vnribb.gif (763 bytes)



of some of the words used during the

Vietnam War




Some pictures have hyperlinks to include more detailed information regarding the subject picture.  Just click on the picture to view the additional information or larger picture.

A.I.T: Advanced Individual Training: specialized training taken after Basic Training

AFVN: Armed Forced Vietnam Network radio station

AHB: assault helicopter battalion

Airborne: refers to soldiers who are qualified as parachutists

Air Cav: air cavalry; helicopter-borne infantry; supported by helicopter gunships

Airmobile: helicopter-borne infantry

 Infantrymen jump from chopper - click to enlarge

AK-47: Soviet-manufactured Kalashnikov semi-automatic and fully automatic combat assault rifle, fires a 7.62-mm at 600 rounds per minute; the basic weapon of the NVA It has a distinctive popping sound.  

AK-47 Click for larger picture

AK-50: newer version of the AK-47. Some have a permanently mounted "illegal" triangular bayonet which leaves a sucking wound that will not close.

AO: area of operations

APC: armored personnel carrier. A track vehicle used to transport Army troops or supplies, usually armed with a .50-caliber machine gun.

           APC - click for a larger picture

Arc Light: code name for B-52 bombers strikes along the Cambodian-Vietnamese border. These operations shook earth for ten miles away from the target area.

Arc Light (Click to enlarge)

Arvin: soldier in the Army of the Republic of Vietnam

ARVN: Army of the Republic of Vietnam; the South Vietnamese Regular Army

A-team: basic ten man team of the U.S. Special Forces. The A-teams often led irregular military units which were not responsible to the Vietnamese military command

B-52: U.S. Air Force high-altitude bomber

B-52 Dropping Bombs (Click to enlarge)

bac-si: Vietnamese for doctor; also used to refer to medic in the U.S. Army

band-aid: radio call sign for a medic

bandoliers: ammo belts for rifles and machine guns

M-16 bandolier - click for a larger picture

base camp: a resupply base for field units and a location for headquarters of brigade or division size units, artillery batteries and air fields. Also known as the rear area

battery: an artillery unit equivalent to a company. Six105mm or 155mm howitzers or two 8-inch or 175mm self-propelled howitzers

beehive round: an explosive artillery shell which delivered thousands of small projectiles, "like nails with fins," instead of shrapnel.

bird: helicopters or any aircraft

bird dog: forward air controller, usually in a small aircraft

BK amputee: below-the-knee amputation of the leg

blood trail: a trail of blood left by a fleeing man who has been wounded

body bag: plastic bag used to transport dead bodies from the field

body count: the number of enemy killed, wounded, or captured during an operation.

boo-coo: Vietnamese slang for many or much

boom-boom: Vietnamese slang for sex

boonies: infantry term for the field; jungles or swampy areas

bouncing Betty: antipersonnel mine with two charges: the first propels the explosive charge upward, and the other is set to explode at about waist level

11-Bravo: Army designation for an infantry man

bronco: twin-engine observation aircraft equipped with rockets and miniguns

Bronze Star: U.S. military decoration awarded for valor or meritorious service.


bush: infantry term for the field

C-4: plastic, putty textured explosive carried by infantry soldiers. It burns when lit and would boil water in seconds instead on minutes, used to heat C-rations in the field and to blow up bunkers 

C-7: small cargo airplane; the Caribou  C-7 Caribou (Click to enlarge)

C-123: cargo airplane; larger version of the Caribou C-123 (Click to enlarge)

C-130: large propeller-driven Air Force planes that carry people and cargo; the Hercules

C-141: large cargo airplane; the Starlifter

CA: combat assault. The term is used to describe dropping troopers into an LZ

CH-54: largest of the American helicopters, strictly for cargo. Also called Flying Crane or Skycrane.

cache: hidden supplies

capping: shooting at, capped: shot

CAR-15: carbine- M-16 rifle with a telescopic butt and short barrel.

CAR-15 (Click to enlarge)

Caribou: small transport plane for moving men and material

 C-7 Caribou - Click to enlarge

Cav: Cavalry; the 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile) 

Cav Patch

Charlie: Viet Cong or NVA

cherry: slang for a solder who has never been under fire.

Chicom: Chinese communist

Chieu Hoi: Vietnamese "open arms" to give up

Chinook: CH-47 cargo helicopter

chop chop: slang for food

chopper: helicopter

Chuck: the Viet Cong or NVA

CIB: Combat Infantry Badge - Army award for men assigned to the infantry for being under enemy fire in a combat zone, worn on both fatigues and dress uniforms.

