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"Begin Operation: Something-Thingy!"
Evil Blah, from the Flash movie The Demented Cartoon Movie

Steven Heck: So Operation Turbo Panther is finally a go!

Mike Thorton: Operation....what?

Steven Heck: Oh, yeah. I name all the operations that go down in Taipei, even the ones that aren't mine. Operation Latex Turtle, Operation Angry Bees, Operation AAAAAHHHH-YOOOOOOOW! Heh. That was a good one.

Standard naming scheme for military plans, "Operation: Some Phrase". Used in real life, and in any series involving spies, soldiers, and the government, or parodies thereof. Straight uses are too numerous to count, but some common subversions, variants, and spoofs come up. A Code Name for a plan instead of a person, and can follow the same conventions. Science uses an almost identical scheme, but their stuff starts with "Project:".

In real life, operation names are (at least American military ones), since the first Gulf War, often optimistically descriptive (Operation Restore Hope, Operation Allied Force, Operation Iraqi Freedom [an infamous Retool from Operation Iraqi Liberation...], Operation Enduring Freedom -- which was originally Operation Infinite Justice until several nations complained that only God could dispense that), particularly if very important, US-led and heavily media-covered.

The US began using marketing people to come up with these after their earlier method (a random name generator) produced "Operation: Bolton" as the name for Desert Storm (The American contribution to the First Gulf War). However there were fears about retaliation against the town of Bolton and also that troops would be embarrassed to go to war in an operation named after a dreary little town in the north of England. It became more of a brand name than a Code Name. Wartime or covert operations are more obliquely named, with security a higher consideration than sounding cool (though let's face it, Operation Anaconda was pretty cool.). The British magazine New Statesman remarked that it said a lot about the difference between American and English culture that the USA called the Iraq War "Operation Iraqi Freedom" and the UK called it "Operation Telic" (a word that means "tending to a definite end", chosen from a random list).

During World War II, some British operations were entirely arbitrarily named from a big list of possible names, others were picked from vaguely related terms (Operation Dynamo for the Dunkirk evacuation took its name from the dynamo room in the naval headquarters below Dover Castle that Vice Admiral Ramsay used to plan the operation), while American ones tended to obliquely refer to the purpose (Operation Overlord for D-Day). Operation Market Garden, the airborne assault to push inland through the Netherlands from the D-Day beaches, may have been pushing it. The current trend in Britain (and most of the Commonwealth) is to assign a random from a list (for example, armed intervention in Sierra Leone was called "Operation Palisser", Iraq qas Operation Telic). The Soviet Union used project numbers for their naval vessels and the Russian Federation does today (many are given in Mnogo Nukes).

Winston Churchill famously cautioned his commanders against assigning "silly" or frivolous codenames to operations, on the grounds that no mother or wife ought to have to hear that their son or husband died during "Operation Bunnyhug" or "Operation Ballyhoo". Nazi Germany used very revealing code names, such as Wotan (the Continental Germanic equivalent of the one-eyed Norse god Odin) for a single-beam radar system (at least after Hitler took over - beforehand, the more reserved General Staff had called them things like "Case Green", "Case White", and "Case Anton").

Most fictional Operation/Project Names fall somewhere in between. The name is non-obvious, but is obliquely related to the purpose of the operation (like American WW 2 names). Our Hero is mystified until he happens upon the piece of information that clues him in... Can be an example of Arc Words.

Favorite things to fill in the blank:

  • Mythological allusions, especially common if a scientist or academic named the thing, which they often do: Phoebus, Perseus, Hercules, Gemini. These are also common examples of "hero can work it out with the right information".
  • Animal name, with attached adjective: Stone Rhino, Burning Hawk, Concrete Donkey, Iron Serpent...
  • Tool name: Crowbar, Hammer, Icepick...
  • Sports position: Usually from American football, probably influenced by the real life Operation Linebacker during Vietnam. Operation Quarterback, Running Back, Pinch Hitter...
  • Location name: Most infamously, Operation Sedan (a nuclear weapons test, named for a city in France), which would cause an international incident when the name was later mispronounced as "Sudan", leading to the question of whether the US was performing illegal tests in other countries.

