Lucky Cigarettes and Other Charms Employed by Superstitious Soldier’s at Wartime

Soldier smoking a cigarette

Fans of the famous Breaking Bad television show would be familiar with fictional characters – Walter White and Jesse Pinkman – a schoolteacher and junkie that became two of the biggest methamphetamine cooks in the USA. In many instances, during the series, the two would find themselves in hot water with kingpins and drug lords. Yet each time, they would find the resilience to stoop lower than before to get themselves out of their precarious situations.

Jesse’s lucky cigarette was one such instance. The two plotted to kill Gus Fring, a drug boss who had both Walter and Jesse in a tough position. Walter believed the best way to end Gus was to poison him with Ricin – a toxic power that is flavorless, scentless, and untraceable.

But Jesse had to think fast about how to smuggle the poisonous substance past Gus and his entourage undetected. With some quick thinking, he emptied some tobacco from a cigarette and slipped the vile between the rizla paper. He then topped the tobacco up again and turned the cigarette upside down in the box. At this point, Walter tells him the cigarette is the wrong way up (implying that if they searched him, they might find it strange that one cigarette is the wrong way around). To this, Jesse replies, “It’s my lucky cigarette.”  You can take a look at the clip below for some context:

The Lucky Cigarette Origins

Have you ever wondered why Jesse’s lucky cigarette disguise would be an acceptable excuse for why one of the smokes was upside-down in the box? Surely, Gus or one of his cronies would realize that something was amiss? Actually not! In fact, the lucky cigarette was a common talisman for soldiers during World War II and is not an unbelievable cover story at all.

When a soldier in the war would open their pack of cigarettes, they would take one and turn it upside down. They would then make sure to smoke that one last. If the soldier managed to survive long enough to smoke the last cigarette, they were considered lucky.

Other Superstitious Practices in the Military Aside from the Lucky Cigarette

The lucky cigarette is just one of many superstitious rituals practiced by soldiers during wartime. When you are a scared young man looking to make it back home, it’s amazing the types of things you would do to try and enhance your luck and chance of survival.

Airborne Talismans

Pilots are among the most superstitious military men of them all. We guess that’s because the rate of survival in the earlier wars was very slim. Back then, planes had none of the safety mechanisms in place that modern fighters have. As such, death tolls were high.

It was, therefore not uncommon to find an amulet or some sort of talisman with the pilot in their cockpit. In World War I, pilot, Edwin Parsons, used to fasten a stuffed black cat to his aircraft before a mission. It was said to ward off bad luck and is alleged to have taken a bullet for him once.

He lost the cat (and his aircraft) in a bombing raid once. He, however, survived but refused to fly again until he could replace the cat with another one. It then became a custom for some airmen to paint black cats on their aircraft for luck’s sake.

Forbidden Foods

While poker games and blackjack were common gambling options among soldiers at wartime, they would not gamble when it came to eating certain foods, for fear of jinxing their survival chances. In some instances, some foods could not even be mentioned for fear of bringing bad juju. Often, bad weather, vehicle troubles, and even death were attributed to disobeying these rules.

Apricots and Charms candy

Forbidden foods at wartime – Apricots and charms (Credit: Britannica and Walmart)

Some of the foods that were on the taboo list included Apricots and hard candies. In fact, certain colored Charms (a popular hard candy during the 1990s) were hated by Marines during the Gulf War, with each shade of the sweet treat invoking a different kind of bad luck:

  • Lime charm – Would bring on the rain.
  • Lemon charm – would cause a vehicle to break down.
  • Raspberry charm – meant someone would die.

If the candy was found in their rations, Marines would throw them away, immediately.

Naval Coffee Mugs

In the navy, it is considered lucky to have a dirty coffee mug. In fact, if you wash it, you are allegedly dooming yourself to a watery grave.

Dirty Naval Mug

A dirty sailor’s mug – Credit

As such, you’ll find that many of the longest-serving officers have the filthiest vessels of the bunch. It’s almost a statement of seniority. In fact, sailors will call a dirty mug, ‘seasoned’, as it is said to actually add flavor to the drink.

The Hogs Tooth for Snipers

This final good luck charm is a real gamble and something a lot more thought provoking than a lucky cigarette even. It pertains to Marines who graduate from sniper school. Nowadays, a new member of the scout sniper platoon is given a real Hog’s tooth as a lucky momento.

This talisman is rooted in military superstition. According to lore, each sniper has a bullet with their name on it. It is called the “Hogs tooth”. Originally, in order for a sniper to become invincible on the battlefield, they would need to duel an enemy sniper on the battlefield and kill them. Upon defeating them, they were to take the enemy’s rifle and extract the bullet from the chamber (known as the Hog’s Tooth). The Hogs Tooth would serve as a reminder that you have already claimed the bullet that was meant for you.

Hogs Tooth worn around the neck of a US Marine sniper

A hog’s tooth worn by a sniper – Credit: We are Mighty

Receiving a Hog’s tooth after graduation is said to provide the same sort of protection as going through the ordeal above.

Undying Good Luck

Gambling with one’s life is never a comfortable experience. It’s at times like this where perfectly reasonable men turn to absurd practices just in case it keeps them safe. Luck is a long-standing virtue that everyone wants on their side and there are so many different superstitions out there that allegedly provide it. There’s too many to record them all. However, it’s clear from the list above that people will resort to the oddest rituals to ensure they can beat the house edge on life.


Sean van der Merwe

Sean is a senior writer at PokCas. He is an Entertainment, Gaming & Cryptocurrency News Reporter. He has more than 5 years of full-time writing experience.