The Marine Corps has a long tradition of unique and colorful words, expressions and phrases. Some of these share a common heritage with other services, especially the Navy. But much of the Corps' lingo is its own, developed over many years of campaigning and expeditionary service around the globe. World War II saw the introduction of countless pieces of lingo, some specific to units, and others used throughout the Corps. Some of these bits of speech endure to the present, but many have fallen out of use in the Marine Corps as the decades have passed.
This glossary is the fulfillment of a promise I made to one of the World War II Gyrenes it was my privilege to know and respect. Sadly, he passed away and is guarding heaven's shores, but this page is for him, his shipmates, and all those who wore the Eagle, Globe and Anchor in World War II. It is a collection of common words, idioms, expressions and phrases that Marines used in the wartime years.
This project will always be a work in progress. For the most part, I have omitted words that denote parts of ships or other seagoing vessels since these are defined in many other places. If you know of other bits of speech from those years, please contact me at WW2 Gyrene.
Special thanks to the following World War II Marines for their invaluable assistance with this project: Sgt Les Groshong, USMCR, GySgt Frank Rosseau, USMC (retired), 2ndLt Craig Leman, USMCR, MSgt Bob Wilson, USMC (retired), Pfc Alda Devine, USMCR, MSgt Robert 'Chick' Owens, USMC (retired), Pfc Tom Williams, USMCR, and HA Danny Thomas, USNR. I couldn't have done this without you!
'03 - The M1903A3 service rifle. Usage: "I sure do like this '03. It's a good-shootin' piece."
One-two-three - Nickname for a shallow latrine dug while a unit was in bivouac during field problems. So named because it was 1' wide, 2' deep, and 3' long. The soil from the hole was left in a mound nearby and each time a Marine did his business, he was supposed to use his entrenching tool to throw some dirt in. Usage: "Hey, Johnson. Grab your e-tool and dig a one-two-three over by the woodline."
20s - The Oerlikon 20mm antiaircraft gun employed in special weapons, defense and antiaircraft battalions. Usage: "Those 20s sure throw up some lead!"
.30, Heavy - Slang for the M1917A1 heavy water-cooled .30 machine gun. The location of these weapons in the infantry battalion varied through the war, but in the F-series Table of Organization, each rifle company had an organic heavy machine gun platoon with six guns. Usage: "Those heavy thirties go through water like crap through a goose."
.30, or .30 Light - Slang for the M1919A4 machine gun. In the rifle company, these weapons provided fire support to the rifle platoons.
37 - 1) The M3A1 37mm antitank gun. Usage: "Run back and see if you can find a thirty-seven. I think I hear Jap tanks comin'." 2) The M6 37mm tank gun mounted in the M3-series tank and LVT(A)-1 amphibian tank.
40s - The M1 40mm automatic antiaircraft gun deployed in medium antiaircraft batteries.
.45 - Nickname for the M1911A1 pistol, designed by the legendary John M. Browning.
48-hour liberty - Liberty that permitted a Marine to be away from the installation for 48 hours, almost always from Friday evening through Sunday evening. Usage: "Well, it could be worse. At least we got a forty-eight this weekend."
.50 - The M2 .50 caliber heavy machine gun, which was used as an anti-aircraft weapon, and mounted on many tracked vehicles for close-in defense and area suppression. Usage: "We need to get two .50s mounted on the tractor."
60s, or 60 mike-mike- The M2 60mm mortar organic to the rifle company. Each company had a mortar section with three tubes. Usage: "Hey Ski, run back and bring up one of the sixties."
72-hour liberty - A three-day liberty, almost always over a Friday through the weekend. Colloquially called 'a seventy-two,' this type of liberty permitted a Marine to leave the installation on Thursday night and return on Sunday evening. Usage: "We're lucky Mac. We got a seventy-two this weekend."
75 - The 75mm pack howitzer. Usage: 'Why'd those cannon cockers put their 75s right next to our bivouac site?" 2) The M3 75mm tank gun mounted in the M4-series tank. 3) The M1897A4 75mm mounted on the M3 Gun Motor Carriage. 3) The 75mm howitzer mounted on the LVT(A)-4 amphibian tank.
782 gear - Field equipment issued to the individual Marine. So named because the Marine signed for the equipment on Form N. M. C. 782-QM. Pronounced 'Seven Eighty-Two gear'. See also Deuce gear.
81, or 81s- The M1 81mm mortar organic to the infantry battalion. Each infantry battalion had four tubes grouped into the 81mm mortar platoon. Usage: "We need a fire mission from the eighty-ones right now!"
90s - The M1A1 90mm heavy antiaircraft gun deployed in heavy antiaircraft batteries.
300, The- SCR-300 walkie-talkie radio adopted as the standard backpack radio from mid-1944. Usage: "See if you can raise battalion on the three-hundred."
536, The - The handie-talkie radio introduced into Marine Corps service in 1944. A short range, single-channel set that Marines could operate without any training. Usage: "Listen up! Who's got the 536?"
Able Med - Company A of a divisional medical battalion. Medical companies were often attached to regimental combat teams for treatment of wounded and sick Marines. Usage: "Any Marine that needs to be evac'ed, we send 'em to Able Med."
Ables - Winter service A uniform. This was the classic forest green uniform that Marines wore on duty, leave and liberty in the World War II era. In the war years enlisted Marines were not permitted to wear civilian clothes off duty, so during winter through spring they wore ables instead. In most temperate climates, the winter service uniform was prescribed from September through April of each year.
Able target - Bull's eye target used on the known distance range. The bull was a 10" diameter black circle.
Across - Overseas, usually in reference to units preparing to sail from stateside. Usage: "Any idea when we're goin' across?"
Acting Jack - 1. A non-rated Marine assigned as an assistant drill instructor for a recruit platoon. 2. A non-rated Marine assigned to a corporal's billet. Sometimes shortened to, 'A. J.' Usage: "Smith, you're assigned as the acting jack for Platoon 362."
Adjutant - Commissioned officer in the 1-shop at the battalion or regimental headquarters responsible for administrative, personnel and clerical duties. Usage: "All awards recommendations need to be to the adjutant by 1400 today."
Adrift - Off course. In the Marine Corps, this word was frequently used in reference to gear or items left unsecured or laying around the area. Usage: "If I find any gear adrift, the owner is gettin' his liberty pass pulled."
Aeia Heights - Large Naval Hospital outside of Honolulu, Hawaii. Tens of Thousands of wounded or ill Marines and sailors were treated at Aeia Heights. Usage: "I saw Jimmy Schmidt at Aeia Heights. He looked like hell."
Ahoy - Naval term for hailing other vessels. This word was also used in the 2nd Raider Battalion as a recognition word and greeting between fellow battalion members.
Airwing - General term for aviation Marines and units.
Airedale - An aviator or flight crewman. More generally, jargon for any Marine in the aviation branch. Usage: "Boy, it was a great liberty spot 'til all those airedales showed up."
AKA - Designation for an attack cargo transport. These ships carried heavy equipment, munitions, supplies and troops in support of amphibious operations. American shipyards built 108 AKAs during the war.
All hands - The entire crew, unit, or detachment. Usage: "All hands need to be at the 1700 formation."
ALMAR - A teletype message sent from HQMC to all units in the Marine Corps. (Pronounced 'all-Mar') ALMARs were identified by sequence number and year. Usage: "We just got an ALMAR that lays out a point system for guys to rotate back stateside."
Alphabet - Nickname for a Marine whose real name was to hard to pronounce. Usage: "Hey Alphabet. Why don't ya' go over to legal and see if you can get your named changed to somethin' we can pronounce."
Amphibian Tank - Also known by the colloquial term: 'amtank'. Turreted amphibian vehicles that led and provided close-in fire support for the troop-carrying amphtracs in the run-in to the beach. Two models were fielded in combat during the war: the Landing Vehicle, Tracked (Armored)-1 and the Landing Vehicle, Tracked (Armored)-4. The final World War II model, the Landing Vehicle, Tracked (Armored)-5, was produced in 1945, but did not see combat service until the Korean War. From the assault and capture of the Marshall Islands through the final campaigns, amtanks formed the first wave of amphibious assaults, and they were scheduled to come ashore at H-Hour.
Amtanker - Amphibian tank crewman.
Amphibian Tractor - Also known by several colloquial terms: 'amtrac', 'amphtrac', or simply, 'tractor'. A series of tracked personnel carriers able to travel from water onto land carrying Marines and cargo. They were propelled by their tracks both in water and ashore. Donald Roebling was the creator of the prototype vehicles, originally intended for rescue work in the Florida swamps. The first model, the Landing Vehicle, Tracked-1, was planned as a cargo carrier only. Through successive improvements and introduction of newer models, amphibian tractors developed into true combat vehicles. Usage: "Alright Marines, at 0530, report to the tank deck to warm up the tractors."
Amtracker - Nickname for crewmen of amphibian tractors. Usage: "Stay outta the welldeck. The amtrackers are down there warmin' up their engines and it stinks from the gas fumes."
Anchor man - A Marine who took the last serving of chow off the platter or drank the last of the coffee or juice. Unless everyone at the table had eaten, the anchor man had to go back to the galley and get more. Usage: "You're the anchor man, go get more SOS."
AOL - Absent over leave.
APA - Designation for an attack transport. These ships were designed to carry about 1,500 troops, their equipment, vehicles and supplies for assault on enemy held shores. 232 APAs were built by American shipyards in the wartime years.
APD - High-speed transport. Nicknamed the 'Able-Peter-Dog', these were destroyers modified to carry a company of Marine Raiders to an objective. The APDs could also provide close-in Naval gunfire support.
A-rations - Food served in chow halls at most stateside posts and stations. A-rations were comprised predominately of fresh fruit and vegetables, dairy products and meat.
Area, The - Abbreviated form of 'company area' or 'platoon area'. The area, whether in a tent camp or cantonment area, was the home for the Marines assigned to a unit. Usage: "Hey, you guys need to get back to the area. Top is looking for ya'."
Armored cow - Condensed milk in a can. Usage: "Hey, Chicken. Pass the armored cow over here. This Joe tastes like battery acid."
Ashore - On land or dry ground. It also meant to leave the confines of a post or station. Usage: "Hey, Mac, you goin' ashore on liberty tonight?"
Ass pack - A configuration of the M1941 pack system used primarily by radio operators. Using the knapsack in place of the haversack, the offical name for this configuration was 'the knapsack pack,' Usage: "Okay, you guys rig ass packs so you can carry the TBYs."
Arty - Short for artillery. Pronounced 'Art-ee'. Usage: "We need some arty on that Jap position."
Asiatic - Sea service expression for Marines and Sailors who spent too many years in the Far East. Marines who were going Asiatic were rumored to engage in peculiar activities. Usage: "Mac looks to be goin' asiatic on us."
Atabrine - Preventive medication to fight malaria. Atabrine tablets were bright yellow in color and Marines had to take them once a day. The tablets were extremely bitter and prolonged use caused the skin to take on a slight yellowish cast. Marines called this coloring 'atabrine tan.'
AWOL - Absent without leave.
Aye, aye, sir - Phrase used to acknowledge that an order by an officer is understood and will be carried out. It was also sometimes used in acknowledging orders from NCOs, but this was not common, nor was it official. Used in this manner, the "sir" was omitted.
Babyshit - Mustard. Usage: "Hey, Mac. Pass the babyshit over here."
Baker Med - Company B of a divisional medical battalion.
Baker target - Bull's eye target used for firing from the 500-yard line during rifle practice and qualification. The baker target had a 20" black circle in the middle.
Banzai - Japanese expression meaning, 'Ten thousand years', in reference to the reign of the Emperor of Japan. Marines and soldiers used the word to describe massed attacks by Japanese troops across the Pacific theater. Although banzai attacks were terrifying events for Marines and soldiers, in most cases they repelled the enemy through a combination of firepower, good defensive positions and interlocking fields of fire. Usage: "The Nips are probably gonna banzai tonight. Make sure to dig in good and deep."
BAR- M1918 Browning Automatic Rifle.(Pronounced "Bee-A-Arr".) The standard squad automatic weapon of the Marine Corps from late World War I through the late 1950s.
Barracks - A permanent or temporary building housing a unit. Usage: "You guys better enjoy these barracks. We won't be seein' a building again for a long time."
BAS - Battalion Aid Station. (Pronounced "Bee-A-Ess".) Medical section in the headquarters and service company. In garrison the BAS ran sick call, maintained medical records, performed immunizations and provided medical care and training. In combat the BAS set-up the forward dressing station where wounded and sick Marines were evacuated from the front lines for stabilization, treatment of shock, and other lifesaving measures. The BAS also requisitioned and distributed medical supplies to the line company Corpsmen.
Basic Badge - Badge worn below the ribbons on blouses to recognize proficiency in weapons other than the service rifle. Individual qualifications were shown by bars attached below the badge. Usage: "I want to head into Dago tonight to get a new Basic Badge."
Barracks cap - Nickname for the service cap, which was issued with interchangeable covers for wear with the dress blue, winter and summer service uniforms. The interchangeable cover had a thin wire stiffener around inside the rim which Marines often formed into a saddle. Although barracks caps were supposed to be worn squarely on the head, Marines almost always wore them at a jaunty angle.
Battalion - A unit of about 700-900 Marines comprised of several companies or batteries and a headquarters company or battery. In infantry, artillery, engineer, Raider, and parachute regiments, battalions were designated numerically by battalion and regiment; for example; '1st Battalion, Sixth Marines, '2nd Battalion, 22nd Marines', etc. Separate, corps-level, and divisional battalions were designated by number; for example; '1st Tank Battalion', '6th Medical Battalion', '3rd Armored Amphibian Battalion', I etc.
Regimental battalions were identified in spoken form as 2/9 (two-nine), 3/6 (three-six), 1/29 (one, twenty-nine). etc. Divisional or separate battalions were identified in spoken form as follows: 'Fifth Tanks' (5th Tank Battalion), "Second M-Pee" (2nd MP Battalion), "Third Pioneers", etc. Defense battalions were usually identified with the complete title, i.e. "I'm with the 52nd Defense Battalion." Battalions were usually commanded by a lieutenant colonel.
Battery - Company-sized artillery unit. Line batteries were assigned four howitzers or rifles and about 150 Marines. Headquarters batteries contained maintenance, clerical, personnel, medical and signal units. Company-sized elements in defense battalions were also designated as batteries.
Battery acid - Bitter-tasting lemonade powder packed with K-Ration meals.
Battle Blaze - Official name for the unit insignia worn during the war by divisions, Marine air wings, some defense battalions, ships' detachments, FMFPac and corps-level units, and other selected units. Battle blazes were sewn on the left sleeve of the dress blue and winter service blouse, and sometimes on the left sleeve of the khaki shirt. Most, but not all, battle blazes incorporated the colors scarlet and gold. The First Marine Division was the first World War II unit to wear battle blazes and their use soon spread throught the Corps. Wear of battle blazes was abolished in 1948.
Battle dressing - Compress bandage issued in first aid kits to Marines and used to staunch the flow of blood in combat wounds. Battle dressings were also used to attach splints and to secure broken limbs. Battle dressings were typically issued in waterproof packaging with a sulfanilamide packet included for prevention of infections. Usage: "Every Marine in the platoon needs to have a serviceable battle dressing."
Battle Pin - Brass clasp worn behind the field scarf on the collar points to keep them together for a squared away appearance. Headquarters, Marine Corps, deleted the Battle Pin from the seabag issue in a letter of instruction dated 14 February 1942, but Marines continued to wear it throughout the wartime era.
Battle wagon - Sea service jargon for a battleship. Usage: "Did ya' ever see so many battle wagons in one place?"
Bazooka - Antitank rocket launcher. Usage: "Get a bazooka up here pronto!"
Beach - A landing beach for a battalion or regimental landing team on an enemy-held shore. Doctrinally, battalion beaches were 500 yards wide and regimental beaches were 1000 yards wide. Actual topography dictated that landing beaches were variable in width. For example, at Tinian in July-August 1944, two beaches of less than 200 yards supported the landing of two Marine divisions and multiple support units. Beaches were identified by color and number. If a beach was under heavy enemy fire, it was described as 'hot'. Usage: "I just got the straight dope. We're assigned to first wave on Red 2 and it's supposed to be hotter than hell."
Bear a hand - To help out or lend help. Usage: "Kowalski, bear a hand with this workin' party."
