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AATTV: See Australian Army Training Team - Vietnam

Agent Orange: A chemical defoliant, largely manufactured by Monsanto Corporation and Dow Chemical, used in Vietnam for Operation Ranch Hand.

APC: See Armored Personnel Carrier

Army of the Republic of Vietnam: The ground component of the Republic of Vietnam’s Military Forces. It was in existence from 1955 until the fall of Saigon in 1975.

ARVN: See Army of the Republic of Vietnam

Cao Dai: Popular name for the religious sect Dai Dao Tam Ky Pho Do. The faith was influenced by Buddhism, Christianity, Confucianism, and Vietnamese animism. It attracted many Vietnamese nationalists and became a powerful force in the Mekong Delta region until they yielded to the RVN government under President Ngo Diem in 1955. They were integrated into RVN government and military positions and held no communists within their ranks.

CAP: See Combined Action Platoon Program

Chieu Hoi (Chiêu Hồi) Program: A program developed to encourage Viet Cong and communist supporters to defect. It involved large amounts of pro-South Vietnam propaganda, and leaflets dropped written in Vietnamese encouraging defection. These leaflets were meant to act as safe conduct passes, and if someone came to troops bearing one, they were to be welcomed and guaranteed safety. Chiêu Hồi is loosely translated to “open arms”.

CIDG: See Civilian Irregular Defense Group program

Civilian Irregular Defense Group Program: Program developed by the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in 1961 to train minority tribes in Vietnam to defend themselves and resist Viet Cong control. There was no resettlement aspect to this program. Control of the program shifted from the CIA to the US Special Forces in 1963. This led to a stronger military focus and they were sometimes hired for brief periods of time to assist in operations. The Montagnards, Khmers, Nungs, Cao Dai, and Hoa Hoa peoples were part of this program.

Cochin China: The six southernmost provinces of Vietnam. The name originated with Portuguese explorers in the sixteenth century and remained until 1949. It was one of three geographical regions in Vietnam, the others being Tonkin and Annam.

Cold War: A period of time, following WWII and extending until 1991, defined by tension between the United States of America (and allies including NATO) and the Soviet Union (along with other Eastern Bloc nations).

Combined Action Platoon Program: Developed in 1965 by the US Marine Corps, the program paired USMC units with South Vietnamese Regional Forces companies in I Corps. This was in answer to the security mission that was new to the USMC and it was hoped that the CAP program would help pacification efforts in I Corps.

Corps Tactical Zones: The Republic of Vietnam (RVN) was divided into four tactical zones in 1954 for government administration purposes as well as military purposes. The United States structured in country military command around these zones. They were numbered I, II, III, IV. See I Corps, II Corps, III Corps, and IV Corps

COSVN: See Central Office for South Vietnam

Demilitarized Zone: Ran along the 17th parallel, dividing Vietnam into North and South.

Democratic Republic of Vietnam: The official state of the area commonly known as North Vietnam between 1954 and 1975. Separated from the Republic of Vietnam by the demilitarized zone. The capital was Hanoi.

DEROS: Date Eligible to Return from Overseas. A very important date for American military personnel in Vietnam, for they knew exactly how long they would be in country.

Dien Bien Phu: French military outpost built in a valley in the Red River Delta. French paratroopers were dropped in by plane to build the outpost as all ground routes to the area were controlled by Viet Minh forces. Supplies could only reach the outpost by plane.

Dien Bien Phu, Battle of: November 1953-May 1954 Viet Minh forces, under the command of General Vo Nguyen Giap, carried Chinese supplied artillery pieces on their backs to reassemble on the hills surrounding Dien Bien Phu. Air drops of supplies to the besieged French troops were captured by the Viet Minh. Daily bombardments and attacks led to the eventual French surrender on May 7, 1954. They suffered 2,293 KIA and 5,134 WIA and survivors were marched to Viet Minh prison camps. The battle was the final straw for the French, leading to their complete withdrawal from Indochina and to the Geneva Accords later that year.

Dink: Derogatory slang for an Asian person.

DMZ: See Demilitarized Zone.

DRV: See Democratic Republic of Vietnam

Dustoff: Medical evacuation (medevac) missions using helicopters.

EOD: See Explosive Ordnance Disposal

FAC: See Forward Air Controller 

Fire Support Base: Artillery encampment used to support ground operations.

Flak jacket/flak vest: Fiberglass-filled vest to protect against shrapnel.

