Chuck Hagel’s brother’s Air Force paintings in the Pentagon

There’s a special place in the E-Ring’s heart for awesomely bad Air Force art — all of those pictures lining the Pentagon’s walls depicting of out-of-proportion SR-71 Blackbirds streaking through wispy American eagle-shaped clouds, or the smudged-watercolor faces of hero aviators superimposed over American flags, contrails over rainbows, and harrowing 20th century dogfights in space ...

Photo of by Kevin Baron, Foreign Policy
Photo of by Kevin Baron, Foreign Policy
Photo of by Kevin Baron, Foreign Policy

There’s a special place in the E-Ring’s heart for awesomely bad Air Force art -- all of those pictures lining the Pentagon’s walls depicting of out-of-proportion SR-71 Blackbirds streaking through wispy American eagle-shaped clouds, or the smudged-watercolor faces of hero aviators superimposed over American flags, contrails over rainbows, and harrowing 20th century dogfights in space that never really happened.
 
Among them, it turns out, hang the works of Chuck Hagel’s brother.
 
Michael Hagel is a professional illustrator. The brother of the presumed next secretary of defense once called himself “the poor man’s Normal Rockwell.” And who are we to argue? Here’s a link to a few of his illustrations.
 
But it’s his Air Force art that we love. According to Pentagon spokesman Carl Woog, Hagel has painted five pieces that hang inside the Pentagon, including perhaps his most famous, entitled "Simpson Harbor" http://www.sierra-art.com/product.php?productid=246, as well as "Playmate 13 to the Rescue," "The Bats of Sioux  City," "A Heritage That Keeps on Growing," and "The Growth of Man's Wings (Wright Brothers)" (pictured above.)
 
The Wright Brothers, as you may imagine, are a popular subject in Air Force art.  If you have the proper building access, you can see Hagel’s illustration of Orville and Wilbur, their heads forever linked by a rainbow over a lunar lander that is rocketing between them and over the Wright flyer, emerging from a line of geese flying into the sunset. Or is it sunrise?
 
It’s in the E-ring, on the 4th floor between corridors 9 and 10. Look on the inner wall between the office of the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Installations, Environment, and Logistics and the office of the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Financial Management and Comptroller. Obviously.
 
If you miss it, it’s opposite the large landscape painting of a ring of B-52s flying among the stars, in space, encircling planet earth.  Yes, they’re in space.
 
"The Air Force has within its art collection 10 paintings that Michael
Hagel, donated between 1979 and 1991 from his private collection,” Woog told the E-Ring.  “Subjects include the history of aviation, World War II air battles, fighters, cargo planes, and bombers.”
 
Hagel’s works also are found at Wright-Patterson (titles are “F-16” and “JN4 Jenny”), Hickam (Memories of a B-25”), Scott (Rainy Day at Kelly C-5), and Robins Air Force Bases (Old Reliable).
 
More Hagel prints are available through the museum gift shop including Surrender Flight and “Entering Tokyo Bay.”
 

There’s a special place in the E-Ring’s heart for awesomely bad Air Force art — all of those pictures lining the Pentagon’s walls depicting of out-of-proportion SR-71 Blackbirds streaking through wispy American eagle-shaped clouds, or the smudged-watercolor faces of hero aviators superimposed over American flags, contrails over rainbows, and harrowing 20th century dogfights in space that never really happened.
 
Among them, it turns out, hang the works of Chuck Hagel’s brother.
 
Michael Hagel is a professional illustrator. The brother of the presumed next secretary of defense once called himself “the poor man’s Normal Rockwell.” And who are we to argue? Here’s a link to a few of his illustrations.
 
But it’s his Air Force art that we love. According to Pentagon spokesman Carl Woog, Hagel has painted five pieces that hang inside the Pentagon, including perhaps his most famous, entitled "Simpson Harbor" http://www.sierra-art.com/product.php?productid=246, as well as "Playmate 13 to the Rescue," "The Bats of Sioux  City," "A Heritage That Keeps on Growing," and "The Growth of Man’s Wings (Wright Brothers)" (pictured above.)
 
