Tag Archives: military

“Never strike the last match,” 

“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? 

Me: Uh-huh.

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.

Me: Ohhh. 

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.

Crud – A Fighter Pilot Bar Game

Context:

The informant, GW, is my father. He was a fighter pilot in the United States Air Force during the late 1980s/early 1990s and participated in operation Desert Storm. I have heard him tell many stories from his time in the Air Force throughout my childhood, so I asked him to tell me some of his traditions to collect for my project. This was an informal interview in our household, and followed a description of another game listed in the archives as “Deceased Insect – A Fighter Pilot Bar Game”. The interviewer is indicated as SW in the text.

For another description of Crud (that claims the game as an invention of the Canadian Air Force), see Bjorn Claes’s description on F-16.net at https://www.f-16.net/varia_article4.html .

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Main Text:

GW: “There is a much more involved game, which required skill, called crud… um that’s played nominally on a, well it’s played on a crud table, which looks a lot like a pool table. But you only use two balls in the entire game. Ones a striped ball so that you can tell, that’s the object ball, and then the shooter ball is the cue ball. The object ball is striped so that you can tell when it stops spinning. So you play with two teams… I’ll go through the rules as quickly as I can for you. You play with two teams that are opposing each other, each person on the team shoots, and then, so you have four people on a team. You have team A person 1 shoots, then team B person 1 shoots, then team A person 2, then team B person 2, then team A person 3, etc. right? And you go round and round and round and round. So you start with the uh, object ball on its designated spot on one end of the table and the shooter on the other end. You can only shoot from the short ends of the table, and um, that means that the center line of your person has to be… on the short end of the table when you shoot. You must have at least one foot on the floor, when you shoot. Uh, and you must be on the short end of the table. Um, there are violations… for not doing any of those things. Any violation is assessed by the referee and all violations result in the loss of a life for that person – each person has three lives. When all of your lives are gone, then uh, you’re out of the game. And when all of the lives are gone for all of the players on your team then your team loses and you must buy your opponent opposite you on the other team the beverage of their choice. And the losing team must pay the referee by a beverage of his choice. So, you have to shoot from the short side of the table, must have at least on the, on the um, ground whenever you shoot, and the centerline of your body must be on the short side of the table. Corners can be defined as either 45 degree corners or 90 degree corners, so that gives you another 45 degrees to get around the table to shoot. That’s important because the other team can also distract and block. Now they can’t, if you’re playing gentlemanly rules, they can’t shove you out of the way, but they can, if they have established position, kinda like basketball, if they have established position you can not move them out of the way. So sometimes having to reach around, have one foot on the floor, and still be on the short side of the table, can be fairly difficult. So, the only pockets that count in crud are the corner pockets. The side pockets are filled with toilet paper rolls usually if it’s a um, pool table that’s been pressed into service but if it’s an actual crud table it won’t have side pockets. So you can lose a life if you… if the um, object ball ends up in a pocket, then that’s a loss of life for somebody. Ok? If it’s… uh, a uh, a kill shot – so somebody shot and you kill the ball, then it’s on the previous guy. If it’s lack of hustle on the guy that’s next in turn, then it’s on subsequent. So, the referee will go ‘Life! Subsequent.’ and he’ll point with his elbow, because it’s impolite to actually point. So, he can get fined if he actually points. 

SW: “Kay. There are a lot of rules to this game.”

GW: “We have… just getting started. Uh, you must make contact with the object ball, except for the serve, right? So on the serve you must make contact with the object ball and get it in motion. The next shooter must shoot, hit the object ball with the shooter ball, again, before the ball stops. The ball must travel at least six inches. Which is normally uh, a dollar bill is used as the measure of six inches. So it must travel at least six inches, and if it doesn’t, then either the referee or the members of the opposing team can scream ‘No six!’ and then it must be measured from the spot where it was hit to where it stopped to determine whether it had gone six inches or not. If it has gone six inches then it’s the subsequent player for lack of hustle, if it didn’t go six inches then it’s the shooter for no six. You with me? So, there’s a couple of different ways to play this game, right? Ok there’s also, let’s see, what other violations are there? Um, if you, if the object ball stops, and you have the ball in hand, that’s ball in hand or dead ball, right? Um, and that’s bad on you, right? You can shoot as many times as you want to, uh as long as the balls, as long as the object balls still rolling, right? But as soon as it hits, then you gotta get out of the way and it’s time for the other two to get in, right? So anybody’s whos not actively either the person shooting or the subsequent player, must be at least three feet away from the table, kay?”

