Apricots, Heaven or Hell?
by Tom Williams

Amtracers have not eaten apricots for close to 30 years as they are believed to be a jinx. This amtrac tradition started with my Amtrac Platoon in Vietnam. I was with 4th Plt B Co 4th Amtrac Battalion and we were on float with the "Magnificent Bastards" of 2/4.

I was sitting on the ramp shortly after my arrival to the platoon in the village of Mai Xa Tai and was eating my c-rations. Most anyone who spent time in the bush, in Vietnam, knew the fruit in c-rations was one of the most sought after items next to pound cake. Danny Foisy, I think it was, took what I had in my hand to eat and threw it as far as he could. I said "What the hell are you doing?". He says "We don't eat apricots in Amtracs! ". He then related the following story to me:

I am not sure of the name of the Marine but he did not believe in the Amtrac taboo against apricots and ate them anyway despite being warned not to. A short while later while he was on patrol he took a sniper round right between the eyes and was KIA. It was not the first time that bad luck had hit someone from the platoon after eating apricots so they had all started to avoid eating them after this happened.

Another incident that I witnessed served to confirm this belief to stay away from apricots. The old P5 had a auxillary generator that we called "Little Joes". We had one that we could not get to run right and the mechanics could not find anything wrong with it. This went on for a coulple months with the "Little Joe" not running right. One day I was looking around and found a can of apricots in behind the generator. I removed the apricots and gave them to one of the grunts in exchange for peaches which I than ate. We tried the "Little Joe" and it ran from then on just as if it were a fine tuned watch.

When I left Vietnam and the Platoon was disbanded I was sure the Apricot myth would die. I found out I was wrong when I visited Quantico in 1994 with my father. I was standing on the ramp of a new P7 amtrac and this SSgt says you know I have a LCpl who still eats apricots. I was shocked to hear that apricots were still considered tabo in tracks.

In April of 1997, while visiting 3rd tracs, I asked this tracer who was showing us around if he ate apricots. He said "NO WAY " would I eat apicots. He than told me a couple of storys about peace time problems that had befallen others who ate apricots that were in tracs.

Read the following story about apricots and tracers during Desert Storm and then see if you have apricots any more.

Story by: William P. McLaughlin, Major

I remember as a young Second Lt. in 2nd Assault Amphibian Battalion in 1984, hearing all the old time ''Amtrackers' talking about how apricots are bad luck for LVTs/AAVs or tanks. I guess this superstitious legend had its origin in the apricot jam of C-Rations. The last time I had seen these items was in 1982 at OCS, since the Marinc Corps had gone to MRE rations that did not have apricots,by 1984.

I never dreamed that I would witness this phenomena in 1991 in Southwest Asia!
I was the C.O. of Company D. 2nd AA Bn. in 1990-1991. Upon our arrival in Southswcst Asia, my unit was assigned under the operation control of Ist Battalion, 8th Marines( 1/8).

We were in one of our defensive positions below Kirbrit, Saudi Arabia, in late January 1991, practicing mechanized tactics with our infantry battalion. The "Hot Chow" situation dictated that all the regimental and battalion cooks be consolidated at Kirbrit at a Division Chow Hall. This allowed them to capitalize on scarce cooking assets to prepare two hot meals a day to be trucked to all the Division units, therefore only forcing units to eat one MRE at lunchtime each day.

The food was not spectacular as you can imagine, mainly powdered eggs, ground beef. bacon and rice, lots of rice. So fresh and canned fruit and other supplements were sent out also.

One evening meal, Sergeant P _______, one of my Marinas from 1st Platoon was eating in the Task Force Combat Trains area near my company C.P.. Sgt. P_________ 's appetite was phenomenal, he was easily the largest man in the company and in great shape, a well known 'Prop' on the Camp LeJeune "Misfits" Rugby Team.

Mv Maintenance Officer, CW02 Shannon Pitchford, and I walked over to observe chow. We noticed that Sergeant P__________ had eaten everything on sight and was working on a large silver can of fruit. When asked what he was eating he replied, " I don't know, I think they're apricots".

Pitchford and I looked at each other and shook our heads. Sergeant P_________ looked at us as if wc were crazy when we told him it was bad luck, his hunger overrode all other factors!!!

Sgt. P_______ became a believer that night! His platoon was participating in a Regimental night time TEWT on Movement to contact.

As he got within 2 klicks of his defensive position for the night after the problem was over, his audio-warning system went off in his CVC helmet, telling him to shut down the engine! Because of light and noise discipline, he then had to get out of the vehicle which had a severe coolant problem. and he had to walk 2 klicks to his Platoon Sergeant and Maintenance Chief. "No More Damn Apricots!" he was overheard muttering.

The word spread quickly through not only Delta Compamy, but the whole task force. the "Amtrackers" from General Engineer Support Unit (GESU) and B Company 4th Tanks also observed the "No Apricots Rule!"

Woe to the grunt who attempted to bring apricots on an AAV! So throughout the rest of Desert Storm this rule was observed. After the cease-fire, we spent a month outside Kuwait City in a defensive position with l/8. As we were preparing to have a cook-out with burgers provided bs our own AA Battalion, my XO, Captain Henry Vorpe USMCR suddenlv went berserk, he was pitching three or four quart fruit cans onto a 5 ton truck. "Get those damn apncots outta here!" Some young cook, thinking he was doing us a favor had sent them to us. Henry was a "Mustang '" who had joined us from the 4th AA Bn., he was taking no chances from getting home as soon as possible!

So as a warning to all you serving "Amtrackers" and future "Amtrackers", "STAY AWAY FROM THE APRICOTS!"

Preston McLaughlin, Major, USMC, Ouantico, VA.

Reprinted from - Amtrac Association ~ Surf Report ~ Winter 95