Glossary of Terms and Acronyms: LTC (Ret.) Nelson Garcia
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This Glossary is a work in progress. Any input on additions or different meanings to old words, acronyms or phrases can be e-mailed to me for insertion.

I will be happy to accept criticism, corrections, input, whatever as long as we serve the greater good of getting the info out there to the troops.
Nelson J. Garcia, LTC SpecOps (Ret.)

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It is important for readers and students to build up the knowledge of terms, abbreviations, acronyms and slang used by veterans and those who write about the Vietnam War and the Viet Nam experience. Some of the slang has been introduce to civilian use by returning veterans but much of it is special to the period and the people who where there. The reader is advised that this glossary contains obscene language.




A1                                           Vintage WWII propeller driven aircraft that was the workhorse of air support for ground troops in Southeast Asia. It was configured in a variety of systems from the A1A to A1G. It could carry a tremendous payload and linger over a target far longer than the jet supporting aircraft. (see Skyraider)


AAA                                         Anti Aircraft Artillery also “Triple A.” The FWF in South Viet Nam had little to worry regarding enemy air attacks but the VC and the NVA employed everything the could to prevent helicopters and fix-winged aircraft from operating against them, from the bolt-action M91 Mosin-Nagant rifle to SA-7 shoulder-fired heat-seeking missiles.


ABF                                         Attack by fire: to place direct of indirect fire on a given target

ACAV                                      Armored Cavalry Assault Vehicle: The M113 and M114 armored troop carrier

ACofS                                     Assistant Chief of Staff

AFVN                                      Armed Forces Vietnam Network

AFRTS                                   Armed Forces Radio and Television Services: The unit that provided radio and television services in-country.


AG                                           Adjutant General

Agent Orange                       A defoliant/herbicide containing trace amounts of toxic contaminants called dioxins. It derived its name from the Orange band on the 55-gallon drums in which it was stored. A one-to-one mixture of n-butyl esters of 2,4-dichlorophenoxyacetic acid (2,4D) and 2,4,5-trichlorophenoxyacetic acid (2,4,5-T). It was used against broad-leave vegetation. It contained 1.77 to 40 ppm of dioxins (TCDD) amounts. Lesser known but still employed defoliants and their dioxin contents were:

                                                                Agent Blue        32.8 to 45 ppm  Narrow Leaf

                                                                Agent Pink        65.6 ppm        Any vegetation

                                                                Agent White      65.6 ppm        Broad leaf

                                                                Agent Silver      1 to 70 ppm                Fungicide


AHC                                        Assault Helicopter Company

AID                                          Agency for International Development

Aid pouch                              a web pouch carried on the load-bearing gear that contained a sterile gauze bandage for use by the individual soldier when injured or wounded.


Aid Bag                                  Waterproof triple-tiered bag used by the combat medics to carry bandages, medical supplies and instruments.


Air Burst                                 Munitions that, through a time or barometric fuze explodes before hitting the ground.


Aid Kit                                     a small bag, bigger than a pouch but smaller than a bag for carrying necessary survival medical items e.g. Merthiolate, morphine syrette, etc.


AIK                                          Assistance In Kind – to mean money or goods

Aircraft                                    Anything that flies – fixed or rotary-wing

Air America                           CIA proprietary airline used throughout Southeast Asia for clandestine operations

Airburst                                  Munitions using a timer or barometric pressure device to cause it to explode at a certain height. (used for AAA and artillery against dug-in personnel.


Airborne (ABN)                     Classification of an individual or unit that is required to be on “jump status.” A paratrooper. Jump qualified personnel. Personnel and equipment dropped by parachute. 2. Flying above the surface of the earth


Airmobile                               Personnel and equipment inserted by helicopter: designation of a unit whose primary mode of transporting personnel and equipment is with helicopters.


AIT                                          Advanced Individual Training: the training following Basic Training that awards each soldier his/her Military Occupational Specialty (MOS)


AK-47                                     Automat Kalashnikov 1947: the 7.62x39mm Soviet assault rifle. It weighs 11.5 pounds and carries a 30-round steel magazine. The weapon was copied from the Germans’ prototype MP-44 assault rifle seized by the Soviets at the end of WWII. The Chicom copy was designated Type 56 assault rifle and had a permanent triangular bayonet pinned to a swivel on the underside of the barrel.


ALC                                        Area Logistic Command

ALCE                                      Airlift Control Element – regional Tactical Airlift Command

Alpha Bravo                          Phonetic for Ambush

All American                         82nd Airborne Division

All Hands                              Everybody (Navy/Marine)

Ambush                                 a surprise attack by an armed group on another for the purpose of defeating the ambushed. The principal tactic used by guerrillas to attain superiority over a larger enemy. Stealth and surprise are paramount for its success.


AMERICAL                            23RD Infantry Division

Angry Ten                              slang for the AN/GRE-10 AM radio, a WWII vintage long range radio used extensively by the Special Forces for contacting higher headquarter from areas of operations in Morse Code.


Ankle biter                             the enemy’s answer to the steel boot inserts to prevent penetration of the punji stake through the bottom of a boot. The bamboo or steel barbs where driven into a board with a hinge, placed in a pit and camouflaged using the same tactics as a regular punji booby-trap. When an unwary soldier stepped into the trap his weight would press down on the middle of the hinged board making the two sides come together violently piercing the ankle of the victim.


AN/TPQ-10                            Ground-based aircraft radar guidance system

ANZAC                                   Australia-New Zealand Assistance Command

AO                                           Area of Operation

AP                                           Armor Piercing

APC                                        Armored Personnel Carrier or Accelerated Pacification Campaign

ARA                                        Aerial Rocket Artillery: helicopter mounted rockets

AR-15                                     Lightweight assault rifle in 5.56mm (.203 caliber) designed by Eugene Stoner and first built by Armalite Co. in 1956, later manufactured by Colt Industries it developed into the XM16E1, then the standard issue M16A1 battle rifle.


Arc Light                                B-52 Bombing mission

ARCOM                                  Army Commendation Medal:



Armed Dau Trang armed communist revolutionary cadre team first developed by Ho Chi Minh and Vo Nguyen Giap to initiate first phase guerrilla warfare and subvert local authority. These organizations later coalesced into the Viet Minh in 1945 and where reactivated in South Viet Nam in 1954.


ARTY                                      Artillery

As you were!                         Correction or resume what you are doing.

ASA                                         Army Security Agency

ASAP                                      As Soon As Possible

ASH                                        Assault Support Helicopter

Ash & Trash                          term similar to “milk run” or “pigs & rice,” used by a/c crews to describe non-combat sorties. It didn’t mean you weren’t going to get shot at, just that you were not flying into combat – usually into a base camp.


Asian Viper                           A poisonous pit viper, it grows to 5 feet in length and is found just about everywhere in Viet Nam. It is sluggish in movement but needs little or no provocation to attack. The bite is very painful and results in bleeding, swelling and discoloration lasting several days. In severe cases, there is intense thirst, nausea, projectile vomiting, general hemorrhage; respiratory failure; death.


ASP                                        Ammunition Supply Point

ASPB                                      Assault Support Patrol Boat

ASRT                                      Air Support Radar Team

ATC                                        Air Traffic Controller

A Team                                  The basic 12-man Special Forces unit

ATSB                                      Advanced Tactical Support Base

Article 15                               a summary disciplinary judgment applied to a soldier by his commander. It is an action less severe than a court martial; usually company punishment (latrine detail, etc.) but could go as high as monetary fines and confinement in the stockade. Its name is derived from its number in the UCMJ.


Article 31                               Parallels the “Miranda” rights in the military service and, just as in civilian arrests, it must be read to the detainee before any questions are asked.        


Article 32 Investigation Military investigation to determine if there is probable cause to bring charges against a member of the armed forces


ARVN                                     Army of the Republic of Viet Nam

Atropine Syrette                    A single, self-contained dose of nerve gas antitoxin. The needle is sharp enough to pierce through a soldier’s protective gear and into the thigh muscle.


AW                                          Automatic Weapon – any weapon which is fed from the action of gasses or recoil and automatically feeds the next cartridge into the chamber ready to fire using one pull of the trigger.


AWOL                                     Absent Without Authorized Leave: being absent from your place of duty without permission


Azimuth                                  A compass bearing – Lensatic compasses are marked with 3600  (degrees) in increments of 1 degree beginning with North which is represented by 0 degrees clockwise and 360 degrees counter-clockwise. Thus 900 represents due East, 1800  due South, and 1700 due West.



B = Bravo

B-40                                       See RPG

B-52 Stratofortress Heavy strategic bomber capable of carrying large loads of nuclear, conventional (dumb) or radar-guided bombs.


Bamboo                                Vietnamese Tre: giant grass with jointed, hollow stems, yellow-green or nearly black; some striped with white or yellow. This plant can grow 40-50 feet and up to 6 inches in diameter.


Banana Clip                         An elongated 30-round magazine – the label was originally used for the extended magazine issued for the .30 caliber M2 carbine – it has now come to mean any extended magazine.


Bandoleer                             a cloth, web or leather carrier for extra ammunition or extra loaded magazines that a combatant carries slung over one shoulder. M16A1 ammunition came inserted in bandoleers for issue to combat troops both in 10-round stripper clips or previously loaded magazines.


BAR                                        Browning automatic rifle – designed by Robert Browning in 1914 it saw limited service during WWI. Issued to the ARVN and self-defense forces in South Viet Nam. With the bipod and steel shoulder brace, it weighed 18 pounds, and each magazine carrying 20 .30-06 caliber rounds weighed 2.2 pounds. The web gear made especially for this weapon held twelve 20-round magazines. 


Base Camp                          Operational field headquarters for a military unit, usually located inside that unit’s Area of Operation. It normally housed the unit’s support elements.


Battalion (Bn.)                      Organization within the Army/Marine Corps usually comprised of 3 line (combat) companies, 1 headquarters company + support element commanded by a Lieutenant Colonel (0-5). An Army infantry battalion TO&E calls for approximately 900 people, an artillery battalion about 500.


Bazooka                                Generic WWII name applied to any of a series of individual rocket launchers and included the WWII M20, 3.5” rocket launcher, the disposable M72, 66mm LAW and the Soviet family of RPGs.


BC                                          Body Count: the toll of enemy killed in a given operation

BCD                                       Bad Conduct Discharge

BDA                                        Bomb Damage Assessment (after an Arc Light mission)

Beaver                                   The U-6A a single engine fixed wing medium utility aircraft flown by US Army pilots


Beehive                                 An artillery round filled with hundreds of 2” stamped metal darts called fleshettes used for direct fire defense against an assaulting enemy too close for indirect fire.


Belay                                      Stop, quit (Navy and Marines)


Bennies                                 Special comfort items not found in the normal military supply chain e.g. coca-cola, beer, watermelons, ice cream, etc.


BGen                                      Brigadier General [one star] (US Army, Marines, Air Force)


Billet                                       Assignment or job (Navy/Marines/) Place of residence (Army/Air Force)


Big nose(s)                           a derogatory term used by Asians to describe occidentals, particularly Americans.


Big Red One                         1st Infantry Division

Big Shotgun                          a 106mm recoilless rifle using antipersonnel canister rounds

Bingo                                     flyer’s term for that point in the flight where the aircraft has only enough fuel remaining to return to base.

Bipod                                     A two-legged support stand either affixed to or attached to the front of the barrel of small arms: BAR, M14, M16A1, M60s, etc.


Bird (a) (the)                         an aircraft, any aircraft


Bird Dog                                The 0-1 (USAF) or L-19 (Army) single engine fixed wing aircraft seating two people used for reconnaissance and forward air control.


Blackbird                               C-130 fitted out for Special Operations – particularly the Fulton Recovery

System used for air-to-ground extraction.


Black Box                              Special electronic warfare equipment used in connection with ground sensors to detect enemy movements on the Ho Chi Minh trail


Blackhorse                           1. Support base northeast of Saigon. 2. One of the names used for coding numbers to be transmitted on the radio


Black Panthers                    2/47th Mechanize Infantry Battalion of the 9th Infantry Division also: a radical African-American group organized in the early 1960s


Bladder Bag                         1-gallon collapsible canteen.


Blasting Cap                        a small highly sensitive heat or electrically initiated device causing an explosion that activates a larger, less sensitive explosive


Blivet                                      A collapsible hard rubber container for carrying POL – also used to describe an article or equipment that did not fit back into the container it came in “two pounds of shit in a one-pound bag”


Blouse                                   to tuck the pants into your boots also a fatigue shirt in the Navy or Marines


Blousing Bands                   Elastic bands used to secure fatigue or utility trousers

Blues                                     Dress uniform

Blue line                                a river on a map

Body Bag                               a hard plastic bag issued by the Quartermaster Corps Graves Registration to transport the remains of the dead.


BOHICA!                                Bend Over, Here it Comes, Again!

Boom-Boom                         sexual intercourse – slang

Boondocks (Boonies) Rugged isolated backcountry or jungle terrain

Boonie Rat                            a field soldier, a grunt, an infantryman

BOQ                                       Batchelor Officer’s Quarters

Bouncing Betty                     an anti-personnel mine designed to explode after one takes his foot off the mine. It then detonates a propellant charge that sent the mine approximately 3 feet into the air, exploding at the victim’s waist level causing severe injuries or death.


