Good Question: How Are Military Operations Named?

By Jason DeRusha, WCCO-TV

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — When the United States decided to join allies in launching an attack on Libya, the U.S. military titled it “Operation Odyssey Dawn.” So, how are military operations named?

According to Gregory Sieminski’s exhaustive history, The Art of Naming War, the practice started for the U.S. near the end of World War I, when operations were named after colors, like Operation Indigo and Operation Grey.

During the Korean War, the practice of making names public wasn’t necessarily helpful to the public perception of the military. To inspire the troops, they picked names like Operation Ripper, Dauntless, Roundup and Killer.

The same happened in Vietnam with names like Operation Blastout, Flaming Dart and Masher.

“So the military said this can’t happen again,” according to Macalester College professor Mike Griffin, who studies how images and names affect our views of war.

“If you have a name like Operation Iraqi Freedom people say, ‘Hey this is a good thing, I want to be on the right side of this.’ This can be a powerful way of framing the information about the war,” said Griffin.

After Vietnam, the military came up with pages and pages of procedures on how to pick a non-offensive operation name. Those procedures largely stand today.

With large battles, top commanders choose the name to sound strong and influence public opinion.

Today, there is a more systematic way of naming battles. Each military command is assigned about 60 permanent battle first name words. The Africa Command, which is running the Libya attack got words starting with J, N and O.

Officials picked Odyssey from their list. Then they added Dawn.

“I think names are powerful,” said Griffin.

More from Jason DeRusha
  • john

    How about “Operation Fix America”?

  • Victim Du Jour

    Hillary Clinton must have come up with a Porn Star name for the latest mission. Sounds like a woman came up with it.

  • married to the truth

    Its to bad we can’t just call it what it is. Opperation American Aggresion for No Reason. This cements the reason why our government is guilty of every crime in the books. But yet we can do nothing to change it.

    • A Non-Misinformed Individual who checks facts.

      Apparently you don’t understand who Muammar Ghadafi is, what he does to his own people, how cruel it is, Libyan Army snipers targeting children because they are hired mercenaries from other countries, and the various other Stalinistic things he has done. How about you wake up? Let me guess, this whole thing is Obama’s fault too, right? And Fox News is the best news in the world, right?

  • Victim Du Jour

    Operation Obama said he was going to bring troops home and close Gitmo.

  • Call a war a war

    It makes perfect sense for “politically correct America” to look for “non-offensive” names for a deadly war. Gee, who wants to offend anybody while you’re busy trying to kill them?

    Oh but wait, the war we started in Libya really isn’t a war, is it? Obama has “declared” it to be a “humanitarian action.” Now I feel better about it.

    Yet, hmmmmmm, at $1 million a pop for a cruise missile that kills people, I’m having a little difficulty finding the “humanitarian” in it.

    Why can’t we mind our own business and do a little humanitarian fixing of the US before we march off to start “humanitarian actions” all over the world?

    • K.

      Get your facts straight. The decision for this operation was made by the United Nations Council and as a result, it isn’t just the US that’s over there. France and England and a few others are involved too.

      • Victim Du Jour

        Yeah, but we know it’s an american operation. That’s why we are providing all the weapons.

        We have a coalition force in Iraq too.

    • A Non-Misinformed Individual who checks facts.

      As another person who’s username is Kleinbl00 once said:

      “Not saying anything pro or con about Libyan no-fly zones or American imperialism, but people tend to think of ordinance in terms of cars or guns or stereo equipment, when in fact it’s more like produce: it’ll spoil eventually whether you cook with it or not.

      The tomahawks fired at Libya were paid for years ago. Should we have used them? Dunno. Not the issue. Will they need to be replaced? Absolutely. But they would have eventually anyway.

      Another perspective: 119 Tomahawk missiles cost as much as any given Jennifer Aniston movie.”

  • Allah Akbar

    I am a Muslim and i want to warn you Americans we are bombing all major cities, as well as the state of Mississippi because it has terrible crabs …. best be warned were coming…

blog comments powered by Disqus
Thursday Night Football

Listen Live