SW: “That results in a lot of running.”

GW: “Yeah. Um, and you can do several different things, right? One way to get a kill is to get it into a pocket, right? So, and you, the object ball can go in the pocket any time. So if the object ball goes in the pocket then somebody’s gotta dig it out and get to the shot before it stops, right? Um, you can crawl across the table, to get to where you wanna go, if you think you’re that fast. But if you hit either one of the balls or the referee, then it’s either, so you would be called for interference if you hit the, one of the balls, that would be an automatic life. If you hit the referee, that’s usually called gross buffoonery and uh, and penalized another beverage, or a life. Um, you can argue with the ref, in fact it’s expected um, to argue with the ref and the players and try to intimidate and shout people into believing anything. Distraction is encouraged, um but you can not, ya know if the ref just screws it up, then the ref screws it up, but whatever the ref calls is what it is. Um, and so you can try to bribe, distract um, have them look elsewhere, whatever else, right? Um, I think that’s mostly the rules of the game. Usually, we would just tell people, ‘let’s get started we’ll figure it out.’ And then they get called for everything and go ‘what happened? What happened? What happened? How did I lose a life?’ Um, and I guess the only other thing, the only other rule that’s in there is if you get down to a single man on a team, um then you go into single man rules which meant you could not actively block, you had to let him have a chance to shoot. So you could get a life on somebody by shooting the object ball in the pocket, which would usually be a um life on the previous, could be on the subsequent if they didn’t move fast enough that would be a judgment call on the ref. Um, but usually, there’s also a finesse game, where you can, um, learn how to hit the ball – and none of this is with sticks, I don’t know if I said that.”

SW: “Right, you’re just throwing the ball across the table.”

GW: “Rolling, not throwing. Because if the ball leaves the table that’s gross buffoonery and you lose a life. Um, but you could, you could shoot the ball such that you had the spin on it right and just enough, just enough kiss on the object ball, that it would, the object ball would only go six inches, but then the, the shooter ball would go all the way to the other end of the table, and stop. So if the guy is trying to block you, and block your shot, right? He can’t hit your arm or anything but he can visually block and make it hard for you to see and generally just get in your way. But if you get it where you can flick it and the object ball only moves six inches but then the other ball goes way down then he doesn’t have enough time to go get the ball and shoot it again, right? There’s also a special rule called a double kiss rule, where the object ball doesn’t have to travel a total of six inches if you double kiss it, which means you hit it, it comes off a bumper, and you hit it again with the object ball, right?”

SW: “That sounds very difficult.”

GW: “Well you learn to play this little game, right? Right up against the bumper, because you can go ‘bink’ and it goes ‘tick tick’ and the object ball stops, right? And so usually if you’re starting to play that game, it’s a ‘tick tick’ ‘tick tick’ ‘tick tick’ ‘tick tick’ ‘tick tick’ ya know two guys standing right next to each other and then eventually a guy’ll get a chance where he can either put it in a pocket or, ya know he’ll do a chop shot like this, which’ll go ‘tick tick’ and then the shooter ball goes way down on other end of the table and the other guy doesn’t have enough room to go get it, right? So, um, so yeah, a game, ya know if you have four or five people on a side, I’ve seen as much as twelve people on a side.”

SW: “Oh no.”

GW: “Yeah, ya know if you’ve got four or five people on a side games usually last about 10 or 12 minutes. And then the losers buy the beverage of choice for their partners, their opponent on the other side. And somebody, usually the first one out, um is the guy that, um has to buy the ref a beer. Uh, first guy that loses a life goes and buys the ref a beer. Oh, and if there are any virgins left on the winning team then it’s double. Meaning they haven’t lost any lives. So,, if you have a virgin on the team then the other team has to buy you double. It kinda levels the playing field after a couple of games.”

SW: “Yeah, that would make sense!”

GW: “Right? And then you can get into combat rules which are really, it’s a bar room fight with a pool table in the middle.”

SW: “Great! So you play this, what? When you’re at the bar?”

GW: “Mmhmm.”

