The navy is a world of superstitious beliefs. Don’t carry a white lighter. Don’t whistle while on a powered ship or boat, lest you will anger Neptune and whistle up a storm. Whistling is okay on a sailing vessel as summoning the winds is a good thing.  The ship’s cook is encouraged to whistle though since it means he doesn’t have a mouthful of pilfered food. A hat lost overboard means a long voyage. One of these bizarre superstitions is surrounding the innocent-looking, sweet Charms Candy. If you don’t want to attract all the bad luck while you’re out there, don’t even dare open them.

Charms in MREs

A pack of MREs with Charms Candy. QuestMasters.us | National Archives, College Park, Maryland

The Charms Candy Company, now owned by Tootsie Roll, was founded in 1912 in Topeka, New Jersey. They won a contract during WWII, and according to them, “Charms lollipops were included in the US Army rations for a source of quick energy for troops fighting abroad,” and so it became one of the staples of military rations. 

A Charming Curse

Charms Candy from WWII.

And so, these little blocks of artificially-flavored corn syrup candies made it into the official MRE packs today as well. It wasn’t long until the Marines began associating these candies with unfortunate events. And they had proof beyond a reasonable (Scientific) doubt!

Rain in Baghdad

As reported by iol.co.za, here’s what happened:

Sergeant Kenneth Wilson said, chew on a lemon Charm, and you’re heading for a vehicle breakdown. Suck on a lime one, and it rains. Raspberry – for the highly superstitious – means death.

As Wilson points out, the Marines have endured all three in recent days as troops encounter fierce resistance from the Iraqi Army of Saddam Hussein, atrocious weather, and a vehicle accident.

One accident early on Thursday left eight marines injured.

And the deserts across southern Iraq are now strewn with discarded and unopened packets of Charms that are part of the ready-to-eat lunch pack provided to the marines.

“I always throw mine away,” said Wilson. “Every time I eat the wrong color, something bad happens.”

Corporal Cameron Gingras and many others like him agree with Wilson, though they admit the unlucky lollie does taste good.

Here’s another one written by Stars and Stripes:

A reporter with one of the battalions overnight patrols recently ignored advice not to eat the small fruit-flavored candies. The first day of the patrol had been sunny. The next day, it snowed, hailed, and rained.

Lastly, here’s one as narrated by a US Marine Corps member:

All of the food in MREs can be pretty bland, but these were fruity and delicious and therefore tempting. But if you ate them, it would rain. So when I first learned about it, all the DI’s in boot camp made us give them away because they told us it would rain if we ate them. At the school of infantry (SOI), the same thing happened. All the instructors said, ‘Please, please don’t eat the charms.’ And one time while I was there, it legitimately started to rain. Sgt. Morgan was his name. Sgt. Morgan goes, “Who ate ’em?! Who the f*** ate the charms?!” and one of the other junior Marines pulls ’em out, a half-eaten thing of Charms. Eventually, they took ’em away and stopped putting them in the MREs. Still, my junior Marines who show up to the fleet know about ’em.

It had been a practice of the Marines to pour out their MREs contents upon receiving them to pick out all those good (if not acceptable) parts and toss out the rest (the practice was called ratf***ing). Of course, Charms Candy was always one of those thrown away. Some troops said to donate them to local children. Hopefully, the bad luck didn’t apply to civilians.

Unsurprisingly, these packs of sweet curses were reportedly removed from the MREs. I mean, why would they keep on spending on something that’s constantly being thrown away and wasted and potentially summoning all the gods of misfortune? Safe to say, the deceitful charms of these sugary goodies were not enough to make it stay. One has to wonder though if not eating the Charms depended on good luck then the presence of the Charms in those MREs had something to do with luck itself.  So would removing the Charms altogether bring bad luck?

We may never know now.

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