Vietnam Glossary

(Compiled by SnowFlake w/ additional material from Mel)


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AK-47 Assault rifle. In Vietnam used mainly by the NVA and the Vietcong. Also known as AK, Kalishnikov or Type 56. Not as accurate as the M-16, but much more reliable. Characterized by an explosive popping sound.
ARVN Army of the Republic of Vietnam (Army of South Vietnam).
ALPHA Military phonetic for the letter 'A'.
AO-DAI Traditional dress of Vietnamese women. A brightly colored silk top worn over loose fitting silk trousers.
AWOL Absent Without Official Leave. Being absent from one's post or duty without official permission, but without intending to desert.




BIRD Any aircraft, but it usually refers to helicopters.
BLOOPER Slang term for the M-79 grenade launcher.
BOOBY TRAP  An explosive charge hidden in a harmless object, which explodes on contact.
BRAVO Military phonetic for the letter 'B'.
BUSH The Vietnamese countryside or jungle.
BUTTERBAR 2nd Lieutenant. Phrase comes from the look of the insignia - a single gold bar.




C-4  A very stable plastic explosive.  Could be safely burned to heat coffee, C-rations, etc.
CHARLIE Military phonetic for the letter 'C', as well as the most common nickname for the enemy (stemming from the phonetic pronounciation of VC (Vietcong) - Victor Charlie).
CHERRY New troop replacement. A slightly derogatory term.
CHINOOK CH-47 cargo helicopter.
CLAYMORE Anti-personnel landmine. The claymore mine produced a directionalized, fan-shaped pattern of fragments that created a devastating effect similar to that of an oversized shotgun. With their directional pattern, claymores were well-suited as a perimeter-defense weapon.
C.O. Commanding Officer.
COMPANY A company is an organizational institution commanded by a captain, consisting of two or more platoons. It varies widely in size according to its mission. An artillery company is called a battery, and a cavalry company is called a troop.
CONCHIE Conscientious objector. A person who refuses to serve in the armed forces on the grounds of conscience. 
CP Command Post.
C-RATS Combat-rations. Canned meals used during military operations.
CREW CHIEF A Huey crewmember who maintains the aircraft.



DELTA Military phonetic for the letter 'D'.
DEROS Date Eligible for Return from OverSeas; the date a person's tour in Vietnam was estimated to end.
DEUCE AND A HALF  Nickname for a 2.5 ton truck.
DI DI MAU Vietnamese command or request, meaning "move quickly." Sometimes shortened to "Di Di."
DINKY DAU Vietnamese term for "crazy" or "You're crazy."
DMZ Demilitarized zone. A narrow strip of land along the 17th Parallel that was the border between North and South Vietnam from 1954 to 1975.
DOC What the grunts would call medics.
DONUT DOLLY Female Red Cross volunteer.
DOOR GUNNER Helicopter crewman who manned the M-60 machine gun.
DUSTOFF A medical evacuation helicopter or an evacuation mission.




ECHO Military phonetic for the letter 'E'.
ELEPHANT GRASS  Tall, sharp-edged grass, found in the highlands of Vietnam.
EVAC See medevac.



F-4   Phantom jet fighter-bombers. Range: 1,000 miles. Speed: 1400 mph. Payload: 16,000 lbs. The workhorse of the tactical air support fleet.
FATIGUES Standard combat uniform, green.
FIRE BASE or FB  Temporary artillery firing position, often secured by infantry. A FB was usually comprised of four howitzers with crews and a company of infantry. Also known as fire support bases.
FLACK JACKET  A heavy fiberglass-filled vest worn for protection from shrapnel. Kevlar was invented in 1965, but it wasn't until 1970 that the first body armor produced for use by the U.S. Secret Service saw the light of day. Around this time flak jackets lined with Kevlar and and helmets from the material were also developed.
FNG Common term for newly arrived person in Vietnam. It literally translates as a "Fuckin' New Guy."
FOXTROT Military phonetic for the letter 'F'.
FRAGGING Assassination of an officer or senior non-commissioned officer by his own troops, usually by means of a grenade or other fragmentation device.
FRIENDLY FIRE An euphemism first used during the Vietnam conflict to describe air, artillery or small-arms fire from American forces mistakenly directed at American positions.
FUBAR Short for "Fucked Up Beyond All Repair" or "Fucked Up Beyond All Recognition."



