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Glossary of Military Terms and Slang from the Vietnam War
4-F: classification given to those deemed unfit for military service.
50-cal: .50 caliber machine gun.
51-cal: heavy machine gun used by the enemy.
79: an M-79 grenade launcher.
82 mm: a mortar used by the enemy.
105: a 105-mm howitzer.
201 file: a U.S. Army personnel file.
AAR: after-action report.
AC: aircraft commander.
Actual: the unit commander. Used to distinguish the commander from the radioman when the call sign is used.
ADSID: air-delivered seismic intruder-detection device; microphone and transmitter dropped into suspect areas
Advance Guard Youth: Vietnamese student social and sports organization that evolved into a non-Communist nationalist movement by 1945.
Advanced Individual Training: specialized training taken after Basic Training, also referred to as Advanced Infantry Training
AFVN: Armed Forced Vietnam Network radio station.
Agency: the Central Intelligence Agency.
AGL: above level ground.
A-gunner: assistant gunner.
AHB: assault helicopter battalion.
AID: Agency for International Development.
Airborne: refers to soldiers who are qualified as parachutists air cav: air cavalry; helicopter-borne infantry; helicopter gunship assault teams.
Airmobile: helicopter-borne infantry.
AIT: advanced infantry training.
AK-47: Soviet-manufactured Kalashnikov semi-automatic and fully automatic combat assault rifle, 7.62-mm; the basic weapon of the Communist forces. Known as the Type 56 to the Chinese, it is characterized by an explosive popping sound.
AK-50: newer version of the AK-47. Some have a permanently mounted "illegal" triangular bayonet, which leaves a sucking wound that will not close.
ALPHA: military phonetic for the letter 'A' ammo dump: location where live or expended ammunition is stored amtrack: amphibious armored vehicle used to transport troops and supplies, armed with a .30-caliber machine gun. The Marines used them.
Angel track: an armored personnel carrier used as an aid station.
AO: area of operations.
AOD: administrative officer on duty.
Áo dài: traditional dress of Vietnamese women. A brightly colored silk top worn over loose fitting silk trousers.
APC: armored personnel carrier. A track vehicle used to transport Army troops or supplies, usually armed with a .50-caliber machine gun.
APL: barracks ship.
APO: Army post office located in San Francisco for overseas mail to Vietnam.
AR: Army regulation.
ARA: aerial rocket artillery. A Cobra AG-1H helicopter with four XM-159C 19-rocket (2.75 inch) pods.
Arc light: code name for B-52 bombers strikes along the Cambodian-Vietnamese border. These operations shook earth for ten miles away from the target area.
Article 15: section of the Uniform Military Code of Justice. A form of non-judicial punishment.
Arty: shorthand term for artillery.
Arvin: soldier in the ARVN, or the ARVN itself.
ARVN: Army of the Republic of Vietnam; the South Vietnamese Regular Army.
A-team: basic ten man team of the U.S. Special Forces.
The A-teams often led irregular military units which were not responsible to the Vietnamese military command.
AWOL: absent without leave; leaving a post or position without official permission.
Azimuth: a bearing from North.
B-40 rocket: a shoulder-held rocket-propelled grenade launcher.
B-52: U.S. Air Force high-altitude bomber; also, slang for a can opener.
Bà: married woman; used as a title, like "Mrs.".
Bác sĩ: doctor; also used to refer to medic in the U.S. Army.
Ballgame: an operation or a contact.
Ba Ba: brand name of a Vietnamese beer.
Bắn: bastardized Vietnamese for "to shoot".
Bandoliers: belts of machine gun ammunition
BAR: Browning automatic rifle. A .30-caliber magazine-fed automatic rifle used by U.S. troops during World War II and Korea.
Base camp: a resupply base for field units and a location for headquarters of brigade or division size units, artillery batteries and air fields. Also known as the rear area.
Basic: basic training.
Bac si de: home-brewed rice whiskey.
Basketball: an illumination-dropping aircraft mission, capable of lighting approximately a square mile of terrain.
Battalion: a military unit composed of a headquarters and two or more companies, batteries, or similar units.
Battery: an artillery unit equivalent to a company. Six 105mm or 155mm howitzers or two 8-inch or 175mm self-propelled howitzers.
Battle-sight zeroing: process of adjusting a weapon's sights and windage to an individual soldier so the weapon, when fired, will hit the object of aim.
BCD: bad conduct discharge.
BDA: bomb damage assessment.
Beans and dicks: military C-ration hot dogs and beans beans and motherfuckers: military C-ration lima beans and ham.
Beaten zone: area where the majority of bullets will strike when a machine gun is laid-in to cover a part of a defensive perimeter or part of an ambush zone.
Beehive round: an explosive artillery shell which delivered thousands of small projectiles, "like nails with fins," instead of shrapnel.
Berm: perimeter line of a fortification; usually raised above surrounding area.
Biệt kích: Special force, commando.
Big Boys: artillery; slang for tanks.
Big Red One: nickname for the 1st Infantry Division.
Bình Xuyên: the organized crime syndicate that controlled much of the Vietnamese underworld and Saigon police until deposed by Diệm's forces in 1955.
Bird: any aircraft, but usually refers to helicopters bird dog: forward air controller, usually in a small, maneuverable single-engined prop airplane.
BK amputee: below-the-knee amputation of the leg blood trail: a trail of blood on the ground left by a fleeing man who has been wounded.
Blooper: the M-79 grenade launcher. A 40-millimeter, shotgunlike weapon that shoots spin-armed "balls" or small grenades.
Blue feature: any water feature. So called because of the color used to designate water on topographic maps.
Body bag: plastic bag used to transport dead bodies from the field.
Body count: the number of enemy killed, wounded, or captured during an operation. The term was used by Washington and Saigon as a means of measuring the progress of the war.
Boo-coo: bastardized French, from beaucoup, meaning "much" or "many".
Boondoggle: any military operation that hasn't been completely thought out. An operation that is absurd or useless.
Boonie hat: soft hat worn by a boonierat in the boonies.
Boonierat: a combat infantryman.
Boonies: infantry term for the field; jungles or swampy areas far from the comforts of civilization.
Boot: a soldier just out of boot camp; inexperienced, untested.
BOQ: bachelor officer quarters; living quarters for officers.
Bouncing Betty: antipersonnel mine with two charges: the first propels the explosive charge upward, and the other is set to explode at about waist level.
