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Q:We’ve got some Navy guys attached to our unit, and whenever we do something good, they say they’re gonna give us a “Bravo Zulu.” What’s up with that?

A: Ah, those Navy people. Bravo Zulu is a naval signal originally sent by semaphore flags, and, in English, simply means “Well done.” Now, why Bravo Zulu? Its origins are in the Allied Naval Signal Book, which for decades has been used by members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), which was created in 1949. Before that, each member navy used its own signal codes.

The U.S. Navy, for example, used “Tare Victor George” as their signal for well done. Later, it was changed to “Baker Zebra,” which used the phonetic alphabet being used by the U.S. military at the time.

There’s a legend that says the first person to use Bravo Zulu to mean “well done” was Adm. “Bull” Halsey during World War II. That’s unlikely, though, since — as mentioned above — the signal didn’t come into being until four years after the war ended.


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