You might ask how someone could be so nerdy as to want a calendar of the CIA's best operations, but let's face it: Spies are cool. The American CIA has some of the best stories of the coolest secret operations ever — they just can't talk about them.
Fortunately, the CIA headquarters in Virginia has an amazing series of paintings depicting the astonishing stories of the Agency's operations. Unfortunately, you have to be able to get into the CIA's headquarters in Virginia to see it.
"Argo: Rescue of the Canadian Six" by Deborah D.
"It dawned on me that the public will never see the dramatic artwork in person," says publisher Erik Kirzinger. "As someone who lost a relative KIA as a contract pilot for the CIA, it was important to me that these stories will be told via historically accurate paintings by the best military and aviation artists in the world."
"An Air Combat First" By Keith Woodcock
Each painting was commissioned directly from the artist and is unique to the walls of CIA headquarters. Private citizens and corporations commissioned the early artwork and donated the completed painting to the CIA for permanent display. For the first dozen and a half paintings, there was no cost to the taxpayers, making this collection unique among all other government art collections.
Kirzinger resolved to create this special series of calendars, further documenting the amazing operations from the CIA's long history.
Secret Ops of the CIA calendars aren't just calendars, they're more like a mixture of history books and coffee-table readers. There's a clear-cut, beautiful effort to preserve history here.
"I hate using the word 'calendar' because our layout is more like a small, coffee-table book," Kirzinger says. "In fact, many of our customers don't hang their calendars and instead display them on their coffee tables."
Pictures in the 2018 calendar depict outstanding, real-world CIA missions that might just blow your mind. The paintings are done by world-famous military and aviation artists and are fueled by painstaking research. In some cases, the artist is an active CIA employee.
"Piercing the Curtain" by Dru Blair. Hervey Stockman pilots his U-2 reconnaissance plane more than a dozen miles above Leningrad during the first CIA high-altitude penetration of USSR airspace on July 4th, 1956. Several Soviet attempts at fighter interception along the U-2's route failed.
"These calendars are like gems," says Allison Bishop, the book buyer for the International Spy Museum. "I love them because they're not mass-produced. And the CIA is a group out there putting their lives on the line for the country and they aren't always recognized positively for it."
There are two different calendars: aviation operations for you A-12 enthusiasts and tradecraft ops for you cloak-and-dagger fans. The calendars are reviewed by the CIA's Public Review Board, who gave the information a thumbs up. The historians at the Center for the Study of Intelligence also gave their approval. Most importantly, the stories are all declassified.