There are some historical battle plans which are prefixed with "case" e. g. Case White (translation of Fall Weiss). Also, most of battle plans are named as "operations" e. g. Operation Downfall.

I live in a nation in which "case" and "operation" are translated into the same word, and thus I find it difficult to acknowledge differences between them in the military context. What are the differences of military cases and military operations? When I searched about "military cases," only results I saw were some shopping pages with mil-spec cell phone cases.

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    I hve never heard "Case" in this sense, and would not understand it without context. The OED does not seem to give such a meaning for the word. My guess is that it is used only as a translation of German Fall, and not otherwise.
    – Colin Fine
    Commented Jul 25, 2017 at 10:41
  • Would you be able to go back to the source, the German difference between case and operation? Commented Jul 25, 2017 at 13:27

2 Answers 2


Case and Operation are wholly different in either military or medical terms and the differences are broadly the same… in English, anyway. I merely guess the same is true in German.

A military Case is a scenario, a what if question, a thought experiment if you like… and exactly the same case that academia or commerce refer to in case studies. The details and the reasoning behind them are explained in more readable detail in Leon Uris’ novel, O’Hara’s Choice, than many another source.

Military Case Boojum might propose that Snarkian forces invade Tovia, and ask what the Slithies could do about it. Surrender? Fight them in the Wabe? Launch a counter-attack on the Borogroves? Perhaps as a last resort, unleash the Jabberwock, with eyes of flame?

When the brass hats at HQ decide this, that or the other Case seems too realistic, they see what the boys in the back room might have to say about it, and tell them to draw their plans against it, surely and rather quicker than slowly.

Plan A - or B or Z - will include any number of suggestions and when any of those is crystallised into a specific task, that will be written up in immense detail as an Operation… a prime example taking us back to Germany where Operation Valkyrie was designed as an Operation which might be needed to counter any Case of breakdown in civil order in the Nazi state.

Part of the difference between theoretical Cases and actions in response to them is hi-lighted by the fact Valkyrie was intended to ensure the government maintained control of civil affairs in the face of, for instance, Allied bombing of German cities or uprisings of the millions of foreign forced laborers in German factories. By contrast it was famously used in an effort by Nazi-loathing Germans to ensure the very government which had designed it lost the control it was intended to guarantee.

Nevertheless, a Case is a study of theoretical events; an Operation is not just the Plans but the putting into practice of the Plans designed to respond to that Case.

Almost irrelevantly, between the two stand military Exercises, which are general training or practice for specific Operations.

Apart from any of that, it strikes me as very, very odd that any language could translate Case and Operation into the same word and I’d be asking for a third opinion, at least…

  • For the record, my mother tongue is Korean in which (military) case and operation are translated into jakjeon. Fall Weiss and Operation Valkyrie are translated into baeksak jakjeon (Operation White) and balkiri jakjeon. Looking at your explanation, it is also very odd to me that why the initial translators decided to translate it into jakjeon where sangwhang (situation) would be more appropriate. Commented Jul 28, 2017 at 7:05

Fall Weiss (1939)

You'll notice here, "fall" is translated as either "case" or "plan". "Plan White" has a clearer meaning in English than "Case White" does. It would seem that today, "Fall Weiss" would be more or less synonymous with "Operation Weiss", however, in general "plan" tends to be less definite than "operation".

"Case" is more commonly used in English as a reference to a medical case, or a legal case, or an actual physical case (for a guitar or camera, for example). Case for the first two being defined as the situation affecting or relating to a particular person or thing; one's circumstances or position.

  • Google on my Mac doesn't agree with those translations. Either way I suggest Plan White certainly has a more specific meaning, and there's nothing clearer about it… Though none of them really compares to your actual physical case yes it's much more commonly found in English medical or legal terminology… and if anyone can explain any relevant difference in the general meaning or use among military, medical or legal cases that pin might make for an interesting dance. Commented Jul 30, 2017 at 0:34

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