CAP Glossary
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Glossary

Submitted By: Roch Thornton


The Americans in Vietnam had our own unique language, and each unit had its own dialect. In the CAPs, our dialect took words from English, Vietnamese and French, with expressions borrowed from street slang, Marine jargon, rock-and-roll and many other sources.

This glossary is an attempt to record some of the unfamiliar words you're likely to encounter when reading about the CAPs, with rough pronunciations and definitions. CAP Marines, please e-mail your additions and corrections to the glossary.

A| B| C| D| E| F| G| H| I| J| K| L| M| N| O| P| Q| R| S| T| U| V| W| X| Y| Z|
(Click on a letter to go to that part of the glossary)


Numbers

1st Med Battalion -- A U.S. Navy hospital in Danang where many 2nd CAG wounded were medevaced.

I Corps -- "eye-core" -- South Vietnam was divided into four military regions called "corps." I Corps was the northernmost followed by II Corps, III Corps and IV Corps in the far south.

IIIrd MAF -- Or 3rd MAF. Third Marine Amphibious Force. The parent unit of the Combined Action Force (CAF), IIIrd MAF was a subunit of the 3rd Marine Division based on Okinawa.

33 -- A common brand of Vietnamese beer, "Bier 33" or "ba moi ba." See "Tiger Piss" below.

782 gear -- A Marine's basic combat gear (excluding weapons) listed on form 782. This included your pack, web belt, helmet, canteens, first aid kit, etc.

95th Evac -- The 95th Evacuation Hospital, a U.S. Army hospital in Danang that treated some 2nd CAG wounded and many Vietnamese miliary and civilian wounded.

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A

AFVN -- The call sign for Armed Forces Viet Nam, the U.S. military radio station we picked up in I Corps. They played some great music, plus lots of information on where to go for R&R, avoiding venereal disease, how to be polite to the Vietnamese, etc. My favorite feature was the "Chicken Man" comedy skits. (Bawk-Bawk-Bawk-BAWK! "He's everywhere! He's everywhere!")

AK-47 -- Warsaw Pact or Chinese-made 7.62x39mm semi- or fully automatic assault rifle with a 30-round magazine. A standard weapon for VC main force battalions and NVA units. The AK was robust and reliable with a high rate of fire. The AK stands for Avtomat (automatic) Kalashnikov (the Russian designer).

an cop -- "ann copp" (VN) -- To steal.

AO -- "ay-oh" -- Area of Operations, also TAO (Tactical Area of Operations) or TAOR (Tactical Area of Responsibility). Each CAP had near-complete freedom of movement in its defined AO. We were supposed to ask permission to operate outside our AO.

ao dai -- (VN) -- I have no idea how to properly pronounce this word since I've heard several different "American" pronunciations. The ao dai is the traditional women's dress of Vietnam with a mandarin collar, tight-fitting top and long skirt split up both sides -- worn over loose black trousers. Very graceful.

actual -- Code name used in 7th CACO to designate a unit leader. The captain of 7th CACO was the company "actual," and the corporal or sergeant heading our CAP was our "actual."

anh -- "on" (VN) -- Personal pronoun for addressing a young man, i.e. "Chao anh."

arty -- Artillery, cannons. Most common were 105mm (diameter) howitzers, then the really big guns, the 155mm howitzers. I've heard there were 175mm and 8-inch howitzers in I Corps, but never encountered them.

ARVN -- "arvin" -- Army of the Republic of Viet Nam. The South Vietnamese Army.

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B

B-40 -- A shoulder-fired anti-tank rocket used by the VC and NVA, similar to the RPG-7. In November, 1970, CAP 2-7-2 captured a new B-40 that had been manufactured in the Soviet Union in 1969.

ba -- "bah" (VN) -- An older woman.

bac bac -- "bock-bock" -- (VN?) -- To fight. I don't know if this is an actual Vietnamese word or just slang. In the pidgin "Vietnamese" we used, the NVA were called "bac Viet."

bac si -- "bock-see" -- (VN) Doctor, usually used in reference to a CAP's Navy corpsman, the closest thing to a doctor most villagers ever saw. I remember reading somewhere that Dien Ban Province had 180,000 people and no doctors.

beaucoup -- "boo-koo" -- (FR) Lots, many.

betel nut -- "beetle-nut" -- Vietnamese chew the nut from the betel palm for its mild narcotic effect and lots of dark red spit. If chewed for months or years, it turns the teeth black -- not attractive. Some Vietnamese men chewed betel, but it was more often used by women, especially in the countryside.

bird -- Military slang -- Any aircraft, rotary or fixed wing.

blue line -- A stream. On a standard military map streams were represented by a blue line.

bo doi -- "boe-doy" (VN) -- I'm told this is what the NVA called themselves, the way Marines called themselves grunts.

