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I Could Tell You But Then You Would Have to be Destroyed by Me: Emblems from the Pentagon's Black World Hardcover – December 1, 2007

4.1 out of 5 stars 85 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"A fascinating set of shoulder patches designed for the Pentagon's Black Ops programs."
—Stephen Colbert, The Colbert Report

“A glimpse of [the Pentagon’s] dark world through a revealing lens—patches—the kind worn on military uniforms.... The book offers not only clues into the nature of the secret programs, but also a glimpse of zealous male bonding among the presumed elite of the military-industrial complex. The patches often feel like fraternity pranks gone ballistic.”
—William Broad, The New York Times

“Gives readers a peek into the shadows ... Department of Defense spokesman Bob Mehal told Newsweek that it ‘would not be prudent to comment on what patches did or did not represent classified units.’ That’s OK. Some mysteries are more fun when they stay unsolved.”
—Karen Pinchin, Newsweek

"An art book that presents peculiar shoulder patches created for the weird and top secret programs funded by the Pentagon's black budget... an achievement."
—Timothy Buckwalter, The San Francisco Chonicle

"I was fascinated... [Paglen] has assembled about 40 colorful patch insignia from secret, military 'black' programs that are hardly ever discussed in public. He has plenty of regalia from the real denizens of Area 51."
—Alex Beam, The Boston Globe

"An impressive collection."
—Justin Rood, ABC News

"The iconography of the United States military. Not the mainstream military, with its bars and ribbons and medals, but the secret or 'black projects' world, which may or may not involve contacting aliens, building undetectable spy aircraft, and experimenting with explosives that could make atomic bombs look like firecrackers. Here, mysterious characters and cryptic symbols hint at intrigue much deeper than rank, company, and unit."
—UTNE Reader

"Of course, issuing patches for a covert operation sounds like a joke...but truth be told, these days everything is branded. Military symbols are frequently replete with heraldic imagery—some rooted in history, others based on contemporary popular arts that feature comic characters—but these enigmatic dark-op images, in some cases probably designed by the participants themselves, are more personal, and also more disturbing, than most."
—Steven Heller, The New York Times Book Review

About the Author

Trevor Paglen is an expert on clandestine military installations. He leads expeditions to the secret bases of the American west and is the author, with AC Thompson, of Torture Taxi.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 136 pages
  • Publisher: Melville House; First Edition edition (January 28, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1933633328
  • ISBN-13: 978-1933633329
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 0.5 x 7.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (85 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #859,456 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By M. J. Shilobrit on January 23, 2008
Format: Hardcover
When I first saw this book being offered to pre-order, I signed up immediately. I had read his previous book "Terror Taxi" about the U.S. Government's clandestine rendering program for terrorists and found it to be fascinating. I also am an enthusiast and fan of a lot of the U.S. military's aerospace "black projects"-especially black aircraft develpoment. I'm also into the patch insignia that a lot of these military organzations/units use to indirectly show the project they represent or support.

I think he has done a great job of research and packaging this project- from the cool patch emblazoned on the cover to the color pictures of each
patch described in the inside. A lot of effort went into this cool book!

Very tasty reading if you enjoy that sort of thing-which I do!
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Format: Hardcover
This is a truly unique book. You know this, to start, when you see that the cover has an actual embroidered patch embedded in it. The inscription around it, which forms the title of the book, is actually a translation of a Latin inscription on one of the patches in the book, strangely worded and of course rather obscure. When you open the book, you discover that the majority of what's here is a series of patches, all from the Air Force, that personnel involved in various "black" (secret) operations have worn on duty. The author bills himself an expert in this sort of thing, and he does seem to have some expertise. It's hard to know how much, though, because of course the Air Force won't confirm much of what he writes.

This is an interesting little book for the buff interested in this sort of thing. I would expect pretty much everyone else to be momentarily interested, then bored.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I found myself gaping as I read this book, by turns astonished that classified personnel could get away with having a sense of humor on the job and cackling madly at the inside jokes. There appears to be a rich language of symbolism in the patches' patterns, and many an afternoon could be whiled away by the reader attempting to piece it together. I've already recommended this book to several friends, and I can't recommend it highly enough to anyone curious about military heraldry or black projects.
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I worked as a military subcontractor with Boeing on a weapons project when I first saw a strange patch. It was a flaming skull with the words "death from above" on it. It pretty much summed up the project, but it seemed very occultish and strange.

It was my first taste of the weird death culture the military has and how they are not ashamed of displaying it publicly.

I heard an interview with this author and the few patches on the cover, along with the odd title made me buy the book.

It's nice and I don't regret buying it, but in my opinion, it's very limited in scope, mostly focusing on Area 51 and electronic warfare patches. There are so many other bizarre patches he could have included but didn't.
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I really liked the info and the presentation. It seems like the book is a little small for the money, but i still really enjoyed reading it. I deducted only 1 star because the book seems like a short read, and it would have been nice to have some more backstory on a few of the patches, and related topics. There are a few photographs of airfields, and bases, but a little more info on the bases, programs, aircraft, or meaning of the military/intelligence organizations would have been useful and helped explain context.

Also, in probably a minor unrelated point, the cover of the book was a bit mangled when i received it, but didn't feel the need to waste time/money returning it. Amazon just needs to be more careful packing small odd shaped books when in combined order shipping.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a nicely bound book with a patch embedded into the front cover. On the inside, it's mostly pictures with light commentary, so it's mostly a one-time read with little reference potential. The content is mostly speculative, and the patches aren't organized by symbology. I would have liked to see some patches from less secretive units using the same symbology for comparison.

It's a nice conversation starter, though.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Some excellent photography of very cool patches.
The book is short, but it is crisp and provocative. It would make a very cool coffee-table book, even though it is pretty small for that purpose. I enjoyed the little glimpse into the "black ops" world and found some of the designs very beautiful and dense with meaning.
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A very enjoyable book. The darkest projects have one thing in common - Humans like comradere. Where the same special job is shared by a few. Like firefighter and police officers. To identify one as part of the team they make shoulder patches unique to their unit.

Some of the patch designs are self explanatory while others you turn upside down or reverse in the mirror looking a clue as to the patch might be saying.
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