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Military Operations: 5 Weirdest Names in History


Ever wonder whose job it is to name military operations? Who was responsible for naming those kick-ass operations like Operation Urgent Fury, Operation Overlord, Operation Desert Storm? All of those names evoke a sense of unbridled power and as those names are released to the public, it is probably pretty intimidating to be an enemy of the United States.

The practice of naming military operations can be attributed to the Germans and they started doing it during World War I. The practice spread and eventually in World War II, Winston Churchill, who named the Normandy invasion, warned that care needed to be taken in naming military operations.

Churchill wrote a memorandum that said: “Operations in which large numbers of men may lose their lives ought not to be described by code words which imply a boastful or overconfident sentiment...They ought not to be names of a frivolous character...the world is wide, and intelligent thought will readily supply an unlimited number of well-sounding names which do not suggest the character of the operation or disparage it in any way and do not enable some widow or mother to say that her son was killed in an operation called ‘Bunnyhug’ or ‘Ballyhoo.’”

But in military history, apparently some did not get the memo and there have been some strange names assigned to military operations. The names assigned to the following military operations might leave you scratching your head and wondering, could they not have named these military operations something else?

Below is a list of some of the weirdest military operations (names) in military history.

Operation Vittles

We’ll be honest. This one kind of makes sense, but it sounds cutesy and we wonder if this operation’s name was coined by a good old American boy, but the mission itself was immensely effective and one of the bright spots for the new U.S. Air Force.

In 1948 the Soviet Union blockaded western sectors of Berlin. Faced with starving German citizens, President Harry Truman authorized the operation that would become more popularly known as the Berlin Airlift. Much needed food supplies were flown in until about a year later, the Soviet Union removed their blockades and allowed access.

Operation Barbarossa

You have to know a little Italian in order to appreciate this military operation's name. In 1941, the German military was on a mission to destroy Joseph Stalin’s forces by invading the Soviet Union. The military operations for that objective were called Operation Barbarossa.

Germans were supposed to invade, take control of the western Soviet Union and occupy the region. Instead, they got their butts handed to them. But what does Barbarossa mean? It is Italian for “Red Beard.” The name comes from Frederick I who was the king of Germany in 1155. He died in Asia Minor and believed in expanding Germany’s imperialistic empire.

Operation Mincemeat

While the name doesn’t sound appetizing, the outcome was certain. This was one of those military operations where a multitude of moving parts all contributed, so it is unknown whether Operation Mincemeat was a success as a standalone operation, but one thing is certain, its goal, to disguise the Allied invasion of Sicily in 1943, must have worked because the Allies took Sicily faster than expected, and with fewer casualties.

At its core, Mincemeat was a deceptive operation where false military intelligence was placed on the body of a Welsh homeless man who was found dead in England. The British military and intelligence communities dressed him in a British military uniform, planted fake identification credentials and intelligence on his body, and set him adrift to be picked up by the Nazis. Spanish fishermen pulled him from the ocean and turned over the body to the Germans. The rest is history and this is one of those military operations that many don’t know about.

Operation Barroom

Nope, that’s not “bar room,” it is barroom, as in the sound of a really huge fart. This flatulent-named operation was eventually made into a Disney movie titled Operation Dumbo Drop (a fictitious title since the real name would likely not be well received by a non-military audience). The name Barroom came from the sound an elephant makes when it farts.

The real-life operation took place in 1968 in Vietnam and involved American Special Forces personnel moving two pachyderms 300 miles in C-130s and then moving them another 60+ miles into the jungle via helicopters. Villagers needed the elephants to help run a sawmill the Special Forces soldiers had helped them purchase and establish. The lumber made at the mill would help build training camps where SF personnel could train the indigenous forces.

Operation Magic Carpet

We aren’t being critical, but we think this operation should have been named something like Operation Hero Homecoming or Operation Yellow Brick Road. This military operation was a heavy lift and brought more than eight million American service members home from the various theaters of World War II. It took about 15 months to get folks home and just about every ship was utilized to bring home American service members.

After the Vietnam War, the Defense Department took a hard look at its operational naming guidelines and it cautioned military leaders to not use names for military operations that were “inconsistent with traditional American ideals or current foreign policy,” and that names should not be offensive or derogatory. The guidance stated names should not employ exotic words or well-known commercial trademarks. The Pentagon mandated that all military operations have two words and the word operation.

In 1975, computers were added to validate and store operational names. Today, each U.S. military command is given a series of two-letter prefixes. They are assigned blocks of the alphabet, say from AA to AD, from which they can choose two-word names. The first word of every operational name must start with one of those prefixes.

Comments on this post ( 1 )

  • Oct 09, 2023

    I love the information given because I’ve always wondered how names are generated.

    But I think OPERATION HERO HOMECOMING is possibly the worst name for an operation that I assume required COMSEC & OPSEC.

    The worst 2 are undoubtedly “Operation Iraqi Freedom” and its sequel. I forget the name of the second because it was something cringe worthy like “uphold liberty”—it was essentially the combat version of the American Pie spin off sequels that only cast Jason Biggs’ dad + 10 D-List actors about running naked in winter.

    Names are chosen to avoid giving their goal away.

    — Benjamin D Freedman

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