EtymologyPresent participle of frag.
- The throwing of a fragmentation
grenade at one's superior officer.
- 2005: Fraggings—the intentional killings of officers by their own troops—were already occuring. — Martin Torgoff, Can't Find My Way Home (Simon & Schuster 2005, p. 175)
- present participle of frag
Fragging is a term from the Vietnam War, used primarily by U.S. military personnel, most commonly meaning to assassinate an unpopular officer of one's own fighting unit, often by means of a fragmentation grenade (hence the term). A hand grenade was often used because it would not leave any fingerprints, and because a ballistics test could not be done (as it could to match a bullet with a firearm). The grenade would often be thrown into the officer's tent while he slept. Sometimes the intended victim would be 'warned' by first having a smoke grenade thrown into his tent. If he persisted in antagonizing his men, this would be followed by a stun grenade, and finally by a fragmentation grenade. A fragging victim could also be killed by intentional friendly fire during combat. In this case, the death would be blamed on the enemy, and, due to the dead man's unpopularity, the perpetrator could assume that no one would contradict the story.
Fragging most often involved the murder of a commanding officer (C.O.) or a senior noncommissioned officer perceived as unpopular, harsh, inept, or overzealous (many soldiers were not overly keen to go into harm's way, and preferred leaders with a similar sense of self-preservation). If a C.O. was incompetent, fragging the officer was considered a means to the end of self preservation for the men serving under him. Fragging might also occur if a commander freely took on dangerous or suicidal missions, especially if he was deemed to be seeking glory for himself. The very idea of fragging served to warn junior officers to avoid the ire of their enlisted men through recklessness, cowardice, or lack of leadership. Junior officers in turn could arrange the murder of senior officers when finding them incompetent or wasting their men's lives needlessly. Underground GI newspapers sometimes listed bounties offered by units for the fragging of unpopular commanding officers.
During the Vietnam War, fragging was reportedly common. There are documented cases of at least 230 American officers killed by their own troops, and as many as 1,400 other officers' deaths could not be explained. Incidents of fragging have been recorded as far back as the 18th Century Battle of Blenheim.
Fragging in popular culture
- In Aliens (1986), Marine Private Jenette Vasquez intended to kill Lieutenant William Gorman, whom she felt was responsible for her friend and fellow Smartgunner's death due to his reluctance to rescue the Marines that were ambushed by the Xenomorphs. Ironically, Vasquez and Gorman committed suicide together with a frag grenade when they were about to be overrun by the aliens. Another take on this scene is that Vasquez chooses to go help Gorman cover the unit movement despite her opinion of his command decision earlier.
- In Oliver Stone's Vietnam War film Platoon (1986), Private Chris Taylor (Charlie Sheen) shoots and kills Staff Sergeant Robert Barnes (Tom Berenger), in retaliation for the latter's murder of Sergeant Elias K. Grodin (Willem Dafoe). A small group of soldiers, including Pvt. Taylor, discuss fragging Barnes at an earlier point in the film. Another group talked about fragging Elias.
- A few episodes of Tour of Duty (1987-1990), a TV drama set in the Vietnam War, involved fragging of hated officers and NCOs.
- In The Punisher: Born a pre-Punisher Frank Castle, at the time a Captain in the United States Marine Corps, lures a Major General into a sniper's line of sight. The general is shot in the head. He later comes close to fragging the Colonel in command of his base with a hand grenade, but decides against it with his finger ready to pull the pin.
- In Windtalkers (2002), Private Ben Yahzee (Adam Beach), a US Marine Navajo codetalker, was about to kill his friend and squad leader, Sergeant Joe Enders (Nicholas Cage), after learning that Enders had killed Private Charlie Whitehorse, Yahzee's friend and fellow Navajo, to prevent his capture by the Japanese. Enders begged Yahzee to kill him, to end his seemingly endless torment of guilt of having survived his previous battle, and only another fellow Marine prevented Yahzee from pulling the trigger.
- In the last episode of the mini-series Over There (2005), unpopular Lieutenant Alexander "Underpants" Hunter was shot down by friendly fire while defending the convoy from attacking Iraqi insurgents. It is possible that S.Sargent "Scream", one of the main characters, had shot Hunter down intentionally, but viewers were left to speculate on that.
- The episode "Fragged" of Battlestar Galactica revolves around Lt. Jg. Alex "Crashdown" Quartararo being shot in the back and killed by Gaius Baltar, when after incompetently leading his squad into a suicidal attack, he completely panics and threatens to shoot a soldier unwilling to carry out a suicidal order.
- Basque Grand, in the anime/manga series Fullmetal Alchemist, had shot Brigadier General Fessler during the Ishbal War at point-blank range with a rifle due to his unpopularity with the enlisted and officers in the State Military in sending Amestrisian soldiers to suicidal assaults against Ishbalan guerrillas. Fessler's death was officially stated as death by friendly fire.
- In the video game StarCraft, when the player wastes time harassing a Terran Marine by clicking on him too often without issuing any orders, the unit starts to get annoyed and then says "Oh my God, he's whacked! I vote we frag this commander!".
fragging in German: Frag (Militär)
fragging in Spanish: Fragging