Vietnam Glossary

Vietnam Glossary

(Compiled by SnowFlake w/ additional material from Mel)

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AK-47Assault 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.
ARVNArmy of the Republic of Vietnam (Army of South Vietnam).
ALPHAMilitary phonetic for the letter ‘A’.
AO-DAITraditional dress of Vietnamese women. A brightly colored silk top worn over loose fitting silk trousers.
AWOLAbsent Without Official Leave. Being absent from one’s post or duty without official permission, but without intending to desert.


BIRDAny aircraft, but it usually refers to helicopters.
BLOOPERSlang term for the M-79 grenade launcher.
BOOBY TRAPAn explosive charge hidden in a harmless object, which explodes on contact.
BRAVOMilitary phonetic for the letter ‘B’.
BUSHThe Vietnamese countryside or jungle.
BUTTERBAR2nd Lieutenant. Phrase comes from the look of the insignia – a single gold bar.


C-4A very stable plastic explosive. Could be safely burned to heat coffee, C-rations, etc.
CHARLIEMilitary 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).
CHERRYNew troop replacement. A slightly derogatory term.
CHINOOKCH-47 cargo helicopter.
CLAYMOREAnti-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.
COMPANYA 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.
CONCHIEConscientious objector. A person who refuses to serve in the armed forces on the grounds of conscience.
CPCommand Post.
C-RATSCombat-rations. Canned meals used during military operations.
CREW CHIEFA Huey crewmember who maintains the aircraft.


DELTAMilitary phonetic for the letter ‘D’.
DEROSDate Eligible for Return from OverSeas; the date a person’s tour in Vietnam was estimated to end.
DEUCE AND A HALFNickname for a 2.5 ton truck.
DI DI MAUVietnamese command or request, meaning “move quickly.” Sometimes shortened to “Di Di.”
DINKY DAUVietnamese term for “crazy” or “You’re crazy.”
DMZDemilitarized zone. A narrow strip of land along the 17th Parallel that was the border between North and South Vietnam from 1954 to 1975.
DOCWhat the grunts would call medics.
DONUT DOLLYFemale Red Cross volunteer.
DOOR GUNNERHelicopter crewman who manned the M-60 machine gun.
DUSTOFFA medical evacuation helicopter or an evacuation mission.


ECHOMilitary phonetic for the letter ‘E’.
ELEPHANT GRASSTall, sharp-edged grass, found in the highlands of Vietnam.
EVACSee medevac.


F-4Phantom jet fighter-bombers. Range: 1,000 miles. Speed: 1400 mph. Payload: 16,000 lbs. The workhorse of the tactical air support fleet.
FATIGUESStandard combat uniform, green.
FIRE BASE or FBTemporary 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 JACKETA 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.
FNGCommon term for newly arrived person in Vietnam. It literally translates as a “Fuckin’ New Guy.”
FOXTROTMilitary phonetic for the letter ‘F’.
FRAGGINGAssassination of an officer or senior non-commissioned officer by his own troops, usually by means of a grenade or other fragmentation device.
FRIENDLY FIREAn euphemism first used during the Vietnam conflict to describe air, artillery or small-arms fire from American forces mistakenly directed at American positions.
FUBARShort for “Fucked Up Beyond All Repair” or “Fucked Up Beyond All Recognition.”


GG 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-1Personnel office or officer.
G-2Intelligence office or officer.
G-3Operations office or officer.
G-4Supply/Logistics office or officer.
G-5Civil Affairs office or officer.
G-6Communications office or officer.
GIGovernment Issue. The term is pre-WWII and was used to describe everything issued by the army. It also came to apply to drafted soldiers.
GOLFMilitary phonetic for the letter ‘G’.
GOOKDerogatory term for an Asian person; derived from Korean slang for “person” and passed down by Korean War veterans.
GREEN BERETSMembers of the Special Forces of the U.S. Army. They were awarded the green beret headgear as a mark of distinction.
GRUNTA popular nickname for an infantryman in Vietnam.
GUNG HOEnthusiastic (usually about military matters and killing people).
GUNNERA helicopter crewman acting as machine gunner. It was often an aircraft mechanic in training.


HOTELMilitary phonetic for the letter ‘H’.
HOT LZA landing zone under enemy fire.
HOOTCHGeneral term for house, native hut or GI living quarters.
HUEYNickname for the UH-series helicopters.
HUMPTo get around on foot.


INDIAMilitary phonetic for the letter ‘I’.
INSERTTo be deployed into a tactical area by helicopter.


JULIETMilitary phonetic for the letter ‘J’.


K-BARA combat knife with a six-inch blade and hard leather handle.
KIAKilled In Action.
KILOMilitary phonetic for the letter ‘K’.
KIT CARSON SCOUTFormer Viet Cong members who act as guides for U.S. military units.
KLICK, KShort for kilometer (0.62 miles).


