!! History Commons Alert, Exciting News
Pentagon was a participant or observer in the following events:
Brehon B. Somervell. [Source: Public domain]Construction begins on the Pentagon. The structure was conceived at the request of Brigadier General Brehon B. Somervell in 1941, in order to provide a temporary solution to the growing US War Department’s critical shortage of space. The groundbreaking ceremony takes place on September 11, 1941. [Fine, 1972, pp. 265-266, 348-351, 431-432, 434; PR Web, 1/16/2018] Exactly 60 years later, Flight 77 will crash into the Pentagon as part of the 9/11 attacks (see 9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001).
Dietrich Snell. [Source: Morris Mac Matzen/ Associated Press]Abdul Hakim Murad, a conspirator in the 1995 Bojinka plot with Ramzi Yousef, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM), and others, was convicted in 1996 of his role in the Bojinka plot (see January 6, 1995). He is about to be sentenced for that crime. He offers to cooperate with federal prosecutors in return for a reduction in his sentence, but prosecutors turn down his offer. Dietrich Snell, the prosecutor who convicted Murad, will say after 9/11 that he does not remember any such offer. But court papers and others familiar with the case later confirm that Murad does offer to cooperate at this time. Snell will claim he only remembers hearing that Murad had described an intention to hijack a plane and fly it into CIA headquarters. However, in 1995 Murad had confessed to Philippine investigators that this would have been only one part of a larger plot to crash a number of airplanes into prominent US buildings, including the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, a plot that KSM later will adjust and turn into the 9/11 plot (see January 20, 1995)
(see February-Early May 1995). While Philippine investigators claim this information was passed on to US intelligence, it’s not clear just which US officials may have learned this information and what they did with it, if anything. [New York Daily News, 9/25/2001] Murad is sentenced in May 1998 and given life in prison plus 60 years. [Albany Times-Union, 9/22/2002] After 9/11, Snell will go on to become Senior Counsel and a team leader for the 9/11 Commission. Author Peter Lance later calls Snell “one of the fixers, hired early on to sanitize the Commission’s final report.” Lance says Snell ignored evidence presented to the Commission that shows direct ties between the Bojinka plot and 9/11, and in so doing covers up Snell’s own role in the failure to make more use of evidence learned from Murad and other Bojinka plotters. [FrontPage Magazine, 1/27/2005]
Three terrorism specialists present an analysis of security threats to FAA security officials. Their analysis describes two scenarios involving planes as weapons. In one, hijacked planes are flown into nuclear power plants along the East Coast. In the other, hijackers commandeer Federal Express cargo planes and simultaneously crash them into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, the White House, the Capitol, the Sears Tower, and the Golden Gate Bridge. Stephen Gale, one of the specialists, later says the analysis is based in part upon attempts that had been made in 1994 to crash airplanes in the Eiffel Tower and the White House (see September 11, 1994)
(see December 24, 1994). Gale later recalls that one FAA official responds to the presentation by saying, “You can’t protect yourself from meteorites.”
[Washington Post, 5/19/2002]
’The Sociology and Psychology of Terrorism.’ [Source: Federal Research Division, Library of Congress]A report prepared for US intelligence titled the “Sociology and Psychology of Terrorism: Who Becomes a Terrorist and Why” is completed. It states: “Al-Qaeda’s expected retaliation for the US cruise missile attack… could take several forms of terrorist attack in the nation’s capital. Al-Qaeda could detonate a Chechen-type building-buster bomb at a federal building. Suicide bomber(s) belonging to al-Qaeda’s Martyrdom Battalion could crash-land an aircraft packed with high explosives (C-4 and Semtex) into the Pentagon, the headquarters of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), or the White House. Whatever form an attack may take, bin Laden will most likely retaliate in a spectacular way.” [Associated Press, 4/18/2002] The report discusses the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and includes a picture of the WTC towers. [Hudson, 1999, pp. 4 ; Los Angeles Times, 5/17/2002] It was prepared by the Federal Research Division, an arm of the Library of Congress, for the National Intelligence Council, which advises the president and US intelligence on emerging threats. Its author is Rex A. Hudson. [Associated Press, 4/18/2002; Hudson, 2005] The Bush administration will later claim to have never heard of this report until May 2002, despite the fact that it had been publicly posted on the Internet since 1999, and “widely shared within the government,” according to the New York Times. [CNN, 5/18/2002; New York Times, 5/18/2002]
A screenshot of Site Profiler. [Source: Digital Sandbox, Inc.]A software system commissioned by the Department of Defense determines that the Pentagon is vulnerable to a terrorist attack. The software, called Site Profiler, is being developed by Digital Sandbox, a company based in Reston, Virginia. [Guardian, 3/20/2003; Devlin, 2008, pp. 150; Pourret, Naim, and Marcot, 2008, pp. 253] Work on it began in response to the bombings of the Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia in June 1996 (see June 25, 1996), and the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in August 1998 (see 10:35-10:39 a.m., August 7, 1998). [Digital Sandbox, Inc., 2000 ; Jha and Keele, 2012, pp. 40 ] Site Profiler is designed to provide site commanders with tools to assess terrorism risks, so they can develop appropriate countermeasures. It works by combining different data sources so as to draw inferences about the risk of terrorism. At some unspecified time in 2000, its developers hold sessions for expert review of the software. In these sessions, various experts suggest hypothetical threat scenarios. These scenarios are analyzed and the results are then presented to the experts. Due to time constraints, the initial evaluation focuses on scenarios the experts consider exceptional. One scenario that is evaluated involves a terrorist attack on the Pentagon using a mortar shot from the Potomac River. This scenario, the software’s developers will later write, is “intended to represent an exceptional case to stretch the limits of the model, rather than as a realistic scenario that might reasonably be expected to occur.” All the same, the results of the evaluation indicate “that the Pentagon [is] vulnerable to terrorist attack.” “In other words,” popular science writer Keith Devlin will comment, “the Pentagon was a prime terrorist target.” Devlin will write: “As we learned to our horror just a few months later, the Pentagon was one of the sites hit in the September 11 attack on the United States. Unfortunately, though understandably, neither the military command nor the US government had taken seriously Site Profiler’s prediction that the Pentagon was in danger from a terrorist attack.” Site Profiler will be delivered to all US military installations around the world in May 2001. [Devlin, 2008, pp. 150-151; Pourret, Naim, and Marcot, 2008, pp. 253]
Logo of the Joint Forces Intelligence Command. [Source: Joint Forces Intelligence Command]The Joint Forces Intelligence Command (JFIC) conducts a briefing, based on its analysis of the terrorist threat, in which the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon are identified as the buildings in the United States most likely to be attacked, and the possibility of one of the Twin Towers collapsing is mentioned. This is according to a counterterrorism and counterintelligence analyst for the Naval Criminal Investigative Service who is assigned to the JFIC from April 1998 to June 2001. [Defense Intelligence Agency, 5/8/2006 ] This individual, whose name is unstated, will later be referred to by the code name “Iron Man.” [US Department of Defense, 9/23/2008, pp. 5 ]
Unit Produces Reports on the Most Likely Terrorist Targets - The briefing was prepared by the JFIC’s Asymmetric Threat Division (DO5), which is responsible for reporting on “asymmetric threats,” especially terrorism. Between mid-1998 and mid-2001, DO5 carries out a wide range of original analysis. Based on this analysis, according to Iron Man, it creates numerous original reports that identify the probable and possible movements and locations of al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and Mullah Omar, the leader of the Taliban in Afghanistan. It also creates reports on the most likely targets for domestic and international terrorists, both within and outside the US.
WTC and the Pentagon Are Named as Likely Targets - The first of its reports are prepared in the summer of 2000 and are briefed to numerous US Joint Forces Command (JFCOM) staffers. The first version of the briefing is titled “The WMD [weapon of mass destruction] Threat to the US” and is apparently produced in late July 2000. (The “information cut-off date” for the briefing is July 16, 2000.) The briefing slides emphasize “that New York City [is] the most difficult consequence management problem” and recommend using New York as “the model for planning/exercises,” according to Iron Man. The oral briefing is more specific, indicating that the Twin Towers are “the most likely buildings to be attacked in the US, followed closely by the Pentagon.” The person who delivers the briefing indicates that the “worst-case scenario” would involve one of the Twin Towers collapsing onto the other.
Possibility of a Plane Hitting the WTC Is Discussed - Iron Man will recall that the possibility of a plane striking the Twin Towers may have been discussed in the briefing. “[I]t was certainly discussed in the red cell analysis leading up to the briefing,” he will write. During that analysis, the acting deputy director of DO5 proposed that the Twin Towers might be struck by a jet aircraft. In the discussion that follows the oral briefing, the possibility of contacting WTC security, engineering, and architectural personnel is suggested. The idea is not explored further, though, “because of a command climate discouraging contact with the civilian community,” according to Iron Man. At the end of the briefing, JFCOM’s operations directorate instructs that the “national military terrorism exercise” for 2002 should be based on a “New York worse-case scenario.” The military is unable to use this scenario for its 2001 exercise because it is already financially committed to conducting an exercise involving a cruise ship that year.
Subsequent Briefing Names the WTC and the Pentagon as Likely Targets - The slides used in the July briefing will be revised for a briefing apparently delivered in late September this year, on “The Chemical and Biological Threat to the US.” This briefing will include a more detailed slide that lists likely targets in the US. The cities most likely to be attacked, according to the slide, are New York, Washington, DC, and Los Angeles. The target at the top of those listed for New York is the Wall Street district and for Washington, the Pentagon. The oral briefing will, as in the July briefing, specify that the WTC and the Pentagon are the most likely terrorist targets, according to Iron Man. [Defense Intelligence Agency, 5/8/2006 ] However, a September 2008 report by the Department of Defense’s inspector general will apparently contradict Iron Man’s allegations. “Evidence indicated that the JFIC did not have knowledge regarding imminent domestic targets prior to 9/11,” it will state. [US Department of Defense, 9/23/2008, pp. 5 ]
Unit's Work Is Well Known - The JFIC was established in 1999, evolving from the Atlantic Intelligence Command. Its mission is to “provide general and direct intelligence support to the USJFCOM, the USJFCOM staff directorates, subordinate unified commands, joint task forces, service component commands, and subordinate joint forces commands tasked with executing the USJFCOM geographic or functional missions.” [US Department of Defense, 9/23/2008, pp. i, 3 ] The JFIC created the Asymmetric Threat Division, DO5, in 1999, in order to ensure the quality of its analysis of international terrorist threats against the US. DO5 provides current intelligence briefings and produces the Worldwide Terrorist Threat Summary in support of the USJFCOM intelligence staff. [Defense Intelligence Agency, 5/8/2006 ; US Department of Defense, 9/23/2008, pp. 3 ] DO5’s work is very well known within the JFIC, according to Iron Man. Furthermore, Iron Man will write, DO5 is “widely known in the intelligence community to be conducting all-source intelligence analysis” of al-Qaeda. [Defense Intelligence Agency, 5/8/2006 ] However, the JFIC’s commanding officer will tell the Department of Defense’s inspector general that “the tracking of Osama bin Laden did not fall within JFIC’s mission.” [US Department of Defense, 9/23/2008, pp. 6 ]
A plane crash is simulated inside the cardboard courtyard of a model Pentagon. [Source: Dennis Ryan, MDW News Service]Pentagon and Arlington County emergency responders assemble in the Office of the Secretary of Defense conference room in the Pentagon for a mass casualty exercise (“MASCAL”). The exercise involves several mock-scenarios. One is of a commercial airliner crashing into the Pentagon and killing 341 people, while two others are a terrorist attack at the Pentagon’s subway stop and a construction accident. The plane crash exercise is conducted using a large-scale model of the Pentagon with a model airplane literally on fire in the central courtyard of the building. An Army medic who participates calls it “a real good scenario and one that could happen easily,” while a fire chief notes: “You have to plan for this. Look at all the air traffic around here.” [MDW News Service, 11/3/2000; Mirror, 5/24/2002; United Press International, 4/22/2004; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 314]
Hani Hanjour, from a 2000 US visa application.