Common subversions, parodies, and spoofs:

May sometimes begin after a Whoa, Bundy! rally cry.


Examples:

Anime and Manga

  • Ouran High School Host Club has a poster stating that the name of their scheme is called "Operation: Haru-chan Is Absolutely, Definitely And In All Ways A Guy!"
  • In the Viz translation of the Naruto manga, the invasion of Konoha is called "Operation Destroy Konoha".
  • Mobile Suit Gundam Seed has ZAFT enact "Operation Spitbreak".
    • Sequel SEED Destiny has Juna Roma name Operations after Greek mythological characters because he's a putz.
  • Mobile Suit Gundam is full of these. Running the full gambit of blatantly obvious "Operation Odessa" target was Odessa. To completely obscure, "Operation Cembalo" named after an old musical instrument. "Operation British" and "Operation Star One" fall in the relevant, but you'd have to know category.
  • In Revolutionary Girl Utena, the Alpha Bitch tries a series of schemes to discredit Anthy Himemiya: Operation "Oh my gosh, Anthy Himemiya's a weirdo keeping a snail in her pencil case!", Operation "Oh my gosh, Anthy Himemiya's a weirdo keeping a snake in her drawer!", and Operation "Oh my gosh, Anthy Himemiya's a weirdo keeping a live octopus in her closet!" They don't work.
  • Episode 6 of Neon Genesis Evangelion is "Operation: Yashima", where NERV plans to defeat an angel with a disintegration beam by having an Eva snipe it with a positron rifle (also appears with minimal differences in Rebuild of Evangelion 1.0). The Battle of Yashima was a naval battle between two clans fighting for control of Japan, known for one of the most legendary feats of archery in Japanese history.
  • Yuri of Angel Beats always gives her missions these names. Very frequently, as with Operation Tornado (using fans to steal meal tickets) and Operation Monster Stream (fishing), the names are What Do You Mean It's Not Awesome?.

  Yuri: Operation...START!

Comic Books

  • Operation: Rebirth is the name of the experiment that gave Steve Rogers his Super Soldier enhancements that would make him Captain America. However, the "operation" would be more accurately named "Project: Rebirth."
    • Or Project:Weapon I/Weapon Plus.

Fan Fiction

  • In Shinji and Warhammer 40 K, Ritsuko gets fed up with Misato's lousy operation codenames and comes up with a random word generator. The result? "From now on we put our faith in Blast Hard Cheese!"
  • In Ready, Sette, Go, Sette (who has been released from prison and seeks out Cinque for further orders) puts "Operation" in front of many things, including a suggestion by Wendi to act more normally and not call everything an "operation".
  • Queen of All Oni: Jade's Batman Gambit to get one of the masks on one of the heroes and use them to infiltrate Section 13 and steal the other masks is called "Operation Steel Lightning". Her Quirky Miniboss Squad are quick to point out that the name makes no sense whatsoever and suggest more fitting alternatives, but she shoots them all down -- she chose the name because it sounds cool, so she's keeping it.
  • Jewel of Darkness: Midnight's master plan at the culmination of the Jump City Arc, to capture Robin and torture him into insanity in order to permanently break the Titans, is codenamed "Operation Blackfire" -- not after Starfire's sister, but after Deacon Joseph Blackfire, the Big Bad of a Batman miniseries from the late 80s famous for (temporarily) successfully breaking Batman to his will via torture.

Fan Vid

  • One of the Higurashi Parody Fandub Series episodes had Rika declare, "Operation: Get back at this crazy bitch for killing my friends is a go!" when she was about to spray tear gas into Shion's eyes.

