The Term "Bravo Zulu

"Bravo Zulu" actually comes from the Allied Naval Signal Book (ACP 175 series), an international naval signal code adopted in 1949 after the creation of NATO. Until then, each navy had its own signal code and operational manuals. World War II experience had shown that it was difficult, or even impossible, for ships of different navies to operate together unless they could readily communicate, and ACP 175 was designed to remedy this.

In the U. S. Navy signal code, used before ACP 175, "well done" was signaled as TVG or "Tare Victor George" in the U. S. phonetic alphabet of that time. ACP 175 was organized in the general manner of other signal books, that is, starting with 1 - flag signals, then 2 - flag, and so on. The 2 - flag signals were organized by general subject, starting with AA, AB, AC, ... AZ, BA, BB, BC, ... BZ, and so on. The B - signals were called "Administrative" signals, and dealt with miscellaneous matters of administration and housekeeping. The last signal on the "Administrative" page was BZ, standing for "well done."

At that time BZ was not rendered as "Bravo Zulu," but in each navy's particular phonetic alphabet. In the U. S. Navy, BZ was spoken as "Baker Zebra."In the meanwhile, the International Civil Avaiation Organization (ICAO) had adopted English as the international air traffic control language. They developed a phonetic alphabet for international aviation use, designed to be as "pronounceable" as possible by flyers and traffic controllers speaking many different languages. This is the Alpha, Bravo, Charlie, Delta..." alphabet used today. The Navy adopted this ICAO alphabet in March 1956. It was then that "Baker Zebra" finally became "Bravo Zulu."

For those of you not aware of it, a "Well Done" or "Bravo Zulu" from a senior Naval Officer is a very high compliment. It is usually accompanied by a written commendation to be entered in a person's service record and perhaps a medal.

And a Bravo Zulu to shipmate Jim Marrold, ETC 77-79 for passing this along from the Naval Historical Center and from Tin Can Sailor newsletter.