Brass                                     Officers

Break squelch                      used when radio silence is in effect, to acknowledge a communication –the push-to-talk switch is pressed momentarily causing a clicking/hissing sound on the receiving speaker.


Brig                                         Jail (Navy and Marines)

Bring Smoke                        to direct all available firepower at a given enemy position

Broken Arrow                        code word used by artillery forward observers to alert all elements monitoring their radio that a unit was in danger of being overrun by the enemy – It gave priority of all artillery and air assets to that unit. 


Bronco                                   0V-10 Twin Engine Turboprop Aircraft used for reconnaissance and Forward Air Control. Also called “Push me – pull me” because of its twin propellers.


Browning Hi-Power Belgium manufactured Model 35, 9mm semiautomatic pistol used by MAC-SOG reconnaissance teams. It was primarily preferred because it was fed with a 15-round magazine.


BSZ                                        Border Surveillance Zone – Area contiguous to RVN borders

BUFF                                      B-52 Bomber (Big Ugly Friendly F* * ker)

Bug Juice                              Mosquito repellent

Bulkhead                               Wall (Navy and Marine)

Bushmaster                         highly skilled in jungle operations

Butter bar                              Second (2nd) Lieutenant

Buy (bought) the farm        to die or be killed

By-the-numbers                   In proper sequence

BX                                           Base Exchange (sundries store in a military base)

C = Charlie

C-3                                         Composition–3: the forerunner of C-4 (see below). While also stable and malleable, it was saturated with nitro-glycerin and if the handler did not use gloves it stained the hands yellow and a severe headache ensued. Old demolitionist knew to place a small amount under the tongue before handling the explosive to prevent the migraine. It was still in use during the late 1950s and early 60s by the ARVN.


C-4                                         Composition–4: a very powerful plastic explosive compound that is highly stable, lightweight, and malleable. It can only be exploded using detonation cord or blasting caps. Since it burns so hot, field soldiers used a 1” ball to heat up C-rations or water when Heat tablets where not available.


C’s (C-Rats)                         C-Rations – canned combat meals for field use – three meals constituted one ration. Shipped 12 meals to a box, each meal contained a “main course” a can of crackers and peanut butter or pound cake, and a fruit or nut-roll or the ever-popular fruitcake. A plastic packet supplied: a matchbook; a spoon (some new one came with a “spork”; a roll of toilet paper (enough for one sitting); a pack of 5 cigarettes; powered cocoa, instant coffee, sugar and powered cream. The chocolate ring that came with the crackers was laced with vitamin A, which gave it a strange taste. See Ham and Motherf * * * * * rs.


CA                                           Civic Action or Civil Affairs

Cannon Cocker                   Artilleryman

Cargomaster                        The C-133 aircraft in its many configurations

Carry-coat                             Buoyant Ammunition carriers designed as jackets for use in operations by the SEALs. There were three designs: Type I – Rifleman; Type II – Grenadier; and, Type III – Radioman, each with special pockets to hold ammunition and field items, e.g. compass, flashlight, etc.


Cammies                              Camouflaged jungle uniforms – just about everybody had their own pattern in Viet Nam


Cane Pressure Mine Chicom manufactured mine used by the VC/NVA that started to appear hung on trees at likely helicopter landing zones in the Central Highlands of South Viet Nam around 1968. The mine was activated by a detonator set off by downward air pressure generated by a landing helicopter


Canteen                                issued water jug with a 1qt. capacity. Originally made of aluminum – later issue where made of hard plastic that initially had a message embossed on the side that said, “Do not hold over a fire to heat water. Some people still did.


Canteen Cup                        issued with the canteen – continued to be made of light weight aluminum

Canteen Cover                     issued to carry the canteen and cup.

Capt. (Cpt.)                           Captain (US Army/Marines/Air Force: company grade officer) (US Navy/Coast Guard (Field Grade officer equivalent to Colonel)


Carry On!                               Resume what you were doing – see “As you were.”

Car-15                                   Shortened version of the M16A1 rifle. Also misnamed “Colt Commando.” The original military designation was XM177E2.


CARE                                     Co-operative for American Relief Everywhere. The worldwide Catholic relief organization


Caribou (‘boos)                   DeHavilland twin-engine cargo airplane initially assigned to the US Army as the CV-2 and later (1966) turned over to the US Air Force (designated C-7A)


CAS                                        Close air support – aircraft flying in support of ground troops in contact


Casualty Staging Area a dispensary, clinic, mobile hospital or temporary area where the wounded are taken to be given first aid, stabilized (triaged) and sent forward to the more extensive medical care.


CBU                                       Cluster Bomb Units – smaller high explosive bombs delivered in a large container that opened above enemy troops or armor and exploded over a wide area


C&C                                       Command and Control

CCC                                       Command and Control Central (MACV-SOG)

CCN                                       Command and Control North (MACV-SOG)

CCS                                       Command and Control South (MACV-SOG)

C-Day                                     Conversion day – the date MPCs where exchanged for a new version (making the old version obsolete. See MPC


CDC                                       Container Delivery System: a method of air delivery of pre-packaged supplies for troops in the field. Each container had critical items e.g., ammunition, water, medical supplies, radio batteries or radios, etc. and each classification was numbered so all the unit in the field had to request was the number, quantity and give the location of the drop zone.


CDEC                                    Combined Document Exploitation Center: a detachment under the CICV Received all daily document seizures from field units, by 1969 the CMIC could scan a set of captured documents, identify those important to a particular Allied unit, translate it when necessary and have it back to the field unit within 24-36 hours.


CESE                                     Civil Engineering Support Equipment

CG                                          Commanding General

Check it out!                          Look at that!

CH-46                                    Boeing Sea Knight medium cargo helicopter the workhorse for the Marines

CH-53                                    Sikorsky Sea Stallion heavy cargo helicopter

Chest Pouch                        pouches carried by the VC/NVA to house ammunition and accoutrements. The one for the AK-47 housed three 30-round magazines and cleaning gear. The one for the SKS allowed the wearer to carry 10 rounds of ammunition in 10-round stripper clips.


CHICOM                                Chinese Communist

Chicken Plate                       early body armor discarded by grunts and used to sit on by mechanized troops and pilots to protect themselves from rounds fired up into their crafts.


Chinook                                 CH-47 Heavy Cargo Helicopter:  One of these was equipped with a 20 mm cannon on each side and an automatic grenade launcher under the nose. It destroyed itself when one of the pins holding one of the 20 mm cannons came off causing the gun to point straight up. Before the gunner could stop firing the bullets had destroyed the front propeller blades.


Cherry                                    new to the unit: no experience in combat. See FNG

Cherry jump                          first parachute jump with one’s assigned airborne unit after completing jump school


Choke                                    Peanut Butter

Chow                                     Food (Chinese)

Chow Hall                             Dining room – mess hall

CIA                                          Central Intelligence Agency

CIB                                         Combat Infantryman’s Badge – awarded to infantrymen for sustained combat service [normally not less than six months.]


CICV                                       Combined Intelligence Center, Viet Nam

CIDG                                      Civilian Irregular Defense Group

CINCPAC                              Commander in Chief, Pacific

CINCSAC                              Commander in Chief, Strategic Air Command

Clacker (also Klacker) a hand-operated spring-loaded firing device which when pressed produced an electrical charge to detonate the Claymore Mine or other electrically detonated devices. “One Claymore Mine came in every box of clackers.”


Claymore                              M18A1: a slightly curved antipersonnel mine – contains 700 double-0 size pellets in front of one pound of C-4 that, when detonated, has a forward lethal zone of 50 meters in an arc of 60 degrees.


CLC                                        Central Logistics Command

Clip                                         See mag. or magazine

Cluster Bomb                       One-pound baseball-sized bomblets with varying configurations some were time delayed, some high explosive, some with thermite for burning.


CMB                                       Combat Medical Badge – equivalent to CIB. Presented to medical personnel participating in ground combat


CMD                                       Capital Military District – the security area around Saigon

CMEC                                    Combined Materiel Exploitation Center – all new enemy weapons and equipment were turned over to this unit for assessment of its efficiency and utility on the battlefield. New weapons models, variations or devices were forwarded to the Department of Defense for further testing and evaluation.


CMIC                                      Combined Military Intelligence Center

CN                                          Tear gas

C.O.                                        1. Commanding Officer. 2. C.O. Conscientious Objector: Classification used by the draft board to classify those who, according to their religious believes, would not serve in the armed forces.


Cobra (Asiatic)                     a reptile native to both North and South Viet Nam, it can grow to 7’ in length. Usually lives in holes between the roots of large trees. Not aggressive and will avoid humans. Most active at night, it is sometimes found on trails and road getting warm. Venom is highly toxic; a nerve poison which can be fatal in 2 to 24 hours depending on amount injected and victim’s state of health.


Code                                      Any method of transposition or substitution used to deny the enemy information: a simple numbers substitution code is to find any 10-digit word that does not repeat any letter e.g. blackhorse or champion, substitute the numerals 1-0 for the letters and transmit the letters. The receiving station must know what word you are using. See SOI


COFRAM                               Controlled Fragmentation Munitions

Col.                                         Colonel


Collins                                   Single Sideband Radio Model 32S-3 used extensively by Special Forces communications personnel. It could transmit in Morse code or voice and was usually packed in a civilian-style set of suitcases.


Colors                                    The flag – national colors – the stars and stripes

Colt Commando                  First version of the shortened M16 rifle for use by Special Forces (see CAR-15.)

Combat Pay                          Additional pay awarded to In-country servicemen and women. It ranged from $50 to $65.00 depending on rank


Company                              A military unit of approximately 250 officers and enlisted men commanded by a Captain (0-3) consisting of three or more platoons. In the artillery a like organization is called a battery, in the cavalry it is called a troop.


Combat jump                       a jump made into a hostile area or for the purpose of engaging the enemy. Only five (5) officially recognized combat jump where made in South Viet Nam during the Vietnam War.


173rd Abn Bde 2/27/67   C-130  845 jumpers   War Zone C III CTZ

5th SFG: 4/2/67    C-123  39/314  Bunard  III CTZ

5th SFG: 5/13/67   C-130  20/374  Nui Gai  IV CTZ

5th SFG 9/5/67   C-130  25/355  Bu Prang II CTZ

5th SFG 11/17/68   C-130  25/495  7 Mts. Region IV CTZ


Elements of or attached to the 173rd where:

HHC 173rd Abn Bde (minus)

2nd Bn, 503rd Inf. (Airborne)

Battery A, 3rd Bn, 319th Arty


Figures for jumpers are approximate. Figures to the right of the slash represent CIDG Mike Force; figures to the left represent USASF or Pathfinder personnel. Participants are authorized to wear a small bronze star on their jump wings.


Comics/Comic book Map (also, funny papers)

COMINT                                 communications intelligence

COMUSMACV                       Commander, United States Military Assistance Command, Vietnam

Comm.                                  Communications

Commo Check                    Communications Check on the radio

Concertina Wire                   barbwire used for defenses and restricting movements. The wire came in rolls dropped by supply aircraft. It was once estimated that the warring factions in South Viet Nam had installed enough barbwire In-country to make a three-foot high fence encircling the planet.


CONARC                               Continental Army Command

Contact                                  engagement (combat) with the enemy – of any size or under any condition

Cook-off                                 a round that is fired spontaneously because excessive firing has heated up the chamber of the weapon  


CORDS                                 Civil Operations and Revolutionary Development Support (later Civil Operations and Rural Development Support)’


Corduroy Road                    a road constructed over swampy or muddy terrain using logs and vegetation

Cork                                       name for the drug Lomotil, used by members of LRRPs, SF and SEAL teams causing constipation and the need to defecate while operations.


Corps                                     1. Military unit comprising several divisions and its support elements commanded by a Lieutenant General (0-9.)  2. The US Marine Corps 3. In Viet Nam the designation of each military region: I Corps (Northern) II Corps (Central Highland) III Corps (Middle) IV Corps (South) 4. Term used to describe specialized military services: Medical Corps; Finance Corps; Signal Corps; Transportation Corps.


COSVN                                  Central Office for South Vietnam: The politico-military leadership of the southern opposition that ostensibly was made up of both communist and anti-communist nationalist guerrillas. It was not a place. It was an activity.


Counter Mortar Radar the AN/MPQ-4 radar set. This radar could pick up the in-coming round fired from an enemy mortar, artillery tube or rocket launcher and, almost instantly compute backwards to the firing location. This information was relayed to the Counter Mortar Battery, a unit prepared to immediately execute a fire mission on the given coordinates.


Cover                                     1. Anything that will protect from hostile action: It applies to anything that can offer protection from direct or indirect fire. 2.  Navy/Marine for hat


Coxswain                              the person, generally a Boastwain’s Mate, in charge of steering and/or directing the crew of a boat. A boat is defined as any craft smaller than a ship.


CP                                          Command Post

CPDC                                    Central Pacification and Development Council

C.Q.                                        Charge of Quarters: The NCO left in charge of a headquarters after it shuts down operations for the day.


