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August 12, 2005

Building on Yesterday's rant...

...about Code Names. I gotta plug Commander Salamander's rant - he was channeling me, which, sadly, portends badly for his promotion chances...

The whole naming thing started out as a security measure. It gave a shorthand way to refer to something in messages, whether a weapon system, troop movement, location, operation, intel asset, etc , so people in the know would understand what you meant, without larding up messages with a lot of text, as well as revealing info to interested eavesdroppers. Jargon for security.

Like the Manhattan Project for the atomic bomb. Operation Overlord for the invasion of Europe. Utah Beach, Operations Olympic and Coronet for the planned invasion of Japan. "Tank" for the Tank. (crates with the first tanks in them were marked "Water Tank" - the name stuck.) Infinite Justice Enduring Freedom - the take-down of Afghanistan. The military aren't the only ones, either; e.g., Microsoft's "Longhorn" which is now officially "Windows Vista."

As we are continuously lectured "Words have meaning." The development of code names is a Big Deal, hence NORTHCOM/NORADs angst. As no less a master of the english language Winston Churchill observed in Closing The Ring (vol 5 of his WWII history):

[1.] Operations in which large numbers of men may lose their lives ought not to be described by code words which imply a boastful or overconfident sentiment,. . . or, conversely, which are calculated to invest the plan with an air of despondency. . . . They ought not to be names of a frivolous character. . . . They should not be ordinary words often used in other connections. . . . Names of living people--Ministers and Commanders--should be avoided. . . .

2. After all, the world is wide, and intelligent thought will readily supply an unlimited number of well-sounding names which do not suggest the character of the operation or disparage it in any way and do not enable some widow or mother to say that her son was killed in an operation called "Bunnyhug" or "Ballyhoo."

3. Proper names are good in this field. The heroes of antiquity, figures from Greek and Roman mythology, the constellations and stars, famous racehorses, names of British and American war heroes, could be used, provided they fall within the rules above.

LTC Gregory Sieminski wrote an interesting article called The Art of Naming Operations in the US Army War College Publication, Parameters, in which he lays out some of the history of naming - and the pitfalls contained therein. In addition to "Ballyhoo" and "Bunnyhug" noted by Churchill (both names just illustrative, never under consideration) there was real objection to naming the 1943 raid on Ploesti "Operation Soapsuds", violating the "Bunnyhug Rule." The mission was eventually named Tidal Wave.

General Ridgway got in trouble in Korea for naming an operation "Killer"... LTC Sieminski pretty much wraps up the whole purpose, process and problem of naming in these three paragraphs:

China's intervention in the Korean War helped Lieutenant General Matthew Ridgway see what MacArthur had not. Ridgway took command of the Eighth Army as it was reeling southward under relentless Chinese attack. His first task, he realized, was to restore the fighting spirit of his badly demoralized command.[47] One way he did this was by giving decidedly aggressive nicknames to the series of counteroffensives undertaken from February to April 1951: Thunderbolt, Roundup, Killer, Ripper, Courageous, Audacious, and Dauntless. Because these names were not classified once operations began, they were widely disseminated among Eighth Army soldiers to boost morale.[48] Ridgway's unprecedented use of meaningful combat operation names set the tone for one of the most remarkable transformations of any military organization in history. The reinvigorated Eighth Army pushed the Chinese back to the 38th parallel.

If Ridgway's names contributed to success on the battlefield, they were not nearly so successful on the home front. Ridgway had publicly announced not only the start of his first major counteroffensive, but also its nickname: Operation Killer.[49] In doing so, he may have imagined that he could boost the morale of the public in the same way he hoped to inspire his troops. After all, the news from the front had been bad for months--so bad, in fact, that the US Far East Command had suspended communiques dealing with operational matters the previous fall.[50] It was probably no coincidence that the communiques resumed the day after the start of Operation Killer.[51] Certainly some of Ridgway's troops thought that Killer and other names had been chosen with the media in mind.[52]

In any event, more than a few observers objected to Ridgway's operation name, which was prominently displayed in many newspaper and magazine articles.[53] One critic was the Army Chief of Staff, General J. Lawton Collins, who informed Ridgway that "the word `killer' . . . struck an unpleasant note as far as public relations was concerned."[54] Certainly public relations suffered: several writers criticized the name directly or implicitly in letters to The New York Times;[55] the International Longshoremen's and Warehousemen's Union issued a report in which the name served as the rubric for the entire conflict, which it called a "phony" war emergency;[56] Republicans pointed to the term as evidence that the Truman Administration had no other aim in Korea but to kill Chinese;[57] and the State Department objected that the name had soured negotiations with the People's Republic of China.[58]

Shelby Stanton, in his book Anatomy of a Division, noted that in Vietnam the 1st Cavalry Division relearned the "Killer" lesson - when it named an operation "Masher." President Johnson got pissy because it didn't reflect the "pacification emphasis" he was after. General Westmoreland, in his memoir added that the President objected because it gave ammunition to carping war critics. Both considerations still valid, perhaps even more so in the pervasive media environment we live in. Like NORAD is finding out via the blogs... though I still don't think Admiral Keating lost any sleep last night because Salamander and I pinged him, and Lex only gave him a lukewarm defense.

After Vietnam, we went to a computer generated system - to improve randomness. But they still got filtered. And anything big, well, as the last 15 years have shown, anything big gets parsed for marketing considerations. Sometimes badly.

If you'd like to try your hand at computer generating some code names, give this site a whirl. The ones I generated weren't too bad! Distant Thunder, Intrinsic Jewel, Nomad Tree, Shepherd Sentinel (though that last might offend PETA).

Just goes to show there *is* a reason for NORADs madness (and madness it still is... lest ye think I've gone soft on 'em!). But like any idea, when carried to an extreme... it just gets silly. And even after doing the research for this post... NORAD's decision is... SILLY.

But let's get to the point of this! Keep those nominations coming in! Then, this weekend, SWWBO and I will select the Top 20. And put up a poll - winner gets their choice of Stuff From The Castle Store, up to a $15 value. I'm feeling generous, I'll cover shipping... Before you submit - check out the Flash Traffic/Extended Entry - therein lies the List Thus Far. Also downloadable here.

The List Thus Far:

Cream Puff
Amalgam PowderPuff Girls
Vigilant Blindman
Ardent Coward
Fabric Rip
Proposed Change
Administrative Restructuring
Soft Landing
I'm OK You're OK
Let's Go Home
We Understand
Pillow Fight
Soft Landing
Turgid Shyster
Urgent Manicure
Frequent Vapors
Bold Ambivalence
Hello Kitty
Politically Correct
101st Airborne Metrosexuals
Pillowy Soft
Happy Rainbow
Friendly Rainbow
Pretty Unicorn
Pink Cloud
Urgent Hug
Love Somebody
Hand Holding
CareBear Stare
Knotted Knickers
Flatulent Bloviator
Codeword Redaction
Hoof Hearted
Uncovered Donkey
Great Watt
Embarrass View
Fairish Beige
Tolerable Murmur
Moderate Wobble
Slight Disruption
Minor Procedure
Taupe Crinkle
Slow Ambler
Damp Sniffler
Kum Ba Ya
Can't We Just Get Along
Paper Tiger
Lady Bic
Fuzzy Bunny
Operation Gentle Tickle
Pudding Puffs
Whimpering Ninnies
Limp ButterNoodles
Soft YellerBellies
April Fresh
Wetness Shield
Odor Protection
Milquetoast Rising
Nocturnal Emission
Fragrant Whimsy
Peeps Conversation