QUIZ: Do You Know Your US Military Operation Names?

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Photo: via MC3 Robyn Gerstenslager

The naming of U.S. military operations can seem arbitrary and obtuse, but there’s logic to them.Take the quiz >

In the days following World War I it was all about colours. Think Operation Indigo or Operation grey.

In WWII it was about shaping perceptions, sometimes to the point of wishful thinking, as when the Japanese dubbed their failure at Leyte Gulf — Operation Victory.

During Vietnam names took on a creative appeal designed to boost flagging morale of U.S. troops with names like Operation Killer and Masher.

That type of PR seemed questionable in the less heady days of the mid 1970s and a computer program called the Code Word, Nickname, and Exercise Term System (NICKA) was given the job of job of assigning mission names.

NICKA erred on the opposite end, however, such as when it lamely labelled the Panama invasion Operation Blue Spoon (subsequently changed to a better name, as you’ll see in the quiz). So a new system was developed.

To allow for some controlled flair a system was implemented by the Joint Chiefs of Staff where each of the 24 Department of defence components involved in military operations held unique sets of alphabetic sequences.

Sounds complicated, but it worked like this: The U.S. Atlantic Command (USACOM) was assigned six two-letter sequences: AG-AL, ES-EZ, JG-JL, QA-QF, SM-SR, and UM-UR. The first word of the two-word military operation name had to begin with one of these pairs. Like Grenada: Urgent Fury (UR).

Today staff officers have a bit more freedom naming operations and following the PR success of Operation Just Cause, have taken to following these four guidelines.

Make it meaningful. Target the audience. Be wary of fashions, and Make it memorable.

The following quiz will help determine how successful military planners have been in that final naming guideline.

What was the name of the invasion of Iraq?

A: Operation Iraqi Liberation

B: Operation Sandy Ouster

C: Operation Iraqi Freedom

NOTE: Answers are on the next page. Keep track of how many you get right to find out your rank on the last slide.

And the answer is ...

C. Operation Iraqi Freedom

Believe it or not, their first name for the invasion was 'Operation Iraqi Liberation.'

Later, realising those three words made the acronym, spelled 'OIL,' military planners changed the last word to 'Freedom.'

What did planners call the invasion of Afghanistan?

A: Operation Enduring Freedom

B: Operation Afghan Liberation

C: Operation Taliban Fire

And the answer is ...

A: Operation Enduring Freedom

Originally called 'Operation Infinite Justice,' planners later thought the terminology would construe a religious overtone, and wanted to avoid offending any one religion.

What did the U.S. dub the invasion of Panama and subsequent capture of Manual Noriega?

A: Operation Knife Point

B: Operation Just Cause

C: Operation Rescue Dawn

And the answer is ...

B: Operation Just Cause

On December 20, 1989, elements of the 82nd Airborne Division conducted their first combat jump since World War II.

They landed in Panama, on Torrijos International Airport. With the seizure of the airport, Operation Just Cause had begun.

During WW2, the US made a concerted effort to capture German scientists and rocket plans. What was this operation called?

A: Operation Windmill

B: Operation Nuke Dukem

C: Operation Paperclip

And the answer is ...

C: Operation Paperclip

A favourite of conspiracy theory and history buffs everywhere, Op Paperclip sought to employ former Nazis into the research arms of the U.S. government.

Only problem? They were Nazis.

Nonetheless, famous war criminals, Wernher von Braun and Arthur Rudolph, both rocket scientists, and the physician Hubertus Strughold, found themselves at the receiving end of tax payer subsidies for research.

When the Allies invaded Normandy, they called the operation one of these three.

A. Operation Neptune

B. Operation Overlord

C. Operation Sand Castle

And the answer is ...

A. Operation Neptune

Operation Neptune was the actual Normandy landing, in specific the initial assault and setting up of the beachhead, not to be confused with Operation Overlord, which was the entire Battle of Normandy.

When the US launched a night raid to kill or capture Osama Bin Laden, they called it:

A. Operation Geronimo

B. Operation Hammer Fist

C. Operation Neptune's Spear

And the answer is ...

C. Operation Neptune's Spear

Some say planners chose this name because Neptune's Spear was a trident, and the trident is the official symbol of the Navy SEALs -- the key operators who carried out the kill/capture mission.

In 1979, the U.S. began a covert operation to arm the Taliban against Soviet Russia. It was called:

A. Operation Red Dawn

B. Operation Iron Dawn

C. Operation Cyclone

And the answer is ...

C. Operation Cyclone

Often cited as 'the most expensive' covert operation in CIA history.

The operation armed mujaheddin fighters, the Taliban, who would later become the main foe of the U.S. during Operation Enduring Freedom.

When the U.S. made a concerted effort to locate Saddam Hussein, they dubbed the effort:

A. Operation Red Dawn

B. Operation Broken Crown

C. Operation Fist Pump

And the answer is ...

A. Operation Red Dawn

Yes, the operation was named after the famous 80s flick about a bunch of teenage kids living through a bilateral Soviet-Cuban invasion of middle America.

What was the name of the infamous operation to save hostages in Iran during the Carter administration?

A. Operation Touch Ground

B. Operation Rat Smash

C. Operation Eagle Claw

And the answer is ...

C. Operation Eagle Claw

Though President Carter rightfully took the blame for the failed operation, after-actions reports indicated a lack of 'cohesiveness' among the military services which took part.

The revelation led to the creation of the United States Special Operations Command, famously known at SOCOM.

On the flip side, the successful mission to save a group of students in Grenada was called:

A. Operation Crashing Wind

B. Operation Urgent Fury

C. Operation Fierce Crow

And the answer is ...

B. Operation Urgent Fury

Prior to the invasion, the US dropped leaflets asking for residents to remain calm and in their homes.

When the Marines surrounded Fallujah (the second time) and subsequently flattened the city, they called it:

A. Operation Lightening Strike

B. Operation Kangol

C. Operation Al Fajr

And the answer is ...

C. Operation Al Fajr (The Dawn in Arabic)

The operation itself went by many names by the Marines involved -- Phantom Fury was the most popular, while the Second Battle of Fallujah also caught on.

Al Fajr was the official name.

In Afghanistan, an operation of equal visibility called for Army and Marine units to sweep out Marjah. What was this operation called?

A. Operation Moshtarak

B. Operation Southern Spear

C. Operation Boss Fist

And the answer is ...

A. Operation Moshtarak

Moshtarak means 'together' in Dari, the most popular language in Afghanistan -- aptly named as NATO and Afghan Security Forces jointly ran the operation.

Now count up all your correct answers and click next to get your official unofficial Business Insider Military and defence rank.

Rank has its privileges ...

12 correct: You are a General in the ranks of our readers. Go forth and spread your knowledge.

9 - 10: Congratulations, Colonel, consider yourself ready for war.

7 - 8: You did well, Lieutenant, now get outta my face.

5 - 6: OK, Corporal, you've got work to do.

0-4: There are toilets to scrub, Private, while you rethink your career.

You took the quiz ...

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