booby trap -- Military slang. Any one of a huge variety of explosive devices, often homemade, hidden and designed to kill or wound when an unsuspecting Marine or RF hit the tripwire (triggering device). The VC mastered the art of using booby traps and we used many tricks to avoid them. Deadliest of all were the "command-detonated" booby traps -- an explosive device alongside a trail set off by a hidden VC when Marines walked by. Late in 1970 we got an order from above to stop calling them "booby traps" in official reports -- we were supposed to start calling them "surprise firing devices."

boots -- Marine slang. New boots. New guys, greenhorns. In the most negative usage, "clueless idiots."

bouncing betty -- A land mine that, when triggered, shoots an explosive charge up about waist high where it detonates.

bravo -- The second letter in the USMC phonetic alphabet -- also the second-in-command of a CAP unit, i.e., "Tell your bravo to take a six-man patrol to the blue line."

brothers -- Street slang. Blacks. African-Americans. Also "soul brothers" and "bros" (broes). Having only my experience as a guide, I don't think the racial conflicts that troubled some U.S. units in Vietnam were a factor in the CAPs. CAPs were small, so they tended to be close-knit and interdependent groups with no "outsiders" defined by race or other factors.

bu cac toi -- "boo-cock-toy" (VN) -- A very nasty phrase, guaranteed to offend any Vietnamese speaker.

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C

C-4 -- A U.S. military plastic explosive that came in one kilo (2.2 lbs), plastic-wrapped bricks packed into 40-pound "det kits" with detonating cord and time fuse. Stable, malleable and powerful, we used it to make various size charges to blow up dud ordnance and bunkers. C-4 burns with a bright, hot flame and a golf ball-sized chunk will heat a canteen cup full of water to a low boil for coffee or soup. C-4 is very safe to carry -- you could hit it with a hammer or shoot a bullet through it without harm -- but the blasting caps needed to set it off were a different matter.

cac -- "cock" (VN) -- Penis. In the early days, the CAP program was called the "CAC (Combined Action Company) Program," leading to understandable merriment among the Vietnamese.

CACO -- Combined Action Company. CAP 2-7-2 was an element of 7th CACO.

CAF -- Combined Action Force. The umbrella organization over the Combined Action Groups was part of the 3rd Marine Amphibious Force headquartered in Da Nang.

CAG -- Combined Action Group. At the peak, there were four numbered CAGs. CAP 2-7-2 was an element of 2nd CAG based in Hoi An.

CAP -- Combined Action Platoon (sometimes Combined Action Program). The basic tactical unit of the Combined Action Force, consisting of one squad of Marines (12-14 men) and two or three squads of PFs or RFs.

can cuoc -- "can cook" (VN) -- Identification card. Daytime patrols frequently stopped civilians to check their government-issued ID cards. On rare occasions, you'd find a forgery and the civilian was sent up the chain of command for questioning as a VCS.

CH-53 -- A large cargo and troop carrying helicopter used by the Marine Corps, nicknamed the "Sea Stallion." I think the Air Force also had a variation of this chopper, but I don't know what numerical designation they used.

chao -- "chow" (VN) -- Hello.

chieu hoi -- "choo-hoy" -- (VN) Literally, "Open arms." A program to encourage VC and NVA to "rally" (change sides) to the South Vietnamese government forces.

chicom -- "chie-com" -- A crudely made grenade used by the VC or NVA. The ones I saw had a "potato masher" design -- a cylindrical cast-iron body filled with explosives and mounted on a wooden handle. The fuse was lit by pulling a string that ran down through the handle.

Chinook -- The CH-47, a large, double-rotor troop and cargo carrying helicopter used by the Army, nicknamed the "Shithook" or the "Hook." The Marines had a similar chopper, the CH-46, officially nicknamed the Sea Knight. However, Chinook and the less polite nicknames were often applied to the CH-46 as well.

chopper -- Any type of helicopter.

claymore -- A U.S.-made command detonated anti-personnel mine, about the size of a large paperback book with scissor-like metal "legs" to hold it upright. When detonated, the claymore fired 700 steel balls in a deadly swath like a giant shotgun. Basically a defensive weapon, CAPs used claymores quite a bit.

clusterfuck -- Marine slang -- A clusterfuck was any group of Marines big enough to draw enemy fire, or several Marines close enough together to be wounded by the same incoming round. More generically, a clusterfuck was something that was all screwed up, i.e. "That blocking operation was a giant clusterfuck!" Whenever three or more CAP Marines gathered in the open, talking or working on something, somebody was sure to call out "clusterfuck!" and one or more guys would walk away.

co -- "coe" (VN) -- A young or unmarried woman.

CO -- Commanding Officer.