Cracker Box                          a field ambulance


Crew Chief                            Enlisted man in charge of the aircraft: in helicopters (s)he is in charge of maintenance. In fixed-wing a/c (s)he may be the loadmaster.


CRIMP                                   Consolidated Republic of Viet Nam Armed Forces Improvement & Modernization Program


CRIP                                      Civilian Reconnaissance Intelligence Platoon

Crosscheck                          used before going out of a friendly perimeter to conduct operations to insure no one is carrying that makes noise, not camouflaged, lights up, etc.


Crusader                               F-8 jet aircraft used by the US Navy – mainly employed as reconnaissance

CS                                          Teargas

CSCC                                    Combat Support Coordinating Center

CSP                                        Combat Security Police – Air Force “infantry” equipped and trained to act as a reaction force for airfield protection. These units where created as a result of the communist 1968 Tet Offensive in South Viet Nam.


CTC                                        Central Training Command

CTZ                                        Corps Tactical Zone

Cutting and slashing                the time spent opening a trail through elephant grass and bamboo.

CYA                                        Cover Your Ass: anything done to make sure you don’t take the blame.

Cyclo                                      three wheeled taxi holding two or three people and driven by a person peddling in back. A very common form of transportation used in Southeast Asia.

D = Delta

DA                                           Department of the Army

DAO                                        Defense Attaché Office

Daisy Chain                          The linking of two or more antipersonnel mine (Claymore) by detonating cord to explode simultaneously.


Daisy Cutter                          a 10-15,000 pound high explosive bomb that will clear a ground area of approximately 300 meters when detonated. It will create an “instant” landing zone. There are no bombers in our inventory to haul these behemoths and they are dropped from a cargo aircraft or a flying crane.


Dapzone                                Medication issued to US forces once a week to prevent leprosy

DCO                                       Deputy Commanding Officer

DD Form 4                            Enlistment contract with the US Armed Forces

DD Form 214                       Formal record of military service – provided at discharge or release from active duty – lists time of active service, promotions, highest rank held while active, schools attended and awards and decorations received.


DD Form 1049                     Military Personnel Transfer Request Form

Dead Zone/Space                area(s) not covered by effective or interlocking weapons fire.

De Oppresso Liber       “To Free the Oppressed” US Army Special Forces Motto

Deck                                       Floor (Navy/Marine)

Decompression                  Time spent between leaving the battle area and being returned to the United States. Not enough time was spent in this very needed process (recommended time and again by the military psychologist). Most combat troops went directly from the field to the “States” within one or two days without transition that many times caused adjustment problems for the individual.


Defoliant                                A chemical which when sprayed or dusted on living vegetation will cause it to die – see Agent Orange.


Delta Dagger                        F-102 jet fighter – most of these were based in Thailand

Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) a designated section of ground in which neither side is to position combat or combat support troops. Viet Nam: the 2-mile wide area north of the 17th Parallel dividing North and South. Violated by the North Vietnamese from day one of the signing of the partition agreement in 1954 prohibiting such acts.


DEROS                                  Date Eligible for Rotation from Overseas – The date one’s Viet Nam tour was due to terminate


Desertion (to desert) act of leaving a military unit or assigned post or failure to report in to your newly assigned unit with the express intention of not returning (as opposed to AWOL.)


Detonation (Det.) Cord a ¼ inch hollow cord filled with the high-explosive PETN and used to link several explosive charges of anti-personnel mines to explode together. See Daisy Chain.


DIA                                          Defense Intelligence Agency

Diaper                                    The (supposedly) bulletproof device worn (like a diaper) by pilots and aircraft crews to protect the crotch area. 


Diddy bag                              a small bag for personal hygiene items

DIOCC                                   District Intelligence and Operations Coordinating Center

Dink                                        Slang used by US soldiers to describe NVA soldiers

Dispensary                           A clinic or small medical installation (Army)

DLIC                                       Detachment left in contact. A unit left behind the main force(s) to stop or slow down a pursuing enemy force by ambush or direct attack.


DOD                                       Department of Defense

Doing the Job                       causing an intentional wound or allowing oneself to be wounded seriously enough to require medical evacuation from the combat zone.


Dog ‘n Pony Show      Special presentation put on for visiting brass or dignitaries

Double-time                         faster than walking but slower than running

Doughnut Dolly                    Female Red Cross Worker – More doughnut dollies served in South Viet Nam than any other single organization except the Army, civilian or military.


DOW                                      Died of Wounds – Classification given to anyone evacuated from the field still alive but was either dead on arrival (DOA) or died in hospital In-country


DPA                                        Direction Pointing Arrow – a large wooden arrow-shaped pointer Ä (about 12’X3’) with evenly spaced cans filled with sand and gasoline nailed to its edges at intervals of 6” to outline its shape. Used by Special Forces camps to signal the direction of the enemy attack for supporting night air strikes. The arrow was balanced on a 55-gallon drum or a log pivot of some type so it could be swung around.


DRAC                                     Delta Regional Assistance Command

Draft, The,                             Selective Service Board:  Your friends and neighbors, who sent you to Viet Nam.

Draft Evader                          Your next door neighbor’s son who went to Canada, or earned a college degree.

Drag                                       The unit behind the main maneuver elements “bringing up the rear” to insure rear safety. Also called “the sweepers.”


Drag Bomb                           See High Drag

Dragonfly                               A-37 jet fighter

Drum                                      a container of ammunition used to feed an automatic weapon

Dry Fire                                  drop the hammer or pull the trigger on an empty chamber of a weapon

Dry run                                   Practice

DSA                                        District Senior Advisor

Duffle Bag                             Large canvas bag issued to hold all personal gear of a soldier. Called a seabag by the Navy and Marine Corps.


Duster                                    Tracked 40mm gun carrier (US Army)

Dustoff                                   Medical Evacuation Helicopter, usually a UH-1 or Huey  “Slick.”

E = Echo

ECM                                       Electric Counter Measures

EC-121                                  Lockheed Super Constellation electronics warfare aircraft

E&E                                        Escape and Evasion


EENT                                     Early Evening Nautical Twilight – the time when the sun is setting and it is not quite night, allowing you to move with a minimum of noise. The best time to move into an overnight position and put out listening posts.


Elephant grass                    Nipa Palm – Vietnamese Khoai-sap: a plant that grows abundantly in the open areas in Viet Nam usually 7 or 8 feet tall with large leaves each held upright by a fleshy stalk. The leaves have sharp razor-like teeth around its edge and sudden contact would create a deep scratch or a rip in clothing.


EM                                          Enlisted Men

EMNT                                     Early Morning Nautical Twilight – the period just before sunrise and you can make out terrain features and obstacles sufficiently to move without being seeing from a distance by the enemy. The best time to move into an attack position or line of departure (LD)


Encryption/Encrypt The coding of a message or coordinates into letters and/or numbers rendering it unintelligible to the enemy monitoring friendly communications.


ENIFF                                     Enemy initiated firefight

Ensign                                   0-1 in the Navy – equivalent to 2nd Lieutenant

Entrenching Tool                 folding field shovel issued as part of the field gear

EOD                                       Explosive Ordnance Disposal (Detachment)

ER                                          Efficiency Report

ETA                                         Estimated Time of Arrival

ETS                                        Estimated Termination of Service – date of release from active duty

Eye Fuck                                Ogle, scrutinize with deliberate care, undress with one’s eyes

Exec.                                      Executive Officer

F = Foxtrot

F-4B                                       McDonnell Phantom jet fighter

FAC                                        Forward Air Control or Controller

Fannie Pack                         the short cargo bag connected to the rear of the G. I. web belt and suspenders.

FARK                                      Forcés Armées Royales Khmères (Royal Khmer Armed Forces)

Fartsack                                                mattress cover, bed, sleeping bag

Fast Movers                          Any jet aircraft called in by the forward air controller (FAC) to bomb, napalm or strafe the enemy position – also Fast Burners


Fat Albert                               Air Force C-5A Galaxy cargo aircraft

Fat City                                   MACV Headquarters in Saigon, South Viet Nam also called “The Puzzle Palace,” and “Disneyland East”


Fatigues                                Standard issue military field uniform: In Viet Nam it was initially olive drab but later changed to camouflage.


FBIS                                       Foreign Broadcast Information Services

FFORCEV                             Field Force, Vietnam

Field Expedient                    the construction or adaptation of any item using available tools and material, e.g. a “field expedient antenna” was a roll of communications wire, thrown over a tree branch and connected to the radio to extend the radios transmission and reception range; a hooch built of vegetation and mud is a field expedient shelter.


Field of Fire                           the area to the front of a given weapon position which that weapon can cover effectively


Field Strip                              To disassemble, take apart – as in field stripping a cigarette butt

FIGMO                                    F * * k It, I Got My Orders!  (to leave Viet Nam)

Fighting Hole                        a hole, usually dug for defensive purposes that offers cover to the soldier. It may be expanded to include trench communications with other holes and overhead cover against enemy artillery, mortar or rocket fire. WWII = foxhole.


Fighting range                      That area in which you or the enemy are under the effective range of each other’s small arms and can bring effective fire to bear. In the jungles of Viet Nam this could from 5-30 feet, depending on the density of the vegetation. In the highland forest it could be 15-75 meters and in the open paddies of the Mekong Delta, it could expand to the full effective range of an M-16A1 rifle - 350 meters


Firecracker                            An artillery round that contains many small bomblets that when fired disperses these in an airburst almost simultaneously.  It acquired its name from the sound heard when it goes off.


Fire Support Base a temporary site from which artillery was positioned to support ground operations in a given area. Portable Howitzers (usually 105mm) where brought in by helicopter after the area was secured by infantry troops.


Firefight                                 contact with enemy troops, large or small where there has been an exchange of small arms fire.


Fire for Effect                        having gotten the range and elevation of the target using individual rounds, the observer calls for all guns to fire on the given target until he calls cease fire.


Fire Mission                          A specific call for artillery fire by troops being supported

First Shirt                               First Sergeant (Army)

Fire in the hole!                    Generic warning to all present that high explosives are about to be detonated

FITS                                        F *  * k It, Tomorrow’s Saturday! – GI’s replacement to the civilian TGIF

Flak Jacket / Vest                 A vest made to protect the wearer from indirect shrapnel and explosive debris. It would seldom stop an enemy bullet like the 7.62 X 39 mm fired by the SKS or AK-47 rifles at fighting range.


Flex Guns                              M60C1 Machine guns mounted on hogs and Huey Cobras

Flight Time                            time from takeoff to landing or an aircraft – the flying time it takes to reach a given position from where the aircraft is presently located


Flying Banana                      H-21 cargo helicopter: the first used to test the airmobile concept in 1961-62 using South Vietnamese troops. Several of these where equipped with flex miniguns and called “Hot Bananas” They where phased out by the H-34 and later the UH-A Hueys.


Flying Boxcar                        C-119 cargo aircraft – aerodynamically speaking, this airplane was not supposed to fly – but then, neither was the bumblebee.


Flying Telephone Pole Soviet built SA-2 Surface to air missile used in North Viet Nam


FNG                                        F * * * king New Guy:  replacement personnel. See Cherry

FO                                           Forward Observer – the person in charge of calling for support fires.

FOB                                        Forward Operational Base (Special Forces)

Foogas or Fougasse an unspecified mixture of gasoline/jet fuel and powered detergent held in a 55-gallon drum either buried or placed on small pedestals outside the berm but inside the wire entanglements of a camp and used to defend the perimeter from ground assault. It contained either a charge of C-4 or an electrically wired mortar or artillery shell inside which, when set off created a napalm-like effect covering a large area.


Forty Percent Rule The average decline in efficiency in accomplishing a complex, impromptu, or unrehearsed mission. It is computed for every person brought into the “need to know” and given a specific task crucial to that mission. Therefore, if the mission requires 10 soldiers to accomplish it the first would be assigned 100% probability the next 60% the next 36% the next 14.4% and so on. Adding all the averages then dividing by the number of participants in this case ten produced the final average. In the above example the possibility of success would be 22.0%. Every rehearsal of the mission increases the probability of success by 50%


Frag                                        a fragmentation grenade

Fragging                                the attempt or actual killing of someone by his own troops – usually an officer by means of a hand grenade.


Fraternization                       improper social contact between enlisted and officer or military and civilian personnel.


Freak or Frec.                       Slang: a particular frequency on the radio


Freedom Bird                       The aircraft you took to leave Viet Nam

Freedom Fighter                  US F-5 combat jet aircraft

Free Fire Zone                     an area determined to be completely dominated by the enemy and therefore anything within it was targeted. – No man’s land.


Friendlies                              anybody on your side

Friendly Fire                          Used to describe artillery or mortar fire gone astray and hitting friendly troops. The recipients found out quickly that “friendly fire” isn’t!


FSB                                        Fire Support Base

FTA                                         F * * k The Army

FUBAR                                   F * * ked Up Beyond All Repair / Recognition

Fulton Recovery System Method of extracting up to 4 people from a hostile area where it was impossible to land either fixed or rotary wing aircraft. A C-130 Blackbird would drop a packet containing a helium tank, a dirigible-shape balloon, the number of extraction suits required and a 900 foot rope. The personnel to be extracted donned their suits and connected a sewn-in hook to one end of the rope. The balloon was inflated, connected to one other end of the rope and sent aloft. When all was in readiness, the C-130 would fly in at approximately 165 kph, hook the line being towed by the balloon. At the moment of extraction the passenger(s) shot straight up in the air approximately 90 feet and accelerated from 0 to 165 kph in less than one minute. The tether was attached to a powerful winch at the rear of the C-130 and the person(s) was winched up into the aircraft. The process can be accomplished by a trained and experienced team in less than 10 minutes.


