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WWII Slang and Military Dictionary

This glossary provides acronyms, abbreviations, and WWII slang used in Combat!

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AWOL
absent without leave; also over the hill.
battalion
the basic military tactical and administrative unit consisting of three or more rifle companies and certain special units. Commanded by a major or lieutenant colonel.
BAR
Browning Automatic Rifle. .30 caliber, gas-operated, air-cooled automatic rifle, fed by a clip holding 20 cartridges. 47 inches long, a BAR weighs 15.5 pounds and can fire 450 shots per minute. It may be fired from shoulder or hip, or mounted on a bipod. When used automatically, it is fired in short bursts. It can fire semi-automatically, which is slower but more accurate, and the weapon will not heat as much as with automatic firing. (more info and photo)
barrage
screen of continuous military fire to protect advancing troops or stop hostile attacks; heavy, prolonged attack.
beachhead
a footing gained on hostile shores by an army.
buck
of the lowest rank, as in buck private, buck sergeant
caliber
the diameter of the bore of a gun. Also the diameter of a projectile for a gun.
captain
rank above 1st lieutenant and below major. Normally commands a company. Insignia is two silver bars.
carbine
a short-barreled rifle; Hanley's weapon of choice. A .30 caliber semi-automatic shoulder weapon, gas-operated with effective range up to 200 yards. Length is 36 inches, barrel 18 inches. A carbine weighs five pounds including magazine and sling. (More info and photo.)
chevron
an inverted, V-shaped bar worn on the sleeve to designate rank of non-coms and enlisted privates.
civvies
civilian clothes.
CO
commanding officer.
colonel
the officer ranking between lieutenant colonel and brigadier general, usually commanding a regiment; insignia of rank is a silver spread eagle.
company
lowest administration unit in the army. Usually consists of a headquarters and two or more rifle platoons and most often commanded by a captain.
corporal
lowest grade of non-commissioned officer; often commands a squad.
D-Day
generic term for the day an operation or attack is to be initiated; after the Allied invasion of Europe, that date (June 6, 1944) became the D-Day.
dogface
slang for a soldier.
dog tags
a soldier's identification tag.
enfilade
to fire at targets in general linear formation along the direction of their front or flank
furlough
leave of absence.
GI
government issue; slang for a soldier.
goldbrick
special duty that permits absence from more laborious duty; -ing - loafing.
grenade
a small bomb with a bursting radius of about 30 yards that can be hurled a short distance by hand or rifle. Average man can throw a grenade 30 to 45 yards.
hedgerow
topographical term for a row of trees and bushes forming a hedge; a typical feature of the Normandy landscape, hedgerows there grow on three- to five-foot earthen embankments. [Further information]
HQ
headquarters.
KIA
killed in action.
King Six
radio call sign regularly used in Combat! to designate King Company headquarters
King Two
radio call sign often used in Combat! to designate 2nd platoon of King Company (Hanley's platoon)
LC
landing craft.
lieutenant
officer below captain. 2nd lieutenant is the lowest ranking commissioned officer, with 1st lieutenant above that. May command platoons or companies. 1st lieutenant insignia is a silver bar; 2nd lieutenant insignia is a gold bar. First lieutenant Second lieutenant
M1 Garand
the .30 caliber model M1 Garand rifle was the principle weapon of the US infantry in WW II. Semi-automatic, fed by a clip of eight cartridges. Gas-operated and self-loading, the M1 is a shoulder weapon. M1 weighs 8.94 pounds, is 43 inches long. The barrel alone is 22.30 inches. The M1 has a muzzle velocity of 2,760 feet per second and a maximum range of 5,500 yards.
magazine
a chamber in or attached to a gun to hold cartridges; a case for cartridges.
major
the next rank above captain, they usually served as a battalion executive officer and as staff officers at regiment and division levels.  They were ocassionally assigned as battalion commanders. Insignia of rank is a gold oak leaf.
MIA
missing in action.
mortar
a short cannon used to fire projectiles with low muzzle velocities at high angles. The trench mortar is an infantry weapon, the larger mortars are used by both infantry and field artillery.
muzzle
the open end of a gun.
no man's land
land between ground of opposing forces
non-com
non-commissioned officers. Enlisted men ranking higher than private first class and below warrant officers. Includes ser- geants and corporals. Also NCO.
OCS
officer candidate school.
OP
observation post.
over the hill
desertion; absent without leave.
panzer
German tank. "Panzer" means armor-plate.
paratroopers
troops moved by air, but who land by parachute.
pineapple
slang for hand grenade.
platoon
a component element of a company consisting of three squads; commanded by a lieutenant.
PFC
private first class.
private
the lowest rank of enlisted man. Also buck private.
private first class
the grade above that of private. Designated by a single chevron on the sleeve (PFC).
R and R
rest and rehabilitation.
regiment
largest permanent unit of infantry. Consists of three battalions. Generally commanded by a lieutenant colonel or colonel.
rifle
a shoulder weapon whose barrel is grooved, includes an attach- ment for a bayonet.
sergeant
non-commissioned officer above a corporal.
sidearm
weapon carried on side of body; Hanley and Saunders usually carry a Colt .45 caliber service pistol; effective range is about 50 yards.
shrapnel
shell splinters; also, shell timed to explode over, and shower bullets and splinters on, personnel.
squad
the smallest unit of organization in the US Army. Number of men varies from 5 to 16.
tracers
bullets containing combustible pellets to produce smoke or light along the trajectory of a projectile. Allows shooter to trace the flight of the bullets.
Thompson (also "Tommy gun")
the Thompson sub-machine gun. Saunders' weapon of choice. Thompson is a general purpose field weapon of .45 caliber. It weighs approximately ten pounds and is 33 inches long. [More info and picture]
White Rook
radio call sign often used in Combat! to designate 1st squad of King Company's 2nd platoon (Saunders' squad).

