“Never strike the last match,”
Willie: O-o-okay, here’s another one that came from, um…Vietnam, it’s “never strike the last match.”
Me: What’s that one mean?
Willie: Okay, that means if you have one match left in a book, don’t strike it. Cause people in Vietnam, what- what used to happen is, they used to smoke, right?
Willie: And it would be nighttime, and they’re in the jungle, and they light a match, and then people know where they are, so people start shooting where the match is.
Willie: So there’s a saying, don’t light the last match…or, don’t strike the last match…They say it’s bad luck.
My dad heard this from a few different neighbors growing up, ones that had served or were close to people that had served in the U.S. army during the Vietnam War. In the context of war, it was rather literal in its meaning, given that revealing your location could very easily get you killed; but in regular life it would be used as a way of saying don’t ruin your plans before they unfold. I couldn’t find anything online about this phrase, but the closest thing I could find was the saying “three on a match,” which means if three soldiers light their cigarettes on the same match, one of the three of them would die. Considering the meanings are pretty different, I wouldn’t say they’re the same saying with different words, but they probably evolved from one or the other.