G.I. is a noun used to describe the soldiers of the United States Army and airmen of the United States Army Air Forces and also for general items of their equipment. The term G.I. has been used as an initialism of "Government Issue" or "General Issue", but it originally referred to "galvanized iron", as used by the logistics services of the United States Armed Forces. The letters "G.I." were used to denote equipment made from galvanized iron, such as metal trash cans, in U.S. Army inventories and supply records. In British military parlance and in armed forces modelled on British military traditions, G.I. refers to a Gunnery Instructor (generally an NCO responsible for inducting and training recruits).
During World War I, American soldiers sardonically referred to incoming German artillery shells as "G.I. cans". Also during that war, "G.I." started being interpreted as "Government Issue" or "General Issue" for the general items of equipment of soldiers and airmen. The term "G.I." came into widespread use in the United States with the start of the Selective Service System ("the draft") in 1940, extending into 1941. Next, the use of "G.I." expanded from 1942 through 1945. The American five-star General Dwight D. Eisenhower said in 1945 that "the truly heroic figure of this war [is] G.I. Joe and his counterpart in the air, the navy, and the Merchant Marine of every one of the United Nations."
"G.I." was also used as an adjective for anything having to do with the US Army or Army Air Force.
- Rawson, Hugh (April–May 2006). "Why do we say "G.I."?". American Heritage. Archived from the original on 29 August 2008.
- Wilton, Dave (2 February 2009). "G.I. - Wordorigins.org". Wordorigins.org.
- "GI – Definitions from Dictionary.com". Dictionary.com Unabridged. Random House, Inc.
- Eisenhower, Dwight D. (10 May 1945). Funeral Pyres of Nazidom. Universal Newsreel.
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