CONPLAN 8888: The Pentagon's Zombie Apocalypse Plan Explained

Let's be honest: Zombie apocalypses peaked with maybe, like, the 3rd season of "The Walking Dead" — the governor season — back in 2012. They've had their day, and now they're old news. It's not that the public has stopped imagining the obliteration of human life (or not-too-secretly hoping for it) — they've just circled around to other apocalyptic horsemen like climate change, war, AI overlords, etc. That is, unless we're talking about the domain of human life that always drags behind the curve: government. Enter the Pentagon's most ultimate, mega-est, super zombie-busting plan ever, ever, complete with a name befitting an early 2000 first-person shooter: CONPLAN 8888, aka Counter-Zombie Dominance Operations. Lock and load!

But really, CONPLAN 8888 hasn't been developed in response to some secret, imminent threat that the public hasn't been made aware of. It's also not new — it hit the news cycle during the Rick Grimes heyday of 2014. There's no explanation of how outlets got ahold of it, only that it was "obtained" from the absolutely-fake-sounding-but-actually-not "military's secret computer network" in the form of "an unclassified document," per the Foreign Policy Group.

The document itself is a true comedic gut-buster. There's artwork of a little zombie, video game-like classification of enemy types like "evil magic zombie," "vegetarian zombie," and of course some pew-pew "we must prevail over the shambling horde" rhetoric. And not to extinguish the fun: Yes, the disclaimer section explains that it's a self-aware training exercise meant to get folks interested in learning — that's it.

The Typing Dead

Full disclosure: Each and every facet of this story will come across as ludicrous. But as CONPLAN 8888's disclaimer says, it's a carrot for training purposes and even describes how effective it was at getting students interested. It's a "ridiculous" exercise meant to be treated seriously.

The document dates to April 30, 2011, three years before its public release, and comes from an internally shared network cleverly dubbed "Intellipedia." There's even a link at the very bottom of the document to the actual file location on the Intellipedia network, although we wouldn't recommend trying to click it unless you want men in black knocking on your door. Then again, the document is unclassified, so ... maybe it's okay? Your call.

As for the office responsible for CONPLAN 8888, it lists "Headquarters United States Strategic Command," which is actually located in Offutt Air Force Base near Omaha, Nebraska, not the Pentagon. In fact, there's no direct mention of the Pentagon anywhere in the document despite sources like the Foreign Policy Group and CNN saying so. The document further attributes itself to "CDRUSSTRATCOM," an unwieldy acronym for "Commander, United States Strategic Command." Although to be fair, the task probably got offloaded to some office jockeys (pictured above), not a commander.

And finally, this version of the document might not be the first one. It's listed as "CONPLAN 8888-11," emphasis on "11." We're guessing CONPLAN 8888-1 might have just read, "ZOMBIE SCARY. SHOOT ZOMBIE. AIM HEAD."

Plan for the worst, hope for the best

The strange thing about CONPLAN 8888 is that it teaches actual military procedures despite its fictional topic. Its straight-faced delivery frames it in a perfectly on-point, comedic way. It's supposed to describe a "contingency oriented plan designed to be used as a basis/point of departure for Crisis Action Planning (CAP)," as it says. The document also states that it's intentionally unclassified "to ensure maximum utility during times of crisis" — maybe someone at the U.S. Strategic Command passed it along to news outlets for a similar purpose. In other words, even though we're never going to have to mow down mobs of "Evil Magic Zombies" with chain guns, if a crisis does happen, we know how things are done.

According to CONPLAN 8888 (ahem, and we quote): "Zombies are horribly dangerous to all human life and zombie infections have the potential to seriously undermine national security and economic activities that sustain our way of life." Well, naturally. Also, no matter the fictional topic, the plan fulfills, "Contingency Planning Guidance (CPG) tasking for USSTRATCOM to develop a comprehensive JOPES Level 3 plan to undertake military operations to preserve 'non-zombie' humans from the threats posed by a zombie horde." Well, that all sounds great. Furthermore, the document intends to help "preserve the sanctity of human life," where "humans" are defined as "non-zombie." A bold assertion given certain members of the human population, but glad we cleared that up, nonetheless.

