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The Pacific

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Military glossary


1st Marine Division: The oldest and largest active duty division of the U.S. Marine Corps. Because of this history, this infantry division is nicknamed The Old Breed.

5th Marine Division: An infantry division of the U.S. Marine Corps created during World War II. The division saw its first action at Iwo Jima in Feb 1945.

Air-cooled machine gun: The Browning M1919 relied on the air around the barrel to cool it, making for a lighter weapon than the water-cooled machine gun. Less cumbersome and more adaptable than the M1917, this gun became the premier suppressive fire weapon in World War II.

Alligator Creek: A nickname given by local inhabitants to the Ilu River on Guadalcanal and the site of the first major Japanese land offensive during that campaign.

Amtrac: Commonly-used nickname for the Amphibious Tractors Landing Vehicle Tracked (LVTs). Used throughout the Pacific campaign, these landing craft were modified into assault vehicles with additional machine guns and light armor plating. Amtracs were launched from within the hold of the Landing Ship, Tank (LST).

Banika: An island in the Russell Group, in the Solomon chain, approximately 60 miles northwest of Guadalcanal. It served as home to a U.S. Naval hospital facility during World War II.

Bazooka: A common nickname for the portable rocket-propelled anti-tank weapon used by American forces in World War II.

Boot: Military slang for a new recruit or someone just out of training.

Brig: A prison or other place of confinement aboard ship or ashore at a Marine Corps or naval station.

Camp Elliott: PFC Eugene Sledge undertook his weapons training to become a mortarman at this Marine training camp, located outside San Diego.

Camp Pendleton: Located on the Southern California coast north of San Diego, Camp Pendleton is the major West Coast base of the U.S. Marine Corps. The base was established in 1942 to train Marines for service in World War II.

Cape Gloucester: Site of a Japanese military airfield on the northwest tip on the island of New Britain. The 1st Marine Division landed at Cape Gloucester on Dec. 26, 1943 in order to take the airfield.

Cobber: Australian slang for pal or friend. Widely adopted by the Marines after their lengthy stay in Melbourne.

Corpsman: An enlisted man in the U.S. Marine Corps or U.S. Navy trained in giving first aid and basic medical treatment.

CP: Short for command post, a command and control centre used by a military unit in a deployed location.

Doggie: Marine Corps slang for an enlisted member of the U.S. Army, shortened from dog-face.

Dysentery: A disease of the lower intestine caused by infection with bacteria, protozoa, or parasites and marked by severe diarrhoea, inflammation and the passage of blood and mucus.

Eagle, Globe and Anchor: The emblem of the United States Marine Corps. Introduced in 1868, the symbols represent American pride, worldwide presence and maritime tradition, as well as the Marine presence on air, land and sea.

Enuresis: An involuntary discharge of urine, especially while asleep. It can be brought on by combat stress, acute anxiety or physical and emotional trauma.

Flinders Street: A main street in Melbourne, Australia and the site of that city's transportation hub at the Flinders Street Station. Its central location made it a common meeting place for American servicemen stationed there.

Guadalcanal: One of the southernmost of the Solomon Islands and site of a planned Japanese air base. The Marines landed unopposed on Guadalcanal on Aug. 7, 1942 to seize the airfield and protect shipping lanes to Australia.

Gunny: Marine Corps nickname for someone with the rank of Gunnery Sergeant. Ha-Go tanks The most common Japanese tank, equipped with light armor, a .37mm gun and two 7.7mm machine guns.

HE: High explosive, used to describe various kinds of ordnance.

Henderson Field: The airfield on Guadalcanal. It was seized by the Marines on Aug. 8, 1942 and named after Maj. Lofton Henderson, a Marine pilot killed during the Battle of Midway.

Higgins Boat: A shallow wooden boat with a metal bow ramp used in several Allied invasions to take soldiers and Marines straight off a troop transport and onto the beach. Designed by Andrew Higgins, the boat was officially called the Landing Craft Vehicle and Personnel (LCVP) by the services. Men entered a Higgins Boat by climbing down a cargo net hung from the side of their troop transport.

Hiroshima: The Japanese city on which the United States dropped the first atomic bomb on Aug. 6, 1945.

Infantry: Servicepersons specifically trained for fighting on foot to engage the enemy in face-to-face combat.

Island hopping: American strategy in the Pacific developed by General Douglas MacArthur and Admiral Chester Nimitz. Taking advantage of their growing fleet, which gave them air and sea superiority, American forces bypassed the most heavily fortified Japanese islands, outflanked them and cut them off from resupply or reinforcement, leaving them to wither without requiring direct attack.

Iwo Jima: A small volcanic island with three airfields of great strategic importance to the planned air offensive on mainland Japan. U.S. forces faced stiff Japanese opposition when they landed on Iwo Jima on Feb. 19, 1945.

LSTs: Short for Landing Ship, Tank, LSTs were big, slow, flat-bottomed ships capable of crossing the ocean, then debarking amtracs at sea or grounding at the beach and discharging tanks or trucks via two bow doors and a ramp.