Film

  • Inglourious Basterds has "Operation Kino." Which in hindsight was probably not the best name for their plan, seeing as Kino means 'cinema' in German. Guess where the assassination attempt is planned?
  • Commissioner Gibert from the French Taxi movies liked giving the police procedures names like this. The first movie features Operation Cobra, Operation Zen and Operation Puma, the second one has Operation Ninja and the third Operation Snow White.
  • In Mystery Men when the group went to rescue Captain Amazing, The Sphinx called the rescue: "Operation 3-Eyed, 3-Legged Eagle."
  • James Bond overhears Goldfinger talking about "Operation Grand Slam". Although he hasn't the faintest idea what it means, he's able to bluff the villain into keeping him alive purely on the basis of knowing the name.
  • Operation Dumbo Drop
  • Alice is part of Project Nemesis in Resident Evil Apocalypse.
  • In the popular Soviet comedy Operation Y (Операция Ы), the titular operation is an insurance scam by a warehouse administrator, named so by one of the hired thugs so that "nobody guesses why". In Russian, there are no words that start with the letter "Ы".

Literature

  • Exception: David Weber's Star Kingdom of Manticore in the Honor Harrington books plays very true to its Real Life analogue, 17th/18th-century Britain, in using operation names pulled at random from a list of innocuous names. Dame Honor herself has participated in Operations Buttercup, Cutworm, Sanskrit, and Sanskrit II. The trope is played straight with the People's Republic of Haven, whose Operation Bagration shares its name with the Soviet Belorussian Offence during WWII.
    • Admiral White Haven does complain that Buttercup is a rather silly name, especially considering how successful it was in steam rolling the Havenite Navy.
    • With the exception of Bagration, most of Haven's operation names tend to be mythological or grandiose, like Scylla, Icarus, or Thunderbolt. Honor points out wistfully that Haven names sometimes give their natures away.
    • Solarians pick florid names like Operation Winter Forage and Operation East Wind.
    • Mesan cover ops tend to pick names that are kind of poor at disguising their intent, like a poison gas assassination plot called Operation Rat Poison and Operation Wooden Horse which planted bombs in the ships of their expendable pawns.
  • The Sixth Battle has a US amphibious landing codenamed Operation Evil Hyphen.
  • In The Hunt for Red October, Jack Ryan is told his operation's codename is "Mandolin" and his mission codename is "Magi". The names came from a list, as Ryan considers "Magi" inappropriate for him.
  • H. Beam Piper's The Edge of the Knife revealed that the U.S. prepared for the possibility of World War III in 1973 with "Operation Triple Cross": the enemy launched missile attacks on a number of vital bases -- but each had a better-concealed duplicate and triplicate.
  • Operation Terror, a suspense novel by Gordon and Mildred Gordon that was adapted into the 1962 film Experiment in Terror.

Live Action TV

  • In the Angel episode "Groundstate", Gunn asks what they'll need for "Operation Chance in Hell".
  • In 3rd Rock from the Sun, Sally and Harry determine that Mary's brother Roy, who seems to be an alien abductee, knows too much and must be done away with. Their plan to get rid of him is fittingly named "Operation: Kilroy".
  • The title character from Parker Lewis Can't Lose would occasionally do this in the middle of an episode.

 Parker: "Gentlemen! Synchronize Swatches. It's time for Operation ______."

 Sheppard: Operation "This Will Most Likely End Badly" is a go.

  • Stargate SG-1 hid the SGC's funding under the innocuous label of 'Project Blue Book', but they were apparently unable to resist calling the effort to repurpose technology stolen from alien 'Gods' the Prometheus Project.
  • From an episode of Arrested Development:

 Buster: A hot mission. We should give it a name like Operation: Hot Mother.

Michael: No, let's try to top that.

Narrator: They never did and five minutes later, Operation: Hot Mother was under way.