  "CIB" Combat Infantry Badge

CIDG: civilian irregular defense groups

Civilian Irregular Defense Group: American financed, irregular military units led by members of Special Forces A-teams. Members of these units were Vietnamese nationals, but were usually members of ethnic minorities in the country

clacker: a small hand-held firing device for a claymore mine

claymore: an antipersonnel mine when detonated, propelled small steel projectiles in a 60-degree fan shaped pattern to a maximum distance of 100 meters

Claymore Mine - Click to enlarge

CMB: Combat Medical Badge.  Awarded to medics who served with the Infantry while under direct enemy fire. 

Combat Medical Badge "CMB"

CMH: Congressional Medal of Honor. The highest U.S. military decoration awarded for conspicuous gallantry at the risk of life above and beyond the call of duty

Medal of Honor

Cobra: an AH-1G attack helicopter, armed with rockets and machine guns.

Code of Conduct: military rules for U.S. soldiers taken prisoner by the enemy

commo bunker: bunker containing vital communications equipment.

compound: a fortified military installation

concertina wire: coiled barbed wire with razor type ends

connex container: corrugated metal packing crate, approximately six feet in length

contact: firing on or being fired upon by the enemy

CONUS: continental United States

counterinsurgency: antiguerrilla warfare

CP: command post

CP pills: anti-malarial pills

CQ: charge of quarters..

C-rations: combat rations. Canned meals for use in the field. Each usually consisted of a can of some basic course, a can of fruit, a packet of some type of dessert, a packet of powdered coca, sugar, powder cream, coffee, a small pack of cigarettes, two pieces of chewing gum, and toilet paper. (Tabasco's C-rations cookbook)

CS: a riot-control gas which burns the eyes and mucus membrane.

DEROS: date of expected return from overseas. The day all soldiers in Vietnam were waiting for.

det-cord: detonating cord used with explosives

deuce-and-a-half: two-and-a-half ton truck

didi: slang from the Vietnamese word di, meaning "to leave" or "to go"

didi mau: slang Vietnamese for "go quickly"

dink: derogatory term for an Asian

dinky dau: to be crazy, from "dien cai dau"

Distinguished Service Cross - The Nation's second highest medal for valor

DMZ: demilitarized zone. The dividing line between North and South Vietnam established in 1954 at the Geneva Convention.

doc: medic or corpsman

D-ring: a D-shaped metal snap link used to hold gear together, used in repelling from chopers.

DRO: dining room orderly

dust-off: medical evacuation by helicopter

eagle flights: large air assault of helicopters

Early-Outs: a drop or reduction in time in service. A soldier with 150 days or less remaining on his active duty commitment when he DEROSed from Vietnam also ETSed from the army under the Early Out program.

Eleven Bravo: the MOS of an infantryman

EM: enlisted man

EOD: explosive ordinance disposal. A team that disarms explosive devices.

E-tool: entrenching tool. Folding shovel carried by infantrymen.

ETS: date of departure for overseas duty station; estimated time of separation from military service.

expectants: casualties who are expected to die

fatigues: standard combat uniform, green in color

Field Surgical Kit: carried by medics for small surgery and suturing.

Field Surgical Kit - closedField Surgical Kt - click to enlarge

fire base: temporary artillery encampment used for fire support of forward ground operations

firefight: a battle, or exchange of small arms fire with the enemy.


flack jacket: heavy fiberglass-filled vest worn for protection from shrapnel

flaky: to be in a state of mental disarray

flare: illumination projectile; hand-fired or shot from artillery, mortars, or air

FNG: F--king New Guy

forward observer. A person attached to a field unit to coordinate the placement of direct or indirect fire from ground, air, and naval forces.

foo gas: a mixture of explosives and napalm, usually set in a fifty-gallon drum

frag: fragmentation grenade

fragging: the assassination of an officer or N.C.O. by his own troops, usually be a grenade

Freedom Bird: the plane that took soldiers from Vietnam back to the World

free fire zone: free to fire upon any forces you may come upon…Do not have to identify.  Sometimes called free kill zones. Everyone is deemed hostile and a legitimate target.

friendly fire: accidental attacks on U.S. or allied soldiers by other U.S. or allied soldiers

G-3: division level tactical advisor; a staff officer.

gook: derogatory term for an Asian; derived from Korean slang for "person"

Green Berets: U.S. Special Forces

grids: map broken into numbered thousand-meter squares

grunt: infantryman.