Beating (your) gums - Lots of talk about nothing. Usage: "Hey, Thomas. Take a couple deep breaths and quit beatin' your gums."
Bedrest - Confinement to quarters due to an illness or injury that could not be handled with light duty. By regulation, a Marine could only be given three days bedrest by the battalion surgeon. For longer stays, the Marine was supposed to be sent to the hospital but in practice, many units looked at this regulation as more of a suggestion rather than an order. A Marine on bedrest had to stay in his bunk unless going to chow or the head. Bedrest was often ordered for malaria attacks, minor surgical procedures, etc.
Belt suspenders - Component of the M1941 pack system. The belts suspenders helped form the shoulder straps of the pack and attached the pack to the cartridge or pistol belt. They were also used alone to help support the weight of cartridge and ammunition belts. Belt suspenders were known by the moniker 'backbreakers' because they were narrow and had no padding for the shoulders. Usage: "Brother, I hate these backbreakers. They're like a vise on my shoulders."
Belay that - Phrase used to rescind an order, or to stop an activity. Usage: "Hey, you guys belay that workin' party."
Big chicken dinner - Bad conduct discharge handed out by order of a summary or general court's martial board. Usage: "Did ya' hear about that guy over in How Company that deserted? He got the big chicken dinner."
Billet - A sleeping space aboard ship. Also used to indicate a Marine's assignment toduty position on the Table of Organization.
Billets - Marine Corps slang for the building, berthing area or tent where a unit was housed. Usage: "These billets sure beat a foxhole."
Blanket roll - A roll formed for attachment to the field pack. The blanket, tent pins, tent pole and guy line were rolled into the shelter half and then attached with tie-ties to the field pack. The Marine rolled either a long blanket roll or a short blanket role depending on the pack configuration.
Blister mechanic - A Marine who was adept at taking care of blisters. Usage: "The docs are swamped with torn-up feet. Go see Sergeant Thompson. He's a real blister mechanic."
Blitz - Amphibious assault. Usage: "We're shipping out. There's another blitz on."
Bloody - A common profanity in Australia and New Zealand. The word crept into the everyday speech of units that had served in either of these countries. Usage: "Bloody hell! I cut myself with my KA-BAR tryin' to sharpen it."
Blouse - The jacket of the dress blue and winter service uniforms. Usage: "I'm goin' ashore tonight to get my blouse tailored."
Blues - The legendary Marine dress uniform. Many wartime recruits expected to be issued a set of blues, but general issue of this uniform ceased from 6 August 1942. Marines at some posts and stations – notably Marine Barracks, London, and Marine Barracks, Washington, DC – continued to receive issued blues as needed. All other Marines had to buy their own if they wanted a set.
Bn-sections -Staff sections at the battalion headquarters echelon. They were designated in written form as follows: Bn-1 Administration, Bn-2 Intelligence, Bn-3 Operations and Training, B-4 Supply. Staff sections assisted the commander with the many supporting duties required at the headquarters and support level of command and control. In speaking, Marines used the word 'battalion' followed by the staff section's number. Usage: "Head over to Battalion-2 and get the latest intel update."
Bolshevik, To go - A variant of 'asiatic' where the victim, usually a salty Marine with multiple campaigns behind him, suddenly rejected the the Marine Corps system, along with its constraints and discipline, embarking on a losing battle of wills with the brass. Usage: "Boy, I dunno what's wrong with Gizmo. He's gone bolshevik and I can't get any sense into him. He'll end up in the brig for sure."
Boondockers - Sturdy rough-out field shoes worn by Marines with their dungarees and summer service uniforms (and sometimes with greens). Boondockers were also sometimes worn with the winter service uniform, especially when it was used as a field uniform.
Boondocks - Out in the field at a post or station, or a long way from anywhere. "Where are we anyway, out in the boondocks?"
Boot - A recruit in boot camp.
Boot camp - Recruit training at one of the following installations: MCRD, San Diego, MCRD, Parris Island, or Montford Point Camp, Camp Lejeune.
Boondocking - Punishment in recruit training in which the drill instructor orders a recruit or his platoon out to do repetitive and tiresome tasks away from the prying eyes of officers. Usage: "If we don't get squared away Sgt Smith is gonna have us boondockin' for sure." Also be used as a verb. Usage: "Jones was all fouled up and we got boondocked again last night."
Boot Looey - A brand new second lieutenant. Usage: "Have you seen that boot looey in 2nd platoon? He's so wet behind the ears, he's got water drippin' off his head." Another often used term for new lieutenants was 'Ninty-day wonder', or sometimes, 'Ninty-day blunder'.
Bought it - Got killed. Usage: "Pete bought it over by Sugar Loaf."
Boys - A friendly way of speaking to the Marines and sailors in your unit. Usage: "Okay, boys, let's get resupplied with ammo and chow and stand by to move out."
Brain housing group - Jargon for the brain adapted from terminology for rifle nomenclature. If a Marine was not paying attention, his squad leader might say, "Jones, wake up and clean the carbon outta your brain housing group."
B-rations - Dehydrated and powdered rations designed to be reconstitutued with water and served in overseas locations. Since they did not contain liquid, B-rations saved shipping weight and space. They were designed with the same nutritional content as A-rations, however, since there was a limited selection available, B-rations became monotonous to eat month in and month out. Usage: "I am so damned tired of B-rations. What I wouldn't give for a nice thick civilian steak."
Break out - To open or start something, or to prepare something for use. Usage: "Why don't ya' break out your smokes?"
Brig - The jail aboard a ship, or on an installation. Usage: "If Alphabet don't square himself away, he's gonna get brigged for sure."
Brig rat - A Marine that has been in and out of the brig numerous times. Usage: "Mac is a good Marine in the field, but in garrison he's a brig rat."
Brigade - A tactical formation of one or two infantry regiments intended for independent operations. The brigade had its own assigned or attached supporting units, including artillery, tanks, engineers, medical, motor transport, etc. Brigades were usually commanded by a brigadier general.
In writing and speaking, this echelon was always identified with the word 'brigade' in its title. For example: 'First Provisional Marine Brigade', or 'Third Marine Brigade'. When speaking on this echelon, a Marine would say, "I'm with the First Marine Brigade" or "I'm with the Second Brigade."
Brown side out - Reference to the arid-colored side of of Marine Corps camouflage uniforms and 782 gear. Predominent colors were tan, light brown, and medium brown in a splotchy leaf pattern. Switching back and forth between colors led to some Marine creating the ditty, "Green side out, brown side out, run in circles, scream and shout!"
Buddy - Common name for others. Usage: "Hey buddy, bear a hand here, huh?" A Marine's best friend was his 'foxhole buddy'. The reference was that they stood shoulder-to-shoulder and shared the dangers of combat together. Usage: "Sam was the best foxhole buddy a guy could want. I sure do miss him."
Buddy-buddy - 1. Currying favor with another Marine to get something from him. Usage: "Hey, just 'cause you're gettin' buddy-buddy with me, I'm not lendin' you my spare khaki shirt." 2. Close friendship between a group of Marines. Usage: "Nic and Gizmo are so buddy-buddy, ya' never see one without the other."
Bug juice - 1. Insect repellent, which it was rumored actually attracted mosquitos. Usage: "I smeared on a buncha bug juice, but I still got bitten at least a dozen times. 2. Beverage powder mixed with water in one of several fruit flavors. Often served in messhalls and aboard ship for mid-day meals. Usage: "Hey, Mac. What's to drink?" Answer: "Bug juice again."
Bunk - A place to sleep or bed. Usually refers to a sleeping place ashore. Usage: "Hey, Mac, get your gear off my bunk."
Button in - To prepare for the onset of darkness in the field or during combat. A reference to the buttons on shelter halves. Usage: "I want to get one more cuppa joe before we button in for the night."
Butts - Downrange area at the rifle range where targets were pulled, marked and pasted. The butts were below ground level to prevent accidental ricochets from entering them. A field telephone connected the butts to the firing line.
Butts, pulling - Detail of Marines assigned to pull and mark targets in the butts. These Marines also signaled the firing line on shooters' performance for each round fired. When units went to the rifle range, they were usually organized into firing relays and alternated between the line and the butts. Usage: "Okay boys, we're in relay one this morning and after chow, we'll be pulling butts."
Cake and wine - Bread and water. Under the Articles for the Government of the United States Navy, a commanding officer had the authority to confine Marines under his command to solitary confinement, on bread and water, for a peiod not exceeding five days. Usage: "Smitty's in the brig on cake and wine. Let's try to sneak him over some pogey bait."
Campaign hat - Officially known as the field hat. The campaign cover was an iconic item of issue to Marines in the pre-World War II era until its issue ceased in May 1942. With a 2 & 7/8" brim and Montana peak, the field hat was made of fine felt. It served as a sun shade, rain shield, water carrier, and many other purposes. Marines almost always formed the brim into unique shapes. For examples, visit the WW2 Gyrene summer service uniform image gallery.
Canal, The - Guadalcanal, especially in reference to the First and Second Marine Divisions and attached units that served there in 1942-43 in the first ground offensive of World War II. Usage: "I'm still all shot through with malaria from the Canal."
Cannon cocker - An artillery Marine. Usage: "How come them cannon cockers put their guns right across from where we're tryin' to sleep."
Carry on - An order to resume or continue normal duties.
Cat fever -In the World War II era, medical officers frequently diagosed high temperatures of unknown origin as catarrhal fever. (Although in the modern era, this diagnosis is no longer recognized in humans.) Marines invariably shortened this term to 'cat fever,' which came to mean any fever with unexplained causes. Usage: "I dunno how I got cat fever. I was fine when I hit the sack last night."
Chaplain - Naval officer whose mission was the spiritual well-being of the Marines and Sailors in his unit. Chaplains were usually assigned at battalion-level and above and ministered to Marines of all denominations. Catholic chaplains were called 'Padre' or 'Father'. Chaplains of other denominations were addressed as 'Chaplain'.
Charlie Med - Company C of a divisional medical battalion.
Chicken - Nickname for a very young or baby-faced Marine. Usage: "Hey Chicken, when do you turn eighteeen?"
Chickenshit - A universal description for bullshit, or military bureaucracy, especially when directed against enlisted Marines. Usage: "Those chickenshit guys in admin want a workin' party from the line companies to help move their shit."
China Hand - A Marine with many years of service in China. In the inter-war decades, the Corps maintained a large presence in China to protect U. S. interests and foreign policy. Service in China was a prime duty assignment for all hands and an exotic land that appealed to many Marines. Usage: "Sgt Jones is an old China Hand."
China Marine - A Marine serving in China. Usage: "We're China Marines now, can ya' believe it?"
China Station - The colloquial name for the Asiatic Fleet of naval vessels assigned to duty in China. Usage: "Smitty served so many years on China Station, he's gone asiatic."
Chit - A memorandum, official form, or note. This word found its way into sea service usage in China, where it was picked up from British servicemen. It spread through both the Navy and Marine Corps. Usage: "I got cat fever. I'm gonna see the first sergant and try to get a sick call chit."
Choking Charlie - Many rumors and odd ideas swirled around the camps of the First Marine Division on Pavuvu. One of the most common and persistent was that of Choking Charlie. He was rumored to prowl through tents at night and attempt to strangle sleeping Marines. Some Leathernecks even went to the extreme of sleeping with the Ka-Bars or loaded .45s in their bunks in case Charlie showed up. Usage: "Holy shit! I think that was Chokin' Charlie who just ran outta that tent!"
Chow - A meal in a chow hall or in the field. Usage: "What's for chow?"
Chow down - Announcement that chow was being served.
Cinderella Liberty - Sea service jargon for liberty that ends at midnight. Enlisted Marines and junior NCOs usually had to turn in their liberty cards by midnight, while officers and staff NCOs could stay off-base until reveille. Usage: "We have cinderella liberty tonight. If we're not back on time, it's our ass."
Clap shack - Slang for the battalion aid station or dispensary. Usage: "I'm goin' over to the clap shack to get these blisters popped by the Doc."
CMC - The Commandant of the Marine Corps. Pronounced Cee-M-Cee, the term also included the staff offices that advised and supported the Commandant. Usage: "Cee-M-Cee just ordered that we quit issuing blues for the duration."
Cobber - New Zealand slang for 'pal' or 'buddy'. It was commonly used in all units that spent time resting, training and recuperating in New Zealand, a country beloved by Marines who served there.
Collision mats - Slang for pancakes. Usage: "These collision mats taste like rubber."
Colors - Organizational flags belonging to a Marine unit. Each color-bearing unit had a set of National and unit colors. Colors were carried by a specially-apponted color guard. NCOs carried the colors, and non-rated Marines served as right and left guards. The bearer of the National Colors was usually the NCOIC. Usage: "We need a color guard tomorrow at battalion formation. Sergeant Mac, you're in charge."
Combat loading - Method of loading transports and other amphibious ships. When combat loading, equipment, vehicles and supplies were loaded in order of priority at the objective. The general rule was 'last in, first out.' Amphibious vessels each had a Marine assigned as the transport quartermaster. He assisted units in getting their gear stowed correctly. Divisions conducted embark schools frequently to teach Marines the specifics of combat loading and unloading. Usage: "Yeah, yeah, I know everything's already on the ship, but we gotta pull it all out and get it combat-loaded."
Commandant, The - Commonly used expression referring to the Commandant of the Marine Corps. Usage: "Hey Mac, did ya' hear General Vandegrift just got picked as the new Commandant?"
Company - A unit comprised of several platoons and roughly 125-240 Marines, dependent upon type and assignment. In infantry, raider, parachute, artillery and engineer regiments, each company was lettered sequentially used standard phonetics. In official usage, company-sized regimental units were designated as follows: 'Company M, 'Battery C', etc. In common usage, Marines would say, "I'm in King Company," or "Fox Company has shots this afternoon at the clinic."
Separate companies were numbered and identified by type. Some examples were: "1st Separate Topographic Company", "14th Separate MP Company", "8th Ammunition Company", etc.
Specialist companies assigned to a higher headquarters were identified by type, along with the designation of the higher headquarters. Examples were: "Maintenance Company, 5th Service Battalion", "Headquarters and Service Company Third Marines", "Pioneer Company, 29th Marines (reinforced)," etc.
Company Gunnery Sergeant - Also known as the Company Gunny. This NCO ranked directly below the company first sergeant and was responsible for tactical and operational training in the company, discipline, welfare of Marines and distribution of ammunition, rations and water, along with other supplies. He helped the company commander lay out the company's defiensive lines and performed other duties as directed. Usage: "Buddy, you do not want the company gunny to catch you skylarkin'."
Company office - Structure or tent where the company commander, first sergeant and other headquarters Marines had their offices. This area was the nerve center of the company in garrison. Also, the duty NCO and his runner pulled duty here.
Company Runner - 1. Non-rated Marine assigned by the duty roster in garrison or camp to assist the Duty NCO. The company runner performed various duties, including waking Marines for watch or guard duty, running messages to higher headquarters, cleaning the company office or tent, and other tasks assigned by company leadership. Usage: "I wish I could go on liberty tonight, but I got duty as the company runner." 2. Non-rated Marine assigned to a headquarters element to carry messages back and forth in combat. Usage: "Brother, I'm glad I ain't a runner. We just have to stay in our holes. He's gotta take those messages back and forth where the Japs are shootin'."
Concentration - Pre-registered artilley or mortar target that massed fires from multiple indirect fire units. Forward observers and infantry leaders plotted concentrations on likely enemy avenues of approach, assembly areas and large defensive positions. Concentrations were identifed by a letter followed by two numbers. Requests for fire were passed either by radio or field phone. Usage: "Fire concentration Able 1-3, over."
Cook whites - Officially, the clothing worn by Marines assigned to duty in mess halls and galleys. Colloquially, a reference to utilities faded to a whitish shade of green. Usage: "Smith, them dungarees look like cook whites. Get over to supply and survey 'em."
Corkscrew and blowtorch - Method of eliminating Japanese defensive positions. Flamethrowers and BARs suppressed the enemy position and then a satchel charge was used to destroy it. For an example of this tactic being used, read my short story 'Flamethrower Up!'
Corps - Unit of two or more divisions and supporting units group together at the operational level. Corps organized by the Marine Corps were identified with the word 'amphibious' following the numeral. Three amphibious corps were formed during World War II; designated by Roman numerals I, III and V in sequence. I Marine Amphibious Corps was the only one to carry the word 'Marine' in its title. Each corps had a unique spoken title. They were as follows:
I Marine Amphibious Corps: "Eye-mac"
Corps, The - Colloquial name for the Marine Corps. Usage: "Did ya' expect a rose party when ya' joined the Corps?"
