Bring back some good or bad memories


June 23, 2017

Glossary of Military Terms and Slang From the Vietnam War

If, as Emerson said, language is the archive of history, then U.S. soldiers in Vietnam are writing history with words as well as weapons.

So many slang terms, Vietnamese words and specialized usages are used by U.S. soldiers in Vietnam that language poses a bit of a problem to the new man coming over. Until he picks up the current slang, he is marked as a recent arrival.

With the Vietnam-bound replacement in mind, Army Times has compiled the following list of non-standard terms used in Vietnam.

Each Vietnam-bound soldier should find several terms below which will speed his adjustment to Vietnam. Terms listed below are common among Army soldiers:

50 foot roll of flight line: Non-existent item that chopper groups usually send new recruits to look for.

Ao dai (“owzeye”): the native costume of Vietnamese women. It has a mandarin collar and is very tight in the bodice with the skirt split to the waist. Worn over loose silk pants.

AO: Acronym for Area of Operations – terrain assigned to specific units – their responsibility to locate and kill enemy soldiers within that area.

APC – Armored Personnel Carrier – tracked vehicle used by mechanized units for squad sized patrols. When mechanized units (tanks / APC’s) worked together, they refered to APC’s as Fords and tanks as Buicks.

Arc-Light: Code name for B52 strike missions – used as close air support against enemy base camps, troop concentrations and supplies. Releasing their bombs from high in the stratosphere, the B-52s could neither be seen nor heard from the ground. B-52s were instrumental in nearly wiping out enemy concentrations besieging Khe Sanh in 1968 and An Loc and Kontum in 1972.

Aussie: Australian Soldier and America’s ally. Infantry soldier also called “Digger.”

Baby San – GI reference to village children (male and female).

Ba muoi lam (“baa-mooee-lahm): Vietnamese for the number 35. Means the same as “butterfly;” a playboy.

Barbecue: Armored Cav units requesting Napalm on a locuation.

Base Camp Commando: Soldiers assigned to the main base camp.

Beaucoup: from the French. In Vietnam it can mean many, much, big, huge, very, etc.

Betel nut (“beetle nut”): the leaves or root of the betel palm, which are mildly narcotic and are chewed by many Vietnamese, especially aged women, to relieve the pain of diseased gums. The cumulative effect of years of betel nut chewing is to totally blacken the teeth.

Birds: Helicopters or choppers.

Blooper: M79 Grenade Launcher. also referred as Thumper.

Blue Water Navy: Navy forces assigned to ocean going vessels that support the military forces in Vietnam.

BOHICA: Acronym meaning – Bend Over Here It Comes Again.

Bong Son Bomber – Giant sized marijuana cigarette.

Boom-boom: Slang for having sex.

Boom-Boom Girl: Prostitute.

Bouncing Betty Mines: The German S-mine (Schrapnellmine in German) is the best-known version of a class of mines known as bounding mines. When triggered, these mines launch into the air and then detonate at about waist height.

BREAK STARCH: Reference to dressing with a new set of dry cleaned or heavily starched fatigues.

Broken arrow: Universal code meaning that a ground unit or camp is being overrun and to send all available assets. Also referred as a serviceman who tried to be a straight arrow and failed. (See straight arrow.)

Brown Water Navy: Navy forces assigned to the internal waterways of South Vietnam. Also referred to as River Rats.

Buicks: Used primarily in the infantry support role, the M48A3 tank was America’s main battle tank in Vietnam from the earliest combat action, and in South Vietnamese service almost to its last. When mechanized units (tanks / APC’s) worked together, they refered to tanks as Buicks and APC’s as Fords.

BULLET CATCHER– A safety device for mini guns that were removed before flight. Slang for the front seater in a Cobra.

Bush: field, jungle, boonies, Indian country – any combination of these words describes hostile areas outside of firebases and basecamps.

Butter Bar: Slang reference for a Second Lieutenant – also called LT (ell-tee).

Butterfly: playboy.

Buy the farm: to be killed. Sometimes “buy the six-by-three farm.”

Bravo-Zulu (BZ): Well Done!

Cam on (“cahm oon”): Vietnamese for “thank you.”

Can you dig it: Used to emphasise the fact that one has heard a piece of information, and whole-heartedly agrees with it.

Canh Sat (“cahn zaht”): White mice. (which see.)

CAN KUK OR CON KUK – Civilian ID card.

CANON COCKERS: Reference to artillery crews.

Care package: box of goodies sent to soldiers by their family or friends – usually containing cookies, candy, condiments to flavor c-rations, home newspapers, coffee, gum and any other treats that can be thought of. Infantry soldiers in the field do not receive these because of the added weight and are stored at the firebase supply upon their return.

Chao co (ong) (em) (pronounced “chow coh (ohm) (em)”): Vietnamese for hello or good-bye, Miss (Sir) (to a child, animal or very close friend).

Cheap charlie: anyone, especially a U.S. serviceman, who does not waste his money. (See “plenty cheap charlie.”)

Check it out: To examine something/anything or a roundabout way of agreement like “there it is.”

Chieu Hoi (“chew hoyee”): the Vietnamese-administered “Open Arms” program for defecting enemy soldiers. (See “Hoi Chanh.”)

Cherry: designation for new replacement from the states. Also referred as FNG (fucking new guy), fresh meat and new citizens.