LBJLong Binh Stockade, a military stockade on Long Binh post.
LIFERA career soldier.
LIMAMilitary phonetic for the letter ‘L’.
LRP OR LRRPLong-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.
LURPSMembers of Long-Range Reconnaissance Patrols.
LZLanding zone.


M-16The standard American rifle used in Vietnam after 1966.
M-60American-made 7.62mm machine gun.
M-79American-made grenade launcher; nicknamed the “blooper.”
MAC-SOGMilitary 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.
MASHMobile Army Surgical Unit.
MEDEVACMedical evacuation by helicopter.
MIAMissing In Action.
MIKEMilitary phonetic for the letter ‘M’. Also short for minute.
MONTAIGNARDSOne of the indigenous mountain tribe people of the central highlands of Vietnam. Usually pronounced “mountainyards” or just “yards.”
MORTARA muzzle-loading cannon that fires projectiles with low muzzle velocity at high angles.
MPCMilitary Pay Currency. Used in place of U.S. currency, which was illegal for GIs in Vietnam to possess.


NAPALM/NAPEAn 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.
NEWBIEA newcomer in Vietnam.
NLFNational Liberation Front, officially the National Front for the Liberation of the South.
NOVEMBERMilitary phonetic for the letter ‘N’.
NUMBER ONEPidgin term used to denote something good.
NUMBER TENPidgin term used to denote something bad.
NVANorth Vietnamese Army.


OCThe Officers’ Club.
OCSOfficer Candidate School.
OSCARMilitary phonetic for the letter ‘O’.


PAPAMilitary phonetic for the letter ‘P’.
PFCPrivate First Class. Rank below Specialist/4 and above Private.
PLATOONAn unit consisting of approximately 45 men, belonging to a company.
POINT/POINTMANThe 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 SMOKETo mark a target or Landing Zone (LZ) with a smoke grenade.
POWPrisoner of War.
PZPickup zone.


QUEBECMilitary phonetic for the letter ‘Q’.


RECONShort for reconnaissance.
REMFRear-echelon motherfucker. Nickname given to men serving in the rear by front-line soldiers.
RF/PFRegional 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.
ROMEOMilitary phonetic for the letter ‘R’.
R & RRest-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.
RTORadio Telephone Operator.
RUFF-PUFFDerogatory term for RF/PF.


SS designates the staff commanded by a lower-ranking officer than general, such as regiments and battalions that are part of a division.
S-1Personnel office or officer.
S-2Intelligence office or officer.
S-3Operations office or officer.
S-4Supply/Logistics office or officer.
S-5Civil Affairs office or officer.
S-6Communications office or officer.
SAPPERSNorth Vietnamese Army or Vietcong demolition commandos.
SHORT-TIMERAn individual with little time remaining in Vietnam.
SIERRAMilitary phonetic for the letter ‘S’.
SLACK MANThe second man in a patrol, behind the pointman.
SLICKA Bell UH-01 helicopter, used to lift troops or cargo with only protective armaments systems.
SNAFUSituation Normal All Fucked Up.
SP/4Specialist 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/5Specialist 5th Class. Pronounced “spec 5.” Equivalent to a sergeant.


TANGOMilitary phonetic for the letter ‘T’.
TETVietnamese Lunar New Year holiday period. Tet also refers to the nationwide NVA-VC offensive that began during Tet in 1968.
TIGER STRIPESCamouflage uniforms worn by Special Forces. No identifying insignia, thus allowing governments to deny knowledge of their activities if caught.
THUNDER ROADHighway 13, from Saigon to Loc Ninh, known for its many mines, ambushes, etc.


UNIFORMMilitary phonetic for the letter ‘U’.
USAFUnited States Air Force.
USOUnited Service Organization. Provided entertainment to the troops, and was intended to raise morale.


VICTORMilitary phonetic for the letter ‘V’.
VIETCONG, VCIrregular or guerrilla Communist forces fighting the South Vietnamese government.
VILLE (VILL)Short for “village”, but used to refer to any group of hooches.


WEB GEARA canvas belt with shoulder straps, used for packing equipment and ammunition on infantry operations.
WHISKEYMilitary phonetic for the letter ‘W’.
WHITE MICEDerogatory name for South Vietnamese police. The nickname came from their uniform white helmets and gloves.
THE WORLDSpecifically, the United States; or any place outside of Vietnam.


XIN LOI or XOINE LOIVietnamese. 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-RAYMilitary phonetic for the letter ‘X’.


YANKEEMilitary phonetic for the letter ‘Y’.


ZULUMilitary phonetic for the letter ‘Z’.