Language of War
Language of War

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Doughnut Dolly: a female American Red Cross volunteer

DOPE: Marine term for the adjustments made to weapon sights; also, a term for marijuana and other illicit drugs

Doubtfuls: Vietnamese individuals who could not be categorized as either Vietcong or civil offenders; suspect personnel spotted from ground or aircraft

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

Dung lai!: stop!

Dust-off: medical evacuation by helicopter

DX: direct exchange. Also, to discard or dispose of, or to kill someone.

E & E: escape and evasion

ECM: electronic countermeasures, such as jamming, deception, and detection

Eagle flights: large air assault of helicopters

EAOS: date of departure for overseas duty station; the Army term was ETS (estimated time of separation from military service) while the US Navy used EAOS (end of active obligated service).

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 (11-B) 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; the Army term was ETS (estimated time of separation from military service) while the US Navy used EAOS (end of active obligated service).

Evac'd: evacuated

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

FB: firebase

FDC: fire direction control center

Fighting Hole: foxhole with sandbag protection and sometimes an elevated roof of sheet metal, reinforced with sand bags. Sized for one or two troops, fighting holes might be dispersed around a company or battery area for defensive use during a ground attack.

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

Firecracker: artillery round incorporating many small bomblets which are ejected over a target area and explode in "bouncing-betty" fashion -- almost simultaneously; name comes from the fast popping sound (best heard at a distance)

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

Fours: F-4s

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

Friendlies: U.S. troops, allies, or anyone not on the other side

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, Cham, 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.

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

Greenline (or perimeter): outer limits of a military position. The area beyond the perimeter belongs to the enemy.

Green: any new soldier to country

Green-eye: starlight scope; light amplifying telescope, used to see at night

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.

Ground Pounder: infantry soldier

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

Gun: the M-60

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

Hanoi Hilton: nickname American prisoners of war used to describe the Hoa Loa Prison in Hanoi

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: sergeant in the grade of E5 or up, as opposed to Acting Jack (temporary holder of the position but not the rank).

Heart: a Purple Heart award for a wound; the wound itself

Heat tabs: flammable tablet used to heat C-rations. Often in short supply.

Hercules: a C-130 aircraft.

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.

Hoa Hao: 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 Ho Chi Minh's forces, the Hoa Hao have been fiercely anti-Communist.

Ho Chi Minh slippers: sandals made from tires. The soles are made from the tread and the straps from inner tubes.

Hoi-Chanh: Vietnamese Communist soldiers and cadre who rallied to the South Vietnamese government under the Chieu Hoi 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

HQ: headquarters

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.

In-country: Vietnam

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: Viet Cong dominated area between the Thi-Tinh and Saigon rivers, next to Cu Chi district

Irregulars: armed individuals and groups not members of the regular armed forces, police, or other internal security forces

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 fatigues (or jungle utilities): lightweight tropical fatigues

Jungle Rot: a rash caused from bacteria in areas that tend to sweat from tropical conditions.

K: kilometer

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 Viet Cong or NVA soldiers who act as guides for U.S. military units

Khong xau: don't worry about it; literally, not bad

Klick: kilometer

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 Dong: the Vietnamese Workers Party

LAW: light antitank weapon; 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

Leatherneck: term for a Marine (Marines wore leather neckbands from 1798-1880 for protection of the neck during sword combat)

LBJ: Long Binh Jail, a military stockade on Long Binh 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

Lien doi: 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.

Lifer: career soldier

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 bird: Oh-6a observation helicopter used for scouting

Little people: the enemy

Light up: to fire on the enemy

Lit-up: fired upon; shot and killed or wounded

LLDB: Luc Luong Dac Biet. The South Vietnamese Special Forces.

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, or light observation helicopter

Log Bird: logistical (re-supply) 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 (also called LRP). 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

LT: lieutenant

Lurps: members of Long Range Reconnaissance Patrols

LZ: landing zone. Usually a small clearing secured temporarily for the landing of resupply helicopters. Some become more permanent and eventually become base camps.

M-1: World War II vintage American rifle used by many Vietnamese forces

M-14: Wood stock rifle used in early portion of Vietnam conflict; often used as a sniper rifle.

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 by U.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 Tan Son Nhut.

Mad minute: a weapons free-fire practice and test session

Main Force Battalion: the primary Viet Cong 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.

Mat Tran: the Vietnamese Liberation Front.

Marker round: the first round fired by mortars or artillery. Used to adjust the following rounds onto the target.

Mech: abbreviation for mechanized infantry

Mechanized: a unit operating with tanks and/or armored personnel carriers

Med Cap (or MEDCAP): 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

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 Viet Cong; the enemy

MI team: military intelligence team

Monday pills: anti-malarial pills taken once a week

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: Viet Cong 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.

Nam: Vietnam

Napalm: a jellied petroleum substance which burns fiercely, and is used as a weapon against personnel.

NCO: noncommissioned officer.

NDP: night defensive position

Net: radio frequency setting, from "network."

Newbie: any person with less time in Vietnam than the speaker

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

Nung: tribespeople of Chinese origin, from the highlands of North Vietnam. Some who moved South worked with the U.S. Special Forces.

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