Bowl: pipe used for smoking dope.
BRAVO: military phonetic for the letter 'B'.
Bravo: Army designation for the infantry man.
Breaking squelch: disrupting the natural static of a radio by depressing the transmit bar on another radio set to the same frequency.
Brigade: a tactical and administrative military unit composed of a headquarters and one or more battalions of infantry or armor, with other supporting units.
Bro: a black soldier; also, at times, boonierats from the same unit.
Bronco: twin-engine observation aircraft equipped with rockets and mini-guns.
Bronze Star: U.S. military decoration awarded for heroic or meritorious service no involving aerial flights.
Brother: a fellow black Marine; sometimes used as slang for all black males brown bar: a lieutenant; denotes the single bar of the rank. In the field, officers wore camouflage rank which was often brown or black instead of brass.
Brown Water Navy: term applied to the U.S. Navy units assigned to the inland boat patrols of the Mekong River delta.
BS: bullshit, as in chewing the fat, telling tall tales, or telling lies.
Buckle: to fight. "Buckle for your dust" means to fight furiously.
Bummer: bad luck, a real drag.
Bush: infantry term for the field.
Bust caps: Marine Corps term for firing a rifle rapidly.
Butter bar: see brown bar.
C-4: plastic, putty textured explosive carried by infantry soldiers. It burns like sterno when lit, and was used to heat C-rations in the field.
C-54: largest of the American helicopters, strictly for cargo. Also called Flying Crane or Skycrane.
C-123: small cargo airplane; the Caribou.
C-130: large propeller-driven Air Force planes that carry people and cargo; the Hercules.
C-141: large cargo airplane; the Starlifter.
CA: combat assault. The term is used to describe dropping troopers into a hot LZ.
Cache: hidden supplies.
Camies: World War II term for camouflage uniforms.
Căn cước: an identification card.
C&C: command and control helicopter used by reconnaissance or unit commanders.
Cần Lao: the powerful semisecret political party of the Diệm government headed by Ngô Đình Nhu, Diệm's brother. It permeated the entire administrative, intelligence, and defense structures of South Vietnam.
Cao Ðài: a religious and political sect formed in the 1920s by a group of South Vietnamese intellectuals, combining the three major religions of Vietnam --Buddhism, Confucianism, and Christianity -- with the worship of Vietnamese and Western heroes. With a strength of more that 1,500,000 followers, groups of Cao Đài still waged a stubborn resistance war against the Communists (especially in Tây Ninh Province) even after the U.S. troop withdrawal.
CAP: civil action program. U.S. military personnel working with Vietnamese civilians.
Capping: shooting at.
CAR-15: a carbine rifle.
Carbine: a short-barreled, lightweight automatic or semiautomatic rifle.
Caribou: small transport plane for moving men and material.
Cav: Cavalry; the 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile).
CC: company commander.
CG: commanding general.
Chào: hello or goodbye, depending upon the context.
CHARLIE: military phonetic for the letter 'C".
Charlie: Việt Cộng.
Chas: Việt Cộng.
Cheap Charlie: GI who is frugal with his money while in a bar.
Cherry: slang term for youth and inexperience; a virgin.
Chicom: Chinese communist.
Chicom mine: Chinese mine; can be made of plastic
Chiêu Hồi: the "open arms" program, promising clemency and financial aid to Việt Cộng and NVA soldiers and cadres who stopped fighting and returned to South Vietnamese government authority.
Chinook: CH-47 cargo helicopter
Chop chop: slang for food
Chuck: term used by black marines to identify white individuals; often derogatory.
Chuck: the Việt Cộng.
CIB: combat infantry badge. And Army award for being under enemy fire in a combat zone, worn on both fatigues and dress uniforms.
CIDG: civilian irregular defense groups.
CINCPAC: commander in chief of all American forces in the Pacific region Civilian Irregular Defense Group: American financed, irregular military units which were led by members of Special Forces A-teams. Members of these units were Vietnamese nationals, but were usually members of ethnic minorities in the country.
Clacker: a small hand-held firing device for a claymore mine claymore: an antipersonnel mine carried by the infantry which, when detonated, propelled small steel cubes in a 60-degree fan-shaped pattern to a maximum distance of 100 meters.
Clearance: permission from both military and political authorities to engage the enemy in a particular area clutch belt: cartridge belt worn by Marines
CMH: Congressional Medal of Honor. The highest U.S. military decoration awarded for conspicuous gallantry at the risk of life above and beyond the call of duty. [Not awarded to Conrad Gordon].
Cô: unmarried woman; used as a title, like "Miss".
CO: commanding officer.
Cobra: an AH-1G attack helicopter. Also known as a gunship, armed with rockets and machine guns.
Cochin-china: the French name for its southern Vietnam colony, encompassing the III Corps and Mekong Delta rice-producing lowlands, which earlier was part of Cambodia.
Code of Conduct: military rules for U.S. soldiers taken prisoner by the enemy.
Comics: topographic maps.
Commo: shorthand for "communications".
Commo bunker: bunker containing vital communications equipment. Usually included in the last redoubt of established defensive positions.
Commo wire: communications wire.
Company: a military unit usually consisting of a headquarters and two or more platoons.
Compound: a fortified military installation.
Concertina wire: coiled barbed wire used as an obstacle.
Connex container: corrugated metal packing crate, approximately six feet in length.
Contact: firing on or being fired upon by the enemy.
CONUS: continental United States.
CORDS: civil operations and revolutionary development support. Created by civilian administration, MACV, and the CIA to coordinate American pacification efforts.
COSVN: central office of South Vietnam. Communist headquarters for military and political action in South Vietnam.
Counterinsurgency: antiguerrilla warfare.
Country team: the staff and personnel of an American embassy assigned to a particular country.
Cố vấn: advisor. American assigned to Vietnamese military units or to political division within the country to help direct and train Vietnamese military and civilian officials.
Coxwain flat: the area where the coxwain (driver) stands when he steers a boat or ship.
CP: command post.
CP pills: anti-malarial pills.
CQ: charge of quarters. An officer officially in charge of a unit headquarters at night.
C-rations: combat rations. Canned meals for use in the field. Each usually consisted of a can of some basic course, a can of fruit, a packet of some type of dessert, a packet of powdered coca, a small pack of cigarettes, and two pieces of chewing gum.