Cobra -- A U.S. helicopter designed for ground attack. Also called the "Snake" or, generically, a "gunship." Cobras were armed with 2.75-inch rockets, machine guns and 40mm grenade launchers. Unlike most choppers, the co-pilot sat in front of the pilot, not side-by-side.

corpsman -- "coreman" -- A U.S. Navy enlisted "hospitalman" assigned to provide medical care in Marine Corps units, Navy hospitals and hospital ships. Virtually all corpsmen were nicknamed "Doc." These guys were the Marine equivalent of Army "medics" and a good corpsman was worth his weight in gold in the bush. Not only did they provide routine medical care far from the nearest doctor, but if you were wounded they kept you alive until a medevac chopper could get you to a hospital. During MEDCAPs, they also provided the only medical care most of our Vietnamese villagers ever experienced.

C-rations -- U.S. military field rations. These made up most of our diet in the CAPs although we also ate Vietnamese food. C-rats came by the case, with 12 boxed meals in each case. Each individual cardboard box contained two or three small green cans with entrees, fruit, and cheese and crackers or peanut butter and crackers. Each box also contined a plastic "utility pack" with salt, pepper, chewing gum, instant coffee, instant cocoa, toilet paper, matches cigarettes and a plastic spoon. The peaches, pears and fruit cocktail were popular. The only entrees I recall were "beefsteak," "beans and franks," "turkey loaf," "spaghetti and meatballs" and "ham and lima beans" -- derided as "ham and mother------s."

CS -- A type of powerful tear gas available in "CS grenades." We didn't carry gas masks, so use of these was limited. In theory, you could drop one in a bunker and whoever was inside would come out.

cyclo -- "sick-low" (French?) -- A cyclo was a motorcyle with a small, two-wheeled passenger compartment grafted on in place of the rear wheel. Cyclos plied Highway 1 from dawn to dusk, providing transportation for anybody with a few dong. When you wanted to go from CAP 2-7-2 to Hoi An or 7th CACO, you walked to the highway and flagged one down. They didn't like stopping for Marines, because we were big and heavy and many Marines would not pay the fare. Firing a few rounds in the air usually brought them to a halt.

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D

dap -- An elaborate, stylized handshake used mostly among black Americans in Vietnam. In CAP 2-7-2 we had our own special dap.

dau -- "dow" (VN) -- Pain. I'm not sure about this one, but I remember an old woman at a MEDCAP pointing to her head and saying "beaucoup dau," meaning a big headache.

det cord -- Detonating cord, a long, thin flexible plastic tube packed with explosive (PETN). Exploding at 25,000 feet per second, det cord was used to get simultaneous explosions from widely spaced charges, such as multiple claymores. It was also used to fell trees by wrapping three turns per foot of tree diameter around the tree.

di di -- "dee-dee" (VN) Go. Also "di di mau len," go quickly.

diddybop -- Slang -- To walk, sometimes to run. For example, "That little guy was diddybopping down the trail all alone."

dien cai dau -- "dinky-dow" (VN) Crazy.

dong -- (VN) -- A unit of Vietnamese money roughly equivalent to a U.S. penny. The only reason I remember this is, I have a 100 dong banknote among my souvenirs, or "Mot Tram Dong" (One hundred dong).

do mau my -- "doe mammy" (VN) -- I don't know the literal translation, but we used this to mean "mother----er."

doughnut dollies -- Military slang. Red Cross or USO staff. Young American women who volunteered to spend a year in Vietnam providing morale-building services to the troops -- and I don't mean anything carnal. The Red Cross (maybe it was USO?) used to send pairs of these girls to 7th CACO and each CAP would be radioed to send a man to CACO to meet with them. As I recall, we talked, played word games and they handed out envelopes and writing paper and such. 7th CACO was later deemed too dangerous and they weren't allowed to come anymore.

dung lai -- "dung-lie" (VN) -- Stop.

Dustoff -- Call sign for a Da Nang-based unit of Army medevac choppers. Flying ambulances. I remember getting 'Dustoff 9' and 'Dustoff 12' for medevacs. We loved those guys. They'd land in the middle of a shitstorm of fire to fly out your wounded.

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E

em -- "em" (VN) -- A child.

E-tool -- Military slang. Excavating tool. A small folding shovel used mainly for digging fighting holes. The best ones had a solid wooden handle and the shovel blade could be fixed at a right angle to the handle, with a "pick" sticking out the other way to break up hard packed dirt.

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F

fire base -- A fort built specifically to house one or more batteries of artillery. Some fire bases were temporary set-ups designed to support one operation in a specific area. Others were heavily fortified semi-permanent bases designed to lend continuing artillery support to a large surrounding area.

firefight -- Military slang -- A fight or skirmish between ground units. A firefight could be two guys shooting at each other with rifles, or several dozen blasting away with everything we had.

fire in the hole -- Military slang, probably borrowed from miners. This means "Look out, I'm getting ready to set off an explosion (grenade, C-4, LAAW, etc.)

fixed wing -- Also "fixed wing air" or "fast movers" -- Air Force, Marine and Navy jet fighters or fighter/bombers used to drop bombs and napalm in support of ground troops. Rarely used by the CAPs because they were not especially accurate at putting bombs on the ground. If you were within 500 meters of the target, you WERE the target.

