This is an incomplete glossary of military slang used during the War in Southeast Asia.

Glossary of Military Terms


Agent Orange a chemical herbicide and defoliant use by the U.S. military to destroy crops or to defoliate enemy sanctuaries.  During the war in Southeast Asia "Operation Ranch Hand" spread Agent Orange from 1961 to 1971.

Alpha Strike a Navy term to describe a major air strike operation involving many aircraft.


Arc Light was the name for a B-52 raid.  Normally, it was composed of two flights of three B-52 bombers.  Generally, each aircraft carried 108 bombs.  Some of which were 750-pound and some were 500-pound bombs.  They dropped from high altitude.  Consequently, people on the ground could not hear them coming until the bombs started to explode.  It was an eye watering thing.

artillery adjustment terms:

·      “Add 100” means to increase the range of the shot along the gun-target line by 100 meters.

·      “Drop 100” means to decrease the range of the shot 100 meters.

·      “Right/Left 100” means to move the shot left or right 100 meters.

·      “Splash“ the time and/or place where the projectile will hit.

·      “Fire for effect” means deliver the requested number of shots as fast as possible.


Army units (Unit sizes vary due to administrative staff and mission):

·      Corps a major army grouping comprised of two or more divisions.  Normally commanded by a 3-star general. (Approximately 30,000 soldiers).

·      Division a large military unit normally comprised 3 brigades or regiments and commanded by a 2-star general. (Approximately 10,000 soldiers).

·      Brigade or Regiment an army unit normally comprised of three battalions.  Often commanded by a 1-star general or colonel. (approximately 3000 soldiers).

·      Battalion an army unit normally comprised 3 companies and commanded by a lieutenant colonel. (approximately 500 soldiers).

·      Company an army unit normally comprised of 3 platoons and commanded by a captain. (approximately 120 soldiers).

·      Platoon an army unit comprised of 3 squads, normally commanded by a lieutenant (approximately 30 soldiers).

·      Squad an army unit normally comprised of 10 soldiers.


AO acronym for Area of Operations.

ARVN an acronym for the Army, Republic of Vietnam.  It is often pronounced ARVIN.

auger-in means to die in an airplane crash.


call sign is the coded name for a unit or person used over the radio.  For example, the Forward Air Controllers of the Americal Division had the name Helix.  A particular FAC might be Helix 21.

CBU an acronym for Cluster Bomb Units, a series of many little bombs dispensed in a cluster or along a line.


"Charlie" a nick name for the Viet Cong.


“cleared hot” the term used by the FAC that gave the attacking pilot clearance to drop live ordnance.


CONUS  an acronym for the Continental United States.


daisy cutter is a large bomb fused to detonate instantaneously on contact and fitted with 30 or so inches of pipe welded to the nose fuse.  Such a bomb will actually detonate on the surface without making a crater.  The objective was to cut down small trees, set-off possible booby traps and create an instant helicopter landing zone.


DASC is an acronym for Direct Air Support Center.  It is the controlling agency for strike aircraft in a given area.


Dust-off the call sign for the medical evacuation helicopters.


FAC  an acronym for Forward Air Controller.


feet wet means to fly along the coast over water, a safe place to fly.


flown West means passed away, deceased, on longer living.


free fire zone an area where political clearance to shoot is not required.


gook a derogatory term for a person of Vietnamese ethnicity


head shed a command center, a headquarters.


High Drags aka Snakeye a bomb fitted with panels that extend when the bomb is dropped.  The panels act to slow the bomb so that the delivery aircraft is able to escape the bomb blast.  Such weapons are delivered from a shallow pass at low altitude and high speed.


“Hit my smoke.” Normally, the FAC marked the target with a white phosphorous smoke rocket.  If his mark was accurate, he could describe where he wanted the bomb to impact by saying, "Hit my smoke."

hooch (also hootch) improvised quarters, often a raised plywood floor surrounded by plywood and screen wire walls and topped with corrugated metal or canvas roof.  (2)
informal for poor quality and/or illicit whiskey.


in-Country the combat zone or theater, specifically Vietnam.


indian country an area controlled by the Viet Cong.


Jack Benny’s age informal code for the number 39.


Jolly Green Giant a nick name for the Sikorsky HH3 search and rescue helicopter.  It cold be refueled in the air, which made it able to rescue downed aircrew deep in enemy territory.


Klick also click informal for 1000 meters or 0.62 miles.


LRRP (pronounced lerp) an acronym for Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol.  Normally an 8-man squad inserted deep in to Viet Cong controlled territory for the purpose of gathering intelligence, not to start a fight.


LZ an acronym for Landing Zone.  A “hot LZ“ is one that is defended.  An LZ Prep an LZ treated with daisy cutters prior to a helicopter troop landing.


MACV acronym for Military Assistance Command Vietnam.


Mark 82 (MK 82) a 500-pound streamlined general purpose bomb developed by the Navy.  It is known as a “slick” unless it is fitted with retarding fins.  Then is known as a high drag or snakeye.


Mark 117 (M-117) a 750-pound general purpose bomb.  It came as a slick or a high drag configuration.


number one means very good, can’t get better, the best.


number ten means very bad, the worse.


people sniffer a device that detects human urine.


Project Ranch Hand the name of the defoliation effort with “Agent Orange.”


“Puff, the Magic Dragon.” aka “Spooky” was a C-47, a World War II vintage cargo plane fitted with three mini-guns.  Each of these guns fired 2,000 rounds per minute.  With such a firing rate, the tracer rounds resembled a red death ray.  It could stay on station for several hours.  Spooky was very successful.  No village or hamlet defended by Spooky was ever lost.


push an army tern for a particular radio frequency.


Sandy call sign for and a generic term for search and rescue efforts of the A1E aircraft out of Pleiku.


short round ordnance that missed it intended target often killing friendly personnel.


Snakeye a bomb fitted with panels that extend to slow the bomb when it is dropped.  See “High Drags.”


“same same” slang for “equals"

TDY an acronym for temporary duty, an assignment of short duration.

"twenty mike mike" informal for twenty millimeter cannon.  Most of the fighters strafed with twenty millimeter cannon or fifty caliber machine guns.

“troops-in-contact” a phrase meaning troops have made contact with the enemy and are engaged in a fire fight.  This phrase raises a request for an immediate air strike to the highest priority.


Tunnel rat a soldier who armed with a flash light and a pistol crawls into the enemy’s tunnel to see what is there.

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