FNG: See Fucking New Guy

FO: See Forward Observer

Forward Air Controller: The controller usually flew a low level spotter plane, such as the Cessna O-1 Bird Dog, to identify enemy positions and relay or mark the coordinates for air strikes of various types. They were also able to perform the same function on the ground. 

Freedom Bird: Nickname for the airplane that took troops home from Vietnam.

French Indochina: See Indochina

FSB: See Fire Support Base

Fucking New Guy: Troops new in-country.

Geneva Accords: Where the area of Indochina (former colony of France) was recognized as sovereign. Also stated that there would be no more hostilities and that no foreign troops would become involved in the matter. Vietnam was divided into northern and southern zones, the north governed by the Việt Minh and the south governed by the State of Vietnam (later the Republic of Vietnam). The United States did not sign this agreement, though it did acknowledge it.

Geneva Conference: (April 26 – July 20, 1954) Where in Geneva, Switzerland, the United States, the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, France, and China (along with several other countries occasionally involved) attempted to unify Vietnam. It resulted in the Geneva Accords.

Gook: Derogatory slang for an Asian person.

Green Berets: US Army Special Forces

Grunt: Slang for infantryman.

Gulf of Tonkin Incident: A series of events in the Gulf of Tonkin including the reported attack on the USS Maddox by three North Vietnamese torpedo boats on 2 Aug 1964. Warning shots were fired by the Maddox, who was patrolling along the coast of Vietnam as part of Operation DeSoto. Torpedoes were fired at the American destroyer but they were evaded. One of the torpedo boats was damaged when the Maddox fired again, and Vought F-8E Crusaders coming to assist managed to sink the already damaged vessel.
     On 4 Aug 1964, late in the day during poor weather conditions, the USS Maddox and the USS C. Turner Joy identified various radar and sonar signals as North Vietnamese torpedo boats. Confusion reigned as the Maddox and C. Turner Joy tried to determine whether an attack was taking place.
     On 5 Aug 1964, retaliatory air strikes were ordered by President Lyndon Johnson against four torpedo boat bases. Twenty-five boats were reported destroyed and support facilities were damaged. Two American aircraft were shot down, resulting in the first American POW.

Gulf of Tonkin Resolution: Passed 7 Aug 1964 by the United States Congress. The resolution that passed was a revised draft of earlier resolutions that President Johnson had ordered written in preparation for escalated military involvement. The incidents in the Gulf of Tonkin in early August prompted another rewrite and presentation to Congress. It was passed almost unanimously with only two senators dissenting.
    The resolution allowed the president to use any measures he felt necessary “to repel any armed attack against the forces of the United States and to prevent further aggression.” Also to protect and assist any nation in the Southeast Asia Collective Defense Treaty, and the resolution would expire when the president decided it was safe to do so. For these reasons it is often referred to as a “blank check” resolution. It was repealed in 1970.
    The text of the resolution can be read here.

Gunship: Helicopter outfitted with armaments including miniguns, rocket tubes, and machine guns.

H&I: See Harassment and Interdiction

Hamlet: Small village

Hanoi Hilton: See Hoa Lo (Hỏa Lò) Prison

Highway 1: The main north-south highway of Vietnam that was highly contested between opposing forces during both the First Indochina War and the Vietnam War. Due to the costly and seemingly futile efforts to keep the road clear, the French referred to it as la rue sans jolie, “the street without joy”.

Hoa Hoa: Major Buddhist sect in the Mekong Delta founded in 1940. Anti-communist and anti-French/colonial, they became very powerful in the region politically and militarily. The Viet Minh sought to subdue them but failed, even after assassinating their leader. They skirmished against Cao Dai members as well as President Ngo Dinh Diem, however they were brought under RVN authority in mid-1950s.

Hoa Lo (Hỏa Lò) Prison: One of several prisons in the Hanoi area that housed American POWs. It was built by the French in 1886 and previously was used as a prison for high-ranking Vietnamese officials.

Ho Chi Minh Trail: System of roads and trails reaching from North Vietnam through Laos and Cambodia into South Vietnam. It was used by the DRV to transport supplies and troops south and boasted complete support facilities along the way, mostly underground. The United States built a large air campaign designed to interrupt the flow of supplies, but it was unsuccessful.

Indochina: Name for the region of southeast Asia that was once a French Colony (then French Indochina). It was comprised of the following countries: Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam. The term Indochina is seldom used now.

KIA: See Killed in Action

Killed in Action: Casualty designation for service members who are killed by enemy forces.

Kit Carson Scout: A recruited Viet Cong defector who would provide intelligence and work in the field with American troops.

