Mostly Obscure History

of the

MI Branch Insignia

The Official Insignia of the U.S. Army Military Intelligence Branch


On a dagger point up, a heralding sun all in gold charged with an oriental blue rose.

(Designed by Stafford Potter, Lieutenant Colonel, United States Marine Corps (retired), while chief of Creative Heraldry Division. Accepted in 1962)


So reads the official Heraldry Division description of the well known MI Branch Insignia...the one all in this room either wear or secretly long to wear. Infantry guys would be content to accept so terse a description without further thought, preferring to spend their idle time in pursuit of attractive female members of the species.

However, Military Intelligence soldiers are born analysts. And, since they normally attract all the attention they could ever want from members of the opposite sex, they therefore have both the time and inclination to ponder the deeper mysteries of the universe. Such a mystery is the origin of our branch insignia. Let us therefore explore the history behind this treasured icon.


The sun, composed of four straight and four wavy alternating rays, is the symbol of Helios.

In Greek mythology, Helios was the god of the Sun who drove his horse-drawn chariot across the sky each day and was therefore reputed to be able to see and hear everything that occurred in the land. But the legend has another aspect. Helios was forgotten when ZEUS divided the earth among the gods. Disgruntled, he petitioned Zeus and received as his domain the island of RHODES. Most appropriate, as America is often referred to as the Nation of Roads.

However, another theory indicates, that the original specifications were misunderstood. Instead of including the emblem of the mythical Pagan god Helios, they really meant a HELIOSTAT, a device consisting of one or two rotating plane mirrors that feed light from an astronomical object into a fixed telescope. The instrument is most commonly used for directing sunlight into a solar telescope during a particular observation, and far better represents the obscure but highly exotic technological equipment within MI units.


The four straight rays of the Sun symbol also allude to the four points of the compass and the worldwide mission of the Military Intelligence Branch.

The introduction of Solar Radiation into the insignia supports the HELIOSTAT theory. It is also quite appropriate since this radiation is the essential source of energy and life on Earth, just as Good Intelligence is the essential source of energy and life during combat operations. It is a striking analogy in other ways.

The sun is 150 million kilometers from the earth, about as far away as National Intelligence when you really need it.

Because of this distance, only about one two-millionth of all the energy emitted by the Sun is received by the Earth. Ditto with national intelligence.

When solar radiation enters the Earth's atmosphere, the most powerful stuff is mostly absorbed in the upper levels. Ditto with national intelligence.

Humans moving into the upper echelons of the atmosphere risk serious injury unless wearing an extremely thick, artificial skin. Ditto with national intelligence jobs.


The partially concealed, unsheathed dagger alludes to the aggressive and protective requirements and the element of physical danger inherent in the Intelligence mission.

Careful research indicates that it was only through pure good fortune that the most appropriate metaphor of a Dagger became part of our insignia. Luckily an unknown clerk’s carelessness with chewing tobacco disfigured the second letter in this particular word, and it was erroneously read as "DAGGER". Historians speculating on the identity of the original word generally accept one of two theories:

Theory 1. That the word was "DOGGER", referring to Dogger Bank, a shoal about 260 km long and 100 km wide in the middle latitudes of the North Sea, between Great Britain and Denmark. Its shallow waters are noted for their turbulence and for the great numbers of cod, haddock, herring, and mackerel, which were the primary ingredient to the Fish & Chips favored by the cryptanalysts working at a secluded manor house in Bletchley Park, England, and who later broke the German Enigma Code. As their ULTRA intelligence was crucial to the war against Germany, many feel this would justify inclusion in the MI Insignia.

Theory 2. That the word was "DIGGER", referring to the Digger Indians. Also known as the Paiute (PY-OOT’) these are North American Indians who occupied portions of Oregon, Idaho, Nevada, California, parts of Utah, and, notably, Arizona. They subsisted principally by digging for roots and planted maize and squash in irrigated fields. Most significantly, they made a variety of twined and coiled baskets adapted for seed collecting, processing, and storage. Since MI Branch does that with Intelligence, and since the Home of MI is in Arizona, this theory was considered the strongest for many years....until 1989, when new leadership at the intelligence school made it clear that Intelligence should be DISSEMINATED, not STORED. However, a few within the branch still haven’t gotten the word and Theory 2 remains viable, if less popular.


The placement of the Sun symbol beneath the oriental blue rose (an ancient symbol of secrecy) refers to the operations and activities of the Branch being conducted in secret and under circumstances forbidding disclosure.

This entire concept is jeopardized by the well known fact that the American Rose Society does not recognize the existence of a naturally occurring Oriental Blue Rose. Red, Pink, Lavender, Purple, Yellow, Apricot, Orange-Red, Orange to Golden, White to Cream and Multicolor are the accepted colors. Obviously the designers had something else in mind. There are several theories...

Theory 1 - Rose of Jericho, the common name for Anastatica hierochuntica. This is a small rounded herb in the mustard family which is native to deserts from Arabia to Syria and Algeria. As you may recall, after fruiting, the plant sheds its leaves and rolls up into a dry ball, which is blown across the desert. When it reaches a moist area, the seeds are dropped and immediately start to germinate. This is quite similar to the actions of exhausted MI Branch soldiers who, dried up after a fruitful career, likewise roll up into a ball and blow across the desert to the oasis of Fort Huachuca, hoping to germinate again some day.

Theory 2 - Rosemary, an evergreen shrub of the mint family. Highly valued because the flower clusters are the source of rosemary oil, which is used in cheap perfumes, this plant DOES have blue flower clusters, and has long been a symbol of fidelity and remembrance, true MI virtues.

Theory 3 - The War of the Roses. This was a series of armed clashes between the House of LANCASTER and the House of YORK, rival claimants to the English crown. Some say, erroneously of course, this symbolizes the relationship between G2s and MI Battalion commanders. The true symbology probably lies elsewhere. The war’s name refers to the white rose of York and the red rose of Lancaster--badges supposedly used by the contenders. It is a little known fact that the entire war was instigated by a third party, the House of HOUSE* and its badge of the Blue Rose. Legend has it that this instigation was done to standard, not time, and that the entire Household secretly booked passage shortly thereafter on the Mayflower. This is the favored theory, in that it explains the color scheme of the British Flag. It is also worth noting that the name "House" does NOT appear on the manifest of the Mayflower, confirming a clandestine departure.


The color gold signifies successful accomplishment.

This is most likely the correct interpretation because of the universal association of successful accomplishment with wealth, and the association of wealth with the possession of much gold. It is also the origin of such phrases as

His word is Golden

Good as Gold

And, of course, the most appropriate:

Silence is Golden.


So on that note we conclude the Mostly Obscure History of the MI Branch Insignia.


* First presented (in a highly edited form) at the Military Intelligence Ball, Fort Riley, Kansas on 13 May, 1995. The commanding General at the time was Major General Randolph House. Contrary to some reports, this presentation was in no way responsible for the author's foray into private enterprise.

Copyright The S2 Company, 2002, All Rights Reserved. Unlimited personal use and free distribution encouraged