flak jacket -- Also called body armor. A vest made of bullet-resistant Kevlar and nylon, designed to stop fragments from grenades, rockets and booby traps. In theory, a flak jacket would stop some bullets, or at least slow them down. Marine flak jackets had nice, big pockets that would hold grenades or rifle magazines. The padded shoulers kept pack and equipment straps from rubbing your shoulders bloody.

flechette -- A small metal arrow used as a projectile in M-79 anti-personnel rounds and some direct-fire artillery shells.

frag -- A U.S.-made M-26 fragmentation grenade, similar in design to the U.S. "pineapple" grenade made famous in World War II, but with a smooth outer case.

freedom bird -- Military slang for the plane that carried you back to the U.S. When a Marine rotated home, it was said he "made his bird" or "made his freedom bird."

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G

gook -- Military slang. A negative nickname for the Vietnamese, VC or any oriental. Also, "dinks, slopes, zips." Few CAP Marines used these terms. Most had too much respect for the villagers and even the VC.

green eye -- Military slang for a night vision device that magnified available light 10,000 times. See "Starlight scope." Viewed through a "Starlight," shadows looked black and lights and light colored objects looked green.

grunt -- Military slang -- An infantryman, a ground-pounder, a GI, a dogface, a doughboy. This nickname started with the Marines in Vietnam and eventually spread out to mean Army infantry as well.

gunships -- The Army pioneered the use of Hueys armed with 2.75-inch rocket launchers and machine guns for ground attack. Other Army units and the Marines used Cobra helicopters with similar armament. Gunships were considered more accurate and therefore more desirable than "fixed wing air."

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H

ha si -- "hah-see" (VN) -- A rank equivalent to corporal.

het roi -- "het-roy" (VN) -- Our interpreter translated this phrase as "finished already." Also, done for, dead.

hoa ky -- "whah-kee" (VN) -- The United States, at least that's how we used it in CAP 2-7-2. An RF with a smattering of English once told me "hoa ky" meant "peace land."

homes -- Street slang -- Homeboy, homie, buddy, friend.

hootch -- Military slang. Used generically, a dwelling. On a U.S. base, a hootch was usually a rectangular building made of 2x4s and plywood with a corrugated tin roof. Also used in reference to Vietnamese civilian houses.

Huey -- Military slang for the standard U.S. troop and cargo helicopter, designated the UH-1. or Utility Helicopter-1.

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I

illumination -- Or just "illum." Military slang for parachute flares from a variety of sources used to illuminate the nighttime battlefield. Illumination could come from artillery and mortar shells, or be dropped from aircraft. The "flareships" or "lightships" were the best. Slow-moving propeller-powered aircraft, they dropped long strings of extremely bright, slow-falling parachute flares that turned night into day.

in country -- Military slang meaning "In Vietnam," i.e. "How long have you been in country?"

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J

job -- Street slang, work, doings, i.e. "I'm on the job, man. I'm takin' care of business. I'm on the Jay-Oh-Bee! Keep your shit together or, Charlie will do a JOB on your young ass!"

Jody -- Military slang first recorded in the Assyrian army about 2,500 years B.C. "Jody" was the draft-dodging wimp who was dating your girlfriend, eating your mama's home cooking and petting your dog while you were in Vietnam. Bill Clinton and Newt Gingrich were "Jodies."

jungle boots -- A lightweight combat boot designed for the hot, wet conditions in Vietnam. The "foot" was made of leather, but with holes in the instep for ventilation and water drainage. The "upper" was made of lightweight, tough nylon and canvas. A thin, flexible piece of steel was incorporated in the sole to deflect punji sticks and give some protection against mines. Jungle boots were much preferred to the heavy all-leather combat boots designed for "stateside" use.

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K

K-Bar -- A Marine combat knife.

khong biet -- "cum byet" -- (VN) I don't understand. I used this one a lot.

KIA -- Killed In Action.

killer team -- These were small two- to four-man patrols that wandered the villes at night, silent and lightly armed, hunting for VC. Eventually we got a directive to stop calling them killer teams and call them "security patrols" instead. Wouldn't want to offend anybody by hinting there was a war on.

Kit Carson Scout -- These were VC or NVA soldiers who surrendered and agreed to serve with American units. Some KCS hated their former comrades and fought very actively. We had a rather timid KCS in CAP 2-7-2 named "Gia" who just wanted to survive. We sometimes consulted him on VC tactics or thinking, but mostly he just tagged along trying to stay out of the way.

klick -- Military slang for a kilometer, 1,000 meters or .62 of a mile.

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L

LAAW -- Light Assault Anti-tank Weapon (M-72), a single-use, shoulder-fired 66mm high explosive anti-tank rocket used by CAP Marines for antipersonnel bombardment. Noisy, not very accurate.

la dai -- "lah-die" (VN) -- Come here.

long rats -- Military slang. Dehydrated rations sometimes called LRRP (Long Range Reconaissance Patrol) rations because the reconaissance patrols used them. They were lighter and easier to carry than C-rations.

