Combat Communications 1


Tim "CAPVet" Duffie
CAC Papa 2/4, 1967

"This is Rambo 1...I can't hear you...repeat your last...over!"

With that comment, true warriors, those who honed their fighting skills someplace other than Sweden during the Vietnam War, turn to the person next to them and whisper, "Repeat is only used for artillery!"

In all aspects of life there is a snobbery in doing something well...doing it right....and holding those lesser mortals in contempt when they screw it up. Such is the case with combat communications. Those of us who did it, and did it well, take great pride in our craft. Even today, 35 years later, comrades will comment regarding various times when accurately placed artillery saved our lives.

I take great pride in that.

Combat communications is a relatively refined "art" form primarily designed to eliminate potentially fatal misunderstandings. When the bullets were flying, and the "pucker factor" was up in the 99% zone, there was no time for, "Was that 'p' as in putrid...or 'd' as in desparate?" The phonetic alphabet eliminated that problem by assigning each letter a specific that sounded like none other:

Alpha ... Bravo ... Charlie ... Delta ... Echo ... Foxtrot ... Golf ... Hotel ... India ... Juliet ... Kilo ... Lima (Leema) ... Mike ... November ... Oscar ... Papa ... Quebec (Kee-bec)... Romeo ... Sierra ... Tango ... Uniform ... Victor ... Whiskey ... Xray ... Yankee ... Zulu

Additionally, calling in coordinates for med-evacs, artillery, night ambush locations, and daily patrols, required numerical accuracy to assure there was no accidental contact between friendly units. Therefore, since 5 and 9 can sound similar on a potentially static filled radio...

In the movies, when you hear a combat radioman calling in coordinates as "", etc., you now may be the only person in the theatre who knows, with great authority,'s supposed to be niner!.

As for Sylvester's mistake in the Rambo series, "repeat" was only used for artillery. The actual sequence was...

"Say again your last" is used exclusively when you didn't clearly understand the other party.

Each movie supposedly has a technical expert to monitor such mistakes. One can only wonder who and where the producers found the technical experts for this series of movies.

So, the next time you hear Sylvester Stallone, or any other hard charging warrior/actor screaming over the radio, "....repeat your last....over...." , you can look knowingly at someone near you and say, "Repeat is only used for artillery!"

The following pages are reproductions of some specific incidents submitted by Ted Zoutis, CAP Delta 6. He opens by explaining some of the verbal gymnastics the CAP Units went through after they became mobile. Less well defended than were the early permanent CAPS each night, they established a long set of code words to tell those in the rear where they would be each night.

Hopefully some will find these stories of interest, showing, as they do, the "inside" of the war.

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