Corpsman - Navy enlisted medical technician assigned to a Fleet Marine Force unit. These sailors were members of the Hospital Corps, an enlisted branch of the Navy. When Marines were wounded or injured, they and their buddies yelled out, "Corpsman!" as a signal that medical aid was required. During World War II seven Corpsmen won the Medal of Honor, four of them posthumously.
Corpsmen wore Marine service and field uniforms and carried the same type of equipment as the Marines they served with. Their primary job was to aid the wounded and see to field sanitation for their units. In infantry units, Corpsmen were attached down to the platoon level. In most other unit types, they were located in the medical section, platoon or detachment. Corpsmen were designated by rate and rating. Non-rated Corpsmen carried the rank of Hospitalman Assistant, Hospitalman Second Class, or Hospitalman First Class. Petty Officers carried the rating of Pharmacist's Mate and rated as petty officers.
The universal nickname for Corpsmen was 'Doc,' a word that signified the respect and comradeship that Marines and their Corpsmen felt for one another. Marines used other, more irreverent names when talking about Corpsmen as a group. The two most common examples were 'pecker checker' and 'chancre mechanic'. Both derived from the Hospital Corps' role in prevention and treatment of venereal disease. But Marines never used these when addressing or talking about their Corpsman. He was always 'Doc'.
Cot press - In many tent camps overseas, Marines did not have access to irons. If he wanted his khakis to look somewhat presentable, the Marine laid them neatly out under his cot pad and slept on them. Usage: "This cot press looks like crap. I wish we had an iron."
Course - Direction of travel for a vessel at sea. Colloquially used in the Marine Corps to indicate that a Marine or unit was misoriented or lost. Usage: "Hey shipmate, you're a little off your course, there."
Cover - Sea service jargon for a hat or cap. My research has led to the conclusion that wartime use of this word was not so widespread in the Corps as it is today. Usage: "Yo' Marine, get your cover on."
C. P. - The tactical command post of a unit in combat and in field training. The C. P. was the nerve center for the unit and its operations. Usage: "Get to the C. P. pronto and tell the skipper we need a squad over on the left flank."
C-rations - Canned rations intended for consumption during combat operations and training. The 'C' designation did not stand for 'combat'. Marines usually referred to these as 'C-rats.' Marines were not supposed to eat C-rations for more than five days in a row, but sometimes they ended up as the main food source for months at a time. A complete ration consisted of a main course 'M' unit and an accessory 'B' unit. The cans, which were about the size and shape of a modern can of Spaghetti-Os, weighed 12 ounces. Usage: "All hands need to draw three c-rats at the supply room."
Crotchrot - Fungal infection in the pubic area. This type of infection caused terrible problems in the hot and humid conditions of the South Pacific. There were few effective treatments and fungal infections sometimes became so bad that Marines had to be hospitalized for them. Usage: "Jack has crotchrot again. He's always scratchin' his nuts."
Crud - Diarrhea. Usage: "I got the crud bad. I went 14 times today." A severe case of diarrhea was called 'galloping crud'. Usage: "I just can't get rid of this gallopin' crud."
Cruise - An enlistment period. Usage: "I'm gonna ship over for another cruise."
C and S - Clean and sober. An annotation made in the duty log when a Marine turned his liberty card in at the company office.
Cumshaw - A Chinese word for a tip or gratuity. It came into use in the sea services during the long years of expeditionary duty in China. Modified to mean trade or barter, it could either be used as a noun or a verb. Usage 1: "I cumshawed this bottle of whiskey for a home-made Jap battle flag."Usage 2: "Boy, that Jap battle flag'll be some good cumshaw."
D-Day - Specific date of an amphibious assault. There were many D-Days in the Pacific theater. Activities and critical timings prior to D-Day were identified as D-2 (days), D-90 (days), etc. The '-' symbol stood for 'minus'. Subsequent to D-Day, dates were designated as D+1, D+14, etc. The '+' symbol stood for 'plus'.
D and D - Annotation on the duty log indicating that a Marine was returned to the unit by the shore party or MPs for being drunk and disorderly while on liberty. A D and D report usually meant either a severe ass-chewing by the first sergeant, or a deck court with the commander. Usage: "Alphabet got picked up last night in town for D and D. Brother, is he in trouble."
D-rations - Supplemental ration issued to Marines for combat operations. The D-ration was a chocolate-like nutrition bar packed into a waterproof waxed cardboard container. D-rations were never intended as a primary source of nutrition, and Marine uniformly disliked them. Usage: "Who wants my D-rats?"
Dago - Sea service jargon for San Diego, home of many Navy and Marine Corps installations. During the war years, countless servicemen passed through or were stationed in San Diego. The city went 24 hours a day with bars, diners, tattoo parlors, movie houses, tailors, uniform vendors, carnivals, brothels and every other sort of business. While most were honest extablishments, a minority of businesses existed to exploit servicemen and separate them and their pay as fast as possible. Usage: "Hey Mac, can I catch a lift into Dago after chow?"
Dead horse - To draw an advance pay. When Marines received funds in this manner, they were said to be "riding a dead horse", until they had repaid the government. Usage: "I wish I could go ashore with you guys, but I'm on a dead horse."
Deck court - Commander's non-judicial punishment under the Articles for the Government of the United States Navy. Under Article 24, a commander had the authority to hand out the following punishments for a single offense:
Usage: "Stay the hell away from the company office this afternoon. The skipper is holding deck courts then."
Defense Battalion - Units organized to garrison island bases and defend them against enemy air raids, naval engagements and ground assaults. Twenty such units were organized between 1939-1943, two of them composed of African-American enlisted Marines and white officers. Defense battalions were heavy units designed and equipped to defend U.S.-held islands from enemy sea, air and ground assaults. Their individual make-up varied through the war, but typically defense battalions were equipped with heavy, medium and light antiaircraft weapons, seacoast artillery, heavy searchlights, and light tanks. Some units also had provisional rifle companies.
Dengue fever - Also called breakbone fever. A tropical disease endemic to many areas of the South and Central Pacific. Dengue is transmitted by mosquito bite and there is no cure for it. Symptoms include high fever, terrible joint and bone pain, chills, profuse sweating, delirium, shock, and measles-like rash. along with other internal symptoms. Dengue is a life-threatening illness and many Marines were afflicted with it during the war.
Deserter - A Marine who absented himself from his place of duty for ten days or more with no intention to return.
Deuce-and-half - Two-and-a-half ton capacity six-wheel-drive cargo truck. Usage: "We need to get this cargo moved. Where's the deuce-and-half."
Deuce gear - Marine Corps slang for 782 gear. Usage: "We're having a deuce gear inspection on Saturday morning." So-called because a Marine's personal equipment was accounted for on a Form 782.
Devil Dog - Famous nickname for Marines that originated in World War I from the German word Teufelhund. Legend has it that the Germans at Belleau Wood said that the Marines fought like hounds from hell, and the moniker stuck. Usage: "Hey Devil Dog, get your helmet on."
Diamond, Leland A, MGySgt - A legendary old salt who served in two wars as an infantry Marine. In the interwar years, 'Lou' Diamond, as he was known, spent years in China. He had another nickname, not so flattering – 'The Honker'. Diamond had a loud command voice, especially in combat. Scuttlebutt had it that he could function as a one-Marine air raid warning system if called on.
Diamond ranked as one of the top experts on mortar gunnery in the Marine Corps and he was one of three senior NCOs who formulated the prototype for the M1941 pack system. Deployed to Guadalcanal with H 2/5, 1st MarDiv, Diamond served as the platoon sergeant in the battalion 81mm mortar platoon. There he reputedly sank a Japanese destroyer with a single mortar round into its smokestack. Medevaced off the Canal, Diamond never returned to combat. He was shipped stateside where he served at Parris Island and Camp Lejeune for the duration. MGySgt Lou Diamond retired in November 1945 and passed away in 1951.
Ding hao - A Chinese word meaning 'very good' or 'number one'. It came into use in the sea services during the long years of expeditionary duty in China.
Division - Unit of roughly 14,000 Marines and Sailors built around three infantry regiments, an artillery regiment, and divisional support units. Some of these, such as tanks, engineers and pioneers, were in battalion strength. Others were company-sized units. Divisions almost always had corps- and higher-level assets attached for combat operations. Divisions with these attachments were designated as 'reinforced'. When the division was operating with major elements detached, it was designated by the word 'minus' following the divisional name. Divisions were usually command by a major general.
Six Marine divisions were activated during World War II and they were sequenced numerically from one through six. All of these divisions bore the identification 'Marine' following the number. In speaking of divisions, the following rule is followed:
The word 'division' was never omitted when speaking of this echelon. Usage: "I've with the Sixth Marine Division." When someone speaks of 'the Sixth Marines' or 'the Second Marines', the term referred specifically to a Marine regiment, and not a division. Frequently, the title was abbreviated to '1st MarDiv', '3rd MarDiv, etc. Usage: "Who ya' with, Mac? Answer: "The 4th MarDiv."
Dog tags - Identification tags worn around the neck. Each Marine was issued with a set of two dog tags.
Dog target - A target used on the known distance range that simulated the head and shoulders of an enemy soldier. It was used for transitional firing from the 200- and 300-yard lines.
Dogface/Doggie - Derogatory name for a soldier in the US Army. Usage: "Boy, those doggies are pathetic. They can't even shine their shoes."
Don't ya' know there's a war on? - An all-purpose phrase used in reply to bellyaching, ear-banging, or complaints about anything from chow to the weather. For example, if a Marine said, "Boy, this chow so bad, it's makin' me throw up", his buddy might reply, Quit your bellyachin'. Don't ya' know there's a war on?"
Dope - 1. Important information. Usage: "What's the dope on this operation?" If the information was verified as accurate, it was 'the straight dope'. If the information was no good, it was 'bum dope'. 2. Windage and elevation on the rear sight of the service rifle. Usage: "I want that five bucks for shootin' expert. I gotta make sure to get my dope right."
Dope off - To avoid assigned tasks or duties. Usage: "I better not find you Marines dopin' off from mess duty."
Draftee - A Marine inducted through Selective Service into the Corps. There were two ways that a young man could be drafted into the Marine Corps. First were Selective Service volunteers, those who had received their call-up notice and requested service in the Corps. Second were Selective Service inductees, who were purely draftees. Usage: "Can ya' believe it, Ski? The Corps started takin' draftees. What's next?"
Draw - To receive something through channels. Usage: "Get over to the supply tent and draw our cleanin' supplies."
Drill instructor - NCO assigned to a recruit platoon as its primary instructor and authority figure in recruit training. The drill instructor was responsible from turning civilians into basically-trained Marines. His influenence was so great countless Marines remembered him decades after the war. Recruits often shortened the title to 'D.I.', but never ever to his face. Frequently, a non-rated Marine, himself only recently graduated from boot camp, was assigned as an assistant drill instructor. He was known (also never to his face by a recruit) as an 'acting jack'. Usage: "I hear the D.I.s in San Diego are really tough. What have you heard?"
Drizzlies, The - Diarrhea. Usage: "I feel miserable. I got the drizzlies again."
D-sections - Divisional-level staff sections. They were designated as follows: D-1 Administration, D-2 Intelligence, D-3 Operations and Training, D-4 Supply. Staff sections assisted the commander with the many supporting duties required at the headquarters and support level of command and control.
Dungarees- A durable working and combat uniform of shirt and trousers made of heavy herringbone twill cotton. The word was a carry-over from the US Navy's name for its enlisted working uniform. Officially, dungarees were known as the utility uniform. Usage: "Wash out those dungarees and look like Marines."
DUKW - (Pronounced 'Duck') Official name for the 2 & 1/2 ton amphibious truck. The Marine Corps formed six amphibian truck companies and separately, the 20th Provisional Amphibian Truck Battalion during the war.
Duration - Reference to the end of the war. All wartime reserve enlistments, inductions and commissions were for the duration of hostilities plus six months. Usage: "We might as well get motivated. We're all here for the duration."
Duty NCO - Corporal or sergeant assigned in garrison or camp as the responsible NCO in a company, battery or detachment after duty hours. The Duty NCO was required to remain awake and make regular rounds to check on security and well-being in the company area. The Duty NCO was assisted by the company runner.
Duty roster - List maintained in garrison by the first sergeant of enlisted Marines for guard and mess duty, Duty NCO and company runner duty, and other assorted details. The duty roster was supposed to be kept in a strictly impartial manner and all duties assigned fairly. Usage: "I got guard duty again at the motor pool. I must be on the first sergeant's shit list."
Eagle, Globe and Anchor - Elements of the Marine Corps Emblem. Sometimes shortened to 'EGA', which is probably a post-World War II abbreviation. Marines called the devices worn on blouses and the garrison cap 'collar ornaments', and those worn on the field and service hats and the sun helmet were called 'hat ornaments'.
Ear-banger - A butt kisser or a Marine trying to get something for himself. Usage: "I seen some ear-bangers in my day, but Johnson takes the cake." When used as a verb, the term was spoken as 'ear bang.' Usage: "I need to go bang ears for a survey to the FMF."
Eggs in your beer - Not specifically a Marine Corps term, but used widely throughout the Marine Corps during World War II. It was similar in meaning to 'Things are tough all over', or 'Don't ya know there's a war on?' Usage: If a Marine started complaining about the chow, supplies, or just about anything, his buddy might say, "What do ya' want? Eggs in your beer?"
Eightball - A lazy Marine who avoided working parties and didn't do his job. Leatherneck Magazine published a monthly cartoon strip called 'Eightball and Gizmo' that was very popular. Usage: "Every draftee we get is an eightball."
Elliot, Camp - Large Marine base outside of San Diego named after MajGen George F. Elliot, tenth Commandant of the Marine Corps. Elliot was a major training and staging base before and during the war. Much of the former base is now the site of Marine Corps Air Station, Miramar. Usage: "The liberty bus back to Elliot leaves from the USO at 2130. Don't miss it."
Entrenching tool - Universally known as the 'e-tool'. A small shovel that stored in its carrier on the flap of the haversack. For much of the war, Marines used the M1910 entrenching tool, which had a fixed blade and a t-handle. In 1943, a folding entrenching tool was developed based on a captured German tool. The folding version had three positions: folded against the handle for storage, fully extended for dirt removal, and a middle pick-like position for grubbing and breaking up hard soil.
Eighth and I - Marine Barracks, Washington, DC, the oldest post in the Corps. Pronounced 'Eighth and Eye,' this is the site of the Commandant's home, the Marine Corps Institute, and other specialized units that support the Corps and its missions.
Expeditionary can - Five-gallon fuel or water can. Water cans were supposed to be prominently marked with white paint so they were not mistaken for fuel cans. Usage: "You guys grab those expeditionary can and get them back to the water point."
Fair leather belt - Slang for the garrison belt worn with the winter service blouse and the overcoat. The buckle made an outstanding beer bottle opener and sometimes proved handy in bar fights.
Fartsack - A bunk or cot. Usage: "We got a billets inspection by the skipper Saturday morning. Make sure the blankets on your fartsacks are good and tight."
Fartsack drill - Sleep. Usage: "Hey, pipe down so a guy can get some fartsack drill, huh?"
Feathermerchant - A small-statured Marine. Usage:" How come it seems like only feather merchants get stuck with the BAR?"
Field day - Cleaning of company or platoon area supervised by the company gunnery sergeant and platoon sergeants. It was used as both a noun and a verb. Field day was a top-to-bottom scrub down of everything, resulting in an inspection-ready area. Oddly enough, field day almost always happened in the evening, and not during daytime hours. Usage: 1. "We got field day after evening clow, be back in the area at 1830." 2. "We're gonna field day the barracks until they're squared away."
Field Marching Pack - An assembly of the M1941 pack system using the haversack, belt suspenders and blanket roll. It was used for combat and problems. Usage: Uniform for the hike on Friday is Field Marchin' Packs and steel pots."
Field Music - A trumpeter (bugler) or drummer. Trumpeters were the butt of much dark humor since they blew reveille each morning in garrison. Field musics were often utilized as runners in combat. Usage: "Boy, I'd like to strangle that field music."
Field phone - Also called S.P. phone (short for sound-powered). The EE-8 field telephone was used throughout the Corps during the war. It was first issued in a leather carrying case, but these cases deteriorated quickly under combat conditions. Later in the war, they were built with a heavy-duty web case. Usage: "Hey, Ski. Get the field phone set up."