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Analysis:

Crud has elaborate rules that, in the informant’s wife’s words, “no one actually understands.” Its first purpose is a fun social activity to bring together everyone at the bar and get them all involved in a common goal. Secondly, it reinforces the drinking culture that is a major aspect of fighter pilot life. It also acts as an identifier of insider members of the group, since only fighter pilots would know the elaborate rules. The fact that there is some actual skill involved, and that GW made sure to highlight the skill aspect, shows that much of fighter pilot culture is showing off skill and proving your technical abilities and prowess to other members of the group. The rules seem somewhat intentionally vague, so that players and refs can argue over whether someone actually broke the rules or not. This might show the fighter pilot spirit of equality, both in everyone deciding the rules together, and the rules being subtly changed to help or hinder players who might be significantly better or worse than those they are playing with.

Fighter Pilot Bar Rules – An Air Force Tradition

Context:

The informant, GW, is my father. He was a fighter pilot in the United States Air Force during the late 1980s/early 1990s and participated in operation Desert Storm. I have heard him tell many stories from his time in the Air Force throughout my childhood, so I asked him to tell me some of his traditions to collect for my project. This was an informal interview in our household. This description followed a description for a specific fighter pilot bar game, Crud, which can be found in the archives under the title “Crud – A Fighter Pilot Bar Game”. 

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Main Text:

GW: “There’s rules inside the bar too, right? You can’t, so this is the before the age of cell phones, right? But if you, if your wife called to ask where you were, while you were in the squadron bar, that was a round for everybody. If you wore your hat in the bar that was a round for everybody. If you left your hat on the table that was a round for everybody. If you left your hat on the bar that was a round for everybody. If you rang the bell that was a round for everybody. All these rules were written of the wall of the bar, of any fighter bar that you’d walk into. And always the last rule in the rule set, because people would go ‘I don’t get it. How am I, why do I keep buying people drinks?’ And then you’d go ‘Well the rules are right there on the bar’ – of course you wouldn’t point cause that’s impolite, you’d use your elbow – you’d go ‘The rules are right there on the bar all you gotta do is be familiar with those.’ Well the last infraction is reading the rules in the bar is a beer for everybody.”

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Analysis:

The many rules of the bar serve to reinforce the fighter pilot culture that exists throughout every aspect of their lives. It serves as insider knowledge and a way to tell who the initiated are within a group at the bar. In a way, it is also an initiation ritual in itself, as the uninitiated would be brought to the bar and forced to buy many rounds for everyone else until they got the hang of the rules themselves.

Fighter Pilot Naming Ceremonies and Traditions

Context:

The informant, GW, is my father. He was a fighter pilot in the United States Air Force during the late 1980s/early 1990s and participated in operation Desert Storm. I have heard him tell many stories from his time in the Air Force throughout my childhood, so I asked him to tell me some of his traditions to collect for my project. This was an informal interview in our household. The interviewer is indicated as SW in the text.

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Main Text:

GW: “Another tradition in fighter squadrons, it’s been globalized to most of the squadrons in the air force now I guess, but um I think it really started as a fighter pilot tradition. I think, I don’t know. I don’t know what the original etymology of the naming services, naming ceremonies was but um, when you show up at a new squadron, and each squadron had their own traditions. I was in the 335th Chiefs, was our squadron. And when you show up in the Chiefs, um all of the initiated, all of the guys that have been in the squadron and have been to, we’d have Chiefs parties about once a month. Um, the um, ya know obviously in the military there’s rank structure and whoever had the highest rank is the person in charge. Except for at Chiefs parties, where the longest tenured person in the squadron, so the guy who had been in the squadron the longest, was the Old Great Chief. And he was in charge of the Chiefs parties. And it didn’t matter what rank he was.”

SW: “Yeah, cause you could very obviously have someone who’s been in the squadron longer who is not the highest rank.”

GW: “Yeah, usually a captain was the Old Great Chief. And obviously the squadron was run by a lieutenant colonel, which is two ranks above a captain. So if the squadron commander was gonna come to the Chiefs party, which all Chiefs parties were totally optional you were just a complete wuss if you didn’t show up. Um, he, ya know, squadron commander didn’t have to come, we had squadron commanders that opted not to come, right? But if they came, for tonight you are the commander, ya know? The, uh the Chiefs parties, the Old Great Chief presided, and he had the council, which was the next four longest reigning members of the squadron, who were on the council. Um, the Old Great Chief was responsible ultimately for selecting the name of any new members of the tribe. He would take suggestions from the tribe, who would shout it all out, and then council would retreat into the teepee and meet about deciding what the name of this new chief was going to be and then they’d come out and announce it.”

