The terms below are words and phrases found in the novel which may not be familiar to the reader. The definitions relate to their usage in the text and are not comprehensive. They are common to the U. S. Army and may be different in other branches of the military.
aide-de-camp – a personal assistant whose responsibility it is to coordinate the personal affairs of the general-grade officer to whom he is appointed. The rank of the aide-de-camp is a function of the rank of the general officer: a 1st lieutenant with brigadier general or major general, for example.
air operations – military activity involving aircraft: most commonly the use of helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft for the tactical support of infantry units in combat or for transportation and logistical support
AK-47 – the standard-issue 7.62 mm assault rifle used by the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese infantry soldier
ao dai – the woman’s traditional Vietnamese tunic-type dress, split up the outside of either leg, usually worn over black trousers, and normally made of white silk
artillery – large caliber weapons that operate by projecting explosives far beyond the range of personal weapons. The branch of the army that customarily operates these weapons
banyan tree – a tree common to southern Asia that puts out aerial shoots that grow down into the soil forming additional trunks
barracks – military housing for enlisted personnel with shared sleeping and bathing facilities
base, base perimeter – a permanent or semi-permanent area used for tactical operations, such as positioning an artillery battery, as a supply depot, or a rear echelon administrative center. The perimeter refers to the man-made defensive position built of a connecting series of protective bunkers and barbed wire fencing.
battery – a tactical unit of artillery consisting of at least 100 officers and men, howitzers, and supporting vehicles and equipment
battalion – a military unit made up of at least two company – or battery-sized units and including headquarters and other supporting units
bayonet – a knife-like weapon designed to fit onto the end of a rifle barrel, effectively turning the rifle into a spear for use in close-quarter combat
B-40 – a variant of the Russian-made, shoulder-held, rocket-propelled grenade launcher used by the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese (see RPG)
Bien Hoa – a city in Dong Nai Province, South Vietnam, about 20 miles (32 km) northeast of Saigon and adjacent to Long Binh Post and the II Field Force compound
billet (transit officer) – housing for military personal. Housing reserved for officers in transit
body bag – a non-porous bag designed to contain a human body, used for the storage and transportation of corpses
boom-boom, boom-boom fever – slang term for sex or the preoccupation with sex
bracket the target – an artillery term referring to the practice of zeroing in on a target before firing for effect
bunker, bunker complex – a shelter, hardened against attack, sometimes buried partly or fully underground, designed to protect the inhabitants, and usually used for a defensive fighting position
Back to Top
cadet battalion commander – ranking student cadet officer in an ROTC (Reserved Officers’ Training Corps) program at college or university
captain – a junior officer military rank one grade above first lieutenant
chopper, chopper pad – slang for helicopter. The landing platform for a helicopter or its associated facilities
colonel (bird, full, lieutenant) – colonel (full or bird) is a senior officer rank just below the rank of brigadier general. Lieutenant colonel is one grade below colonel.
combat ribbons – military decorations in the form of ribbons worn on the uniform to recognize service and personal accomplishments while serving in combat as a member of the U.S. Armed Forces
company (headquarters) – a military unit typically consisting of 75-200 soldiers and usually commanded by a captain and made up of three to five platoons
CPR training – cardiopulmonary resuscitation: the reestablishing of heart and lung action
Delta – the delta region of the Mekong River south of Saigon
DEROS – Date Eligible for Return from Overseas. The date when a soldier was to leave Vietnam to return home
Donut Dolly – affectionate term for a volunteer Red Cross girl, who visited military personnel in the field to boost morale and served as a liaison with a soldier’s family in case of emergency. The name originated in World War I in France with Salvation Army volunteers, known as Donut Girls. In World War II it became Donut Dolly.