Field problem - A field exercise. Often shortened to 'problem'. Usage: "We got a field problem next week. I gotta break two dates now."
Field scarf - Khaki necktie worn with the winter and summer service uniform. Usage: "Square away that field scarf, Marine."
Field-strip - 1. Disassembly by a Marine of his assigned weapon for routine cleaning and lubrication. Usage: "It's easy to field-strip an M1." 2. Disposal of a cigarette butt leaving no litter. Usage: "The smoking lamp is out. Get them butts field-stripped."
Field Transport Pack - An assembly of the M1941 pack system using the haversack, knapsack, belt suspenders and blanket roll. Field transport packs were carried during movement when blanket rolls were needed and speed was not critical. Usage: "All hands need to rig field transport packs tonight before 1900."
Fireteam - An element of the rifle squad. Fireteams were first standardized in the F-series T/O effective from 27 March 1944. A fireteam consisted of four Marines; a corporal fireteam leader, an automatic rifleman and two riflemen. Three fireteams and a squad leader made up a squad. for a total of thirteen Marines. Fireteams were lettered in sequence able, baker and charlie.
First sergeant - The senior Non-commissioned Officer in a company or battery. The first sergeant was responsible for administration, discipline, appearance and adherence to standards by the Marines in his unit. Usage: "The first sergeant is looking for a working party. We better get the hell outta here."
Fix bayonets - Command to attach bayonets onto rifles. This command was usually a signal that something very bad was about to happen. Usage: "Pass the word down the line to fix bayonets. It sounds like the Japs are workin' up for a banzai."
Fleet, The - Specifically, a large naval organization of ships and Fleet Marine Force units. More generally, a reference to serving in the operating forces versus shore duty. Usage: "Hey, there's a memo on the bulletin board. They're lookin' for volunteers for the fleet!"
Fleet Marine Force - Marine Corps expeditionary forces assigned US Navy fleets. The FMF was activated in 1934 as the result of at least thirty years of practical application and doctrinal development. Colloquially, to say one was in the FMF implied that the real work of the Marine Corps happened there. The acronym was pronounced: "Eff-M-Eff. Usage: "Things are sure rugged in the FMF."
Fleet Marine Force, Pacific - (abbreviated FMFPac) The senior headquarters for all Marine units in the Pacific theater. Also, a general term applying to all Marines and units assigned to the operating forces of the Marine Corps. The acronym was pronounced: "Eff-M-Eff-Pack."
F. O. - Forward observer. A Marine assigned to a mortar or artillery unit who accompanied the forward elements into combat. His primary mission was to call for and adjust supporting arms. F. O.s were typically equipped with binoculars, a map, and a means of communication. Usage: "Get that F. O. We need to fire concentration Baker Tare 12."
Foreskins on toast - Creamed chipped beef, sometimes served in the chow hall as an alternative to SOS.
Fourragere - A green and red braid worn around the left shoulder of service and dress blouses by all hands assigned to the Fifth and Sixth Marines. These units were awarded the fourragere for winning the French Croix de guerre with Palm Leaf three separate times in World War I. This was (and still is) the only distinctive regimental insignia worn by Marines and attached Navy personnel. Usage: "The fourragere sure does look squared away on the greens blouse."
Foxhole buddy - A Marine's best friend. Usage: "Smith and Cox are foxhole buddies. Ya' never see one without the other."
Foxhole rules - Marines and soldiers faced many nights of combat in the Pacific. Across units and services, a few simply ironclad rules were enforced at night:
FUBAR - Acronym meaning 'F*#ked up beyond all recognition'. Use of 'FUBAR' was widespread to describe military foul-ups of every kind. It often denoted a sort of resignation to life in the Marine Corps. Usage: If a Marine simply said, "FUBAR" to his buddy, the meaning was unmistakable. If something completely inane or idiotic happened, a Marine might say, "This is one big FUBAR." or "This is FUBAR'ed."
F*#k - All-purpose word used throughout the Corps as a noun, verb, adjective, exclamation, and for countless other purposes. Sources are mixed as to how frequently the word was used. Some wartime Marines insist that they and their buddies hardly ever used it. Others have recorded that it was used constantly and in every situation.
Galley, The - A kitchen in the chow hall, whether afloat or ashore.
Gang way - Get out of the way. Usage: "Gangway, caualty comin' through!"
Gang way, Lady with a baby! - Phrase yelled by sailors and Marines running ammunition to ships' anti-aircraft guns.
Garrison cap - Official nomenclature for the overseas cap. Until 1944 the Marine Corps did not have a specific piece of headgear designed for wear with the utility uniform. Marines in many units wore the overseas cap with their dungarees in garrison and tent camps. Unofficially, this item was called 'the pisscutter'. Usage: "Uniform of the day is utilities with overseas cap."
Gentian violet - Purple-colored liquid that Corpsmen used liberally to treat fungal infections. Gentian violet stained everything it touched and took a long time to get off the skin. Usage: "Jesus Christ, did the doc paint you with a whole bottle of Gentian violet?"
G. I. - Government issue.
G. I. can - A large galvanized steel trash can. Also called 'shit can'. Usage: "We need to skedaddle. The company gunny is lookin' for three guys to scrub out G. I. cans at the chow hall."
Gizmo - A thing or a Marine that defied description. Somewhat akin to a sad sack in the Army. Leatherneck Magazine published a monthly cartoon strip called 'Eightball and Gizmo' that was very popular. A humorous training film about jungle combat was released in 1943 that illustrated many bad habits and poor traits of a Marine called Gizmo. Each of these ended with the admonition, 'Don't be a Gizmo.' Usage: "You're a goofball. From now on, your name is 'Gizmo'."
GMC - 75mm Gun Motor Carriage. A stopgap antitank vehicle that married the M3 halftrack with the M1897 75mm gun. These weapon systems were found in the regimental weapons company and in the divisional special weapons battalion. Prior to the introduction of the medium tank, these were the most potent direct-fire weapons in the Marine division. Pronounced 'Gee-M-Cee'.
Goettge Patrol, The - LtCol Frank Goettge was the D-2 for the First Marine Division on Guadalcanal. Late in the evening of 12 August 1942, he led a patrol to capture and secure Japanese-held territory west of the Lunga perimeter along the Matinakau River. The 25-Marine patrol was inserted by lighter onto the beach and Japanese troops immediately opened fire.
Over the night the enemy relentlessly encircled and destroyed the patrol, killing all but three Marines. They were ordered to swim back to the Lunga perimeter and report the plight of Goettge and his Marines. The last to depart was Sgt Frank Few, who swam out at dawn and then back into friendly lines. He reported that he had seen Japanese troops mutilating the corpses of his fellow Marines. This story was widely disseminated among the First Marine Division with the core message: 'The Japanese do not take prisoners. It's no quarter asked and none given."
G. O. time - Time spent in the hospital for treatment of a sexually transmitted disease. Prior to the invention of antibiotics, STDs were difficult to cure, and sometimes required prolonged stays in the hospital. Since these diseases were considered to be self-inflicted, the Marine Corps counted the treatment period as bad time and added that length of time to the end of the affected Marine's enlistment. The term 'G. O. time' may be a sideways reference to Gonorrhea. Usage: "Did ya' hear about Smitty? He got a montha G.O. time from gettin' syphllis in Dago."
Goin' in - Heading to the beach in an amphibious assault. Usage: "Looks like we're goin' in. This is it."
Grab-ass - Horseplay, wrestling or other physical activities that detracted from duty. This term was used as both a noun and a verb. Usage: 1. "Knock off the grab-ass!" 2. "Why are you two grab-assin' when we supposed to be cleaning this latrine?"
Green side out - Reference to the woodland pattern side of camouflage clothing and 782 gear. The predominent colors were light green, medium green, medium brown with small tan splotches. Switching back and forth between colors led to some Marine creating the ditty, "Green side out, brown side out, run in circles, scream and shout!"
Green eggs - Reference to powdered eggs that were consumed throughout the Pacific theater as part of the B-Ration menu. When first prepared and served hot, powdered eggs looked and tasted somewhat like the real thing. But within a short time they began to turn greenish yellow and the consistency changed to a rubbery texture and flavor. Usage: "These green eggs taste like crap. They're goin' in the G. I. can."
Greens - The winter service uniform worn in temperate climates from September through April. There were two combinations of this uniform. The winter service 'A' uniform was the complete ensemble of blouse, trousers, shirt, field scarf, shoes, socks and headgear. For the winter service 'B' uniform, Marines removed the blouse. Usage: "I want to square away my greens for liberty tomorrow night."
Grenade launcher - A short tube that attached to the barrel or either the M1 or the M1903A3 rifle. Rifle grenades were pushed down onto the tube and a grenade launching round was loaded into the chamber. When fired, the gas from the round propelled the grenade. HE and antitank grenades were issued for use with this weapon.
G-sections - In preparation for the campaign for Okinawa, the Marine Corps adopted the Army's system of identifying staff sections. Both services were already using the same number designators. In the Army, the 'G' identifier stood for a staff section at division and corps-level.
Guidebook for Marines - First published by the Leatherneck Association in 1946, this work replaced the red book issued to recruits before and during World War II. Heavily illustrated, the Guidebook covered many topical areas critical for the individual Marine. It included chapters on packs and inspections, infantry weapons, close order drill, uniforms, Marine Corps history, squad tactics, and many other subjects. The Guidebook has been revised many times over the years and is still issued to every Marine recruit.
Guidon - A small rectangular flag on an eight-foot pole that identified a recruit platoon, or a company or battery. Guidons were scarlet with golden-yellow lettering.
Gun - An artillery piece. Never a rifle. If a boot called his rifle a gun, that was among the worst sins possible. For that, DI might order the boot to run around the edge of the grinder with his rifle held up over his head, or perhaps kneel before his rifle for hours kissing it and repeating, "I love my rifle, I love my rifle." Another classic punishment was for the boot to march back and forth at right shoulder arms while holding his exposed penis in the left hand. To reinforce the lesson, the boot had to sing over and over, This is my rifle, this is my gun, this is for fighting, this is for fun."
Gung Ho - A Chinese phrase meaning 'to work together' that came to the Marine Corps though LtCol Evans Carlson, commander of the 2nd Raider Battalion. Carlson had spent a year in China with the communist guerillas in 1937-38. Impressed with the Chinese troops' spirit, devotion and self-discipline, Carlson learned that his Chinese counterparts used 'Gung Ho' to describe these traits. He later adopted the phrase as a motivational greeting in his battalion.
Gunner - A highly-respected warrant officer rank whose badge of rank was a bursting bomb. Marine gunners were all former enlisted Marines with long service. Prior to receiving their warrants, they had to take and pass a demanding examination that covered many topic areas, including weapons and ordnance, customs of the sea services, administration, etc. Marine gunners were assigned to in the Bn-3 and they could also serve as specialty platoon leaders, for example in antitank platoons, weapons platoons, etc. Usage: "Gunner Davidson is one squared-away Marine."
Gunny - Slang term for gunnery sergeants both as a form of address, and in speaking about Marines in the rank. Usage: "Gunny wants us to get over to the company office for some paperwork."
Gyrene - Nickname for a Marine. The term was used at least from the 1920s and it is definitely not a combination of 'G. I.' and 'Marine'. Usage: "Hey Gyrene, ya' looked good in the inspection."
Hashmark - Service stripe worn on the lower sleeves of service and dress blouses and the overcoat. Each service stripe showed four years of service. (Note: Hashmark was also a salty character in one of Leatherneck Magazine's cartoons) Usage: "Did'ya see Top in his ables the other day? He had seven hashmarks on his sleeves!"
Haversack - Component of the M1941 pack system. Commonly called 'field pack', the haversack was worn with all five main pack combinations. In the pack, a Marine carried his shaving gear, poncho, weapon cleaning gear, spare socks and skivvies, rations, and personal items. Usage: "Hey, reach into my haversack and pull out my poncho."
HE - High explosive round. (Pronounced H-E)
Head - Rest room and shower facilities in a building or aboard a ship.
Headquarters Bulletin - A bimonthly informational magazine produced by Headquarters, Marine Corps and sent to units throughout the Marine Corps. This publication contained official information, war news, guidance for leaders, and other useful topics of a routine nature.
Hey Mac, you still living? - To ask another Marine if he was okay. For example, after enduring a banzai, a Marine might call out to a shipmate, "Hey Mac, ya' still livin'."
H-Hour - Specific moment when the first wave was scheduled to hit the beach. All pre-landing hours were synchronized with H-Hour and subsequent waves were planned to arrive at two-minute intervals following H-Hour. Usage: "The amtanks are slated to hit the beach at H-Hour, and we're in the second wave. It oughta be fun."
Hi-diddle-diddle, straight up the middle - Ironic reference to a frontal attack, or an attack through an area with little cover. Usage: "Alright people, here we go again. It's Hi-diddle-diddle, straight up the middle."
Higgins boat - Ramped landing boat invented by Andrew Jackson Higgins, a New Orleans-based lumberman and shipbuilder. More than 20,000 of Jackson's boats were produced during the war and he designed two models, the LCVP and the LCM. Usage: "They're lowerin' the Higgins boats over the side at 0730."
High and right - To be angry. This term derived from rifle qualification, where if a right-handed shooter jerked the trigger, his round would often strike the target high and to the right. Usage: "Avoid Sgt Jacobs at all costs. He's high and right 'cause he just got a 'Dear John' letter."
Hit - To be wounded. Usage: "Hey, Chief, ya' hit?"
Hit the beach - 1. To land on an enemy-held shore. Usage: "We hit the beach in the third wave at 0906." 2. To go ashore on liberty. Usage: "Let's hit the beach tonight. I want to get somethin' good for dinner out in town."
Hit the deck - 1. Take cover. 2. Get out of your bunks.
Holcomb, Thomas - Seventeenth Commandant of the Marine Corps. General Holcomb served as CMC from 1936 to 1943, longer than any other CMC in the 20th century. He was a visionary leader and planner who steered the Corps through the depths of the Great Depression and the darkest days of the war. A highly decorated combat Marine in World War I, General Holcomb was respected and admired for his calm demeanor and sharply focused intellect. He served 43 years in the Marine Corps before retiring in 1944.
Hollywood Marine - 1. A derogatory reference to Marines who went to boot camp in San Diego. Always used by Marines who went to Parris Island for recruit training, the term inferred that boot camp in Dago was more glamorous and easy than at P. I. Usage: "Here comes another Hollywood Marine." 2. A derogatory reference to Marines and units based in southern California. Usage: "Life must be a soft touch in the Hollywood Marines."
Hooch - Two-man tent assembled with two shelter halves, two tent poles, two guy lines and pins. This word could be used as both a noun and a verb. Usage: "Hey Smitty, let's hooch together when we set-up the bivouac area."
Horse piss - Low-alcohol beer brewed specifically for the armed forces during World War II. Containing 3.2% alcohol by volume, this beer was heartily disliked by all hands. Nevertheless, Marines drank shiploads of the stuff in World War II. Usage: "This horse piss tastes like crap. Let's find somebody with jungle juice to drink."
HQMC - Headquarters, Marine Corps. Administrative center in Washington, .C., where the Office of the Commandant, and subordinate bureaus and offices were located. When used, the entire phrase was spoken out and not abbreviated.
H and S - A headquarters and service company or battery at battalion or regimental level. The Bn- or R-sections were assigned to H & S, as were clerical, medical, supply, motor transport, communications and other platoons. Usage: "How come H & S has so many guys that don't have to go on battalion hikes?"
Hurry up and wait - All Marines shared the experience of going 100 miles an hour to get ready for something or be somewhere and then having to sit around waiting, whether for trucks, instructions from headquarters, a link-up with another unit, or any of an endless list of possibilities. "Hurry up and wait" captured the frustration and resignation that Marines felt when this kind of situation happened to them.
Illum round - (Pronounced 'ill-oom') Parachute flares fired from 60mm mortars to light the battlefield at night. Usage: "I think there's some movement in that treeline. Can we get some illum rounds so we can make sure?"
In the black - A reference to the bullseye on the able target. If a Marine or his unit was on-target or doing a job correctly and according to standard, they were said to be, 'In the black.'
Irish pennant - A small thread hanging off a uniform item, usually found by the inspecting officer on Saturday morning inspections. Marines used a pair of nail clippers or a zippo to get rid of pesky Irish pennants, but new one always seemed to crop up. Usage: "I spent a good fifteen minutes goin' over my blouse for Irish pennants, but damned if Top didn't find one under my collar."
