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. | 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, 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.