[Source: 9/11 Commission]In January 2001, the Arizona flight school JetTech alerts the FAA about hijacker Hani Hanjour. No one at the school suspects Hanjour of terrorist intent, but they tell the FAA he lacks both the English and flying skills necessary for the commercial pilot’s license he has already obtained. For instance, he had taken classes at the University of Arizona but failed his English classes with a 0.26 grade point average. A JetTech flight school manager “couldn’t believe he had a commercial license of any kind with the skills that he had.” A former employee says, “I’m still to this day amazed that he could have flown into the Pentagon. He could not fly at all.” They also note he is an exceptionally poor student who does not seem to care about passing his courses. [New York Times, 5/4/2002; CBS News, 5/10/2002] An FAA official named John Anthony actually sits next to Hanjour in class and observes his skills. He suggests the use of a translator to help Hanjour pass, but the flight school points out that goes “against the rules that require a pilot to be able to write and speak English fluently before they even get their license.” [Associated Press, 5/10/2002] The FAA verifies that Hanjour’s 1999 pilot’s license is legitimate (see April 15, 1999), but takes no other action. However, his license should have been rejected because it had already expired in late 1999 when he failed to take a manadatory medical test. [Associated Press, 9/15/2001; CBS News, 5/10/2002] An Arizona FAA inspector later says, “There should have been a stop right then and there.” He will claim that federal law would have required Hanjour to be re-examined. [Associated Press, 6/13/2002] In February, Hanjour begins advanced simulator training, “a far more complicated task than he had faced in earning a commercial license.” [New York Times, 6/19/2002] The flight school again alerts the FAA about this and gives a total of five alerts about Hanjour, but no further action on him is taken. The FBI is not told about Hanjour. [CBS News, 5/10/2002] Ironically, in July 2001, Arizona FBI agent Ken Williams will recommend in a memo that the FBI liaison with local flight schools and keep track of suspicious activity by Middle Eastern students (see July 10, 2001).
The Joint Chiefs of Staff holds a large, worldwide exercise called Positive Force, which focuses on the Defense Department’s ability to conduct large-scale military operations and coordinate these operations. [Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, 8/14/2000 ] The 2001 Positive Force exercise is a “continuity of operations exercise,” meaning it deals with government contingency plans to keep working in the event of an attack on the US. [Guardian, 4/15/2004] Over a dozen government agencies, including NORAD, are invited to participate. The exercise prepares them for various scenarios, including non-combatant evacuation operations, cyber attacks, rail disruption, and power outages. It includes “a series of simulated attacks against the maritime, surface and aviation sectors” of America’s national security transportation infrastructure. [US Congress, 5/8/2001; Provider Update, 10/2001; GlobalSecurity (.org), 6/9/2002] Apparently, one of the scenarios that was considered for this exercise involved “a terrorist group hijack[ing] a commercial airliner and fly[ing] it into the Pentagon.” But the proposed scenario, thought up by a group of Special Operations personnel trained to think like terrorists, was rejected. Joint Staff action officers and White House officials said the additional scenario is either “too unrealistic” or too disconnected to the original intent of the exercise. [Air Force Times, 4/13/2004; Boston Herald, 4/14/2004; Washington Post, 4/14/2004; New York Times, 4/14/2004; Guardian, 4/15/2004]
The Army’s DiLorenzo Tricare Health Clinic (DTHC) and the Air Force Flight Medicine Clinic, both housed within the Pentagon, hold a tabletop exercise along with Arlington County Emergency Medical Services. The scenario practiced for is of an airplane crashing into the Pentagon’s west side—the same side as is impacted in the attack on 9/11. [US Department of Health and Human Services, 7/2002, pp. B17 ; Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 23 and 107] Reportedly, the purpose of the exercise is “to fine-tune their emergency preparedness.” [US Medicine, 10/2001] According to US Medicine newspaper, the plane in the scenario is a hijacked Boeing 757. [US Medicine, 1/2002] (Flight 77, that targets the Pentagon on 9/11, is a 757. [New York Times, 9/13/2001] ) But a federally funded report on the response to the Pentagon attack says it is a commuter airplane. [US Department of Health and Human Services, 7/2002, pp. B17 ] The Defense Department’s own book about the Pentagon attack says the plane in this exercise is a twin-engine aircraft (757s, like Flight 77, are twin-engine aircraft), but that it crashes into the Pentagon by accident in the scenario. [New York Times, 9/13/2001; Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 107] The idea of a plane hitting the Pentagon was suggested by Colonel John Baxter, the commander of the Air Force Flight Medicine Clinic, who has often been reminded that the Pentagon is on the flight path of nearby Reagan National Airport. The scenario was approved by Air Force Surgeon General Paul Carlton Jr. [Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 107 and 109] Baxter and Col. James Geiling, the commander of the DTHC, later say this exercise prepares them well to respond to the Pentagon attack on 9/11. For example, the Air Force Flight Medicine Clinic retools its trauma packs as a result. [US Medicine, 10/2001] And, due to the exercise, staffers of both clinics will wear special blue vests on 9/11 labeled “physician,” “nurse,” or “EMT,” to allow for easy identification. [Uniformed Services University, 1/2002 ] Paul Carlton will say, “We learned a lot from that exercise and applied those lessons to September 11.” [Murphy, 2002, pp. 222] And Major Lorie Brown, the chief nurse of the DTHC, who leads the exercise, will later recall, “The training made a huge difference” on 9/11. [Nursing Spectrum, 9/24/2001] The two Pentagon clinics routinely hold mass casualty tabletop exercises. The scenario changes for each drill. [Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 107]
Mohamed Atta, Marwan Alshehhi, and an unknown third person are seen in the ground-floor workshops of the architecture department at this time, according to at least two witnesses from the Hamburg university where Atta had studied. They are seen on at least two occasions with a white, three-foot scale model of the Pentagon. Between 60 and 80 slides of the Sears building in Chicago and the WTC are found to be missing from the technical library after 9/11. [Sunday Times (London), 2/3/2002] A Hamburg friend of Atta’s, Margritte Schroeder, will confirm that Atta is in Hamburg around this time, saying later in 2001, “I saw him here in early July and he was as nice as ever.” Other eyewitnesses see Atta and Alshehhi in Hamburg as well. But there is no record of Alshehhi leaving the US around this time, which suggests that he travels on a false passport for this trip. [Miller, Stone, and Mitchell, 2002, pp. 251, 290]
At least six 9/11 hijackers, including all of those who boarded Flight 77, live in Laurel, Maryland, from about this time. They reportedly include Hani Hanjour, Majed Moqed, Khalid Almihdhar, Nawaf Alhazmi, and Salem Alhazmi. Laurel, Maryland, is home to a Muslim imam named Moataz Al-Hallak who teaches at a local Islamic school and has been linked to bin Laden. He has testified three times before a grand jury investigating bin Laden. NSA expert James Bamford later states, “The terrorist cell that eventually took over the airliner that crashed into the Pentagon ended up living, working, planning and developing all their activities in Laurel, Maryland, which happens to be the home of the NSA. So they were actually living alongside NSA employees as they were plotting all these things.” [Washington Post, 9/19/2001; Radio 4 'Today', 6/21/2002]
Entity Tags: Pentagon, Salem Alhazmi, Nawaf Alhazmi, Osama bin Laden, Moataz Al-Hallak, Hani Hanjour, National Security Agency, Majed Moqed, James Bamford, Khalid Almihdhar
Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline
A mass casualty exercise, involving a practice evacuation, is held at the Pentagon. General Lance Lord, the assistant vice chief of staff of the Air Force who is one of the participants in the exercise, will later recall, “[It was] purely a coincidence, the scenario for that exercise included a plane hitting the building.” Lord will also say that on 9/11, “our assembly points were fresh in our minds” thanks to this practice. [Air Force Space Command News Service, 9/5/2002]
Almost half of the Pentagon has to be evacuated because of a small but smoky fire there. [CNN, 8/2/2001] The three-alarm fire apparently starts early in the afternoon, in electrical wires near the loading dock behind a food service area, between two main corridors. [United Press International, 8/2/2001] It starts on the building’s first floor but extends up to the second floor. [CNN, 8/2/2001] It spreads into the return air duct system, causing smoke to disperse through a fifth of the building. Seventeen vehicles respond to it, and it is put out with extinguishers and a minimal amount of water. About 8,000 Pentagon workers are forced to evacuate from the building, but no one suffers any injury. [United Press International, 8/2/2001] Reportedly, the fire provides “the Pentagon’s most relevant experience in dealing with the Flight 77 attack” on 9/11. It is one of the first real tests for the Pentagon’s new Building Operations Command Center (BOCC), which opened two months earlier, on June 4. [Microsoft Executive Circle, 2006] Steve Carter, the assistant building manager, will later recall that due to this fire, when the Pentagon is hit on 9/11 the emergency drill is “fresh in everybody’s mind.” Consequently his building maintenance and operations workers are able to “immediately [start] those same steps again.” [Washington Post, 9/11/2006] And in response to this fire, Paul Haselbush, the director of real estate and facilities at the Pentagon, will direct his staff to update their emergency plans. As a result, his continuity of operations plan will be fresh in his mind when the attack occurs on 9/11. [Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 143]
The 9/11 Commission will later state that after the now famous “bin Laden Determined to Strike in US” memo is given to President Bush on August 6, 2001 (see August 6, 2001), “We have found no indication of any further discussion before September 11 among the president and his top advisers of the possibility of a threat of an al-Qaeda attack in the United States.” [Newsweek, 4/28/2005] 9/11 Commissioner Bob Kerrey will later state to CNN,“[B]y the way, there’s a credible case that the president’s own negligence prior to 9/11 at least in part contributed to the disaster in the first place.… [I]n the summer of 2001, the government ignored repeated warnings by the CIA, ignored, and didn’t do anything to harden our border security, didn’t do anything to harden airport country, didn’t do anything to engage local law enforcement, didn’t do anything to round up INS and consular offices and say we have to shut this down, and didn’t warn the American people. The famous presidential daily briefing on August 6, we say in the report that the briefing officers believed that there was a considerable sense of urgency and it was current. So there was a case to be made that wasn’t made.… The president says, if I had only known that 19 Islamic men would come into the United States of America and on the morning of 11 September hijack four American aircraft, fly two into the World Trade Center, one into the Pentagon, and one into an unknown Pennsylvania that crashed in Shanksville, I would have moved heaven and earth. That’s what he said. Mr. President, you don’t need to know that. This is an Islamic Jihadist movement that has been organized since the early 1990s, declared war on the United States twice, in ‘96 and ‘98. You knew they were in the United States. You were warned by the CIA. You knew in July they were inside the United States. You were told again by briefing officers in August that it was a dire threat. And what did you do? Nothing, so far as we could see on the 9/11 Commission.” [CNN, 11/8/2004]
Sergeant Matt Rosenberg, an army medic at the Pentagon, is studying “a new medical emergency disaster plan based on the unlikely scenario of an airplane crashing into the place.” [Washington Post, 9/16/2001] The day before, Rosenberg later recalls in an interview with the Office of Medical History, he called the FBI with questions about who would have medical jurisdiction if such an event were to take place. “Believe it or not, the day prior to the incident, I was just on the phone with the FBI, and we were talking ‘so who has command should this happen, who has the medical jurisdiction, who does this, who does that,’ and we talked about it and talked about it, and he helped me out a lot. And then the next day, during the incident, I actually found him. He was out there on the incident that day.” [Office of Medical History, 9/2004, pp. 9]
The September 11, 2001 attacks. From left to right: The World Trade Center, Pentagon, and Flight 93 crash.