Funny Money                        Military Payment Certificates

FWMAF                                  Free World Military Assistance Forces

G = Golf

G-1                                         Administrative/Personnel section or officer for a Division

G-2                                         Intelligence section or officer for a Division (to “G-2” something – to investigate until one got all the information)


G-3                                         Operations section or officer a Division

G-4                                         Logistics section or officer for a Division

G-5                                         Civil Affairs section or officer for a Division

Galley                                     Kitchen (Navy/Marine)

Gear                                       Equipment

GCI                                         ground controlled intercept

GDRS                                    General Directorate of rear services

Gecko                                    a small lizard (gray to green) tolerated in homes in Viet Nam because they tend to devour a large quantity of insects. Also known as “F * * * You Lizards” because of the peculiar sound they make during the night.


Ghosting (to ghost) an activity designed to keep one from working hard. In WWII and Korea it was known as “Goldbricking.”


G. I. Can                                Garbage can

Gizmo                                    gadget; anything that defies description

Globemaster II                     US C-124 cargo aircraft – also “Old Shakey.”

GOER                                    M-520 8-ton 4X4 vehicle with a material-handling arm or crane

Gook                                      Derogatory term used to describe the enemy in Viet Nam (from the Korean Hon Gook meaning Korean person)


Gourd                                     head, where you put your hat or cover

GP                                          General Purpose

GPES                                     Ground Proximity Extraction System (see LOLEX)

Grab a (your) hat                  Leave, get out

Grabass                                                playing around, a frivolous activity – organized grabass: sports

Gravel                                    Pressure detonated explosive device. This explosive was spread around ground sensor sites to discourage the enemy from picking them up. After they where dropped, encased in a Freon solution, they dried up and looked like a small leaf lying on the ground until you stepped on one or kicked it. It was powerful enough to blow the tire off a vehicle.


GRD                                       Graves Registration Detachment a unit of the Quartermaster Corps that handles the procedures for processing deceased military personnel


Grease Gun                          WWII vintage M-3 .45 caliber sub-machinegun

Green Berets                        members of the US Army Special Forces  – President John F. Kennedy authorized the use of the headgear during a visit to Fort Bragg, NC in 1961.


Green Hornets                     dextro-emphetamine tablets (also called “uppers”) used to stay awake under extreme situations. The use of this medication was not officially sanctioned but everyone carried it for emergencies.


Ground pounder                  an infantryman, a grunt     

Grunt                                      Infantry soldier on the battle line – ostensibly derived from the sound a soldier makes when picking up his rucksack to place it on his back


GSW                                       Gun Shot Wound

Guerrilla                                An armed combatant of a resistance movement organized against the standing governmental authority (de facto or de jure.) These are normally organized into military or paramilitary units under the command of a central authority.


Guidon                                   a pennant bearing the unit designation carried by the first man to the right in marching units


Gung ho                                Hard-charging, very enthusiastic: Chinese term – brought into the US military lexicon by troops who fought in the 1900 Boxer Rebellion.


Gunship                                                An armed helicopter: See Hog or Huey-Cobra

GVN                                        Government of the Republic of Viet Nam

GySgt.                                    Gunnery Sergeant (US Marines)

H = Hotel

H-34                                       Sikorsky Sea Horse medium transport helicopter

Halozone Tablets Iodine pills used to purify drinking water.

Half-Track                             WWII vintage M16 light armored vehicle with two wheels in front and tracks in back.


HM3                                        Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class (US Navy – Usually attached to the Marines as medics)


HMC                                       Chief Hospital Corpsman


Ham & Motherf * * kers Ham and Lima Beans (probably the most detested C-ration meal in the Vietnam War.) also “Ham ‘n Chokers”


Hanoi Hannah                     Female disc jockey broadcasting communist propaganda and American music to Allied troops in South Viet Nam


Hanoi Hilton                         American POW nickname for the Hoa Loa Prison in Hanoi, North Viet Nam

Hard-charger                        motivated, a doer, active (see gung-ho)

Hatch                                     Door (Navy/Marines)

Hawk (the hawk)                  cold biting wind – for paratroopers: dangerous jump conditions because of high winds on the drop zone.


Hawkeye                               US Navy E2-A aerial assets controller

Head                                      Toilet (Navy/Marines)

HE                                          High explosive

HEAT                                      High Explosive Anti-Tank – a shell that contains a directional shape-charge in the nose. On impact the force of the explosion, condensed into a small fireball, is directed at the steel and cuts through it allowing a small white-hot portion to enter the armored vehicle and explode the munitions inside while it ricochets off the walls killing or wounding the crew.


Heat Tabs                             a smokeless, slow burning, high heat intensity chemical tablet issued to field troops for heating water and C-rations.


Hercules                               US C-130 four-engine turboprop cargo aircraft – began service in the late 1950s and is still, in its many manifestations the workhorse of the US cargo fleet.


HES                                        Hamlet Evaluation System – The system of accountability initiated after Tet 1968 to determine what portion or South Viet Nam was actually under SVN government control. It listed the areas as A, B, or C, the latter being those areas with less security. While not perfect, it gave the Americans the ability to demonstrate to the South Vietnamese leadership the need to concentrate of the security and well being of its people rather than just fighting a war of attrition against the North.


High Drag Bomb                 a high explosive dumb bomb equipped with drag fins that will deploy when released slowing the bomb’s fall and allowing it to “fly” into the targets from a low-level high-speed aircraft.


H&I                                         Harassment and Interdiction: artillery or mortar fire placed on targets in a haphazard manner as to location and timing. It sometimes did more harm than good by alienating the local villagers. By 1970 it was practically not used in any SVN government controlled area.


Ho Chi Minh Trail                 the extensive network of roads and trails that began in North Viet Nam and stretched into Laos and Cambodia with tendrils into various areas in South Viet Nam. One of the greatest feats of psychological propaganda was the North’s continued denial of its existence which required occupation of a large portion of Laos and Cambodia’s sovereign territory.


Hog                                        A UH1B “HUEY” helicopter normally armed with ten 2.75mm rockets and four 7.62X51mm M-60 machineguns on hardened arms extending from the craft. They carried a pilot, co-pilot and 2 door gunners, each armed with single M60 machineguns and all the ammunition they could lift and not much else. They became the primary aerial support for the ground troops. They also provided cover for the “SLICKS” bringing in or taking out combat troops, LRRPs, re-supplies, etc., and Medevac “Dustoffs.”


Hollywood                             Something not completely genuine, unreal, bogus, make believe, exaggerated


Hollywood Jump                  A parachute drop without equipment – an easy jump without combat gear


Hook up (the)                       1. To make connection to a unit to the right or left of your unit’s position. 2. To find and communicate with another combat element. 3. To communicate on the unit radio. 4. The second command in a jump sequence: the order to hook the static line to the aircraft’s cable.


Honcho                                  man in charge, a boss; a manager – top honcho: Sergeant Major (absorbed into the military lexicon from the Japanese in WWII.)


Hon Tre                                 the secret (and intense) Recondo School situated on the island of the same name off the coast of South Viet Nam,


Hooch                                    any kind of shelter

Horn, The                              a radio/transmitter

Hose (down)                        to bring massive automatic weapons fire on a position as from a gunship’s miniguns or a Spooky. To sweep in front of a perimeter (see Mad Minute)


Hot                                          an enemy controlled or contested area such as a Landing Zone

Hot Hoist                               extraction of combat personnel under fire using a winch


Howitzer                                a long range, breech loaded high angle of fire weapon in 75mm (called a pack Howitzer or mountain gun) 105mm, 155mm. The name is derived from its inventor.


Huey                                       Shorthand designation for a UH1A or UH1B Helicopter

Huey-Cobra                          Also Aircobra: Primarily designed to replace the Hog as the helicopter fire-support platform. The AH-1G Cobra was armed with a M75 automatic 40mm grenade launcher in the nose and two 7X62X51mm electric miniguns firing 4,000 rounds per minute on each wing. The crews painted eyes and sharks mouths on the crafts reminiscent of the WWII “Flying Tigers” for psychological purposes.


Hump                                     to march, carry or be burdened with something heavy

Hunter/Killer Team 1. team consisting of a light observation helicopter (LOH) as the Hunter and a Huey-Cobra as the Killer. If the enemy fired on the low flying LOH, the Cobra would fire on the enemy gunners. 2. three-man sniper team consisting of a shooter, an observer with a 20X scope and a security armed with a M16 equipped with an XM203.


Hush Puppy                          Smith & Wesson 9mm Mark 22 Model 0 semiautomatic pistol. It carried a clip of 8 rounds and was double action. The Hush Puppy was equipped with a silencer. It was effective at very close ranges (1-25 ft).

I = India

ICC                                         International Control Commission

ICS                                         Integrated communications system

IG                                            Inspector General

Imp                                         An experimental survival rifle designed for the USAF by Bushmaster Corp., around the M16 action using no stock; the firing group in front of the magazine (bullpup) and no sights. Some were issued In-country but recalled because whatever it was – rifle/pistol – was uncontrollable on automatic and overheated to the point where it was impossible to hold.


Incoming!                              Artillery or mortar shells about to land this position!


In-Country                             Actual presence in the Republic of South Viet Nam

Infantry                                   Foot Soldier: an un-mounted combatant – the Army branch of that service – Infantry officer: an officer trained in fighting conventional un-mounted foot engagements.


IMC                                         Instrument Meteorological Condition: a technique developed by the US Marines during the NVA siege at Khe Sanh using Doppler radar and the on-site calculations to LOLEX supply pallets during inclement weather or periods of no-visibility.


Insertion                                The placement of troops into an operational area by whatever means necessary to allow entry, e.g. helicopters, parachutes, aircraft, SCUBA, land vehicles or walking


Intruder                                  US Navy A-6A combat and reconnaissance aircraft


Irregular(s)                            armed individual or unit not a member of a regular armed force or internal self-defense forces.


Iron Triangle                         The name used to denote the area where the international borders of Laos, Cambodia and Viet Nam meet.


ISC                                         Information Service Center. The unit located in Nakhom Phanom, Thailand that ran Operation Mussel Shoals, the intrusion devices that gave real-time information on enemy movements on the DMZ


J = Juliet

J-1                                          Assistant Chief of Staff, Administration/Personnel MACV

J-2                                          Assistant Chief of Staff, Military Intelligence MACV

J-3                                          Assistant Chief of Staff, Operations MACV

J-4                                          Assistant Chief of Staff, Quartermaster MACV

J-5                                          Assistant Chief of Staff, Civic Action MACV

Jack Benny                           the number 39 (his permanent age) used as a simple code as “from Jack Benny, add 10 – which would be the number 49


Jarhead                                 A Marine

Jing or Jing-wa                    pocket change or loose money (Japanese) (Navy/Marines)

JCS                                        Joint Chiefs of Staff (US)

JDOC                                     Joint Defense Operations Center – The US/Vietnamese Coordinating Defense Operations for Tan Son Nhut Airfield and its surrounding security area


Jesus Nut                             the nut holding the components of a helicopter’s main rotor onto the helicopter.


JGS                                        Joint General Staff (Army of the Republic of Viet Nam)

Jink                                         to turn hard to avoid enemy fire or detection (USAF term)

Jody                                        generic name for the guy stealing you girl while you served in the military – the subject of many marching ditties e.g. “Ain’t no use in going home…Jody’s got your gal and gone!”


Jolly Green Giant                 US HH-53B rescue helicopter – sometimes used by the grunts to identify the heavily armed C-47 helicopter used for ground support.


Juicer                                     a drunk, someone who overly consumed alcoholic beverages

Jump                                      a descent from an aircraft in flight via a parachute

Jump Pay                              Awarded to all active paratroopers assigned to an airborne unit and participating in al least one parachute jump every three months to maintain jump status. During the Viet Nam war enlisted were paid $55.00 and officers $110.00 per month.


Jump Status                         an individual who has qualified as a parachutist and is assigned to an active airborne unit requiring the maintenance of airborne proficiency.


Jungle Boots                        Issued regulation footwear in Viet Nam. It was made of a combination of leather, cotton webbing and nylon with thick vulcanized sole. There were holes with grommets above the soles to allow water to flow and to dry the boot quickly – later versions had a metal plate insert to prevent the foot being pierced by Punji stakes – see ankle biter


Jungle Penetrator a heavy device lowered from a hovering rescue helicopter to extract someone in thick jungle canopy.


JUSPAO                                Joint United States Public Affairs Office: The information office of the Free World Assistance Forces in South Viet Nam. They where responsible for the daily press briefings better known as “The Six O’clock Follies.”


