A fellow Tradewinds instructor asked me the other day why we say “Roger” on the radio to confirm we’ve received a message. Why Roger, and not Reginald, or for that matter, Hermione?
If you go cruising you’ll probably want to learn the phonetic alphabet so you can spell your boat name and perhaps your HAM call sign in a way that can be understood in foreign ports. I can still quickly rattle off “kilo-golf-six-echo-uniform-delta,” sometimes involuntarily at inappropriate moments. However, even if you memorize this way of spelling things, you won’t find any “Roger” among the Mikes, Juliets, and Charlies. But this wasn’t always the case.
“Roger” is a holdover from the phonetic alphabet used by the Royal Air Force and the US Air Force prior to 1956, at which time he was replaced by “Romeo” to represent the letter “R.” In addition to changing “Roger” to “Romeo,” “Able” was replaced by “Alpha,” “Baker” was replaced by “Bravo,” and “Easy” was replaced by “Echo.” There were some additional changes due to fuzzy comprehension by speakers of Texan, Bostonian, Bronxish, Liverpudlian, and other languages, until the alphabet was adopted internationally. The current phonetic alphabet with “Romeo” was adopted by the International Commission for Air Navigation in 1956, by the International Telecommunication Union in 1959, and then by the International Maritime Organization in 1965.
During WWII, the phonetic “Roger” was used to indicate R for “Received” in radio usage. Apparently no one wished to change it to “Romeo” after combat ended and the alphabet changed, with the result that what we have today is a small tribute to the Second World War. So when you say “Roger,” remember those heroes of Normandy and Okinawa, the Po Valley, and the Ardennes Forest.

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2 Responses to Roger

  1. Brian Deans says:

    A further note on radio procedure (now that we’ve got Roger settled):
    Since radios are one-way conversations, the correct response to pass the conversation back to the other person is “Over”. When you are finished talking, the correct response is “Out”. “Over AND Out” is a contradiction that seems to have been perpetuated by Hollywood movies.

  2. Winfried Wilcke says:

    More on Roger..
    in the days of Morse code, replying just with the character R .-. was used to indicate that a message had been received.
    Aviation uses roger as part of the official Airman’s vocabulary – but now it has THREE simultaneous meanings
    – I Received your entire message
    – I understood it all
    – I will comply (if the msg implied a command)

    A pilot should not reply wit Roger unless they are all met.
    Winfried W

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