Information is vital, especially in wars. Sometimes, soldiers’ lives may depend on whether they know the correct answer for “how far is a klick?”
During their operations, the military always uses a wide range of unique terms and concepts that are strange to civilians. That is because the military needs expedient and clear communication among its members. One interesting example of military jargon is “klick” – one word frequently used among soldiers from different countries. How far is a klick, and what do we know about it? Let’s find out!
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“Klick” And The Military Language
In most action movies about soldiers, we usually come across the characters using military slangs, normally abbreviations. For example, an MIA soldier is the one missing in action, for whom his teammates are searching. For a missing soldier, the term “Over the Hill” can also be used. Other words include AOR (Area of Responsibility) and CP (Check Point).
The military terms and jargon could belong to a whole linguistic world by themselves, very different from everyday language. Some of the jargons are self-explanatory, while others are incredibly cryptic. In general, they all have specific meanings that are so far off from what we expect.
Sometimes, a single word can give a very detailed description of a person or situation. For instance, a Pollywog describes a sailor who has never crossed the equator while on a U.S. Navy Ship. A fresh recruit still in basic training could be addressed as “Rainbow”. A Rotorhead means the helicopter pilot, and a “Sky Blossom” is a deployed parachute.
Among the endless list of terms and jargon on the internet, “klick” is a great word with quite a background. It is crisply short, good to pronounce, but makes us curious about its meaning.
Soldiers in action. Source: Pexels
How Far Is A Klick?
By definition, “klick” is military jargon used as a measurement unit for distance. For units of measurement, we know that the countries across the globe have different systems. For example, the US customary system (inch, feet, yard, mile) is different from the UK metric system (millimeters, centimeters, decimeters, meters, or kilometers). Therefore, the two countries needed some standard measurement units to communicate effectively. And “klick” is such a word.
A“klick” is equivalent to a kilometer or about 0,62 miles. For instance, when a soldier says, “We are 100 klicks westward”, we know that “he is 100 kilometers far away or 62 miles away in the west.” It’s easy to calculate how many klicks in a mile by dividing 1 by 0.62.
But how far is a klick in feet and how many klicks in a feet? It’s so simple! One kilometer is up to 3,280 feet, so one klick means the same amount as well. Hence, one feet is equal to 1/ 3,280 klicks.
For further reference, you can look at this table:
How “Klick” Was Used In Wars
The Joint Forces Of World War 1
The First World War – or WW1 – took place in July 1914 and ended in November 1918. It was also known as “the war to end all wars” due to the massive number of soldiers being involved. More than 70 million military personnel fought in WW1, making it one of the deadliest wars in history.
During WW 1, the strong Allied powers included Great Britain (backed by the British Empire), France, and the Russian Empire. These three powerful countries were on the common Treaty of London signed in September 1914.
Along the way, more countries became allies by treaty to one or more of these superpowers. By 1915, the Allies included Portugal, Japan, and Italy. The United States of America joined as Associated Powers in 1917 because the US President – Woodrow Wilson – wanted to preserve a free hand for the United States. Gradually by June 1919, the “Allied and Associated Powers” consisted of 27 members.
Allied troops on the Gallipoli Peninsula. Source: Britannica
Such a combination of military forces from different countries required several commonly used terms for mutual understanding and effective actions.
The Introduction Of “Klick”
“Klick” was first used by the US and UK military during World War 1. They needed “klick,” especially for joint operations with the French army because France used the metric system for measurements. Unlike other cool abbreviations in military slang, “klick” derives from the word “kilometer” itself. And as a result, one “klick” equals one kilometer and vice versa.
U.S. Army Soldiers in Germany during World War I. Source: Military
Among the 27 members of the “Allied and Associated Powers” in World War 1, many countries were using their own measurement units. Hence, they needed common grounds on measurement units to avoid making mistakes on the field, for telegram, for research purposes, etc. As a result, the word “klick” came into use among soldiers of those countries.
Soldiers side by side on a battlefield. Source: Pexels
“Klick” During The World Wars
There must have been some confusion in the early days of this new word. Some soldiers might need time to remember how many klicks there are in a mile and how far a “klick is in feet. It is normal to be confused as the US and UK soldiers always use either the customary system or the metric units of measurement.
When counting their paces and keeping track of distance on the combat field, they needed to give exact information. Each soldier was usually given an AOR – or Area of Responsibility- of 100 meters “lot.” Hence, for soldiers of different nationalities to join forces effectively in WW1, they used “klick” as part of the mutual units of measurement to ensure cohesion and safety for one another.