K = Kilo

KAK Wheel                            device used by radiomen to encrypt coordinates for transmission over their radio

K-BAR                                    Marine-Issue fighting knife

KBA                                        Killed By Air

KC-135                                  USAF refueling aircraft

Kit Carson Scout                 Former Viet-Cong defectors who served as scouts for US units in combat. They proved to be loyal and reliable. If caught by their former comrades they would be shot on the spot.


KIA                                          Killed In Action

Kiwi                                        A New Zealander – military forces from New Zealand

KKK                                        Khmer Kampuchea Krom (literally “Khmer Liberators of Cambodia”) Ethnic Cambodians living in the part of South Viet Nam that had, just prior to the French colonization of Indochina, been part of the Khmer Kingdom. They were bandits and raiders, recruited by the US Special Forces as part of the Civilian Irregular Defense Groups


Klick                                       Kilometer  (0.62 mile) – also click

KSCK                                     Khe Sanh Combat Base

L = Lima

Ladder                                   stairs (Navy/Marine) also Ladderway

Latrine                                   Outdoor toilet

Land Line                              Ground wire communications

Land Mine                             an explosive anti-personnel or anti-vehicle buried in the ground and camouflaged. It is designed to detonate when downward pressure is applied by a person or vehicle causing death or damage.


LAPES                                   Low Altitude Proximity Extraction System (see LOLEX)

LAW                                        Light Anti-tank weapon – the 66mm shoulder fired “throw-away” single-shot American manufactured anti-tank weapon


Lay Chilly                               Lie motionless

Leaping Leena                    The program initiated to train Vietnamese Special Forces and Civilian Irregular Defense Group personnel in long-range patrol tactics. Begun in 1964, its name was changed to Project Delta in June 1965.


LBJ                                         Long Binh Jail – the military stockade adjacent to the Binh Hoa airfield

LCpl.                                      Lance Corporal (US Marine Corps)

LDNN                                     Lien Doi Nguoi Nhan – Vietnamese Underwater Demolition Team

LLDB                                      Luc Luong Dac Biet – Vietnamese Army Special Forces

Leave                                     Authorized absence of more than 72 hours (Army) more than 24 hours (Navy/Marines)


Leatherneck                         A US Marine – originated from the leather collars worn on the uniform from 1798 to 1868 for protection against a sword slash


Leg                                         All non-airborne military personnel

Lifer                                        a career soldier

Light up (to)                          to open fire – to hit a target and destroy it.

LP                                           Listening Post – usually a 3-man post located a distance from the main body to give the alert when the enemy was approaching.


LN(O)                                     Liaison (Officer)

LID                                          Light Infantry Division

Liberty                                    Authorize absence of 24 hours or less (Navy/Marines)

LOC                                        Line of communication

Lock ‘n Load                         Lock a magazine into your weapon, load a round into the chamber and get ready to use it.


LOH                                        Light observation helicopter – also called “Loach”

LOLEX                                   Low Level Extraction: a method of air re-supply whereby a palletized load is delivered by a cargo aircraft, (C-7A; C-123, C-130), flying 5-10’ off the ground. An extraction parachute is released pulling the load, which is on rollers, out of the aircraft onto the ground at around 100 mph. The load lands rear-end first then plows into the ground coming to a stop. Also called GPES and LAPES.


Loop ‘n Scoop                      A technique used by Special Forces, SEALs and LRRPs on patrol in enemy held areas wherein the entire unit would move right or left quickly and loop back to behind their original line of march to catch anyone following them.


LHA                                        Lost to Hostile Action: the euphemism used to classify someone killed in action (KIA) before 1967.


Loss Incident                       Military euphemism meaning the exact time when and circumstance under which an individual soldier, sailor or airman died.


LRRP                                     Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol

LRPR (Lurps)                       Rations developed for use by combat personnel that had to be out for long periods without a re-supply. They were dehydrated meals that re-hydrated when the package holding the meal was filled with water (preferably hot).


LT                                           Pronounced El Tee – a lieutenant

LtCol.                                     Lieutenant Colonel

LtGen.                                    Lieutenant General (3 stars)

LZ                                           Landing zone


M = Mike

M1 Garand                            WWII vintage semiautomatic, gas operated, air cooled, shoulder fired weapon which held an 8-round clip. It was too big and cumbersome for the South Vietnamese and was soon phased out of service and replaced by the M1 and M2 Carbines.


M11                                        Chloroquine-Primaquine anti-malarial pill required to be taken once a week by all US personnel in Viet Nam. Many refused it because of its side affects that included nausea and diarrhea


M16A1                                    By 1967, the standard issue American battle rifle firing a 5.56 mm bullet


M1911A1                               Military designation for the Browning invented Colt .45 semi-automatic pistol. It used a clip of 7 rounds and, although a powerful handgun, was cumbersome to aim. Carried by officers, radio operators, grenadiers, medics, machine–gunners and mortar crews in the infantry units.


M1919A6                               WWII vintage light machine-gun firing .30-06 ammunition, it was used extensively in South Viet Nam by the ARVN, RF/PF and CIDG forces.


M-60                                       M-1960A1 light machine-gun in 7.62 X 51 mm, its design is very similar (but an improvement on) the WWII German MG-34 LMG.


M-79                                       40 mm grenade launcher; resembles a large single shot top-break shotgun. The weapon was intended to bridge the gap between a hand thrown hand grenade and a mortar. It was extremely accurate up to 100 meters and the enemy hated it to the point of training their troops to concentrate their firepower on the grenadiers.


MACV                                     Military Assistance Command, Vietnam

MACV-SOG                           Military Assistance Command, Vietnam Studies & Observation Group. The pseudonym (cover) for Special Operations Units – These units included Army Special Forces, Naval forces and SEALs, Marines, and USAF contingents made up to accomplish specialized tasks such as long range patrols, cross-border reconnaissance, prisoner grabs, etc.


Ma’ Deuce                             An M-2 .50 caliber heavy barrel machinegun


Mad Minute                           a concentration of all the units’ weapons at their maximum rate of fire for a short period


Mag.                                       Short term for a magazine that feeds a weapon see also Clip

Maj.                                         Major

Malayan Gate                       A booby-trap consisting of a long bamboo pole studded on one end with smaller sharpened pieces heat-treated for strength. The device is made lethal by tying it to a tree on a trail or known pathway; wetting the large bamboo and bending it to put it under tension like a bow. The device is then attached to a figure-4 trip wire device. When the device is sprung, the bamboo piece shoots back into position ramming itself and the sharpened stakes into the victim, usually at chest high. A variation is a log imbedded with bamboo spikes suspended by a rope which, when sprung, causes the heavy log to swing into the victim impaling him/her on the spikes.


Master Parachutist in the US Army, a paratrooper with at least 65 parachute jumps. In order to be awarded Master parachutist wings you must first attain the level of Senior Parachutist and successfully complete an advanced jumpmaster course. Also “Master Blaster.”


MAF                                        Marine Amphibious Force

Maggie’s Drawers                a missed shot – used on the rifle range to describe the red disc that marks a miss

MARS                                     Military Affiliate Radio Station – this organization greatly helped raise the morale of troops serving in South Viet Nam by relaying messages to and from their families.


MATSB                                   Mobile advanced tactical support base

MEDCAP                               Medical Civic Action Program

McNamara’s Folly The name given to the idea of the then Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara to place a “electronic sensing fence” which would run the entire length of the DMZ and alert our side when the enemy was moving across. Note: It would have worked if they would have trained the personnel better and not run it with so many “desk jockeys,” getting between the fighting units and the information.


Medevac                                Medical Evacuation

MF                                           Mike Force: The Special Forces CIDG reaction forces

MG                                          Machine-gun

MGen                                     Major General (2 stars)

MGF                                        Mobile Guerrilla Force

MGySgt                                  Master Gunnery Sergeant

MIA                                          Missing in action

MiG                                         Generic name for Soviet fighter aircraft (Mikoyan-Gurevich) 19,21,23s

Millipede                                The multi-legged insect that grows to a length of 6 inches and will impart a nasty bite.


MIKE or MSF                         Special Forces Mobile Strike Force

Minigun                                  Modern version of the multiple-barrel Gatlyn Gun in 7.62 X 51 mm caliber

Mobile Guerrilla Unit A Special Forces (usually) company size unit (90 CIDG 3 USASF) that infiltrated inconspicuously into enemy-held areas and operated like the local guerrilla forces except for living off the land. They were re-supplied using napalm canisters to throw off the enemy who would otherwise see resupply parachutes and locate the unit.


Monitor                                   Heavily armored LCM-6 (40mm cannon or 105mm howitzer)

Monkey Key                           a high-speed device used by SF radio operators to send Morse code over the air.

Monsoon                               Yearly rain period – In South Viet Nam it came from July – September and delivered very heavy rain to the area.


Moon Beam                          C-47 illumination aircraft – it could put out fifty 1-million candlepower parachute flares, each one hovering in its parachute for about 7 minutes.


Morse Code                          a code consisting of dots and dashes used worldwide to communicate over AM radios. Special Forces radiomen where expected to send/receive a minimum of 15 words per minute (WPM) to qualify for deployment with an A team. Cross-trained NCO and Officers where expected to send/receive a minimum of 5 wpm.


mm                                         millimeter: metric unit used to classify the size of the bore of a weapon that determines the size projectile it fires.


MP                                          Military Police

MPC                                       Military Payment Certificate – US personnel where not authorized to use dollars in Viet Nam. They traded in their dollars on a 1-1 exchange when arriving In-country at their respective casual company (Marines) or Replacement depots (Army). Neither US dollars nor MPC were authorized for your use in the local economy but many retailers took them (especially the Chinese and Indian merchants) and then exchanged them for Vietnamese Dongs or US dollars on the black market.


MPC Exchange Day The date, usually unannounced, when the Allies changed from one design of MPC script to another. There was usually a horde of panicky merchants attempting to get Americans to exchange the old MPC for new ones. Regulations, however, precluded anyone to receive more than their pay records indicated they where being paid In-country.


Mohawk                                 US Army OV-1 twin turboprop engine aircraft used primarily for aerial reconnaissance. It was heavily loaded with photographic and radar equipment, much of it highly classified.







Morphine Syrette                  a single 20cc dose of painkiller. It became a practice to pin the used syrette on the wounded man’s collar, dip a finger in his blood and mark his forehead with the letter “M” to prevent him from being overdosed. In the combat units they where issued to Officers, NCOs and medics. In the Special Forces everyone was issued “a six-pack” to place in the upper right pocket of the fatigues. While the potential for abuse existed, few frivolously expended their supply seeing as they never knew when they would need it!


Mortar                                     An indirect fire weapon in which the projectile is fed into the front of the tube. They came in 60mm, 81mm and 4.2” sizes


MOS                                       Military Occupational Specialty

MR                                          Morning Report: The document submitted each and every morning by a company-size or higher unit to it’s next higher headquarters advising how many personnel are available for duty, how many are sick, wounded, on R&R, AWOL, etc.


MR                                          Military Region

MRF                                        Mobile Riverine Force

MTC                                        Moving to Contact  (Mike Tango November) Short for  “We have the enemy located and we are moving to engage


Mule                                       a much-discredited and maligned four wheel cargo vehicle, initially issued to airborne units. It was unreliable and hard to keep running


N = November

NGFS                                     Naval Gunfire Support

NLF                                        National Liberation Front, est. 1960 (see Viet Cong and PRG)

NOD                                       Night observation device

NP                                          National Police

NPFF                                      National Police Field Force

NAVFORV                              Naval Forces, Viet Nam

Newbie                                  A new individual in the unit; a replacement; anybody with less time In-country that the speaker. See FNG


NIE                                         National Intelligence Estimate

NSA                                        National Security Agency

NSC                                       National Security Council

NP                                          National Police

NPD                                       Night Defensive Position

No shoulders                       any snake or reptile

NOFF                                     National Police Field Force

Non-Judicial Punishment See Article 15

Novice Parachutist In the US Army, a paratrooper with a minimum of 5 but less than 25 parachute jumps.


No sweat                               no problem: I can do it easily


Nung                                      Vietnamese of ethnic Chinese extraction: originally from the highlands of North Viet Nam. They served in units usually commanded exclusively by the US Special Forces. There is a mutual antipathy between the ethnic Chinese and the Vietnamese.


Numba One                          Good – the best, first above everything

Numba Ten                          Bad – the worst, low down. The inevitable inflation eventually caused this slang term to be changed to “Numba ten thou(sand).”


NVA                                        North Vietnamese Army (Regulars) US designation (see PAVN)


O = Oscar

OB                                          Operational Base

OCS                                       Officer Candidate School

O.D.                                        1. Officer of the day: Battalion or above units – designated officer in charge when the unit has shut down for the day. 2. Olive Drab: the most common military shade of dark green used on vehicles, combat gear and uniforms.


OIC                                         Officer In Charge

Olfatronic Personnel

Detector                                 The much touted but seldom effective “People Sniffer” to be used in known routes of enemy troops to detect their presence by the strength of ammonia gases in the air.


ONTOS                                  Armored track vehicle mounting six 106mm recoilless rifles (Marines)

OP                                          Observation Post

OPCON                                 Operational Control

Operation Ranch Hand The defoliation of jungle and forest that constituted save-havens for the enemy. Using C-123 Provider Aircraft the US dumped 11,000 pounds of defoliants on Viet Nam, Laos and Cambodia. The aircraft could spray a 300-acre area in four minutes. Approximately 6,250 square miles of South Viet Nam have been affected, though much is regenerating itself.