Chop-chop: food, or eat – used primarily by Vietnamese. Some troops used the words to ‘hurry up”.

CIDG: Civilian Irregular Defense Group. Friendly indigenous forces, usually organized and led by Army Special Forces teams.

Cluster Fuck: Nothing is going right, congested or bunched up.

Coka: Vietnamese pronunciation of “Coke.”

Coup qualified: very old Viet hands, and only those who served in Saigon during a violent overthrow of a Vietnamese government, are said to be “coup qualified.”

Cowboy: a Vietnamese ruffian – usually riding a motor bike and swiping jewelry from those they pass by.

Crow’s foot: a four-pointed booby trap device which, when thrown, will land with one point up.

C’s: “C” rations. Typical package shown below.

Cyclo: three-wheeled motorized conveyance with a seat on the front.

DAP: greetings involving hand contact, dap is best known as a complicated routine of shakes, slaps, snaps, and other contact that must be known completely by both parties involved. Dap greeting sometimes include a hug.

Day off: see “khong lau.”

Dep lam (“dep lahm”): Vietnamese for “too pretty (or handsome).”

Dep qua (“dep whah”): Vietnamese for “pretty.”

Dep trai (“dep cheye”): Vietnamese for “handsome.”

DEROS: Acronym used in Vietnam to determine the date a soldier can go home “Date Eligible Return from Overseas”.

Di di (mau) (“dee-dee (maow)”): Vietnamese for “go away (fast) or “haul ass”.

Dien cai dao (“dee-in-kee-daow”): Vietnamese for “crazy in the head.”

Diddy-bop: term used to criticize the way a person or group is walking, (i.e. shuffling to a tune, not paying attention, too carefree), swagger.

Diggers: Australian infantry soldiers.

Dinky Dau: Slang for crazy or completely nuts.

Disneyland Far East: Hq building of the U.S. Military Assistance Comd Vietnam. Name is derived from “Disneyland East” (the Pentagon).

DMZ: Demilitarized zone – Neutral area separating North Vietnam from South Vietnam.

Don’t mean nothin‘: Coined by G.I.’s in Vietnam. A reverse coping expression indicating that it means everything and I’m about to lose it. Usually used to dismiss witnessing or experiencing something so horrific that it can’t be comprehended by the psyche. Alternately used as an expression of relief that one has avoided being killed even if they are injured or maimed.

Donut Dollies: Young women from the Red Cross who are stationed in many of the rear areas and manage service clubs for the troops. Their jobs were to motivate and entertain…some were known to visit troops in desolate areas out in the bush.

Dolphin: a five-ton tractor. (See “guppy.”)

Don’t mean nuthin: Coined by G.I.’s in Vietnam. A reverse coping expression indicating that it means everything and I’m about to lose it. Usually used to dismiss witnessing or experiencing something so horrific that it can’t be comprehended by the psyche. Alternately used as an expression of relief that one has avoided being killed even if they are injured or maimed.

Dung lai (pronouneed “zoong lye”): Vietnamese for “halt” or “stop.”

Duster: a 25-ton tank armed with twin 40mm cannon.

Dustoff: the medevac helicopter system. These brave pilots often placed themselves at risk by landing during a firefight with the enemy to pick up wounded soldiers. Also used as an acronym – Duty Uniform Services To Others Friend & Foe.

ETS: Acronym used by the military to determine the date ending a soldiers term of service “End Time of Service”.

FAC: forward air controller. A light plane pilot who directs air strikes and artillery fire from the air.

Fallopian tubing for inside the turrets of tanks: Prank used by tankers to send Cherries on a wild goose chase.

Fast Mover – Slang for a Jet Fighter. Aptly named due to the rapidity of a Jet Fighter’s movement.

FIGMO: acronym for “Finally I got my orders.” Especially in “figmo chart,” a shortimer’s calendar, usually a drawing of an undraped female form, with numbered sections which are filled in, one each day, as the shorttimer keeps track of days to go.

Fini: from the French. Vietnamese meanings include through, finished, depart (as in, “When you fini Vietnam, GI?”) and even kill (as is, “She fini him with knife.”).

First Light – The time of nautical twilight when the sun is 12 degrees below the horizon.

Flower seeker: a term used, especially in the Vietnamese press, to describe a man in search of a prostitute.

FNG (Fucking New Guy): designation for new replacement from the states. Also referred as Cherry, fresh meat and new citizens.

Foo Gas: (sometimes contracted to fougasse and may be spelled foo gas) is a type of mine which uses an explosive charge to project burning liquid onto a target.

Frag: fragmentation grenade. Also refers to the murder of fellow soldiers in retaliation for an action or order that resulted in somebody getting hurt or killed. This usually happened by tossing a live grenade into a latrine or barracks occupied by the individual.

Freedom bird: a jet aircraft which flies returning servicemen to the U.S.

FSA: forward support area (or activity); one-stop service base established by logistical units near an operation or forward base camp.

