The Language of War
Browse this partial list of terms and acronyms used in Vietnam.
explosion of a munition in the air
air cavalry, referring to helicopter-borne infantry
Advanced Individual Training; the period following Basic Training, specialized training given each soldier based on his MOS (Military Occupational Specialty)
automatic ambush, a combination of claymore mines configured to detonate simultaneously when triggered by a trip-wire/battery mechanism
ARC LIGHT OPERATIONS
code name for the devastating aerial raids of B-52 Stratofortresses against enemy positions in Southeast Asia. The first B-52 Arc Light raid took place on June 18, 1965, on a suspected Vietcong base north of Saigon. In November 1965, B-52s directly supported American ground forces for the first time, and were used regularly for that purpose thereafter.
Army Commendation Medals
summary disciplinary judgment of a soldier by his commander, could result in fines or confinement in the stockade
Army of the Republic of Vietnam (Army of South Vietnam)
Vietnamese term for medical corpsman; doctor
banana shaped magazine, standard on the AK-47 assault rifle
semi-permanent field headquarters and center for a given unit, usually within that unit's tactical areas responsibility. A unit could operate in or away from its base camp. Base camps usually contained all or part of a given unit's support elements.
organizational institution in the Army and Marine Corps. Commanded by a lieutenant colonel, an infantry battalion usually has around 900 people, and an artillery battalion of about 500 people. During the Vietnam War, American battalions were usually much smaller than that.
a direct-fire artillery round which incorporated steel darts (fleshettes), used as a primary base defense munition against ground attack
any aircraft, usually helicopters
infantryman, a.k.a. "grunt"
explosive that propels upward about four feet into the air and then detonates
basic military organizational institution. During the Vietnam War, a division was organized into three brigades, with each brigade commanded by a colonel. A division consists of approximately 20,000 people.
to direct intense artillery fire on an enemy position
nickname for air cavalry
C & C
command and control
CHARLIE, CHARLES, CHUCK
Vietcong -- short for the phonetic representation of "VC": Victor Charlie"
a new troop replacement
chest protector (body armor) worn by helicopter gunners
firing device ("exploder") for triggering claymore mines and other electrically initiated demolitions
popular fan-shaped antipersonnel land mine; designed to produce a directionalized, fan-shaped pattern of fragments
COMIC BOOKS (FUNNY BOOKS)
organizational institution commanded by a captain and consisting of two or more platoons; in Vietnam, varied widely in size according to mission
"C-rations", "C-rats", "Charlie rats", or combat rations -- canned meals used in military operations
stylized, ritualized manner of shaking hands, started by African-American troops
small pill taken periodically by U.S. troops, ostensibly to prevent malaria but actually meant to prevent leprosy
a female American Red Cross volunteer
Marine term for the adjustments made to weapon sights; also, a term for marijuana and other illicit drugs
Vietnamese individuals who could not be categorized as either Vietcong or civil offenders; suspect personnel spotted from ground or aircraft
nickname for a medical evacuation helicopter or mission
E & E
escape and evasion
electronic countermeasures, such as jamming, deception, and detection
tall, sharp-edged grass found in the highlands of Vietnam
foxhole with sandbag protection and sometimes an elevated roof of sheet metal, reinforced with sand bags. Sized for one or two troops, fighting holes might be dispersed around a company or battery area for defensive use during a ground attack.
artillery round incorporating many small bomblets which are ejected over a target area and explode in "bouncing-betty" fashion -- almost simultaneously; name comes from the fast popping sound (best heard at a distance)
exchange of small arms fire between opposing units
common term for any grenade
assassination of an officer by his own troops, usually by means of a grenade
any aircraft carrying soldiers back to the "world" (the U.S.A.)
U.S. troops, allies, or anyone not on the other side
euphemism used during the war in Vietnam to describe air, artillery, or small-arms fire from American forces mistakenly directed at American positions
starlight scope; light amplifying telescope, used to see at night
popular nickname for an infantryman in Vietnam; supposedly derived from the sound a soldier made from lifting up his rucksack
nickname American prisoners of war used to describe the Hoa Loa Prison in Hanoi
house, living quarters or a native hut
to slog around on foot
armed individuals and groups not members of the regular armed forces, police, or other internal security forces
Killed In Action
short for kilometer (0.62 miles)
term for a Marine (Marines wore leather neckbands from 1798-1880 for protection of the neck during sword combat)
to fire on the enemy
concentrated fire of all weapons for a brief period of time at maximum rate
Missing In Action
any person with less time in Vietnam than the speaker
the Southeast Asian conflict outside South Vietnam (i.e., Laos and North Vietnam, sometimes Thailand, Cambodia, and China)
approximately 45 men belonging to a company. Commanded by a lieutenant, a platoon is an organizational unit composed of two or more squads.
Prisoner of War
post-traumatic stress disorder
assessment of the "fear factor", the difficulty or risk involved in an upcoming mission
landing zone under hostile fire
ROCK 'N' ROLL
to put an M16-A1 rifle on full automatic fire
R & R
rest-and-recreation vacation taken during a one-year duty tour in Vietnam. Out-of-country R & R might be in Bangkok, Hawaii, Tokyo, Australia, Hong Kong, Manila, Penang, Taipei, Kuala Lampur, or Singapore. In-country R & R locations were at Vung Tau or China Beach.
Republic of Vietnam (South Vietnam)
North Vietnamese Army or Vietcong demolition commandos
search and rescue
SEARCH AND CLEAR
offensive military operations to sweep through areas to locate and attack the enemy
SEARCH AND DESTROY
offensive operations designed to find and destroy enemy forces rather than establish permanent government control; also, called "Zippo missions"
SHAKE 'N' BAKE
officer straight out of OCS (Officer Candidate School) without any combat experience
SHORT, SHORT-TIME, SHORT-TIMER
individual with little time remaining in Vietnam
an undercover agent or a mole
one aircraft making one takeoff and landing to conduct the mission for which it was scheduled
period of rest and refitting in which all operational activity, except for security, is stopped
Communist forces fighting the South Vietnamese government
Viet Nam Doc Lap Dong Minh Hoi, the Vietnamese Independence League
South Vietnamese police; the nickname came from their uniform white helmets and gloves
Wounded In Action
flamethrower; also the brand name of a popular cigarette lighter
search and destroy mission
casualty report, also the phonetic pronunciation of the letter "Z"