Iron Mike - In the 1920s the Marine Corps emplaced two statues in honor of the Leathernecks who served in the Great War. One was located at MCB, Quantico, and the other at MB, Parris Island. (The French government placed a third at Belleau Wood in honor of the Fourth Marine Brigade.) These statues were all christened 'Iron Mike' and they represented the epitome of the sacrifice and courageous devotion to duty that Marines showed fighting against Imperial Germany in World War I.
Ironbottom Sound - Nickname for Sealark Channel off Guadalcanal's north coast. So-named because the sea floor there was littered with the wrecks of Allied and Japanese vessels sunk there in 1942-43.
It's my/your ass - To be in trouble. Usage: "If I don't get my rifle squared away, it's my ass."
J-Day - Start date for the amphibious assault on Tinian, Mariana Islands, 24 July 1944. This operation received the identifier to differentiate it from the assaults on Saipan and Guam. All these campaigns fell under Operation Forager, the assault on islands in the Mariana group in the summer of 1944.
Jap - Wartime slang for any Japanese citizen.
Japanese Marine/s - A member or unit of the Japanese Navy's Special Naval Landing Forces. A SNLF unit was assigned to each fleet, and its troops were sailors like any others. Although their equipment and weaponry was identical to the Japanese army, SNLFs were not actually marine units, especially in the sense of the US Marine Corps. But once somebody first invented it, the nickname stuck. Usage: "We wiped out a whole battalion of Jap marines last night."
Jarhead - Derogatory slang for Marines dreamt up by the Navy. The term had nothing to do with haircuts. It most likely derived from the standing collar of the dress blue blouse, which supposedly made a Marine's head appear like the shape of a Mason jar. Use of this nickname was almost guaranteed to end in a fight. (See fair leather belt above)
JASCO - Joint Assault Signal Company. Pronounced 'Jas-Co'. Specially trained and equipped units capable of coordinating and directing Naval gunfire, close air support and artillery. Both Navy personnel and Marines served together in these companies, of which six were formed during the war. Usage: "We're gettin' a JASCO team attached for the operation. It oughta be easy to call for arty."
Jeep - 1/4-ton capacity four-wheel-drive vehicle used throughout the Pacific theater. In his diary entry for 21 November 1943 during the assault on Tarawa, famed war correspondent Robert Sherrod wrote of this ubiquitous little machine: "If a sign of certain victory were needed... this is it. The jeeps have arrived."
Jitterbugging - Firing at shadows or imagined enemies, especially during hours of darkness. During their first few nights in combat, Marines in many units suffered itchy trigger fingers. Sometimes, entire units would open fire at nothing until leaders regained control. Usage: "Them guys in first battalion spent the whole night jitterbuggin'. I didn't get a wink of sleep."
Joe - Coffee. Regardless of temperature, bitterness or color, Marines devoured countless gallons of coffee during the war. In World War II, the Navy operated two of its own coffee roasting plants. One was located in Oakland, Calif, and the other in Brooklyn, N.Y. Between 1942 and 1945, the Oakland plant alone produced 13.5 million pounds of freshly ground coffee. (Figures for the Brooklyn coffee plant are unavailable.) During the war, the Navy and Marine Corps consumed almost 30 tons of ground coffee per day. Usage: "What I wouldn't give for a fresh hot cuppa Joe right now."
Jungle Juice - Homemade alcohol that Marines distilled in camps throughout the Pacific. Some enterprising Devil Dogs actually constructed elaborate stills to make jungle juice. Others took a more rustic approach to making the stuff. Either way, it was not for the faint of heart or stomach. Marines joked that jungle juice would melt through a canteen cup of they drank it too slowly. Sometimes, making jungle juice was as simple as finding a coconut, cutting a hole in it, and filling it with the ingredients. Whatever method (besides stills) fermentation usually took from two to four weeks and the resulting alcohol was horrible in taste.
As recorded by Larry Woodard in Before the First Wave, here is one recipe used by Marines of the 3rd Amtanks on Pavuvu in 1944:
Homemade alcohol was known by many nicknames. Some of the more common ones were: torpedo fuel, raisin jack, apple jack, hooch, and a wide variety of monikers common to American culture.
Jungle rot - Especially in the south and central Pacific, Marines suffered from a variety of fungal infections. Often extremely painful, the infections took hold and spread because of the harsh environment and the demands of combat. Countless Marines were afflicted by ringworm, fungal rashes of every type, as well as constant prickly heat, which caused its own brand of misery. All of these ailments were known by the collective term, 'Jungle rot'. There was really no cure for most of them so long as a Marine remained in combat. Corpsmen fought a losing battle with treatments such as , Gentian violet, Frazer's solution and merthiolate. Usage: "I got this f*#kin' jungle rot on my back so bad, I can't even wear my pack."
Junk on the bunk - An barracks inspection in which Marines lay-out their 782 gear and clothing on their bunks. Usage: "Top is holding a junk on the bunk before he issues liberty cards on Saturday."
KA-BAR - The classic Marine Corps utility knife. Union Cutlery of Olean, N. Y., developed this tool as the "Knife, Fighting, Utility" and it served with Marines wherever they went in the Pacific and beyond. Although other knife and tool companies built these knives during the war, all were known by the moniker 'KA-BAR'. Usage: "Hey, lemme borrow your KA-BAR. I gotta try and pry out this stuck round."
Khakis - The summer service uniform. Usage: "I wish these khakis didn't wrinkle so bad."
Knapsack - Component of the M1941 pack system. The knapsack was used to store clothing and personal items that a Marine might need during a prolonged transit, voyage or field problem. Assault troops typically did not carry knapsacks since they added significantly to weight. During amphibious operations, knapsacks were usually held aboard ship until the island was secure and they were then brought ashore. Usage: "Make sure to stow your spare set of boondockers in your knapsacks."
Knapsack pack - A method of carrying the knapsack used primarily by radiomen and flamethrower operators. The knapsack was packed with items carried by other Marines in the haversack. Using the belt suspenders and the cartridge or pistol belt, the Marine rigged his knapsack so it hung below his radio or flamethrower. Marines disliked the knapsack pack since it banged against their hips and buttocks, especially when running. Most commonly, Marines called this set-up 'the ass pack." Usage: "I'd like to find the guy that dreamt up this ass pack and make him wear it for a week out here."
Knock off - To halt an activity or action. Usage: "Knock off the skylarkin', Marines."
K-rations - Lightweight assault ration packed inside a cardboard container about the size of a Crackerjack box. Three separate menus were developed, a breakfast, lunch and dinner version, each with slightly different contents. K-rations were only supposed to be used during the initial phases of an operation, but Marines often ended up eating them for extended periods of time. Usage: "How do they manage to make everything in these K-rats taste like crap?"
L-Day - Designation for D-Day of Operation Iceberg, the invasion of Okinawa, 1 April 1945. (in an ironic accident of timing, also April Fool's Day)
Landing boat - Any boat that transported Marines from ship to shore. Usage: "Jump down off the net into the landing boat when its rockin' up on a swell."
Lash-up - A unit, usually in reference to a Marine's company. Usage: "This is a squared away lash-up. The skipper is great."
Latrine - Sanitary facilities near bivouac areas or in the field. (see 'one-two-three' above)
LT - Landing Team. (Pronounced "Ell-Tee".) A unit comprised of an infantry battalion with reinforcing assets for tactical operations. These frequently included a tank platoon, engineers, JASCO section, amtracs, etc. Landing teams were always identified by the unit designation of the infantry battalion. Examples: Landing Team 1/28, LT 3/8.
LCI - Landing Craft, Infantry. The LCI was a shallow-draft vessel that could carry a rifle company to the beach head for unloading.Over 900 LCIs were built in World War II. The ship design was also the basis for several support vessels that played important roles in amphibious operatons. The LCI(G) mounted 40mm guns, .50 caliber machine guns, and Mk VII rockets for close-in fire support of the leading assault waves. The LCI(M) was equipped with a 4.2" mortar and .50 caliber machine guns. The LCI(R) mounted a battery of .5" rockets.
LCM - Landing Craft, Mechanized. These craft carried tanks, vehicles and other large loads ashore. They were universally known as 'Mike Boats'. Usage: The Mike Boats are comin' in with the fifth wave carryin' the tanks."
LCP(L) - Landing Craft, Personnel (Large). The first mass-produced purpose-built landing craft. The LCP(L) could carry 36 combat-loaded Marines or eight tons of cargo. The main shortcoming of the LCP(L) was its lack of a ramp, forcing Marines to jump over the sides once the boat was ashore. Prior to 1942, their official name was 'T-boat'. Usually these were called 'landing boats'. Usage: "After we load, the landin' boats are headin' out to a stagin' area about a mile from the ship."
LCS(L) - Landing Craft, Support(Large). A stand-alone ship class designed off the LCI(G).These vessels mounted a 3"/.50 caliber gun, a twin 40mm mount and multiple 20mm cannon. Over 130 LCS(L)s were built and they were heavily employed at Iwo Jima and Okinawa, where they performed wave control boat duty, and other close support tasks.
LCT - Landing Craft, Tank. These large vessels could transport four 40-ton tanks or 150 tons of cargo. They were usually carried to the combat zone nested on the deck of a larget vessel such as an LST.
LCVP - Landing Craft, Vehicle, Personnel. A multi-purpose ramped boat that carried 36 combat-loaded Marines, a jeep and 12 Marines, or eight tons of cargo. This ubiquitous craft was one of the primary war-winners in the Pacific. It had two primary nicknames: 1. 'Higgins boat', 2. 'Vee-Pee'.
Leatherneck - Slang for a Marine. The term came from the nineteeth century Marine uniform, which included a leather reinforcement strip in the standing collar. Usage: "I always wanted to be a Leatherneck."
Lejeune, Camp - (Pronounced 'Le-Jern'.) Large Marine Corps base located near the town of Jacksonville, ('J-ville' or 'J-town'.) North Carolina. The US Government bought the land and coastal strip for the camp in April 1941. Before being named in honor of LtGen John A. Lejeune, thirteenth CMC, the post was called New River. The 1st MarDiv was stationed here prior to shipping out, as were many other units of every description. Lejeune was also the site of many schools and training installations.
Leggings - Canvas gaiters (although that word was never used in describing them) that wrapped over the bottom of the trouser leg and the top of boondockers. The theory behind leggings was that they kept dirt, sand and small pebbles from working their was into the shoe's opening. They performed this function adequately, but once wet, leggings took a long while to dry out. Usage: "Listen up people, I want them trouser legs wrapped tight inside your leggings."
Letter of Instruction - (Pronounced "Ell-O-Eye") An administrative directive to implement or change a policy or procedure. LOIs were generated at all levels of command for subordinate. HQMC Letters of Instruction were issued in numerical sequence and maintained by each unit in a large binder. Between 1941-August 1945, 1112 LOIs were issued by HQMC.
Liberty - Off-duty time when a Marine was authorized to leave the confines of his post or station. Before going on liberty, a Marine had to go to the company office for uniform inspection and to ensure he had a pro-kit. If he was on the liberty roster and met all standards, he received his liberty card and shagged ass out of the area to get into town. Usage: "Let's get over to the company office and get our liberty cards. I want to hit the beach on the first bus goin'."
Light duty - Official permission from the docs for a Marine to be excused from regular duties. Light duty might be specified for a few days for dental extractions, strains and sprains, severe blisters, minor illnesses, etc. Corpsmen were authorized to grant up to three days light duty. The battalion surgeon had to approve light duty longer than that. When someone performed activities not within his specific limitations, it was called 'breaking light duty'. Usage: "My knee is killin' me. I'm goin' over to the clapshack and see if I can get on light duty for a couple days."
Light duty chit - Small form authorizing a Marine to be excused from regular duties for a medical reason. The form had to be carried at all times and was subject to revocation if a Marine was caught breaking his light duty.
Light Marching Pack - An assembly of the M1941 pack system using the haversack only. In this configuration, the straps passed under the wearer's armpits and the pack did not attach to the belt. The Light Marching Pack was worn in combat, field problems, and when the Marine's other equipment was not needed.
Line company/battery - The sharp end of the Marine Corps. Each infantry, artillery, tank and engineer battalion had three assigned line companies. These Marines were supported by Headquarters and Service and Weapons companies. Usage: "How come none of the line companies ever get to go first during battalion hikes?"
Line 'em up and squeeze 'em off - Admonition for Marines to carefully align their sights and take their time pressing the trigger. Coaches used this reminder on the range just before a relay starting a course of fire. In combat, "Line 'em up and squeeze 'em off" meant to aim carefully and make every round count.
Line of departure - (Known universally as 'the Ell-Dee.) A line offshore that was the final coordinating location for amphibious assaults. By doctrine, the LD was 2,500-5,000 yards from the beach, and in practice it varied during operations. Control boats were stationed along the LD and they controlled movement into final combat formation. On signal from the control boat, each wave began its run-in to the beach, and the LD was considered to be the line that initiated combat operations for Marines and their lash-ups. In an amphtrac going in, a salty Marine might quickly tell a newly assigned Marine, "Hey Mac, we just crossed the LD. You're a veteran now."
Listen up! - Pay attention, this is important. Usage: "Listen up people, this is the plan."
Lock and load - 1. The practice of locking the bolt of an M1 rifle to the rear and inserting an eight-round ammunition clip into the receiver. Downward pressure by the clip disengaged the bolt, allowing it to ride forward and chamber the first round. 2. General command to load weapons when going into combat. This command was given at the Line of Departure. Usage: "We're crossin' the LD, lock and load!"
Louie the Louse - Nickname for Japanese planes that flew over the Lunga perimeter on Guadalcanal at night during enemy naval gunfire barrages. Louie dropped parachute flares to illuminate targets for the Japanese ships lying offshore. Usage: "Louie the Louse is droppin' flares! Hit the dug-outs."
LSD - Landing Ship, Dock. A class of amphibious ship with a stern gate and well deck that could be flooded to allow Mike boats to disembark carrying tanks and other heavy cargo. Eight of these ships were built during the war and from their baptism of fire in Operation Galvanic, they served in every amphibious operation of the war. The LSD was able to carry 8,000 tons of cargo and could embark 290 Marines. Usage: "I like this LSD. It still smells new."
LSM - Landing Ship, Medium. An amphibious ship class with a bow ramp designed to carry vehicles onto the beach. Unlike the LST, the tank deck of the LSM was open to the elements. The LSM had space for five medium tanks, or six amphibian tractors. The LSM class was also used as the basis for Landing Ship Medium (Rocket). These ships preceded the first wave and saturated the beach head with heavy rocket fire.
LST - Landing Ship, Tank. (alternative meaning; 'Large Slow Target'). LSTs were shallow-draft ships which carried assault units and their vehicles into combat. Most of a rifle company and its amphtracs could fit into the tank deck of an LST. The bow doors were simple to operate and once they were opened, amphtracs drove off the bow via a small ramp into the water. The notional capacity of an LST was 140 troops and 2,100 tons of vehicles and supplies. In practice, assault units stuffed as many Marines into the ship as it would hold. Usage: "Brother, I hate LSTs. The wind starts blowin' and they roll like a dog in clover."
Lyster bag - Large canvas bag that hung from a tripod of wooden poles and held 36 gallons of water when full. A row of spigots was spaced around the bottom of the bag for filling canteens, etc. The idea behind a Lyster bag was that the water soaked through the canvas, both sealing it, and keeping the water inside cool. Corpsmen purified water in Lyster bags with calcium hypochlorite crystals. Usage: "How come everybody gets to drink outta the Lyster bag, but you and I keep gettin' stuck fillin' it up?"
M1 - The M1 service rifle. This weapon replaced the M1903A3 as the primary combat rifle in the Corps.
M1903A3 - Official designation for the bolt-operated .30-caliber service rifle that was used in various capacities through the 1950s.
Mac - Universal nickname for Marines in World War II. If you didn't know someone's name, 'Mac' was a perfectly acceptable substitute. Usage: "Hey, Mac. Got a light?"
Ma Deuce - Slang for the M2HB .50 caliber machine gun. Usage: "This Ma Deuce weighs a ton."
Maggie's drawers - Red flag waved from the butts at the rifle range when a shooter had completely missed his target. Usage: Dammit, I was shootin' for expert but then I got a maggie's drawers on shot number four at three hundred."