LZ -- Landing Zone for helicopters.

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M

M-1 -- The U.S. military's standard semiautomatic rifle during World War II and Korea. It fired a .30-caliber bullet from an 8-round clip. At 10.5 pounds the M-1 was nearly as big and heavy as the M-14, many of these were used by the South Vietnamese army, various RF and PF units, and even the Viet Cong.

M-1 carbine -- A U.S.-made World War II and Korean-era semi-automatic, .30-caliber carbine (basically a rifle that fires a pistol bullet) with a 15-round magazine. These, too, found their way to the ARVNs, RFs, PFs and the VC.

M-2 carbine -- Essentially identical to the M-1 carbine described above, except this model was capable of fully automatic fire.

M-14 -- The U.S. military's standard main battle rifle from the early 1950s to the mid-60s. The M-14 fired a 7.62x52mm cartridge like the one fired by the M-60 machine gun. It had a 20-round magazine. The M-14 was big, heavy (nearly 12 pounds) and was not capable of fully-automatic fire. Although superb for long range accuracy, the M-14 was not a good weapon for the terrain and tactics in Vietnam.

NOTE: Jay Trina caught the "glitch" in this, and he sent the following correction. Thanks, Jay.

The M-14 rifle with a selector is completely capable of fully automatic fire. This is what distinguishes it from the civilian M-1A version.

M-16 -- The standard 5.56mm semi- or full-automatic assault rifle used by the U.S. and South Vietnamese military forces. It had a 20-round magazine and weighed about 7.5 pounds. The M-16 was controversial when first introduced in the mid-60s because it tended to jam and required careful maintenance. But I considered later models of the M-16 nearly ideal for our stealthy war in the paddies and treelines.

M-60 -- The standard 7.62x52mm fully automatic, air-cooled light machine gun used by the U.S. and South Vietnamese military forces weighed about 23 pounds without ammo, which came in 100-round linked belts and every fifth round was a "tracer." Usually supported by a bipod, the M-60 barrel could overheat and wear out with sustained use, but it was easily replaced. Machine gunners were subspecialists and "carrying the gun" was also referred to as "carrying the pig" because of its unwieldy weight.

M-79 -- The standard U.S. and South Vietnamese single shot 40mm grenade launcher, also called the "bloop gun" for its distinctive firing sound, or the "elephant gun" for its unique shape. It could fire high explosive fragmentation grenades, parachute flares or shotgun-like flechette rounds. The "blooper" was light weight, but the ammunition was heavy and our grenadiers sometimes carried up to 140 rounds.

MEDCAP -- Medical Civil Action Programs were periodic medical clinics most CAPs held for the Vietnamese in their villes. The Navy corpsman was our "doctor," treating everything from headaches to jungle ulcers, lancing boils, stitching cuts. We used a lot of peroxide, bandages and penicillin. Some corpsmen did more than others, depending on their particular level of medical skill.

medevac -- Medical evacuation, usually by helicopter.

MIA -- Missing In Action.

mike-mike -- Military slang. Radio code for "millimeter." A radio operator might call CACO to report his CAP was "... taking incoming 60 mike-mike mortar fire."

mortars -- Simple steel tubes on baseplates, supported by bipods, in 60mm, 81mm and 4.2-inch ("four-deuce") diameters. You just aimed the tube and dropped a mortar shell down the hole. A firing pin at the bottom ignited the propellant charge and the shell was flung out with a huge blast. Mortars lobbed their shells in very high arcs, coming down on the target even if it was behind a hill or trees. Stationary CAPs sometimes had mortars, mobile CAPs rarely did. They were a favorite weapon of the main force VC and the NVA because of their simplicity, destructive power and relative portability.

MOS -- Military Occupational Specialty. These were designated by numbers. The infantry MOS was 0311.

mot -- "mote" (VN) -- The number "1." The other numbers I remember are:
"hai" -- 2
"ba" -- 3
"bon" -- 4
"nam" -- 5
"shau" -- 6
"bai" -- 7
"thom" -- 8
"chin" -- 9
"muey" -- 10

mot phuc -- "mote fuke" (VN) -- One minute, or wait a minute.

MPC -- Military Payment Certificates or "funny money." The U.S. military in Vietnam printed MPCs in denominations from 5 cents to $20 for American personnel to spend at PXs or clubs in lieu of U.S. currency. It was illegal to use U.S. greenbacks, but there was intense black market demand for them just the same. I once had my parents send me a $5 bill, which our local black marketer recognized immediately. She offered me $15 in MPC or merchandise for my sawbuck.

mua -- "moo-ah" (VN) -- Rain.