FSB: Acronym for Fire Support Base. A fire support base was originally a temporary firing base for artillery, although many evolved into more permanent bases. Their main components varied by size: a typical FSB usually had a battery of six 105 millimeter or 155mm howitzers, a platoon of engineers permanently on station for construction and maintenance projects, at least two landing pads for helicopters (a smaller VIP pad and at least one resupply pad), a Tactical Operations Center(TOC), an aid station staffed with medics, a communications bunker, and a company of infantry serving as the defense garrison. Large FSBs might also have two artillery batteries, and an infantry battalion. Under the original concept of the artillery fire support base, a six-gun battery set up with one howitzer in the center to fire illumination rounds during night attacks and serve as the base’s main registration gun. The other five howitzers were arranged around it in a “star” pattern. Smaller FSBs tended to vary greatly from this layout, with two to four howitzers of various calibers (usually 105mm and 155mm at battalion level) located in dispersed and fortified firing positions. These smaller bases arranged their guns in square or triangle patterns when possible. As the war continued, firebases evolved into small forts with all the defensive measures those required.

FUBAR: Acronym for Fucked Up Beyond Any Recognition.

Fugazi – Completely out of whack, ****ed up, screwy. This term originated during the Vietnam War and experienced limited use by civilians.

Get Your Shit Together – usually said to new guys, meaning to shape up and learn everything possible to stay alive.

Golden BB – that lucky small arms round that brought down a helicopter or other aircraft.

Grunt: noun, an infantryman, also called “Ground pounders”.

Gooks: Derogatory term referencing VC or NVA soldiers. Also called: “Chuck“, “Charlie”, “Dinks” and “Slopes”.

Gooks in the wire: Alarm for Enemy soldiers trying to infiltrate a basecamp or firebase.

Greased: killed also referred as zapped and bought the farm.

Gunship: armed helicopter with the primary mission of fire support.

Guppy: a stake-and-platform trailer of the type pulled by a five-ton tractor. (See “dolphin.”)

Hanoi Hannah: the Tokyo Rose of the Vietnam war.

Hard Truck / Gun Truck: provides support to convoys traveling through known hostile territory.

Heads: Group identified as dopers – those who used drugs (heroin, marijuana, etc,)

Headman: the boss man of a local community. His word is usually law.

Hero: Reference to those having served in Vietnam.

Ho Chi Minh sandals: sandals made from worn-out truck tires. Also referred to as “Ho Chi Minh Road Sticks”.

Ho Chi Minh trail: the complex of jungle paths through Laos and Cambodia which serves as the principle Viet Cong and NVA supply route.

Hog / Pig: M60 Machine Gun primarily used by Americans. Uses 7.62 x 51 NATO rounds which are longer and similar to the enemy’s Russian made AK-47 (7.62 x 39) these rounds are not interchangeable and can not be fired from the opposing weapon.

Hoi Chanh (pronounced “hoyee cahn”): a returnee. An enemy soldier who voluntarily gave himself up. Many are employed by the Vietnamese government or the U.S. Army. Referred to as “Kit Carson Scout” by infantry units.

Hong Kong rubber: the variety used by many Vietnamese girls to help them put on a good front. Standing joke among Vietnam-based servicemen: “And to think I could have bought stock in Hong Kong Rubber when it was down to 31.”

Howard Jobnson’s: any of a multitude of pushcart vendors selling food in the street.

Humping: Walking from one location to another while carrying full rucksacks and supplies -routes can be through dense jungle, along paths or trails, through streams and rice paddies and sometimes uphill / downhill on very steep slopes. To march; to carry; to be burdened with.

I Heard that: Phrase used to show agreement to a statement made by someone else. i.e. “The grass is green”, response, “I heard that”.

Idiot stick: 1, a rifle 2. the curved yoke used by Vietnaese, usually old women or children, to carry two rice baskets, water buckets or what have you, one hung from each end of the yoke. Sometimes referred to as a “Dummy stick“.

Incoming! (always exclamatory): “Hit the dirt!” Warning for aerial barrage (mortars, artillery, rockets, etc.) from enemy soldiers.

In country: in Vietnam.

I shit you not: a saying to mean “I am very serious.”

Jack Benny plus 10: Mr. Benny always claimed to be 39 years old. Pilots, when wanting to adjust a radio frequency may reference JB and a number. i.e. Jack Benny up 10.5 would reference frequency 49.5…same would apply for down plus a number to subtract.

Jody: make believe person who is said to be romancing your wife or girlfriend while you are training or stationed oversees.

Juicers: Those identified as beer and whiskey drinkers (alcoholics).

Jungle Rot: generally a fungal of staph infection causing boils, swelling and tissue necrosis resulting from dirt, grime, and constant wet conditions.

Khong lau: (pronounced “kohng laow”): Vietnamese for “nevah hoppen.”

KIWIS: New Zealander Soldier and America’s ally.

Lai day: (pronounced “lye dye”): Vietnamese for “come here.”

Lam on: (pronounced “lahm oon”): Vietnamese for “please.”

LBFM: Has to do with indigenous females and the sexual favor they provide (use your imagination on this one)… SF guys don’t want to spill the beans.

LBJ: 1. Long Binh Jail; the USARV Stockade, 2. Camp Long Binh Junction, home of the 90th Replacement Bn, through which most individual replacements are processed.

Left Handed Monkey Wrench – A non-existent tool. Often the object of fruitless searches undertaken by recruits at the behest of more experienced servicemembers.

Legs or Straight Legs – None Airborne Personnel.

Lifers: Career soldiers.

Lima charlie: international phonetic alphabet words for “LC,” short for “loud and clear” in Army radio parlance.

