Terms and Acronyms

AIRBURST: explosion of a munition in the air

ALPHA-ALPHA: 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.

ARTICLE 15: summary disciplinary judgement of a soldier by his commander, may result in fines or confinement in the stockade

ARTY: artillery

ARVN: Army of the Republic of Vietnam (Army of South Vietnam)

BAC SI: Vietnamese term for medical corpsman; doctor

BANANA CLIP: banana shaped magazine, standard on the AK-47 assault rifle

BASE CAMP: semipermanent field headquarters and center for a given unit usually within that unit's tactical areas responsibility. A unit may operate in or away from its base camp. Base camps usually contain all or part of a given unit's support elements.

BATTALION: organizational institution in the Army and Marine Corps. Commanded by a lieutenant colonel, an infantry battalion usually has around 900 people.

BEEHIVE: a direct-fire artillery round which incorporated steel darts (fleshettes), used as a primary base defense munition against ground attack

BIRD: any aircraft, usually helicopters

BLUELEG: infantryman, aka "grunt"

BOUNCING BETTY: explosive that propels upward about four feet into the air and then detonates

BRING SMOKE: to direct intense artillery fire on an enemy position

C & C: command and control

CHARLIE, CHARLES, CHUCK: Vietcong--short for the phonetic representation Victor Charlie

CHERRY: a new troop replacement

CHICKEN PLATE: chest protector (body armor) worn by helicopter gunners

CHURCH KEY: bottle opener

CLACKER: firing device ('exploder') for triggering claymore mines and other electrically initiated demolitions

CLAYMORE: popular fan-shaped antipersonnel land mine; designed to produce a directionalized, fan-shaped pattern of fragments.

COMIC BOOKS (FUNNY BOOKS): military maps

COMPANY: organizational institution commanded by a captain and consisting of two or more platoons; varied widely in size according to mission.

CRACKER BOX: field ambulance

C's: C-rations, C-rats, Charlie rats, or combat rations -- canned meals used in military operations.

DAPSONE: small pill taken periodically by US troops, ostensibly to prevent malaria but actually meant to prevent Leprosy.

DMZ: demilitarized zone

DONUT DOLLY: American Red Cross Volunteer--female

DOPE: Marine term for the adjustments made to weapon sights; term for marijuana and other illicit drugs.

DOUBTFULS: indigenous personnel who cannot be categorized as either Vietcong or civil offenders; suspect personnel spotted from ground or aircraft

DUSTOFF: nickname for a medical evacuation helicopter or mission.

E & E: escape and evasion.

ECM: electronic countermeasures, such as jamming, deception, and detection

ELEPHANT GRASS: tall, sharp-edged grass found in the highlands of Vietnam

EM: enlisted man

FIGHTING HOLE: foxhole with sandbag protection and sometimes an elevated roof of sheetmetal, reinforced with sandbags. Sized for one or two troops, fighting holes might be dispersed around a company or battery area for defensive use during a ground attack.

FIRECRACKER: 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).

FIREFIGHT: exchange of small arms fire between opposing units

FRAG: common term for any grenade

FRAGGING: assassination of an officer by his own troops, usually by means of a grenade

FREEDOM BIRD: any aircraft that took you back to the "world" (U.S.A.).

FRIENDLIES: U.S. troops, allies, or anyone not on the other side

FRIENDLY FIRE: euphemism used during the war in Vietnam to describe air, artillery, or small-arms fire from American forces mistakenly directed at American positions

GREEN-EYE: starlight scope; light amplifying telescope, used to see at night

GRUNT: popular nickname for an infantryman in Vietnam; supposedly derived from the sound one made from lifting up his rucksack

HANOI HILTON: nickname American prisoners of war used to describe the Hoa Loa Prison in Hanoi

HOOTCH: house, living quarters or a native hut

HUMP: to slog around on foot


IRREGULARS: armed individuals and groups not members of the regular armed forces, police, or other internal security forces

KIA: Killed In Action

KLICK, K: short for kilometer (.62 miles)

LAY CHILLY: lie motionless

LEATHERNECK: term for Marine (Marines wore a leather neckband from 1798-1880 for protection of the neck during sword combat.)

LIFER: career soldier

LIGHT UP: to fire on the enemy

LZ: landing zone

MAD MINUTE: concentrated fire of all weapons for a brief period of time at maximum rate

MIA: Missing In Action

NEWBIE: any person with less time in Vietnam than the speaker




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

PLATOON: approximately 45 men belonging to a company. Commanded by a lieutenant, a platoon is an organizational unit composed of two or more squads.

POW: Prisoner of War

PTSD: post-traumatic stress disorder

PUCKER FACTOR: assessment of the 'fear factor', as in the difficulty or risk involved in an upcoming mission

RECON: reconnaissance

RED LZ: landing zone under hostile fire

ROCK 'N' ROLL: to put a M16A1 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 was at 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

RVN: Republic of Vietnam (South Vietnam)

SAPPERS: North Vietnamese Army or Vietcong demolition commandos

SAR: 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

SKATE: goof off

SLEEPER: an undercover agent or a mole

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

STAND-DOWN: period of rest and refitting in which all operational activity, except for security, is stopped

VC, CONG: Vietcong

VIETCONG: Communist forces fighting the South Vietnamese government

VIETMINH: Viet Nam Doc Lap Dong Minh Hoi, or the Vietnamese Independence League

WHITE MICE: South Vietnamese police; nickname came from their uniform white helmets and gloves

WIA: Wounded In Action

(THE) WORLD: United States

ZIPPO: flamethrower; also refers to the popular cigarette lighter of that brandname

ZIPPO MISSION: search and destroy mission

ZULU: casualty report, also the phonetic pronunciation of the letter 'Z'

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