Top 5 coolest call signs used since WWII

Updated onOct 6, 2022
3 minute read
patton call sign

Patton (left) with Rear Admiral Henry Kent Hewitt aboard USS Augusta, off the coast of North Africa, November 1942.


Originally, call signs were given out like nicknames, based on your personality and physical characteristics.

Call signs have been in use in military history since the invention of the telegraph. According to the National Naval Aviation Museum, it is estimated that military call signs arose around the 1930s to identify units in the heat of battle. The Department of Defense states that around 1970 is when call signs evolved into how we know them today. Like most military traditions, the origins are unknown and experts attempt to give their best explanations on how it came to be. Call signs are no exception. Originally, call signs were given like nicknames, based on your personality and physical characteristics.

Here are some of the top Valhalla-worthy, coolest call signs thought up since World War II

1. Lucky forward

Company officers or those in a leadership billet often end their call sign with the number '6'. The tradition comes from the battlefields of World War II. This is a tribute to General Patton himself as he was called 'Lucky 6' because he was the commanding officer of the Third Army. His individual call sign was 'Lucky Forward.' Modern officers follow suit with something unique that follows tradition in order to identify themselves. For example, if a company commander decided his call sign was 'Reaper' his individual call sign may be 'Reaper, actual.' Similarly to the original '6', the word 'actual' is used to identify a company commander and above. It goes without saying that battalions will switch up their call sign standard operating procedures contingent on their operational security needs. The proper call sign can strike fear into the hearts of the enemy before a major engagement.

2. Dead Walker

Ho Chi Minh

Ho Chi Minh gave the name ‘the Walking Dead’ to the First Battalion, Ninth Marine regiment when the Marines entered A Shau valley. The fate of the 800 Marines changed when the unit was engaged in close to four years of sustained combat operations. The cost of victory would claim the majority of their lives earning them the namesake. In true Marine Corps tradition, the Marines took the derogatory terms of the enemy and adopted them for themselves. The call sign was used by the battalion during OIF/OEF operations until it was deactivated in 2014.

3. Chaos

General Mattis is essentially a military god to the Marine Corps. The retired General has a good sense of humor and charisma that is required to lead Marines. The former Secretary of Defense has a book titled 'Call Sign Chaos: Learning to Lead' where he expands on his military mindset and his experience.

4. Rawhide

In the video above, secret service agent Jerr Parr used the President's codename when he reported the President's injuries over the radio on March 30, 1981. President Ronald Reagan's strong stances on the Soviet Union and communism made him an international target. He voiced his resolve to 5,000 members of the AFL-CIO at the Hilton Hotel in Washington D.C. and was met with an assassination attempt immediately after. With the quick reaction of the Secret Service and law enforcement, the President was able to recover two weeks later commenting "getting shot hurts." Rawhide is an appropriate call sign for someone who is tough as nails.

5. El Nino

One day, as a boot Marine minding my own business, my seniors called me over with a question. They asked, "how do you say 'the kid' in Spanish?" I did not read the room and said it was 'niño'. How naïve I was. From then on 'El niño' was my call sign in the Marine Corps. I hated it but the more I showed that it bothered me, the more ridiculous my platoon called my new name. They sang it on patrol, they shouted on the ranges, and those MFs even used me as a unit of measurement saying an IED was 'approximately 50 niños away' over the radio. The best call signs are those given to you by your brothers. Especially if it bothers you. Looking back, I wouldn't change it for the world.