25 Most Top Secret Military Operations in History

Posted by , Updated on March 21, 2024

Many events in history have been changed because of covert missions undergone by the military or by secret organizations led by the government. As a result of such activities, there have been discoveries made, conspiracies disclosed, injustices done, lives killed, and governments changed as a result of keeping everything concealed from public knowledge. For better or for worse these are the 25 most top secret military operations in history.

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Operation Paperclip


In the aftermath of World War II American Intelligence launched Operation Paperclip as a covert attempt to recruit the scientists of Nazi Germany for employment in the United States. It turned out to be quite successful.


Project MKUltra


Project MKUltra was the code name of a U.S. government covert research operation experimenting in the behavioral engineering of humans (mind control) through the CIA’s Scientific Intelligence Division. Using unwitting U.S. and Canadian citizens as its test subjects MKUltra involved the administration of drugs (especially LSD) and other chemicals, hypnosis, sensory deprivation, isolation, verbal and sexual abuse, as well as various forms of torture.


Operation Anthropoid


Operation Anthropoid was the code name for the assassination attempt on Nazi Officer Reinhard Heydrich. The operation was carried out in Prague on 27 May 1942 after having been prepared by the British Special Operations Executive with the approval of the Czechoslovak government-in-exile. Although only wounded in the attack, Heydrich died of his injuries on 4 June 1942. His death led to a wave of merciless reprisals by German troops, including the destruction of villages and the killing of civilians.


Bay of Pigs Invasion


The Bay of Pigs was an unsuccessful military invasion of Cuba undertaken by the paramilitary group Brigade 2506 on 17 April 1961. A counter-revolutionary military trained and funded by the United States government’s Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), the invading force was defeated by the Cuban armed forces under the command of Prime Minister Fidel Castro within three days.


Operation Wrath of God


During the 1972 Munich Olympics, 11 members of the Israeli Olympic team were been murdered, which prompted a killing spree that spread all across Europe. Operation Wrath of God, set into motion by Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir, was planned and executed by the Mossad (Israeli Special Forces) and involved the systematic extermination of a number of members of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) suspected to have taken part in the killings.


Operation Neptune Spear


Launched as part of the US retaliation program against the 9/11 terrorist attack involving Al Qaeda, Operation Neptune Spear was a clear capture-or-kill operation with Osama Bin Laden as the target. After over a decade it was successful in meeting its objectives.


Operation Valkyrie


Operation Valkyrie was a German World War II emergency plan issued to the Reserve Army to take control in case of civil breakdown. German Army officers General Friedrich Olbricht, Major General Henning von Tresckow, and Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg modified the plan with the intention of using it to take control of German cities, disarm the SS, and arrest the Nazi leadership once Hitler had been assassinated in the July 20 Plot. Hitler’s death (as opposed to his arrest) was required to free German soldiers from their oath of loyalty to him. After lengthy preparation, the plot was carried out in 1944, but failed.


Operation CHAOS


Operation CHAOS was the code name for a domestic espionage project conducted by the Central Intelligence Agency under President Lyndon B. Johnson. The program’s goal was to unmask possible foreign influences on the student antiwar movement.


Project 404


Project 404 was the code name for a covert United States Air Force advisory mission to Laos during the later years of the Vietnam War. The purpose of Project 404 was to supply the line crew technicians needed to support and train the Royal Laotian Air Force.


Project Azorian


The US government spent over $800 million in order to complete Project Azorian, which involved the recovery of K-129, a Soviet submarine that sank in 1968. The mission was undertaken in 1974 with the hopes of recovering everything on the submarine, which included a nuclear missile, documents, and top secret equipment. The Hugh Glomar Explorer, a mission-specific ship was also created to be used as the primary vessel for the mission.


Acoustic Kitty

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Acoustic Kitty was a CIA project launched by the Directorate of Science & Technology in the 1960s attempting to use cats in spy missions to spy on the Kremlin and Soviet embassies. A battery and a microphone were implanted into a cat and an antenna into its tail. This would allow the cats to innocuously record and transmit sound from its surroundings. Due to problems with distraction, the cat’s sense of hunger had to be addressed in another operation.


