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A coup de main (plural: coups de main, French for blow with the hand[1][2]) is a swift attack that relies on speed and surprise to accomplish its objectives in a single blow. The United States Department of Defense defines it as:

An offensive operation that capitalizes on surprise and simultaneous execution of supporting operations to achieve success in one swift stroke. [3]

The term coup de main originally meant "by direct assault rather than by artillery".[4]

The first airborne assault in the World War II invasion of Normandy, on Pegasus Bridge, is an example of a "coup de main" operation, and is sometimes referred to as Operation Coup de Main though the actual code name for the British airborne attack was Operation Deadstick.

In contemporary English slang the term could be translated as sucker punch.

See also


  1. coup de main on
  2. In French, coup de main can also mean "a helping hand" (informal language), or "know-how".
  3. Coup de Main, DOD Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms
  4. Dictionnaire de l'Académie françoise (1765)

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