The 5 Most Mind-Blowing Military Operations Ever Kept Secret

#2. France's Private War Against ... Hippies?

AFP / Getty

In 1985, the French government had a problem: They wanted to irradiate the fuck out of some delicate ecosystems, but stupid "Greenpeace" was using stupid "boats" to stupid "protest" for the stupid "sanctity of life and the environment." Psh ... hippies, right? What's worse, the site was a French colony that was already thinking of rebelling, and the French didn't want to show any signs of weakness, lest they incur the dreaded wrath of ... the French. So they did what any reasonable country would do: They decided to blow up the Rainbow Warrior, which, from the name, you've already gone ahead and assumed was a love boat full of hippies, to scare/distract Greenpeace long enough for them to conduct the nuclear tests.

Patrick Riviere / Getty
"We tried infecting their sheets with pubic lice, but no one seemed to notice."

The mission was called Operation Satanique -- a name that should probably tip you off to the fact that you might be the crazy bad guys in this situation. When the Rainbow Warrior docked in New Zealand to do some tactical chillaxing, Operation Satanique was a go. The plan was to scare all of the crew off the boat with a small bomb, then, when they had evacuated, a second, larger bomb would actually sink the boat. It all went perfectly!

Except for everything.

AFP / Getty
"I love it when a plan fails in every conceivable fashion."

The crew of the Rainbow Warrior returned after the first bomb went off to check out the damage, not assuming that lightning could strike twice. And you know what they say about "assuming" things ... it blows up boats in New Zealand. So when the second bomb went off, it actually hurt some folks, and killed Fernando Pereira, a photographer.

The French started frantically pulling agents from New Zealand, seeing as how their whole "ruin a hippie's boat party" plan had suddenly turned into "multinational murder and terrorism." But two French spies involved in the operation were detained and interrogated. The truth came out soon after, because, shockingly, you just can't seem to trust the fortitude of a French spy. The aftermath was about what you'd expect: France's president publicly apologized, the defense minister resigned in disgrace, they paid a shit-ton of cash to Greenpeace and France halted their horrific testing ...

For like 10 years. Then they went back and blew the holy shit out of the place anyway. Hey, what did you expect from the guys who brainstormed "Operation Satanic"?

Getty Images / Stringer
"We wanted to call it Operation Boatfuck, but that just sounded crude."

#1. The Secret, Private Armies That Ran Europe

AFP / Getty

After World War II, the U.S. had some problems: lots of dead folks, countries and borders torn apart, most of Europe ground into a very civilized kind of pudding and the USSR knocking on the door to come raid the fridge. So the U.S. came up with a plan they called Operation Gladio: It basically installed a secret military that would unofficially operate all across Europe, with the singular goal of combating communism. Because it wouldn't be a very good secret army if we knew all about them, facts are pretty limited, but it's not a whackjob theory: Their existence has been confirmed, and the network has been associated with such high-stakes super-evil as attempted pope assassination, large scale bombings and kidnappings of several high-level government officials. They were willing to do anything to fight communism -- murder, extortion, even becoming communists, if that's what it took.

"I'll shoot myself in the head, then in the dick. I don't even goddamn care."

Again, it turns out that the Italian branch was a particularly active group (the folks did produce Machiavelli and Assassin's Creed; we all shouldn't act so surprised). An entirely different president of Italy, Francesco Cossiga, was involved in this ominous anti-communism secret society -- hey, all the cool presidents were doing it, what was he supposed to say? "No, but thanks so much for asking, nutbar shadow military group?"

It probably wouldn't have been a smart move. See, the reason we don't know more about them, even years after the end of the Cold War, is simple: crazy, crazy murders.

When another Italian president, Aldo Moro, wanted to allow communists to run for office, he was suddenly kidnapped and eventually executed. His body was found in the trunk of a car parked next to an ancient gladiatorial site. A "gladio" is a type of ancient Roman short sword, often used by participants in arena combat. When a former colonel of Gladio operations in Switzerland wrote a letter to the government stating that he was ready to "reveal the whole truth," he was found dead in his home a month later. He was stabbed to death with his own bayonet, a series of mysterious characters written on his chest that couldn't be deciphered.

Hulton Archive / Getty
Dead president in the back of a van? Bond villains are more subtle.

Now, admittedly, that's not concrete evidence of Gladio's direct involvement or anything. It's just a few brutal, worrying events that spin a web of mystery and fear that keeps further investigations at bay.

Who on Earth could benefit from something like that?

For more reasons we're fortunate we survived the Cold War, check out Nuke the Moon: 5 Certifiably Insane Cold War Projects. Or learn about 6 Real World Spy Gadgets Straight Out of the Movies.

If you're pressed for time and just looking for a quick fix, then check out If Fictional Locations Got Reviewed on Yelp.

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