[Source: unknown] (click image to enlarge)The 9/11 attack: Four planes are hijacked, two crash into the WTC, one into the Pentagon, and one crashes into the Pennsylvania countryside. Nearly 3,000 people are killed.
Despite two attacks having occurred in New York, the threat level at the Pentagon is not raised. John Jester, the chief of the Defense Protective Service (DPS)—the law enforcement agency that guards the Pentagon—is in his office at the Pentagon. He had been unaware of the first WTC crash and only learned of it when his press officer, Glenn Flood, phoned about it at around 9:00 a.m. and asked him if he would be reacting. Jester switched on the TV in his office just in time to see the second tower hit, at 9:03 a.m. Even though he realizes that it is “obvious this was a terrible attack,” Jester later recalls that at this time, he is “thinking about what else we needed to do based on the attacks in New York, not having in my mind that it would happen here too.” [Murphy, 2002, pp. 243-244] Lieutenant Michael Nesbitt, who runs day-to-day operation in the DPS Communications Center on the first floor of the Pentagon, telephones Jester and asks if he knows about the crashes in New York. Jester instructs Nesbitt to send a message to the building’s Real Estate and Facilities Directorate, reassuring everyone that the Pentagon remains secure. Jester tells him that its Terrorist Force Protection Condition is staying at “Normal,” which means there is no present threat of terrorist activity. (The Terrorist Force Protection Condition—previously known as the Terrorist Threat Condition—ranges from Normal through four higher levels, from Alpha to Delta.) According to the Defense Department’s own book about the Pentagon attack, “No one in DPS received warning of a hijacked aircraft on its way to the Washington area.” Jester apparently will not order the threat level to be raised until shortly before 9:37, when the Pentagon is hit (see (Shortly Before 9:37 a.m.) September 11, 2001); at the time of the attack, the alert level will still be at Normal. [Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 151-152]
Edmund Giambastiani, Jr. [Source: US Department of Defense]Navy Vice Admiral Edmund Giambastiani Jr., who is Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld’s senior military assistant, returned to his office after attending a breakfast meeting hosted by the secretary of defense (see (8:00 a.m.-8:50 a.m.) September 11, 2001). After learning the second WTC tower has been hit, he says, he realizes “it [is] no longer an accident.” Stephen Cambone, who is Rumsfeld’s closest aide, comes to Giambastiani’s office, which is located near to the defense secretary’s office. Reportedly, he is there “to discuss the Pentagon as a potential target and their course of action if it was attacked.” Then, “Minutes later,” the attack on the Pentagon occurs. [American Forces Press Service, 9/8/2006] Cambone is also reported as being at the Pentagon’s Executive Support Center (ESC), located down the hallway from Rumsfeld’s office, some time between when the attacks on the South Tower and the Pentagon occur (see Shortly After 9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Clarke, 2006, pp. 219-220] It is unclear whether he goes to the ESC before meeting with Giambastiani, or afterwards. Despite Cambone’s concern that the Pentagon could be a target, no attempt is made to evacuate the place before it is struck (see Before 9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001), and it does not appear that any alarms are sounded either. [Newsday, 9/23/2001]
The head of the agency that provides security at the Pentagon informs another military employee that the Pentagon is unprotected against an aerial attack. In reaction to the news of the attacks on New York, Army Deputy Administrative Assistant Sandra Riley telephones John Jester, the chief of the Defense Protective Service (DPS)—the law enforcement agency that guards the Pentagon. She asks him, “What do we have in place to protect from an airplane?” He tells her, “Nothing.” According to the Defense Department’s book about the Pentagon attack: “The Pentagon did not have an antiaircraft system on the roof of the building or on the grounds. Even if DPS had received word of an inbound plane, it had no plan to counter a suicide air attack. Had a warning been issued in time, DPS’s only effective response would have been evacuation and dispersal of the building’s occupants.” [Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 152] The Washington Post will similarly claim the Pentagon has “no anti-aircraft guns posted on its roof, nor any radars of its own for tracking local air traffic.” [Washington Post, 9/16/2001] Yet, at the nearby White House, the Secret Service is believed to have a battery of ground-to-air Stinger missiles ready to defend the place. [Daily Telegraph, 9/16/2001]
Based on an analysis of radar data for Flight 77 as it approaches the Pentagon and makes a 330 degree loop (see 9:34 a.m.- 9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001), experts will later say that the plane is being flown so smoothly that “it’s clear there [is] no fight for control going on.” [CBS News, 9/21/2001; Boston Globe, 11/23/2001] The plane gets near the White House during this turn. “Sources say the hijacked jet… [flies] several miles south of the restricted airspace around the White House.” [CBS News, 9/21/2001] The Daily Telegraph will later write: “If the airliner had approached much nearer to the White House it might have been shot down by the Secret Service, who are believed to have a battery of ground-to-air Stinger missiles ready to defend the president’s home. The Pentagon is not similarly defended.” [Daily Telegraph, 9/16/2001] White House spokesman Ari Fleischer will suggest the plane goes even closer to the White House, saying, “That is not the radar data that we have seen. The plane was headed toward the White House.” [CBS News, 9/21/2001 Sources: Ari Fleischer]
Air traffic controllers at Washington’s Reagan National Airport fail to notify the Pentagon and a nearby Army airfield about an unidentified aircraft, later determined to be Flight 77, which they are tracking as it approaches the capital. [US Army Center for Military History, 11/14/2001 ; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 33]
Controllers Call Secret Service but Not Military - Controllers in the Terminal Radar Approach Control (TRACON) at Reagan National Airport are aware of the unidentified, fast-moving aircraft that is approaching the White House from at least as early as 9:33 a.m. (see (9:33 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/17/2001 ; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 9, 39; Spencer, 2008, pp. 145-146] (However, those in the airport’s control tower possibly only learn of it slightly later (see (9:36 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Spencer, 2008, pp. 158] ) Although a supervisor at the TRACON promptly alerts the Secret Service at the White House to the aircraft (see (9:33 a.m.) September 11, 2001), none of the Reagan Airport controllers contact the Pentagon or the nearby Davison Army Airfield about it. [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/17/2001 ; US Army Center for Military History, 11/14/2001 ]
Aviation Unit Located near Pentagon - Davison Army Airfield is located at Fort Belvoir, an Army base 12 miles south of the Pentagon. The airfield’s principal missions include maintaining “a readiness posture in support of contingency plans,” exercising “operational control” of the local airspace, and providing “aviation support for the White House, US government officials, Department of Defense, Department of the Army, and other government agencies.” The 12th Aviation Battalion, which is the aviation support unit for the Military District of Washington, is stationed at Davison Airfield. The battalion operates UH-1 “Huey” and UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters. [Pentagram, 5/7/1999; Military District of Washington, 8/2000] Its airfield operations unit—Davison Airfield Management—operates and maintains the heliport at the Pentagon. [Soldiers Magazine, 7/2006]
Tower Supervisor Unhappy - The supervisor of air traffic control currently working in the control tower at Davison Airfield will be unhappy about the failure of the Reagan Airport controllers to alert his unit or the Pentagon to the approaching aircraft. He will voice his complaints when he later talks to one of those controllers. The supervisor will later recall: “I was asking him, ‘Did you know that the aircraft was coming this way?’ And he said: ‘Yes. We were tracking him for so many miles.’”
Controller: 'It Never Occurred to Me' to Call Military - The supervisor will ask the controller: “Why you didn’t say anything to Davison? Why you didn’t say anything to the Pentagon? Because if you would have said something, my controller at the Pentagon would have called the DPS unit,” meaning the Defense Protective Service, which guards the Pentagon, “and it would have alerted them that there was something coming to Washington, DC, an aircraft with hostile intentions or something.” The controller will reply, “Well, you know what, it never occurred to me,” and say, “we didn’t know that he was going to hit the Pentagon.” [US Army Center for Military History, 11/14/2001 ]
A contract crew has been installing furniture in the southwest perimeter of the Pentagon. Construction workers are currently doing the final touching up, after more than three years of renovation work on this area of the building, and some Defense Department employees are already moving into their new office spaces. But the wife of one crew member phones her husband after seeing footage of the attacks in New York on CNN and says she feels he is in danger at the Pentagon. Hearing of the attacks, the crew leader instructs his 23 workers to abandon what they are doing and evacuate. Moments later, as they are crossing the parking lot, they see the airliner crash into the exact area of the Pentagon they had just left. [Government Executive, 5/1/2002; Freni, 2003, pp. 43-44] There is no evidence that anyone else in the Pentagon evacuates the building before it is struck (see Before 9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Newsday, 9/23/2001] Another report, which appears to be describing the same incident, says the construction crew evacuates for a different reason: to discuss security with a customer in the parking lot. [Pentagram, 9/14/2001]
A number of witnesses see a helicopter flying near the Pentagon in the minutes before the attack there.
