WW2 Military Terms and Slang

Askew's WW2 Military Terms

Introduction
This list deals primarily with Anglo-American military terms during the war years, 1939-1945. Foreign words that were well-known or adopted by the English-speaking military may also be included, especially certain German words. It's not an academic work by any means. No sources or references are listed. I mean this material to be useful for gamers and writers who'd like to spice up their work with some of the language of the time and that's all.

Right now the list is heavily American. If anyone knows any appropriate British, Australian, etc. slang of the period, I'd be happy to add them. The same goes for any other American terms.

Send information and questions to faskew at yahoo dot com.

NOTE: I've written the address this way to thwart the evil spam bots that harvest addresses from Web sites. Redo the address to the typical name@ etc. before using.

Civilian Slang
Soldier Slang
Acronyms
US WW2 Phonetic Alphabet
WW2 Main Page

Abwehr German -  Military Intelligence
air liaison British - An officer who called in air strike in support of ground efforts
Axis Allied - Germany, Italy, and Japan. There were other nations that fought against the Allies (Finland, Rumania, etc.), but Axis usually referred to the big three.
batman British - An officer's servant or orderly
beachhead Allied - a captured section of an enemy beach where troops and supplies can be disembarked
Blitzkrieg German - Lightning war, a motorized version of the Great War's successful infiltration tactics.
C rations US - Military combat ration, introduced in 1938.  Soldiers hated the taste and each day's worth of the canned meals added about 6 pounds weight to already overburdened foot-sloggers. A lighter version was introduced in 1944.
compo rations British - A composition  pack, one day's rations meant for 14 men
D Bars US - Enriched chocolate candy bars
deuce and a half US - a 2 1/5 ton truck
Fallschirmjäger German - paratroops
FlaK German - Fliegerabwehrkanone, anti-aircraft
Gestapo German - Geheime Staatspolizei, Secret State Police
hull down Allied - For ships, when a craft is so far away that only the top part shows over the curvature of the earth. For tanks, when the tank is sitting on the reverse slope of a hill such that only the turret is visible. 
Jabo German - Allied fighter-bomber aircraft
Jagdpanzer German - Hunting tank, an armored vehicle designed specifically to destroy tanks.
Jeep US - The famous 1/4 ton, 4-wheel drive vehicle used by the Allies all over the world. Probably from GP, for General Purpose.
jerrican or jerry can British - Container for gasoline or water holding 5 gallons. Named for German (Jerry) originators. The early British copies tended to leak badly and legend has it that more fuel was lost to leaking jerricans in North Africa that was used by vehicles.
K rations US - Lightweight combat ration introduced in 1942. Universally hated by soldiers. Supposedly German POW's thought they were being tortured if offered K rations and refused to believe that US troops were expected to eat them too.
Kampfwagen German - Battle wagon
Kesselschlacht German - Kettle Battle, encirclement of the enemy, put them in the pot
Kwk German - abbreviation for Kampfwagenkanone, tank gun
Luftwaffe German - The German air force
lorry British - truck
Maginot Line French - Defensive fortifications running from Switzerland to the Belgian border.
Nazi German - Abbreviation for Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei, National Socialist German Worker's Party. A member of or supporter of that party.
Nissen hut British - a prefabricated building with a concrete floor and a curved roof made of corrugated iron sheeting [1932].
non-commissioned officer Allied - Sergeants and corporals. Officers were commissioned by Congress (US) or by the King (British).
PaK German - abbreviation for Panzerabwehrkanone, anti-tank gun
petrol British - gasoline
Pz German - abbreviation for Panzer, armor, tanks
PzKfw German - abbreviation for Panzerkampfwagen, armored fighting vehicle or tank
R and R  US - rest and rehabilitation - leave - usually far in the rear
rear echelon US - Anywhere to the rear, but mostly far enough back to be clean, fed, and out of danger. The US military required about 10 support troops to put 1 rifleman into combat, so rear echelon personnel always outnumbered the fighters by about 10 to 1.
Red Ball Express US - Truck convoy system that carried supplies from Normandy to the front. "Red Ball" was a railroad term used for express shipping. Most of the drivers were Negroes. Technically, the true Red Ball Express lasted only three months (Jun 44- Aug 44), but the term was commonly used by troops for all supply convoys. Such truck conveys were a primary target for German aircraft.
Schu mine German - Shoe mine - A mine about the size of a box of kitchen matches set off when the victim stepped on a nail that was forced into the mine's detonator. In some ways, more like a homemade bobby trap than a true mine.
SdKfz German - Sonderkraftfahrzeug -special purpose vehicle number, as in SdKfz 121
Siegfried Line German - The West Wall, a series of concrete forts and anti-tank barriers guarding Germany's western border.
strafe German - punish. To machine gun ground troops from an airplane.  (From the propaganda slogan "Gott strafe England", God punish England [1915].
StuK German - Sturmkanone, assault cannon
Stuka German - Sturzkampfflugzeug, dive bomber, JU-87
StuG German - Sturmgeschütz, assault gun
Time on target US - Coordinating the fire from several artillery batteries so that shells from all of them hit the target at exactly the same time, without warning. The effects of TOT could be devastating.
Tommy British -  Army soldier. (From Tommy Atkins, the universal British soldier.)
walkie-talkie US - small portable radio with limited range
Wehrmacht German - The German army
West Wall German - The Siegfired Line, a series of concrete forts and anti-tank barriers guarding Germany's western border.

 

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