The military had tons and tons of military operations throughout the years. A few famous ones that we often hear about were Operation Overlord for the Battle of Normandy, Operation Red Dawn for Saddam Hussein’s capture, and Operation Barbarossa, which was the invasion of the Soviet Union. So it was essential to codify these operations, so they don’t compromise them.

Could you imagine if they called Operation Red Dawn something like “Operation Kill Saddam Hussein”? Have you ever wondered how the names of these operations were chosen?

Code Policy

In the US, military commands are assigned alphabet blocks from which they can choose two-word names. For instance, AA to AD, so they could choose Agile Dragon. The Navy, for example, had a set of rules on how the code words, nicknames, and exercise term system could be selected. One of them was:

Nicknames and exercise terms may not contain words that are in the following categories:

  1.  Close in spelling or pronunciation to a code word.
  2.  Any two-word combination voice call sign found in either JANAP 119 or Allied Communications Pub (ACP) 119.
  3.  Exotic words, expressions, or well-known commercial trademarks.
  4.  Express a degree of aggression inconsistent with traditional American ideals or current foreign policy.
  5.  Convey anything offensive to good taste or derogatory to a particular group, sect, or creed.
  6.  Convey anything offensive to US Allies or other free-world nations.
  7.  The words “project, ” “exercise, ” or “operation, ” in combination or alone.
  8.  Words that can be used as one or two words, such as “moonlight.”

With that, here are some totally rule-compliant but otherwise weird-sounding military operations from different troops that we may or may not have heard of in the past:

Operation Mermaid Dawn

Libyan rebel checkpoint in Tripoli, Aug. 26, 2011. (VOA Photo: J. Weeks, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

Operation Mermaid Dawn was the codename for the Battle of Tripoli that was named by the rebel forces against the longtime leader of Libya, Muammar Gaddafi. The loyalists of Gaddafi fought against the National Transitional Council, attempting to overthrow the longtime leader and take control of the capital.

The fighting lasted more than a week, beginning Aug. 19, 2011, until Aug. 28, with the rebels successfully capturing Tripoli and Gaddafi’s government crumbling down. As for the operation’s name, Tripoli was also called “The Mermaid” with a literal Arabic translation, “bride of the sea.”

Operation Flea Flicker

The name sure sounded a bit itchy.