SW: “Is there an actual teepee?”

GW: “Yeah, of course.”

SW: “I did not know this.”

GW: “Yeah, we had a teepee, and the Old Great Chiefs chair was a big chair that sat up about this high (indicating about three feet) because one of the rules is that no one can be higher than the Old Great Chief. So no one in the tribe can be higher than the Old Great Chief, so if the Old Great Chief drops something and bends down to pick it up, everybody else has to get down on the ground, right?”

SW: “What if you’re just tall?”

GW: “What if the Old Great Chief is not? Because AB was not! Now, at the front, when we’d had the Chiefs parties, this was out in the woods too, this was not anywhere near anywhere. We’d go out to the old great stomping grounds of the many Chiefs that had gone before us, the Old Great Chief would come out in feathered headdress, and the whole nine yards, right? Come out of the teepee, we’d, everybody would get there we’d socialize for a little bit, we’d talk about it, you know? Let the sun go down, um we’d have a big bonfire ready to go, right? And then, the teepee would be there and in front of the teepee was the Old Great Chief’s chair and then the council had two members on either side of the Old Great Chief, they would retreat to the teepee and get into their war paint and big headdress and everything and then they’d come out and beat the drum and, cause part of the, part of the council is you had, I don’t even remember what all of the uh, the uh roles on the council were, but the lowest ranking member on the council was the guy that beat the drum. So he was the drum bitch, so ‘Beat the drum, bitch!’, ya know? Boom boom boom boom boom boom boom. So, they would go into the teepee and get all their war paint on and everything. In front of where the council sat, there was the groveling pit, ok? So that would be a place where we dug up all of the, um stuff there, stirred up the dirt and then uh, hosed it all down. So it was a, it was a mud pit, right? In between the groveling pit and the um, uh council was a giant bowl of what we called wisdom, right? So the first thing that council did was come out, right? And because the unnamed Chiefs were not wise and not initiated they needed to grovel for wisdom at the feet of the council, right? You see how that works? Ok so, the unititated were boys, right? They were not fit to be chiefs yet. So all of the boys would be led in and would grovel at the feet of the council and lay in the mud and, uh, every time they did something or said something stupid, which was very often, they were sent to the grov – to the wisdom bowl, to gain more wisdom, right? Then, behind the grovel pit, would be all the rest of the chiefs, sitting in their chairs and, ya know, having a beverage and hanging out and having a good time. Well, as the council came out, the Old Great Chief would start off by, um, applying his war paint, and taking his wisdom from the Chiefs that had gone before. Which meant he had to kneel down to the bowl, to get his paint and to get his wisdom, right? So everybody else had to ‘oh my goodness’ get down this low so that nobody was higher than the Old Great Chief. And he would always look around, to see if anybody was higher, and then call them down to get more wisdom, right? So the boys are laying in the grovel pit, the Old Great Chief introduces the council, and then the Old Great Chief would introduce every member of the tribe. And then each member of the tribe as they’re called, would let out their war cry and then go get some wisdom. Well the unfortunate part is the only way to get to the wisdom was, the boys were between the tribe and the wisdom. So you usually had to step on, over, through, somersault on, whatever, the boys, to get to the wisdom. And once you got to the wisdom, you would take your wisdom, and the Old Great Chief would give you your war paint, and you’d get your feather for the night, and then you would go back and sit in your chair. Again, you had to trip over the boys on the way out. Make sure they felt loved. Which was great, until Chief Blundering Bison was called up, um because he was not a small man. He was a large mammal. And all the, when I was a boy, grovelling in the pit, and they called Chief Blundering Bison, who liked to do somersaults all the way down the grovel pit, um, the boy next to me was, his call sign was Necklace, his Chiefs name was uh, Chief Dripping Loincloth. Um, but, when he was a boy, he was a football player in college. I was about 140 pound soaking wet. So, when Chief Blundering Bison was called Necklace just put his arm around me and I’m like ‘Ok good. I’ll just hide here.’ We had, we told high ranking old guys not to show up to Chiefs parties unless they really meant it. We did break the ribs of a colonel one time when he was a boy, because we treated him – if you’re gonna show up you’re a boy, you get in the pit. We had to send him to the hospital. We tied uh, one of the boys was so unruly at one Chiefs party um, Russ Russon, Steve Russon. So his call sign was Russ. So every fighter squadron has call signs, right? And your call signs tend to kinda stick with you after a little bit. But you still get a chiefs name, even when you have a call sign. Anything else you wanna hear? Because I could probably go on forever.”