G G designates the staff commanded by a general, such as the entire Army, a specific Army (1st Army, 2nd Army) or Corps (I Corps, II Corps, etc.), a Division, or  a Brigade.
G-1   Personnel office or officer.
G-2 Intelligence office or officer.
G-3   Operations office or officer.
G-4   Supply/Logistics office or officer.
G-5   Civil Affairs office or officer.
G-6 Communications office or officer.
GI Government Issue. The term is pre-WWII and was used to describe everything issued by the army. It also came to apply to drafted soldiers.
GOLF Military phonetic for the letter 'G'.
GOOK Derogatory term for an Asian person; derived from Korean slang for "person" and passed down by Korean War veterans.
GREEN BERETS  Members of the Special Forces of the U.S. Army. They were awarded the green beret headgear as a mark of distinction.
GRUNT A popular nickname for an infantryman in Vietnam.
GUNG HO  Enthusiastic (usually about military matters and killing people).
GUNNER A helicopter crewman acting as machine gunner. It was often an aircraft mechanic in training.



HOTEL Military phonetic for the letter 'H'.
HOT LZ A landing zone under enemy fire.
HOOTCH General term for house, native hut or GI living quarters.
HQ Headquarters.
HUEY Nickname for the UH-series helicopters.
HUMP To get around on foot.




INDIA Military phonetic for the letter 'I'.
INSERT To be deployed into a tactical area by helicopter.




JULIET Military phonetic for the letter 'J'.




K-BAR  A combat knife with a six-inch blade and hard leather handle.
KIA Killed In Action.
KILO Military phonetic for the letter 'K'.
KIT CARSON SCOUT  Former Viet Cong members who act as guides for U.S. military units.
KLICK, K  Short for kilometer (0.62 miles).



LBJ Long Binh Stockade, a military stockade on Long Binh post.
LIFER A career soldier.
LIMA Military phonetic for the letter 'L'.
LRP OR LRRP  Long-Range Reconnaissance Patrol, pronounced "lurp."  An elite team usually composed of five to seven men who go deep into the jungle to observe enemy activity without initiating contact.
LURPS Members of Long-Range Reconnaissance Patrols.
LZ Landing zone.



M-16 The standard American rifle used in Vietnam after 1966.
M-60 American-made 7.62mm machine gun.
M-79 American-made grenade launcher; nicknamed the "blooper."
MAC-SOG  Military Assistance Command Studies and Observation Group. Euphemism for Special Forces. Teams composed of 8-12 Special Forces and indigenous troops, performing special missions, often outside recognized boundaries.
MACV (Mac-vee) Military Assistance Command, Vietnam.
MASH Mobile Army Surgical Unit.
MEDEVAC Medical evacuation by helicopter.
MIA Missing In Action.
MIKE Military phonetic for the letter 'M'. Also short for minute.
MONTAIGNARDS One of the indigenous mountain tribe people of the central highlands of Vietnam.  Usually pronounced “mountainyards” or just “yards."
MORTAR A muzzle-loading cannon that fires projectiles with low muzzle velocity at high angles.
MPC Military Pay Currency. Used in place of U.S. currency, which was illegal for GIs in Vietnam to possess.



NAM Vietnam.
NAPALM/NAPE  An incendiary used in Vietnam by French and Americans both as defoliant and antipersonnel weapon. Consisted of a flammable organic solvent, usually gasoline, gelled by soap. Delivered by bombs or flamethrower, napalm clung to the surfaces it touched, holding the burning solvent in place on the target.
NEWBIE A newcomer in Vietnam.
NLF National Liberation Front, officially the National Front for the Liberation of the South.
NOVEMBER Military phonetic for the letter 'N'.
NUMBER ONE  Pidgin term used to denote something good.
NUMBER TEN  Pidgin term used to denote something bad.
NVA North Vietnamese Army.



