Code name

A code name or cryptonym is a word or name used clandestinely to refer to another name or word. Codenames are often used for military purposes, or in espionage. They are also used in business, for example as the names of confidential projects.

There is a common but not universal convention of writing codenames in upper case.


Proliferation of code names in WWII

In the Second World War, there was a series of code names common to the Allies referring to nations, cities, geographical features, military units, military operations, diplomatic meetings, places, and individual persons. Those for geographic features were randomly selected from a list, while many of the others had clever meanings. Those for the major conference meetings had a name referring to the number of the meeting. The code name of the sixth meeting was "SEXTANT". The ruler of the Soviet Union, who had given himself the name "Stalin", meaning "man of steel", was given the code name "GLYPTIC", meaning "an image carved out of stone".

German use of code names

Ewen Montagu, a British intelligence officer, discloses in Beyond Top Secret Ultra that the Germans habitually used inappropriate code names as though their secrecy were assured or needless. He mentions that they used Golfplatz ("golf course") for England and Samland (from "Uncle Sam") for the US. There are more readily accessible examples as well. A long-range radar system was named Heimdall, deliberately after the Norse god whose power was "to see for a hundred miles." Most inappropriate were their names of major military operations: Seelwe ("Sealion," which refers to the lions on British royal coats of arms) for the planned attack on Britain, and Barbarossa (named after a Holy Roman Emperor who went on a Crusade) for the attack on the Soviet Union.

Aircraft recognition reporting names

Although the names of the German and Italian aircraft were not given code names by their Allied opponents, there was a series begun using names common among local people in the backwoods of the US, but considered ludicrous in the cities, for the Japanese aircraft: for example, "Zeke" for the Mitsubishi A6M Rei-sen.

Such a name differs from that used by the RAF for its own planes, which the name is the official designation by which the aircraft is referred by the service, or that used by the US services, in which the name is not really necessary, for it is the alphanumeric sequence which is official, and the troops can give the craft their own nickname anyway. It also differs from the secret code names given by a service to projects under development. However, it differs from the other use of code names in the more fundamental way that it doesn't have to be kept secret, but is a way of standardizing description.

The habit of recognition reporting names was continued into the Cold War for Soviet, other Warsaw Pact, and Communist Chinese aircraft. Although this was started for the airplane spotters in the service of the English-speaking allies (the Air Standards Co-ordinating Committee), it was extended throughout NATO as the NATO reporting name for aircraft, rockets and missiles. These names were considered by the Soviets as being like a nickname given to one's unit by the opponents in a battle, such as the US Marines were called by the Germans in France "Devil Dogs", which they appreciated as a feather in their cap. The Soviets did not like the Sukhoi 25 getting the code name "Frogfoot."

The sequence by which a code name was given is as follows: aerial or space reconnaissance would note a new aircraft at a base, say "Ramenskoye". The intelligence units would give it an abbreviation of the base, then a letter, for example, "Ram-A". Missiles were given designations like "TT-5", for the fifth rocket seen at Tyura-Tam. When more information resulted in knowing a bit about what a missile was used for, it would be given a designation like "SS-6". Finally, when either an aircraft or a missile was able to be photographed with "a hand-held camera", instead of a reconnaissance aircraft, it was given a name like "Flanker" or "Scud" -- always an English word, as international pilots worldwide are required to learn English. The Soviet manufacturer or designation has nothing to do with it, and can even be mistaken by the Allies.

Jet-power aircraft received two-syllable names (like Foxbat), while propeller aircraft were designated with short names (like Bull). Fighter names began with an 'F,' bombers with a 'B,' cargo aircraft with a 'C.'

Tank code names

Just as the RAF required a name for its official designation of an aircraft, even when the supplier (the US, for example) did not supply one, so too did the British Army require a name for a tank. The M3 series of tanks were given the code names Grant and Lee by the latter, after the American Civil War generals. This is the origin of the later US habit of naming tanks after generals. The French have continued this with the Leclerc. For their own part, the British settled into a system of giving tanks names that begin with the letter C.

Churchill on Code Names for Military Operations

In a minute on August 8, 1943 Winston Churchill wrote to "Pug" Ismay, Secretary of the Defence Committee:

Operations in which large numbers of men may lose their lives ought not to be decided by code-words that imply a boastful and over-confident sentiment, such as "Triumphant," or conversely, which are calculated to invest the plan with an air of despondency, such as "Woebetide" and "Flimsy." They ought not to be names of a frivolous character, such as "Bunnyhug" and "Ballyhoo." They should not be ordinary words often used in other connections, such as "Flood," "Sudden," and "Supreme." Names of living people (ministers or commanders) should be avoided. Intelligent thought will already supply an unlimited number of well-sounding names that 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." 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.

Military Operations since Churchill

Throughout the Second World War, the British military has favored one-word codenames (Jubilee, Imperator). The Americans favored longer compound words (Overlord, Ironclad). Many examples of both type can be cited, as can exceptions.

Presently, British forces tend to use one-word names, Americans prefer two-word names. The Canadians and Australians use either. The French military currently prefer names drawn from nature (such as colors or the names of animals). The American CIA uses alphabetical prefixes to designate the part of the agency supporting an operation.

In many cases with US the first word of the name has to do with the intent of the program, programs with HAVE as the first word, such as HAVE BLUE for the stealth fighter development, are developmental programs, not meant to produce a production aircraft. While programs that start with Senior, such as Senior Trend for the F-117, are for aircraft in testing meant to enter production.

In the US, codenames are commonly set entirely in upper case. This is not done in other countries.

This presents an opportunity for a bit of public-relations (Operation Just Cause), or for controversy over the naming choice (Operation Infinite Justice, renamed Operation Enduring Freedom). Computers are now used to aid in the selection. And further, there is a distinction between the secret names during former wars and the published names of recent ones. "Desert Shield" was what the build-up in Saudi Arabia was blatantly referred to in the press, before war was declared. During this time, "Desert Storm" was secret. When the war broke out, the name "Desert Storm" -- but not the tactical details -- was also broken to the press.

Famous military and espionage code names

Commercial code names in the computer industry

Code names are also commonplace in the computer world where products are informally given names during development. These names are usually only meant for use inside the company, and are dropped once the product is given an official designation under which it is to be marketed to the public. In recent years there has been a growing tendency of computer companies to make their codenames more public and more prominent; for example, Mac OS X whose versions have been dubbed "Cheetah" for Mac OS X 10.0, "Puma" for Mac OS X 10.1, "Jaguar" for Mac OS X 10.2, "Panther" for Mac OS X 10.3, and "Tiger" for the recent version Mac OS X 10.4; and Microsoft Windows which is under development for a future version named "Longhorn" (See Microsoft codenames for a complete list).

See also

External Links

da:Kodenavn ja:コードネーム


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