I'd like to establish this node as a repository for urban legends dealing with and propagated by people in the military. If a friend or family member who was (or is) in any branch of the military ever told you an hilarious anecdote that was based on more brilliance, irony, or humor than you believed that person to be capable of, then chances are they were just passing on one of these urban legends.

I'll lead off with a couple that I know about.

Stealing Firing Pins from Air Force Security
Almost everyone in the US military (save for the actual Air Force Security guys themselves) thinks that these guys are idiots. Or so it would seem by how many times I've heard this story. The basic premise is to accuse the security guys of being half witted guys who shove their guns in other people's faces indiscriminately, and who like to lounge on the job. The tales usually involve a few short claims of harassment from these guys to explain the motive, followed by the claim that the storyteller opened up one of their M-16s and removed its firing pin when they found the security guy napping on the job.

Filing Fly Paper Reports to Headquarters
To demonstrate (and ridicule) the grotesque bureaucracy of the US military, this urban legend describes one clever guy who played a trick on the clerks back at HQ. Using one of the many reports he was required to send in periodically as a template, he invented his own fictitious report form for reporting how many dead flies were found each week on the fly paper strips in his facility. He made up some random name/number for the form, and started mailing the reports into HQ. Several weeks or months later, he heard from his buddies at other facilities that the dumb clerks at HQ had no idea his reports were bogus, and they started asking people at all of the other facilities why they were neglecting to file similar reports.

A common Israeli army urban legend -- the addition of saltpeter, drinking soda or bromide to the soldiers' food, supposedly to decrease their sexual drive, so that their minds would be occupied with the right things. Many people firmly believe this is done - and it might really work as a placebo pill for them.

This legend was covered by the Israeli movie Sababa (1983; a chapter of the Lemon Popsicle series), where one of the soldiers, who worked as the cook, was instructed to add extra "soda" (meaning saltpeter or drinking soda?) to the meals that day, since the blonde Swedish ambassador who arrived for a visit was too much on the soldiers' minds. Rather than decreasing the sexual drive, the soda was supposed to temporarily render the guys sexually impotent.

Since then, the legend hasn't lost any of its relevance and is happily told from one generation of recruits to the next. So far I haven't found any reliable evidence of such effects induced by any of those substances, much less about the IDF employing them.

P.S. In my basic training, some guys kept claiming "they" are adding something to our food, blaming the lack of morning erection on it. I think it was simply caused by the increased mental pressure one's undergoing in basic training.

P.P.S. According to Apatrix, this same urban legend is widespread in the Greek Armed Forces too.

A very popular urban legend in the military is that new basic training recruits carry "time out" cards. If the pressure gets to be a bit much, or the instructor is yelling too loud, the recruit can simply call a time out and take a moment to recuperate.

One of the reasons this urban legend is so popular is it allows both the teller and the audience to feel superior - they survived real basic training, back in the good old days when people were tougher. Afterwards, everyone (even the 19 year old who graduated basic training only a year ago) can shake their heads in dismay at today's youth.

A supposed tale from many moons ago, was that during an inspection, the RSM jabs his pace stick into the chest of one soldier.

"There's a shit at the end of this stick, Private."

"Yes sir, not at this end sir".

Said soldier is then promptly marched to jail with much shouting.

As they say, legends are often based on facts, and maybe there was once a young squaddie whose balls were bigger than his brain, but this story is re-told so frequently, I doubt we'll ever know the truth. Still, like all good Military Legends, it lives on.

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