Landing Zone: Area for helicopters to land either for troops insertion, troop pick up/evacuation, or supply drop off.

Listening Post: Two or three man post established outside the perimeter at night that acted as an early warning about approaching or passing enemy troops.

Loach: Nickname for Hughes OH-6 Cayuse, a light observation helicopter

LP: See Listening Post

LRRP: Pronounced “lurp”. See Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol. Pronounced “lurp”.

LST: See Landing Ship - Tank

LZ: See Landing Zone

MAAG: See Military Assistance Advisory Group

MACV: See Military Assistance Command, Vietnam

MACV-SOG: See Military Assistance Command, Vietnam – Studies and Observations Group

MAF: See Marine Amphibious Force

MEDCAP: See Medical Civil Assistance Program

Medevac: See Dustoff

MIA: See Missing in Action

Military Assistance Command, Vietnam – Studies and Observations Group: Multi-service special operations force that conducted covert missions with unconventional warfare methods. Operated between 1964-1972.

Missing in Action: Casualty designation for service members who are reported missing while on active duty.

NATO: See North Atlantic Treaty Organization

NATO Phonetic Alphabet: See Wikipedia entry

NDP: See Night Defensive Position

NLF: See National Liberation Front

North Vietnam: See Democratic Republic of Vietnam

North Vietnamese Army: Trained regular army of North Vietnam. Also the People’s Army of Vietnam (PAVN) or Vietnam People’s Army (VPA).

NVA: See North Vietnamese Army

OSS:See Office of Strategic Services

Paris Peace Accords of 1973: Those documents establishing a cessation of direct American military involvement and a temporary cease fire between North and South Vietnam.  

PBR: See Patrol Boat - River

PCF: See Patrol Craft - Fast

Phoenix Program: Designed and operated by the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), the program utilized special operations soldiers of the United States, Australia, and South Vietnam to “neutralize” civilian targets working for the Viet Cong. The program ran between 1965-1972.

POW: See Prisoner of War

Prisoner of War: A person held in the custody of enemy forces during or after a conflict.

Psyops: See Psychological Operations

PTSD: See Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Purple Heart: United States military decoration awarded to service members wounded or killed during hostile conflict. 

Republic of Korea: The state known as South Korea established in 1948. Ally to the United States during the Vietnam War.

Republic of Vietnam: The official state which governed southern Vietnam. It became more well known as South Vietnam after the Geneva Conference in 1954 created the DMZ, separating the country of Vietnam in two. The capital was Saigon.

ROK: See Republic of Korea

RTO:See Radio Telephone Operator

RVN: See Republic of Vietnam

SEATO: See Southeast Asia Treaty Organization

Slick: Slang for an assault helicopter used to carry troops to and from the field.

Southeast Asia Treaty Organization: Created in 1954 as part of a regional defense scheme for the South Pacific through the Manila Pact. Members included the United States, Great Britain, the Philippines, France, Australia, New Zealand, Pakistan, and Thailand. The organization dissolved in 1977.

Strategic Hamlet Program: An initiative developed by the United States and South Vietnam to relocate civilians in attempts to decrease communist insurgency. The program was short lived, operating between 1961-1963.

"Street Without Joy": See Highway 1

Tactical Area of Responsibility: A designated area of land where responsibility for security and military operations is assigned to a commander. This is used to control assigned forces, evaluating progress, and coordinating support.

TAOR:See Tactical Area of Responsibility

Tet Offensive: A large military campaign launched by North Vietnam and the Viet Cong to take place during the Tet Lunar New Year’s cease fire of 1968. Communist forces attacked cities and towns across I and II Corps Tactical Zones beginning during the night of January 30, the first day of the holiday. Major battles were fought in Saigon, Hue, and Khe Sanh.

Tiger Scout: Name given to Kit Carson Scouts assigned to the US Army 9th Infantry Division. See Kit Carson Scout

VC: Viet Cong, or Victor Charlie

Viet Cong: Military arm of the National Liberation Front (NLF). Political and military organization operating out of RVN during the Vietnam War. There were various levels of involvement, ranging from regular fighting troops covering large areas to residents of towns and villages planting booby traps.

Viet Minh (Việt Minh): A communist national independence organization. Originally established to fight for independence for Vietnam from France, they also opposed the Japanese during World War II. Following the Japanese surrender they continued to resist French rule.

Vietnamization: President Richard Nixon’s program of returning the majority of fighting responsibilities to the RVN armed forces.

WIA: See Wounded in Action

Wounded in Action: Casualty designation for service members injured in a combat zone.