SW: “Who decided all of this, where did it come from? Does anybody know where it came from?” 

GW: “Where did Chiefs parties come from?”

SW: “Yeah.”

GW: “Um, so each squadron in the Air Force kind had its tradition for…”

SW: “I mean it seems like it’s a giant hazing ritual.”

GW: “Um… yeah I mean so in my F-15 training unit, which was the deadly jesters, that was done in the squadron bar, we didn’t go out in the woods for that, and it wasn’t quite as elaborate. But, ya know, the deal there is that in order to get your name you had to drink some swill and then eat a raw egg shell and all, and then you would get your name, ya know?”

SW: “Significantly less elaborate.”

GW: “Yeah, it was less elaborate, it was a lot noisier, ya know, but they were naming every class of F-15 guys that came through, right? Cause we’d never been named, right?”

SW: “And that’s probably more people to…”

GW: “Yeah, and it was, ya know we had 15 in my class, so, ya know, it would be, ya know you’d get there and hang out, you’d be part of the squadron for two or three or four weeks, by that time they’ve kind of gotten to know you. Because naming is all about um, giving you… like, like some of my friends like to say, ya know, um, your parents give you the name that’s on your birth certificate but your buddies give you your real name, the one that you earn, right? So you earn it by doing something of distinction, it could be either something really spectacular or really sepctaculalrly stupid. And, and usually it has a double entendre to it in some way, right? Sometimes it’s sexual innuendo, sometimes it’s a play or a pun, sometimes it’s the opposite of what you are, like one of my friends Fast A., Fast Frank, was not fast, ya know? So… ya know. So, how does it come about? It comes about because part of your job is to go to really strange places, live there by yourself, with 20-300 of your favorite male friends, and let other people shoot at you on occasion. So, you kinda tend to come up with things that are silly. Now, in 1992, I guess, which was the 50th anniversary of the formation of the 335th Chiefs, back before the Air Force existed when it was the Army Air Corps, and in 1942, the 335th was actually part of the RAF as the American volunteer forces in Britain before -”

SW: “So you were in like one of the oldest squadrons.”

GW: “Yeah. And when they, in 1992 the Air Force did a um, heritage study, of all of the squadrons in the United States Air Force, to see which ones had the most heritage and the best traditions, and the 335th Chiefs were the number one most historic squadron in the United States Air Force.”

SW: “Which is why you have such elaborate rituals for naming people. That involve a lot of… stomping on initiates.”

GW: “There’s also roof stomping, that’s completely different.”


GW: “So this is absolutely initiation and acceptance, building of esprit de corps. It is a common bond, it is, I mean, people walk in, and part of the fun is ‘what’s your Chiefs name?’ ‘Oh… Chief Dripping Loincloth…’ ‘Oh really, where’d you get that?’”

SW: “Yeah you’ve lucked out with names that aren’t really particularly bad. Doc doesn’t really have any story behind it.”

GW: “Well, the story behind that is that the guy, the OpsO, was, his call sign was Doc. And he liked me, and I was excelling, I mean this was in the F-15 class. I’d already graduated number one out of nav school. I’d graduated as the air-to-air and overall top gun out of F-15 school. So, and then my last name being Watson, he just called me Doctor Watson, so, ya know. As in Sherlock Holmes and.”

SW: “Yeah, no, I get that one all the time too. In fact [significant other] calls me Watson now too because of Sherlock.”

GW: “Yeah. So that’s where that one came from.”

SW: “And crooked beak is just a, you have a big nose.”

GW: “Yup. I mean, there were, so I think what was on the table was Crooked Beak and Texas Turtle.”

SW: “Why Texas Turtle?”

GW: “Because apparently they thought I was slow or lazy or something, ya know? Because mostly I’d be like ‘Eh, we don’t need to work that hard.’”

