Bravo Zulu 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
There are some myths and legends attached
to this signal. One of the most frequently heard has Admiral "Bull" Halsey
sending it to ships of Task Force 38 during World War II. Another story,
current in the navies of the Commonwealth is that it was an improvised
signal to HMS Zulu, during the same war, after that ship performed some
conspicuous feat of gallantry. Neither of these stories can be true, as
the signal did not exist at that time. A third legend is that Bravo Zulu
was used in the Royal Navy as the flag signal for "issue an extra tot of
rum to the crew."
"Bravo Zulu" actually comes from the
Allied Tactical Publication (ATP) 1 Vol 2 series (Naval Book of Signals),
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 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. radio 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 radio 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 radio alphabet for international
aviation use, designed to be as "pronounceable" as possible by flyers and
traffic controllers speaking many different languages. The U.S. Navy adopted
this ICAO alphabet in March 1956. It was then that "Baker Zebra" finally
became "Bravo Zulu".