Language of War
Language of War

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4-F: U.S. draft classification given to those deemed unfit for military service

50 (or 50-cal): .50 caliber machine gun

51-cal: heavy machine gun used by the enemy; the 12.7 mm Communist Bloc Heavy Machine Gun

60 (or M60): the M60A1 7.62 mm machine gun carried by U.S. Infantry; also called "The Pig".

60 mm (or 60 Mike Mike): 60 mm light mortar used by U.S. Marines

79: the M-79 40 mm grenade launcher

81 mm: 81 mm mortar

82 mm: a mortar used by the enemy

105: 105-mm howitzer

155: 155-mm howitzer

175: 175-mm howitzer

201 file: a U.S. Army personnel file

AAR: after-action report

AC: aircraft commander

ACTING JACK: (or AJ): a person of lower rank temporarily holding the position of sergeant or above and authorized on special orders to wear the rank insignia.

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'

Alpha-Alpha: automatic ambush, a combination of claymore mines configured to detonate simultaneously when triggered by a trip-wire/battery mechanism

Ammo dump: location where live or expended ammunition is stored

Amtrack: U.S. Marine amphibious armored vehicle used to transport troops and supplies, armed with a .30-caliber machine gun

Angel track: an armored personnel carrier used as an aid station

AO: area of operations

AOD: administrative officer on duty

Ao-dai: traditional dress of Vietnamese women. A brightly colored silk top worn over loose fitting silk trousers.

APB: armored patrol boat used in riverine operations..

APC: M113-series armored personnel carrier. A tracked vehicle used to transport Army troops or supplies, usually armed with a .50-caliber machine gun.

ACAV: armored cavalry assault vehicle. An APC (M113A1) modified for use as a fighting vehicle with turret armor for the track commander, gun shield for the .50-caliber machine gun and two side mounted gun shields and mounts for M60 machines.

ACV: air cushion vehicle used in riverine operations.

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.

ARCOMS: Army Commendation Medals

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.

ATC: armored troop carrier used in riverine operations.

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

Ba: married woman; used as a title, like "Mrs."

Bac bac: bastardized Vietnamese for "to shoot"

Bac-si: doctor; also used to refer to medic in the U.S. Army

Ballgame: an operation or a contact

Ba Mu'o'i Ba: brand name of a Vietnamese beer

Banana clip: banana shaped magazine, standard on the AK-47 assault rifle

band-aid: medic

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 usually consisting of a headquarters and headquarters company and two or more companies, troops, 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

Big Boys: artillery; slang for tanks

Big Red One: nickname for the 1st Infantry Division

Binh Xuyen: the organized crime syndicate that controlled much of the Vietnamese underworld and Saigon police until deposed by Diem'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.

Blueleg: infantryman, a.k.a. "grunt"

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".

Boom-boom: sex

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: basic military organizational institution. During the Vietnam War, a division was organized into three Brigades, with each brigade commanded by a colonel. A division consists of approximately 20,000 people.

Bring smoke: to direct intense artillery fire on an enemy position

Bro: a black soldier; also, at times, boonierats from the same unit

Bronco: twin-engine observation aircraft equipped with rockets and miniguns

Bronze Star: U.S. military decoration awarded for heroic or meritorious service not 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-7: small cargo airplane; the Caribou.

C-54: largest of the American helicopters, strictly for cargo. Also called Flying Crane or Skycrane.

C-123: small cargo airplane; the Provider.

C-130: large propeller-driven Air Force planes that carry people and cargo; the Hercules

C-141: The Lockheed C-141 Starlifter is the "workhorse" of the Air Mobility Command. The jet aircraft was introduced in 1963 to meet military standards as a troop and cargo carrier. It carries either 200 troops, 155 paratroops, 103 litters and 14 seats, or 68,725 lbs (31,239 kilograms) of cargo.

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

Can cuoc: an identification card

C&C: command and control helicopter used by reconnaissance or unit commanders

Can Lao: the powerful semisecret political party of the Diem government headed by Ngo Dinh Nhu, Diem's brother. It permeated the entire administrative, intelligence, and defense structures of South Vietnam.