OPORD                                 Operations Order

Ordnance                              In the battlefield, anything that is fired or explodes

OSD                                       Office of the Secretary of Defense

OSI                                         Office of Special Investigations (USAF)

Otter                                       US Army U-1 single engine cargo aircraft used for camp re-supply.  Their motto was “Low, slow and reliable.”


Overhead                              Ceiling (Navy/Marine)

Overlapping fires                 area where the fire to two weapons converge: the principle of having two or more weapons covering a fan-shaped area to the front of the battlefield and insuring they overlap so that no area is lacking in coverage.


Over the Hill                          absent without authorization; also going crazy; also too old for the job

Over the hump                     More than halfway through


P = Papa

P-38                                       The ubiquitous and very necessary G. I. folding can opener.

Pacification                           what we where supposed to have been doing at the hamlet and village level in South Viet Nam. Analogous to “Winning the Hearts and Minds.”


PA&E                                      Pacific Architects & Engineers – one of the several civilian concerns that handled construction and maintenance in South Viet Nam for the military.


Pathet Lao                            Laotian communist guerrillas – subservient to North Viet Nam

Passionate Pink                  Lip balm for chapped lips

Pathfinder                             individual or unit trained to set up drop and landing zones, control air traffic and run small-scale air-control operation during insertions and extraction of airborne or airmobile units.


Pathfinder Badge The winged torch device awarded to US Army graduates of the Pathfinder School at Fort Benning, GA.


PAVN                                      People’s Army of Viet Nam – The North Vietnamese Army: The US and its allies in South Viet Nam refused to use this designation and instead used NVA.


Pedicab                                 See Cyclo

PCF                                        Patrol Craft Fast – See Swift Boat

PCS                                        Permanent change of station

PDO                                       Property Disposal Office

P&D                                        Pacification & Development

PF                                           Popular Forces: South Vietnamese village defense troops initially trained by the US Special Forces they were later turned over to ARVN and US advisors


PFC                                        Private First Class


Phoenix Project                    The program for neutralizing the VCI (US terminology). The RVN terminology was Phuong Hoang


Phonetic Alphabet Used in voice land-line or radio communications to insure comprehension

                                                A = Alpha               B = Bravo               C = Charlie           D = Delta

                                                E = Echo                F = Foxtrot             G = Golf                 H = Hotel

                                                I = India                  J = Juliet                                K = Kilo                  L = Lima               

                                                M = Mike                N = November      O = Oscar              P = Papa

                                                Q = Quebec          R = Romeo           S = Sierra              T = Tango

                                                U = Uniform          V = Victor               W = Whiskey         X = X-Ray

                                                Y = Yankee            Z = Zebra

Piaster (P’s)                         South Vietnamese currency – hung over from the French colonial period.

Piece                                      a small arm weapon, pistol, carbine or rifle, grenade launcher or LMG

Pilatus Porter                       German manufactured U-10, single engine turboprop fixed wing aircraft used initially for clandestine work in Tibet and Laos. It could take off and land on very small, rough surface airfields, in areas where it was difficult for even helicopters to operate. 


PLAF                                      People’s Liberation Armed Forces; the military arm of the NLF (see Viet Cong/NLF/PRG


PLF                                         Parachute Landing Fall – the position assumed prior to landing from a parachute jump


Point (The)                            the soldier or unit leading a combat element. The first soldier or first element that is expected to make contact with the enemy


Pogey Bait                             candy, sweets (Navy/Marines)


POL                                        Generic acronym for petroleum, oil and lubricants

Police Call                            Time allocated to clean up an area

Police (to)                              Pick up or clean

Poncho                                  issued rain cover made of cloth impregnated with rubberized material it is 4 X 7 feet with a hole to which is attached a hood and grommets for making a hooch


Poncho Liner                        issued nylon camouflage blanket that can be attached inside the poncho or used independently. Also called Snoopy Blanket.


Poop                                      Information, “The word”

Pop (a) (to)                            launch or initiate as in “pop a flare” or “pop smoke.”

Pop-Flare                              hand-launched aerial illumination flare – it lit up an area of about 50 meters for about 3 minutes, depending on the wind conditions.


POS                                        Permanent Change of Station – a transfer from one unit or base to another

POV                                        Privately Owned Vehicle

PPDC                                     Provincial Pacification & Development Council

Prick 10,25, 77                     Slang for the AN/PRC-10/25/77 portable FM field radios (Army and Navy Portable Radio Communicator) The PRC 25 was transistorized and provided 920 channels for two-way communications. The newer PRC-77 provided voice scrambling capability to field troops.


Profile                                    A medical excuse from duty

Prov.                                       Provisional

PRU                                       Provincial Reconnaissance Unit: CIA funded, Special Forces led forerunner of the Phoenix Project.


PSA                                        Province Senior Advisor

PSDF                                     People’s Self Defense Force

PSP                                        Pierced Steel Planking – A steel slab with connecting ends each measuring 3 X 8 feet it was lightened by 2” holes cut into it. They had side cuts to interlock. When pieced together they could provide a surface over soft ground or grass for trucks travel or where aircraft could land. It was used extensively in Viet Nam.


PSYOPS                                Psychological Operations

PT                                           Physical Training

PT-76                                     Soviet manufactured amphibious tank first used by the NVA in their assault on the Special Forces Camp at Lan Vie in 1970


PTSD                                     Post Traumatic Stress Disorder: A psychological condition that occurs following a stressful situation e.g. combat, accident, rape, assault, etc. PTSD manifests itself by anxiety, depression, guilt, sorrow or grief, low self-esteem or any combination of these symptoms. The condition is treatable.


Punji stake                            Bamboo stick sharpened at both ends, the ends being heat-treated for strength. One end was usually smeared with human excrement and a number of them were placed in a hole on trails usually around VC strongholds or villages. The hole was camouflaged so the unwary traveler would step in and become impaled, causing an injury that would quickly become infected.


Puff (The Magic Dragon) AC-130E aircraft armed with either a 4 - 7.62mm miniguns, a .40mm cannon or a 105mm howitzer used to support ground operation.


Pucker factor                        fear indices – the tighter the pucker the more the fear

PVT                                         Private

PW or POW                           Prisoner of war

PX                                           Post Exchange – see Base Exchange


Q = Quebec

Quad-50                        WWII vintage weapon mounting four electrically fired .50 M2 heavy machine guns. This weapon was originally designed for anti-aircraft use but where primarily employed in South Viet Nam as convoys escorts and as a mobile reserve in some base camps. Some were mounted on M-48 tank chassis and some welded to the bed of a 6X6 truck.


Quarters                        Living area (see billets)

Quartermaster               Designation of the branch responsible for supplying the armed forces with adequate supplies to perform their duties in accordance with their respective TO&E


Queen’s Cobra               Elite Thai forces serving with Free World Forces in South Viet Nam


Quonset Hut                  Pre-fabricated tin hut used for living quarters, offices, hospitals, etc.

R = Romeo

RAC                                        River Assault Craft

Rack                                       A bed

RAD                                        River Assault Division

Rallier                                    anyone who came over to the SVN side under the chieu hoi program

Rally Point                             a predetermine point located in the area of operation and disseminated to all members of a unit, team or camp where troops are to go to if the integrity of the unit is broken up by enemy action.  A point to which all members of a LRRP or commando team are to meet after completion of a mission for further movement to their pickup point


Randall                                  The much sought after knife, particularly the Model 14 attack knife or the hollow handled survival knife. At the time, it was considered the epitome of fine knives, and highly esteemed by combat troops.


Ranger(s)                             An elite US Army unit: An individual who has undergone a rigorous course to hone special skills in patrolling, reconnaissance and special warfare techniques that make him uniquely qualified to undertake complex hazardous mission.


Rank                                      The military method of delineating grades of responsibilities and leadership. Military personnel are subject to all lawful orders given by anyone above their rank.




              Army Enlisted                                                    Army Officer



No Stripes



2nd Lieutenant

1 Gold Bar



No Stripes



1st Lieutenant

1 Silver Bar


Private 1st Class

1 Stripe




2 Silver Bars



Specialist 4th Class*

2 Stripes




Gold Maple Leaf



Specialist 5th Class*

3 Stripes



Lieutenant Colonel

Silver Oak Leaf


Staff Sergeant

Specialist 6th Class*

3 Stripes 1 rocker




Silver Eagle


Sergeant 1st Class

Specialist 7th Class*

3 Stripes 2 rockers




Brigadier General

1 Silver Star


Master Sergeant

Master Specialist*

3 Stripes 3 rockers



Major General

2 Silver Stars


First Sergeant

3 Stripes 3 rockers and 1 diamond in Center



Lieutenant General

3 Silver Stars


Sergeant Major

3 Stripes 3 Rockers 1 Star in Center




4 Silver Stars


Master Sergeant Major

3 Stripes 3 rockets a star with a wreath around it




5 Silver Stars


* The specialist rank was created to promote enlisted personnel without command responsibilities. Non-commissioned Officers wore stripes, administrative and support personnel wore a shield with an eagle in the center for Specialist 4th; the same shield with a rocker underneath denoted 5th class; 2 rockers 6th, and so on


** Five Star General Rank – equivalent to the European Field Marshall – is only awarded during times of war by the US. Only 5 Army generals where promoted to 5-Star rank while living: General George C. Marshall, General Dwight D. Eisenhower; General Omar Bradley; General Henry H. “Hap” Arnold and General Douglas McArthur. There is no living American 5-Star General. General George Washington was promoted to Five Star rank posthumously.




Ostensibly, being a “people’s army,” the NVA had no rank designation and regulars were only identified as “Cadre.” The NVA, however, soon found that every large organization requires structure to function efficiently and the rank and insignia created more-or-less paralleled that of the Soviet Union’s military.


      Enlisted rank                     EM Insignia                                   Officer rank               Off. Insignia

Private 2nd Class

1 silver star


Student Officer

horizontal bar

Private 1st Class

2 silver stars


2nd Lieutenant

1 silver star over horizontal stripe


Horizontal stripe with 1 silver star in the middle


Senior Lieutenant

2 silver stars over horizontal stripe


Horizontal stripe with 2 silver stars in the middle



3 silver stars over horizontal stripe

Senior Sergeant

Horizontal stripe with 3 silver stars in the middle


Senior Captain

4 silver stars over horizontal stripe





1 silver star over 2 horizontal stripes




Lieutenant Colonel

2 silver stars over 2 horizontal stripes





3 silver stars in triangle over 2 horizontal stripes




Senior Colonel

4 silver stars over 2 horizontal stripes




Major General

1 large gold star




Lieutenant General

2 large gold stars




Colonel General

3 large gold stars




Senior General

4 large gold stars


Rank insignia was worn only on the collar after 1963. Rank tabs where heavy red felt with red cloth backing, horizontal bars where yellow felt or silk. General officers’ tabs where etched in gold bullion. PAVN changed its rank structure and insignias in late 1975.


RAP                                        Rocket Assisted Projectile – first tried in Viet Nam, it was a device used to extend the range of artillery projectiles. Initial reports indicated they diminished accuracy.


Rappel                                   descend from a cliff, helicopter or building by use of a rope and carabineer

Rattan                                    Palms having many slender, spiny stems growing in dense clumps up to twenty feet high. This plant will twine and grow to a height of 250 feet.


Razor wire                             also known as German Tape: It is constructed of spring steel and has razor sharp blades every 8-14”. This wire will not just snag you like barbwire, it will slash your skin and flesh and leave deep cuts.


Recoilless Rifle (RR) A weapon that, when fired, is stabilized because part of the propellant charge is vented towards the rear. It is distinguished from the Bazooka that fires a rocket and leaves no casing while the RR fires a round that leaves a casing and its barrel is rifled. During the Vietnam War the Allies employed vintage WWII 57mm and 75mm and the newer 90mm shoulder fired RR, plus vehicle mounted 106mm ground and jeep mounted plus the US Marines’ ONTOS Vehicle mounting six-106mm RR.


RD/RDC                                Revolutionary Development/Revolutionary Development Cadre

Red Cross                            National and International organization dedicated to ease the pain and suffering of those in need. It provided a place to go for servicemen and women and established areas where service members could send and receive correspondence. The famous “Doughnut Dollies” were Red Cross workers.


Redleg                                   slang for an artillerymen

REMF                                     Rear echelon mother-f * * * * r: The derogatory epithet used by ‘grunts’ to describe their fellow combat soldiers who got themselves assigned to a safe berth in the rear areas to avoid combat.


REPO-DEPO                        Replacement Depot – a holding unit for unassigned officers and men waiting assignment orders. Navy/Marine call it a Casual Company.


Rest/Repose                        The two US hospital ships assigned off the coast of South Viet Nam.

Revetment                            Reinforced defenses – using sandbags, PSP or other materials

RIF                                          Reduction In Force – Defense Department program to reduce forces after the Vietnam War.


Ring Knocker                       A military academy graduate – West Point officers where said to “knock” their rings to identify themselves to their fellow classmates.


