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R&R (military)

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A young sailor returns home to his mother and siblings in this 1904 illustration.

R&R, military slang for rest and recuperation (also rest and relaxation, rest and recreation, or rest and rehabilitation), is an abbreviation used for the free time of a soldier or international UN staff serving in unaccompanied (no family) duty stations. The term is used by a number of militaries such as the United States Armed Forces and British Armed Forces. In the UK, the term applies to a type of leave granted to personnel during an overseas deployment which allows them to return home to the UK to visit their family.

R&R in the U.S. armed forces[edit]

The US Morale, Welfare and Recreation network provides leisure services for US military personnel. Service members and US Defense Department civilians on 12-month tours in Iraq and Jordan supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom and Afghanistan supporting Operation Enduring Freedom have a rest and recuperation leave program that allows them to take up to 15 days, excluding travel time, to visit family or friends in the United States or Europe. [citation needed]

All US military personnel serving in Vietnam during the Vietnam War were eligible for one R&R during their tour of duty (13 months for marines, 12 months for soldiers, sailors, airmen). The duration of R&R was five days leave to R&R destinations, Bangkok, Hong Kong, Kuala Lampur, Penang, Manila, Seoul, Singapore, Taipei and Tokyo (as well as in-country at China Beach). Due to their greater distance, seven days leave was permitted for R&R destinations Hawaii and Sydney. Bangkok was reportedly most popular with single GIs, Hawaii most popular with married GIs planning to holiday with spouses.[1]

Letter To Home by Stephen H. Randall, U.S. Army Vietnam Combat Artists, 1968
Time Out by David N. Fairrington, U.S. Army Vietnam Combat Artists (1968) (soldiers relaxing in Vietnam)


Prostitution has long been part of soldiers' "R&R" activity. It has been condoned by civilian populations in peacetime and wartime since early history, although some see it as a problem due to human trafficking concerns.[2]

Japan after the unconditional surrender to the United States at the end of the Second World War in 1945 and South Korea during the 1950s saw the effective institution of "camp towns" around the US bases, where brothels were allowed to operate unfettered.[3]

In the Vietnam War, the official policy of the United States Department of Defense was to suppress prostitution. Prostitution however, was relied upon by the US military to combat the battlefield trauma many faced. Women worked in bars, nightclubs, massage parlors and bathhouses across various R&R spots in Asia for the appeasement of the American military servicemen.[4][5][self-published source?][6] The popularity of bar girls was high because upon "rental", the GI would receive a legally enforceable contract.[7] When a GI decided which girl he wanted, the girls would serve as a companion and guide.

Pattaya Beach in Thailand was a fishing village until the 1960s when thousands of U.S. troops from Vietnam showed up for R&R, leading to the creation of one of the largest red light districts in the world. The heart of its economy remains sex tourism. Soldiers sometimes called the breaks "I&I" for "intoxication and intercourse".[8] The 1973 novel Saint Jack and its 1979 film adaptation revolve around the American GIs who came to Singapore during the Vietnam War on R&R for the prostitution that was prevalent in the city-state at the time.[9]

In 2006, the Department of Defense made it a crime for a service member to hire a prostitute anywhere in the world; the penalties can include up to a year in prison, forfeiture of pay, and a dishonorable discharge. This change was criticized by some in Europe, where prostitution is legal and regulated in some countries.[8]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "R&R and Leave in Vietnam". Tour of Duty Info. Retrieved April 12, 2015.
  2. ^ Squatrito, Theresa (September 1–4, 2005), R&R: Military Policy on Prostitution, University of Washington, Military prostitution is frequently cited as a problem around military bases in Korea, the Philippines, and more recently in Bosnia. Currently, while all houses of prostitution are officially off-limits, the military implicitly condones the commercial sex industry through a variety of means such as supplying condoms and providing a courtesy patrol that escorts personnel to bars where prostitution is available.
  3. ^ Lankov, Andrei (January 2, 2006). "Ladies of the 1950s Nights". The Korea Times. Archived from the original on December 30, 2006.
  4. ^ Hoang, Kimberly Kay (2015). Dealing in Desire: Asian Ascendancy, Western Decline, and the Hidden Currencies of Global Sex Work. Univ of California Press. ISBN 978-0-520-96068-8.[page needed]
  5. ^ Brandli, Hank (April 2013). "My R & R in Penang".
  6. ^ Chow, Esther Ngan-Ling; Segal, Marcia Texler; Lin, Tan (2011). Analyzing Gender, Intersectionality, and Multiple Inequalities: Global-transnational and Local Contexts. Emerald Group Publishing. ISBN 978-0-85724-744-5.[page needed]
  7. ^ Chandler, J. G. (March 2018). "R&R in Vietnam: Shelter from the Storm". VFW, Veterans of Foreign Wars Magazine. 105: 36–38.
  8. ^ a b Baker, Anni P. (2008). Life in the U.S. Armed Forces: (not) Just Another Job.
  9. ^ Hopkins, Jerry (2013). Romancing the East: A Literary Odyssey from the Heart of Darkness to the River Kwai. Tuttle Publishing. ISBN 978-1-4629-1187-5.[page needed]

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