I Could Tell You But Then You Would Have to be Destroyed by Me.

Last year, while in Colette, one of my fave stores in the world my mate picked up this book. I Could Tell You But Then You Would Have to be Destroyed by Me: Emblems from the Pentagon’s Black World. I’d sort of forgotten about it until I stumbled upon this article in the NYT. I’ve gone an ordered my own copy, and you should do the same.
Essentially, all of these patches were worn by top secret divisions within the Pentagon, all part of the ‘Black Budget’ (kept quiet from Federal budget oversight, and dealing most typically with Military research). It feels ironic that if you were part of a top secret division that you would want or need a patch, but I suppose there is an immense amount of bragging that goes with something like this, and the contradiction means that the patches are fascinating.  Here are just a few of the fantastic designs that are contained within the book, and some explanations of the iconography behind them… (Photos: Trevor Paglen, captions from the NYT)

Esprit de Corps

The 413th Test Squadron, nicknamed the “Bombcats” and also known as Sundowner and Zipper, organized flight tests of Electronic Warfare systems around the world.


The origins of this patch remain unknown. The red star is in Southwest, which is many secret units’ home, while military intelligence typically uses green vaults.


Minotaur is a still-classified program undertaken by Lockheed Martin’s Advanced Development Programs division, the Skunk Works.


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