Crispy critters: burn victims
CS: a riot-control gas which burns the eyes and mucus membranes cumshaw: unofficial trading, begging, bartering, or stealing from other branches of the service.
Cyclo: motorized rickshaw.
DA: Department of the Army.
Ðặc công: NVA special forces.
Ðại đoàn kết: Party of Great Solidarity. Organized in 1954 to unify the non-Communist nationalist organizations in South Vietnam in the period before Ngô Đình Diệm came to full power. Headed by Diệm's brother, Ngô Đình Nhu, this was the forerunner of the Cần Lao.
Daily-daily: daily anti-malarial pill.
Đại úy: captain.
Ðại Việt: formed in 1930 as a non-Communist revolutionary and political organization throughout Vietnam. Though more widespread and with a larger membership than Hồ ChíMinh's Việt Minh or Lao Ðộng Party, the Ðại Việt were fragmented into regional factions. The assassination of Truong Tu Anh, the Ðại Việt leader, in 1946 by Hồ's agents further fragmented the Ðại Việt. By the mid-1960s the Ðại Việt had evolved into two major parties that both played key roles in opposing or supporting the various South Vietnamese governments. Since 1975, there has been severe repression against Ðại Việt members, some of whom still carry on resistance to the Communist government.
Dap: handshake and greeting which may last up to ten minutes and is characterized by the use of both hands and often comprised of slaps and snaps of the fingers. Used by black soldiers, highly ritualized and unit specific.
DCI: the Director of the CIA.
DELTA: military phonetic for the letter 'D'.
DEROS: date of expected return from overseas. The day all soldiers in Vietnam were waiting for.
Det-cord: detonating cord used with explosives deuce-and-a-half: two-and-a-half ton truck.
DH5: Việt Cộng claymore mine.
DH10: Việt Cộng claymore mine.
Dicks: derogatory expression referring to both male genitalia and the enemy.
Diddy-bopping: walking carelessly.
Đi đi: slang from the Vietnamese word di, meaning "to leave" or "to go".
Đi đi mau: slang Vietnamese for "go quickly".
Dink: derogatory term for an Asian.
Dinky dau: to be crazy, from"điên cái đầu".
District team: American personnel assigned to act as advisors to Vietnamese military and civilian officials at the district level.
District Mobile Company: the major Việt Cộng fighting unit organized within each district in Vietnam. The District Mobile Company was assigned to carry out various assignments from direct offensive operations to sabotage and terrorism.
DMZ: demilitarized zone. The dividing line between North and South Vietnam established in 1954 at the Geneva Convention.
Doc: medic or corpsman.
Đồng: unit of North Vietnamese money about equal to a penny.
Doo-mommie: English approximation of the Vietnamese du ma, meaning literally "fuck mother".
Double veteran: Having sex with a woman and then killing her made one a double veteran. Perhaps apocryphal, perhaps not.
DP: displaced person.
D-ring: a D-shaped metal snap link used to hold gear together.
DRO: dining room orderly.
Drops: reduction in length of tour caused by overall reduction and withdrawal of American forces from Vietnam.
DTs: defensive targets.
Dừng lại!: stop!
Dust-off: medical evacuation by helicopter.
DX: direct exchange. Also, to discard or dispose of, or to kill someone.
Eagle flights: large air assault of helicopters.
Early-Outs: a drop or reduction in time in service. A soldier with 150 days or less remaining on his active duty commitment when he DEROSed from Vietnam also ETSed from the army under the Early Out program.
ECHO: military phonetic for the letter 'E'.
Elephant grass: tall, razor-edged tropical plant indigenous to certain parts of Vietnam.
Eleven Bravo: the MOS of an infantryman.
EM: enlisted man.
EOD: explosive ordinance disposal. A team that disarms explosive devices.
E-tool: entrenching tool. Folding shovel carried by infantrymen.
ETS: date of departure for overseas duty station; estimated time of separation from military service.
Expectants: casualties who are expected to die.
F-4: Phantom jet fighter-bombers. Range: 1,000 miles. Speed: 1400 mph. Payload: 16,000 lbs. The workhorse of the tactical air support fleet.
FAC: forward air controller; a person who coordinates air strikes fast mover: an F-4 fatigues: standard combat uniform, green in color.
FDC: fire direction control center.
Finger charge: explosive booby-trapping device which takes its name from the size and shape's being approximately that of a man's finger.
Fire base: temporary artillery encampment used for fire support of forward ground operations.
Firefight: a battle, or exchange of small arms fire with the enemy.
Fire Track: flame-thrower tank.
Five: radio call sign for the executive officer of a unit.
Flack jacket: heavy fiberglass-filled vest worn for protection from shrapnel.
Flaky: to be in a state of mental disarray, characterized by spaciness and various forms of unreasoning fear.
Flare: illumination projectile; hand-fired or shot from artillery, mortars, or air.
Flechette: a small dart-shaped projectile clustered in an explosive warhead. A mine without great explosive power containing small pieces of shrapnel intended to wound and kill.
FNG: fucking new guy
FO: forward observer. A person attached to a field unit to coordinate the placement of direct or indirect fire from ground, air, and naval forces.
Foo gas: a mixture of explosives and napalm, usually set in a fifty-gallon drum.
FOXTROT: military phonetic for the letter 'F'.
Frag: fragmentation grenade.
Fragging: the assassination of an officer by his own troops, usually be a grenade.
Freak: radio frequency. Also, a junkie or a doper.
Freedom Bird: the plane that took soldiers from Vietnam back to the World.
Free fire zone: free strike zone.
Free strike zone: area where everyone was deemed hostile and a legitimate target by U.S. forces.
French fort: a distinctive triangular structure built by the hundreds by the French.
Freq: radio frequency.
Friendly fire: accidental attacks on U.S. or allied soldiers by other U.S. or allied soldiers.
Fuck: along with fucked and fuckin, the most commonly used word in the GI vocabulary other than the article 'a'.
Fucked up: wounded or killed. Also, to get stoned, drunk, or to be foolish or do something stupid.
Fugazi: fucked up or screwed up.
FULRO: United Front for the Struggle of Oppressed Races. Resistance organization in the highlands of Vietnam made up of Montagnards, Chàm, and ethnic Khmer. FULRO is still conducting resistance against Communist operations to subjugate the indigenous tribal peoples.