OC The Officers' Club.
OCS Officer Candidate School.
OSCAR Military phonetic for the letter 'O'.




PAPA Military phonetic for the letter 'P'.
PFC Private First Class. Rank below Specialist/4 and above Private.
PLATOON An unit consisting of approximately 45 men, belonging to a company.
POINT/POINTMAN   The soldier walking at the front of a unit in the bush. Constantly exposed to the danger of setting off booby traps or being the first in contact with the enemy.
POP SMOKE  To mark a target or Landing Zone (LZ) with a smoke grenade.
POW Prisoner of War.
PZ Pickup zone.



QUEBEC Military phonetic for the letter 'Q'.




RECON Short for reconnaissance.
REMF Rear-echelon motherfucker. Nickname given to men serving in the rear by front-line soldiers.
RF/PF Regional Forces/Popular Forces. South Vietnamese National Guard-type units. Regional Forces were company-size and protected district areas. Popular Forces were platoon-size and guarded their home villages.
ROMEO Military phonetic for the letter 'R'.
R & R   Rest-and-recreation. A three to seven-day vacation taken during a one-year duty tour in Vietnam. Out-of-country R & R was spent in Bangkok, Hawaii, Tokyo, Australia, Hong Kong, Manila, Penang, Taipei, Kuala Lampur or Singapore. In-country R & R locations were at Vung Tau, Cam Rahn Bay or China Beach.
RTO Radio Telephone Operator.
RUFF-PUFF Derogatory term for RF/PF.




S S designates the staff commanded by a lower-ranking officer than general, such as regiments and battalions that are part of a division.
S-1   Personnel office or officer.
S-2 Intelligence office or officer.
S-3   Operations office or officer.
S-4 Supply/Logistics office or officer.
S-5   Civil Affairs office or officer.
S-6 Communications office or officer.
SAPPERS North Vietnamese Army or Vietcong demolition commandos.
SHORT-TIMER An individual with little time remaining in Vietnam.
SIERRA Military phonetic for the letter 'S'.
SLACK MAN  The second man in a patrol, behind the pointman.
SLICK A Bell UH-01 helicopter, used to lift troops or cargo with only protective armaments systems.
SNAFU Situation Normal All Fucked Up.
SP/4  Specialist 4th Class. Pronounced "spec 4." An Army rank immediately above Private First Class. Most enlisted men who had completed their individual training and had been on duty for a few months were SP/4s. Probably the most common rank in the Vietnam-era Army.
SP/5 Specialist 5th Class. Pronounced "spec 5." Equivalent to a sergeant.



TANGO Military phonetic for the letter 'T'.
TET Vietnamese Lunar New Year holiday period. Tet also refers to the nationwide NVA-VC offensive that began during Tet in 1968.
TIGER STRIPES Camouflage uniforms worn by Special Forces. No identifying insignia, thus allowing governments to deny knowledge of their activities if caught.
THUNDER ROAD Highway 13, from Saigon to Loc Ninh, known for its many mines, ambushes, etc.



UNIFORM Military phonetic for the letter 'U'.
USAF United States Air Force.
USO United Service Organization. Provided entertainment to the troops, and was intended to raise morale.




VICTOR Military phonetic for the letter 'V'.
VIETCONG, VC  Irregular or guerrilla Communist forces fighting the South Vietnamese government.
VN Vietnam.
VILLE (VILL) Short for "village", but used to refer to any group of hooches.




WEB GEAR A canvas belt with shoulder straps, used for packing equipment and ammunition on infantry operations.
WHISKEY Military phonetic for the letter 'W'.
WHITE MICE Derogatory name for South Vietnamese police. The nickname came from their uniform white helmets and gloves.
THE WORLD Specifically, the United States; or any place outside of Vietnam.




XIN LOI or XOINE LOI Vietnamese. Pronounced by GIs as "Sin Loy," meaning 'too bad,' 'tough shit,' 'sorry bout that.' The literal translation is "excuse me."
X.O.   Executive officer; the second in command of a military unit.
X-RAY   Military phonetic for the letter 'X'.




YANKEE Military phonetic for the letter 'Y'.




ZULU Military phonetic for the letter 'Z'.