Jeffrey Mark Parsons, an assistant chief patrol agent with the United States Border Patrol, sees a blue and white helicopter that appears as if it is coming in to land, from a window on the 17th floor of the hotel he is staying at, near the Pentagon. Parsons will later recall that two or three minutes before the Pentagon attack occurs: “I saw [the helicopter] circle… between the hotel and the Pentagon, going toward the landing pad [at the Pentagon] where that airliner ultimately hit. And I thought that he landed on the pad.” Parsons will say the helicopter flies in at “a weird angle,” and recall that he has been staying at the Marriott Residence Inn in Arlington for almost a month, but has “never seen a helicopter approach the Pentagon from that direction before.” He will recognize the helicopter as a Huey because he has flown Hueys and knows they make “a very distinct sound.” According to John Darrell Sherwood, a Navy historian who interviews Parsons about the incident, the helicopter belongs to the US Park Police and has been instructed to intercept the aircraft that subsequently hits the Pentagon (see Shortly Before 9:35 a.m. September 11, 2001). [US Naval Historical Center, 12/13/2001; Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 258]
A senior Air Force officer who is somewhere outside the Pentagon also sees a helicopter circling the Pentagon around this time, although he believes it to be a US military helicopter. Shortly after the Pentagon attack, the unnamed officer will tell a CNN reporter that the helicopter “disappeared behind the building where the helicopter landing zone is… and he then saw [a] fireball go into the sky” when the Pentagon is hit. [CNN, 9/11/2001]
Jennifer Reichert, who is stuck in traffic on Route 27 in front of the Pentagon, will describe that just before the attack, “A helicopter takes off from the heliport at the Pentagon.” She will add: “Minutes—maybe seconds—later, I hear it: American Airlines Flight 77 screams toward the Pentagon. The explosion [of the crash] shakes my car.” [Washington Post, 9/5/2002]
Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and Denny Watson, his CIA briefer, who are in Rumsfeld’s office at the Pentagon, see a helicopter flying very close to the building, outside the window of the office, and then pulling away just before the building is attacked (see Shortly Before 9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Priess, 2016, pp. 244-245]
Perhaps due to the presence of this helicopter in the area, some people will initially think the attack on the Pentagon involves a helicopter hitting the building. Captain William Durm, the commander of the Pentagon’s Triservice Dental Clinic, will head to the building’s center courtyard shortly after the Pentagon is hit. Someone there will tell him a helicopter has hit the other side of the building. [Office of Medical History, 9/2004, pp. 11] Some early news reports will suggest a helicopter crashed into the Pentagon. [Thomas Crosbie Media, 9/11/2001; Poynter Institute, 9/2/2002] One report will claim that “one aircraft and a helicopter have crashed into the Pentagon.” [Airline Industry Information, 9/11/2001] Vice President Dick Cheney will tell NBC’s Meet the Press that “the first reports on the Pentagon attack suggested a helicopter” hit the building. [Meet the Press, 9/16/2001] The Guardian will report that one witness claims the explosion that occurs when the Pentagon is hit blows up a helicopter circling overhead. [Guardian, 9/12/2001] New York Times columnist William Safire will report that, at approximately this time, Cheney is told that either another plane or “a helicopter loaded with explosives” is heading for the White House. [New York Times, 9/13/2001]
Entity Tags: Jennifer Reichert, Jeffrey Mark Parsons, John Darrell Sherwood, Pentagon, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, United States Park Police, Denny Watson, William Safire, William Durm, Donald Rumsfeld
Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline
Before the Pentagon is hit, no steps are taken to alert or evacuate the building’s 20,000 employees. Even Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and his top aides are reportedly unaware of a rogue plane heading toward Washington prior to the attack there. [ABC News, 9/16/2001; Newsday, 9/23/2001; Vogel, 2007, pp. 429] Pentagon spokesman Glenn Flood will later try to explain why the Pentagon is not evacuated at this time, saying: “To call for a general evacuation, at that point, it would have been just guessing. We evacuate when we know something is a real threat to us.” He says that an evacuation could have put employees at risk by moving them outside the protection provided by the building’s walls. Another Pentagon spokesman, Air Force Lt. Col. Vic Warzinski, will add, “The Pentagon was simply not aware that this aircraft was coming our way.” [Newsday, 9/23/2001] Yet, as early as 9:21, the FAA warned the military of a hijacked aircraft heading toward Washington (see 9:21 a.m. September 11, 2001 and (9:24 a.m.) September 11, 2001). The National Military Command Center (NMCC), located inside the Pentagon, was aware of this hijacked aircraft by 9:30, according to the 9/11 Commission (see 9:29 a.m.-9:34 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 26 and 37; Vogel, 2007, pp. 429] The New York Times will in fact report that, since shortly before 9:00 a.m., “military officials in [the NMCC] were urgently talking to law enforcement and air traffic control officials about what to do.” [New York Times, 9/15/2001] The order to evacuate will only go out over the Pentagon’s public address system shortly after the building is hit. [Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 137-138] The Defense Protective Service, which guards the Pentagon, does not order that the building’s threat level be raised until the time when it is hit (see 9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 151-152]
A typical C-130. [Source: US Air Force Reserve Command]Washington’s Reagan National Airport air traffic control instructs a military C-130 cargo plane that has just departed Andrews Air Force Base to intercept Flight 77 and identify it. [New York Times, 10/16/2001; Guardian, 10/17/2001] Remarkably, this C-130 is the same C-130 that will be 17 miles from Flight 93 when it later crashes into the Pennsylvania countryside (see 10:08 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Pittsburgh Channel, 9/15/2001; Star-Tribune (Minneapolis), 9/11/2002] The pilot, Lt. Col. Steve O’Brien, will claim that he took off around 9:30 a.m., planning to return to Minnesota after dropping supplies off in the Caribbean. He will describe his close encounter: “When air traffic control asked me if we had him [Flight 77] in sight, I told him that was an understatement—by then, he had pretty much filled our windscreen. Then he made a pretty aggressive turn so he was moving right in front of us, a mile and a half, two miles away. I said we had him in sight, then the controller asked me what kind of plane it was. That caught us up, because normally they have all that information. The controller didn’t seem to know anything.” O’Brien reports that the plane is either a 757 or 767 and its silver fuselage means it is probably an American Airlines plane. “They told us to turn and follow that aircraft—in 20 plus years of flying, I’ve never been asked to do something like that.” [Star-Tribune (Minneapolis), 9/11/2002] O’Brien and his crew, Maj. Robert Schumacher and flight engineer Master Sgt. Jeffrey Rosenthal, are unaware of the attacks in New York. Schumacher will say that, after being directed to follow Flight 77, he first thought that the plane was having technical difficulties, “that the pilots were really just trying to fly the airplane, and get it on the ground safely.” After the impact, O’Brien tunes in to a news broadcast, but is surprised to hear about a second crash in New York, not at the Pentagon. He will recall: “The first thing we heard on there was ‘We’re now hearing about a second airplane hitting the World Trade Center.’ That was not what we were expecting to hear. We were expecting to hear about an airplane impacting the Pentagon… and the light goes on, and it’s like, ‘Oh my God, the nation’s under attack!’” [Minnesota Public Radio, 5/31/2004] The 9/11 Commission will report that O’Brien specifically identifies the hijacked plane as a Boeing 757. Seconds after impact, he reports to the Washington tower, “Looks like that aircraft crashed into the Pentagon, sir.” [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004]
Jacqueline Kidd and Sean Boger. [Source: Jennifer Lilly]The air traffic controller and his assistant in the control tower at the Pentagon’s heliport are concerned that they are in a prime location for another terrorist attack, and discuss the possibility of a plane crashing into the Pentagon. [Pentagram, 11/16/2001; Fort Belvoir News, 1/18/2002; Creed and Newman, 2008, pp. 21] The controller, Sean Boger, a civilian who is working for the Army, and his assistant, Army Specialist Jacqueline Kidd, are working in the control tower located between the Pentagon and its heliport, from where they direct helicopter landings and departures. [Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 27; Creed and Newman, 2008, pp. 21] They have seen the reports on television about the planes hitting the World Trade Center, and so realize that a terrorist attack is taking place. [Pentagram, 11/16/2001; Fort Belvoir News, 1/18/2002]
Controllers Discuss Possibility of Crash at Pentagon - Kidd will later recall that, after seeing the second crash on television, she and Boger begin “discussing the possibility of if it was a terrorist attack, and how we were at a prime spot to be hit. We started talking about that immediately.” She will add that Boger mentions to her that the flight path of Reagan National Airport, which is about a mile away, “comes right by the Pentagon, and I said, ‘Oh, yeah.’ And he said, ‘They can do the same thing to us.’” However, Kidd and Boger reportedly talk “casually” about the possibility of a plane hitting the Pentagon, “without seriously feeling threatened.” [Fort Belvoir News, 1/18/2002] According to other accounts, Boger wonders aloud why no airliner has ever hit the Pentagon, considering how close it is to Reagan Airport. [Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 27] Kidd tells him, “You’ve been saying that for three years,” and he responds, “Yeah, you’re right.” [Creed and Newman, 2008, pp. 21] Reportedly, Boger is “talking about an accident, not a terrorist attack.” [Pentagram, 11/16/2001]
Controller Discusses Concerns with Supervisor at Airfield - Boger also calls the control tower at Davison Army Airfield, which is about 12 miles south of the Pentagon, around this time, and discusses his concerns with the supervisor of air traffic control there. Boger works for the supervisor’s unit and has already called the supervisor to alert him to the attacks in New York. Boger now tells the supervisor how worried he is “that an aircraft can just easily do that,” presumably referring to the possibility of a plane crashing into the Pentagon. He also says, “I don’t know what I’m going to do if I see a plane coming like that towards—towards us.” The supervisor will later comment, “I always was aware of that, of how close some aircraft would fly over the facility… and how easy it would be for somebody to kind of storm the small tower.” The supervisor tells Boger that if he sees an airplane heading his way, “what you do is you grab [Kidd] and get out of the building, and just go towards Route 27,” the road in front of the heliport area. [US Army Center for Military History, 11/14/2001 ] However, while personnel like Boger, Kidd, and the supervisor of air traffic control are considering the possibility of a plane hitting the Pentagon at this time, no steps are taken to alert workers at the Pentagon before it is struck (see Before 9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001), and an order to evacuate the building will only go out over the Pentagon’s public address system shortly after the attack there. [Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 137-138; Vogel, 2007, pp. 429]
Pentagon Hit Close to Tower - Boger and Kidd will both suffer minor injuries when the Pentagon is hit less than 100 feet from where they are, and the heliport tower will be badly damaged by the explosion. [US Army Center for Military History, 11/14/2001 ; Fort Belvoir News, 1/18/2002] Kidd will be on the tower’s ground floor, on her way outside to her car, when the crash occurs. [Pentagram, 11/16/2001; Fort Belvoir News, 1/18/2002] Boger will still be up in the tower, and, he will say, sees Flight 77 flying low and fast toward—and then into—the Pentagon. [US Army Center for Military History, 11/14/2001 ; Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 27]
Government buildings in Washington, DC, are not evacuated prior to the attack on the Pentagon at 9:37 a.m. As CNN will later describe, even after the attacks on the World Trade Center and the FAA’s warning to the military of a hijacked aircraft apparently heading toward Washington (see 9:21 a.m. September 11, 2001 and (9:24 a.m.) September 11, 2001), “the federal government failed to make any move to evacuate the White House, Capitol, State Department, or the Pentagon.” [CNN, 9/16/2001] Although a slow evacuation of the White House begins at around 9:20 a.m. (see (9:20 a.m.) September 11, 2001), it is not until 9:45 a.m. that the Secret Service orders people to run from there (see (9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [CNN, 9/11/2001; CNN, 9/12/2001; ABC News, 9/11/2002] Other government buildings, including the Capitol (see 9:48 a.m. September 11, 2001), the Justice Department, the State Department, and the Supreme Court (see 10:15 a.m. September 11, 2001), will not be evacuated until between 9:45 a.m. and 10:45 a.m. [US News and World Report, 9/14/2001; US Department of State, 8/15/2002] Robert Bonner, who was recently nominated as Commissioner of Customs, will estimate that he was evacuated from the Treasury Department at “about 9:35 a.m.” [9/11 Commission, 1/26/2004; US Department of Homeland Security, 9/20/2004] But other accounts will say the Treasury Department was not evacuated until after the Pentagon attack. [Associated Press, 9/11/2001; Reuters, 9/11/2001; US Department of State, 9/11/2002] Furthermore, journalist and author Robert Draper will describe, even after the State and Treasury Departments have been evacuated, “no agents thought to take charge of the Commerce Department, which housed 5,000 employees.” [Draper, 2007, pp. 143] According to CNN, prior to the Pentagon attack: “[N]either the FAA, NORAD, nor any other federal government organ made any effort to evacuate the buildings in Washington. Officials at the Pentagon said that no mechanism existed within the US government to notify various departments and agencies under such circumstances [as occur today].” [CNN, 9/16/2001]
Entity Tags: US Capitol building, Pentagon, Robert Bonner, US Department of Commerce, US Department of Justice, Federal Aviation Administration, US Supreme Court, US Department of the Treasury, White House, US Department of State
Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline
At the Education Center at Fort Myer, an army base 1.5 miles northwest of the Pentagon, the base’s firefighters are undertaking training variously described as “an airport rescue firefighters class”; “an aircraft crash refresher class”; “a week-long class on Air Field Fire Fighting”; and a “training exercise in airport emergency operations.” Despite hearing of the first WTC crash during a break, with no access to a TV, the class simply continues with its training. According to Bruce Surette, who is attending the session: “We had heard some radio transmissions from some other units in Arlington about how they thought they had a plane down here or a plane down there. So you’re thinking, ‘Hey this could be real.’ But it really didn’t strike home as being real until our guy came on the radio and said where the plane crash was.” The Fort Myer firefighters then immediately head for the Pentagon, arriving there at 9:40 a.m., only three minutes after it is hit, and participate in the firefighting and rescue effort there. The fire station at the Pentagon heliport is actually operated by the Fort Myer Fire Department, and is manned on the morning of 9/11 by three Fort Myer firefighters who have already undertaken the airfield firefighting training. [MDW News Service, 10/4/2001; Pentagram, 11/2/2001; Journal of Emergency Medical Services, 4/2002 ; US Department of Health and Human Services, 7/2002 ; First Due News, 4/17/2003] The Fort Myer military community, which includes Fort Myer and Fort Lesley J. McNair—another army base, just two miles east of the Pentagon—was scheduled to hold a “force protection exercise” the week after 9/11. However this has been cancelled, so just prior to the attacks the morning of September 11, “some of its participants [are] breathing a sigh of relief.”