FUNCINPEC: National United Front for an Independent, Neutral, Peaceful, and Cooperative Cambodia. Prince Sihanouk's non-Communist political and military organization which attempted to drive the Vietnamese occupation forces out of Cambodia and reestablish independence. In 1982 FUNCINPEC joined the Cambodian Coalition Government and shared the seat at the United Nations.
Funny papers: topographic maps.
FWMAF: Free World Military Assistance Forces. The Allies.
G-3: division level tactical advisor; a staff officer.
Garand: the M-1 rifle.
Ghosting: goldbricking or sandbagging; fucking off.
GI: government issue. Usually refers to an American soldier.
Giơ tay lên: Hands up!
Glad bag: slang term for body bag.
GOLF: military phonetic for the letter 'G'.
Gook: derogatory term for an Asian; derived from Korean slang for "person" and passed down by Korean war veterans
Green Berets: U.S. Special Forces.
Greens: Army Class A uniform.
GR point: graves registration point. That place on a military base where the identification, embalming and processing of dead soldiers takes place as part of the operations of the quartermaster.
Grids: map broken into numbered thousand-meter squares.
Grunt: infantryman. Originally slang for a Marine fighting in Vietnam but later applied to any solder fighting there; a boonierat.
GSW: gunshot wound.
Gung ho: enthusiastic (usually about military matters and killing people).
Gunship: armed helicopter.
GVN: Government of South Vietnam.
HALO: high-altitude, low-opening jumping for insertion of troops behind enemy lines. The jump is begun from 15,000 feet, with an average free-fall time of approximately seventeen minutes.
Hamlet: a small rural village.
Hammer and anvil: an infantry tactic of surrounding an enemy base area, then sending in other units to drive the enemy out of hiding.
Hand frag: a fragmentation grenade thrown by a soldier.
H&E: high explosive.
H&I: harassment and interdiction. Artillery bombardments used to deny the enemy terrain which they might find beneficial to their campaign; general rather than specific, confirmed military targets; random artillery fire.
Hardstand: a pierced steel plate (PSP) platform over sand hard-stripe sergeant: rank indicated by chevron insignia, equivalent to an E5 or E6, but denoting some limited authority as well. Others of the same rank without the stripes were little more than PFCs.
Heart: a Purple Heart award for a wound; the wound itself heat tabs: flammable tablet used to heat C-rations. Always in short supply.
Hercules: a C-130.
HES: Hamlet Evaluation System. An evaluation system devised and run by Americans in Saigon which required monthly computerized reports from all the DSAs in the country.
HHC: headquarters and headquarters company higher-higher: the honchos; the command or commanders.
HM: Navy hospital corpsman; a medic.
Hmong: A dominant Laotian hill tribe, around sixty percent of whom opposed the North Vietnamese and Pathet Lao, in alliance with the Americans and Royal Lao government. After 1975 the Communists stepped up repression against the Hmong, who refused to be collectivized. Massive numbers of Hmong have been killed or driven into Thailand.
Hòa Hảo: a Buddhist sect of two million in the western Mekong Delta, founded in the 1930s. Since the assassination of the founder and prophet, Huynh Phu So, by Hồ Chí Minh's forces, the Hòa Hảo have been fiercely anti-Communist.
Hồ Chí Minh slippers: sandals made from tires. The soles are made from the tread and the straps from inner tubes.
Hồi-Chánh: Vietnamese Communist soldiers and cadre who rallied to the South Vietnamese government under the Chiêu Hồi amnesty program.
Honey-dippers: people responsible for burning human excrement.
Hooch / hootch: a hut or simple dwelling, either military or civilian.
Hoochgirl: Vietnamese woman employed by American military as maid or laundress.
Hook: a radio; a radio handset.
Horn: radio microphone.
Hot: area under fire.
HOTEL: military phonetic for the letter 'H'.
Hot LZ: a landing zone under enemy fire.
Howitzer: a short cannon used to fire shells at medium velocity and with relatively high trajectories.
Huey: nickname for the UH-1 series helicopters.
Hump: march or hike carrying a rucksack; to perform any arduous task.
I Corps: the northernmost military region in South Vietnam.
II Corps: the Central Highlands military region in South Vietnam.
III Corps: the densely populated, fertile military region between Saigon and the Highlands.
IV Corps: the marshy Mekong Delta southernmost military region.
IG: Inspector General.
illum: an illumination flare, usually fired by a mortar or artillery weapon.
Immersion foot: condition resulting from feet being submerged in water for a prolonged period of time, causing cracking and bleeding.
Increments: removable charges attached to mortar fins. If they become wet, the mortar round misfires and falls short.
INDIA: military phonetic for the letter 'I'.
Insert: to be deployed into a tactical area by helicopter Iron Triangle: Việt Cộng dominated area between the Thi-
Tinh and Saigon rivers, next to Củ Chi district.
JAG: judge advocate general, the legal department of the Armed Services.
Jet jockey: Air Force fighter pilot.
Jody: the person who wins your lover away while you are in the Nam. From the marching song or cadence count, "Ain't no use in goin' home / Jody's got your girl and gone / sound off...."
John wayne: can opener; also, cookie which comes in C-rats. Also used as a verb to describe the actions of someone who exposes himself to danger..
JULIET: military phonetic for the letter 'J'.
Jungle boots: footwear that looks like a combination of combat boot and canvas sneaker used by the U.S. military in a tropical climate, where leather rots because of the dampness. The canvas structure also speeds drying after crossing streams, rice paddies, etc.
Jungle utilities: lightweight tropical fatigues.
KBA: killed by artillery.
K-bar: combat knife.
KCS: Kit Carson scout.
KIA: killed in action.
Killing zone: the area within an ambush where everyone is either killed or wounded.
Kill zone: the radius of a circle around an explosive device within which it is predicted that 95 percent of all occupants will be killed should the device explode.
KILO: military phonetic for the letter 'K'.
Kit Carson scout: former Việt Cộng who act as guides for U.S. military units.
Không tồi: not bad.
Kool-Aid: killed in action.
KP: kitchen police; mess hall duty.
KPNFL: Khmer People's National Liberation Front. The major non-Communist Cambodian political and resistance organization fighting against the Vietnamese occupation force. Formed in 1979 by former prime minister Son Sann, the KPNFL is responsible for caring for and protecting nearly two- thirds of the 250,000 Cambodian refugees on the Thailand border from attacks by both the Khmer Rouge and the Vietnamese. Also called the Sereika by Cambodians, the KPNLF joined the resistance coalition government (CGOK) in 1982 and shared Cambodia's seat at the United Nations.