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N

NCOIC -- Non-Commissioned Officer In Charge.

nghia quan -- (VN) -- term for our Popular Forces

non la -- (VN) -- The traditional Vietnamese conical hat, made out of rice straw.

nuoc -- "noo-uk" (VN) -- Water.

nuoc mam -- (VN) -- Fermented fish sauce -- an element of nearly every Vietnamese meal. This stuff was spicy, strong and fishy. Few of us ever acquired a taste for it.

number one -- Military slang. Number one was the best, number 10 was the worst. Really bad was "You number ten thousand!"

NVA -- Our shorthand for the North Vietnamese Army. I think they called themselves the People's Army of Viet Nam.

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O

omh -- "ome" (VN) -- Personal pronoun for addressing an older man.

OV-10 -- Nicknamed the Bronco, the OV-10 was a twin-engine propeller-driven spotter airplane for air strikes, armed with 20mm cannon and WP rockets for marking targets. I believe the OV-10 was "flown" by actor Danny Glover in a Vietnam War movie called "BAT-21" starring Gene Hackman.

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P

P-38 -- Military slang. A tiny can opener provided with C-rations.

phonetic alphabet -- The Marine Corps used a phonetic alphabet for spelling or coding messages sent via radio. Alpha=A, Bravo=B, Charlie=C, Delta=D, Echo=E, Foxtrot=F, Golf=G, Hotel=H, India=I, Juliet=J, Kilo=K, Lima=L, Mike=M, November=N, Oscar=O, Papa=P, Quebec=Q, Romeo=R, Sierra=S, Tango=T, Uniform=U, Victor=V, Whiskey=W, X-ray=X, Yankee=Y, Zebra=Z.

piastres -- A small unit of Vietnamese currency, also called just "P," i.e. "Loan me 500 P until payday?"

PFs -- Popular Forces, militia soldiers of the Republic of South Vietnam, usually without uniforms, armed with a hodgepodge of old weapons, they had even less training and support than the RFs.

PRC-10 -- A U.S.-made military field radio that was heavier and had less range than the PRC-25 described below.

PRC-25 -- The "Prick-25" was the standard backpack field radio for most Marine units. It came with a 4-foot metal "tape" antenna for use on the move, and a 10-foot, collapsible "whip" antenna for stationary use.

phuc kich -- "fook-kick" (VN) -- Ambush.

point -- Or "point man." When a patrol or unit traveled single file, the first guy in line was called the "point." I've heard some Army veterans talk about putting new guys at point because "walking point" was such a high-risk job. In CAP 2-7-2, we put our best guy on point -- somebody savvy enough to sniff out danger and avoid ambushes. I've also heard the #2 guy in line called the "slack" man and the last man in line called the "drag" man.

poncho liner -- A military issue warm weather "blanket" designed to be tied to the grommets in a waterproof military poncho and used as bedding. Poncho liners were a thin sandwich of polyester batting between camouflage nylon covers. They were great for sleeping in a tropical climate because you could cover your head against mosquitoes and still breathe through the porous material. They dried quickly and provided some warmth even when damp.

pop-up -- These were small, single-use flares for illumination, or "star clusters" for signalling. Pop-ups were aluminum cylinders roughly a foot long and two inches in diameter. You removed the cap from one end, slipped it over the other end and struck that end sharply against the ground or slapped it with your open hand. A small rocket shot out of the open end, went up about 200 feet, then blew open as a parachute flare or showered burning colored "star clusters."

PRU -- Provisional Reconaissance Units.

Puff the Magic Dragon -- See "spooky."

punji sticks -- Sharpened wooden or bamboo sticks or metal spikes. The VC planted these in the trailside grass or "punji pits" -- shallow holes in the ground camouflaged with grass or leaves. If you happened to step into a punji pit, your foot could be pierced by one or several punji sticks, sometimes smeared with feces to promote infection. A "poor man's" booby trap, nobody ever got killed by a punji stick, but they could cause some painful wounds. Stationary CAPs often used punji sticks to supplement their barbed wire defenses.

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Q

quad-fifties -- Or quad-50s. Four .50-caliber machine guns on a single mount aiming them in the same direction, usually bolted onto a truck bed. I never saw a quad-fifty, but I heard they could be devastating.

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R

reaction force -- Reinforcements. The CAPs in 7th Co. were often close enough to provide "react" when a neighboring CAP was attacked.

red line -- A road. A paved road on a standard military map was represented by a red line.

RFs -- Regional Forces, Republic of South Vietnam soldiers usually not as well-trained, led or supplied as regular ARVN units. Most CAPs in 7th CACO were teamed with RF platoons. We considered the RFs a little bit better in military skills than the PFs that were part of many CAPs, but they had fewer local connections. They weren't operating in their own village like most PFs.

REMF -- Pronounced like it's spelled, a Rear Echelon Mother F----r. A REMF was anybody above you in the command/supply chain -- anybody who could get a new t-shirt or pair of socks when you couldn't; anybody who slept on a bed instead of the ground.

round eye -- Military slang. An American or European.

