K Troop 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment

The Blackhorse In Vietnam 1966 - 1972

hosted by Bob Hersey


11th US Cavalry The Company Clerk's

War Dictionary

The Language of the Vietnam War from A to Z.

The good, the bad and the ugly (obscenity).  Didn't find a word or phrase that you were looking for?  Thought that it should be on the list?  Well, submit your entry to WarLanguage@ktroop.com.

AIRBURST: explosion of a munition in the air

AIR CAV: air cavalry, referring to helicopter-borne infantry

AIT: Advanced Individual Training; the period following Basic Training, specialized training given each soldier based on his MOS (Military Occupational Specialty)

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.

ARCOMS: Army Commendation Medals

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, and an artillery battalion of about 500 people. During the Vietnam War, American battalions were usually much smaller than that.

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

BRIGADE: basic military organizational institution. During the Vietnam War, a division was organized into three brigades, with each brigade commanded by a colonel. A division consists of approximately 20,000 people.

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

BUTTER BARS *2 -   a derogatory term for a second lieutenant.

CAV: nickname for air cavalry

C & C: command and control

CVC*3 - Combat Vehicle Crewman.  The Army's designation given to helmets worn by crewmembers of tanks, APC, ACAVs and other vehicles.

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.

CONSTANTINE WIRE: like barbed wire, this razor sharp wire was more effective.

CONG: see Viet Cong

CRACKER BOX: field ambulance

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

DAP: stylized, ritualized manner of shaking hands, started by African-American troops

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

DINKS*1: - derogatory slang for the VC or enemy in general.

DINKY DOA: Vietnamese expression, usually directed at GIs meaning "you're crasy".

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

GOOK - Derogatory slang meaning enemy soldier in particular or any Vietnamese citizen in general.

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 HANNAH: Progaganda radio voice broadcast from North Vietnam to US forces in South Vietnam.

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

HANOI JANE: Jane Fonda - Hollywood Actress and daughter of Henry Fonda.   Nicknamed "Hanoi Jane" for her anti-war political visit to Hanoi during the war.  Regarded by many as a treasonous act, especially Vietnam vets.

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)

LAGER - Storehouse.  A little used phrase to describe our locations where we stored our supplies, such as ammo, food, fuel, replacement parts and so on.

LAMBRETTA - a small, motorized conveyance powered by a gasoline engine and steered like with handle bars much like a motor scooter.  The back of the vehicle had bench seats and could hold approximately 15 to 20 persons.

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

MOS:  Military Occupational Specialty

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


NUMBER TEN: bad (Fuck'n nuber ten - really bad)


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)

SAIGON:  Capital of South Vietnam

SAIGON SALLY: Radio propaganda voice who operated mobile around the Saigon area.  Directed anti-war propaganda at US troops.  Southern counterpart to Hanoi Hannah but not as well known.

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: 1. officer straight out of OCS (Officer Candidate School) without any combat experience. or *2 the derogatory term applied to a graduate of an accelerated
NCO academy who was then entitled to wear "buck" sergeant stripes.

SHAVE TAIL *2  - a derogatory term for a second lieutenant.

SHORT, SHORT-TIME, SHORT-TIMER: individual with little time remaining in Vietnam

SHORT TIME - Another Meaning:   Sex with a prostitute.   Usually very quickly.

SKATE: goof off

SLEEPER: an undercover agent or a mole

SLOPES*1: derogatory slang for the VC or enemy in general.

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

VICTOR CHARLIE: Radio speak for the Viet Cong.

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'


*1 - John Roach
*2 - Dale Heideman
*3 - Vince Bloom

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