What are some common superstitions in the U.S. Armed Forces?

Every branch has their own superstitions, rituals and traditions that they pass down to the next generation of service members

By Military1 Staff

A question recently posted on Quora asks: “What are some common superstitions in the U.S. Armed Forces?” Check out the answers below and add your own in the comments.

Stephen Sanford, U.S. Army veteran

Funny story. before we deployed to Iraq my unit stop-over in Shannon Ireland. While wandering around the gift shop my eyes were drawn to a Sterling silver Celtic cross. So I bought it. It was attached to my dog tags before we entered Iraq.

Nothing happened. IEDs would go off under other trucks, but not mine, every time insurgents shot at my truck the rounds did not even come close.

One I managed to find time to make the hike down to the phone center to call my wife. for some reason I called my mother instead. I was told that my 6 year old niece had to have surgery on her neck. I cannot remember what exactly the problem was, I just remember that my family was very worried. When I returned to the little shipping container I called home I wrote my niece a letter, and before I sealed the envelope I took off that silver cross and put it inside.

A few days later I was waking up in the CASH after 18 hours of surgery, having CPR performed on me, and my body armor riddled with bullet strikes. I couldn't walk. For some reason I thought to myself, “the cross is gone.”

While I am almost convinced that me getting shot multiple times and nearly dying had nothing to do with that silver cross, well I have since advised my niece that she better not loose it…

Superstitious? ok maybe a little, so today every time I leave the house I have one of my still blood stained dog tags attached to my key chain. Hey take from me, it hurts getting shot, so I'll go far out of my way to avoid it. if carrying a small trinket makes me feel that I have better odds, well that bump in confidence, that belief in my own skill, that might be what saves my life, so I'll take it.

Mike Ruff, U.S. Army veteran

1. It’s bad luck to look back at the helicopter after you get off.

2. If you urinate on the track of a tracked vehicle, that’s where it will break.

3. If you are on a tank, it’s good luck to stand over the third road wheel and urinate off the tank.

Nolan Booth, U.S. Army veteran

It’s been some time now since I’ve been in, so this story may not hold up anymore (although I’m sure you can find some poor soul somewhere in Basic that will believe you completely if you tell them this).

Once upon a time, in the Army’s Basic Training, it was an urban legend that, if a base is overrun with “insurgents”, the person nearest a flagpole is to climb the flagpole and retrieve these three items from the “truck” (that’s apparently the gold-colored ball atop the flagpole, although it’s more accurately called a “finial”): a match, a razor blade, and a bullet. Some other stories have the items buried at the pole’s base, but it honestly depends on who you’re asking.

Apparently, once collecting these items, the person is to then take the razor and cut the blue field of the flag from the stripes (since that’s the only officially correct way to dispose of a flag; once the blue field and the stripes are separated, they no longer form a flag), then they are to burn the pieces of the flag, and then they are to use the bullet to end their own lives. This is all in the name of “preventing the American flag from falling into enemy hands” along with the person themselves.

This is all a load of bunk, however. Sure, it’s wonderfully romantic, imagining enemy insurgents storming a well-guarded military base with the sole purpose of capturing the American flag, and it’s cool to think of oneself as the one protecting the flag from such a fate. But there are many things that just don’t make sense about the story, not least of which is that climbing a pole (or digging up things beneath the pole) would take an inordinate amount of time, given the circumstances.

But then, it doesn’t really have to make sense, because it is the Army, after all!