-flavored candies. However, it’s a ‘Choose Your Adventure of potential death’ to Marines. Th

ey believe that certain flavors could bring certain kinds of bad luck. For example, lime brings about rain, even in a desert. Likewise, the lemon flavor could cause any vehicle to break down.

K Rations
Don’t take the apricots! U.S. soldiers receive their K-rations before going into combat 1944

Similarly, a raspberry charm meant someone was going to die.

Read More: US Military Still Uses its Most Iconic of Weapons

Charms became such a considerable superstition that Marines started to discard them at first instance. Many would bury or throw them at the enemy to send them bad luck. Eventually, the U.S. military got rid of the unlucky Charms in 2007.