Friday, June 7, 2019

Slang Vocabulary of the Korean War G.I.

U.S. Army photo
PVT Philip Hughes was one of the first and youngest American troops sent to Korean War combat in 1950. He was seventeen years old at the war's inception. Over half of his Army colleagues were teenagers, like the ones shown above.  Down through the ages, teens have cultivated slang vocabularies, if only for the fun of it.  An army enlisted man's culture facilitated this.

The following is a selection of Korean War slang terms, mostly derived from the late Brig. Gen. Uzal W. Ent's definitive publication, Fighting on the Brink: Defense of the Pusan Perimeter. Most terms are particular to the Army; others are regional adaptations gathered through the U.S. occupation of Japan from 1945-52. 

ASAP - as soon as possible.

AWOL - absent without leave. To be absent from one's unit without proper authority.

Benjo - toilet.  Borrowed from Japanese language.

Better believe it! - phrase meaning "that's the truth."

Blow it out your barracks bag! - a phrase similar to "Go to hell!"

Bought the farm - killed or died; usually, killed in action.

Buddy - close friend or when in combat, the co-inhabitant of a foxhole.

Bug Out or bugout - to withdraw rapidly from a combat position.

Chimpo - to have bad luck.

Chop chop - hurry up.

Chow - food; a meal.

Chow down - to eat.

Chow line - line up of personnel receiving food; similarly, the line up of food servers and related apparatus formed in a mess area (field kitchen).

Church key - a small can opener used to open C-rations or beer cans.

Cow patties - anti-personnel mines.

Cut a trail - leave or depart.

Dear John letter - correspondence from a wife or girl friend back home indicating that she is breaking off her relationship with the letter's recipient.

Dig in - prepare a foxhole or similar defensive position.

Dog Robber - an enlisted man employed as an aide or servant to a senior officer.

Doggies:  Army infantrymen.  Derived from the expression "dog face," which describes a soldier badly in need of a shave.

Dud - (1) a round of defective, unexploded ammunition. (2) A person of limited intellect.

First Shirt - First sergeant.

FUBAR - F*cked Up Beyond All Recognition.

Go for broke - Go all out to win, without reservation. Originated by the all-Japanese 442 Infantry regiment during World War II.

Gook - any oriental.  This was actually a malapropism; the Korean term for American was "megook." maladaptation of the term was immediate.

Hank Snow - disappear.  Run away without notice. "He pulled a Hank Snow." Inspired by the popular country-western singer Hank Snow's "Movin' On," a song adapted by American soldiers into "Bugout Boogie," a Korean War anthem of sorts.

Hit the road - get out of here; go away.

Hot poop - the latest orders or situational information.

How Able - move out in a hurry, usually in retreat. "Let's How Able outta here."

Hubba hubba - verbal expression of delight when observing a pretty girl.

Ichi-bahn (Ee-chee-bahn) - Number one; best.

Incoming or incoming mail - enemy artillery or mortar fire received at one's position.

Jaw bone - on credit; a verbal agreement.

Lead-pipe cinch - a certainty, something easy to accomplish, or both.

LSMFHT - "Lord, Save Me From Harry Truman." Truman's executive order automatically added a year to the enlistments of all men in service at the onset of the Korean War.

Meat wagon - ambulance.

Midnight (or moonlight) requisition - to steal military property from a warehouse or similar storage without permission or authority.

Mussamay - Japanese girlfriend.  Often shortened to "moose."

Ninety-day wonder - a 2nd lieutenant graduate of officer candidate school (OCS).

On your feet - stand up and get ready to move out.

Over the hill - to go AWOL.

Rotate - to return to the U.S. from Korea.

Sack sack - any particularly sloppy and/or dim-witted soldier.

Saddle up - get your equipment and get ready to move out.

Seoul City Sue - nickname given to a woman who made radio broadcasts in English on behalf of the enemy.

Short round - a soldier who was always in trouble. 

Scuttlebutt - rumors or gossip.

SNAFU - situation normal, all f*cked up.

S.O.S. - creamed chipped beef on toast, a traditional army meal. Alternatively, "same old sh*t" or "sh*t on a shingle."

Swabbies or swab jockeys - sailors.

Top - first sergeant.

Top kick - First sergeant.

What's up, doc? - what's happening?

White money - cash currency, compared to cigarettes used as (unofficial) black-market currency.

Willie peter - a type of artillery shell with an incendiary discharge and lots of white smoke. 

Yard bird - a dim-witted soldier.

You never had it so good - a phrase meaning that current conditions couldn't be improved.   


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