Cigars have long had connections to the military, with generals, troops and government leaders known to enjoy a stogie or two.
Naturally, working in a military-environment is going to be a high-stress job, so smoking a cigar offers the perfect way to relax and unwind for some.
We take a look at some military legends from around the world who have been known to enjoy the aroma and flavour of a good smoke.
First, we will take a look at some influential political figures with connections to the military who are known for smoking cigars.
Even when thinking about cigar smoking in general, Winston Churchill is likely to spring to mind. As Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Churchill was in charge of the decisions on the use of the armed forces, most notably during World War II.
Interestingly enough, Churchill discovered his own love for cigars while serving as an officer himself. In 1895, Churchill was sent to Cuba during the Cuban War of Independence. Churchill did not experience any combat though, instead he spent his days in Cuba enjoying the delights of Cuban cigars and fruit!
As Prime Minister, Churchill was frequently photographed with a cigar in hand. It is estimated that he smoked somewhere around 200,000 cigars in his lifetime; which is around 8 per day! His love for cigars was so great that the now-famous Churchill vitola was named after him.
Ulysses S. Grant
The 18th President of the United States, Ulysses S. Grant, was the Union general during the Civil War.
Known for his love of cigars, Grant is reported to have smoked around 20 cigars a day. This number was said to increase as the conflict continued – and who can blame him, it must have been a stressful time! It is even reported that he smoked cigars during battle.
He died in 1885, at the age of 63, from throat cancer – perhaps a repercussion of a 20-a-day cigar habit!
Starting off as the leader of the rebel army during the Cuban Revolution, Fidel Castro became the President of Cuba, and as such, the leader of the Cuban military.
The Cuban Revolutionary Armed Forces became a key part of the nationalisation of Cuba, with military officers overseeing aspects of the economic sectors.
Part of this was the nationalisation of the cigar industry, which saw huge changes for the cigar world, with many brands relocating to the Dominican Republic or Nicaragua. New cigar brands in Cuba were also developed for Castro, including the now-beloved Cohiba cigar!
Military Cigar Clubs and Organisations
There are several instances of organisations that promote the enjoyment of cigar smoking within the military. Here are a few examples.
Operation Deployed was set up by Robert Barr in 2014 as a US military care package program. Since then he had sent out more than 5,000 cigars to troops in Afghanistan and the Middle East.
Wanting to send a bit of luxury to the troops, Operation Deployed send boxes of 50 or 100 cigars, as well as other premium goods. Barr says that the cigars sent are usually Ashton cigars or E.P. Carrillos.
When new deployments arrive, Operation Deployed send over a special welcome care package that contains cigars, a torch lighter, chocolate bars and dried beef strips!
Cigars for Warriors
A similar concept to Operation Deployed, Cigars for Warriors also send out cigars and luxury goods to the American troops in combat zones. Instead of sending them as a care package, Cigars for Warriors works on a by-request basis.
US service members can request to receive a shipment of between 30 and 50 cigars. The cigars are funded by donations from charity events and from premium cigar companies.
The Tali-Banned Cigar Aficionado Club
Despite attempts to ban smoking in the military, the “Tali-Banned Cigar Aficionado Club” was founded by troops in Afghanistan in 2009. The name refers to the Taliban’s ban on smoking.
The military cigar club offered troops the chance to bond over a good smoke. Since the initial club was created, several more clubs have been established in different military bases.
The cigars enjoyed at the club are sent in packages from family and friends, or donated by the organisations mentioned above!
Legendary Cigar Smoking Troops
It is clear that many members of the military enjoy smoking cigars. We share some stories of legendary veterans, many of which have shared their story with Cigar Aficionado magazine.
Cigars aside, Richard Overton is a bit of a legend, as he was the oldest verified surviving US World War II veteran and oldest man in the United States! He died in 2018 at the age of 112 years and 230 days.
During World War II, Overton served in the all-black 1887th Engineer Aviation Battalion. He fought in a number of battles, including the battle of Iwo Jima.
He began smoking cigars in 1924, at the age of 18 and claims to have smoked around 12 a day – even when he was over 100!
General Tommy Franks
General Tommy Franks is an Army veteran who was Commander of the United States Central Command. Franks oversaw operations in 25 countries, including the US invasion of Iraq in 2003.
Speaking to Cigar Aficionado in 2003, Franks revealed that he had over 20 humidors in his home – we wonder how many he has now!
Franks also recalled a special moment in which he and other Central Command commanders sat together and smoked cigars in one of Saddam Hussein’s palaces in Baghdad!
Image Credit: MorganC316 under CC BY-SA 3.0