We, as humans, have certain fascinations with things that could not be explained and even do these things and traditions without questions. Some of them were passed from one generation to another, and they helped shape the traditions and culture of different places. But it’s not only our grandmothers and grandfathers who are superstitious. Believe it or not, the military is also a world full of superstitious beliefs that are different from the civilian world. For instance, have you heard about the Charms Candy in the official MRE packs that Marines believed to be the bearer of bad luck? (If you haven’t yet, you can read it here.) If you think that’s a bit questionable, check out these other ones:
The Dirtier Mug, The Better
Don’t you just hate it when your favorite coffee mug was left unwashed in the sink? Well, sailors don’t. In fact, they prefer their coffee mugs to be a tarry black inside so they just rinse them out after use. There wasn’t an exact explanation for this, although some believed that washing your coffee mug is like begging for Poseidon or Davy Jones to please sink me. Others say that it’s a sign of seniority, which translates to “the filthier your cup is, the more salty a sailor you are.”
While it is said that Chief Petty Officers “Run the Navy” but the Chiefs are fueled by piping hot coffee with the color and consistency of crude oil in a cup that is stained black. Rumor has it that you can pour hot water into a Chief’s seasoned mug and when you come back in five minutes it will have turned itself into coffee.
And you don’t dare to clean a seasoned mug belonging to someone else as One Reddit user called eegan1220 shared:
“There was a chief that I worked for in the Navy many years ago that had the same thing going on with his coffee cup. We decided one day to scrub it out for him and he completely lost his shit when he found his cup the next day. I mean complete brain aneurism. He threatened to write every one of us up for it.
A couple days later someone filled his cup with this resin type stuff that hardens (we used it for plastic plaques) and looks like coffee with creamer once cured. He threw it across the shop and shattered. I thought he was going to kill someone that day. No one ever fessed up to that deed.”
During Undergraduate Pilot Training (UPT) graduation, the Air Force gives and pin new pilots with a pair of wings. These wings are not to be worn together, as it is considered to bring bad luck. Thus, a tradition called “breaking of wings” was born— the pilot should break the wings in half right after the pinning ceremony. He keeps his half of the wing while the other half should be given to someone dear to the pilot, be it best friend, relative, or partner in life. These wings are not allowed to be paired back together while the pilot is alive to preserve luck. When the pilot passes away, only then can the wings be reunited and buried with them for good luck in the next life.
Before a Marine graduates sniper school, they are referred to as “PIGs” or professionally instructed gunmen. Upon graduation, the new members of the scout sniper platoon are given the 7.62x51mm NATO round, the bullet of the primary rifle used by the Marine snipers, which is the M40A6. This bullet was referred to as the “HOG’s tooth” or Hunter of Gunmen’s tooth.
Here’s the thing, though: the real HOG’s tooth is not that one given to them but the bullet that is in their enemy sniper’s gun.
The superstition was that there is ultimately one round destined to end each sniper’s life, and that’s “the bullet with your name on it.” If you are able to obtain that bullet with your name, then you’d be invulnerable. How do you get it? Well, you have to duel and kill an enemy sniper in combat, take one round from his gun chamber, then wear that as your necklace. Superstition has it that as long as you carry that bullet “with your name on it,” it can never be fired against you, and therefore you’d be untouchable. Of course, this means you have to break cover and go take the bullet from your dead adversary further exposing yourself to the enemy who also might have a bullet with your name on it.
Fair warning: It’s just a superstition, We don’t actually believe that being a sniper with a HOG’s tooth, makes you unkillable in battle.
As much as we claim to live in a modern world, we still wrestle with the fear of the unknown in a future we can’t predict. Superstitions like these and others(Like the curse of eating Charms from your MREs?) are little bits of unreason in a rational world that persist today to give us the comfort in thinking we can control the uncontrollable.