Back to Top
efficiency report – military equivalent of a personal job performance evaluation
enlisted man – a member of the armed forces who ranks below a commissioned officer or warrant officer
fire direction center (FDC) – the section within an artillery battery that computes a solution to a fire mission and relays the resultant commands to the howitzer section
fire for effect – an artillery command directing concentrated fire once a target has been zeroed in upon, and usually includes the firing of all howitzers in the battery
fire mission – a tactical military operation involving the receipt of target information, the computation of a firing solution, the commands to the artillery weapons, and the firing of those weapons
fire support base, fire base (FSB) – a military encampment, typically including a single battery, designed to provide artillery support to infantry operating in areas beyond the range of personal weapons
FNG (Fucking New Guy) – a derogatory term, used within the military in Vietnam, directed specifically at replacement personnel who have recently joined a pre-existing unit
Fort Sill, Oklahoma – an active U.S. Army installation, home of the U.S. Army Field Artillery School
forward observer (FO) – an observer or spotter operating with frontline troops and trained to adjust artillery gunfire
fragged (to frag) – to attack with a fragmentation grenade a superior in one’s chain of command with the intent to kill
Back to Top
G-2 – the functional section within the army general staff responsible for military intelligence
GI – familiar term describing members of the U.S. Armed Forces or items of their equipment – derived from “Government Issue”
Graves Registration Office – the organization responsible for the identification and processing of deceased military personnel and the disposition of their personal effects
grenade (fragmentation, smoke) – a small hand-thrown explosive device used as an anti-personal weapon or to display colored smoke for positional identification
gunnery technique – the procedures associated with the identification of targets, the computation of firing solutions, the commands to the howitzers, and the firing and maintenance of those weapons
half track – a military vehicle with regular wheels on the front for steering and caterpillar tracks on the back to propel the vehicle
hooch, hooch maid – a simple dwelling. Any kind of housing unit used to house military personnel. They were often cleaned by local Vietnamese women or maids.
howitzer – a relatively short barrel, large caliber artillery weapon that projects explosive shells far beyond the range of personal weapons
Huey – the nickname for the Bell UH-1 Iroquois helicopter used as a gunship and to transport troops into combat. The original designation of HU-1 led to its nickname.
Back to Top
incoming – enemy mortar, rocket, or artillery fire that could often be heard as a whistling sound as the projectile passed nearby overhead (see outgoing)
in-country – physical presence in Vietnam
infantry – the branch of the army consisting primarily of soldiers who are specifically trained for the role of fighting on foot for the purpose of engaging the enemy in face-to-face combat
Back to Top
khakis – the “dust-colored” summer uniform, which was worn in lieu of combat fatigues when traveling to and from Vietnam and for formal occasions
latrine – military term for a toilet facility usually consisting of a communal space with multiple seats
leave – formal permission to be away from one’s unit for a specific period of time (see R & R)
lieutenant – the lowest military officer rank with two grades – 2nd, then 1st lieutenant
Long Binh Post – a major U.S. Army headquarters and logistics depot near the city of Bien Hoa and adjacent to the II Field Force compound
Back to Top
mama-san – an older Vietnamese woman
MEDEVAC – medical evacuation. The timely and efficient movement of wounded personnel from the battlefield, usually by a specially equipped helicopter
medic (combat medic) – a trained military soldier who is responsible for providing first aid and frontline trauma care on the battlefield
mess (enlisted, officers’) – a facility where military personnel gather to eat
Military Assistance Command Vietnam (MACV) – the U.S. unified command structure for all military forces in South Vietnam during the war, located at the Tan Son Nhut Air Base on the outskirts of Saigon
mortar – a highly portable weapon firing explosive projectiles with a smaller caliber, much lower velocity, shorter range, and a higher ballistic arc than artillery ordnance
Nam – short for “Vietnam”
NCO – a non-commissioned officer. An enlisted member of the military with a degree of authority, who has usually been promoted from within the non-officer ranks
North Vietnamese Politburo – the executive committee of senior government officials elected by the North Vietnamese Communist Party which determines government policy and oversees its day-to-day implementation
Back to Top
officer (commissioned, duty, junior, senior, warrant) – a member of the armed forces who holds a position of authority. A commissioned officer is formally granted this authority by a sovereign or political leader. A junior officer has the rank of lieutenant or captain. A senior officer holds the rank of major, colonel, and general. A warrant officer is a highly skilled specialist, ranking above enlisted personal but with limited command authority, such a helicopter pilot.
Officers’ Club (O-club) – a facility found on most military bases, reserved for officers, which serves as a center for dining and socializing
olive-drab – a color, a dark olive green, which is the standard color used by the U.S. Army for uniforms and equipment
off-limits – restricted entry to a physical area or facility
OSS – Office of Strategic Services, the pre-cursor of the Central Intelligence Agency, created in WWII to collect and analyze strategic information and to conduct special operations in support of the war effort
outgoing – friendly artillery fire that could often be heard as a whistling sound as the projectile passed nearby overhead (see incoming)
papa-san – an older Vietnamese man
Paris Peace Talks – negotiations in Paris to find a peace agreement from 1969 to 1973. A peace treaty was finally signed on January 27, 1973, which intended to establish peace in Vietnam and end the war. It ended direct U.S. military involvement and temporarily stopped the fighting between North and South.
