K  e  n  s  m  e  n   :   4  3  r  d    B  o  m  b    G  r  o  u  p    (H),    5  t  h    A  A  F
 Home > History > WWII Slang of the 5th AF

Slang Used in the 5th AAF in the SWAP during WWII

INTRODUCTION: Slang was not really curse words. It was a substitute for regular words or phrases that lent emphasis (comical, serious, or otherwise) to a conversation. An example would be an aircraft accident report where the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) states that the accident was caused by “Pilot Error.” If this is true, the flying fraternity would know exactly what was wrong: The pilot simply “had his head up his a--.” While this may sound obscene to some, it is not obscenity in the true sense of the word. We welcome additions to this list of slang terms. Be sure they are not curse words, and that they were associated with the flying fraternity, either flying or ground crew, or administration.  ---Shad Shaddox

Ack-ack An antiaircraft gun; also, and especially, antiaircraft fire
Big Time Operator (BTO)
Bandit Enemy aircraft
Big-A-Bird A term sometimes applied by the Port Moresby natives to the B-24s when they first made their appearance in that area.
Bogie see 'bandit'
Cat Catalina Flying Boat
Dear John (Letter) A letter from a sweetheart at home saying she is no longer interested.
Doug’s Dug Out An uncomplimentary term for the residences of General Douglass McArthur and his family. First in Australia, then later at a well-appointed plantation owner’s house in Port Moresby
Dug-Out Doug The uncomplimentary term for General Douglass McArthur
Fair Dinkum An Aussie term meaning (generally) a fair deal
Fat Cat 1) A person in, or associated with the military living in safe and sometimes luxurious conditions. (A term often applied to personnel assigned to posts in Australia, including Red Cross personnel.) 2) An aircraft assigned to fly to and from fat cat areas.
Feather, to To place a propeller in an edge-on position to the direction of flight to cut down on the wind resistance (with engine stopped.)
Flying Prostitute Term applied to the twin-engine Martin B-26. This aircraft had a small wing area, and was said to have “No Visible Means Of Support.” A high performance aircraft for its day, and requiring great skill to fly.
George A term sometimes used by green pilots for the Automatic Pilot. ( “Let George Do it”).
Gibson Girl Emergency hand cranked radio, so called because it was shaped to be held between the knees while cranking. The shape reminded the guys of the turn of the century, pinched waist, corseted pin-up girls of the same name
Gone West A term first use in WW1 aviation circles meaning a person had died.
Had It That is, "I’ve had it", "he's had it", and so on. In some cases it inferred a disastrous ending
Hangar Queen An aircraft with an unenviably bad maintenance record. An aircraft spending a great deal of time being repaired or maintained.
Head Up and Locked A term applied to a person reacting stupidly to an emergency. (“He had his head locked up his a--”)
Head Up his a-- same as above
Hot Pilot Self explanatory
JANFU Joint Army Navy F--- Up
Jungle Juice Alcoholic liquor made with what ever is handy around camp. Some good, some not so good. Fresh or dehydrated potatoes, raisins, dried or fresh fruit, or most anything when mixed with sugar and allowed to ferment would become and alcoholic drink of questionable quality, but alcoholic, nonetheless. Those persons with material to make stills could turn this into a very strong hard liquor.
Knocked Up Tired or exhausted in Australia; pregnant in the U.S
Mae West Life jacket
Ninety-Day Wonder A 2nd Lt. who has received his commission by (usually) going through the Officer Candidate School (OCS)
On the Beam Flying the old radio beam. A sometimes life-saving procedure while flying entirely on instruments and listening to the sound of radio beam signals. A pilot had to depend entirely on what he heard while believing religiously in his previous “Under-the-hood” instrument training. Room does not exist here for a description this pilot skill deserves. Perhaps another place and another time.
On The Step An in-flight condition for a B-24 where the aircraft is accelerated to slightly above its normal cruising speed, then trimmed so that it is flying in a slightly nose-down condition, When the aircraft center of gravity (CG) was properly adjusted fore and aft, and aerodynamically trimmed, the ship would generally maintain a slightly higher cruising speed until disturbed. (AUTHOR’S NOTE: In writing this description of “on the step” the author realizes it will open up a Pandora’s Box of rebuttals. Some pilots say this is just B.S. Others will swear that you could get a ship up on the step. So have fun with this one.)(WEBMASTER'S NOTE: yeah, take it to the message board!)
Pucker Factor A term applied to describe the tenseness or danger level of a situation. A high pucker factor could make your old rear end cut donuts out of your seat pack parachute
Putt-Putt The single-cylinder auxiliary pour plant that provided emergency or additional electrical power
Run-Away Prop A propeller out of control and stuck in the high speed setting. A truly dangerous condition any time, but especially so on take off
Sharp Term applied to a pilot or other crew member who has quick and accurate responses to all requirements for his position
Sheila 'Girlfriend' or 'girl'
She’ll Be Right in a Fortnight or 18 Days A delightful Aussie saying which meant, not to worry, things will be better in about a couple of weeks or so
Short Snorter One or more bills of currency (usually starting with an American dollar bill) signed by two or more persons and dated. The Short Snorter usually inferred that the owner had crossed the Equator, but not necessarily so. It was loosely understood that if an air crew member offered to exchange signatures, and the other could not produce a Short Snorter, then he had to buy the drinks at the nearest bar. Short Snorters were a great way to get acquainted. As different kinds of currency were acquired in one's travels, it was not unusual for two members of the great flying fraternity to swap examples, whereupon the new bills would be glued to the end of an ever-growing Short Snorter
Stand down, to To not fly a particular day, mission, etc...
Sweat Used in combination with other words, such as: “No Sweat!”, or “Lot’sa Sweat!” This was a very descriptive term meaning exactly what it said. It originated in 1939 or the early 1940’s in the many flight training school s that grew up at that time. The flight training was notoriously tough, and the students were worked by their training instructors almost to the breaking point. In West Texas, California, and other places where the flight training schools were clustered, the airplane cockpit, coupled with the hard-driving instructor, kept the student in a real state of sweat. The students flight clothes, socks and shoes, together with his seat pack parachute could very well become soaking wet with sweat at the end of a brisk period of instruction. When the student would finally get to the showers in the barracks, and a buddy would ask how it went, the student would just as likely say, “S---, that was a no-sweat flight!” Then, his buddy would look at the dried-up salt residue on this guy’s flight suit, and he would know he was hearing that it had really been a tough day, but his friend believed he had survived to fly another day!
Tail-End Charlie The last airplane in a bombing formation
Washed Out Failure to make the grade in a flying school
Washing Machine The mysterious and fearsome flying school administration as it descended on a hapless student to inform him he was being dropped from flight training
Washing Machine Charlie A term applied, along with copious cuss words to a lone Japanese aircraft buzzing endlessly back and forth across an area, while only occasionally dropping a small bomb, The purpose being to keep the camp awake and in a nervous state. One Japanese airplane this author remembers sounded just like an old Maytag washing machine powered by a small gasoline engine- thus, the name
White Knuckle A white-knuckle flight was a tense, attention –absorbing flight. It could result from flying in rough weather on instruments, or on a bombing run