By Tom Lynam, Kuna VFW Post 7019
From time to time, most of us have repeated a phrase or a quote that we know not the origin or maybe not even the true meaning. And like most familiar phrases, they likely have their origins from many and varied places. There are some that fit into military slang and equally well into civilian lingo. Having said that, I’ll give you the “whole nine yards”.
Even though this expression fits the description of the average dump truck and the length of the standard bolt of cloth, there are three military applications that could be the original. However, even though I only give three examples, which is correct is as much your guess as mine. Let’s have some fun.
First, and least plausible, is the size of a trooper’s backpack when fully loaded. It started with our troopers in the Pacific during WWII. When fully loaded with all the issued equipment and what little personal things you may have squeezed in, it may have felt like nine cubic yards but it could not be possible. I think it is more like 1600 cubic inches and about 65+ pounds with a full load of ammo. I think we can eliminate this one.
Second, the expression referred to the length of a full load of machine gun bullets that was carried in several WWII aircraft. When the pilot went on a mission and all the ammunition was expended, it was said that the pilot gave the enemy “The Whole Nine Yards.” Cool, but not very accurate since the length of the belts were measured in the number of rounds and not by the yard. Nice try.
Third and most probable, it’s an actual nautical term. Before the turn of the century and the development of the modern naval vessels, many of the ships were outfitted with sails that took advantage of wind power. A large ship would most likely have three main masts. On each mast was rigged a cross piece that supported the rigging or sails. This cross piece was called a yardarm, or more commonly a “yard’. On a fully rigged ship there were three yards to each mast and three masts with three yards per mast, nine yards. When the vessel was under way, all sails rigged for speed and power in pursuit of the enemy, the crew gave them “The whole Nine Yards”. My vote is one for the Navy.
You may have a different version, let us know. Until then, please plan to attend our annual VFW breakfast on 9 November in honor of our veterans. The all you can eat breakfast will be scrambled eggs, sausage, pancakes, juice, milk, coffee or tea. There will be a drawing at the breakfast for several cash prizes. It will be in the Kuna Senior Center, doors open
at 7:00 AM until 11:00 AM. Tickets will be available at the door or can be purchased from VFW members in advance. Hope to see you there.
If you have an idea you would like to explore or perhaps an article about a person or military history, contact Tom Lynam at firstname.lastname@example.org and see if we can make it happen.