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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Once, in the long corridors of the Pentagon, there hung a portrait of a sailor as a young man, sharing the same hallowed walls as pictures of storied generals, such as George S. Patton and Dwight D. Eisenhower.

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

The young man's name, according to its plaque: Ensign Chuck Hord, United States Naval Academy, circa 1898, lost at sea, 1908.

LIEUTENANT COLONEL BROOK BANGSBOLL: It was a lot more interesting saying lost at sea than, you know, whatever.

CORNISH: Well, whatever is more like it. That's Lieutenant Colonel Brook Bangsboll of Canada, who used to work in the Pentagon's liaison office. He covertly hung the portrait in the hallway early one morning last July.

BLOCK: We read about it today in The Wall Street Journal. The portrait is not a painting. It's actually just a textured photograph. And it was taken after the sailor graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1982.

CORNISH: That explains the subject's anachronistic coif. Hello, 1980s.

BANGSBOLL: He obviously does have quite poofy, blown-dried hair, which kind of made it fun.

BLOCK: And actually the sailor's name isn't even Chuck. It's Tuck. That's a nickname. More formally, he is Captain Eldridge Hord III.

CORNISH: And he wasn't lost at sea. He lives in landlocked Burke, Virginia.

BLOCK: So why was his portrait on the wall at the Pentagon? Turns out, the picture had become a sort of joke among his friends. And when he retired a couple of years ago, he left it with his officemates, where it sat and collected dust.

CORNISH: Until Lieutenant Colonel Bangsboll had an idea.

BANGSBOLL: I said, you know, it shouldn't be stuck in this small office here in the bowels of the Pentagon. It should be somewhere more prominent. So that's what kind of led us to the plan to actually put it up in a more conspicuous place.

(SOUNDBITE OF "MISSION IMPOSSIBLE" THEME)

BANGSBOLL: To keep it somewhat secretive, it was referred to as The Project.

(SOUNDBITE OF "MISSION IMPOSSIBLE" THEME)

BLOCK: Well, the project was successful for about seven months. It hung on a Pentagon wall until The Wall Street Journal inquired.

CORNISH: Now it leans against a cubicle wall in the office where Captain Hord once worked. He never liked the photograph. But his friend, Lieutenant Colonel Bangsboll, says the prank was worth it.

BANGSBOLL: It's gone exactly the way I think myself and my fellow colleagues wanted it to go. We wanted it to be something that was bigger than life and that had a history of its own.

BLOCK: And now it does.

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