Wednesday, December 02, 2020

Building the Pentagon

 The Pentagon

     In the 1930s the War Department was scattered throughout dozens of buildings in Virginia, Maryland and the District.   In May 1941, the Secretary of War told the President that the Department needed a central location.  Congress authorized a new headquarters for the War Department and plans were drawn up.  Arlington Farms, between Arlington National Cemetery and Memorial Bridge was selected as the site.  The building was designed to conform to the dimensions and terrain of the site.  In short, it was designed to be a pentagon to fit the space.

     When presented with the plan, President Roosevelt liked the design but hated the site, which would have impaired the view of Washington from Arlington National Cemetery. Consequently the design remained, but a new site was found.  Ground was broken on September 11, 1941, less than two months prior to America’s entry into World War II.  The building was officially dedicated and ready for occupancy on January 15, 1943. Design and construction of such a building would normally have taken four years

     Minimizing the use of steel because of the exigencies of World War II, the Pentagon was built as a reinforced concrete structure, using 680,000 tons of sand, dredged from the Potomac River.  Army engineers avoided using critical war materials whenever possible. They substituted concrete ramps and stairways for passenger elevators and used concrete drainpipes rather than metal pipes. They eliminated bronze doors, copper ornaments, and metal toilet partitions, and avoided any unnecessary ornamentation.

     The Pentagon is the world's largest office building by floor area, housing some twenty six thousand military and civilian employees.  The building has five sides, five floors above ground, and five ring corridors per floor with a total of 17.5 miles of corridors.  It covers twenty six acres.

     Exactly sixty years after the groundbreaking ceremony, the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks occurred.  Hijacked American Airlines Flight 77 crashed into the west side of the Pentagon, killing almost two hundred people both on-board the plane and inside the building. The plane penetrated three of the Pentagon’s five rings.  The task of rebuilding the damaged section of the Pentagon was given the name, the "Phoenix Project", and set a goal of having the outermost offices in the damaged section occupied again by September 11, 2002. The first Pentagon tenants whose offices had been damaged during the attack began moving back in on August 15, 2002, nearly a month ahead of schedule.

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