Theories of the Origins of the Army’s Battle Cry “Hooah”

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By Debbie Gregory.

The battle cry “hooah!” (not to be confused by the Marine Corps’ “OOHRAH”) is used by soldiers the U.S. Army. Many have questioned the origin of the term.

One version said that Seminole chief Coacoochee toasted officers of the regiment with a loud “Hough!”, apparently a corruption of “How d’ye do!”

“I don’t know how exactly to spell it, but I know what it means,” said former Army Chief of Staff Gen. Gordon R. Sullivan. “It means we have broken the mold. We are battle focused. Hooah says — ‘Look at me. I’m a warrior. I’m ready. Sergeants trained me to standard.’”

Other rumored origins include:

  • During World War II, soldiers would reply to orders from their commanding officers with “HUA,” an acronym for “heard, understood, acknowledged.” Some say that HUA really stands for “head up ass,” or HOOA, for “head out of ass.”
  • On D-Day, 1944, on Omaha Beach, General Cota, the 29th Division Assistant Division Commander asked a group of Rangers from the 2nd Ranger Battalion, “Where’s your commanding officer?” They pointed him out and said, “Down there, sir.” General Cota reportedly followed their direction and, on his way down the beach, said, “Lead the way, Rangers!” The Rangers from 2nd Bat reportedly said, “WHO, US?” General Cota thought he heard them say “HOOAH!” He was so impressed with their cool and calm demeanor, not to mention their cool term, hooah, he decided to make it a household name.
  • American soldiers using Vietnamese and Vietnamese-French expressions interchangeably with English during the Vietnam War. The Vietnamese word for “yes,” which is pronounced “u-ah” is easily changed to “hooah.”

Although no one is really sure where and when the term originated, or even how to spell it, the word is still an expression of high morale, strength, and confidence. And, when powered by an overwhelmingly proud, and usually loud, tone of voice, “hooah / hooyah / oohrah” no matter how it is spelled, makes a statement.

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