Lizard: The Tokay Gecko is the second largest Gecko species, attaining lengths of about 11–20 inches (28–51 cm) for males, and 7–19 inches (18–48 cm) for females, with weights of only 150–400 grams (5.3–14.1 oz). They are distinctive in appearance, with a bluish or grayish body, sporting spots ranging from light yellow to bright red. The male is more brightly colored than the female. They have large eyes with a vertical slit pupil. Eyes are brown to greenish brown and can be orange or yellow. Their mating call during the night sounds like…faaa-cue repeated every 15 seconds or so.

Loach: The nimble little Hughes OH-6 Cayuse served extensively with US Army forces in the Vietnam War.

LP (Listening Post): location outside of the perimeter primarily used by the infantry at night as an early warning device.

LT: pronounced ell-tee which was short for lieutenant…most infantry officers accepted this title out in the bush.

LRRP: Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol (4 – 8 men) that worked deep in enemy controlled areas to gather intelligence.

LZ: landing zone… anywhere a helicopter can land.

Mad Minute: Order given for all bunkers to shoot across their front for one minute…used to test fire weapons and also enemy harassment. Out in the field, the leader may order the troops on line and have them shoot into a suspicious area they plan to enter – called Recon By Fire.

MA Deuce: Browning M2 .50 cal. machine gun.

Malayan gate: a booby trap device which depends on a ful-crum for action and usually employs spikes as the killing device. Devised by Malay communists during their unsuccessful 10 year fight against the British.

Mama San – GI reference to all older Vietnamese women.

Marvin the Arvin: Stereotyped soldier in the South Vietnamese Army (ARVN).

Mau len (pronounced “maow len”): Vietnamese for fast, or speed. As in, “Let’s mau len it up a bit, Papasan.”

Meat Factory: Any Hospital.

Meat Wagon – Slang for an ambulance, or any other medical emergency vehicle.

Medevac: short for medical evacuation.

Mike Boat: landing craft, mechanized (LCM8) used to carry troops.

Military General Orders (11):
1. To take charge of this post and all government property in view.
2. To walk my post in a military manner, keeping always on the alert, and observing everything that takes place within sight or hearing.
3. To report all violations of orders I am instructed to enforce.
4. To repeat all calls from posts more distant from the guard house than my own.
5. To quit my post only when properly relieved.
6. To receive, obey, and pass on to the sentry who relieves me all orders from the commanding officer, field officer of the day, officer of the day, and officers and petty officers of the watch.
7. To talk to no one except in line of duty.
8. To give the alarm in case of fire or disorder.
9. To call the petty officer of the watch in any case not covered by instructions.
10. To salute all officers and all colors and standards not cased.
11. To be especially watchful at night, and during the time for challenging, to challenge all persons on or near my post, and to allow no one to pass without proper authority.
Mine Magnet: Any armored vehicle (APC, tank, etc.)

Monopoly Money: MPC – Military Payment Certificates used by the military in Vietnam. Greenbacks were illegal.

M.U.L.E. : Multi Utility Light Equipment – small motorized cart used to carry equipment and supplies within firebases.

No Sweat: A task that is easy or simple — usually said in response to being asked to perform it, to mean you will do it and it won’t be difficult.

No Bic: Vietnamese response that they don’t speak or understand English.

Numbah-one GI: serviceman who spends a good deal of money onthe Vietnamese economy.

Numbah-ten GI: serviceman who spends little money on the Vietnamese economy, or one who refuses to make a proposed purchase.

Numbah-ten thousand: Absolutely the worst of the lot.

Nuoc mam (“noouk mom”): the Vietnamese national dish; fermented fish sauce.

Old Boots / Old Timers: Those soldiers who have been in country for a while – others look to them for advice and direction due to their experience.

OK SAHLEM: Village kids begging for menthol cigarettes from GI’s.

OP (Observation Post): location outside of the perimeter used by infantry personnel during the daytime as an early warning device.

Papa San – GI reference to all older Vietnamese men.

Pedicab: a foot-powered cyclo.

Plastic: type of explosives favored by sappers. As in, “I was in the middle of a steak at the Hoa Lu BEQ when they found 200 pounds of plastic behind the bar, so I stuck my fork in my steak and di-di-maued.” (which see)

Plenty cheap charlie: one who wastes even less money than an ordinary cheap charlie.

Prairie Fire: the code word used by MACVSOG to identify recon ops into Laos (previously known as Shining Brass) and it was also used by helicopter pilots flying in support of SOG’s Recon A team was in imminent danger of being overrun, or was compromised and on the run – the exfil of SOG-assets in an emergency.

P’s: piasters; basic Vietnamese monetary unit. $1 equals 118 piasters, as this is written.

PSP: Perferated Steel Planking – standardized, perforated steel matting material originally developed by the United States shortly before World War II, primarily for the rapid construction of temporary runways and landing strips. First Use in November 1941. The material was also used in the Korean and Vietnam Wars where its common name is pierced (or perforated) steel planking or PSP. A runway two hundred feet wide and 5000 feet (1500 m) long could be created within two days by a small team of engineers.

Puff: originally “Puff the Magic Dragon”; a C-47 armed with miniguns or other rapid fire weapons. It is said that if firing while flying over a football field, a bullet will hit every square foot of the field. Also called “Spooky”. When Puff makes a run during the night, the string of tracers is constant and sometimes looking like an imaginary Pee stream. Some soldiers had referenced a Puff attack as “Bringing Pee” on the enemy!