GSW: gunshot wound

gung ho: enthusiastic (usually about military matters and killing people)

gunship: armed helicopter

GVN: Government of South Vietnam

hamlet: a small rural village

hammer and anvil: an infantry tactic of surrounding an enemy base area, then sending in other units to drive the enemy out of hiding.

H&I: harassment and interdiction. Artillery bombardments used to deny the enemy terrain which they might find beneficial to their campaign; general rather than specific, confirmed military targets; random artillery fire.

heat tabs: flammable tablet used to heat C-rations. Took a long time to heat the food and gave off harsh fumes.

HHC: headquarters and headquarters company higher-higher: the honchos; the command

hootch: a hut or simple dwelling, either military or civilian

hot: area under fire

hot LZ: a landing zone under enemy fire

HQ: headquarters

Huey: nickname for the UH-1 series helicopters

hump: grunt term to march or walk carrying a rucksack in the field.

I Corps: the northernmost military region in South Vietnam

II Corps: the Central Highlands military region in South Vietnam

III Corps: the densely populated, fertile military region between Saigon and the Highlands

IV Corps: the marshy Mekong Delta southernmost military region

IG: Inspector General

immersion foot: condition resulting from feet being submerged in water for a prolonged period of time, causing cracking and bleeding.

in-country: Vietnam

increments: removable charges attached to mortar fins. If they become wet, the mortar round misfires and falls short. Extremely flammable.

insert: to be deployed into a tactical area by helicopter

Iron Triangle: Viet Cong dominated area between the Thi- Tinh and Saigon rivers, next to Cu Chi district

JAG: judge advocate general, the legal department of the Armed Services

KBA: killed by artillery

K-bar: combat knife

KIA: killed in action

Kit Carson scout: former Viet Cong who act as guides for U.S. military units

klick: kilometer

L: a type of ambush set-up, shaped like the letter 'L'

LAAW: a shoulder-fired, 66-millimeter rocket. The launcher is made of Fiberglass, and is disposable after one shot.

LBJ: Long Binh Jail, a military stockade in Long Binh

lima-lima: land line. Refers to telephone communications between two points on the ground.

litters: stretchers to carry wounded

lit-up: fired upon

loach: a LOH light observation helicopter used to draw enemy fire so cobras can come and make the kill.

LP: listening post usually a four man position set up at night outside the perimeter away from the .......main body of troopers, which acted as an early warning system against attack.

LRRP: Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol. An elite team usually composed of five to seven men .............who go deep into the jungle to observe enemy activity without initiating contact.

LSA: small arms lubricant

LT: lieutenant

lurps: members of Long Range Reconnaissance Patrols also dehydrated food package replacing c-rations.

LZ: landing zone. Usually a small clearing secured temporarily for the landing of resupply helicopters. ......Some become more permanent and eventually become base camps

M-3 Medical Aid Bag: Smaller of the the two medical aid bags medics carried

M-3 medical aid bag - click to enlarge

M-5 Medical Aid Bag: The larger of the two medical aid bags carried.  It was strapped to a medal pack frame.

M-5 Medical Aid Bag - Click for larger image

M-14: A 7.62mm Cal. Rifle that fired semi and full automatic. Used in early portion of Vietnam conflict

M-16: the standard U.S. military rifle used in Vietnam from 1966 on. Successor to the M-14.


M-60: the standard lightweight machine gun used by U.S. forces in Vietnam

M-79: a U.S. military hand-held grenade launcher

M-79 - Click for larger image

MARS: Military Affiliate Radio Station. Used by soldiers to call home via Signal Corps and ham radio equipment.

MASH: Mobile Army Surgical Hospital

marker round: the first round fired by mortars or artillery. Used to adjust the following rounds onto the target.

Med Cap: Medical Civil Action Program in which U.S. medical personnel would go into the villages to give medical aid to the local populace

medevac: medical evacuation from the field by helicopter

MFW: multiple frag wounds

MIA: missing in action

Minigun: rapid fire machine gun with multi-barrels that is electronically controlled, capable of firing up to 6,000 rounds a minute primarily used on choppers and other aircraft.

