The military alphabet was developed to help members of the military identify their units during combat. The allied military phonetic spellings of the military alphabet helped soldiers know which words they were to fire upon, and where they were to aim their weapons. The phonetic spelling provided the vocabulary to translate the word into the appropriate alphabet. Although the allied military forces were fighting on different fronts in World War Two, most words were spelled out phonetically to facilitate the confusion of the differing battlefield locations. When spelling out other words for use in the military, the allied military alphabet spelled out the words as you would expect, with the capitalized letters standing for the first letter of each word. However, some letters were still capitalized, depending on where a certain word was located on the battlefield.
The Americanized Versions
This led to the usage of the military alphabet for the phonetic pronunciations of army words in all theaters of operation, including the Pacific theatre. When the army of Japan began to withdraw from the island after the beginning of the Second World War, they had to arrange their words in the military alphabet. This was the first of the Americanized versions of military phonetics, which the Army Air Corp and Navy used as their pronunciation guide for their publications and in radio transmissions.
Today, most military personnel still use the military alphabet in all situations. They are also aware that the pronunciation guide for military words is very different from the way it is spoken in the civilian world. The written language can be confusing, so people often mispronounce words in both languages. The phonetic alphabet takes this into account and translates the words into the right letters and combinations for easy pronunciation.
For example, let’s look at one common letter that is most commonly mispronounced by the average person. That would be the word “bravo”. In the military alphabet this is spelled as “Bravo”. In the civilian world the letter is spelled as “boa” or sometimes “brax”. Most words that have a circle under them in the military alphabet are assumed to be reserved for the use of the Chief Of Staff and are spelled the same way.
One of the biggest mistakes made by American and Australian soldiers on the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan is their incorrect use of the military alphabet. In these areas of the world, the correct spelling is “Yokeyoke” or “Zed Yokey”. This is where the zed comes into play. The z is a nasal sound that indicates that the sound should come at the front of the mouth, like the letter “z”. In Australia pronunciation guides, the pronunciation of this is Zed Yokey.
The Origin Of The Letter
For those who are unfamiliar with the military alphabet, let’s examine the origin of the letter. The origin of this is actually a Morse code, which originated during the times of ancient Egypt. The first symbols used in the Morse code were triangles, squares, and circles. These are still used in the modern day to indicate numbers, dates, and other basic elements. However, the letters in the military alphabet were derived from this Morse code and were adopted by the army.
When the American soldiers were fighting in Vietnam, they would encode their information using the military alphabet and decode it through the use of a phonographic device known as a radio scanner. The codes would be interpreted by a U.S. military cipher machine, which would then produce the desired information. Once decoding was complete the information would then be encoded within the radio signals being sent out to the different units. Through the use of this cipher machine, an enemy soldier could not decipher what was occurring over a battlefield because he couldn’t decipher the code word pronunciation. This was a huge disadvantage because if an enemy soldier located a particular unit and recognized the frequency in which the transmission was coming in he could easily overhear what was going on.
Military Phonetic Alphabet
Because of this problem, the military phonetic alphabet was introduced. This new alphabet allowed for an easy understanding of military transmissions. The new code words were phonetically pronounced. In order to accommodate the pronunciation of the new alphabet, many newspapers and magazines began to use the nato alphabet to write the new code words. Today when you see the NNASI along with a code word it is meant to indicate that the word is to be understood phonetically not pronounced exactly the way that it is written or interpreted.