Punji stick: sharpened stake, usually bamboo, planted in the ground with the point sticking up. Often used in booby traps and often employed with the point smeared with feces as a poisoning element.

Quan Canh (pronounced “kwuhn kein”): Vietnamese military police.

RA: Acronym for Regular Army (those who joined voluntarily).

Rats: an “in” term used by some Saigon warriors for “white mice.”

REAL LIFE: (always capitalized): civilian life. As in, “What do you do in Real Life, Jonesie?”

Redball: 1. the system used in Vietnam to expedite delivery of critical supplies and repair parts. 2. Camp Redball, a small base camp near Go Vap, a Saigon suburb.

Re-Up Bird: Blue Eared Barbet – bird whose song sounds like “Re UP” to those soldiers in the jungle.

REFRAD: Acronym for Released From Active Duty.

REMF: Acronym for Rear Echelon Military Force…derogatory designation is Rear Echelon Mother Fucker.

REVETMENT: Parking locations for aircraft at a military installation. Usually enclosed by a barrier of sorts on three sides to prevent damage to aircraft from enemy projectiles (mortar, bullets, rockets) that land nearby. The photo below is of the DaNang Airbase.

RF/PF: Acronym for Regional Forces/Popular Forces.

Rice wine: an alcoholic drink, very inexpensive, made from rice. Usually tastes like kerosene.

River Rats: Navy forces assigned to the internal. waterways within Vietnam. Also called Brown Water Navy.

Rog: (pronounced “rahj”): short for “Roger,” the radio term for “I read (understand) your transmission.” Also, in the expression, “That’s a Rog, Baby” (That’s right).

Roger That /Roger-Roger: Term used by Army aviators indicating that the transmission was received and understood.

ROK / ROCK: Marines from Korea – allies with U.S. to fight communism.

Rotor Wash: non-existent item. New troops are sent to supply to look for a can of this. Also refers to the wind that is present when helicopter rotors are turning.

Round eye: Caucasian woman.

RPG: Rocket Propelled Grenade. Weapon of choice by VC / NVA for attacks on armor and against sandbagged bunkers.

Ruff-Puffs: Derogatory term used by Americans to the RF/PF troops. South Vietnamese Regional Forces were roughly akin to militias. Recruited locally, they fell into two broad groups – Regional Forces and Popular Forces. During the early 60’s the Regional Forces manned the country-wide output system and defended critical points, such as bridges and ferries. There were some 9,000 such positions, half of them in the Mekong Delta region. In 1964, the Regional Forces were integrated into the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) and placed under the command of the Joint General Staff.

Saigon Tea: colored water (sometimes soda) purchased in thimble-size glasses as the price of a hostess’ company in a bar or nightclub. The hostess gets a commission, and she can drink as many as the customer can buy, as fast as he can buy them.

Saigon warrior: drugstore soldier, especially one who serves or has served in Saigon.

Same-Same: I first heard it during the Vietnam War in the 60s. It’s still used quite extensively throughout Vietnam by Vietnamese as well as Australian and US ex-servicemen. Having said that, I am noticing younger generations of tourists becoming quite enamoured by the same same.
How do you feel? Same same yesterday.
What’s the difference between these two beers? Same same.
All Vietnamese same same… black hair, brown eyes.
Shake ‘n Bake: Soldiers who earn sergeant stripes after specialized training prior to arrival in Vietnam. Program was established to help fill-in leadership holes within the ranks during the war.

Shaming: Goofing off or getting by with the least amount of effort.

Shit on a Shingle: Slang for a piece of toast with chipped beef and gravy.

Shitters: outhouse like enclosures – usually 3 or 6 holes (3 and 3 across from one another) cut in a wooden plank and suspended over 55 gallon half barrels. Usually in firebases – no place for modesty.

Shit burning: day-long ritual at firebases where filled half-barrels are pulled out from the enclosures and replaced with empties. A soldier or Vietnamese is assigned to burn all the waste with a mixture of kerosene and diesel fuel – continuously stirring the contents during the 10 hr. process.

Shotgun: Term used to identify when smoking something and blowing down the barrel of weapon for a second person to inhale.

Smack: Heroin.

Snakes: Cobra gunship.

So mot (“sah maht”): Vietnamese for “numbah one,” the best.

So mudi (sah mooee”): Vietnamese for “numbah 10,” the worst.

Sapper: a soldier, especially an enemy soldier, whose job is to blow things up.

Shithook: Boeing CH-47 Chinook helicopter.

Siesta: Vietnam quits from noon to 2:30 p.m. This period of each day is known as siesta.

SHORT: Term signifying that the individual’s tour of duty is almost completed – usually less than 100 days. Short timers carry notched walking sticks, colorful calenders…most compare the last 30 days in country with their Cherry days and become extremely paranoid and not wanting to take risks anymore.

Sit-Rep: Short for Situation Report. Field units and firebase bunkers are normally contacted on an hourly basis by the company / battalion radio operator. If nothing is going on, we normally answered – negative sit-rep. If we were in hostile territory, a negative response is interpreted as breaking squelch twice in a row on the radio.

Slick: transport helicopter.

SNAFU – Situation Normal All Fucked Up.

