Language of War
Language of War

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Nuoc-mam: fermented fish sauce used by the Vietnamese as a condiment; much was produced in Phan Thiet, known as the "nuoc mam capital of the world".

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

Out-Country: the Southeast Asian conflict outside South Vietnam (i.e., Laos and North Vietnam, sometimes Thailand, Cambodia, and China)

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 Lao: 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 (or greenline): 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 Viet Cong 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

PMOS: primary MOS (military occupational specialty); the MOS of the job you were trained for.

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 (PTSD): 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, nonportable antenna which could extend the range to 20-30 kilometers.

PRC-77: a tactical FM radio similar to the PRC-25, but with a cryptographic scrambling / descrambling unit (KY-38 or KY-28) attached. When crypto was attached, the unit was very heavy. Bothe radios operated in the 30 - 75 MHz range and were interoperable with the vehicular radio RT-524/VRC (also called AN/VRC-46). Transmission frequencies on the PRC-77 were called the secure net.

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

Prick 25: PRC-25

Profile: a prohibition from certain types of military duty due to injury or disability

Proo: PRU

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

Pucker factor: assessment of the "fear factor", the difficulty or risk involved in an upcoming mission

Puff the Magic Dragon (also called "Puff"): a USAF AC-47 propeller-driven aircraft upgunned with a Minigun mounted in the door, capable of firing 6,000 rounds per minute and used to provide ground support fire and flares. Call sign was "Spooky".

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.

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' (pronounced "kay-beck")

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 Viet Cong

R&R: rest and recreation. A three to seven-day vacation from the war for a soldier.  Rest-and-recreation vacation taken during a one-year duty tour in Vietnam. Out-of-country R & R might be in Bangkok, Hawaii, Tokyo, Australia, Hong Kong, Manila, Penang, Taipei, Kuala Lampur, or Singapore. In-country R & R locations were at Vung Tau or China Beach.

Rangers: elite commandos and infantry specially trained for reconnaissance and combat missions; also, anyone who is a graduate (with tab) of the U.S. Army Ranger School.

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 Na 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.

Red LZ: landing zone under hostile fire

Re-education 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 headquarters and headquarters company and two or more battalions

Regional Forces: militia units organized within each district in South Vietnam to engage in offensive operations against local Viet Cong 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, also called Ruff Puff. 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 or clear 100 meter wide paths through it.

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: American slang expression for RF/PF (Vietnamese Regional and Popular Forces).

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

R.V.N.: Republic of Vietnam (South Vietnam)

S-1: Personnel

S-2: Intelligence

S-3: Operations

S-4: Supply

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

Sappers: North Vietnamese Army or Vietcong demolition commandos

SAF: small arms fire

SAR: search and rescue

S&S: Supply & Service; designation of a support unit sapper: a Viet Cong 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 & clear: offensive military operations to sweep through areas to locate and attack the enemy

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 (or whip 'n chill): 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

Sleeper: an undercover agent or a mole

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

Sortie: one aircraft making one takeoff and landing to conduct the mission for which it was scheduled

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, but usually with a specialist rather than formal leadership role.

Spider hole: camouflaged enemy foxhole

Splib: term originated by black marines to identify other blacks.

Spooky: a USAF AC-47 propeller-driven aircraft with a Minigun mounted in the door. Capable of firing 6,000 rounds per minute.

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

SSI: standing signal instructions.

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)

Strategic hamlet program: a controversial pacification and village self-defense program implemented by the Diem 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; we taped the core from a toilet paper role to the strobe to make it directional and not give away our positions so much 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

Tet: Buddhist lunar New Year. Buddha's birthday.

Tet Offensive: a major uprising of the Viet Cong, 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

Tunnel rat: Infantryman assigned to crawl into and investigate enemy tunnels.

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 Binh.

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: Viet Cong

VCI: Viet Cong infrastructure. It was the aim of the Viet Cong 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 Viet Cong; the enemy.

Viet Cong: 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.

Viet Minh: Viet Nam Doc Lap Dong Minh Hoi, or the Vietnamese Allied Independence League. A political and resistance organization established by Ho Chi 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 Viet 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: Viet Nam Quoc Dan Dang, or Nationalist Party of Vietnam. A non-Communist movement formed in 1926, based on the doctrines of Sun Yat-sen. The VNQDD conducted the Yen Bai 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 Ho Chi 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. Also called "ambulatory".

Walter Wonderful: Walter Reed Army Hospital in Washington, D.C.

Wasted: killed

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. Also called "load bearing equipment" or "LBE"

Weed: marijuana

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

World, the: the United States

WP: white phosphorus

X: a type of ambush set up, shaped like the letter

Xin loi: 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 (or Zippo track): Term used for flame throwers (or flame thrower mounted on M113 chassis).

Zippo raids: military operations which involved burning down Vietnamese villages. Often Zippo cigarette lighters were used to ignite the huts.

Zapped: killed

Zip: derogatory term for Vietnamese people

Zulu: military phonetic for the letter 'Z'

Zulu: a casualty report


Phonetic Alphabet
A= Alpha

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