A typical F-16. [Source: NORAD]Accounts differ as to how far from Washington the F-16 fighters scrambled from Langley are when Flight 77 crashes. The Langley, Virginia, base is 129 miles from Washington. NORAD originally claimed that, at the time of the crash, the fighters are 105 miles away, despite having taken off seven minutes earlier. [North American Aerospace Defense Command, 9/18/2001] The 9/11 Commission claims that at 9:36 a.m., NEADS discovers that Flight 77 is only a few miles from the White House and is dismayed to find the fighters have headed east over the ocean. They are ordered to Washington immediately, but are still about 150 miles away. This is farther away than the base from which they took off. [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004] The F-16 pilot codenamed Honey (who is apparently Captain Craig Borgstrom) offers a different explanation. As previously mentioned, he says they are flying toward New York, when they see a black column of smoke coming from Washington, about 30 or 40 miles to the west. He is then asked over the radio by NEADS if he can confirm the Pentagon is burning. He confirms it. He says that the mission of the Langley pilots at this time is clear: to keep all airplanes away from Washington. The F-16s are then ordered to set up a defensive perimeter above Washington. [Longman, 2002, pp. 76; Filson, 2003, pp. 66; New York Observer, 2/15/2004] The maximum speed of an F-16 is 1,500 mph. [Associated Press, 6/16/2000] Had the fighters traveled straight to Washington at 1,300 mph, they would have reached Washington at least one minute before Flight 77. Furthermore, at the time the Pentagon is hit, according to Craig Borgstrom, he and the other Langley pilots are hearing a lot of chatter over their radios, but nothing about airliners crashing into buildings. He says they are “all three on different frequencies… and [are] getting orders from a lot of different people.” [Filson, 2003, pp. 66]
When Flight 77 hits the Pentagon, it misses the parts of the building known to house the military’s most senior leaders. Journalist and author Steve Vogel later says, “The hijackers had not hit the River or Mall sides” of the building, “where the senior military leadership had been concentrated since 1942.” At the time of the attack, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld is “sitting in the same third-floor office above the River entrance as every secretary of defense since Louis Johnson in 1949, a location that had been a matter of public record all that time. The joint chiefs and all the service secretaries were arrayed in various prime E-Ring offices on the River and Mall sides.” Furthermore, “All the command centers save the Navy’s were on the River or Mall sides; the National Military Command Center could have been decimated as the Navy Command Center was, a disaster that could have effectively shut down the Pentagon as the first American war of the twenty-first century began.” Instead, the area hit comprises Army accounting offices, the Navy Command Center, and the Defense Intelligence Agency’s comptroller’s office. [Vogel, 2007, pp. 431 and 449-450] Due to recent renovation work, many offices in that section of the Pentagon are currently empty. [Government Executive, 9/11/2001]
Internet researchers have put together this image showing how an object the size of a jumbo jet clips a number of light poles and then destroys columns inside the Pentagon. [From website]
[Source: Eric Bart] (click image to enlarge)Fireman Alan Wallace is busy with a safety crew at the Pentagon’s heliport pad. As Wallace is walking in front of the Pentagon, he looks up and sees Flight 77 coming straight at him. It is about 25 feet off the ground, with no landing wheels visible, a few hundred yards away, and closing fast. He runs about 30 feet and dives under a nearby van. [Washington Post, 9/21/2001] The plane is traveling at about 460 mph, and flying so low that it clips the tops of streetlights. [CBS News, 9/21/2001] Using the radio in the van, he calls his fire chief at nearby Fort Myer and says, “We have had a commercial carrier crash into the west side of the Pentagon at the heliport, Washington Boulevard side. The crew is OK. The airplane was a 757 Boeing or a 320 Airbus.” [Scripps Howard News Service, 8/1/2002]
New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani is told by his chief of staff that the White House knows of seven planes that are unaccounted for. He is told that the Pentagon has been hit, but also hears erroneous reports that the Sears Tower and other buildings have been hit. [9/11 Commission, 5/19/2004]
A C-130 transport plane that has been sent to follow Flight 77 (see 9.36 a.m. September 11, 2001) is trailing only a short distance behind the plane as it crashes. This curious C-130, originally bound for Minnesota, is the same C-130 that will be 17 miles from Flight 93 when it later crashes into the Pennsylvania countryside (see 10:08 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Pittsburgh Channel, 9/15/2001; Star-Tribune (Minneapolis), 9/11/2002] A number of people see this plane fly remarkably close to Flight 77:
Kelly Knowles says that seconds after seeing Flight 77 pass, she sees a “second plane that seemed to be chasing the first [pass] over at a slightly different angle.” [Daily Press (Newport News), 9/15/2001]
Keith Wheelhouse says the second plane is a C-130; two other witnesses are not certain. [Daily Press (Newport News), 9/15/2001] Wheelhouse “believes it flew directly above the American Airlines jet, as if to prevent two planes from appearing on radar, while at the same time guiding the jet toward the Pentagon.” As Flight 77 descends toward the Pentagon, the second plane veers off west. [Daily Press (Newport News), 9/14/2001]
USA Today reporter Vin Narayanan, who sees the Pentagon explosion, later says, “I hopped out of my car after the jet exploded, nearly oblivious to a second jet hovering in the skies.” [USA Today, 9/17/2001]
USA Today Editor Joel Sucherman sees a second plane but gives few details. [eWeek, 9/13/2001]
Brian Kennedy, press secretary for a Congressman, and others also see a second plane. [Sacramento Bee, 9/15/2001]
An unnamed worker at Arlington National Cemetery, which is about a mile from the Pentagon, will recall that “a mysterious second plane was circling the area when the first one attacked the Pentagon.” [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 12/20/2001]
An interment foreman at Arlington Cemetery also sees a second plane. He will recall: “There was a second plane behind it.… It appeared to be a cargo plane… mostly white.… I think it was somebody who observed him [Flight 77] and was following him and saw where he was going or what was going on… he was probably behind that far and when he saw [the explosion], he banked it back hard and went back the other way.” [Army Center for Military History, 12/13/2001 ]
John O’Keefe is driving in his car when he sees the Pentagon crash. He will recall: “The first thing I did was pull over onto the shoulder, and when I got out of the car I saw another plane flying over my head.… Then the plane—it looked like a C-130 cargo plane—started turning away from the Pentagon, it did a complete turnaround.” [New York Law Journal, 9/12/2001]
Phillip Thompson, a former Marine, is sitting in traffic when he witnesses the crash of Flight 77 and then sees a cargo plane overhead. He will recall that, following the Flight 77 crash, “a gray C-130 flew overhead, setting off a new round of panic. I tried to reassure people that the plane was not a threat.” [Militarycity (.com), 9/22/2001]
The pilot of the C-130, Lieutenant Colonel Steve O’Brien, will later be interviewed, but his account differs from the on-the-ground eyewitnesses. He will claim that just before the explosion, “With all of the East Coast haze, I had a hard time picking him out,” implying he is not nearby. He also says that just after the explosion, “I could see the outline of the Pentagon,” again implying he is not nearby. He then asks “the controller whether [I] should set up a low orbit around the building,” but he is told “to get out of the area as quickly as possible.” He will add, “I took the plane once through the plume of smoke and thought if this was a terrorist attack, it probably wasn’t a good idea to be flying through that plume.” [Star-Tribune (Minneapolis), 9/11/2002]
The Pentagon explodes.
[Source: Donley/ Sipa]Flight 77 crashes into the Pentagon. All 64 people on the plane are killed. A hundred-and-twenty-four people working in the building are killed, and a further victim will die in hospital several days later. Hijackers Hani Hanjour, Khalid Almihdhar, Majed Moqed, Nawaf Alhazmi, and Salem Alhazmi presumably are killed instantly. (Typically, they are not included in the death counts.) [CNN, 9/17/2001; North American Aerospace Defense Command, 9/18/2001; Guardian, 10/17/2001; Washington Post, 11/21/2001; USA Today, 8/12/2002; Associated Press, 8/21/2002; MSNBC, 9/3/2002; ABC News, 9/11/2002; CBS, 9/11/2002] Flight 77 hits the first floor of the Pentagon’s west wall. The impact and the resulting explosion heavily damage the building’s three outer rings. The path of destruction cuts through Army accounting offices on the outer E Ring, the Navy Command Center on the D Ring, and the Defense Intelligence Agency’s comptroller’s office on the C Ring. [Vogel, 2007, pp. 431 and 449] Flight 77 strikes the only side of the Pentagon that had recently been renovated—it was “within days of being totally [renovated].” [US Department of Defense, 9/15/2001] “It was the only area of the Pentagon with a sprinkler system, and it had been reconstructed with a web of steel columns and bars to withstand bomb blasts. The area struck by the plane also had blast-resistant windows—two inches thick and 2,500 pounds each—that stayed intact during the crash and fire. While perhaps, 4,500 people normally would have been working in the hardest-hit areas, because of the renovation work only about 800 were there.” More than 25,000 people work at the Pentagon. [Los Angeles Times, 9/16/2001] Furthermore, the plane hits an area that has no basement. As journalist Steve Vogel later points out, “If there had been one under the first floor, its occupants could easily have been trapped by fire and killed when the upper floors collapsed.” [Vogel, 2007, pp. 450]
An employee at a gas station located across the street from the Pentagon servicing military personnel later says the station’s security cameras should have recorded the moment of impact. However, he says, “I’ve never seen what the pictures looked like. The FBI was here within minutes and took the film.” [Richmond Times-Dispatch, 12/11/2001] A security camera atop a hotel close to the Pentagon also records the impact. Hotel employees watch the film several times before the FBI confiscates the video. [Washington Times, 9/21/2001] The Justice Department will refuse to release the footage, claiming that if they did it might provide intelligence to someone who would want to harm the US, but some Pentagon officials say they see no national security value to the video. [CNN, 3/7/2002] The gas station footage and video taken from one nearby hotel, the Doubletree, will eventually be released in 2006, but do not show much (see September 13, 2006-Early December 2006). Reporter Sandra Jontz, who is evacuated from the Pentagon some time after it is hit, notices a Department of Transportation camera that monitors traffic backups pointed towards the crash site. [Bull and Erman, 2002, pp. 281] As of the end of 2006, the footage from this camera has not been released.