Steam and Cream: Steam room or massage parlors operated by prostitutes… pay for happy endings.

STIF: acronym for “Saigon Tea Is Fini,” a now-defunct organization formed to combat increases in the price of Saigon Tea. Members would fill a bar which had raised its prices and sit sipping beer without buying Tea. Their “drink-ins” met with limited success.

Straight arrow: serviceman who remains faithful to his wife or Stateside girl friend throughout his Vietnam tour. (See “broken arrow.”)

Swift Boats: Patrol Craft Fast (PCF) were all-aluminum, 50-foot (15 m) long, shallow-draft vessels, initially to patrol the coastal areas and later for work in the interior waterways as part of the brown-water navy to interdict Vietcong movement of arms and munitions, transport Vietnamese forces and insert SEAL teams for counterinsurgency operations during the Vietnam War.

TARFU: acronym for Things Are Really Fucked Up.

Tarmac: Material used for surfacing roads or other outdoor areas, consisting of crushed rock mixed with tar. It is often used to describe the apron or runway of an airport. Picture below shows the Saigon Airport falling in 1975.

The country store: any one of thousands of village shops catering to U.S. servicemen.

The ‘Nam: Vietnam.

The Pill: any one of several types of tablets taken weekly by all servicemen in Vietnam as a defense against most types of malaria.

There It Is – Saying that meant ‘you got that right’ or are in agreement with something said by others.

The WORLD (always capitalized): the U.S.A. As in, “Where you from back in The World, Sarge?”

Thunder Road: Highway 1 – main north / south highway (note black outline on map).

Ti ti (“tee-tee”): Vietnamese for “small.”

Toe Poppers: U.S. Booby trap meant to maim an individual when stepping on them. The M14 mine, looked like a small, thick disc that was olive drab in color, 2.2 inches in diameter and 1.5 inches in height. It contained 1 ounce of Tetryl explosive to make up its 3.5 ounce weight. This lightness came from its mostly plastic construction, and, to set it off, required a pressure of between 20 to 35 pounds. The mine could be placed in a shallow hole, under a leaf or in the open if in a hurry. Special Forces teams often used this last tactic when breaking contact or protecting a perimeter at night.

Toi khong biet (“toy kohng bee-ech”): Vietnamese for “I don’t know” or “I don’t understand.”

Toi yen em (nhieu lam) (“toy you em (nyoo lahm)”: Vietnamese for “I love you (too much).”

Tomorrow: never make a date for “tomorrow” with a Vietnamese girl. “‘Tomorrow’ nevah come in Vietnam, GI.”

Tracks: Vehicle with tracks that carry howitzer or other large guns (see picture of APC).

Troi oi (“choyee oyee”): an emphatic expression in Vietnamese which can mean just about anything the user wants it to mean. Troi duc oi (choyee duck oyee) is the same expression more emphatically stated.

Tunnel Rat or “Rat”: A soldier trained to enter enemy enclosed spaces like tunnel systems to search them and eliminate and/or capture any occupants.

Tube of Super Torque: Non existent article – newbies are sent to locate this item within chopper groups.

Two-Stepper: Bamboo pit viper – said to kill a person within two steps after being bitten.

Un-Ass: To move immediately or leave one’s current position.

Upcountry: any place north of the Saigon-Long Binh-Bien Hoa area.

US: – Acronym meaning Unwilling Service (referring to Draftees).

U.S.Army: Acronym for U Sonsabitches Are Ruining My Youth.

U.S. ARMY: Acronym – Uncle Sam Aint Released Me Yet.

USELESS: homonym pun on USIS, the United States Information Service.

“V”: V-100 Armored Car made by Cadillac and used as convoy escort.

Wasted – Slang term having two meanings. The first denotes somebody extremely high on drugs or drunk from booze and unable to function properly. The second, referred to dead enemy soldiers. For example, we wasted them.

White mice: the Canh Sat; the Vietnamese national police force. Its members wear white shirts.

White space: the most prevalent element on the front pages of the best Vietnamese newspapers when censorship is in effect, which is usually.

Wickham trolley: an armored railroad locomotive of the type developed by the British during the Malayan rebellion.

Willie Pete / Wilson Pickett: White phosphorous.

Xau lam (“saow lahm”): Vietnamese for “numbah ten thousand” (indescribably bad.).

Xin loi (“sin loyee”): Vietnamese for “Sorry ’bout that.”

Yard: short for Montagnard, a French word meaning; “mountaineer.” Member of any one of a number of semi-nomadic, aboriginal tribes which live in the mountains of Vietnam.

You Bam Bam – Another Vietnamese saying used to tell GI’s they were “Crazy”, similar to “Dinky Dau”.

Zap: to kill or seriously wound also referred as “wasted“.

Zippo: Brand of lighter most commonly carried during the war. Soldiers engraved them to show their personality.

Zippo: Any tracked vehicle or boat that has an attached flame thrower.

Zoomie: jet jockey.

(Compiled by by Wayne Draper, Times staff writer and John Podlaski)

Marine Corps Speak in Vietnam
(many of these terms were also used by the other branches of service)

Aboard: on base; with us.

Actual: radio talk for unit commander.

Ain’t no big thing in the PI: Phrase used by Navy – It’s not a big deal to be in the Phillapines.