Cao Dai: 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 Dai still waged a stubborn resistance war against the Communists (especially in Tay 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

Chao: hello or goodby, depending upon the context

Charlie: military phonetic for the letter 'C"

Charlie: Viet Cong; the enemy

Charlie-Charlie: C&C

Chas: Viet Cong; the enemy

Cheap Charlie: GI who is frugal with his money while in a bar

Cherry: slang term for youth and inexperience; a virgin

Chicken Plate: chest protector (body armor) worn by helicopter gunners

Chicom: Chinese communist

Chicom mine: Chinese mine; can be made of plastic

Chieu Hoi: the "open arms" program, promising clemency and financial aid to Viet Cong and NVA soldiers and cadres who stopped fighting and returned to South Vietnamese government authority.

Chinook: CH-47 cargo helicopter

Choi oi: exclamation of surprise

Chop chop: slang for food

Chopper: slang for "helicopter".

Chuck: term used by black marines to identify white individuals; often derogatory

Chuck: the Viet Cong; the enemy

Church key: bottle opener

CIB: combat infantry badge. The Army award for serving as an Infantryman in a combat zone for 30 days or more, or for being wounded while serving as an Infantrytman in combat.

CIDG: civilian irregular defense groups

CINCPAC: commander in chief of all American forces in the Pacific region; based at Camp Smith, Hawaii.

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 range 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.

Co: 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.

Co Cong: female Viet Cong members

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

Conex container: corrugated metal packing crate for standard transport by sea, air or land vehicles, usually 6 feet wide, 8 feet high and available in standard lengths.

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

Co van: advisor. American assigned to Vietnamese military units or to political division within the country to help direct and train Vietnamese military and civilian officials.

CRACKER BOX: field ambulance
coxwain flat: the area where the coxwain (driver) stands when he steers a boat or ship

CP: command post

CP pills (Chloraquine-Primaquine): the large orange anti-malarial pills (the "yellow" in "two whites and a yellow"). Due to CP resistant malaria in the Cntral Highlands, Dapsone (the "whites") was also used.

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

Dac Cong: Viet Cong special forces

Dai Doan Ket: Party of Great Solidarity. Organized in 1954 to unify the non-Communist nationalist organizations in South Vietnam in the period before Ngo Dinh Diem came to full power. Headed by Diem's brother, Ngo Dinh Nhu, this was the forerunner of the Can Lao.

Daily-daily: daily anti-malarial pill

Dai uy: captain

Dai Viet: formed in 1930 as a non-Communist revolutionary and political organization throughout Vietnam. Though more widespread and with a larger membership than Ho Chi Minh's Viet Minh or Lao Dong Party, the Dai Viets were fragmented into regional factions. The assassination of Truong Tu Anh, the Dai Viet leader, in 1946 by Ho's agents further fragmented the Dai Viets. By the mid-1960s the Dai Viets 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 Dai Viet 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.

Dapsone pills: the small white anti-malarial pills (the "whites" in "two whites and a yellow") used in the Central Highlands with CP pills to counter falcipium-resistant strains of mosquitos.

DCI: the Director of the CIA

DEFCON: Defense Readiness Condition. A uniform system of progressive alert postures for use between the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the commanders of U.S. commands and for use by the Services. Defense Readiness Conditions are graduated to match situations of varying military severity (status of alert). Defense Readiness Conditions are identified by the short title DEFCON (5), (4), (3), (2), and (1), as appropriate. (with DEFCON 1 being the highest readiness level and DEFCON 5, the lowest).

DELTA: military phonetic for the letter 'D'

DEROS: Army term meaning "date of expected return from overseas." The day all soldiers in Vietnam were waiting for. The US Navy used PRD (projected rotation date).

Det-cord: detonating cord used with explosives

Deuce-and-a-half: two-and-a-half ton truck

Dew: marijuana

DH5: Viet Cong claymore mine

DH10: Viet Cong claymore mine

Di: go

Dicks: derogatory expression referring to both male genitalia and the enemy

Diddy-bopping: walking carelessly

Didi: slang from the Vietnamese word di, meaning "to leave" or "to go"

Didi mau: slang Vietnamese for "go quickly"

Dink: derogatory term for an Asian

Dinky dau: to be crazy, from "dien cai dau"

District team: American personnel assigned to act as advisors to Vietnamese military and civilian officials at the district level.

District Mobile Company: the major Viet Cong 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.

Division: a military unit usually consisting of a headquarters and two or more brigades.

DMOS: duty MOS (military occupational speciality); the MOS of the job you were doing (whether trained for it or not).

DMZ: demilitarized zone. The dividing line between North and South Vietnam established in 1954 at the Geneva Convention.

Doc: medic or corpsman

Dong: 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.

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