R&R                                       Rest and Recuperation – sometimes referred to as I&I (Intoxication and Intercourse.) R&R could be taken In-country or out and there was free transportation provided to Bangkok, Thailand, Hong Kong, Hawaii, Sidney, Australia, Singapore, Taipei, Kuala Lampur, Manila and Penang. After 1970 troops where authorized R&R in the US provided they presented a round trip ticket to ensure they returned on time. Few failed to return.


RF                                           Regional Forces: South Vietnamese equivalent to the US reserve units. They normally operated in company or battalion strength


Roadrunner                          Special Forces Project Delta Reconnaissance Team designation

Rock ‘n Roll                          Fire a weapon on full automatic

Roger                                     Radio/Telephone communications meaning “I understand or agree” Begun during WWII when the phonetic for R was “Roger.” Radio operators began using it as short for “Right, I understand.”


ROK                                       Republic of Korea

Rolling Thunder                   air operations over North Viet Nam from 1965 to 1969

Rome Plow                           An especially built, very powerful bulldozer with a large tree-cutting blade and a cage to protect the driver/operator.


RON                                       Remain over night

Round                                    One bullet, mortar, or artillery shell

Round Eye                            Slang for Occidental women

RPD                                       Soviet manufactured light machine gun whose many component parts where interchangeable with the AK-47


RPG                                       Rocket propelled grenade – a Soviet copy of the WWII German “Panzerfaust” shoulder-fired anti-tank weapon. There were two versions: the RPG2 and the RPG7 that was almost identical but equipped with a sophisticated sight.


RR                                          See Recoilless Rifle

RSSV                                     Rung Sat Special Zone

RTA                                        Royal Thai Army

RTO                                        Radio Telephone Operator – the guy who got to hump the radio.

Rubber Lady                         Inflatable air mattress for field use

Ruck                                       Rucksack – backpack

Ruff-Puff                                                Regional Forces/Popular Forces

Rules of Engagement Set of rules (orders) issued to the fighting forces by men in suits and ties who never heard a shot fired in anger. The rules changed often, depending on world opinion of the up-coming elections in the US.


Russell’s Viper                    Poisonous snake found in the open coastal areas and lowlands of South Viet Nam – it is mottled brown, black and subdued yellow. It is seldom found in forest. Active at night, sleeps in the day. Will hiss loudly when alarmed. Aggressive if surprised. When striking it will lunge forcefully with its entire body and usually holds on after biting. Venom is highly toxic but relatively slow-acting. Its poison sacs have a double fatal dose capacity. This is one of the most dangerous of Asiatic snakes.


RVN                                        Republic of Viet Nam (see SVN)

RVNAF                                   Republic of Viet Nam Armed Forces

RZ                                           Reconnaissance Zone


S = Sierra

S-1                                          Administrative/Personnel section or officer for brigade or smaller units

S-2                                          Intelligence section or officer for brigade or smaller units

S-3                                          Operations section or officer for brigade or smaller units

S-4                                          Logistics section or officer for brigade or smaller units

S-5                                          Civil Affairs section or officer for brigade or smaller units

SA                                           Small arms

Salt                                         as in “Old Salt” – someone with experience, and old-timer

SAM                                        Surface-to-air missile

Same-Same                         Exactly alike…same as…

Sapper                                   The original English army designation was for their engineer specialist in siege warfare. In the Vietnam War, it was used to identify VC/NVA commandos that specialized in stealth demolition attacks on base camp defenses.


SAR                                        Search and Rescue – operations usually involving a downed pilot.


Satchel Charge                    Pre-constructed demolition charge in a web satchel normally containing ten lbs. of TNT, double primed. These charges were primarily employed to cave in tunnel complexes.


Scoshi                                   A little bit, small amount (Korean) – Sometimes shortened to Scosh’

Screaming Eagles US Army 101st Airborne Division

Scuttlebutt                             Rumors, unconfirmed talk – also drinking fountain (Navy/Marines)

SDF                                        Self-Defense Forces

Seabees                               Naval construction Engineers

Search ‘n Clear                    also Search ‘n Destroy: an operation to find and fix the enemy combat unit and kill or capture them.


Sea King                               US Navy SH-3A  Rescue helicopter

Sea Snakes                          There are two major varieties of sea snakes swimming off the coasts of Viet Nam: they are the Hook-nosed (4-5 feet) and Hardwick’s (2-3 feet) sea snakes. The Hook-nosed is very common; swims in large groups and is aggressive and vicious. Venom capacity for both snakes is small but highly toxic muscle-poison. Both have large heads, strong neck muscles and flat tails for swimming. They both can bite under water.


Sea Sprite                             US Navy UH-2C Sea Rescue helicopter


Search and Destroy a tactic based on General William Westmoreland’s theory of attrition of the VC/NVA that would result in North Viet Nam giving up the war. Initially a sound idea given that the North was heavily infiltrating the South with regulars in 1964-65. By early 1967 it became irrelevant for several reasons not the least of which was the fact that General Westmoreland was not given the authority to attack the VC/NVA depots and staging areas in Cambodia and Laos.


SEAL                                      Sea, Air and Land – US Navy elite commando unit first tested in the Vietnam War


Senior Parachutist A parachutist who has completed at least 25 military parachute jumps and has successfully completed a jumpmaster course


SERE                                     Survival/Evasion/Resistance/Escape – Four modes of conduct taught to the military regarding the actions to take behind enemy lines or if a prisoner of war. In 1963 the Army Special Forces established a course to teach selected personnel special survival/evasion and countermeasures to combat interrogation methods used by the enemy. This course was later expanded to the SERE course that all Special Operations personnel are required to undergo as part of their training.


Shake ‘n Bake                      a young sergeant that attended Basic Training, Advanced Infantry Training and a special NCO school and promoted to E5. They arrived In-country with no military or combat experience.


Shape Charge                     A demolition device pre-cut or prepared to direct its force in one primary direction


Shawnee                               CH-21 helicopter – also Flying Banana

Shit-bird                                 Derogatory term for someone who always does it wrong no matter what

Shit-can                                 To throw away, dispose of summarily

Shit-on-a-Shingle SOS – Chipped beef on toast

Sick Call                                Time designated for the regular sick to see a medic or doctor

Sick Bay                                 A clinic or hospital (Navy/Marine)

Silencer                                 a device clipped or screwed to the front of a rifle or pistol that uses baffles to reduce the speed of the gases escaping the weapon when fired reducing the “sonic boom” created by the bullet exiting the barrel. No silencer is “noiseless.”

                                                Its effectiveness lies in the fact that humans, especially combatants, are attuned to a particular resonance to recognize the sound of a fired weapon. The silencer alters that resonance making it difficult to detect.


Sioux                                      An H-13 helicopter, seating two, 1 passenger and a pilot also known as “Bubbles”


Sissy rope                             an extra piece of rope securing the two lines on the extraction device (Stabo, McGyer, Rigs) in case one rope broke – an added safety.


SITREP                                  Situation Report

Six (the)                                 Radio code for the commander

Six-By…                                 a 6X6 – 2½ Truck made by Studebaker-Reo initially

Six O’clock                            a method of indicating a location e.g. “they are to my six o’clock” = they are behind me.


SF                                           Special Forces

SFC                                        Sergeant First Class

SFGA                                      Special Forces Group, Airborne

SGT                                        Sergeant

SGT. MAJ.                              Sergeant Major

Shadow                                 C-119K aircraft armed with four-7.62mm Vulcan machineguns and two-20mm cannons used to support ground operations (sometimes called “Stingers”)


Short                                      Nearing the end of a tour of duty


Short Round                         A mortar or artillery round falling short of its intended target sometimes converting it into ‘friendly fire – Also: someone of small stature


Shorttimer                             Personnel with less than 30 days to DEROS

SKS                                        Soviet Simonov Carbine using the 7.62 X 39 mm Soviet round (although by our specifications it was really a rifle.) It used a fixed 10-round magazine that was loaded from the top using a stripper clip.


Skate(d)                                 Have it easy, didn’t have it hard

Skycrane                               CH-54 heavy load helicopter

Sky Pilot                                 A military chaplain (priest/rabbi/minister/mullah)

Skyraider                               WWII vintage single-engine bomber eminently suited for counterinsurgency work. Several models were used in Viet Nam: A1E; A1G and A1H.


Sky Soldier                            a member of the 173rd Airborne Brigade

Slack man                             the soldier directly behind the point man in a patrol

Sleeper                                  An undercover agent – also called a mole

Slick                                       ‘Unarmed’ UH-1B helicopter used for transporting troops and supplies to the front lines. They had two crewmen assigned, one on each door, armed with M-60 7.62X51mm machineguns.


Slope or Slope-head Derogatory term to describe an Asian person: In-country personnel were forbidden by MACV regulations to use such terms to or in the presence of their Asian allies.


SNAFU                                   Situation Normal All F_ _ _ _ _ Up!

Sneaky Pete                         Non-SF term for a member of the US Army Special Forces

Sniper                                    Generic term which has come to mean a single shooter but the military meaning is that of a highly trained marksman equipped with a well-tuned rifle, match ammunition and using a telescopic sight zeroed to fire on targets well in excess of the distances normally considered in range of a standard infantry weapon.


Snoop ‘n Poop                     Reconnoiter – Reconnaissance mission

Snoopy Blanket                    a poncho liner

SOG                                       Studies and Observation Group

Sorry ‘bout that!                    Mock apology – cynicism

SPAT                                      Self Propelled Anti Tank: a 90mm gun mounted on an open track vehicle sometimes referred to as the “Scorpion.” It had no protection for the crew and was quickly fazed out of use in Viet Nam.


SOI                                         Signal Operating Instruction –contained the frequencies and codes for a given unit


SOP                                        Standing (Standard) Operating Procedure

SOS                                        the three letter international signal of distress – first used by ship radio operators it does not, as some assert, stand for “save our ship.” It was used because the letter S (· · ·) and the letter O (- - -) are quite distinguishable and easy to send on a Morse key.


SPARS                                   Significant Problem Areas Report

Special Forces                     See Green Berets

Speedy Four                         Specialist 4th Class – administrative rank equivalent to corporal

Spider Hole                          An individual cave or hideout from which an enemy rifleman can rise, fire and conceal himself


Spooky                                   AC-47 aircraft armed with three XMU-470, 7.62X51mm Vulcan machineguns or two 20mm cannons used to support ground operations


Spotlight                                The often incomprehensible reports issued by Nakhon Phanom, Thailand, based on the signals they received from the Seismic Intrusion Detectors (see AN-PSR-1 and McNamara’s Folly.)


Squad                                    The basic US Army infantry unit commanded by a Sergeant E-5 and normally consisting of 12 men broken down into 2 fire teams of 6 men each


Squared Away                      Neat and orderly – following the rules – meeting military criteria

SSDF                                     Secret Self-Defense Force

SSI                                          Standing Signal Instruction

SSgt                                       Staff Sergeant

Stand Down                          a period of time for refitting, repairing and obtaining new equipment and/or personnel where the only operational activity may be security


Standby                                 On Hold – waiting or wait

Starfighter                             USAF F-104 fighter jet

Starlifter                                 USAF C-141 cargo jet

Starlight Scope                    Night Vision devices using the principle of light intensification. The first generation of these where tested during the Vietnam War with great success.


Steel Pot                                Outside portion of the issue combat helmet. The ”pot” could be separated from its liner and used to shave, bathe and wash your clothes, proving new technology isn’t necessary better.


Sterilize/Sterilized 1. To restore a site to its original condition before leaving it, i.e. C-ration cans, cigarette butts, broken branches, footprints, etc. 2. The action taken by an individual subject to be taken prisoner from carrying anything that would give away his/her identity, unit, mission, etc.


Stinging Tree                        Called Mag ong voi in the South and Nan tia to in the North of Viet Nam, it is a small tree that grows 10-16 feet in height. Its leaves are oblong and grow 6-12” length and 2-4” in width with a glossy top and lighter green bottom. Contact causes itching, prickling and small red welts which cause a stabbing, radiating pain that may last for 3 or more hours; then swelling and enlarged lymph nodes that may last for up to 3 days. Extreme or prolonged contact may be fatal. Water or rubbing do not relieve the pain – it intensifies it.


Stockade                               Jail (Army)

STOL                                      Short Take Off and Landing a fixed-wing aircraft that need a very short runway to land and take off e.g. the Pilatus Porter.


Strap Hanger                        an airborne term meaning someone who is not part of the unit but is along for the ride (jump)


Stratofortress                       USAF B-52 jet bomber

Stripper Clip                         a device constructed to hold together a fixed amount of rounds which when inserted in a slot of the weapon or its magazine can rapidly load the entire content with a downward push of the ammunition. The Soviet SKS used 10-round stripper clips to load its fixed magazine. The M16A1 rifle magazine could be loaded using 10-round stripper clips that came in 100 round bandoleers.


STZ                                         Special Tactical Zone

Stoner                                    A family of weapons designed by Stoner – the M63A1 light machine-gun was adopted by the US Navy SEALs for use in Viet Nam.


Super Constellation USAF C-121 – formerly a commercial passenger aircraft, the C-121 was rigged with an array of radars, electronic countermeasures and numerous radios to pick up North Vietnamese MiGs and warn our pilots.