Malaria - A hated disease endemic to many tropical areas. Spread by bites from infected mosquitos, malaria caused untold suffering to countless Marines during the war. Its symptoms included (but were not limited to) headaches, high fever and chills, muscle fatigue, nauseas and vomiting, and retinal damage. Worst of all, when a Marine became infected with malaria, it stayed with him, in some cases for up to thirty years, causing relapses that happened without warning. Usage: "We got so many guys with malaria, we gotta keep 'em in the BAS instead of shippin' 'em to Silverstream."
Marching Pack - An assembly of the M1941 pack system using the haversack and the belt suspenders. The Marihing Pack configuration was rigged when Marines were going into combat or during hikes and field problems where the blanket roll was not needed.
Marine way, The - Description for things done according to tradition, regulations, or by the book. Usage: "There's only one way to set-up that radio set; the Marine way."
Marvin, Milton 'Slug', 2ndLt - One of the most colorful of the Corps' old salts. Marvin was a mustang, old China hand and the Pacific Fleet heavyweight boxing champion. He coached the Fourth Marines boxing team to victory against all comers in China in the 1930s. Marvin earned fame in 1937 by picking up two Japanese officers who had encroached on the American zone in Shanghai. Then-Sgt Marvin carried his detainees to Col Charles Price, CO of the Fourth Marines. In World War II, Marvin accepted a commission and served with the Second Marine Division on Guadalcanal. He was detached for service on Bougainville, where he earned the Silver Star. Assigned to the 21st Marines, Third Marine Division, on Guam, Marvin was killed in action while leading the regimental flamethrower and demolition section. 2ndLt Marvin earned a posthumous Navy Cross for his heroic actions. The Third Marine Division recreation center on Guam was named in honor of the memorable Leatherneck.
Master Tech - Master technical sergeant - The highest of the staff NCO ranks, identified by three chevrons with three bars below them. MTSgts served in the top enlisted pay grade, but they ranked below sergeants major.
Mate - Australian slang for 'pal' or 'buddy'. Especially in the First Marine Division, but in all units that served in Australia, this became an accepted replacement for the words 'buddy' and 'Mac'. Usage: "Ahhh, Semper Fi, Mate!"
Maui, Camp - Home station of the Fourth Marine Division In Hawaii in 1944-45. The Marine Corps occupied the Camp from 1943 to April 1946, when it was turned back over to the original owners, several large fruit growers.
Mess hall - A chow hall or dining facility.
Messman -A non-rated Marine detailed as a helper in a chow hall. There Marines did basic prep work under supervision of the cooks, washed pots and pans, and handled garbage, as well as keeping the entire area clean and neat.
Milk run - An easy operation, relatively speaking. Usage: "Scuttlebutt says the next operation is gonna be a milk run."
Million dollar wound - A wound severe enough to guarantee a Marine would not have to return to combat, but not so bad that it caused irreversible damage. Usage: "That's a million dollar wound, Mac! You're on your way home."
Mogmog - A small island in Ulithi Atoll that was a frequent stopping point for westbound convoys in 1944-45. Marines and sailors were sometimes allowed to go ashore on Mogmog, where the only recreation consisted of pick-up baseball games, volloyball and drinking warm beer. Usage: "We been on this ship so long, even Mogmog sounds good right about now."
Montford Point - Sub-camp at MCB, Camp Lejeune where recruit training for African-American recruits took place from 1942-49. During the war years, more than 20,000 Marines graduated from Montford Point and went on to service with the FMF. In the modern era, Montford Point was renamed 'Camp Johnson' in honor of SgtMaj Gilbert 'Hashmark' Johnson, a legendary Marine of the wartime era. Usage: "I'll tell ya' one thing. Those Montford Point Marines are sure squared away."
Mosquito wings - Chevrons for a private first class. Usage: "Hey, Smith, I see ya' finally got your mosquito wings."
Motor T - Slang for motor transport units and assets. Usage: "Where the hell are those six-bys? Motor T had the request three days ago."
Mustang - A former enlisted Marine who received a commission. A few months prior to Pearl Harbor, Congress gave CMC the authorization to temporarily appoint senior NCOs to the rank of captain in time of national emergency or war based upon outstanding service and technical knowledge. In addition, many Marines received battlefield commissions during the war. All of these Leathernecks were known by the respected word 'mustang'. Usage: "Lieutenant Barnes is an outstanding officer and it's no surprise since he's a mustang."
Nagazyna, John J. - Nicknamed 'Old Nagy', SgtMaj John J. Nagazyna was the only enlisted Marine to earn the Navy Cross in both world wars. He earned his first Navy Cross as a company gunny in France with the 95th Co, Sixth Marines in 1918. But Nagazyna liked to drink, and he liked to drink a lot, so much in fact that he frequently went up and down in rank for being D & D, and other violations of the Rocks and Shoals. But Nagazyna was also recognized as a top-notch leader when he was on-duty and he received many commandations for outstanding performance. In World War II, he earned his second Navy Cross as the Battalion Sergeant Major, 3rd Battalion, 22nd Marines, during the capture of Eniwetok on 22 February 1944. Old Nagy retired in 1947 and died in 1955.
NCO - Non-commissioned Officer. NCOs were called the backbone of the Corps and they did the day-to-day work in leadership, maintenance and a thousand other areas that kept the war running. Usage: "Sergeant Mac isn't the most popular NCO in the company, but he knows how to get the job done"
NFG - No f*#king good. Usage: "The water outta these drums is NFG. It tastes like gasoline."
Nip - Derogatory name for Japanese troops.
Non-rate - A private or Pfc. Usage: "NCOs can stay out on liberty 'til reveille. Non-rates have cinderella liberty."
O-1 Line - Planned limit of advance for D-Day of an amphibious assault. This was a continuous line that was supposed to be secured by sundown of the first day. Subsequent days' O-lines were identified in numerical order. Day+1 operations were to the O-2 line, D+2 to the O-3 line, etc. Doctrinally the O-1 line was placed on terrain with good defensive characteristics, but in practice this was not always possible.
OD - Officer of the Day. (Pronounced O-Dee) A junior officer assigned by duty roster as the commander's representative during non-duty hours in garrison, most commonly at battalion-level. The OD typically took over at the end of the duty day and remained on duty until 0800 the following morning. On weekends, the duty went from 0800 - 0800 the next day.
The OD was required to remain within the area, eat at least one meal in the enlisted chow hall to verify that the food was edible, maintain the duty log, and perform other specified duties. He was assisted by a duty NCO, and a runner. Usage: "Too bad I can't go up with you guys to L. A., but I have OD on Sunday."
Officers' country - Billetting area for officers, whether aboard ship or in garrision. Officers' country was out of bounds to enlisted Marines except for duty-related matters. Usage: Question: "How come officers' country is outta bounds?" Answer, "Beat's me, maybe they run around naked for all I know."
Old Corps, The - A subjective reference to how things used to be. It is generally accepted it this term refers to the pre-war Marine Corps, but there were multiple ways that Marines used the phrase. One common usage was a Marine talking about how it was when he enlisted (even if it was only months earlier) in comparison to Marines with less time in service. Whatever the subject was, it was tougher, more rugged, better, more squared away in the old Corps. Usage: 1. "In the old Corps, we we did things the Marine way." 2. "Can ya' believe it? They're draftin' civilians. The old Corps is shot all to hell."
Old salt - A veteran Marine who had served numerous cruises, served in the Great War, spent time in China, Nicaragua, or other exotic locales, etc. Usage: "How come the old salts won't talk to us?"
On the double - Right away/as fast as possible. Usage: "The company gunny wants you on the double, Marine!"
One way - Description for a stubborn or selfish Marine. Usage: I keep tryin' to tell Parker he's doin' it wrong, but the guy is one way."
Organizational Warrant - Warrant issued by a commander appointing an enlisted Marine to higher rank. These warrants were frequently awarded when good Marines were being transferred to a newly forming unit. Upon arrival, the newly promoted Marine would be assigned to a billet commensurate with his new rank.
Ornaments - Metal Emblems worn on the collars of blouses, caps and hats. Those worn on service uniforms were blackened, and those worn on the dress blue uniform were polished brass for enlisted Marines. Usage: "I need to run over to the PX and get an extra left collar ornament for my pisscutter."
Out of bounds - Off limits or restricted. Usage: "The Women's Reserve billets are out of bounds for male Marines."
Outfit - Informal term for a Marine's unit that was synonomous with 'lash-up'. Usage: "I'm glad we're not in Dog company. That is one chickenshit outfit!"
Overnight - Liberty during which a Marine was permitted to remain off-base until reveille. Usage: "I talked to Top, and he's givin' us both an overnight. Let's hit the beach!"
Pack - 1. The field pack. Usage: "I'm inspectin' field packs before the next hike." 2. The 75mm pack howitzer. Usage: "We'll need to break down the packs to get 'em ashore."
Parade deck - Large area where ceremonies were held, physical fitness training was conducted and other activities were carried out. Also called 'parade ground' and 'the grinder'.
Paramarine - Unofficial nickname for a parachute-qualified Marine. Although the Marine Corps frowned upon this name, it was widely used in the press and by Leathernecks in the parachute battalions. Four of these units were formed before and during the war. In 1943, they were grouped into the First Parachute Regiment and all parachute units and schools were deactivated in January 1944.
Pavuvu Quickstep - Run to the latrine. This phrase was used by the First Marine Division during its two stays on the desolate island of Pavuvu in the Russell Islands. Usage: "Get outta my way, I'm gettin' ready to do the Pavuvu quickstep!"
Pendleton, Camp - Large Marine base near Oceanside, Calif., in northern San Diego County. The camp was established in 1943 and immediately became a major training and staging base on the west coast. The Fourth and Fifth Marine divisions were both based at Pendleton prior to going across as were countless other units of every type. Camp Pendleton also served as a major training center, with many service and technical schools aboard the base.
P. I. - Parris Island, site of the major east coast Recruit Depot. Parris Island was surrounded by a swamp and Marines who went to boot camp there swore the training was harder than in San Diego.
Pick Mattock - A small pick that was stored in its carrier in place of the entrenching tool.The pickhead was easily removed off the mattock handle for storage. Several Marines in each squad were issued with pick mattocks as their primary entrenching tool. This tool was especially important in the years before folding entrenching tools became standard-issue.
Piece - A rifle. There were only two acceptable synonyms for the word 'rifle'. 'Piece' was the first and the other was 'weapon'. If a recruit called his piece a gun, woe betide him. As punishment for this error, the drill instructor might send him boondocking out to San Diego Bay with his bucket to bring it back full of water without spilling a single drop, or something worse. Usage: "I don't want to see one speck of cosmoline on those pieces when you're done cleanin' 'em."
Pioneers - Battalion-sized units organized to provide shore party support during amphibious operations. Six pioneer battalions were formed for war service, one for each Marine division. Pioneers unloaded and staged supplies, provided close-in beach defense, set-up holding areas for follow-on units coming ashore, controlled stragglers and prisoners, moved casualties from the beach for treatment, and performed many other tasks. Usage: "Those pioneers have it rough. Nothin' but haulin' cargo and air raids."
Piss and Punk - Confinement on bread and water issued by a commander to an enlisted Marine or sailor. Commanders were authorized by Article 24 of the Rocks and Shoals to hand out five days on bread and water to enlisted Marines for a single offense. Also called 'cake and wine'. Usage: "Smitty is on piss and punk in the brig tent. We need to sneak him over some pogey bait."
Piss and punk - Bread and water. Under the Articles for the Government of the United States Navy, a commanding officer had the authority to confine Marines under his command to solitary confinement, on bread and water, for a peiod not exceeding five days. Usage: "Smitty's in the brig on piss and punk. Let's try to sneak him over some pogey bait."
Pisscutter - Jargon for the overseas cap. The origin is unclear but the word was specific to the Marine Corps. Usage: "Uniform of the day is dungarees with khaki pisscutters."
Platoon - A tactical grouping of three squads and a platoon headquarters, generally consisting of around 40 Marines. Rifle platoons in line companies were identified by number, i.e., '1st platoon', '2nd platoon', etc. Specialty platoon were identified by type, i.e., 'weapons platoon', 'heavy machine gun platoon', '81mm mortar platoon', etc.
Separate platoons were identified by number and type, i.e., '1st Bakery Platoon', '3rd Ammunition Renovation Platoon', '4th Separate Wire Platoon', etc.
Pogey bait - Candy, cakes, and other assorted snack items. The word is a bastardized form of the Chinese word for a prostitute. During the interwar years in China, Marines received supplementary rations of candy bars, which were a valuable trading commodity. Supposedly, a Marine could use a candy bar as cumshaw for sex. Usage: "Williams got a box of pogey bait from home. Let's get over to the area before its all gone."
Pogey Bait Whistle - Derogatory term for the French Fourragere worn by all hands in the Fifth and Sixth Marine Regiments. Use of this term toward a Gyrene in the Fifth or Sixth Marines was almost guaranteed to end in a brawl.
Pogey rope - Derogatory term for the French Fourragere worn by all hands in the Fifth and Sixth Marine Regiments. There are multiple lengends as to the origin of this term and they implied that the Fourragere was as easy to get as buying a candy bar. Use of this term toward a Gyrene in the Fifth or Sixth Marines was almost guaranteed to end in a brawl.
Police -1. To clean an area or space. 2. To remove objects or detritus, especially from an outdoors area. For example, after training at the rifle range, a platoon sergeant might tell his Marines, "Let's get all the spent rounds policed up." The process of this activity was known as 'police call'. In many posts and stations each unit had an assigned police call area. For example, a drill instructor might tell his recruits, "If I find one butt out in the police call area, it's your asses."
Poncho - A waterproof sheet that served as a rain cape and improvised shelter. Ponchos were originally khaki-colored. The design was changed to two-sided camouflage from 1943-onward. The double-sided poncho colors matched the camouflage on helmet covers, shelter halves, camouflage clothing, etc. The poncho was an impermeable garment which did not allow heat or moisture to escape. Therefore, a Marine wearing his poncho in warm wet conditions got as wet as if he had not worn it at all. Since ponchos were included in the fighting load of the haversack, they were often used as improvised blankets, foxhole liners, sun shades, etc.
Possible, A - A perfect score on the rifle range at yearly qualification. Although many Marines fired expert with their rifles, those few who shot a possible were the best of the best. Usage: "I almost had a possible, but I threw a round at the 500."
Pot walloping - Cleaning and sanitizing the pots, pans, sheets and utensils used to prepare chow. The scullery was the hottest part of the galley or mess hall because everything had to be sanitized with steam. Usage: "It's about time that eightball got stuck walloping pots. He deserves it."
Processing - Systematic isolation and reduction of Japanese defensive positions used during the assault and capture of Okinawa in 1945. Processing involved expenditure of massive amounts of explosives and napalm to destroy enemy fortifications in a methodical and cautious manner.
Professional private - A Marine who had served more than one cruise as a non-rate and had no aspirations to higher rank. Usage: Smith would make a good NCO but he just wants to be a professional private."
Pro-kit - A small envelope issued to Marines for prevention of veneral disease. Intended to be used after sex, a pro-kit contained a small tube of sulfa cream, a wet-wipe, and instructions for use. Stateside, military medical personnel staffed pro-stations in cities with a heavy military presence. Servicemen could pick-up pro-kits at these facilities. Otherwise, a Marine could stop by the dispensary or BAS and get a pro-kit.
Provisional - Designator for units that were formed and organized with assets that were not specifically authorized and equipped by authority of HQMC. Provisional units were often formed to accomplish a specific mission and then dissolved after that mission was accomplished. In other cases, provisional units were taken onto the regular establishment of FMFPac. For instance, the 1st Provisional Marine Brigade was formed in 1944 with units already in place in the Pacific and served in combat on Guam in 1944. This brigade then formed the nucleus of the Sixth Marine Division, activated on Guadalcanal in September 1944.
PUC - The Presidential Unit Citation, awarded to units for collective heroism and determination in accomplishment of combat missions. (Pronounced Pee-U-Cee) Award of the PUC required a level of unit heroism equivalent to the Navy Cross for an individual. In World War II, Marines and sailors who were with the unit in its cited campaign received a PUC ribbon and a bronze campaign star. Each subsequent award was signified by a bronze campaign star.
Pull rank - To exercise one's authority based strictly on rank or, on date of promotion for Marines of equal rank. Pulling rank was generally viewed as a chickenshit way to get somebody to do what you wanted. Usage: "I cannot believe you're pullin' rank to get us to clean out those grease traps.!"