Firefighters and other rescuers at the Pentagon crash site. [Source: US Department of Defense]Emergency responders and others at the Pentagon experience serious problems with communications following the attack there. These difficulties last for several hours. [US Department of Health and Human Services, 7/2002, pp. 12-13 ; Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 114] According to a federally funded report on the emergency response to the Pentagon attack, communications systems had been busy “even before American Airlines Flight 77 crashed into the Pentagon.” But when the crash occurs, “all area communications [seem] simultaneously overwhelmed.” [US Department of Health and Human Services, 7/2002, pp. A34 ] The Defense Department’s book about the Pentagon attack later describes, “Almost immediately radio traffic gridlocked, land lines were unavailable, and cellular telephone networks became so overloaded that for a time Pentagon officials and employees as well as some emergency responders could not call outside.” [Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 114] This leads to significant problems: “Firefighters calling the [Arlington County Emergency Communications Center] couldn’t get through. Relatives of Pentagon workers found cellular and land lines jammed.” [US Department of Health and Human Services, 7/2002, pp. A34 ] The DiLorenzo Tricare Health Clinic at the Pentagon and the Rader Clinic at nearby Fort Myer are unable to establish reliable communications. Reportedly, “Hospitals and clinics could not be informed about the flow of casualties, and perhaps more damaging, communication between the fire and rescue and the emergency medical elements on-site was severely impaired.” [Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 114] Officer Aubrey Davis of the Pentagon police heads to the crash site with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld immediately after the Pentagon is hit. He receives frantic pleas over his radio, regarding Rumsfeld’s whereabouts. But, as Davis later recalls, “the system was overloaded, everyone on the frequency was talking, everything jumbled, so I couldn’t get through and they went on asking” (see (9:38 a.m.-10:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Cockburn, 2007, pp. 1-2] Cellular and landline telephone communications remain “virtually unreliable or inaccessible during the first few hours of the response.” But later on, in the afternoon, Verizon technicians and Secret Service technical staff install portable cellular towers at the Pentagon, and this significantly increases cell phone access. [US Department of Health and Human Services, 7/2002, pp. C36 ] Communications problems are experienced not just around the Pentagon but also in the broader Washington area, with some senior government officials being affected (see (After 8:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Verton, 2003, pp. 149]
Employees in the Pentagon’s Building Operations Command Center (BOCC) do not realize a plane has hit their building, and are confused when over 300 of the Pentagon’s fire alarms go off at once. [Creed and Newman, 2008, pp. 31; WHYY-FM, 5/27/2008] The BOCC, located on the first floor of the Pentagon’s innermost corridor, is usually staffed by two or three people who constantly monitor the building’s utility systems. [Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 137; Creed and Newman, 2008, pp. 31] In it, Steve Carter and Kathy Greenwell felt the building tremble and heard a dull explosion when the Pentagon was hit. Their computers then show that, in an instant, 335 fire alarms have gone off, including the alarm for the BOCC itself. As authors Patrick Creed and Rick Newman will describe: “That didn’t make sense. Normally, fire spreads slowly. If the computer was correct, 400,000 square feet of the Pentagon had erupted into flame all at once.” Creed and Newman describe the plane impact that has caused this: “As the mass [of the aircraft] traveled through the building, it began to resemble a shaped charge, a form of explosive that funnels its force into a small, directed area—like a beam of energy—in order to punch holes through armor or other strong material.” The entire event, from the moment of impact until the aircraft’s movement is arrested, has “taken place in eight-tenths of a second.” [Creed and Newman, 2008, pp. 29-31] Furthermore, an unusual pattern of explosions occurred when the aircraft struck the Pentagon. The Defense Department’s book about the attack will describe: “The Jet A fuel atomized and quickly combusted, causing explosive bursts as the plane hurtled into the building. A detonation 150 feet inside the building resulted from a ‘fuel-air’ explosion after the Jet A tanks disintegrated on impact. Here, as elsewhere, there was no uniform pattern of death and destruction. The vagaries of the fuel-air explosions and freakish blast effects meant deaths occurred randomly inside the Pentagon, with the occupants of seemingly more secure interior offices sometimes suffering worse fates than those nearer the outside wall.” [Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 37] In the BOCC, not realizing what has happened, Carter says aloud: “I think we have a truck bomb! Or some kind of explosion!” [Creed and Newman, 2008, pp. 31] It is not until later in the day that he learns a plane hit the Pentagon. [WHYY-FM, 5/27/2008]
Pentagon security cameras facing the crash scene allegedly have been put out of order by the attack. [Murphy, 2002, pp. 245] John Jester, the chief of the Defense Protective Service (DPS), runs from his office at the Pentagon down to the DPS Communications Center and orders, “Get a camera up there!” [Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 152-153] As the Washington Times will later note, “The attack occurred close to the Pentagon’s heliport, an area that normally would be under 24-hour security surveillance, including video monitoring.” [Washington Times, 9/21/2001] However, some of the Communications Center’s eight wall-mounted monitor screens are blank, because the crash has destroyed the camera nearest the area of impact and cut connectivity to others. Furthermore, some of the security cameras at the Pentagon are currently inoperable because of construction work going on (see 9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001). Officer Jesse De Vaughn brings up an image from a camera at the Navy Annex, located a few hundred yards from the Pentagon, which is then focused onto the crash site. [Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 153 and 244] Two recently installed security cameras located north of the crash site in fact captured the moment the aircraft impacted the Pentagon (see 9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 161] The poor quality footage from these will be officially released in 2006 (see May 16, 2006). [Associated Press, 5/17/2006] Whether the cameras that were destroyed or disconnected when the Pentagon was hit captured the approaching aircraft or the moment of impact is unstated.
Rumsfeld show on a video broadcast on CNN helping carry a stretcher shortly after the Pentagon attack. He is in the center of the picture, wearing a dark jacket. [Source: CNN]Within seconds of the Pentagon being hit, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld rushed out of his office and headed toward the crash scene (see 9:38 a.m. September 11, 2001). According to Officer Aubrey Davis, who is currently accompanying Rumsfeld as his bodyguard, when they reach the site, “There were the flames, and bits of metal all around. The secretary picked up one of the pieces of metal. I was telling him he shouldn’t be interfering with a crime scene when he looked at some inscription on it and said, ‘American Airlines.’” According to Rumsfeld, a person who’d seen the attack on the Pentagon informs him a plane had flown into it. Rumsfeld later recalls: “I saw people on the grass, and we just, we tried to put them in stretchers and then move them out across the grass towards the road and lifted them over a jersey wall so the people on that side could stick them into the ambulances. I was out there for a while, and then people started gathering, and we were able to get other people to do that, to hold IVs for people. There were people lying on the grass with clothes blown off and burns all over them.” [Parade Magazine, 10/12/2001; Cockburn, 2007, pp. 1-2] Versions of this story will appear elsewhere. [Star-Tribune (Minneapolis), 9/12/2001; US Department of Defense, 12/5/2001; ABC News, 9/11/2002; Vanity Fair, 5/9/2003] Video footage confirms that Rumsfeld helps carry a stretcher at the crash scene. [CNN, 8/17/2002] One report will even describe him pulling budget analyst Paul Gonzales to safety from the burning wreckage. [Daily Telegraph, 9/16/2001] However, Gonzales later offers his own detailed recollections of pulling other people to safety, which fail to involve Rumsfeld in any way. [Washington Post, 3/11/2002] Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs Victoria Clarke will say Rumsfeld is gone from the building for “about half an hour.” [WBZ Radio 1030 (Boston), 9/15/2001] A Pentagon spokesperson has Rumsfeld helping at the crash site for “15 minutes or so.” [Reuters, 9/11/2001] Another account will claim he loads the wounded onto stretchers for 15 minutes. [Scripps Howard News Service, 9/11/2001] However, considering the time it would have taken to walk to the crash site—each side of the enormous Pentagon is the length of three football fields—journalist Andrew Cockburn later concludes that Rumsfeld could only have been at the crash scene for a brief period. [Cockburn, 2007, pp. 3] Rumsfeld reportedly heads back into the Pentagon at the urging of a security agent, though in an interview soon after 9/11 he will claim the decision to go back inside was his own, saying, “I decided I should be in [the building] figuring out what to do, because your brain begins to connect things, and there were enough people there to worry about that.” [Parade Magazine, 10/12/2001; Washington Post, 1/27/2002] He tells the 9/11 Commission, “I was back in the Pentagon with a crisis action team shortly before or after 10:00 a.m.” (see (10:00 a.m.-10:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 3/23/2004] While Rumsfeld is at the crash scene, others are frantically trying to get in touch with him but are unable to do so (see (9:38 a.m.-10:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001).
The Pentagon on fire. [Source: Press Association]Television news reports describe an explosion and fire occurring at the Pentagon, but do not specify that a plane hit it:
Two seconds after 9:39 a.m., reporter Jim Miklaszewski states on NBC News: “I don’t want to alarm anybody right now, but apparently, there—it felt, just a few moments ago, like there was an explosion of some kind here at the Pentagon. We’re on the E-ring of the Pentagon. We have a window that faces out toward the Potomac, toward Kennedy Center. We haven’t been able to see or—or hear anything after the initial blast. I just stepped out in the hallway. Security guards were herding people out of the building, and I saw just a moment ago as I looked outside, a number of construction workers who have been working here, have taken flight. They’re running as far away from the building as they can right now. I—I hear no sirens going off in the building; I see no smoke, but the building shook for just a couple of seconds. The windows rattled and security personnel are doing what they can momentarily to clear this part of the building. Again, I have no idea whether it was part of the construction work, whether it was an accident or what is going on. We’re going to try to find those details and get them to you as soon as possible. But interestingly enough, one intelligence official here in the building said when he saw what appeared to be the coordinating attack on the World Trade Center, his advice was to stay away from the outside of the building today just in case.” [NBC, 9/11/2001]
At 9:40, CNN coverage includes a banner stating, “Reports of fire at Pentagon.” [CNN, 9/11/2001] Three minutes later, CNN producer Chris Plant reports from the Pentagon: “It’s impossible for me to say… exactly what caused this. I did not hear an explosion but there is certainly a very, very significant fire in this enormous office building.” [CNN, 9/11/2001]
At 9:42, ABC News reports smoke coming from somewhere behind the Old Executive Office Building, next to the White House. Two minutes later it reports a “fire confirmed at the Pentagon.” [ABC News, 9/11/2001]
At 9:43, CBS News reports “smoke pouring out of the Pentagon,” but adds, “We don’t know whether this is the result of a bomb or whether it is yet another aircraft that has targeted a symbol of the United States’ power.” [CBS, 9/11/2001]
However, no media outlets record video footage of the Pentagon crash, and the cause of the explosion remains unknown for some minutes afterward. The Associated Press is apparently the first source to report that a plane hit the Pentagon (see 9:43 a.m.-9:53 a.m. September 11, 2001).
