Allied Military phonetic spelling alphabets
- These Phonetic Spelling Alphabets are not a phonetic alphabet in the sense in which that term is used in phonetics, i.e., it is not a system for transcribing speech sounds; in fact, the ICAO alphabet described below uses the International Phonetic Alphabet to describe how the spelling words are to be pronounced. See the phonetic alphabet disambiguation page, and also phonetic notation.
The Allied military radiotelephone spelling alphabets were created beginning prior to World War I and evolved separately in the United States and Great Britain (and separately among each countries' separate military services), until being merged during World War II. The last WWII spelling alphabet continued to be used through the Korean War, being replaced in 1956 as a result of both countries adopting the ICAO/ITU Radiotelephony Spelling Alphabet, with the Allied nations calling their usage the "NATO Phonetic Alphabet".
Sometime during WWII, the Allies had defined terminology to describe the scope of communications procedures among different services and nations. A summary of the terms used was published in a post-WWII NATO memo:
- combined—between services of one nation and those of another nation but not necessarily within or between the services of those nations.
- joint—between but not necessarily within two or more services of one nation.
- intra—within (and within only) a service of one nation.
Thus, the Combined Communications Board spelling alphabet was mandated for use when any U.S. military branch was communicating with any British military branch, but when operating without any British forces, the Joint Army/Navy spelling alphabet was mandated for use whenever the U.S. Army and U.S. Navy were communicating in joint operations, but if the U.S. Army was operating on its own, it would use its own spelling alphabet, which ranged from completely different to mostly identical.
- 1 WWII CCB and NATO alphabets
- 2 United States military spelling alphabets
- 3 United Kingdom military spelling alphabets
- 4 See also
- 5 References
- 6 External links
WWII CCB and NATO alphabets
voice recording: NATO phonetic alphabet
Problems playing this file? See media help.
An alternative name for the ICAO spelling alphabet, "NATO phonetic alphabet", exists because it appears in Allied Tactical Publication ATP-1, Volume II: Allied Maritime Signal and Maneuvering Book used by all allied navies of NATO, which adopted a modified form of the International Code of Signals. Because the latter allows messages to be spelled via flags or Morse code, it naturally named the code words used to spell out messages by voice its "phonetic alphabet". The name NATO phonetic alphabet became widespread because the signals used to facilitate the naval communications and tactics of NATO have become global.
However, ATP-1 is marked NATO Confidential (or the lower NATO Restricted) so it is not available publicly. Nevertheless, a NATO unclassified version of the document is provided to foreign, even hostile, militaries, even though they are not allowed to make it available publicly. The spelling alphabet is now also defined in other unclassified international military documents. The NATO alphabet appeared in some United States Air Force Europe publications during the Cold War. A particular example was the Ramstein Air Base, Telephone Directory published between 1969 and 1973 (currently out of print). The USA and NATO versions had differences and the translation was provided as a convenience. Differences included Alfa, Bravo and Able, Baker for the first two letters.
The NATO phonetic spelling alphabet was first adopted on January 1, 1956, while the ICAO radiotelephony spelling alphabet was still undergoing final changes.
|Letter||1943 CCB (US-UK)(same as 1947 ICAO)||NATO
January 1, 1956
March 1, 1956–present
United States military spelling alphabets
|Letter||1916 Signal Book
- Interrogatory is used in place of Inter in joint Army-Navy Operations
The U.S. Navy's first phonetic spelling alphabet was not used for radio, but was instead used on the deck of ships "in calling out flags to be hoisted in a signal", and there were two (almost) completely different alphabets used, with only the code word "Xray" in common.
The U.S. Navy's first radiotelephony phonetic spelling alphabet was published in 1913, in the Naval Radio Service's Handbook of Regulations developed by Captain William H. G. Bullard. The Handbook's procedures were described in the Nov 1917 edition of Popular Science Monthly.
The Joint Army/Navy Phonetic Alphabet was a radio alphabet developed by the Joint Board (November 13) in 1940 to take effect on March 1, 1941 and reformulated by the Combined Communications Board following the entrance of the U.S. into World War II by the CCB "Methods and Procedures" committee, and was used by all branches of the United States Armed Forces until the promulgation of the ICAO spelling alphabet (Alfa, Bravo) in 1956, which replaced it. Before the Joint Army/Navy (JAN) phonetic alphabet, each branch of the armed forces used its own radio alphabet, leading to difficulties in interbranch communication.
Vestiges of the system remain in use in the U.S. Navy, in the form of Material Conditions of Readiness, used in damage control. Dog, William, X-Ray, Yoke, and Zebra all reference designations of fittings, hatches, or doors. The response "Roger" for "· – ·" or "R", to mean "received", also derives from this alphabet.