Aim for the head

Now that logistical details are out of the way, we can get down to the good stuff: pew-pewing zombies. Relatedly: Has anyone in the crowd ever played "Left 4 Dead 2"? Classic four-person, co-op, squad-based zombie-shooting action? The game has a whole bunch of memorable enemy types like infected (standard), boomers (dudes that blow up), spitters (dudes who spit, obviously), smokers (dudes with long tongues). Yeah, that's basically CONPLAN 8888.

On page 6 of CONPLAN 8888, we've got the "Zombie Threat Summary" that lists all zombie types soldiers might be expected to head-shoot. We've got standard "Pathogenic Zombies" formed from biological contagions, "Radiation Zombies" formed from "a extreme dosage [sic]" of radiation like The Hulk, "Weaponized Zombies" created to be biological weapons, and "Symbiant-Induced Zombies," i.e., zombies controlled by an invasive creature like the creature from 1982's "The Thing" or the Dax symbiont from "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine."

Speaking of extraterrestrials, they're on the list, too: "Space Zombies," either "originating from space or created by toxic contamination of the earth environment." And because we've already jumped several sharks, there are "Evil Magic Zombies" created from "occult experimentation" and "Vegetarian Zombies" that target plants, not animals, like in the video game "Plants Vs. Zombies" (which the document actually references). And because why not: There are also Chicken Zombies, which were a real thing back in 2006, as Fox News describes. All in all, this is why CONPLAN 8888 needed its disclaimer.

Comprehensive operational phasing

Wouldn't it be great if all villains had intentions as transparent as "eat brains?" There's no redemption to be found in a zombie, no way to reason with it, no recourse but obliterating it, and no remorse once it's dead. Ah, if only all evil was so faceless. And bonus: All you need to fix the problem is a weapon. Maybe these are some reasons why the whole zombie thing caught on. What do such musings have to do with CONPLAN 8888? Well, the document alludes to the same thing in its "Legal Considerations" section on page 8, reading, "There are almost no restrictions on hostile actions that may be taken either defensively or offensively against pathogenic life-forms, organic-robotic entities, or 'traditional' zombies." In other words? Fire away — no one will take you to court about it.

And looking to strategies regarding firing away, we've got the impressive "CONPLAN 8888 Operational Phasing" on page 9. There's a big chart separating military duties into defensive operations, offensive operations, and support of government. There are also five phases, from Phase 0 (Shape) to Phase 5 (Restore Civil Authority). In between there are lots of military acronyms, talk of monitoring "vectors of zombie containment," placing deployable command centers on alert, bombing strikes, ensuring all dead zombies are "immolated" (good call), and even coordinating with POTUS along the way. 

Infection, containment, hydration, and more

CONPLAN 8888 contains a whole bunch of addendums bundled together under "Assumptions" on page 13. Looking at what we said above, this section states that LOAC — the law of armed conflict, i.e., international humanitarian law regarding warfare — doesn't apply. No need to worry about starving zombie civilians, in other words. Relatedly, the "Assumptions" section also states that "zombie forces will become stronger with each human casualty (because each human casualty will become a zombie)." Too true. The section also talks about other typical zombie tropes from media, like not being able to cure a person's zombiehood once that person turns. And yes, for all the FPS fans out there, it indeed talks about headshots. When taking aim at an undead aggressor, one need not worry about impaling an organ of higher brain functioning, as that will be lost, and only the brain stem will remain.    

Other addendums in "Assumptions" talk about making sure that the soon-to-be-zombified drink lots of water to slow the transformation into undeadness, aka "progressing zombeism," as the document calls it. Without such hydration, zombification will occur in 30 to 40 days. Oh, also: Even though we can't say whether or not hand sanitizer will help slow down the spread of infection, we might as well give it a shot. For all other questions, "Assumptions" refers us back to "popular culture references" found in comics, movies, games, etc., as we've talked about quite a bit already in this article.