Frequently asked question: What is the
meaning and derivation of the term Bravo Zulu?
DEPARTMENT OF THE NAVY -- NAVAL
805 KIDDER BREESE SE -- WASHINGTON NAVY YARD
WASHINGTON DC 20374-5060
This is a naval signal, conveyed by
flaghoist or voice radio, meaning "well done"; it has also passed into the
spoken and written vocabulary. It can be combined with the "negative" signal,
spoken or written NEGAT, to say "NEGAT Bravo Zulu," or "not well done."
There are some "myths and legends" attached to this signal. The one most
frequently heard has Admiral Halsey sending it to ships of Task Force 38 during
World War II. He could not have done this, since the signal did not exist at
"Bravo Zulu" actually comes from the Allied Naval Signal Book (ACP 175 series),
an international naval signal code adopted after the North Atlantic Treaty
Organization (NATO) was created in 1949. Until then, each navy had used 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
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 Aviation 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 was the "Alfa, Bravo, Charlie, Delta..." alphabet used
The Navy adopted this ICAO alphabet in March 1956.
It was then that "Baker Zebra" finally became "Bravo Zulu."
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