Mr. Charles: the Viet Cong or the NVA

Montagnard: a French term for several tribes of mountain people inhabiting the hills and mountains of central and northern Vietnam. Vietnam was a former French Colony and some of their phrases carried forth from their French Colonial days.

mortar: consisting of 3 parts a steel tube, base plate, and tri-pod. A round is dropped in the tube, striking a firing pin, causing the projectile to leave the tube at a high angle.

MOS: military occupational specialty

MP: military police

MPC: military payment currency. The scrip U.S. soldiers were paid in

mule: a small, motorized platform often used for transporting supplies and personnel.

Nam: Vietnam

napalm: a jellied petroleum substance which burns fiercely, used against enemy personnel.

NCO: noncommissioned officer.

NLF: National Liberation Front

number one: the best

number ten: the worst

NVA: North Vietnamese Army

OCS: officer candidate school

OD: olive drab,

OR: operating room

P-38: a tiny collapsible can opener

P-38 can opener

perimeter: outer limits of a military position.

PF: Popular Forces. South Vietnamese National Guard- type local military units

Phoenix: intelligence-based campaign to eliminate the Viet Cong infrastructure

point: the forward man or element on a combat patrol

poncho liner: nylon insert to the military rain poncho, used as a blanket

pop smoke: to ignite a smoke grenade to signal an aircraft

POW: prisoner of war

PRC-25: Portable Radio Communications, Model 25. A back-packed FM receiver-transmitter used for short-distance communications. The range of the radio was 5-10 kilometers, depending on the weather, unless attached to a special, nonportable antenna which could extend the range to 20-30 kilometers

PSP: perforated steel plate

PsyOps: psychological operations

Puff the Magic Dragon: AC-47 is a propeller-driven aircraft with 3 Miniguns - capable of firing 6,000 rounds per minute per gun for a total of 18,000 rounds per minute - The mini guns were on one side of the plane. The plane would bank to one side to fire.  

Spooky AC-47 (Click to enlarge & other images)

punji stakes: sharpened bamboo sticks used in a primitive but effective pit trap. Often smeared with excrement to cause infection.

Purple Heart: U.S. military decoration awarded to any member of the Armed Forces wounded by enemy action. Any soldier who was awarded three Purple Hearts was allowed to leave Vietnam.

QUAD-50s: a four-barreled assembly of .50 caliber machine guns

RA: Regular Army, prefix to serial number for enlisted men

rack: bed or cot

R&R: rest and recreation. Two types: A three day in country and a seven-day out of county vacation. Grunts in the 8th Cav. Would receive a special R&R for the entire company. Usually after a major firefight.

Rangers: elite commandos and infantry specially trained for reconnaissance and combat missions

React Force: A unit to come to the aid of another unit under enemy fire

recon: reconnaissance. Going out into the jungle to observe for the purpose of identifying enemy activity.

red alert: the most urgent form of warning. Signals an imminent enemy attack

Red Legs: slang for men in the Artillery.

rock'n'roll: firing a weapon on full automatic

ROK: soldier from the Republic of Korea

rotate: returning to the U.S. after serving your tour in Vietnam

RPG: a rocket-propelled grenade. A Russian-made portable antitank grenade launcher. 


RTO: radio telephone operator.

ruck / rucksack: backpack issued to infantry in Vietnam

S-1: Personnel

S-2: Intelligence

S-3: Operations

S-4: Supply

S-5: Civil Affairs

saddle up: put on one's pack on and get ready to move out

salvo: firing a battery in unison

sapper: a Viet Cong or NVA solder who gets inside the perimeter, armed with explosives

satchel charges: pack used by the enemy containing explosives that is dropped or thrown and is generally more powerful than a grenade

Seabees: Navy construction engineers

SEAL: highly trained Navy special warfare team members

search and destroy: an operation in which Americans searched an area and destroyed anything which the enemy might find useful

SEATO: Southeast Asia Treaty Organization

shake'n'bake: officers who were commissioned after a few months training in O.C.S. This term could also be applied to sergeant who attended NCO school and earned rank after a few months in service.

short: tour of duty being close to completion.

short-timer: soldier nearing the end of his tour in Vietnam

shrapnel: pieces of metal sent flying by an explosion

Silver Star: U.S. military decoration awarded for gallantry in action

Six: any Unit Commander, from the Company Commander on up

SKS: Simonov 7.62 mm semi-automatic carbine

sky crane: huge double-engine helicopter used for lifting and transporting heavy equipment

slack man: the second man back on a patrol, directly behind the point

slant: derogatory term for a Vietnamese

slick: a UH-1 helicopter used for transporting troops in tactical air assault operations. This helicopter did not have armaments, thus it was called a "slick".

slope: derogatory term for an Asian person

smoke grenade: a grenade that released brightly colored smoke. Used for signaling choppers. Yellow was a safe LZ and Red was a hot LZ.