Paris Revolution 1968 (“May ’68”) – a general strike of students and workers which brought the French economy to a standstill and lasted about a month. It was a social revolt against modern consumer and technological society as well.
pedicab – a man-powered vehicle with three wheels and a double seat in the front used to transport people, usually in an urban environment
platoon – a military unit usually consisting of two to four sections or squads and containing 16 to 50 soldiers.
post – a facility that shelters military equipment and personnel and facilitates training and operations
PX – short for Post Exchange, a shopping facility open only to the military and usually located on or near a military installation
Back to Top
Quonset hut – a lightweight prefabricated structure of corrugated galvanized steel with a semicircular cross section. From Quonset Point, a location in Rhode Island where the structures were first manufactured
quarters – a place of residence such as the buildings or barracks used to house military personnel
R & R – short for rest and recuperation. A term used to describe the free time usually awarded a soldier who had been in Vietnam for at least six months. It involved a government-paid, one-week holiday in one of several countries outside of Vietnam, Thailand, for example.
radioman – a soldier whose responsibility it is to carry and operate a radio and be at the side of the commanding officer to facilitate radio communications
RC compound – the American Red Cross headquarters facility in Saigon
Red Cross girl – a female, college graduate volunteer with the American Red Cross in Vietnam. Frequently call a Donut Dolly or a Delta Delta
REMF – short for Rear Echelon Mother Fucker. A derogatory term to describe those officers and enlisted men who performed logistical and administrative duties but were not involved in combat operations
revetment – a barricade of earth, sandbags, or other material set up to provide protection from enemy fire, particularly shell fragments from exploding projectiles
rocket, rocket-propelled grenade (RPG) – an unguided explosive device, typically cylindrical, containing liquid or solid propellants which drives the warhead forward, as opposed to an artillery projectile, which is not self-propelled. Examples include the rocket-propelled grenade (RPG) and the 122 mm Katyusha rocket.
ROTC – Reserve Officers’ Training Corps. A program sponsored by the military and found at U.S. colleges and universities which provides training for students during a four-year period who seek to enter the military as officers. In addition to his academic diploma the student is awarded a commission and the rank of 2nd lieutenant or the equivalent at graduation.
round, 105 round, AK-47 round, M-16 round – the projectile fired from one of these weapons
Back to Top
salvo – a single firing of weapons in unison, particularly artillery weapons
II Field Force − a corps-level command in Vietnam with headquarters near Long Binh Post and with an area of responsibility comprising the eleven provinces surrounding Saigon
shell, shell casing – the projectile, as in artillery shell, or that part of the cartridge (the casing, usually of brass) that contains the explosive powder to which the projectile is attached
short-timer – a soldier who has only a few weeks or days remaining before his tour of duty ends and he is sent home
Signal Corps – a branch of the army responsible for military communications: radio, telephone, and digital
specialist (spec-4) – a junior non-commissioned officer rank in the army equivalent to corporal and awarded to individuals with a high degree of experience and technical knowledge
spook – slang term for spy or intelligence operative
Tactical Operations Center (TOC) – a small group of specially trained military personnel who provide guidance to the members of an active tactical force during a mission in the field
Tan Son Nhut Air Base (Airport) – a civilian and military air transport facility located on the outskirts of Saigon, which served the South Vietnamese and American air forces during the war
tour of duty – a fixed period of time military personnel were assigned to a particular posting. In the U.S. Army in Vietnam the tour of duty was normally 12 months.
Travis Air Force Base (Travis) – the military facility in Northern California from which most of the flights carrying military personnel to Vietnam originated
trishaw – term for pedicab in Burma
Back to Top
UVA – University of Virginia
Viet Cong – the shortened name for the National Front for the Liberation of South Vietnam (NLF), a political organization and army in South Vietnam that fought the United States and South Vietnamese government forces during the period 1955 to 1975
Viet Minh – the shortened Vietnamese expression for “League for the Independence of Vietnam,” a national independence movement founded in South China in 1941, which opposed French colonial occupation, Japanese occupation during WWII, and later the American presence in South Vietnam
Vietnamization Program – U.S. policy developed during the Nixon administration which encompassed the withdrawal of U.S. troops from South Vietnam and the training and equipping of South Vietnamese forces to continue the war against the Communists insurgents and North Vietnamese forces
Back to Top
West Point – home of the United States Military Academy, a four-year coeducational military service school located at West Point, New York
WWII – abbreviation for the Second World War
Zippo – a brand of cigarette lighter, often engraved, popular with soldiers in Vietnam