How Well Do You Know the WWII Military Alphabet?

By: John Miller

How Well Do You Know the WWII Military Alphabet?
Image: United States Federal Government

About This Quiz

In the early 20th century, a revolutionary technology – radio – began to transform battlefield communications, allowing soldiers to relay critical messages and coordinate their objectives in real time. But between crackling static and ear-shattering bomb blasts, it was hard to make out exactly what senders were saying. Thus, radio communicators began using military radiotelephone spelling alphabets in order to clearly convey their messages. Do you think you can match all of the letters to the correct words?

In our quiz, we’ll be exploring the words used specifically by the Americans during World War II. These words are different from those used by other Allied forces, and they also vary from those used in later decades. At the end of this quiz, we’ll show you how some NATO versions from the Cold War are very different from the American words used in the Second World War.

Have you ever tried to have a conversation on a cellphone on a windy day? Then you can probably imagine just how frustrating it was to understand radio transmissions during WWII. Not only was the sound quality vastly inferior to today’s modern technologies, but the chaos and din of the battlefield made it nearly impossible to determine what a sender was saying.

In our quiz, we’ll see if you really know your “Tango” from your “Zulu.” Grab your radio, duck from enemy artillery, and take our WWII radio alphabet quiz now!

"A" was represented by which word?
Accentuate
Able
When American troops needed to pass along the letter "A" in one form or another, they used the word "Able."
Apple

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"B"
Bob
Bludgeon
Baker
"Roger that, you want us to rendezvous at landing point 'Baker.' We'll be there on the double!"

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"C"
Charlie
You'll rarely make it through a war movie without hearing "Charlie." It's the American word used to represent the letter "C."
Chester
C'est la vie

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"D"
Dog
During WWII, U.S. troops weren't referring to their pet Fluffy when they mentioned "Dog." They were referring instead to the letter "D."
Devastator
Donkey

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"E"
Eleanore
Easy
The phonetic alphbet was all about simplifying military radio communications. So it's no surprise that "Easy" was used for the letter "E."
Exasperating

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"F"
Freedom
Flipper
Fox
Sure, troops might've used the word "fox" to refer to the French locals. But mostly, "Fox" was used for the letter "F."

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"G"
George
Yes, back in the WWII era, people were still named George. The popular name also stood in for the letter "G."
Gollum
Gifford

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"H"
How
With its distictive "ow" sound, "how" was a solid choice for the letter "H," easy to understand even on a static-riddled radio signal.
Heavy
Harper

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"I"
Iffy
Item
Those handsome U.S. troops were sometimes an item for war-weary European girls. But mostly, "Item" was the word used to represent the letter "I."
Ithaca

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"J"
John
Jig
Once the Axis finally fell, everyone was dancing a jig. But until every battle was ended, "Jig" was the word for "J."
Jezebel

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"K"
Kill
Kathy
King
In the end, all the king's horses and all the king's men couldn't put the Third Reich together again. "King" stood for the letter "K."

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"L"
Love
All is fair in love and war, and in WWII, Americans used the word "love" as the stand-in for "L."
Lion
Lips

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"M"
March
Magnificent
Mike
"Mike" was the word used to represent the letter "M." In the heat of battle, it was a heck of a lot easier to say than "magnificent."

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"N"
Narnia
Nincompoop
Nan
It's hard to know what military types were thinking when they selected "Nan" for "N," as it lacks any sharpness that would make it stand out in a garbled message. The joint Allied alphabet used "November" instead.

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"O"
Opie
Oboe
If you were a musician during the war, surely the sound of "Oboe" over the radio was music to your ears. Until, of course, you realized that "Oboe" was part of a message calling you to battle.
Obergruppenfuhrer

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"P"
Peter
"Peter" picked a peck of peppers in WWII, or did he? Probably not, rather, "Peter" was the word meant to stand in for "P."
Partridge
Parcel

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"Q"
Quiz
Quick
Queen
American soldiers probably didn’t have "God Save the Queen" ringing in their ears during combat like their British counterparts. But they did use "Queen" a lot when referring to the letter "Q."

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"R"
Richard
Roger
Like "Charlie" and "Able," "Roger" is one of the most famous radio words ever. During WWII, Americans used "Roger" for the letter "R."
Ribald

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"S"
Stab
Sugar
Let's be very clear about this -- if another Marine yells "Sugar" at you, he probably doesn't want a kiss "Sugar" stood for "S."
Salty

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"T"
Trigger-happy
Tare
Like "Nan," "Tare" seems like an odd choice for rapid-fire communications in battle. NATO eventually went with "Tango" instead.
Televangelist

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"U"
Ulysses
Umbilical
Uncle
What was it going to take to make the Japanese cry uncle? In early 1945, no one really knew. But the Americans did know that "Uncle' stood for "U."

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"V"
Victor
The hard consonant sounds in "Victor" are exceedingly easy to comprehend no matter how bad the radio signal might be. It was an easy choice to represent the letter "V."
Vapid
Variable

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"W"
Wagon
William
Few of the WWII radio signals had three syllables. But "W" was special, so it was labeled "William."
Whodunit

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"X"
Xerxes
X-ray
Let's be honest, there weren't too many words in the running to represent X. So the Americans -- and later NATO -- both went with "X-ray."
Xylophone

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"Y"
Yoke
With the hard "K" sound in "Yoke," it was hard to misunderstand when someone was relaying the letter "Y." Later, NATO used the word "Yankee" instead.
Yellow
Yay

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"Z"
Zebra
If you were looking to get your stripes in combat, you probably didn't meant the black-and-white kind of a zebra. But "Zebra" was, in fact," used for the letter "Z."
Zoom
Zipper

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Later, NATO altered some of the words used for certain letters. Which word replaced "George" for "G."
Giant
Golf
"George" just didn't quite cut it. During the Cold War, NATO substituted "Golf" for "George."
Glamorous

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Instead of "Peter," what word did NATO eventually decide on?
Pompous
Papa
Peter was actually a pretty understandable word. But when NATO updated its list, it opted instead for "Papa."
Pickle

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Which word did NATO decide to use for the letter "S"?
Sloppy
Sierra
"Sierra" has an air of majesty, making "S" sound fancier than it really is. And that's just how NATO likes it.
Sectional

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Instead of "Zebra," which word does NATO use for "Z"?
Zoo
Zulu
Apparently, NATO doesn't really have a thing for animals in its alphabet. Officials ditched "Zebra" and used "Zulu" for "Z."
Zipline

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You Got:
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