Abu Omar Case


On February 17, 2003, the CIA captured the Imam of Milan, Abu Omar, and transferred him to Egypt. According to sources the Imam was tortured as a result of alleged connections to Islamists. After public outrage, however, Italian courts prosecuted over 26 CIA agents and many others for the events of February 17th.


Project Fubelt


The US government under President Richard Nixon deployed the services and expertise of the CIA in manipulating the government of Chile by preventing Salvador Allende’s rise to power. Project Fubelt was to be executed by promoting a military coup and thus solidify the position of President Eduardo Frei Montalva.


Operation Gold


Back in the 1950s, the American CIA and the British Secret Intelligence Service had joined together in order to breach the Soviet Army’s defenses by tapping into their lines and having leaked information become a tool in determining the course of action. This was made possible with Operation Gold by creating a tunnel underneath the Soviet headquarters in Berlin and intercepting landline communications. However, before this mission even began, mole George Blake discovered the tunnel and foiled the mission.


Operation Merlin

The objective of the mission was to create a fake and flawed nuclear blueprint and have it presented to the Iranians to delay their nuclear weapon creation. While everything seemed to be going according to plan, the mission failed when the Russian scientist who presented the plan was too smart for his own good and mistakenly pointed out the flaws to the enemy, thus accelerating the program even more.

Project MKNaomi


MKNAOMI was the code name for a joint Department of Defense/CIA research program lasting from the 1950s through the 1970s. Unclassified information about the MKNAOMI program and the related Special Operations Division is scarce. It is generally reported to be a successor to the MKDELTA project and to have focused on biological projects including biological warfare agents—specifically, to store materials that could either incapacitate or kill a test subject and to develop devices for the diffusion of such materials.


Operation Mockingbird


Operation Mockingbird was a secret Central Intelligence Agency campaign to influence media beginning in the 1950s.


Operation Kufire


Operation Kufire was a program that sought to identify and track all communist party members who had flocked to Guatemala during the Arbenz regime. Via Kufire, the CIA was intent on charting their movements. This operation introduced the CIA to Ernesto “Che” Guevara.


Operation MIAS


The CIA launched Operation MIAS (Missing in Action Stingers) in order to purchase back the stinger missiles that were given to the Mujahideen in order for Afghans to fight against the Soviet forces. In a way, it was created to clean the mess created by another mission, Operation Cyclone, that funded the Afghan-Soviet war to begin in the first place. Overall, aside from the need of the government to spend over $65 million to recover all the missiles, it was labeled a failure due to tracking issues.


Operation Washtub


The CIA organized Operation Washtub to frame Guatemala as a close ally of Moscow by installing a fake Soviet arms cache in Nicaragua, which if proven, could overthrow Guatemalan President Jacobo Arbenz Guzmán. The covert mission was considered a success although it didn’t meet its original goals. Instead, operatives managed to frame Guatemala using a fake soviet submarine.


Phoenix Program


The CIA, US Special Ops Forces, Australian Army Training Team, and South Vietnam’s security force worked together in executing and operating the Phoenix Program, whose aim was to neutralize the forces of the Viet Cong. But instead of attacking soldiers, the program focused on abducting civilians and gathering information from them. Most civilians, especially those who were suspected members of the VC, were kidnapped, tortured, and killed.


Project MKOften


The US Department of Defense and the CIA had teamed up to carry out the mission of executing MKOften by testing various drugs on humans and animals, and checking the impact of the drugs on the behavioral and toxicological makeup of their victims.




Project RESISTANCE was a domestic espionage operation coordinated under the Domestic Operations Division (DOD) of the CIA. Its purpose was to collect background information on groups around the U.S. that might pose threats to CIA facilities and personnel.


Stargate Project


The Stargate Project[1] was the umbrella code name of one of several sub-projects established by the U.S. Federal Government to investigate claims of psychic phenomena with potential military and domestic applications, particularly “remote viewing”: the purported ability to psychically “see” events, sites, or information from a great distance.


Operation Ivy Bells