All hands: everyone…all y’all

Amtrack: amphibious tractor; landing craft.

As you were!: resume what you were doing; correction.

Assholes and elbows: in a hurry; quickly.

Ba mui ba (“33“): vietnamese beer. Rumored to be spiked with formaldehyde.

Bac si (viet.): doctor, used for corpsman.

Bam: broad ass marine; derogatory name for woman marine.

Barracks cover: garrison (frame) cap.

Battle pin: necktie clip.

Be Advised: Warning given prior to making an important statement

BCD: bad conduct discharge.

Belay: stop; quit.

Billet: assignment or job; place of residence.

Blouse: n. jacket; v. tuck in, secure.

Blousing bands: elastic bands used to secure utility trouser cuffs.

Blues: dress blues.

BLT: Acronym for Battalion Landing Team.

Boondocks (boonies): rugged isolated backcountry.

Boondockers: low-topped work boots issued to reservists.

Boot: recruit.

Brain housing group: your gourd, mind, brain, or head.

Brass: officers.

Brig: jail.

Brig rat: jail inmate.

Brig chaser: mp assigned to escort prisoners.

Brother: black marine (also splib).

Brothers-in-Arm: All Veterans united – having a special bond between them

Brown side-out: desert camouflage pattern.

Bulkhead: wall.

By-the-numbers: in sequence.

Cannon cockers: artillerymen.

Carry on!: resume what you were doing; as you were.

Casual company: unit of marines awaiting reassignment.

CC: corrective custody; jail, the brig.

Chuck: derogatory term that Black soldiers used to refer to white soldiers.

CG: Commanding General.

Chieu hoi (viet.): freedom; safe conduct pass; program whereby VC who surrendered were assured safe conduct.

Chit: written authorization or receipt.

Chow: food.

Chow hall: mess hall.

Click: one notch of adjustment on a rifle.

Cinderella liberty: time off which ends at midnight.

Co (viet.): girl, woman.

Colors: n. the flag; v. ceremony of raising or lowering the flag.

Con biet? (viet.): do you understand?

C-rats: c rations, canned field rations.

Com rats: commuted rations; in lieu pay for meals eaten off base.

Corpsman: Medical specialist attached to the Marines (Green Side) or Regular Navy Corpsman (Blue Side)

Cover: hat.

Cover ass: take precautions to avoid blame.

The Crotch: derogatory term for marine corps.

Cruise: period of enlistment; tour of duty.

Deck: floor.

Deuce-and-a-half: 2 1/2 ton truck.

Di-di (viet.): leave, go, move out.

Di-di mau (viet.): emphatic of di-di.

Diddy bag: cloth, drawstring bag for small items.

Dinky-dau (viet.): crazy.

Disneyland East: Term used to reference the United States

Dog-and-pony-show: special presentation put on for visiting dignitaries.

Double time: quickly; at a run.

Dry fire: practice.

Dry run: practice.

Du-dit (viet.): fuck you!

Eighth & eye: headquarters marine corps.

Entrenching tool (e-tool): small folding field shovel.

Every swinging dick: all hands, everyone.

Eye fuck: scrutinize; inspect closely.

Fartsack: mattress cover or flight suit.

Field day: general cleanup of barracks.

Field scarf: necktie.

Field strip: disassemble; take apart.

Fire in the hole!: warning that explosives are about to be detonated.

First shirt (also top): first sergeant.

Float phase: sea deployment of a marine unit.

FMF: Fleet Marine Force.

Four-by: light truck.

Front leaning rest position: pushup position (“the position”).

Galley: kitchen.

Gang way!: stand back! move away!

Gedunk – Refers to snack foods, such as candy and chips, as well as the place they’re sold. Associated with the Navy, and can be used in the phrase “gedunk sailor” as a pejorative remark for inexperienced sailors.

Gear: equipment.

GIcan: garbage can.

Gizmo: gadget; anything that defies description.

Gourd: head; where you hang your cover.

Green side-out: woodland pattern camouflage.

Grab a hat: leave.

Grinder: parade ground.

Guidon: pennant bearing unit designation.

Gung ho: lit. work together; (from chinese) highly motivated.

Gungy: gung ho.

Gunny: gunnery sergeant (E7)

Grabass (organized grabass): play; sports, frivolous activity.

Green machine: marine corps.

Gyrene: Short for G.I. Marine

Ham: hairy assed marine; male marine.

Ham and mothers: “ham and motherfuckers;” generally detested c-ration meal posing as ham and lima beans.

Hatch: door.

Hard charger: motivated marine.

Head: toilet.

High-and-tight: standard marine haircut; shaved sides and short on top.

Hollywood marine: San Diego MCRDgraduate.

Hooch (jap.): any kind of shelter, residence.

Honcho (jap.): boss; man in charge.

House mouse: drill instructor’s go-fer.

Huss: a favor; a break e.g., “gimme a huss;” archaic name for hu34d helicopter.

Irish pennant: string dangling from clothing indicating unkempt appearance.

IDS: Acronym for “In Da Shit”.

ITR: infantry training regiment.

Jarhead: slang for marine.

Jesus Nut: Main connector which holds rotor in place

Jibs: teeth, esp. front incisors, e.g., “i’ll bust your jibs.”

Jing (also jing-wa, jap.): change; money.

Joe shit the ragman: bad example, un-squared-away marine, boyfriend of rosy rottencrotch.