  • The last episode of season one of Star Trek TOS is called "Operation - Annihilate!".
  • Stephen Colbert was once given a flag that had been flown over the US Embassy in Afghanistan (?) during an (apparently actually real) mission known as Operation: Beef Hammer. As he noted, it doesn't get more American than that.
  • One episode of Blackadder Goes Forth has General Melchett call for volunteers to take part in a mission codenamed Operation: Certain Death.
  • Played for Laughs in Chuck. The protagonists are running a top secret operation tasked in part with protecting the Human Intersect Project, one Chuck Bartowski, and in part with using his abilities for spy business of all kinds. It's called "Operation Bartowski". Face Palm.
  • In the later seasons of Smallville, Lex Luthor had a tendency to name his secret projects this way with some straightforward classical references: the culmination of his experiments on "meteor freaks" to create a Super Soldier was called "Project Ares[1]", his attempts to clone his brother was "Project Gemini[2]", his attempts to build a suit that copies Clark's powers was "Project Prometheus[3]", etc.
  • Space: Above and Beyond gives us "Operation Roundhammer", the code-name for an all-out assault on The Chig Homeworld. For bonus points, the moon that the operation is planned to be launched from is code-named "Anvil". The operation is even mentioned in Foreshadowing earlier in the series, with earlier missions being stated to be in support of it, without revealing to the viewers just what Roundhammer was supposed to accomplish until the penultimate episode of the series. [4]
  • Nikita: Division missions are all codenamed this way. According to Michael, the more innocent sounding the name, usually the more devastating the mission.

Tabletop Games

  • Played with in a piece of marginalia from 40k the Sabbat Worlds Crusade background material: Warmaster Slaydo code-names the assault plan for Balhaut "Operation Hell-Storm". On his deathbed shortly thereafter he became increasingly maudlin about the casualties incurred, believing the operational codename had condemned his men to a "storm of hell". This is snidely remarked upon by Lord Militant General Hechtor Dravere, who said that Slaydo might have been happier with the death tolls if he had named his plan "something better disposed, such as a constitutional in fine parkland, or tea on the terrace"

Video Games

  • Bentley names the climactic missions in the Sly Cooper game this way. He parodies himself with the climax to the Holland arc in Sly 3: OP: Turbo Dominant Eagle.
  • Super Robot Wars: Original Generation spoofed this with Operation: SRW. We're never actually told what it stands for, but this invites several characters to speculate with amusing results, such as "Sexy Romance Weapons", and of course, "Super Robot War".
  • Part spoof and part Shout-Out, the first mission in Metal Gear Solid 3 is code-named "Virtuous Mission." Anyone who had been annoyed by Raiden in the previous game must've been glad to know that it was not, as Snake joked, "Virtual Mission".
    • The second mission fits as well, being code-named "Operation Snake Eater."
  • In City of Heroes, the covert paramilitary force known as the Malta Operatives uses realistically obscure codenames. For instance, the World Wide Red Arc involves three groups, Kingdom, Omnivore, and Dreadnaught, with the middle group working on Project Wildflower; their tasks and purposes have no relation to the names.
  • Each mission in Supreme Commander is named Operation _______. Generally, the mission name reflects the content of the mission in some way -- Operation Metal Shark, for example, focuses heavily on naval units and strategy.
  • In Fables, Cinderella points out the peril of code names that reveal something about the operation, and bemoans the "anachronistic men who cling to romantic notions of war" responsible for her side's names.
  • Ace Combat missions often have titles of this form. While the stage may have a different name, an Operation: Blank code name frequently appears in the Mission Briefing (except emergency missions which get no operation name). See examples: AC04, AC5, ACZ.
  • Command and Conquer: Red Alert 2 has these for each mission. The first Soviet mission is Operation: Red Dawn.
    • Tiberium Wars doesn't usually do this, except for one particularly tough Nod mission; Operation Stiletto.
  • In Mass Effect 2, Cerberus was responsible for the Lazarus Project, a name with such obvious implications that Commander Shepard's resurrection was not surprising in the least.
    • DLC adds Project: Overlord, an attempt to sway the loyalty of the geth by creating a new god figure to replace Sovereign, and Project: Firewalker, an archaeological mission to recover a Prothean artifact from a volcanic world.
    • And in the sequel, multiplayer events take this format as well. So far, we've had Operation Goliath (kill 1 million of the appropriately-named Brutes), Operation Fortress, Operation Raptor, Operation Beachhead, Operation Resurgence (play on the new Resurgence maps), Operation Exorcist (kill 1 million Phantoms), Operation Silencer (kill 3 million Banshees), Operation Shieldwall, and Operation Mastiff.
  • Battalion Wars has several of these, such as Operation: Nautilus, and Operation: Reprimand
  • In Alpha Protocol, Steven Heck names all operations that occur in Taipei - even the ones that aren't his. Then again, he's not entirely there in the head.
    • The game itself names all of your missions in this fashion: Operation Desert Spear (Saudi Arabia), Operation Deus Vult (Rome), Operation True Heirs (Taipei), Operation Blood Feud (Moscow), and Operation Full Circle (the Grand Finale).
  • In Mega Man Zero 2, there's Elpizo's "Operation Righteous Strike", which is essentially an invasion by La Résistance of Neo Arcadia. The operation fails horribly, with many redshirts dead and Zero having to rescue Elpizo before he's killed by the Guardians.
    • In the drama tracks, there's "Project Elpizo", the project that instigated the creation of the "Sigma Antibody Program", Mother Elf. TK-31 (Elpizo's former codename) accidentally found the data about this project, and because it's supposed to be a secret for Neo Arcadia, he's declared a Maverick by Harpuia. Eventually, he managed to run away from the country and changed his name into... you know... As well as starting his quest for power by stealing the Baby Elves.
  • R-Type gives us Operation Last Dance from R-Type Final, and Operation Bitter Chocolate from R-Type Tactics II: Operation Bitter Chocolate.
  • Zack and Wiki has "Operation Takeback."
  • The mid-80s arcade game, Operation Wolf
    • Its sequel, Operation: Thunderbolt[5]
  • In Persona 3, Junpei calls the guys' attempts to pick up chicks on the beach Operation Babe Hunt. It doesn't go well.