SW: “Yeah, that sounds about right.”

GW: “They didn’t really have much more than that on me. Cause mostly, I was the instigator, not the guy that was gonna get caught. Most of the time.”

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Analysis:

The tradition of naming ceremonies in the Air Force, as well as the names themselves, provide an in-depth look at many values and beliefs shared by members of the Air Force, and especially fighter pilot squadrons. The first, most obvious reason for their existence is to form a camaraderie within the squadron. By having elaborate initiation rituals that only insiders would know, and bestowing unique nicknames that can only be used by the initiated, the group forms a bond of exclusivity. 

This initiation ceremony also both honors and removes the liminal status of new members of the squadron. The “boys,” as they were called in GW’s squadron, can not be considered full members of the group until they have undergone this ritual. When squadrons are sent into combat, it is vital that all members can trust and rely on each other in all circumstances – their lives depend on it. The naming ceremony provides a way to quickly build this trust when you may not actually know someone very well before you are sent into battle with them.

The fact that naming ceremonies are presided over by the member that has been at the squadron the longest, rather than the person with the highest rank who is normally in charge, speaks to both their status as unofficial culture and the fact that they are rooted in the traditions of a specific squadron, not the Air Force as a whole. There appears to be an element of wanting to subvert authority and the usual power structures of day-to-day life, and have the common man take control of everyone for a night. GW’s repeated mention of the “Old Great Chief” and the fact that they made sure the squadron commander knew they were not in charge at the party highlights this fact. Not only is one of their own taking control from the normal authority, they are taking control of what is considered the most sacred practice within the squadron. In doing so, they are showing that as far as the men are concerned, they are really in charge of the important parts of the squadron, even if the commander is technically in charge.

The usage of traditionally Native American elements, while ostensibly an homage to the squadron’s name, the Chiefs, may also serve as a patriotic reminder that this is part of the United States Air Force, and their traditions are uniquely American. At the same time, they borrow from the most wild or “savage” interpretation of Native American culture. This might serve as a way to blow off steam and indulge the wild aspects of their nature that are otherwise strictly confined by Air Force regulations. It might also serve to reinforce their own self-image as warriors and great heroes before they are sent into battle. 

The names that are chosen themselves seem to be a way of recognizing and normalizing something that a member may not like about themselves or may have done wrong at some point. The names serve to poke fun at someone or act as a reminder of something stupid they did, but at the same time this practice actually normalizes that undiserable trait and makes it known that it is not something people are actually judging them for. By turning undesirable traits into a joke or badge of honor, it makes them less likely to be used to actually inflict harm. 

Deceased Insect – A Fighter Pilot Bar Game

Context:

The informant, GW, is the interviewer’s father. He was a fighter pilot in the United States Air Force during the late 1980s/early 1990s and participated in operation Desert Storm. I have heard him tell many stories from his time in the Air Force throughout my childhood, so I asked him to tell me some of his traditions to collect for my project. This was an informal interview in our household. The interviewer is indicated as SW in the text.

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Main Text:

GW: “The object of every fighter pilot game is to get other people to buy you beverages, mostly of the alcohol variety. Um, there were short games uh like, deceased insect, which uh, that was the code name because if you said the exact words for deceased insect… then everybody within earshot had to lay on the floor on their back as fast as possible, put their feet and hands up in the air to imitate the dead cockroach on the floor, and the last person to make it all the way to the ground was then the actual deceased insect and was responsible for buying everyone in proximity the beverage of their choice.”

SW: “Where does one learn deceased insect, who teaches it to you?”

GW: “Well usually you learn it by being the one guy standing after somebody yells “dead bug!” and then everybody else hits the floor and you’re sitting there standing… you’re standing in the middle of all of it going ‘what just happened?’ and everybody goes “ha ha! You have to buy everybody a round.’ … That’s how that works.

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Analysis:

As GW mentioned, many fighter pilot traditions center around drinking culture and who owes who the next drink. However, the game of deceased insect also serves as an initiation ritual and a prank to pull on new members who are not aware of its existence. By making new members of the group buy everybody a round, they are paying the penalty for being new. At the same time, they are now in on the joke and have a shared knowledge with other members of the group, and can later play the same prank on other new members of the group. In this way, deceased insect actually serves to create social bonds and obligations to other members, which is of utmost importance in a group that will be sent to war together.