L: a type of ambush set-up, shaped like the letter 'L'.
Lager: a night defensive perimeter.
Lao Ðộng: the Vietnamese Workers Party.
LAAW: a shoulder-fired, 66-millimeter rocket, similar in effect to a 3.5-inch rocket, except that the launcher is made of Fiberglass, and is disposable after one shot.
Lay chilly: to freeze; to stop all motion.
LBJ: Long Bình Jail, a military stockade on Long Bình post.
LCM: a mechanized landing craft used in harbors and inland waterways.
Leg: slightly contemptuous term used by airborne-qualified troops when they are talking about regular infantry.
Lego: infantry unit.
Liên đội: company group. A Vietnamese military unit consisting of three militia infantry companies.
Lifer: career military man. The term is often used in a derogatory manner.
LIMA: military phonetic for the letter 'L'.
Lima-lima: land line. Refers to telephone communications between two points on the ground.
Litters: stretchers to carry dead and wounded.
Little people: the enemy.
Lit-up: fired upon; shot and killed or wounded.
LLDB: L. The South Vietnamese Special Forces.
Lực lượng mũ nồi xanh: US. Green Beret force.
LMG: light machine gun. The Soviet made RPD, a bi-pod mounted, belt fed weapon similar to the American M-60 machine gun. The RPD fires the same cartridge as the AK-47 and the SKS carbine.
Loach: a LOH.
Log Bird: logistical (resupply) helicopter.
LP: listening post. A two- or three-man position set up at night outside the perimeter away from the main body of troopers, which acted as an early warning system against attack. Also, an amphibious landing platform used by infantry for storming beaches from the sea.
LRRP: Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol. An elite team usually composed of five to seven men who go deep into the jungle to observe enemy activity without initiating contact.
LSA: small arms lubricant.
LST: troop landing ship.
Lurps: members of Long Range Reconnaissance Patrols.
LZ: landing zone. Usually a small clearing secured lemporarily for the landing of resupply helicopters. Some become more permanent and eventually become base camps.
M-1: World War II vintage American rifle.
M-14: Wood stock rifle used in early portion of Vietnam conflict.
M-16: the standard U.S. military rifle used in Vietnam from 1966 on. Successor to the M-14.
M-60: the standard lightweight machine gun used byU.S. forces in Vietnam.
M-79: a U.S. military hand-held grenade launcher.
MA: mechanical ambush. Euphemism for an American set booby trap.
MACV: Military Assistance Command / Vietnam. The main American military command unit that had responsibility for and authority over all U.S. military activities in Vietnam. Based at Tân Sơn Nhất.
Mad minute: a weapons free-fire practice and test session.
Main Force Battalion: the primary Việt Cộng fighting force within each province of South Vietnam. These units were often large enough and well enough equipped to participate in direct attacks on large Vietnamese and American installations and units.
Mama san: pidgin used by American servicemen for any older Vietnamese woman.
MARS: Military Affiliate Radio Station. Used by soldiers to call home via Signal Corps and ham radio equipment.
Mas-Cal: mass casualty.
MASH: mobile Army surgical unit.
MAT: mobile advisory team. Five-man teams of American advisors who were assigned to live and work in the Vietnamese villages.
Mặt Trận: the Vietnamese South Liberation Front.
Marker round: the first round fired by mortars or artillery. Used to adjust the following rounds onto the target.
Mechanized platoon: a platoon operating with tanks and/or armored personnel carriers.
Med Cap: Medical Civil Action Program in which U.S. medical personnel would go into the villages to minister to the local populace.
Medivac: medical evacuation from the field by helicopter.
Mermite: large insulated foot containers.
MFW: multiple frag wounds.
MG: machine gun.
MIA: missing in action.
MIG 21: NVA fighter.
Mighty mite: commercial air-blower used for injecting gas into tunnels.
MIKE: military phonetic for the letter 'M'.
Mike-mike: shorthand for millimeter million-dollar wound: a non-crippling wound serious enough to warrant return to the U.S.
Minigun: electronically controlled, extremely rapidly firing machine gun. Most often mounted on aircraft to be used against targets on the ground.
Mr. Charles: the Việt Cộng.
MI team: military intelligence team.
Monday pills: anti-malarial pills taken once a week the Monster: a PRC-77.
Montagnard: a Vietnamese term for several tribes of mountain people inhabiting the hills and mountains of central and northern Vietnam.
Moose: a Vietnamese mistress.
Mortar: a muzzle-loading cannon with a short tube in relation to its caliber that throws projectiles with low muzzle velocity at high angles.
MOS: military occupational specialty.
Most ricky-tick: immediately, if not sooner.
MP: military police.
MPC: military payment currency. The scrip U.S. soldiers were paid in.
MR IV: Việt Cộng military region surrounding and including Saigon.
Mule: small, motorized platform originally designed to carry a 106-millimeter recoilless rifle, but most often used for transporting supplies and personnel.
Napalm: a jellied petroleum substance which burns fiercely, and is used as a weapon against personnel.
NCO: noncommissioned officer. Usually a squad leader or platoon sergeant.
NDP: night defensive position.
Net: radio frequency setting, from "network."
New Socialist Man: Orwellian concept adopted by the Communists. The ideal collectivized citizen.
Next: the man who said he was the next to rotated home.
Nickel: the number five.
NLF: National Liberation Front.
No sweat: easy, simple.
NPD: night perimeter defense.
Number one: the best.
Number ten: the worst.
Number ten thousand: a description of how bad things can be.
Nùng: tribespeople of Chinese origin, from the highlands of North Vietnam. Some who moved South worked
with the U.S. Special Forces.
Nước mắm: fermented fish sauce used by the Vietnamese as a condiment.
NVA: North Vietnamese Army.
OCS: officer candidate school.
OD: olive drab, a camouflage color.
Opcon: operational control.
Open sheaf: a term used in calling artillery, whereby the artillery rounds were spread along an axis rather than concentrated on a single point (as when it was desired to cover a treeline).
OR: operating room.
OSCAR: military phonetic for the letter 'O'.
OSS: Office of Strategic Services over the fence: crossing into Cambodia or Laos.