R&R -- Rest and Recreation, vacation. Sometime during your one-year tour in Vietnam, you got a week of R&R outside the country. R&R sites included Hong Kong, Taipei, Sydney, Tokyo, Bangkok, Hawaii and Singapore.

RPD -- The standard 7.62x39mm Warsaw Pact light machine gun used by the VC and NVA. Like the M-60, the barrel was supported with a bipod. Unlike the M-60, the RPD could be fed by an ammo drum as well as linked belts.

RPG-7 -- Rocket-propelled grenade, model 7. The standard Warsaw Pact shoulder-fired anti-tank rocket launcher. Both the main force VC and NVA used quite a few of these. They were less common among the 'village' VC. A similar but less common model anti-tank rocket launcher was the B-40.

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S

saddle up -- Military slang. Get your gear on and get ready to move out.

same same -- Slang, the same as, i.e., "You same-same crazy man."

Sanctuary -- The U.S.S. Sanctuary was a World War II-era U.S. Navy hospital ship stationed in the South China Sea off the coast of Vietnam. I've heard there was another hospital ship called the Repose, but never known anybody who was actually on it.

sang -- (VN) -- A tall, leafy plant cultivated in Vietnam for its starchy edible roots. This was a minor crop. The major crops in our part of Dien Ban District were rice and tobacco.

sappers -- Skilled VC or NVA infiltrators sent to damage fixed defenses before an attack.

SeaBees -- CBs or Navy Construction Battalions. These guys built bases, roads, airstrips ... whatever needed building for the Navy and Marines. They had the best-built hootches and great access to supplies. You could trade battle souvenirs to them in return for food, booze and equipment.

shackle sheet -- A list of codes used to decipher orders that could not be radioed "in the clear."

shitbird -- Military slang. A shitbird was a guy who slept on watch, stole from his buddies, offended the Vietnamese and generally shirked his duties.

short -- Military slang meaning you had only a few days or a couple of weeks left on your tour in Vietnam. "I'm too short to shit," was a common expression meaning if you stopped to take a shit you would miss your flight home. If you had nine months left in your tour, and your buddy had 10 months left, you were "shorter" than him. There were many common riffs on this theme, i.e., "I'm shorter than Tom Thumb." "But I'm shorter than Tinkerbelle," etc. When guys got down to their last few days, it was considered bad luck for them or anyone else to talk about them being short. There were many tall stories about guys killed when they were short.

sit-rep -- Situation report. 7th CACO radioed each CAP for a sit-rep hourly through the night. Sometimes a CAP would radio a patrol for a sit-rep. I've forgotten the code for "Things are okay here." Often, the man on the radio would just key the handset for a second, telling CACO "okay" by transmitting nothing. That kept noise to a minimum.

six-by -- The standard U.S. military truck with six-by-six-wheel-drive.

skate -- Street slang. To get along smoothly, with ease, no friction, i.e. "I'm skating, bro', nothing to do every day but a couple hours radio watch." Also, "I'm gonna skate and rotate!" (I'm gonna slide on home!)

sky -- Street slang. To run, to flee, i.e. "He skyed as soon as we opened fire.

SKS -- The SKS-56, a Chinese-made 7.62x39mm semi-automatic rifle with a 10-round magazine. Often used by VC local forces, all those I saw had bayonets. SKSs were valued souvenirs because, in theory, you could get approval to take one back to the World. We captured more AK-47s, but they could not be taken back to the World because they were capable of fully automatic fire.

slick -- Military slang (Army?) -- An unarmed or lightly armed Huey used mostly for ferrying troops and cargo. CAP Marines didn't spend much time riding around in helicopters since we were permanently based in small areas.

sniper check -- Marine slang -- If a buddy lit a cigarette in the open after dark we hollered "SNIPER CHECK!" to remind him he was performing that important, if dangerous, military function. Even in daytime, a guy standing motionless in the open was considered to be checking for snipers.

song -- "shung" (VN) -- River.

souvenir -- Military slang. To give. Used as a verb, i.e., "Souvenir me that can of soda."

spooky -- Military slang -- Large, propeller-powered aircraft used for ground bombardment. They were also sometimes called "Puff the Magic Dragon." The first models were ancient C-47 (DC-3) cargo planes armed with side-pointing, electrically driven "gatling" mini-guns capable of firing 6,000 7.62mm bullets every minute. Later versions were C-130s armed with miniguns, mortars, even 105mm cannon.

