10 Unintimidating Military Operation Names (And the Stories behind Them)

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Militaries names their operations some pretty weird names — would you have guessed that Operation Viking Snatch was intended to stop weapon smuggling? The idea of naming military operations has been around for less than a hundred years. It began with Germany in World War I, and the idea of giving secretive names to operations that could be used over radio communication took off. There’s no set recipe as to how operations are named, and that can lead to strange names like…

10. Operation Beastmaster

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This operation sounds like something straight out of the ’80s, but you won’t be seeing Marc Singer here. Back in 2006, the United States military needed to clear what they nicknamed “IED Alley East.” Serviceman from the 6th Iraqi Army Division, 1st Brigade and 4th Battalion were sent into a suburb in Ghazaliya, Baghdad to clear three neighborhoods. Sunni insurgents were trying to force out the large numbers of Shia civilians living in northern and eastern Baghdad.

Before the operation even got off the ground several soldiers took over security in Ghazaliya weeks before the sweep. Operation Beastmaster was a success and over a three-day period the army arrested an important target and found stockpiles of weapons and pieces of roadside bomb making equipment.

9. Operation Deliverance

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This Deliverance had nothing to do with Burt Reynolds, Ned Beatty or Jon Voight, but was carried out in 1993 by Canadian Forces. Their mission was a peacekeeping operation in Somalia and part of the United Nations mission there. On December 3rd, 1992 Canada sent almost 1500 troops, a helicopter division and the HMCS Preserver, a supply ship, to Somalia.

By May this had turned into a political disaster called the Somalia Affair, which lead to marches and protests in Somalia, Kenya, and North America after a Somali teenager was beaten to death by Canadian soldiers. It led to the 1995 disbandment of the Canadian Airborne Regiment and the resignation and dismissal of several officials in the chain of command. Even though most of the mission was a failure, it did free a captured Canadian journalist and took down Somali warlord Mohamed Tiger I. Barre.

8. Operation Nickel Grass

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Although it sounds like an operation to take advantage of the marijuana laws in Colorado, Operation Nickel Grass was really an American operation to airlift supplies to Israel. On October 6th, 1973 forces from Egypt and Syria attacked Israel. Known as the Yom Kippur War, the Soviet Union started to airlift supplies to Egyptian and Syrian forces while Jordan and Iraq also sent aid.

Facing an Arab oil embargo, President Nixon ordered the launch of the operation to support the Israelis. The next day the first military airlift arrived at the Lod Airport with almost a hundred tons of ammunition. Over the month long operation almost six hundred missions were flown to deliver equipment to Israel. The last mission took place on November 14th, with the operation giving Israel much needed military relief.

7. Operation Rainbow

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Operation Rainbow sounds like a happy operation to bring peace to a country that has been though a lot, but between May 12th and 18th 2004 over a hundred Palestinian civilians and fighters were killed. It was the largest offensive in Gaza since the late sixties, and its goal was to stop rocket attacks and find tunnels used to smuggle weapons into the Gaza Strip from Egypt.

The operation was launched after thirteen Israeli soldiers were killed in a terrorist attack in Zeitoun and Rafah. The Israel Defense Forces found and disabled three tunnels, arrested wanted terrorists and secured the borders of Gaza to keep out weapons. The military considered the operation a success, but civilian causalities made it controversial.

6. Operation Thundercat

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This was not an operation to rebuild Thundra, but we’re sure Jaga would have approved if that were the plan. At the end of July 2005, solders from the 256th Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division and the Iraqi Army 1st and 3rd Brigade 6th division conducted a series of missions to disrupt insurgents. This operation was primarily a mission for the Iraqi Army to gather intelligence and capture and detain opposing forces, but the United States did provide them with assistance and added firepower. The operation captured almost two hundred insurgents, and also captured a computer network used by the insurgents to plan and execute missions.

5. Operation Exercise Unified Spirit

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This isn’t an operation to get you excited about your team winning the big game, but a training exercise for NATO held on a regular basis. Starting in 1998 in the Canadian province of Newfoundland, it focused on helicopter and surface attacks against land forces.

In 2000 over thirty thousand NATO troops completed Exercise Unified Spirit and Joint Task Force Exercise. That year it took place in the waters of the Caribbean and off the east coast of the United States.  This operation is held to train forces to plan and conduct NATO led peacekeeping missions, regardless of what country they’re called to in the future.

4. Operation Woodshed

Nice wood shed

As much as we would have liked Ron Swanson to be a part of Operation Woodshed, he was not part of the mission to capture and kill Iraqi insurgents in July of 2007. Iraqi forces and their allies coordinated an air strike on Samood Village. On July 26th they killed eleven insurgents and captured 13 people suspected of terrorism.

3. Operation Beaver Cage

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Operation Beaver Cage was an operation carried out in North Vietnam during 1966 through 1967. The United States Navy and Marines had a joint operation on the coast of Ben Hai River in Quang Nam. The goal was to search for rat tunnels that led to the river. The tunnels were suspected to have been built by a North Vietnam division led by Pham Ngoc Thao.

These tunnels were used to move supplies and launch surprise attacks. Operation Beaver Cage’s purpose was to push the Vietnamese out of the tunnels to a location where they could be taken prisoner. Over eighteen tunnels were destroyed and a number of prisoners were captured in 10 different locations, while guns, ammo and grenades were seized. 40 Viet Cong soldiers were also killed and, despite seven American deaths, the operation was considered a success.

Additional Source: Marines.mil (pdf)

2. Operation Focus

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Although the name is vague on the details of their focus, Operation Focus was an airstrike initiated by Israel in 1967 that started the Six Day War. On June 5th, Israeli Air Forces led by Major General Mordechai Hod were ordered to attack the Egyptian Air Force. By lunchtime four hundred and fifty aircraft from Egypt, Jordan and Syria were destroyed. Eighteen airfields in Egypt were also disabled, making this operation one of the most successful air strikes in history.

1. Operation Grizzly Forced Entry

Iraqi Freedom

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While the name brings to mind a grizzly bear forcing its way into a home, the forced entries were being done by American soldiers in Iraq in August 2004 as they searched homes for high value targets. The goal of this counterinsurgency raid was to find insurgents suspected of attacking coalition forces in the city of Najaf, a smaller city south of Baghdad that’s a major destination for pilgrims.

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4 Comments

  1. The information about Operation Beaver Cage is horrifically wrong and the links to sources don’t even work. However, I found the pages myself and the author of this list clearly can’t read, or else he enjoys simply concocting stories. Additionally he tries to use or reference phrases that he clearly doesn’t understand, like “rat tunnels”.

  2. They source Wikipedia, and Wikipedia sources back to them. Hardly reliable. Not to mention that the two sources cited here for the operation contradict each other. Did it take place in 1966 or 1967? Was it fought by the US Army and Navy or the US Marines?

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