P: slang for the Vietnamese piaster. One piaster was worth one cent or less.
P-38: a tiny collapsible can opener, also known as a John Wayne.
PAPA: military phonetic for the letter 'P'.
Papa san: pidgin used by U.S. servicemen for any older Vietnamese man.
Papa Sierra: slang for platoon sergeant.
Pathet Lào: the Laotian Communists who, from their inception have been under the control of the Vietnamese Communist Party.
PBR: river patrol boat. Navy designation for the fast, heavily armed boats used for safeguarding the major canals and rivers and their tributaries in South Vietnam.
Peanuts: wounded in action.
Perimeter: outer limits of a military position. The area beyond the perimeter belongs to the enemy.
PF: Popular Forces. South Vietnamese National Guard-type local military units.
PFC: private first class.
Phoenix: intelligence-based campaign to eliminate the Việt Cộng infrastructure.
PIO: public information officer, or a person who works for that office piss-tube: a vertical tube buried two-thirds in the ground
for urinating into platoon: a subdivision of a company-sized military unit, normally consisting of two or more squads or sections.
Pogue: derogatory term for military personnel employed in rear echelon support capacities.
Point: the forward man or element on a combat patrol.
Poncho liner: nylon insert to the military rain poncho, used as a blanket.
Pop smoke: to ignite a smoke grenade to signal an aircraft.
Pos: slang for position, usually meaning a friendly location.
Post-traumatic stress disorder: development of characteristic symptoms after the experiencing of a psychologically traumatic event or events outside the range of human experience usually considered to be normal. The characteristic symptoms involve reexperiencing the traumatic event, numbing of responsiveness to, or involvement with, the external world, exaggerated startle response, difficulty in concentrating, memory impairment, guilt feelings, and sleep difficulties.
POW: prisoner of war.
PRC-25: Portable Radio Communications, Model 25. A back-packed FM receiver-transmitter used for short-distance communications. The range of the radio was 5-10 kilometers, depending on the weather, unless attached to a special, non-portable antenna which could extend the range to 20-30 kilometers.
PRC-77: a radio similar to the PRC-25, but with a cryptographic scrambling / descrambling unit attached. Very heavy. Transmission frequencies on the PRC-77 were called the secure net.
Prick 25: PRC-25.
Profile: a prohibition from certain types of military duty due to injury or disability.
Province chief: governor of a state-sized administrative territory, usually a high ranking military officer.
Province team: American civilian and military advisors assigned duties at the provincial capital.
PRU: Province Reconnaissance Unit. Irregular unit organized within each province for the official purpose of reconnoitering guerrilla sanctuaries and collecting intelligence on guerrilla activities. These units were operated under the auspices of the CIA and were also the operating arm of the Phoenix program.
Pseudomonas: a genus of bacteria causing various suppurative infections inhumans. It's presence gives pus a blue-green color.
PSP: perforated steel plate.
PsyOps: psychological operations.
PT: physical training.
PTSD: post-traumatic stress disorder Puff the Magic Dragon: a large propeller-driven aircraft with a Minigun mounted in the door, capable of firing 6,000 rounds per minute. Also used to refer to gunship helicopters equipped with Miniguns.
Pull pitch: term used by helicopter pilots that means they are going to take off.
Punji stakes: sharpened bamboo sticks used in a primitive but effective pit trap. They were often smeared with excrement to cause infection.
Purple Heart: U.S. military decoration awarded to any member of the Armed Forces wounded by enemy action. Any soldier awarded three of them was allowed to leave the Vietnam theater.
Purple out-zone: emergency evacuation.
PX: post exchange; military store.
PZ: pick up zone.
QUAD-50s: a four-barrelled assembly of .50 caliber machine guns.
Quantico: Marine training base in Virginia.
QUEBEC: military phonetic for the letter 'Q'.
RA: Regular Army, prefix to serial number of enlistees.
Rabbits: white American soldiers, according to black vernacular.
Rack: bed or cot.
Rallier: defector from the Việt Cộng.
R&R: rest and recreation. A three to seven-day vacation from the war for a soldier.
Rangers: elite commandos and infantry specially trained for reconnaissance and combat missions.
RBF: reconnaissance by fire.
React: for one unit to come to the aid of another under enemy fire.
Recon: reconnaissance. Going out into the jungle to observe for the purpose of identifying enemy activity.
Recondo School: a training school in-country for LRRPs. The largest was at Nha Trang, where the training action was taken against the 17th NVA Division.
Red alert: the most urgent form of warning. Signals an imminent enemy attack.
Redball: an enemy high speed trail or road.
Red bird: a Cobra helicopter.
Red Legs: slang for Artillery. In the Civil War, Union Artillery men had red stripes on their pants.
Reeducation camps: political prisons and labor camps of varying degrees of severity and size that comprise the Soviet-style gulag system throughout Communist Vietnam regiment: a military unit usually consisting of a number of battalions.
Regional Forces: militia units organized within each district in South Vietnam to engage in offensive operations against local Việt Cộng forces. RF units were better paid and equipped than PF units and could be assigned duties anywhere within the home district.
REMF: rear-echelon motherfucker.
Repo depo: replacement detachment.
RF/PF: Regional and Popular Forces. The South Vietnamese National Guard-type units. Regional.
Forces were company-size and protected district areas. Popular Forces were platoon-size and guarded their home villages.
RIF: reconnaissance in force. A heavy reconnaissance patrol. Later, RIF came to mean reduction in force; an administrative mechanism for retiring career soldiers prior to the end of their twenty year term.
Ringknocker: graduate of a military academy. Refers to the ring worn by graduates.
Rock'n'roll: firing a weapon on full automatic.
ROK: soldier from the Republic of Korea.
ROMEO: military phonetic for the letter 'R'.
Rome plow: mammoth bulldozer used to flatten dense jungle.
RON: remain-overnight operation.
Rotate: to return to the U.S. at the end of a year's tour in Vietnam.
ROTC: Reserve Officer's Training Corps. Program offered in many high schools and colleges, geared to prepare students to become military officers.
RPD: a 7.62 mm Communist machine gun with a 100-round, belt operated drum that fires the same round as the AK-47.
RPG: a rocket-propelled grenade. A Russian-made portable antitank grenade launcher.
RTO: radio telephone operator. The man who carried his unit's radio on his back in the field.