 
List assembled by Jo Davidsmeyer.
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Recommended Reading:

FUBAR F***ed Up Beyond All Recognition: Soldier Slang of World War II (General Military) by Gordon Rotman

The soldier slang of World War II was as colorful as it was evocative. It could be insulting, pessimistic, witty, and even defeatist. From 'spam bashers' to 'passion wagons' and 'roof pigs' to 'Hell's Ladies', the World War II fighting man was never short of words to describe the people and events in his life. "F***ed Up Beyond All Recognition" takes a frank look at the British, Commonwealth, American, German, Japanese and Russian slang used by the men on the ground, and shows how, even in the heat of battle, they somehow managed to retain their sense of humour, black though it might have been. Buy book at Amazon.comAmazon.comBuy book at Amazon.Ca in CanadaAmazon.ca

Swear Like a Trooper:
A Dictionary of Military Terms & Phrases
by William L. Priest
Buy book at Amazon.comAmazon.comBuy book at Amazon.Ca in CanadaAmazon.ca

A comprehensive compilation of military lingo from Hannibal to Hanoi. Author William Priest traces the evolution of each term as it moves from its point of origin to other branches of service and into foreign countries. For instance, in the 19th century a "swab" was a mop made from condemned rope; however, it was also the sailor's slang for naval officer, from the shoulder epaulets (a mop-like braid) that marked an officer's rank. At that time, to call a sailor a swab was one of the highest forms of insult; it was not until the 1880s that sailors were called swabs or swabbies (men who swab the decks) in general lingo. Examples such as these can be found throughout the book. Over 5,600 entries! Slang and terms from military in the United States, Great Britain, France, the Netherlands, Vietnam, Japan, and Germany. Indispensible reference for military writers and just plain a fun read military enthusiasts.
About the Author
William L. Priest, a graduate of Towson State University in History and Social Studies, is a teacher with experience as a living historian aboard the U.S.S. Constellation in Baltimore Harbor. He performs annually at several maritime festivals.

Hardcover: 256 pages ; Dimensions (inches): 0.91 x 9.28 x 6.29

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File last updated August 15, 2011

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