PX - Post exchange. On-base store where Marines could buy sundry items, pogey bait, insignia, toiletries, periodicals, etc. Larger post exchanges had snack bars, telephone booths and other conveniences for Marines. Usage: "I need to run over to the PX and buy some shoe polish."
Quantico - Marine Corps Base, Quantico. Sometimes known as the 'Crossroads of the Corps', Quantico was established in 1917 and served as a major training base. Most officer training was carried out here, and the base was the site of many schools and other tenant units. Prior to establishment of New River, Quantico was the home station for the First Marine Brigade, FMF. Usage: "That boot looey looks like he just got outta Quantico."
Queer toast - French toast. Usage: "If you're not eatin' that queer toast, I'll take it."
Rack - A bed. Usage: "Get outta them racks, ladies!"
Raggedy-assed Marines - Nickname that First Marine Division members used to describe themselves. The reference was to the sorry state of logistics on Guadalcanal that resulted in Marines' clothing and gear literally rotting off their bodies. Usage: "Everybody else goes first cabin, but not the raggedy-assed Marines."
Raider - Special operations units and the Marines and sailors assigned to them. The Raider concept was the brainchild of Evans F. Carlson, who had spent time in China in the 1930s as an observer with Chinese communist guerillas in combat against the Japanese. The Raiders were trained, organized and equipped for raids, long-range patrolling and other special operations tasks. Four Raider battalions were activated between 1941-43, as were other provisional Raider units. Two Raider regimental headquarters were formed in 1943, one of them bearing the designator 'provisional.' All raider units and schools were either redesignated or deactivated in 1944.
R. B. C. - Rifle bore cleaner. Weapons cleaning compound often issued in small metal cans that fit in the pocket of a cartridge belt. R. B. C. did a good job of cleaning rifles, but was a pain in the butt to store. The can had to be stored upright or the liguid was likely to leak out around the threads on the cap. Usage: "I hate storin' R. B. C. in my pack. The shit always leaks out and soaks my stuff."
RCT - Regimental Combat Team. (Note: This task organization was also sometimes referred to as a regimental Landing Team.) An infantry regiment reinforced by supporting units for tactical operations. Specific task organization varied between campaigns and units. However a typical RCT organization might include the following assets:
Red ass, To have the - To be upset or angry about something. Usage: "I don't know why Simmons has the red ass. All we did was short-sheet him."
Red Book, The - Paperback book issued to each recruit during his PX issue in boot camp. The book contained chapters on rifle marksmanship, close order drill, medical subjects, and other important topics. The edition of 1940 was not updated during the war, and it became outdated after the Corps switched to a new service rifle and pack system, among other things. Following the war, the name was changed to the Guidebook for Marines and the book was designed in better-organized, modern format. Usage: "You people best study those red books before taps. Anybody flunks that test tomorrow mornin' is gonna be boondockin' for sure."
Red lead - Ketchup. Usage: "Hey, Mac. Send over the red lead."
Red Mike - Nickname for MajGen Merritt A. Edson, a legendary Marine who served in many important assignments during his career. He earned the Navy Cross for heroism during long-range patrols in Nicaragua during 1928-29. He was a plankowner and commanding officer of the 1st Raider Battalion, and won the Medal of Honor for his heroic and determined leadership during the battle for Edson's Ridge on 13-14 September 1942. These were only a few of the many laurels that this Giant of the Corps earned during his career.
Edson ranked among the top shooters in the Marine Corps, and he served in the rifle and teams regularly in the 1920s-30s. In both 1935 and 1936 he captained the Marine Corps team that won the National Trophy at Camp Perry, Ohio. Edson was recognized as one of the Corps' most effective tacticians and he wrote the 1940 edition of the seminal work, Small Wars Manual.
Regiment - A unit of about 3,500 Marines and sailors with several assigned battalions, a regimental headquarters and service company, and supporting assets. During the war, several types of regiments were formed for service with the Fleet Marine Force. These included infantry, artillery, engineer, Raider, parachute and service regiments. The infantry regiment comprised the striking element of the Marine division and seventeen such regiments saw combat duty in the war. An infantry regiment was built around the core of three infantry battalions, a regimental weapons company, and a regimental headquarters and service company.
In written form, regiments were identified by number with the word 'Marines' in the title. For example: 'Fifth Marine Regiment' or '19th Marines.' In spoken form, it was a universal practice to omit the word 'regiment' from the title. When asked who he was with, a Marine would reply, "The 15th Marines," "The 24th Marines," etc. This method of identifying a Marine unit always referred to a regiment and no other echelon in the Fleet Marine Force.
Replacement - A Marine sent out to an FMF unit to take the place of someone who had been killed, wounded or otherwise incapacitated. Units usually tried to integrate replacements between operations. But often, the harsh reality of war dictated that replacements be sent to their new units while in combat.
Replacement battalion/draft - A temporary unit sent overseas to replace losses in the FMF. These units were generally composed of around 1,000 Marines and Navy FMF personnel. Once they had reached their destination, the replacement unit was dissolved as its Marines were farmed out to the receiving units. In 1944, the organization was standardized at 60-plus officer, 1,250 enlisted Marines and 57 Hospital Corpsmen. In the war's latter campaigns, replacement drafts were attached directly to Marine divisions as part of their task organization. The drafts served with shore party as replacements were called forward to take their places in line units.
Rifle - The service rifle. One of only three words could be used to describe it; 'weapon', 'piece', or 'rifle'. If a recruit called his rifle anything else – a gun for instance – he risked swift retribution from his drill instructor. To reinforce the lesson, the DI might order the recruit to march around the area at right shoulder arms with his penis exposed, repeating the chant, "This is my rifle, this is my gun, this is for fighting, this is for fun."
R. O. C. - Reserve Officer Class. The primary method of training officer candidates during the war. These classes provided candidates with the basics of leadership and tactics, resulting with the attendees receiving a reserve commission as a Second Lieutenant. The newly-minted officers then went on to training courses in their specific branches before assignment to the Fleet Marine Force, a ship's detachment, or the shore establishment.
Rocks and Shoals - Articles for the Government of the United States Navy. The articles spelled out specific rules for conduct in the naval service and punishments for violations, both minor and major.
Round - A single unit of ammunition. Usage: "We shot almost a hundred HE rounds last night".
R-sections - Staff sections at the regimental headquarters echelon. They were designated in written form as follows: R-1 Administration, R-2 Intelligence, R-3 Operations and Training, R-4 Supply. Staff sections assisted the commander with the many supporting duties required at the headquarters and support level of command and control. In speaking, Marines used the letter 'R' followed by the staff section's number. Usage: "Head over to R-3 and get the order for the field problem next week."
Sack - A bunk, cot or sleeping berth. Usage: "Hey, Mac, get your crap off my sack."
Sad bastard - 1. Dumbfounded or shocked. Usage: "Well, I'll be a sad bastard. Haney shot expert today!" 2. A sorry character. "Jenkins is one sad bastard."
Saddle up - Get your gear on. Usage: "Saddle up and fall in!"
Sail, To - To join in. For example, in a slop chute, if a group of Marines had finished a rounds of beers, one might ask, "I'm going to get a couple of pitchers, who's in?" His shipmate might reply, "I'll sail," meaning he was paying for one of the pitchers of beer.
Salt tabs - Sodium chloride pills issued to Marines for prevention of heat injuries during the war. Corpsmen passed salt tablets out and Marines were supposed to suck the pills slowly. Usage: "Doc's comin' around to check feet and issue salt tabs."
Salty - Broken-in or appearing like a veteran. Usage: "How come you act so salty when you only been in the Corps for eight months?"
Scullery - The area in the galley where pot, pans utensils, and crockery where messmen washed and sanitized pots, pans, crockery and utensils.The scullery was a steamy hot place to work and the duty was physically tiring to boot. (Note: Also sometimes called 'the pot shack'.) Usage: "I hate the scullery, I been in here for three days already."
Scuttlebutt - Sea service jargo for rumors. Usage: "Scuttlebutt says the next operation is gonna be a milk run."
Seabag - Naval service jargon for a duffle bag. Usage: "Dammit, my seabag is missin' again. Every time we do an operation, supply ends up losin' the damn thing."
Seabees - Navy construction battalions and their members. Throughout the war Seabees were assigned or attached to Marine divisions, providing general and heavy construction support, building roads and for many other tasks. Most Seabees during the war were veteran construction men, some in their 30s and 40s. In the Marine Corps – which had many teenagers in its ranks – there was a saying: "Never get in a fight with a Seabee; his son might be a Marine."
Sea duty - An assignment to a US Navy ship. Battleships, carriers, cruisers, command ships and many Navy transports had Marine detachments as part of the ship's crew. Marines in these detachments, and other Marines on sea duty, received sea pay and free laundry service. The Marine detachment was responsible for standing watches, port security for the ship, forming part of ship's landing parties, and manning one of the ship's secondary armaments. Prior to going on sea duty, Marines attended sea school for six weeks at either MCB, San Diego, or at Naval Base, Portsmouth, Virginia.
Seagoing bellhop - A derogatory nickname for Marines derived from their duties aboard ship. A variety of warships carried Marine detachments and each day, one Marine served as the captain's orderly. He was stationed on the bridge when the captain was prsent and accompanied the captain everywhere aboard ship while on duty. By tradition, the captain's orderly was second to leave if the ship were to be abandoned, followed by the captain.
Because in the old Corps, the captain's orderly spent a great deal of his time standing at parade rest on the bridge wearing blues, sailors likened him to a hotel bellhop dressed in a fancy uniform. Over time, the nickname spread through the Navy until it was used for all Marines. Use of this term, especially on liberty, was almost guaranteed to start a fight.
Seagoing Marine - A Marine on sea duty. Before the war, only volunteers with good records were accepted for sea duty, and it was considered as a prestigious assignment. Usage: "I was a seagoing Marine on the old Arizona before the war."
Seagull - Chicken. Usage: "Man, I am gettin' sick of eatin' seagull all the time."
Section - 1. Primarily a reference to a single tube in an artillery battery or antitank unit. Sections were led by sergeants and were identified in numerical sequence. Artillery batteries of all types had four sections assigned. 2. This word was also used to identify headquarters staff functional areas. For instance, if a company commander needed to pick up something from the Bn-3, he might tell a Marine, "Smith, run over to the 3-section and pick up a copy of our graphics."
Secure - To end or finish an evolution or activity. Usage: "Alright, Marines, secure from field day."
Semper Fidelis - Always faithful, the motto of the U. S. Marine Corps.
Semper Fi - An abbreviated and informal usage of the motto among Marines. This term usually had a positive meaning. It could mean "Hi, buddy," "See ya' later," "Things are okay here," "pull up the ladder, I on board." etc.
Semper Fi, Mac - This phrase sometimes had a positive meaning. For example, if a Marine was just promoted, that evening in the slop chute his shipmates might offer up the toast: "Semper Fi, Mac." But the phrase was generally spoken with a negative or derisive connotation. It could variously mean, "Screw you," "F*#k you, you can forget that," "Better you than me," I got mine, buddy," etc.
Sergeant major - The senior enlisted Marine in a battalion or regiment and also, the highest rank for enlisted Marines. Sergeants major almost always had many years of hard service and campaigning behind them. Their word was law for all Marines in their unit. Although technically, they ranked below officers, sergeants major almost always had the final word when it came to enlisted Marines in their unit. It was a foolhardy lieutenant indeed, who attempted to pull rank on a salty sergeant major. Usage: "The sergeant major wants all the first sergeants in his office at 1330."
Service number - Unique identification number issued to each enlistee, inductee or officer candidate upon accession into the Marine Corps. From February 1941, service numbers were six digits long. The first number identified which category the Marine belonged to:
Officers had either four- or five-digit service numbers preceded by the letter 'O'.
Shag ass - Hurry up, On the double. Usage: "We need to shag ass goin' through that open area. The Japs have it zeroed in."
Shanghai - To be volunteered for an assignment or talked into something. Usage: "How in the hell did we get shangaied into this lash-up?"
Shipmate - A close buddy. Usage: "Hey, shipmate, lend me some shavin' lotion, huh?"
Ship over - To reenlist. Usage: I'm thinkin' I'll ship over after this cruise. I like the Corps."
Ship's Detachment - The Marine force embarked as part of the crew. Marine detachments varied in size depending on the class and type of ship. An Iowa-class battleship had a ship's detachment of three officers and about 100 enlisted Marines. Fleet carriers, heavy cruisers and older battleships had detachments of about 80 Marines. Light cruisers had detachments of 45 Marines. Other vessels had smaller detachments. Navy transports had two Marines assigned as the transport quartermaster and assistant transport quartermaster.
Shit skillet - A mess kit. Usage: Listen up, Marines, grab your shit skillets and form a chow line next to the six-by."
Shooting badge - Marksmanship award earned by achieving specified levels of expertise with the service rifle. Shooting badges came in three levels; expert, sharpshooter and marksman. An expert rating earned a Marine five dollars extra per month, and a sharpshooter rating earned him three dollars a month. Marines usually called these either, 'expert badge', 'sharpshooter badge' or 'marksman badge'.
Shore party - Marines responsible for unloading Marines, equipment and supplies on the beach during an amphibious assault. Shore party also formed beach defense forces, set-up staging areas for follow-on units coming ashore, evacuated casualties off the beach, set-up supply dumps, collected stragglers, and other duties. Usage: "Go ask those shore party guys where we can find some HE ammo."
Shore patrol - Teams of sailors and Marines who were responsible for enforcement of regulations and policies in liberty ports. The shore patrol policed up drunken servicemen, kept servicemen away from out of bounds bars, broke up bar fights, and generally attempted to keep order among the rambunctous Marines and sailors out on liberty. The shore patrol was roundly disliked by all hands. Usage: "Hey guys, try to walk straight. Here comes the shore patrol."
Short-arm inspection - A check of Marines' penises to confirm that they did not have symptoms of venereal disease. Unit Corpsmen performed this duty and they disliked it as much as Marines did. Usage: "Pay calls goes after Doc finishes this short-arm inspection."
Short-sheet, To - One of the most common practical jokes in the Marine Corps. When a Marine was away from the barracks, his buddies might decide to short-sheet him. They removed the blanket from his bunk, then folded both sheets to creat a pocket anywhere from one to three feet short of the bottom end. Then they reset the blanket and waited for their buddy (aka 'the victim') to show up. As he started to get into the bunk and slide down, his feet would jam against the shorted sheets, causing him to get the red ass, and amusing his buddies to no end.
This prank worked so well because; 1. The victim was usually in some stage of inebriation and not paying attention, and 2. Since bunks had to be inspection ready in the morning, most Marines tried to avoid messing up their blankets and sheets when getting into the bunk. Therefore, the trap was sprung on them when they were already halfway in the bunk. Usage: "We got more time and we already did three. Let's short-sheet Simmoms and Roberts. That'll make an even five!"
Short stop - To intercept the movement of something down the table and use it yourself first. Usage: "Hey, Smith. Why'd ya' short stop the Joe?"
Sickbay - Battalion aid station or dispensary. Usage: "I need to get over to sickbay and get these blisters fixed."
Silverstream - Large US Navy hospital located northeast of Wellington, New Zealand. The hospital operated from 1942-44 and thousands of Marines from the Solomons were transferred there for care. Silverstream also functioned as a base hospital for Marines and sailors stationed in the area. After the Second Marine Division went to New Zealand after the campaign for Guadalcanal, thousands of its Marines spent time in Silverstream for treatment of severe malaria recurrences.
Siwash the Duck - The fightingest duck in the Marine Corps. Siwash served as the mascot of Battery A, 2nd Battalion, 12th Marines, Second Marine Division. He made his way to Able Battery while the unit was stationed in Wellington, New Zealand, in 1943. Siwash was a beer-drinking amphibian, and served with his shipmates at Tarawa, Saipan and Tinian. At Tarawa he gained fame to reputedly killing a Japanese rooster in beak-to-beak combat, a feat that earned him a citation for bravery in action. He was wounded in action and recommended for the Purple Heart (there is no record of whether or not Siwash actually received the medal). The intrepid duck gained fame through stories about him in Time and Life magazines. Siwash rotated stateside in September 1944 and reportedly ended his days at the San Diego Zoo after his discharge from the Corps. It is unknown whether he received the 'ruptured duck' insignia.