Ruck / rucksack: backpack issued to infantry in Vietnam.
Ruff Puff: derogatory term used by Americans for RF/PF.
Rules of Engagement: the specific regulations for the conduct of air and surface battles by U.S. and allied forces during the Vietnam war rumor control: the most accurate source of information prior to the actual occurrence of an event.
S-5: Civil Affairs.
Saddle up: put on one's pack and get ready to march.
Salvo: firing a battery in unison.
Sampan: a Vietnamese peasant's boat.
SAF: small arms fire.
S&S: Supply & Service; designation of a support unit.
Sapper: a Việt Cộng or NVA commando, usually armed with explosives.
Satchel charges: pack used by the enemy containing explosives that is dropped or thrown and is generally more powerful than a grenade.
SeaBees: Navy construction engineers.
SEAL: highly trained Navy special warfare team members search and destroy: an operation in which Americans searched an area and destroyed anything which the enemy might find useful.
SEATO: Southeast Asia Treaty Organization.
Seminar camp: the Laotian Communist version of the reeducation camp for political prisoners.
Sereika (Khmer Serei): the non-Communist Cambodian resistance force.
Sgt. Rock: a combat-scarred World War II comic book character.
SERTS: Screaming Eagle Replacement Training School set: a party.
SF: Special Forces.
Shake'n'bake: sergeant who attended NCO school and earned rank after only a very short time in uniform.
Shamming: goofing off or getting by with as little effort as possible.
Shaped charge: an explosive charge, the energy of which is focused in one direction.
Shit burning: the sanitization of latrines by kerosene incineration of excrement.
Short: a term used by everyone in Vietnam to tell all who would listen that his tour was almost over.
Short-timer: soldier nearing the end of his tour in Vietnam short-timer's stick: when a soldier had approximately two months remaining on his tour in Vietnam, he might take a long stick and notch it for each of his remaining days in-country. As each day passed he would cut the stick off another notch until on his rotation day he was left with only a small stub.
Shrapnel: pieces of metal sent flying by an explosion.
SIERRA: military phonetic for the letter 'S'.
Silver Star: U.S. military decoration awarded for gallantry in action.
Sit-rep: situation report.
Six: any Unit Commander, from the Company Commander on up.
Six-by: a large flat-bed truck usually with wooden slat sides enclosing the bed and sometimes a canvas top covering it. Used for carrying men or anything else that would fit on it.
Skate: a task of accomplishment that required little effort or pain.
SKS: Simonov 7.62 mm semi-automatic carbine.
Sky: to leave.
Sky crane: huge double-engine helicopter used for lifting and transporting heavy equipment sky out: to flee or leave suddenly.
Slackman: the second man back on a patrol, directly behind the point.
Slant: derogatory term for a Vietnamese person.
Slick: a UH-1 helicopter used for transporting troops in tactical air assault operations. The helicopter did not have protruding armaments and was, therefore, "slick".
Slope: derogatory term for an Asian person.
SMG: submachine gun.
Smoke grenade: a grenade that released brightly colored smoke. Used for signaling.
Snake: a Cobra helicopter.
SOI: Signal Operating Instructions. The booklet that contained all of the call signals and radio frequencies of the units in Vietnam.
SOP: standard operating procedure Sopwith Camels: slang term for a light, fixed-wing reconnaissance aircraft soul brother: a black soldier.
Spec-4: Specialist 4th Class. An Army rank immediately above Private First Class. Most enlisted men who had completed their individual training and had been on duty for a few months were Spec-4s. Probably the most common rank in the Vietnam-era Army.
Spec-5: Specialist 5th Class. Equivalent to a sergeant.
Spider hole: camouflaged enemy foxhole.
Splib: term originated by black marines to identify other blacks.
Spooky: a large propeller-driven aircraft with a Minigun mounted in the door. Capable of firing 6,000 rounds per minute. Also used to refer to gunship helicopters with Miniguns.
SP pack: cellophane packet containing toiletries and cigarettes which was sometimes given along with C-rations to soldiers in the field.
Squad: a small military unit consisting of less than ten men staff sergeant: a E-6, the second lowest noncommissioned officer rank stand-down: an infantry unit's return from the boonies to the base camp for refitting and training. Later, a unit being withdrawn from Vietnam and redeployed to the U.S.
Starlifter: a C-141 helicopter.
Starlight scope: an image intensifier using reflected light to identify targets at night steel pot: the standard U.S. Army helmet. The steel pot was the outer metal cover.
Strac: smart, sharp, well prepared (from STRategic Air Command).
Strategic hamlet program: a controversial pacification and village self-defense program implemented by the Diệm government that attempted to turn all sixteen thousand South Vietnamese hamlets into fortified compounds.
Strobe: hand held strobe light for marking landing zones at night.
Syrette: collapsible tube of morphine attached to a hypodermic needle. The contents of the tube were injected by squeezing it like a toothpaste tube.
TA-50: individual soldier's standard issue of combat clothing and equipment.
TAC: tactical air strikes; fighter bombers.
Tail-end Charlie: last unit in a long column on the move.
T&T: through and through wound. One in which a bullet or fragment has entered and exited the body.
Tanglefoot: single-strand barbed wire strung in a meshwork pattern at about ankle height. A barrier designed to make it difficult to cross the obstructed area by foot. Usually placed around permanent defensive positions.
TANGO: military phonetic for the letter 'T'.
Tango boat: U.S. Navy designation for an armored landing craft mounted with 50-caliber machine guns and a 40-caliber anti-aircraft gun used for direct fire.
TC: tactical commander.
Tết: Buddhist lunar New Year. Buddha's birthday.
Tết Offensive: a major uprising of the Việt Cộng, VC sympathizers and NVA characterized by a series of coordinated attacks against military installations and provincial capitals throughout Vietnam. It occurred during the lunar New Year at the end of January, 1968.
Tee-tee: pidgin for very small.
TFES: territorial forces evaluation system. The companion report of the HES. A computerized military evaluation system devised by American authorities in Saigon and used by them to assess the readiness of the militia forces. Each month advisors at the district level had to fill out the long computer print-out sheets and report on many different aspects of quantity and quality in the militia forces. Like all computer programs, the quality of this one's output was dependent upon the quality of the input.
Thermite: a mixture of powdered aluminum and metal oxide which produces great heat for use in welding and incendiary bombs.