Medical workers at the first triage area set up outside the Pentagon after it is attacked. [Source: Mark D. Faram / US Navy]Soon after the Pentagon is hit, medical workers initiate their mass casualty plan (MASCAL) for dealing with disasters. Sergeant Matthew Rosenberg, a medic at the Pentagon’s DiLorenzo Tricare Health Clinic, arrives at the center courtyard. Seeing smoke rising from the side of the building and patients staggering out, he radios the clinic: “You need to initiate MASCAL right now! We have mass casualties! I need medical assets to the courtyard!” Major Lorie Brown, chief nurse of the DiLorenzo Clinic, says that as soon as she sees people running down the corridor to evacuate, “we initiated the MASCAL, started galvanizing all of our assets and put our plan in action.” [Washington Post, 9/16/2001; Office of Medical History, 9/2004, pp. 7, 39] The Pentagon has actually conducted at least three MASCAL training exercises in the previous 12 months, based around a plane crashing into the place (see October 24-26, 2000)(see May 2001)(see Early August 2001). Lieutenant Colonel John Felicio, the deputy commander for administration of the DiLorenzo Clinic, says, “The saving grace to our efforts was the two MASCAL exercises we previously had conducted.… Our scenario for both MASCALS was a plane flying into the Pentagon courtyard.” Furthermore, the nearby Walter Reed Army Medical Center (WRAMC), which sends ambulances in response to the attack, has recently recovered from a four-day power loss (see August 27-31, 2001). A military report will later state: “Many believe that [this] extended emergency… helped WRAMC in its response on September 11.” [Office of Medical History, 9/2004, pp. 18, 146]
Logo of the FBI’s National Capital Response Squad. [Source: FBI]Within five minutes of the Pentagon being hit, the first group from the FBI’s National Capital Response Squad arrives there. Due to this being a terrorist attack, the Pentagon and its grounds are immediately declared a federal crime scene. Under the terms of a 1995 presidential directive, this makes them the exclusive responsibility of the FBI. The FBI immediately begins collecting evidence and is also responsible for recovering bodies. Its agents are able to confiscate security videos from a nearby gas station within minutes of the crash (see (After 9:37 a.m.) September 11, 2001). More than 700 FBI agents, assisted by hundreds of individuals from other organizations, will participate in the recovery operation. [US President, 6/21/1995; Washington Times, 9/12/2001; US Department of Health and Human Services, 7/2002, pp. A-7, A-23, C-1, C-54 ]
Chris Braman. [Source: California State University, Fullerton]A number of witnesses hear secondary explosions inside the Pentagon in the immediate aftermath of the attack there. [Associated Press, 9/11/2001; Washington Post, 9/11/2001] Some possible explanations are later suggested for these explosions, though their exact causes are unclear.
Captain William Toti, the special assistant to the vice chief of naval operations, hears and feels numerous explosions while he assists in the rescue efforts at the crash site. [Proceedings, 9/2002; Washington Post, 11/17/2006; McKinney Courier-Gazette, 9/12/2008] A month later, Toti will recall, “One of the things I haven’t seen reported in any of the papers was that periodically, for about the next hour [after he arrives at the crash site], there were secondary explosions going off in the hole in the Pentagon.” While he is standing about 30 yards from the point of impact, Toti hears “pop… pop, pop… pop, pop, pop… pop.” He will say these explosions are “loud. Scary, absolutely scary. The make-you-jump kind of explosions.” [US Naval Historical Center, 10/10/2001] Toti and two Army officers that assist him with the rescue efforts fear the explosions, which come from “the fissure” in the building, “are bombs.” [Washington Post, 11/17/2006] But, Toti will recall, about an hour after he arrives at the crash site, he is “standing with some FBI guys and we were musing as to what the source of the explosions was, and we concluded that they were the oxygen canisters from the airplane. You know, the things [that] produce oxygen for the passengers in an emergency.” Toti will say this possible explanation is the “best thing we could think of.” [US Naval Historical Center, 10/10/2001]
Army Lieutenant Colonel Ted Anderson and Army Staff Sergeant Chris Braman go into the Pentagon near the crash site to rescue injured victims. They are reportedly “stunned by secondary explosions.” One of these is a “fire department car exploding,” according to Anderson. The causes of the other explosions are unclear. [Newsweek, 9/28/2001; Washington Post, 9/8/2002]
Lieutenant Commander David Tarantino, a Navy flight surgeon, and Navy Captain David Thomas go into the Pentagon to search for survivors. [Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 54-55] They feel “secondary explosions and wondered whether the whole building would cave in or if they were under more attacks,” according to The Washingtonian. [Washingtonian, 12/2001] Tarantino will later recall that there are “secondary explosions going on.” [US Naval Historical Center, 9/25/2001]
Colonel Jonathan Fruendt, an Army physician, is heading toward the Pentagon’s center courtyard shortly after the crash when he hears an explosion. “I heard another loud boom,” he will later recall. As soon as the explosion occurs, people in the corridor with Fruendt “instantly froze in position, and then they turned around and started running back, away from the exit.” Fruendt will later comment: “No one has really explained to me exactly what that noise was. Some people said, later, maybe it was some fuel or one of these vehicles, something around the original crash site that blew up.… Other people said it was a sonic boom from the fighters that were flying over the Pentagon.” But, he will add, “No one has ever confirmed [the cause of the explosion] with me.” [Office of Medical History, 9/2004, pp. 73-74]
Some witnesses say the crash at the Pentagon is “followed by an explosion about 15 minutes later that could be heard miles away,” according to the New York Times. This is “apparently the sound of a large portion of the Pentagon collapsing,” the Times will report. [New York Times, 9/12/2001] However, that section of the Pentagon collapses at 10:15 a.m., more than 35 minutes after the crash (see 10:15 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 19]
According to a fireman’s account, firefighting efforts at the Pentagon are hampered by smoke and small explosions coming out of a construction trailer near the impact site. On the morning of 9/11, Russell “Rusty” Dodge, Jr., an assistant chief with the Fort Belvoir Fire Department, is at Fort Meyer, about a mile from the Pentagon, for a training exercise (see Before 9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001). He is one of the first to arrive on the scene. He tries to put out the fires, but a construction trailer is a serious obstacle. He will later recall, “[T]hat trailer was the main producer of smoke on the outside of the building….” The trailer “was producing some severe fires and subsequent mini explosions due to highly flammable chemicals in it…. Luckily the chemical containers were caged. Otherwise the fires would have been worse.” [MDW News Service, 10/4/2001]
A fighter and helicopter both fly directly above the Pentagon on 9/11 on the morning of 9/11. Exact time is unknown. [Source: Agence France-Presse]The three F-16s scrambled from Langley Air Force Base, Virginia, at 9:30 a.m. finally reach Washington and the burning Pentagon. The 129 mile distance could theoretically have been covered by the fighters in six minutes, but they’ve taken a wide detour over the ocean (see 9:30 a.m.-9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001). The exact time they arrive is unclear. An early timeline laid out to CNN by senior Defense Department officials will claim they arrive as early as 9:49 a.m., but the 9/11 Commission later claims they only establish “a combat air patrol (CAP) over Washington” at “approximately 10:00 a.m.” [CBS News, 9/14/2001; CNN, 9/17/2001; North American Aerospace Defense Command, 9/18/2001; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 34]
Conflicting Press Accounts - Press accounts of when the first fighters reach Washington are highly contradictory. Early news accounts describe fighters arriving from Andrews Air Force Base, not Langley, “within minutes,” “a few moments,” or “just moments” after the Pentagon crash. [Denver Post, 9/11/2001; Daily Telegraph, 9/16/2001; ABC News, 9/11/2002] Other newspaper accounts inaccurately deny that fighters from Andrews are deployed [USA Today, 9/16/2001] , and some deny Andrews even has fighters available. [USA Today, 9/16/2001] Defense officials will initially claim, “There were no military planes in the skies over Washington until 15 to 20 minutes after the Pentagon was hit”—in other words, 9:53 a.m. to 9:58 a.m. [Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 9/14/2001] But an ABC News report will suggest that by around 10:00 a.m., “Dozens of fighters are buzzing in the sky” over Washington. [ABC News, 9/11/2002]
Fighter Jets Don't Arrive until Later? - In contrast, the New York Times reports: “In the White House Situation Room and at the Pentagon, the response seemed agonizingly slow. One military official recalls hearing words to the effect of, ‘Where are the planes?’” The Pentagon will insist it had air cover over its own building by 10 a.m. However, numerous witnesses on the ground, including a reporter for the New York Times who is headed toward the building, will say they did not see any fighters until around 10:40 a.m., or “closer to 11” (see (10:40 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [New York Times, 9/16/2001; Creed and Newman, 2008, pp. 130-131] According to some accounts, the plane that flies over the Pentagon at that time is Major Billy Hutchison’s F-16, launched from Andrews Air Force Base. [Filson, 2003, pp. 81-82; Spencer, 2008, pp. 235-236] NORAD will initially claim the Langley fighters were about 105 miles from the Pentagon when it was hit at 9:37, and the 9/11 Commission will later claim they were 150 miles away (see 9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001). [North American Aerospace Defense Command, 9/18/2001; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 27]
According to New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani’s 9/11 Commission testimony in 2004, about one minute before the first WTC tower falls, he is able to reach the White House by phone. Speaking to Chris Henick, deputy political director to President Bush, Giuliani learns the Pentagon has been hit and he asks about fighter cover over New York City. Henick replies, “The jets were dispatched 12 minutes ago and they should be there very shortly, and they should be able to defend you against further attack.” [9/11 Commission, 5/19/2004] If this is true, it means fighters scramble from the Otis base around 9:46 a.m., not at 8:52 a.m., as most other accounts have claimed. While Giuliani’s account may seem wildly off, it is consistent with reports shortly after 9/11. In the first few days, acting Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Richard Myers, and a NORAD spokesman, Marine Corps Major Mike Snyder, claimed no fighters were scrambled anywhere until after the Pentagon was hit. [US Congress, 9/13/2001; Boston Globe, 9/15/2001] This story only changed on the evening of September 14, 2001, when CBS reported, “contrary to early reports, US Air Force jets did get into the air on Tuesday while the attacks were under way.” [CBS News, 9/14/2001]
John McWethy. [Source: Steve Fenn / ABC]ABC News correspondent John McWethy was at the Pentagon at the time it was hit. [Newsweek, 9/24/2001] At some later time, an army general he knows offers to take him in closer to the crash site. McWethy recalls: “I got in very close, got a look early on at the bad stuff. I could not, however, see any plane wreckage—it was well inside and had been, basically, vaporized.” [Gilbert et al., 2002, pp. 187] The following day, Arlington County Fire Chief Ed Plaugher will similarly tell reporters: “[T]here are some small pieces of aircraft visible from the interior during this firefighting operation… but not large sections. In other words, there’s no fuselage sections and that sort of thing.” [US Department of Defense, 9/12/2001] According to the Defense Department’s book about the Pentagon attack: “The front part of the relatively weak fuselage [of Flight 77] disintegrated, but the mid-section and tail-end continued moving for another fraction of a second.… The chain of destruction resulted in parts of the plane ending up inside the Pentagon in reverse of the order they had entered it, with the tail-end of the airliner penetrating the greatest distance into the building.” [Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 17] Navy Lt. Kevin Shaeffer reportedly sees a “chunk of the 757’s nose cone and front landing gear” in the service road between the Pentagon’s B and C Rings. [Virginian-Pilot, 9/9/2002] Other witnesses say they see a large airplane tire. [Office of Medical History, 9/2004, pp. 117-118; Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 54] Army Staff Sgt. Mark Williams, whose search and rescue team enters the Pentagon less than four hours after the attack, recalls seeing “the scorched bodies of several airline passengers… still strapped into their seats” inside the building. [USA Today, 9/13/2001]
The wall where the Pentagon was hit before and after its collapsed at 10:15.