The names Able to Fox were also widely used in the early days of hexadecimal digital encoding of text in speaking of the hexadecimal digits equivalent to decimal 10 to 15, although the written form was simply the capital letters A to F. See hexadecimal.
|Letter||Joint Army/Navy 1941–1943||CCB
|I||Item (or Interrogatory)||ITEM||India|
United Kingdom military spelling alphabets
British Army radiotelephony spelling alphabet
|Letter||Royal Navy 1914–1918||Royal Navy 1921||1956–present|
RAF radiotelephony spelling alphabet
The RAF radiotelephony spelling alphabet was used by the British Royal Air Force (RAF) to aid communication after the take-up of radio, especially to spell out aircraft identification letters, e.g. "H-Harry", "G for George" etc. Several alphabets were used, before being superseded by the adoption of the NATO/ICAO radiotelephony alphabet. While sometimes referred to as the "RAF Phonetic Alphabet", it is a spelling alphabet rather than a true phonetic alphabet.
During World War I both the British Army and the Royal Navy had developed their own quite separate spelling alphabets. The Navy system was full alphabet, starting: Apples, Butter, Charlie, Duff, Edward, but the RAF alphabet was based on that of the "signalese" of the army signallers. This was not a full alphabet, but differentiated only the letters most frequently misunderstood: Ack (originally "Ak"), Beer (or Bar), C, D, E, F, G, H, I, J, K, L, eMma, N, O, Pip, Q, R, eSses, Toc, U, Vic, W, X, Y, Z.
- 1 The choice of Nuts following Monkey is probably from "monkey nuts" = peanuts; likewise Orange and Pip can be similarly paired.
- 2 "Vic" subsequently entered the English language as the standard (Vee-shaped) flight pattern of three aircraft.
- International Code of Signals
- Spelling alphabet
- Toc H - example of signalese carry-over.
- "A Report by the Communications Electronics Coordination Section on COMMUNICATIONS (SIGNALS) PROCEDURES AND MESSAGE FORMS" (PDF).
- "Globalization and Sea Power". Isn.ethz.ch. Archived from the original on 17 May 2013. Retrieved 11 August 2014.
- Communication instructions – General Archived 22 July 2011 at the Wayback Machine., Allied Communications Publication ACP 121(H), Combined Communications-Electronics Board, April 2007, section 318
- "North Atlantic Military Committee memorandum SGM-217-55" (PDF).
- Myers, Capt., U.S.N., G. B.; Charles, Cdr., R.N.V.R., B. P. (1945-02-14). CCBP 3-2: Combined Radiotelephone (R/T) Procedure. Washington 25, D. C.: Combined Communications Board. pp. 1, 2.
- "FM 24-12,:Army Extract of Combined Operating Signals (CCBP 2-2)" (PDF).
- Alcorn, John. "Radiotelegraph and Radiotelephone Codes, Prowords And Abbreviations" (PDF).
- "North Atlantic Military Committee SGM-217-55 memorandum" (PDF).
- "North Atlantic Military Committee SGM-156-56 memorandum" (PDF).
- "United States Army Signal Book, 1916".
- "FM 24-5 Basic Field Manual Signal Communication, 1939".
- "FM 24-5 Signal Communication 1942".
- "FM 24-12,:Army Extract of Combined Operating Signals (CCBP 2-2)" (PDF).
- "Boat-Book: United States Navy, 1908".
- "Popular Science, Nov 1917".
- Phonetic Alphabet and Signal Flags by Naval Historical Center (five phonetic alphabets: 1913, 1927, 1938, WWII, 1957–present)
- Bullard, William H. G. (1913). United States Naval Radio Service Handbook of Regulations. United States Naval Radio Service.
- "Communications Instructions 1928 Part II: RADIO" (PDF).
- "FM 24-9 Combined United States-British Radiotelephone (R/T) Procedure)". 1942.
- JANAP 100, Joint U.S. Amphibious Communications. U.S. Department of War.
- "The Evolution and Rationale of the ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organization) Word-Spelling Alphabet, July 1959" (PDF). Retrieved 2017-11-01.
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2016-08-17. Retrieved 2016-07-10.
- Joint Army/Navy (JAN) phonetic alphabet from alt.usage.english (at the end)
- U.S Army FM 24-5
- "British Phonetic Alphabets 1904-1926".
- Skiba, Richard. "International Phonetic Alphabet" (PDF).
- "PHONETIC ALPHABETS - HISTORIC, ENGLISH & OTHERS".
- "PHONETIC ALPHABETS IN THE BRITISH SERVICE".
- "Notice to Airmen", Flight, Flightglobal.com, XIII (679): 862, 29 December 1921, retrieved 11 August 2014
- "'Alfa Bravo' for R.A.F", Flight, Flightglobal.com, 69 (2451): 63, 13 January 1956, retrieved 11 August 2014
- Keesing's Contemporary Archives, Volume 4, Part 2, 1942