Junk-on-the-bunk: complete clothing and equipment inspection (also things-on-the-springs) laid out on the rack.

K-bar: marine-issue fighting knife.

Klick: kilometer – 6/10th of a mile. On a topographical map, each outlined grid is considered 1km x 1km

Ladder (or ladderway): stairs.

Lai day (viet.): come here!

Leave: authorized absence of more than 24 hours.

Liberty: authorized absence of less than 24 hours.

Lock and load: arm and ready your weapon; get ready!

Make a hole!: stand back! gang way!

Maggie’s drawers: red disc used on the rifle range to signify missing the target.

MOS: assigned job specialty.

Mustang (mustanger): enlisted man who becomes an officer.

Non-qual: marine who fails to fire a qualifying score at the rifle range.

Office hours: summary court marshal, official inquiry or reprimand.

Office pogue: desk-bound marine.

Ontos: armored tracked vehicle mounting six 106 mm recoilless rifles.

Outstanding!: exceptional; well done!

Overhead: ceiling.

Over the hill: absent without authorization.

Over the hump: more than halfway through enlistment.

Passageway: corridor; hallway.

Piece: rifle.

Piss cutter: envelope-shaped overseas cap.

Piss-and-punk: bread and water punishment.

Piss tube: field urinal; rocket launcher (bazooka), which resembles one.

Pogue: lazy individual, also office worker.

Pogey bait: candy, sweets.

Police call: time allocated to clean up an area. Usually troops line up and cross through an area picking up anything that does not grow from the ground.

Police up: clean up.

Poop (also dope, scoop): information.

Pop-flare: hand held and launched aerial illumination flare. The cap is removed and placed over the opposite end…hold center of flare with left hand and point it upward, then using the heel of your right palm, come up and hit the bottom…a firing pin will engage the explosive and send the flare into the air.

PT: physical training; exercise.

Quarters: living space.

Rack: bed, bunk.

Rappel: descend from cliff or helicopter by rope.

Recon (also force recon): force reconnaissance marine.

Romp ‘n’ stomp: to drill, march.

Round: bullet or artillery or mortar shell.

Rubber lady: inflatable air mattress.

Salt: experience; an old-timer marine.

Salty: smart-mouthed; opinionated.

Scoshi (or scosh’): small, short, a little bit.

Scuttlebutt: rumors; a drinking fountain.

Seabag: duffle bag.

Sea duty: billeted aboard a ship.

Sea going bellhop: derog. for marine, from marines assigned to the bridge of a vessel.

Sea story: a lie or an exaggeration.

Sea lawyer: self-appointed expert.

Secure: tie down or make fast; also to recycle or dispose of; to put something in its proper place; to desist.

Seven-eighty-two gear: field equipment; canvas web gear.

Shit bird: Navy speak “crow” on Petty Officer sleeve insignia

Shit bird: messy or undisciplined; a fuck up.

Shit can: (v) to dispose of; (n) garbage can.

Short round: ordnance, which is landing short of the intended target.

Short time: a very brief love affair.

Shorttimer: marine nearing the end of an enlistment period.

Sick bay: clinic or hospital.

Six-by (six-by-six): standard three-axle truck.

Six-six-and-a-kick: the ultimate general court marshal punishment consisting of six months forfeiture of pay, six months hard labor, and a dishonorable discharge.

Skipper: captain; commanding officer.

Skivvies: underwear.

Skivvie honcho: a lothario; a ladies man.

Skivvie house: brothel.

SLICK SLEEVE: Navy personnel on active duty that has not served 4 yrs. in the service and hasn’t earned a hash mark for his sleeve.

Slopchute: diner; restaurant.

Smoking lamp: authority to smoke when it is lit.

Snap in: practice, esp. on the rifle range.

Snipe: Navy term given to someone who worked in an engine room aboard ship.

Snoopin’ and poopin’: reconnoitering.

Snot locker: nose.

Sound off!: assertively voice.

Sorry ’bout that!: assertion of mock apology.

Spud locker: pantry.

Squad bay: barracks.

Squared away: neat, orderly, organized.

Squid: (derog.) sailor.

Stack arms!: command given to place 3 rifles in a pyramid.

Stacking swivel: appendage near muzzle of rifle allowing stacked arms; neck.

Stand by!: prepare.

Standby: waiting status.

Starchies: starched utilities.

Stroke book: porno magazine.

Survey: dispose of; recycle.

Swab: mop.

Swabbie: sailor.

Ti ti (viet.) (pron. tee-tee): little, small.

Top: sergeant major.

Topside: upstairs; on deck.

Trops: khaki tropical summer dress uniform.

Turn to: begin work.

UA: unauthorized absence.

UD: undesirable discharge.

USMC: Acronym Uncle Sam’s Misguided Children

Utilities: olive drab field uniform.

Willie peter / Wilson Pickett: white phosphorus. Units in the field request marking rounds which explode in the air at a set of coordinates – when shooting an azimuth with a compass and estimating the distance (using sight and sound -counting the seconds before hearing the explosion) their location can be verified on a grid map.

The word: confirmed official information; the straight scoop.

Zero-dark-thirty: pre-dawn; early.

(Compiled 1990 by Nicholas Del Cioppo and John Podlaski)

(via Cherries – A Vietnam War Novel)



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