Web Animation

  • One of Blue Laser's plots in the Homestar Runner cartoon "Cheat Commandos" is "Operation: Don't Crush Ourselves". It fails.
  • A complicated hostage swap in Red vs. Blue is initially titled Operation Circle of Confusion, but...

 Tucker: I'm just saying it doesn't look like a circle. It kinda looks more like we're forming a triangle.

Church: Okay, fine. Triangle of Confusion. Rhombus of Terror. Parabola of Mystery! Who cares?! Get the goddamn show on the road!

Web Comics

  • Parody: In The Order of the Stick #153, when Roy the Genius Bruiser refuses to help the others rescue Elan, they note that this eliminates "Operation: Send the Meat Shield in First" and "Operation: Wait for Roy to Come Up With a Better Plan".
  • In this Schlock Mercenary strip, one of Mercenary Captain Kaff Tagon's customers asks for a name for an operation. Following military procedure, Tagon suggests an unrelated name so as not to give away unnecessary information. The customer's suggestion is more in line with this trope...
  • In El Goonish Shive, Tedd refers to the rescue of Elliot as "Operation: Zelda".
    • Revealed by Word of God in a filler that this had been a long planned joke, but that's something else entirely.

Web Original

  • Tech Infantry plays this straight most of the time, but lampshades this at one point.

  "The plan was codenamed Operation Foliage Gear. The Federation had gone back to random computer-generated operational code names after Operation Ziggurat had failed to relieve the siege of the planet Babylon due to poor security.

Western Animation

  • Codename Kids Next Door uses this for all their episode titles, with the part after Operation a silly "backronym".
  • Many on Kim Possible: Project Phoebus made Rufus a genius, and Project Ray X made a ray gun, Ray X, which was to be stored at undisclosed location, Location X, for instance.
    • Also worth mentioning is Dr. Drakken's "Operation Catastrophic Doom".
      • Which Shego renamed "Plan Too-Complicated-To-Actually-Work."
    • Drakken takes it to the point of telling Shego that he needs her for "Project Gherkin" -- which turns out to be getting a stuck lid off a pickle jar.
  • The Simpsons, Bart tries to make the teacher's strike go longer. His plan: "Operation: Make Strike Go Longer".
    • In another episode, the family tries to make Lisa reverse her conversion to Buddhism using "Operation: X-mas, Remind Of How Good Is".
    • "Operation: Judge Get Back At"
    • "Operation: Hoyven Mayven"
    • Project Arctarus.
  • Family Guy:

 Army General: Peter Griffin! Surrender immediately, or we will institute "Operation: Bomb the Crap out of Your House". The guy that names things is on vacation, apparently.