“Klick” in World War 1
During the first World War, every soldier in the Treaty faction (mainly Britain, France, Russia, and then the United States, Brazil) used the same word “klick”. They all understood that a “klick” is a kilometer, equals 0.62 miles, and up to 3,280 feet.
On the deadly battlefield, there is no place for mistakes. As a result, it would cost them their own lives if they were to confuse how far a klick is in feet or how many klicks there are in a mile. Each soldier must know perfectly how far a klick is, carry out the orders, and fulfill their tasks safely.
The deadly battlefield has no place for mistakes. Source: Pixabay
It is also essential for rescue operations. The rescue team must understand where the wounded are to choose the fastest and safest route to reach them.
For example, the wounded soldier said that “I’m 10 klicks south of your position”. The rescue team knew that the injured were 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) away and navigated on receiving the information. And that is the greatest importance of military slang, especially in joint operations among different countries.
Not Only WW1 But Also WW2
The same situation took place during World War 2 (1939 – 1945). The Allied powers needed to cooperate smoothly without any issue. During WW2, the Allies (France, Great Britain, the United States, the Soviet Union, and China). These countries again used “klick” in their combat communication to keep track of the location.
German soldiers broke down a barricade. Source: Britannica
Winston Churchill, Harry S. Truman, and Joseph Stalin. Source: Britannica
The soldiers fought for their country and a bigger cause. They joined forces because they were fighting against the same enemy. They shared the same slang to identify alliance amid the world war. The military slang could eventually make or break a block, ending the war and bringing peace. And so, “klick” – merely a slang word – is quite essential in the history of humankind.
“Klick” – More Than A Jargon
Richard Dawkins, a British evolutionary biologist, and author, once said: “Words are not trivial. They matter because they raise consciousness”. This makes perfect sense, especially when we think of how soldiers used their own terms and jargon for communication. The vocabulary they use in operation reminds them that they are on a mission to serve their country and a more significant cause.
How “Klick” Worked In The Past
The soldiers of different nationalities using the same word “klick” in the wars to remind them that they were on the same side. They fought side by side as an alliance, and they would have one another’s back.
Without words like “klicks” used daily during the war, higher-rank commanders’ orders would remain merely orders. There would be no companionship among the soldiers of different nationalities. Hence, there would be no sense of alliance among the allied powers.
The trivial word, “klick,” played its role in the allied powers’ victory, though it may seem insignificant. The triumph resulted from a strong alliance with smooth communication and a shared esprit de corps. Now that the wars ended, would this mean that “klick” is no longer in military use?
The Use Of “Klick” In Modern Times
You might wonder whether the different military forces still use “klick” as slang for “kilometer.” As the word “click” has been used for quite a long time, it is reasonable that nowadays people keep using it. And the truth is they still do. Among the military members, a “klick” is always a standard measure of distance. But besides that, they have developed new ways for better cooperation between nations as well.
After World War 2, NATO was founded as an intergovernmental military alliance among 30 different countries in Europe and North America. NATO is short for North Atlantic Treaty Organization, and the treaty was signed in April of 1949. Since then, every map made and used by NATO members must comply with the NATO Standardization Agreements, along with a military reference system.
This system is called MGRS (Military Grid Reference System), and all NATO members use it to locate the earth points. The Universal Polar Stereographic (UPS) and Universal Transverse Mercator (UPS) grid system was the basis for developing this MGRS.
The MGRS will help the military forces of NATO members pinpoint any place on Earth. In a way, we could say that this whole standardized system is an excellent update of commonly-used slang, such as “klick”. The alliance saw the importance of having shared knowledge while ensuring that only the allied countries can decode the terms.
The MGRS of NATO is only an example of such shared coded intelligence. Thanks to globalization, communication between countries has never been more complicated. There would be thousands, if not millions, of coded systems shared only among certain alliances, publicly known or not. The world in the twenty-first century is so much more complicated than its version in 1914. Hence, they need to build a more extensive network of coded information than a simple slang “klick”.
The Word That Ended The World Wars
Julius Caesar once said, “In war, events of importance are the result of trivial causes.” In a way, we can say that such slang words like “klick” did their best job to bring about the end of the world wars. How far is a klick? Without jargon like this, there would have been no mutual understanding and seamless communication among soldiers. Moreover, the allied forces might not have achieved the victory, and the wars could have claimed more lives.
Today, the military forces might be equipped with all of the most modern devices and weapons. But from one soldier to another, they feel the strongest esprit de corps when they speak the same “language”. A teammate one klick behind would cover for you, and you can rest assured.
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