SOP: standard operating procedure

Spec-4: Specialist 4th Class. An Army rank immediately above Private First Class.

Spec-5: Specialist 5th Class. Equivalent to a sergeant.

spider hole: camouflaged enemy foxhole

Spooky: AC-47 is a propeller-driven aircraft with 3 Miniguns -capable of firing 6,000 rounds per minute per gun for a total of 18,000 rounds per minute - The mini guns were on one side of the plane. The plane would bank to one side to fire.

drawing of Spooky gun ship (Click to enlarge)

stand-down: an infantry unit's return from the boonies to the base camp for refitting and training.

starlight scope: A night scope to intensify images at night by using reflected light form the moon, stars or any other source of light.

steel pot: the standard U.S. Army steel helmet.

strobe: hand held strobe light for marking landing zones at night

syrettes: a hypodermic needle connected to a collapsible tube. Contained morphine in most cases. After inserting the needle in the body one would squeeze the morphine tube like tooth past.

Morphine Syrette (Click to enlarge)

T&T: through and through wound.

tangle foot: single-strand barbed wire strung in a meshwork pattern at about ankle height. A barrier designed to make it difficult to cross the obstructed area by foot. Usually placed around ...................permanent defensive positions.

Tet: Buddhist lunar New Year. Buddha's birthday.

Tiger Fatigues: camouflage fatigue uniforms

Top: a top sergeant

trach: a tracheotomy. Making an opening into the windpipe to facilitate breathing.

tracer: a round of ammunition chemically treated to glow so that its flight can be followed.

triage: the procedure for deciding the order in which to treat casualties

trip flare: a ground flare triggered by a trip wire. Use to notify the approach of the enemy.

UH-1H: a Huey helicopter

US: prefix to serial number of Army draftees

USO: United Service Organization. Provided entertainment to the troops.

V: a type of ambush set-up, shaped like the letter.

VC: Viet Cong

Victor Charlie: the Viet Cong; the enemy.

Viet Cong: South Vietnamese Communist.

Vietnamese Popular Forces: South Vietnamese local military forces.

Vietnamization: U.S. policy initiated by President Richard Nixon late in the war to turn over the fighting to the South Vietnamese Army during the phased withdrawal of American troops.

wake-up: the last day of a soldier's Vietnam tour. Example for 6 days:  5 days and a wake-up.

walking wounded: wounded who are still able to walk without assistance.

wasted: killed

white mice: South Vietnamese police.

white phosphorus: an explosive round from artillery, mortars, or rockets, grenades. Also a type of aerial bomb. When the rounds exploded a huge puff of white smoke would appear from the burning phosphorus. The wound was used as marking rounds and incendiary rounds. When phosphorus hit the skin it would continue to burn. Water would not put it out.  It had to be smothered (mud was used to seal off the wound ) or it would continue to burn until it exited the body.

Willy Peter: white phosphorus

wood line: a row of trees at the edge of a field

The World: the United States

WP: white phosphorus

X: a type of ambush set up, shaped like the letter

xin loi: a Vietnamese meaning "sorry about that"

XO: executive officer; the second in command of a military unit

zapped: killed

(Featuring 60's music and AFVN snippets)







Search www. 1st Cav Medic (Airmobile)



Renal-Cancer, IndexSite Map, Vietnam Wall, 1st Cav Medics, MIA/POW, CMB, Author's Tour, Glossary, Experiences, Soldier's Own Obituary, June 2, 1969, Events, December 2, 1969, Photos, Agent Orange, Medal of Honor, Distinguished Service Cross, Medics History, Statistics, Draft, Tillquist, Tabasco's C-Ration Cookbook, Student Surveys & Questions, Request for Help, Vietnam Patches, Remembrance, Links, Webrings, Jane Fonda, Simpler Version of Tet 68

All content on this website is intended solely for educational purposes and as a means to honor Veterans and their families

Copyright 1998 - 2007  John D. Dennison