LVTs: Short for Landing Vehicles Tracked, also called amtracs. These amphibious tractors were used throughout the Pacific campaign and launched from within the hold of an LST.

M1 rifle: On Guadalcanal, the Marines were equipped with the World War I-era boltaction M1903 Springfield. They were later outfitted with the M1 Garand, considered to be the best semi-automatic rifle of World War II.

Malaria: An infectious disease caused by a parasite that is transmitted by the bite of infected mosquitoes. Common in tropical climates, the disease is characterised by recurring chills and fever.

Marion Military Institute: The state military college of Alabama, located in the town of Marion. Eugene Sledge was enrolled in officers training at MMI before enlisting in the Marines.

Medal of Honor (MOH): The highest award that can be bestowed upon a service member for valor in action. It was created during the Civil War at the behest of Abraham Lincoln.

Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG): The largest stadium in Australia and home to the Melbourne Cricket Club. The MCG housed various Allied forces during World War II, including the 1st Marine Division.

Mortar: A cannon with a relatively short and wide barrel, used for firing shells at a high angle over a short distance.

Mortarman: A USMC infantryman who provides mobile support to riflemen on the front lines using the M252 81mm mortar or M224 60mm mortar system. Eugene Sledge was part of a 60mm mortar team, while Sidney Phillips was an 81mm mortarman.

Nagasaki: A large Japanese port city where the United States dropped a second atomic bomb on Aug. 9, 1945.

NCO: Short for Non-Commissioned Officer, a term used to describe an enlistee who has reached the rank of sergeant or corporal.

New River: A Marine Corps training facility in southeastern North Carolina where John Basilone and Robert Leckie underwent training before deployment to the Pacific Theatre. The base at New River was renamed Camp Lejeune in 1942.

Okinawa: An island located only 350 miles from mainland Japan with a good harbour and room to stage troops, the perfect jumping-off place for an invasion of Japan. Landings on Okinawa, site of the last amphibious assault of the war, began April 1, 1945.

OP: Short for observation post, used to watch enemy movements and warn of approaching soldiers.

Pavuvu: An island about 60 miles west-northwest of Guadalcanal. Populated by countless rats and land crabs, this former coconut plantation was used as a base for the Marines between campaigns.

Pearl Harbour: A U.S. naval base in Honolulu, Hawaii. The surprise Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour on Dec. 7, 1941 prompted the United States entry into World War II.

Peleliu: One of the islands of the island nation of Palau, deemed of strategic importance to protect MacArthurs right flank during the retaking of the Philippines. The 1st Marine Division engaged in a bloody landing on Peleliu on Sept. 15, 1944.

Seabees: U.S. Navy construction battalions that were part of every landing in the Pacific, helping to transform conquered islands into facilities vital to the Allied advance such as airstrips, harbors, hospitals and bases.

Semper Fi: Shortened version of Semper Fidelis, the Marine Corps motto, meaning always faithful.

Sherman Tank: The most common U.S. tank in World War II. The M4 Sherman Tank provided invaluable support to the Marines in the Pacific. Each was equipped with a 75mm gun, two .30 caliber machine guns, and weighed 33 tons.

60mm mortar: The mortar fired by Eugene Sledge. The M2 60mm mortar fires high explosive and illuminating rounds, anywhere from approximately 200 to 1,985 yards from the front line. The tube and base plate form a two-man load weighing 42 pounds.

Solomon Islands: An island chain east of New Guinea comprising nearly a thousand islands. Guadalcanal is an island in the Solomons.

Tenaru: A river on Guadalcanal. The Battle of Alligator Creek is also sometimes called the Battle of the Tenaru, although the American defensive perimeter was actually set at the nearby Ilu River.

Tommy gun: Short for Thompson submachine gun, a hand-held machine gun that was a limited-issue weapon in the Pacific Theatre.

Tracer fire: Ammunition treated with chemicals to make it leave a glowing or smoky trail as it flies, enabling the shooter to follow its trajectory and make adjustments to his aim. Umurbrogol Hills The highest point in the rough terrain of Peleliu, where the Japanese constructed a vast system of caves and bunkers to defend their positions against Allied forces.

USS George F. Elliott: A U.S. Navy transport that carried troops, including Robert Leckie, to the Pacific in World War II. After sustaining heavy damage from Japanese planes off Guadalcanal in August 1942, the Elliott was scuttled.

USS LST-661: A U.S. Navy tank landing ship that took Marines, including Eugene Sledge, to Peleliu in September 1944.

Water-cooled machine gun: The Browning M1917 heavy machine gun had a water-filled jacket surrounding the barrel, which dissipated heat caused from successive firing. The necessity of a fresh water supply required additional crew members, and the gun, tripod, water supply and ammunition made for a cumbersome yet effective system. The M1917 weighed more than 80 pounds and was capable of firing more than 450 rounds per minute.


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