Starlight scope -- Or just "Starlight." An early version of the night vision equipment used today by the U.S. military. The Starlight looked like an extra-long, fat telescopic sight and was designed to be mounted like one on an M-16. More often, we used it as a night telescope. It magnified available light 10,000 times. You could see a lit cigarette from 200 yards.

smoke -- Smoke grenades were the size and shape of a beer can with a grenade fuse stuck in the top. When "discharged," thick, colored smoke poured out of a hole in the bottom. Smoke was used to mark landing zones for helicopters in the daytime. As I recall, smoke came in purple, white, red, green and yellow. Mortar and artillery shells could also provide smoke for concealment, but I never saw any used in Vietnam.

squid -- Marine slang -- A Navy guy.

strobe -- A very bright, pocket-sized strobe light used to mark helicopter landing zones at night.

sung luc -- "shung look" (VN) -- Pistol.

sung truong -- "shung trung" (VN) -- Rifle.

Swedish K -- A lightweight, 9mm submachine gun with a 30-round magazine and a folding wire stock that was made in Sweden. The "word" was these were popular with the CIA. The only time I ever saw one it was being carried by a Marine intelligence officer of some kind.

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T

tai shau -- "tie-show" (VN) -- Why, how come?

ten yi -- "ten-yee" (VN) -- Give me.

NOTE: John Sallinger says, "Nooooo......I don't think so."

I know nothing....it was all Greek to me....I'm posting them both. The majority rules!

I was looking throught the glossary just now- under T- at "ten yi", you have it as "give me". I am pretty sure that ten yi is your name, i.e. "Co ten yi" would be asking a lady her name. Give me is "Cho toi". (spelling?) Tet -- The biggest holiday of the Vietnamese calendar, usually marked by a nationwide truce. The NVA and VC broke the truce in Tet of 1968, launching widespread surprise attacks on U.S. and South Vietnamese military and political targets. Initially surprised and often overrun, U.S. and ARVN forces eventually decimated the attackers and regained control of the disputed areas. Tet of '68 was a huge military failure and a huge public relations success for the Communists.

Tiger Piss -- Military slang. This was a common brand of Vietnamese beer with a colorful snarling Tiger on the label. My memory is uncertain, but this stuff may be the same as Bier 333.

NOTE: Jay Trina says there's a "glitch" in this, and he sent the following correction. Thanks, Jay.

Tiger Piss is not Bier 333. Tiger Piss was "Tiger Beer" brewed in Vietnam. Bier 333 was a French made beer.

NOTE: don't look to me to settle this issue! It all tasted like Tiger Piss to me.

ti ti -- "tee-tee" (VN) -- Small, little.

toe popper -- Military slang. A simple booby trap made by slipping a bullet into a short length of small pipe and burying the pipe on a trail or paddy dike so the nose of the bullet barely breaks the surface. When someone steps on the nose of the bullet, it's pressed down against a nail or other simple firing pin in the bottom of the pipe. The bullet explodes. Rarely fatal, toe poppers could ruin your boot, give you a broken ankle, or cost you a toe.

toi -- "toy" (VN) -- Me.

trung huy -- "trung-wee" (VN) -- A rank equivalent to captain (O-3?).

trung si -- "trung-see" (VN) -- A rank equivalent to sergeant (E-5).

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U

UH-1 -- A "Huey" utility helicopter, used mostly by the Army.

UH-34 -- A utility helicopter used mostly by the Marines in the early days in Vietnam. It was replaced by the CH-46.

Unit One -- Corpsman's Medical Kit.

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V

VC -- Viet Cong (Vietnamese Communist), also Victor Charles, Charlie, Charles, Chuck, Mr. Charles and My Man Chuck.

VCI -- Viet Cong Infrastructure. The people and organizations that made up the Viet Cong. The VC had parrallel political and military organizations at each level from hamlet to village on up to district and province. Eliminating the VCI was a major goal of the CAP program.

VCS -- Viet Cong suspects. Since the VC didn't wear uniforms or carry ID, any peasant could be a VC. VCS were sent elsewhere for questioning by people who were better at separating the good guys from the bad guys.

Viet Minh -- "viet-min" (VN) -- Vietnamese nationalist guerrilla organization that fought the Japanese occupation and the French colonialists. This organization was taken over by Communists and became the Viet Cong.

ville -- "vill" -- French word for village.

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W

wakeup -- Military slang -- A "wakeup" used as a noun could be a morning or a day, i.e., "I've got 10 days and a wakeup before I go on R&R." That meant you would leave for R&R the 11th day.

WESTPAC -- Marine jargon -- "I've got orders for WESTPAC," meant you were headed for Japan, Okinawa, Guam or Vietnam -- in the Western Pacific command.

WIA -- Wounded In Action.

willie peter -- White phosphorous or WP; any mortar or artillery shells or rockets containing white phosphorous; when WP munitions exploded there was a bright white light, white smoke and sparks because WP burns on exposure to the air. Good for marking targets for artillery or air strikes. I think willie peter was also available in grenades, but I never saw any.

World -- Marine slang for the U.S. Anybody who rotated home was going "back to the World."

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X

xin loi -- "sin loy" (VN) -- I'm sorry (I apologize).

XO -- Executive officer. Second-in-command.

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Y

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Z

zapped -- Military slang. Shot or killed. Also, "dinged," "wasted."

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