Super Sabre                         USAF F-100 jet fighter

SVN                                        South Viet Nam (US designation along with RVN)

Swedish K                            WWII vintage, Swedish manufactured 9mm submachine gun with collapsible stock, and a 20-round magazine. Special Operations and the Special Forces special teams, LRRPs, PRU, etc. used these, some equipped with silencers for operation. An Egyptian made copy of the Swedish K fired the .45 round. In either caliber it was effective only at very short ranges, particularly when fired with the silencer attached.


Swift Boat                              A US Navy patrol boat equipped with a 81mm direct fire mortar with a .50 M2 machinegun on top. Used extensively to back the South Vietnamese Navy in preventing infiltration of communist soldiers and equipment.


T = Tango

TAC                                        Tactical

TAC AIR                                 Tactical Air Command/Support

Tail Boon                               The rear portion of a helicopter that connects the rear rotor with the mainframe of the helicopter – also the hose extending from the back of a refueling aircraft to which the aircraft being refueled connects.


Tail end Charlie                   last man in the column

Tally-Ho!                                Term used by pilots to signal they have sighted the target being pointed out to them


TAOR                                     Tactical Area of Responsibility

Tarmac                                  All weather hard surface road, airfield or helipad constructed of compressed macadam


Ten Percent                          That average of any squad, team, group or organization which is figured in as not getting “the word” and thus calculated to do it wrong when the time comes to execute a mission.


TCN                                        Third country national

TDY                                        Temporary Duty


The Word                              Confirmed official information, the straight scoop – not scuttlebutt

Thumper (The)                     See M-79 grenade launcher

Tiger Balm                            Chinese manufactured copy of Vicks VapoRub (only stronger) Orientals use it extensively for head and body aches, colds, etc.


Tiger Piss                             Beer, in Viet Nam the best known was Ba Mui Ba (33) Beer; the more sought after was the beer from the Philippines San Miguel


Tiger Suit                               camouflage field uniform worn by US Special Forces and their CIDG soldiers.

                                                Different patterns where worn by different units of the LLDB, VN Airborne, Rangers and their US advisors.


TL                                           Team leader

TOC                                        Tactical Operations Center

Toe Popper                           A small anti-personnel mine designed to wound by exploding a charge under a person’s foot just strong enough to sever a toe or heel. The object was to harass and demoralize the enemy who took casualties and had to tie up combat personnel evacuating the injured from the war zone.


TO&E                                     Table of organization and equipment: The very explicit organizational and equipment chart under which every US armed forces unit operates. “If it’s not on you TO&E, you can’t have it!” That includes personnel as well as equipment. Everybody violated it in Viet Nam, starting with the top commands.


Top or Top Sergeant Normally a Company First Sergeant or Battalion Sergeant Major

TOT                                        Time on target/time over target

TOW                                       tube launched, optically tracked, wire guided anti-tank missile

Tracer                                    A bullet containing a phosphorous compound in the tip. When fired the chemical burns and leaves a trail of fire at night or smoke during daylight (called a signature) Machineguns on both sides fire a tracer after every 4th round. Communist tracers where green, Allied tracers where red.


Triage                                    the sorting for priority of treatment of wounded performed by medics, nurses and doctors treating a large number of personnel.


Trip Wire                                a thin wire or cord attached to a booby trap flare, explosive or Malayan gate that when pulled, pushed or broken activates the device.


Triple Canopy                       Layers of thick jungle plants –intertwined with bamboo- growing at 3 different levels: 2 to 10 feet (ground level); 11-30 feet, (intermediate); and 30-60 feet (high)


Tunnel Rat                            Soldier/Marine who crawled into communist tunnel complexes to search and ferret out the enemy.


Two-step                               slang for the Asian green viper found in Viet Nam, (see Wragler’s Viper): advice to “Newbie”: If you get bit lie down quickly so you wont fall down when you die. It was an exaggeration!


Typhoon                                                Asian name for a hurricane – they seem to be stronger in the Pacific


U = Uniform

U2                                           Essentially a rocket powered glider with a huge wingspan able to fly higher than the Soviet-built SAMs. Used to over fly and photograph targets in the North and South.


UCMJ                                     Uniform Code of Military Justice – the legal handbook regulating general military conduct and the penalties for infractions thereof. Replaced the Articles of War in 1950 and was updated in 1961


UN                                          United Nations

Uncle Ho                               Nguyen Ai Quoc aka Ho Chi Minh – In keeping with the mandarin tradition, Ho’s propaganda machine portrayed him as a “kindly old uncle.”


URC-10                                 Universal Rescue Communicator Model-10: It was primarily issued to flight crews for emergency communications with rescue teams. Later, either by trade, requisition or theft, they ended up in the hands of Special Forces, MAC-SOG Reconnaissance and LRRP teams. Use of this radio was highly restricted and severe penalties were imposed for frivolous employment.


USAID                                    United States Agency for International Development

US                                          Unites States

USAF                                      Unites States Air Force

USARPAC                             US Army Pacific – Controls all US Army elements in the Pacific Theater from its headquarters in Hawaii.


USARV                                   United States Army, Vietnam

USCG                                    United States Coast Guard

USMC                                    United States Marine Corps

USN                                       United States Navy

USO                                       United Services Organization – the organization dedicated to providing entertainment and bringing a part of home to those serving in the military. The best-known ambassador of this group is Bob Hope who brought shows and entertainers to the troops in WWII, Korea, Dominican Republic and Viet Nam.


USOM                                    United States Special Mission

USS                                        United States Ship

USSF                                     United States Special Forces


V = Victor

VC                                           Viet Cong: contraction of Viet-Nam Cong-San (Vietnamese Communist). The name given to the guerrillas fighting against the South Viet Nam Regime


VCI                                          Viet Cong Infrastructure

VCLF                                      Viet Cong Local Force

VCMF                                     Viet Cong Main Force

VNAF                                      Vietnamese Air Force (South)

Viet Minh                                Contraction of Viet Nam Doc Lap Dong Minh Hoi (Viet Nam Independence League)


Vietnamization                     The Nixon administration’s plan to turn over the war to the South Vietnamese while the US withdrew with honor.


Ville’                                       Short for village – used to describe location and distance on the radio

VN                                           Viet Nam or Vietnamese national

VNN                                        Vietnamese Navy

VNMC                                     Vietnamese Marine Corps (South)

VNSF                                      South Vietnamese Special Forces

Voodoo                                  F101 jet – used primarily for air recon/photo mission over North Viet Nam

VR                                           Visual Reconnaissance

VT                                           Variable Time Fuse for artillery rounds used to fire on troops in open trenches

VVAW                                     Vietnam Veterans Against the War – Organization formed by Viet Nam Veterans that opposed the war. They were great props for the anti-war propaganda machine. Many in its ranks where found not to have served in the military at all.


W = Whiskey

WAC                                       Woman’s Army Corps – Female US Army personnel not in the medical branch

Waste                                    Kill

Watcher (the)                        Enemy soldier

WETSU                                  We Eat This Shit Up! A cheer started by the US Rangers when enduring stressful physical or psychological situations. It had spread to the entire Army by the early 60s


WIA                                         Wounded in action

Web Gear                              The harness, canvass belt and other accoutrement connected for carrying canteens, aid pouch, magazine pouches, knife and pistol holster, etc. in combat. Officially called TA-50. Also called Load Bearing Gear (LBE.)


Whiskey-Papa                      Phonetic alphabetizing for the white phosphorous mortar/artillery round or hand

Willie-Peter                           grenade. It was highly demoralizing to troops because it stuck to the skin and

WP                                          burned through to the bone or the other side of the body it hit.


Willie Peter Bag                   Waterproof Bag – issued as part of a soldier’s field gear (US Marine Corps)

White Star                             A clandestine training mission into Laos begun in 1959 to recruit and train Mon Khmer tribesmen to fight the North Vietnamese/Pathet Lao incursions into Northern Laos. Initially consisting of Detachment FC-3 with 107 SF personnel operating clandestinely, by 1961 Operation White Star had grown to 300-400 SF in US uniforms.


White Whale                         General William C. Westmoreland’s personal C-123 aircraft while he was COMUSMACV


Whitewalls                            A military haircut – the sides and rear are cut almost to the scalp, leaving only a small amount of hair on the top.


Wild Weasel                         An F-4F fighter equipped with electronic equipment – preceded the bombers to throw off the enemy radar guided SAMs.       


WIEU                                      Weekly Intelligence Estimate Update


White Mice                            South Vietnamese traffic police. They wore white uniforms, helmets and gloves hence the nickname


World, The                            Stateside, any place but Viet Nam – it didn’t start as a derogatory term but it ended up becoming one which was frowned upon by the US leadership In-country.


WO                                         Warrant Officer (This rank does not exist in the US Navy)

WPM                                       Words Per Minute: The amount designating how many words per minute a radio operator can send/receive intelligible communications using Morse Code.


Wragler’s Pit Viper this much-maligned snake grows to about 3 ft. and is bright green in color as an adult. It is a climber and is very common in bushes, trees and mangroves. The Vietnamese often keep them near their homes to keep down rodents. This snake is not aggressive, even when handled, and seldom strikes humans. The bite is painful creating soreness and swelling at the site but is seldom fatal to humans.


X = X-Ray

XM177E2                               See Car-15

XM203                                    Experimental 40mm grenade launcher attached to a special hand-guard under the barrel of the M16A1 rifle to give the grenadier a more effective means of defense than the .45 cal. M1911A1 pistol.


XO                                           Executive Officer – second in command of a military unit.

X-Ray Team                          A Communications relay unit


Y = Yankee


Yankee                                  An American

Yards                                     Short for Montagnards: French for mountaineers – the hill tribes in the Central Highland of South Viet Nam. They included many different tribes: the Bru; the Coho; the Rhade; The Jaray; the Sedang. They were fiercely loyal to the USASF and deeply hated the LLDB who called them moi that literally translates to “savage” but as used by the Vietnamese it is closer to the epithet ‘nigger.’


YIP                                          Youth International Party – a radical anti-war group led by Jerry Rubin and Abbie Hoffman during the Vietnam War.


Yippie                                     A member of the Youth International Party


Z = Zebra

Zap                                         To shoot at, hit, wound or kill someone.

Zip                                          A dead enemy, sometimes used in a derogatory term for the VC or NVA soldiers.

Zippo                                      Flame thrower equipped tank, APC or Monitor

Zippo Mission                      another name for Search and Destroy Operations

Zulu                                        Phonetics for the letter Z, also the universal time designation Zulu meaning Greenwich Mean Time


Zulu Message                      US Army Casualty Report





Vietnamese terms are important and the reader of Vietnam War era literature should be familiar with them.




An                                           Rice

An Com                                 Eat

Ao Dai                                    Traditional female garment for Vietnamese women. It is a long-sleeve, high neck  blouse with a split front and rear skirt reaching to the toes


Ap                                           Hamlet

Ap Doi Moi                             “New Life” Hamlet

Ap Tan Sin                            Secure Hamlet

Ba                                           Three

Ba                                           married woman (Mrs.)

Bac Si                                    Doctor/Medic

Bac Si Lau                            Colloquial term for venereal desease

Bích Kích Pháo                    Mortar

Biet                                         To know

Binh Tram                             NVA way station on the Ho Chi Minh trail

Chieu Hoi                              program to induce the enemy to rally to the GVN

Chao  Ong / Ba / Co how are you? {Sir/Mrs/Miss)

Choi (Duc) Oy                       A catchall term which, depending on the inflection speed of delivery and circumstance, can mean from “Holy Cow” to “Goddamnit”


Cớ                                          single woman (Miss)

Cộng Hóa                             Republic

Co Van                                   Advisor

Ða Phai                                 Yes

Dan cong                              porters and supply transporters

Dau tranh                              “the struggle” the concept of People’s Wars of Liberation

Dep                                        Pretty or beautiful

Di                                            Go

Dinky Dau                             Slang Vietnamese for “Crazy” or senseless

Giàn Phóng Hơa-Tiẻn Rocket launcher (generic)

Hai                                          Two

Hoi Chan                               a rallier under the chieu hoi program

Khom                                     No, not

Khom Biet                             I don’t know

La                                           The

Lam                                        Ten

Lien Doi Nguoi Nhan Underwater Demolition Team (LDNN)

Lúc Lúóng Dặc Biêt         Army Special Forces (LLDB)

Lựu Dạn                                                Hand grenade (generic)

Moi                                          Derragotory term used by the Vietnamese for the hill tribes = savage

Mot                                          One

Mau Len                                                Fast

Mín                                          Land mine (generic)

My (meé)                               American

Nam                                       Five

Nha                                        Home/house

Nga Sô                                  Russia(n)

Nuoc                                      Water

Nuoc Mam                            Fish sauce

Ong                                        you (Mr.)

Phuong Hoang                    program for neutralizing the Viet-Cong infrastructure in South Viet Nam

Súng Lục                               Automatic Pistol

Toi                                          I

Viet-Nam Cong-San Vietnamese Communist: The name given to the guerrillas fighting against the South Viet Nam Regime shortened to Viet-Cong and VC


Xin Loi                                    I’m sorry

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