By T.P. Schweider, MSGT. USMC, retired.
In late 1944, The U.S. Army Quartermaster Corps, in their ongoing quest to improve the combat rations (C-Rations or C-Rats) by adding a fruit component. This was a small can of pears, peaches, applesauce, fruit cocktail (most sought–after component) and-Apricots. Shortly after the improved C-Rats started reaching the Marines, rumors sprang up that if one was a Tanker or an LVT Crewman, and consumed the Apricot ration, BAD THINGS would happen to your vehicle! Thus a custom was established-if you were a Tracked Vehicle crewman you DID NOT EAT APRICOTS!!
This custom persisted post-WWII, through Korea & Vietnam (footnote) it was going strong in the 1970’s through the 1990’s when this old tanker was on active duty. Two of the most memorable were as follows:
The Co. was coming off an 8-day operation, crossing a hilly area on a narrow track, with numerous hairpin curves. The tank following mine, on the outside of a curve, suddenly & spectacularly threw it’s right track, disintegrating into 4 sections, ripping up the right fender & demolishing the 2 sponson boxes (tanks were M-48A3’s). It took the crew 3 days to get the track back on. Later, asked the T.C. what happened? “Damn Gunner, got hungry, couldn’t wait. Ate Apricots while we were weaving through those hills!” Oh!
The second Incident took place some years later, again at 29 Palms when we were in M-60A1’s. The Co. was to participate in a night fire exercise with infantry & artillery units. Co. was deployed in a valley with a grunt unit up on the bluff to our left. They had a 7.62 M.G. Position at the right end of their line & my tank was below them at the left end of our line. The exercise would take place after dark, when, on the command “Fire” everyone would put rounds down range for 5 minutes, making for a marvelous fireworks display. Time grew near, we buttoned up as per safety precautions and we waited. “Fire” came the word over the radio net. “Fire!” I yelled to my crew, but over the blast of the Main Gun & the chatter of the M.G.’s I could not hear the pinging sound. Next morning I found 7 dings on the left side & top of the turret. Seems the grunt M.G. team got carried away & traversed a little bit too far to their right! 6 of our tanks had dings. A loader had been eating APRICOTS for 3 days, “but nothing had happened!” Unfortunately for him, a number of things did!
Listening to public Radio last year, story from Iraq-correspondent is interviewing Marine AAV Plt., seems the Plt. Sgt. Is examining the packages the Marines have received of dried Fruit & Trail mix, looking for APRICOTS(!) explaining how they are bad luck!