  • An old Looney Tunes short had Wile E. Coyote attempt to capture Bugs Bunny with a number of complex scientific contraptions, the name of the cartoon (and each device, with an ascending number as the previous attempts fail) is "Operation: Rabbit".
  • This also occurs frequently on Dastardly and Muttley in Their Flying Machines, whenever Dick Dastardly devises a new plan to Catch That Pigeon. In fact, two of the shorts were titled "Operation Anvil" and "Operation Birdbrain".
  • Parodied in South Park: Bigger, Longer, & Uncut, where the U.S. Army had two different operations: The minorities were in "Operation Human Shield", part of the "all-important first attack wave, expected to have heavy casualties" while the whites were in "Operation Get Behind the Darkies", who, well...
    • Similarly, in the Imaginationland Trilogy, the army uses such operations as "Project: Imagination Doorway" and "Operation: Blow up Imaginationland with a Nuclear Missile", which are exactly what they sound like.
  • In Futurama, Dwight proposes that he and Cubert leverage their paper route jobs to take over Planet Express using a ruthless business strategy titled "Strategy: Dwight Lightning". Cubert replies, "OK, but I get to name the next strategy."
  • In Transformers, Soundwave would seem to use this trope, except his speech patterns meant he was simply issuing orders.

 "Rumble: activate piledrivers. Operation: tidal wave."

"Laserbeak: prepare for flight. Operation: assimilation."

  • Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends, "Adoptcalypse Now": To prevent his friends from being adopted, Bloo implements Operation Abe Lincoln Drop Purple Scaredy Cat Run and Scramble. It consists of scaring Eduardo with a toy spider so that he freaks out and scares everyone away.
  • Happens Once an Episode in The Penguins of Madagascar. Sometimes the operation names are clever, sometimes they're quite obvious. A lampshade is hung in Popcorn Panic when Kowalski points out that "Operation: Popcorn" seems "a bit on the nose".
    • Whenever Nickelodeon promotes new episodes, promotions for it usually give it an Operation Blank title, when the actual title is something entirely different. So far the only episode titles actually done this way are "Operation: Plush and Cover", "Operation: Cooties", "Operation: Good Deed", "Operation: Antarctica" and "Operation: Big Blue Marble".
  • Sheep in The Big City:

 General Specific: We will begin Operation Kidnap That Sheep That We Need For The Ray Gun And Don't Let Him Get Away Again Storm as soon as I say "Commence Operation Kidnap That Sheep That We Need For The Ray Gun And Don't Let Him Get Away Again Storm". Commence Operation Kidnap That Sheep That We Need For The Ray Gun And Don't Let Him Get Away Again Storm!

    • You could always use the acronym: Operation KtStWNftRGaDLHGAAS.
  • Invader Zim's Irken plan for galactic conquest is called "Operation Impending Doom". Well, "Operation Impending Doom Two". "Operation Impending Doom One" turned out a little differently than expected, thanks to the title character.
  • The Venture Bros naturally has plenty of these. Brock Samson's assignment as Venture's bodyguard is the insulting, if accurate, "Operation: Rusty's Blanket."

Notes

  1. effectively, Project War God
  2. Twin Brothers
  3. The god who stole fire from the gods and gave it to man
  4. They are forced to abort the operation when the Chigs find out about it and sue for peace, only for the negotiations to break down in bloodshed and renewed war.
  5. Taito later made two other sequels. The first was simply called "Operation: Wolf 3", while the next was called "Operation: Tiger".
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