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Phonetic alphabets are at least as old as radio communications, meeting the need for precise transmission of alpha-numeric information, such as map grids. During World War II all combatant nations had standardized phonetics, though the Allies’ multiple systems frequently overlapped. For instance, in 1941 the U.S. Army and Navy had different alphabets, and throughout most of the war the British army, navy, and air force had their own similar but not identical systems. By 1944 the Anglo-Americans had agreed upon a standard phonetic alphabet, but changes still occurred.

Phonetics were part and parcel of the language of D-Day. The Normandy landing beaches were divided into specific sectors, each with a phonetic identifier. For example, the opening scene in Saving Private Ryan occurs at Omaha Dog Green Sector.

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American

German

NATO

Able

Anton

Alfa

Baker

Berta/Bruno

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Bravo

Charlie

Caesar

Charlie
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The World War II German system was little changed from the First World War. Some differences in 1914–18 were Charlotte, Julius, Theodore, and Ypsilon. Additionally, Germany’s Great War alphabet had separate phonetics for words with umlauts, which are pronounced as an E sound, such as Oedipus or Uebel.

American

German

NATO

Dog

Dora

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Delta

Easy

Emil

Echo

Fox

Friedrich/Fritz

Foxtrot

George

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Gustav

Golf

How

Heinrich

Hotel

Item

Ida

India

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Jig

Josef

Juliet

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King

Konrad/Kurfurst

King

Love

Ludwig

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Lima

Mike

Martha

Mike

Nan

Nordpol

November

Oboe

Otto

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Oscar

Peter

Paula

Papa

Queen

Quelle

Quebec

Roger

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Richard

Romeo

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Sugar

Siegfried

Sierra

Tare

Toni

Tango

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Uncle

Ulrich

Uncle

Victor

Viktor

Victor

William

Wilhelm

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Whiskey

Xray

Xantippe

Xray

Yoke

Ypern

Yankee

Zebra

Zeppelin

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Zulu

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This article on the phonetic alphabet is part of our larger selection of posts about the Normandy Invasion. To learn more, click here for our comprehensive guide to D-Day.


Cite This Article
"Phonetic Alphabet: How Soldiers Communicated" History on the Net
© 2000-2019, Salem Media.
August 24, 2019 <https://www.historyonthenet.com/phonetic-alphabet-how-soldiers-communicated>
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