Coup de main

A coup de main (pronounced [ku də mɛ̃]; 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 Allied airborne assault in World War II, during the 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 Tonga.[5][6]


Emory Upton used the tactic for the Union Army during the Battle of Spotsylvania Courthouse.[7]

During the Second Battle of Porto, Arthur Wellesley crossed the Douro in a coup de main attack upon the French forces of Marshal Soult.

See also


  1. ^ "the definition of coup de main".
  2. ^ In French, coup de main can also mean "a helping hand" (informal language), or "know-how" by common usage
  3. ^ Coup de Main Archived 2016-03-03 at the Wayback Machine, DOD Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms
  4. ^ Académie française (1765). Dictionnaire de l'Académie françoise. Chez les Libraires associés. p. 291.
  5. ^ Perry, Mike (9 December 2012). "Operation Tonga". SOFREP. Retrieved 15 August 2021.
  6. ^ Fowler, Will (2010). Pegasus Bridge: Bénouville, D-Day 1944. Oxford: Osprey. ISBN 9781846038488.
  7. ^ "Bloody Horror of Upton's Charge". 9 January 2018.

External links

  • Flight to Pegasus
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