Shop - Typically, a colloquial reference to a unit headquaters staff section. This word was always preceded by the section number. Usage: If a company commander needed a map from the Bn-2, he might tell a Marine, "Smith, run over to the 2-shop and pick up our map."
Shove off - To leave or depart. Usage: "Let's shove off. This is a lousy bar anyway."
Six-by - Slang for a two and on-half ton truck. Usage: "The six-by's are supposed to be here at 100 to take us out to the range."
Skipper, The - An affectionate and respectful term for the commander. Usage: "Skipper, the patrol's back and they got three Marines wounded."
Skivvies - Underwear. Usage: "Boy, I'm lookin' forward to puttin' on some clean skivvies."
Skylarking - Grabassing or not paying attention. Usage: "Hey, you people knock off the skylarkin' and start cleanin' those weapons!"
Slop chute - An on-base drinking establishment that only served beer. The term could also be used to describe a cheap bar off-base. Usage: "Go find O'Malley. He's probably over in the slop chute havin' a beer."
Smoking lamp - Nautical term that designated when Marines could smoke cigarettes. For instance, in boot camp, if a platoon had done an exceptional job in close order drill, the DI might reward them by allowing the boots to take a break and smoke a cigarette. He might pull his own pack out of his sock and announce, "Okay people, the smoking lamp is lit." In combat, as darkness approached and Marines buttoned in for the the coming night, the platoon sergeant might announce quietly, "Pass the word, the smokin' lamp is out."
SNAFU - Acronym for 'Situation Normal, All 'F*#ked up'. For example, if a rehearsal was completely fouled up, landing boats couldn't find the right beach, there was no water, or any of a thousand other situations, Marines might shrug their shoulders and resignedly say: "Boy, this is one big SNAFU."
SOCS - Special Officer Candidate School. (Pronounced like the word 'socks'.) The Marine Corps experienced a desperate shortage of infantry platoon leaders during the war. In response to this crisis, the Marine Corps established a stripped-down platoon leader course at Camp Lejeune in 1944. The first class of 436 officer candidates was trained from July-September 1944. 90 percent of the class was assigned to infantry units and almost all served in combat.
372 second lieutenants were commissioned out of this class. 100 of them received orders directly to the First Marine Division on Peleliu, and most of the remaining graduates served on either Iwo Jima or Okinawa. Over 90 percent saw combat in the war, with forty-eight graduates killed in action and 168 wounded. Five SOCS officers were decorated with the Navy Cross and a host of others earned awards and decorations for courage under fire during the war.
Soft touch - An easy time. Usage: "Don't expect a soft touch at H&S. Ya' gotta pull your weight there just like here."
SOS - Shit on a shingle, a traditional breakfast item in the Corps. SOS was a combination of ground hamburger and a gravy sauce made of flour and spices. It was usually served over toast, but not always. For the recipe, visit the Westchester County Detachment of the Marine Corps League. Usage: "Man, I can't wait to get some of that SOS at the chow hall!"
Spam - Canned precooked meat product made by Hormel eaten by the ton in the Pacific. Since Spam did not need refrigeration, it was easy to transport overseas. Marines quipped that Spam was, "Ham that didn't pass the physical."
Sparks - 1. Nickname sometimes used for radiomen. Usage: "Hey, Sparks, try to raise the destroyer." 2. The insignia worn by radiomen on the left lower sleeve of the service and dress blouses. Usage: "Anybody got some green thread? I need to sew my sparks on my blouse."
Springfield - The M1909A3 service rifle. So-called because the rifles were built primarily at Springfield Armory. In World War II, Smith-Corona and Remington built these rifles, but all versions were known colloquially as 'Springfield rifles'.
Squad - The basic Marine Corps combat unit. A sergeant led the rifle squad and its composition varied through the organizational changes of the wartime years. There were four distinct squad structures between 1941-1945:
Table of Organization D–1, 28 March 1941
Square away - To make ready or to bring into top condition. Usage: "The skipper's inspectin' the motor pool tomorrow mornin'. All vehicles need to be squared away by 1700 today."
S-sections - In preparation for the Okinawa campaign, the Marine Corps adopted the Army's system of identifying staff sections. Both services were already using the same number designators. In the Army, the 'S' identifier stood for a staff section at the battalion and regimental headquarters level.
Stacking swivel - A rifle part mounted below the barrel used to stack arms. In Marine Corps jargon, to 'snatch someone up by his stacking swivel' meant to take corrective action or fix a problem, usually in a forceful manner. Usage: "I'm goin' over there and snatch those guys up by their stackin' swivels. They need to shut the hell up and get back to work!"
Staff NCO - A non-commissioned officer serving in the rank or staff sergeant, technical sergeant, or master technical sergeant.
Stand by - To wait for something. Usage: "Stand by to move out."
Steel pot - The M1 steel helmet. Usage: "If you need to take a crap at night, do it in the shell of your steel pot."
Stripe-assed gazelle, Like a - To move as if your life depended on it. Usage: "I saw the gunny lookin' for a workin' party and I took off like a stripe-assed gazelle!"
Summer service uniform - The khaki uniform worn in hot climates year-round and in temperate climates from April to September.
Sun helmet - The khaki fiber helmet worn by Marines in hot climates. Sometimes called this headgear the 'sun hat' or the 'elephant hat'.
Super, The - The supernumerary. A Marine on guard duty chosen to stand post in the guard shack or tent. The super answered the phone, kept the duty log, ran errands for the OD and Sergeant of the Guard, and relieved sentries when they could not perform their duties. Getting chosen as the super was a coveted job, since it was pretty easy most of the time. Usage: "I can't figure it out. Every time Simpson gets guard duty, the OD picks him for the super."
Survey - 1. To replace an item of equipment or clothing. Usage: Go over to supply and get that canteen cover surveyed. 2. A medical discharge. Usage: They're gonna survey me out 'cause my arm doesn't work anymore. 3. A transfer, usually from a rear area job to a combat assignment. Usage: "You keep that shit up, they're gonna survey ya' to the FMF." 4. To get a refill on alcohol. Usage: "Hey barkeep, survey on that boilermaker."
Swab - Nautical terminology for a mop. This word was used as both a noun and a verb. Usage: 1) "Hey Ski, get busy with that swab!" 2) If we don't get this deck swabbed by 0900, the Gunny's gonna have our asses."
Swabbie - Derogatory nickname for a sailor. Another nickname for sailors was 'swab jockie'. Usage: "Hey, get a load of them swabbies tryin' to move in on our gals!"
Table of Organization - (abbreviated T/O and pronounced 'Tee-O') Organizational structure under which all Fleet Marine Force units were manned and equipped. The T/O specified the number of officers, warrant officers, NCOs and non-rated Marines assigned, MOS codes, type and number of individual and crew-served weapons, vehicles and other important pieces of information. T/Os were developed by HQMC with input from the CG, FMFPac.
The Marine division and its subordinate went through four distinct tables of organization during World War II, lettered D through G. The division was identified as D-series, E-series, etc. Subordinate units each had their own T/O identified by the corresponding letter followed by a numerical designator. Some examples under the F-series follow:
Infantry regiment - T/O F-1
Tank deck - Large compartment in the forward hull of LSTs where vehicles and equipment were staged for amphibious assaults. Amphtracs were often stored on the tank deck. Two large doors on the bow of the ship opened to enable the launching of vehicles.
Tanker - A Marine assigned as a crewman on a tank or amphibian tank.
Tarawa, Camp - Large training and staging base on the site of the Parker Ranch on Hawaii's big island. Both the Second and Fifth Marine Divisions occupied Camp Tarawa during World War II. The Marine Corps took possession of the land in 1943 and returned it to the Parker family in November 1945.
TBS - Radio used frequently in regimental CPs to communicate with division.
TBX - Portable radio usually employed at battalion command posts to communicate with regiment. TBX radios could be powered by either a gasoline generator or a hand-crank DC generator. Their theoretical range was 15-30 miles, but this was highly variable. The TBX could transmit and receive both voice and morse code messages.
TBY - Backpack radio used in the Marine Corps from early- to mid-World War II. These radios were typically used by line companies to communicate with battalion. The TBY was a short-range, line-of-sight radio that could communicate in both voice and morse code. Starting in mid-1944, the TBY was replaced by the SCR-300 walkie-talkie radio.
TCS - This radio set was primarily mounted in vehicles, for instance, in the 75mm Gun Motor Carriage where it was powered off the vehicle's electrical supply.
Things are tough all over - You're not getting any sympathy from me. For example, if a Marine started bitching about the chow, his shipmate might say, "Quit your bellyachin'. Things are tough all over."
Thousand-yard stare - The hollow look on a Marine's face when he had become overwhelmed by the horror and degradation of war. Usage: "Keep an eye on Jonesy, he got that thousand-yard stare."
Tie-ties - Cotton straps used to cinch the blanket roll together and attach it to the field pack.
Time in - A general reference to time in service, which was used to establish seniority, calculated in pay tables, etc. Among Marines of the same rank, time in service was often the determining factor of who did what work. For instance, if a group of Pfcs were assigned to police call, the one with most time in service was typically placed in charge. Usage: "Ain't no way I'm helpin' you with that shit can. I got more time in."
Tin hat - The M1917A1 steel helmet. Usage: "Condition red! Get your tin hats on!"
Top - 1. The battery or company first sergeant. Usage: "Top is on the warpath. best stay outta his way". 2. A master sergeant, so-called because he was in the top enlisted paygrade. Usage: "Top says we gotta have the shop squared away right now."
Track - Slang for an amphibian tractor or less often, a tank. Usage: "This is the staging point for the tracks."
Tractor - Commonly used term for amphibian tractors.
Transfer Line (Area) - Location shoreward of the LD where troops in landing boats cross-decked into amphibian tractors for transport ashore. Doctrinally, the transfer line was outside the effective range of enemy weapons. Cross-decking was a dangerous operation, especially during rough sea conditions. Usage: "Get comfortable, we might be at the transfer area for a while."
Transport Pack - An assembly of the M1941 pack system using the haversack, knapsack and belt suspenders. Marine carried the transport pack on long journeys or aboard ship when blanket rolls were not needed.
T. S. chit - Tough shit slip. If a Marine complained or whined about something, his shipmate might say, "Listen, Ski, I'll give ya' a T. S. chit to go see the chaplain." The chaplain would listen politely, reputedly tell the Marine, "Tough shit," and life would go on.
Tube - A single artillery piece or mortar. Usage: "We're settin' up the tubes right here."
Unholy Four, The - The US Navy transports USS President Adams (APA-19), USS President Jackson (APA-18), USS President Hayes (APA-20), and USS Crescent City (APA-21). They carried the First Marine Division into combat on Guadalcanal in August 1942 and transported troops and equipment in other amphibious invasions. These ships earned the title 'The Unholy Four' in May 1942 while participating in the Battle of the Coral Sea. According to legend, the ships earned this name through shooting down numerous enemy aircraft.
Utilities - Dungarees. Usage: "Those utilities are so salty they look like cook whites."
V-mail - Special form of letter that was sent to an from servicemen overseas during the war. The writer composed his letter on a special form and it was processed into microfilm and transported stateside via aircraft. Once at the processing center, the microfilm was turned into special V-mail letters and sent on to the destination. V-mail was considerably quicker than regular mail, but the processed letters were smaller than the original and sometimes hard to read.
W-Day - Start date for the amphibious assault on Guam, Mariana Islands, 21 July 1944. This operation received the identifier to differentiate it from the assaults on Saipan and Tinian. All these campaigns fell under Operation Forager, the assault on islands in the Mariana group in the summer of 1944.
WAC - A female soldier. Usage: "Look at all them WACs! Now that we're here the doggies don't stand a chance with 'em."
Walking John - A Marine Corps recruiter, especially in the pre-war era. So-called because they supposedly walked around in their blues looking for recruits to shanghai into the Corps.
Washing Machine Charlie - A Japanese aircraft that overflew the Marine positions on Guadalcanal at night dropping a few unaimed bombs. So-named because the aircraft's engine sounded just like a washing machine. 'Charlie', as he was sometimes called, did little damage, but kept thousands of Marines and sailors awake until the 'all clear' sounded.
Water discipline - The concept of water discipline in World War II was the exact opposite of what the phrase means today. Marines were taught to avoid drinking from their canteens and only take a sip when absolutely necessary. Water discipline was enforced on hikes and other training evolutions. The idea was that Marines would get accustomed to drinking as little water as possible to toughen them for combat. Instead, they were advised to do things like suck on a pebble, chew a stick of gum, let a salt tab dissolve in their mouth, etc.
Wave - A grouping of amphibian vehicles, landing boats or other vessels scheduled to hit the beach at the same time. From Tarawa through war's end, the initial waves were mounted in amphibians and subsequent waves came ashore in landing boats or other vessel-types. By doctrine, the first wave came ashore at H-Hour, and subsequent waves hit the beach at 2- to 5-minute intervals. Following introduction of amphibian tanks, they generally formed the first wave and the second wave followed two minutes behind in amphibian tractors. Usage: "The 37s are comin' ashore with the fourth wave."
Wave control boat - A landing boat (or an LCI/ LCS(L), when available) that escorted an individual wave from its staging area at sea and guided its vehicles or boats into line formation so it crossed the line of departure on time. Wave control boats did not come ashore. In large operations they returned to specified staging areas to pick-up subsequent waves. Usage: "Watch our wave control boat while we're goin' in. It'll be flying a red flag."
WAVE - A female sailor. Usage: "I can't wait to get into Dago! I hear there's WAVES all over the place and they like Marines."
Well deck - Aft end of an LSD where large quantities of equipment and vehicles were stowed. The well deck could be flooded, enabling the stern gate to open for the launching of landing boats carrying armor and other heavy cargoes.
Whackie Mac, The - USS McCauley (APA-4) Flagship of Adm Richmond K. Turner, Amphibious Force Commander during the invasion of Guadalcanal in 1942. The McCauley was sunk in a friendly fire incident off New Georgia on 30 June 1943.
Who ya' with? - What unit are you in?
Whore's bath - To use the steel helmet shell as a wash basin. The best a Marine could do in a whore's bath was to wash his armpits, feet and crotch. Usage: "You need to take a whore's bath. You stink, Mac."
Willie Pete - White Phosphorous, used for marking targets, screening and incendiary effect. Willie Pete rounds were available for 81mm mortars, and 75mm and 105mm howitzers. A hand-thrown Willie Pete grenade was also issued.
Wireman - A Marine trained in laying field wire and operating switchboards and field telephones. Wiremen served in the message center at the battalion and regimental CP. Field wire was vulnerable to breakage from artillery and mortar fire, vehicles driving over it, and being cut by the enemy at night. When this happened, wiremen had to go out and trace the wire and find the spot where it was broken.
Women's Reserve - The Marine Corps began enlisting women for service in February 1943. Under the slogan "be a Marine, free a Marine to fight," Women Marines performed in over 200 career fields in the war, from clerical assistants to parachute riggers. More than 20,000 women served in the Marine Corps during the war. They were known by several names, including 'WR's', 'Women Marines', 'Women Reserves', and simply 'Marines'.
Working Party - Generic term to describe a group of Marines assigned to do a task, typically manual labor of some type. Working parties were assigned on top of the other duties that Marines had to perform in both garrison and combat. Marines generally hated working parties and tried to avoid them when possible. To read my short story, Buddies, in which working parties are mentioned, click here.
Yardbird - An unreliable Marine who shirks or avoids his duty. Usage: "Jones is sure one yardbird. Every time there's a workin' party he disappears."
Yemassee - Town in South Carolina where the last train station before Parriss Island was located. Countless recruits passed through Yemassee to and from P. I. Usage: "Brother, I shoulda' never gotten off that train at Yemassee."
You people - Form of address to a group of Marines. It was was usually followed by an ass-chewing or bad news. Usage: "Listen up, you people. You had best get my area squared away or we'll play the field day game 'til midnight."
Zero - A shooter zeroed his rifle prior to firing a record qualification and at other times as necessary. The process was called 'zeroing', a systemic firing sequence that aligned the sights, the shooter's eye and body with the rifle to bring the strike of the rounds to the correct spot on a target. Once the rifle sights were set for the shooter, he had achieved a 'good zero'.
Zeroed in - On the bull's eye, on target. Usually in reference to artillery or naval gunfire. Usage: "Let's get the hell outta here. The Japs got us zeroed in!"
Zippo - Slang for a flamethrowing tank. Usage, "We got a zippo attached tomorrow for the attack."
updated 14 November 2014
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