Three: radio call signal for the operations officer three-quarter: a three-quarter ton truck.
Tiger suits: camouflage fatigue uniforms.
Tight: good friends are close to ("tight" with) each other.
TO: tactical officer.
TO&E: Table of Organization and Equipment.
TOC: tactical operations center.
Top: a top sergeant.
TOT: time on target. Prearranged mortar or artillery barrage, set to occur at a specific time in order to coordinate with an infantry assault.
Trach: a tracheotomy. Making an opening into the windpipe to facilitate breathing.
Tracer: a round of ammunition chemically treated to glow or give off smoke so that its flight can be followed.
Tracks: any vehicles which move on tracks rather than wheels.
Triage: the procedure for deciding the order in which to treat casualties.
Trip flare: a ground flare triggered by a trip wire used to signal and illuminate the approach of an enemy at night.
Tropic Lighting: the U.S. 25th Infantry Division.
Trời ơi: exclamation of surprise, My god!
Turtles: new replacements. They were called turtles because it took so long for them to arrive.
Two: radio call signal of the intelligence officer.
Two-niner-two: the RC-292 ground plane antenna which was used to extend the range of the MAT and the district team's PRC-25.
Unbloused: pants not tucked into boot tops.
UH-1H: a Huey helicopter.
UNIFORM: military phonetic for the letter 'U'.
US: prefix to serial number of Army draftees.
USAF: United States Air Force.
USARV: U.S. Army Republic of Vietnam. Command of operations unit for all U.S. military forces in Vietnam, based in Long Bình.
USO: United Service Organization. Provided entertainment to the troops, and was intended to raise morale.
USOM: U.S. Operations Mission. Funded U.S. programs during the early American involvement in Vietnam.
V: a type of ambush set-up, shaped like the letter.
VA: Veterans Administration.
VC: Việt Cộng.
VCI: Việt Cộng infrastructure. It was the aim of the Việt Cộng to have a complete government in place when their victory was finally won. Thus, where manpower allowed, Communist cadres were secretly assigned positions as village chiefs, police officers, postment, District-level officers, Province-level officers, and National-level officers. The VCI were the "shadow government" of the National Liberation Front and were awaiting the day they could step forward and claim their offices.
VFW: Veterans of Foreign Wars. An American service organization.
VICTOR: military phonetic for the letter 'V'.
Victor Charlie: the Việt Cộng.
Việt Cộng: the Communist-led forces fighting the South Vietnamese government. The political wing was known as the National Liberation Front, and the military was called the People's Liberation Armed Forces. Both the NLF and the PLAF were directed by the People's Revolutionary Party (PRP), the southern branch of the Vietnamese Communist Party, which received direction from Hanoi through COSVN, which was located in III Corps on the Cambodian border. After 1968, as negotiations began in Paris, the NLF established the Provisional Revolutionary Government.
Việt Minh: Việt Nam Ðộc Lập Ðồng Minh Hội, or the Vietnamese Allied Independence League. A political and resistance organization established by Hồ Chí Minh before the end of World War II, dominated by the Communist Party. Though at first smaller and less famous than the non-Communist nationalist movements, the Việt Minh siezed power through superior organization skill, ruthless tactics, and popular support.
Vietnamese Popular Forces: South Vietnamese local military forces.
Vietnamization: U.S. policy initiated by President Richard Nixon late in the war to turn over the fighting to the South Vietnamese Army during the phased withdrawal of American troops.
Ville: Vietnamese hamlet or village.
VNAF: South Vietnamese Air Force.
VNQDD: Việt Nam Quốc Dân Ðảng, or Nationalist Party of Vietnam. A non-Communist movement formed in 1926, based on the doctrines of Sun Yat-sen. The VNQDD conducted the Yên Bái uprising in 1930, which began the modern struggle for Vietnamese independence. During World War II the VNQDD staged in southern China and were instrumental in gaining Hồ Chí Minh's release from a Chinese prison to help with the resistance fight against the Japanese. Ho later broke with the VNQDD. By 1950, having lost their bases in southern China when Mao came to power, the VNQDD ceased to exist as an effective organization.
VSI: very seriously ill. Army designation for those troopers who may die without immediate and definitive medical care.
VVA: Vietnam Veterans of America. Veterans organization not affiliated with the Veterans Administration.
VVAW: Vietnam Veterans Against the War. Organization formed by Vietnam veterans who gathered to protest American involvement in Vietnam.
Wake-up: as in "13 and a wake-up" -- the last day of a soldier's Vietnam tour.
Walking wounded: wounded who are still able to walk without assistance.
Walter Wonderful: Walter Reed Army Hospital in Washington, D.C.
Water Taxi: small engine-powered boat with a sheltered passenger compartment. These native craft plied the major canals and rivers of Vietnam and provided a means of transportation from one village to the next.
Web gear: canvas belt and shoulder straps for packing equipment and ammunition on infantry operations.
WHISKEY: military phonetic for the letter 'W'.
White bird: a LOH.
White mice: South Vietnamese police. The nickname came from their uniform white helmets and gloves.
White phosphorus: a type of explosive round from artillery, mortars, or rockets. Also a type of aerial bomb. The rounds exploded with a huge puff of white smoke from the hotly burning phosphorus, and were used as marking rounds or incendiary rounds. When white phosphorus hit the skin of a living creature it continued to burn until it had burned through the body. Water would not extinguish it.
WIA: wounded in action.
Widow maker: a MA.
Willy Peter: white phosphorus.
Wood line: a row of trees at the edge of a field or rice paddy.
WP: white phosphorus.
X: a type of ambush set up, shaped like the letter.
Xin lỗi: a Vietnamese idiom meaning "sorry about that".
XO: executive officer; the second in command of a military unit.
X-RAY: military phonetic for the letter 'X'.
YANKEE: military phonetic for the letter 'Y'.
YD: the grid 100,000 meters by 100,000 meters square from the Universal Transmercator (UTM) Grid Zone 48Q. The UTM map of the world dispenses with latitude and longitude in favor of a system of metric coordinates (usually six digits) which enable the user of the map to specify a location within 100 meters.
Zippo raids: military operations which involved burning down Vietnamese villages. Often Zippo cigarette lighters were used to ignite the huts.
Zip: derogatory term for Vietnamese people.
ZULU: military phonetic for the letter'Z'.
Zulu: a casualty report.
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