The Wright Brothers, as you may imagine, are a popular subject in Air Force art.  If you have the proper building access, you can see Hagel’s illustration of Orville and Wilbur, their heads forever linked by a rainbow over a lunar lander that is rocketing between them and over the Wright flyer, emerging from a line of geese flying into the sunset. Or is it sunrise?
 
It’s in the E-ring, on the 4th floor between corridors 9 and 10. Look on the inner wall between the office of the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Installations, Environment, and Logistics and the office of the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Financial Management and Comptroller. Obviously.
 
If you miss it, it’s opposite the large landscape painting of a ring of B-52s flying among the stars, in space, encircling planet earth.  Yes, they’re in space.
 
"The Air Force has within its art collection 10 paintings that Michael
Hagel, donated between 1979 and 1991 from his private collection,” Woog told the E-Ring.  “Subjects include the history of aviation, World War II air battles, fighters, cargo planes, and bombers.”
 
Hagel’s works also are found at Wright-Patterson (titles are “F-16” and “JN4 Jenny”), Hickam (Memories of a B-25”), Scott (Rainy Day at Kelly C-5), and Robins Air Force Bases (Old Reliable).
 
More Hagel prints are available through the museum gift shop including Surrender Flight and “Entering Tokyo Bay.”
 

Kevin Baron is a national security reporter for Foreign Policy, covering defense and military issues in Washington. He is also vice president of the Pentagon Press Association. Baron previously was a national security staff writer for National Journal, covering the "business of war." Prior to that, Baron worked in the resident daily Pentagon press corps as a reporter/photographer for Stars and Stripes. For three years with Stripes, Baron covered the building and traveled overseas extensively with the secretary of defense and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, covering official visits to Afghanistan and Iraq, the Middle East and Europe, China, Japan and South Korea, in more than a dozen countries. From 2004 to 2009, Baron was the Boston Globe Washington bureau's investigative projects reporter, covering defense, international affairs, lobbying and other issues. Before that, he muckraked at the Center for Public Integrity. Baron has reported on assignment from Asia, Africa, Australia, Europe, the Middle East and the South Pacific. He was won two Polk Awards, among other honors. He has a B.A. in international studies from the University of Richmond and M.A. in media and public affairs from George Washington University. Originally from Orlando, Fla., Baron has lived in the Washington area since 1998 and currently resides in Northern Virginia with his wife, three sons, and the family dog, The Edge. Twitter: @FPBaron

More from Foreign Policy

An illustration shows George Kennan, the father of Cold War containment strategy.
An illustration shows George Kennan, the father of Cold War containment strategy.

Is Cold War Inevitable?

A new biography of George Kennan, the father of containment, raises questions about whether the old Cold War—and the emerging one with China—could have been avoided.

U.S. President Joe Biden speaks on the DISCLOSE Act.
U.S. President Joe Biden speaks on the DISCLOSE Act.

So You Want to Buy an Ambassadorship

The United States is the only Western government that routinely rewards mega-donors with top diplomatic posts.

Chinese President Xi jinping  toasts the guests during a banquet marking the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China on September 30, 2019 in Beijing, China.
Chinese President Xi jinping toasts the guests during a banquet marking the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China on September 30, 2019 in Beijing, China.

Can China Pull Off Its Charm Offensive?

Why Beijing’s foreign-policy reset will—or won’t—work out.

Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar chairs a meeting in Ankara, Turkey on Nov. 21, 2022.
Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar chairs a meeting in Ankara, Turkey on Nov. 21, 2022.

Turkey’s Problem Isn’t Sweden. It’s the United States.

Erdogan has focused on Stockholm’s stance toward Kurdish exile groups, but Ankara’s real demand is the end of U.S. support for Kurds in Syria.