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File:Sailor Boy's Return.jpg

A young sailor returns home to his mother and siblings in this 1904 illustration.

R&R, military slang for rest and recuperation (or rest and relaxation or rest and recreation), is a term used for the free time of a soldier or international UN staff serving in unaccompanied (no family) duty stations. The term is used by a number of militaries such as the United States Armed Forces and British Armed Forces. The US Morale, Welfare and Recreation network provides leisure services for US military personnel. In the UK, the term applies to a type of leave granted to personnel during an overseas deployment which allows them to return home to the UK to visit their family.

Service members and US Defense Department civilians on 12-month tours in Iraq and Jordan supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom and Afghanistan supporting Operation Enduring Freedom have a rest and recuperation leave program that allows them to take up to 15 days, excluding travel time, to visit family or friends in the United States or Europe.

Prostitution has long been part of what military men have participated in as part of their "R&R," and has been condoned by civilian populations in peacetime and wartime since early history, although some see it as a problem due to human trafficking concerns.[1] Japan after the unconditional surrender to the United States at the end of the Second World War in 1945 and South Korea during the 1950s saw the effective institution of "camp towns" around the US bases, where brothels were allowed to operate unfettered.[2] In 2006, the Department of Defense made it a crime for a service member to hire a prostitute anywhere in the world; the penalties can include up to a year in prison, forfeiture of pay, and a dishonorable discharge. This change was criticized by some in Europe, where prostitution is legal and regulated in some countries.[3]

R&R during the Vietnam War[]

All US military personnel serving in Vietnam during hostilities there were eligible for one R&R during their tour of duty (13 months for marines, 12 months for soldiers, sailors, airmen). The duration of R&R was five days leave to R&R destinations, Bangkok, Hong Kong, Kuala Lampur, Penang, Manila, Seoul, Singapore, Taipei and Tokyo. Due to their greater distance, seven days leave was permitted for R&R destinations Hawaii and Sydney. Bangkok was reportedly most popular with single GIs, Hawaii most popular with married GIs planning to holiday with spouses.[4]


Letter To Home by Stephen H. Randall, U.S. Army Vietnam Combat Artists, 1968


Time Out by David N. Fairrington, U.S. Army Vietnam Combat Artists (1968) (soldiers relaxing in Vietnam)

The official policy of the United States Department of Defense was to suppress prostitution. Prostitution however, was relied upon by the US military to combat the battlefield trauma many faced. Thai, Filipino, Sri Lankan, Vietnamese, Japanese, Korean, Singaporean and Malaysian women worked in bars, nightclubs, massage parlors and bathhouses across various R&R spots in Asia for the appeasement of the American military servicemen.[5][6][7] The popularity of bar girls was high because upon "rental", the GI would receive a legally enforceable contract.[8] When a GI decided which girl he wanted, the girls would serve as a companion and guide.

Pattaya Beach in Thailand was a fishing village until the 1960s when thousands of troops from Vietnam showed up for R&R, leading to the creation of one of the largest red light districts in the world. The heart of its economy remains sex tourism. Soldiers sometimes called the breaks "I&I" for "intoxication and intercourse".[3] While this was not the idea of all, it increased the stereotype surrounding R&R.

In popular culture[]

The 1973 novel and subsequent 1979 film adaptation, Saint Jack revolves around American GIs who came to Singapore during the Vietnam War on R&R for the prostitution that was prevalent in the city-state at the time.[9]

See also[]

  • Shore leave
  • Amerasian


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  8. Chandler, J. G. (2018, 03). R&R IN VIETNAM: SHELTER FROM THE STORM. VFW, Veterans of Foreign Wars Magazine, 105, 36-38. Retrieved from
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