[Source: Jason Ingersoll, public domain] (click image to enlarge)The front section of the Pentagon that had been hit by Flight 77 collapses. [CNN, 9/12/2001; New York Times, 9/12/2001] A few minutes prior to its collapse, firefighters saw warning signs and sounded a general evacuation tone. No firefighters were injured. [NFPA Journal, 11/1/2001]
Having taken off after returning from a training mission, a pilot with the District of Columbia Air National Guard (DCANG) flies two loops up the Potomac River, reversing course near Georgetown and the Pentagon, but is unable to locate a suspicious approaching aircraft, and heads back to base less than 10 minutes after launching. [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 9/9/2002; 9/11 Commission, 2/17/2004; 9/11 Commission, 2/27/2004; 9/11 Commission, 3/11/2004 ; Spencer, 2008, pp. 219-221]
No Rules of Engagement - Major Billy Hutchison, a pilot with the 121st Fighter Squadron of the DCANG, had landed back at Andrews Air Force Base, 10 miles from Washington, but was ordered to take off again immediately (see (10:38 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 9/9/2002] His plane has no missiles, and only training ammunition, and he has been given no specific rules of engagement other than being told to identify an aircraft that is coming down the river. [Washington Post, 4/8/2002; 9/11 Commission, 3/11/2004 ; Vogel, 2007, pp. 446] Because the DCANG is not in the communication and command loops of NORAD or its Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS), Hutchison is unaware that three fighter jets NEADS ordered into the air from Langley Air Force Base (see 9:24 a.m. September 11, 2001) are also flying over Washington, albeit at a much higher altitude than he is. [Washington Post, 4/8/2002; Aviation Week and Space Technology, 9/9/2002; 9/11 Commission, 2/27/2004]
Controller Directs Hutchison - Hutchison calls the Terminal Radar Approach Control (TRACON) at Washington’s Reagan National Airport. He says, “Bully 1 [his call sign] is looking for a contact.” Victor Padgett, the operations supervisor at the TRACON, replies, “We have an intercept for you northwest of here and coming down the Potomac.” [Spencer, 2008, pp. 219] Hutchison knows he is meant to be searching for a civilian aircraft, and will later recall that he is told it is coming from Pennsylvania. [9/11 Commission, 2/27/2004] In order to conserve fuel and gain airspeed, he flies low over the White House and Georgetown, reportedly staying between 500 and 1,000 feet above ground level. [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 9/9/2002; Spencer, 2008, pp. 219] After Padgett gives him details of the approaching aircraft’s location, Hutchison spots it on his jet’s radar screen, but it quickly disappears. The aircraft reappears a minute later, but then both Hutchison and Padgett lose sight of it.
Aircraft Claimed to Be Flight 93 - Some accounts will suggest the approaching aircraft is thought to be Flight 93 (see (10:30 a.m.-10:40 a.m.) September 11, 2001), even though that plane has already crashed (see (10:06 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Washington Post, 4/8/2002; Spencer, 2008, pp. 219-221] Hutchison will later recall that the TRACON at Reagan Airport is “frantic with what they seem to think are aircraft coming their way.… There is another aircraft, and it’s United Flight 93. They… apparently have been given information that it’s coming their way.” [Filson, 2003, pp. 81] Major David McNulty, the senior intelligence officer of the DCANG, will recall, “[I]t wasn’t until later that they realized the plane [coming down the river] might be UAL 93.” [9/11 Commission, 3/11/2004 ] However, John Farmer, John Azzarello, and Miles Kara, who are all staff members of the 9/11 Commission, subsequently rebut this claim. They will write: “[R]adar records of the day [of 9/11] indicate that Major Hutchison did not take off until more than a half-hour after United 93 had crashed near Shanksville, PA, and a good 20 minutes after the wreckage had been located. He could not have seen United 93 on his scope, and could not have intercepted it.” [New York Times, 9/13/2008]
Told to Investigate Other Aircraft - After the aircraft disappears off Hutchison’s radar screen, Dan Creedon, an air traffic controller at the TRACON at Reagan Airport, is concerned about planes and helicopters that are taking off and landing across Washington, and tells Hutchison, “We have more contacts!” Hutchison confirms that he will investigate the targets Creedon alerts him to, but he keeps losing them among the ground clutter on his radar screen. According to author Lynn Spencer, “The flights are too close to the surface and, from what he can see, appear to be mostly helicopters flying medevac from the Pentagon.”
Flies over the Pentagon - Hutchison, who’d noticed the burning Pentagon before he landed at Andrews Air Force Base (see (9:50 a.m.) September 11, 2001), then decides he should investigate it. He descends and flies a steep turn over the Pentagon. [Spencer, 2008, pp. 234-235] He will later recall: “I circled at a couple of hundred feet at the most just to, one, investigate, and two, give the people on the ground some semblance of security of an American fighter coming by. And apparently it changed the mood for a lot of people when they saw that” (see (10:40 a.m.) September 11, 2001).
Running out of Fuel - By now, Hutchison is almost out of fuel. He will recall, “After that point, I’m emergency fuel, the lowest I’ve ever been in an F-16, and tell [the FAA’s] Washington Center I must leave, and they say I’m cleared to return to base and that two more aircraft are coming out of Andrews.” [Filson, 2003, pp. 81-82] Hutchison will land at Andrews at 10:47 a.m. (see 10:47 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 2004; 9/11 Commission, 2/17/2004]
Entity Tags: Victor Padgett, Dan Creedon, Billy Hutchison, Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, Pentagon, 121st Fighter Squadron, John Farmer, Miles Kara, David McNulty, John Azzarello, District of Columbia Air National Guard
Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline
Under the authority of the FBI, remains of 9/11 victims at the Pentagon are taken to a temporary morgue in the Pentagon’s north parking lot, where they are photographed, labeled, and then placed in refrigeration. [Stars and Stripes, 9/17/2001; US Department of Health and Human Services, 7/2002, pp. A-47 ; Quartermaster Professional Bulletin, 3/2005] They are then transported to Davison Army Airfield at nearby Fort Belvoir, and from there to Dover Air Force Base, Delaware, where there is a large mortuary created for use in wartime. FBI agents accompany the remains at all points during transportation. [American Forces Press Service, 9/15/2001; PBS, 9/21/2001; Soldiers, 10/2001; US Department of Health and Human Services, 7/2002, pp. C-55 ] About 250 people, including 50 medical examiners and 50 members of the FBI’s ‘disaster team,’ work at the mortuary to identify the remains. [Stars and Stripes, 9/17/2001] Remains are first scanned for the presence of unexploded ordnance or metallic foreign bodies. FBI experts then collect trace evidence to find any chemicals from explosives, and also conduct fingerprint identifications. [Pentagram, 11/30/2001] Other techniques used include dental records and X-rays. Tissue samples are sent to an Armed Forces laboratory in Rockville, Maryland, for DNA analysis. [PBS, 9/21/2001] Identification is problematic because specimens are often unrecognizable body parts, and are nearly always mixed with debris composed of aircraft and building materials. [Harcke, Bifano, and Koeller, 4/2002] However, by the time Dover staff formally end their identification effort, on November 16, they have identified remains of 184 of the 189 people who died in the Pentagon or aboard Flight 77, including the five hijackers (see November 21, 2001). [Washington Post, 11/21/2001]
President Bush gives a private speech at the Pentagon to military leaders. Accompanies by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, and the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Bush instructs his military audience to think about a response to 9/11 in the broadest possible terms. Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Douglas Feith will later recall, “The president said that this was a war, and that it was the Pentagon’s responsibility. He wanted it fought in the right spirit. People came away saying it was clear he wasn’t talking about half-measures.” [Vanity Fair, 5/2004]
Late in the evening of September 13, 2001, search and rescue operations at the Pentagon have to be temporarily suspended when—after firefighters thought they had the crash site under control—a sizeable fire breaks out, sending smoke hundreds of feet into the air. [CNN, 9/13/2001; Associated Press, 9/14/2001; CNN, 9/14/2001; NPR, 9/14/2001] The fire erupts in the pile of debris at the impact area where the aircraft hit the Pentagon, and is apparently caused by a “hot spot” that reignited. Fire commanders had been concerned about the smoke coming from the pile earlier in the evening, yet there is no engine available to extinguish any fire. There was an engine by the pile all through the day, but this left at the end of the day shift. Because of tightened security, the engine due to replace it is taking longer than usual to arrive. [Creed and Newman, 2008, pp. 389 and 393] The order goes out: “We need everybody to evacuate. The building is on fire again.” Firefighters and workers for agencies such as the FBI and FEMA evacuate, either to the lawn in front of the crash site or the Pentagon’s center courtyard. Yet the fire appears to be contained in the rubble pile, with little danger of spreading. One worker questions: “So why are they stopping us? Why can’t we keep working?” [Creed and Newman, 2008, pp. 393-394 and 400-401] Eventually, a fire truck arrives to tackle the blaze. About two hours after it first flared up, the fire is out and recovery workers can continue their activities. [CNN, 9/14/2001; Creed and Newman, 2008, pp. 394-395 and 401] Firefighting and other rescue operations were also significantly disrupted three times during September 11-12, due to false alarms over unidentified aircraft approaching Washington (see (10:15 a.m.-10:38 a.m.) September 11, 2001, (2:00 p.m.) September 11, 2001, and (10:00 a.m.) September 12, 2001). [Fire Engineering, 11/2002]
Majed Moqed’s identification card found in the rubble. [Source: FBI]Two or three documents belonging to the Flight 77 hijackers are found in the rubble at the Pentagon. One is a “Kingdom of Saudi Arabia Student Identity Card” with Majed Moqed’s name on it. Forensic examination will later indicate that the card may have been fraudulent. [9/11 Commission, 8/21/2004, pp. 44 ] Another is Nawaf Alhazmi’s USA ID card. [9/11 Commission, 8/21/2004, pp. 27, 42 ; US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division, 7/31/2006] The 9/11 Commission will say that Salem Alhazmi’s USA ID is also found, although this will not be mentioned at the trial of Zacarias Moussaoui, where an otherwise exhaustive list of the hijackers’ ID found at the crash sites is submitted. [9/11 Commission, 8/21/2004, pp. 27, 42 ; US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division, 7/31/2006] In addition, the Commission will say that Salem Alhazmi was unable to produce a photo ID when checking in for his flight on 9/11 (see 7:36 a.m. September 11, 2001), so it is unclear how the document could have come to be at the Pentagon. Based on report from the Secret Service, the 9/11 Commission will say these two documents appear genuine. However, they may actually be fakes (see (July-August 2001)). [9/11 Commission, 8/21/2004, pp. 27 ] There are at least a couple of other reported instances of other similar paper-based objects surviving the same plane crash, as well as that of Flight 93 in Pennsylvania (see After 10:06 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Athens Banner-Herald, 9/10/2004]
The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) studies the crash of Flight 77 into the Pentagon and the building’s architectural response to the impact, blast, and subsequent fires. [American Society of Civil Engineers, 1/17/2003] The six-member Pentagon Building Performance Study team is headed by Lead Technical Director Paul F. Mlakar, and also includes Mete A. Sozen. Mlakar and Sozen had previously worked together on the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) investigation into the Oklahoma City bombing under W. Gene Corley, who is now assigned as FEMA/ASCE’s team leader for the World Trade Center investigation (see September 12, 2001). [Corley et al., 10/1997; Mlakar et al., 1/2003, pp. i ] Some aspects of the Oklahoma City investigation were controversial. [Guardian, 5/5/2001] Sozen is also tasked with “project conception” for Purdue University’s computer simulation of the Pentagon attack, images from which are also used in the Performance Report, when it is issued later (see January 23, 2003). [Purdue University Department of Computer Science, 9/11/2002] The Building Performance Study team only inspects the Pentagon on two occasions. Team leader Mlakar is granted “limited access” to the site for a week from September 14-21, and on October 4, “controlled access” is granted to the full team, which meets with Corley and inspects the site “for approximately four hours.” All airplane debris has been removed by this time, as well as most of the loose debris from the impact and collapse. Along with interviews and technical information provided by the Pentagon Renovation Project, the photos and data gleaned on these visits are the basis of the team’s analysis of the building’s response to the impact of Flight 77. The study is completed in April 2002, though the report will not be released for another nine months. [Mlakar et al., 1/2003, pp. 1, 18 ]
A report in the Washington Times suggests, “Federal investigators may have video footage of the deadly terrorist attack on the Pentagon. A security camera atop a hotel close to the Pentagon may have captured dramatic footage of the hijacked Boeing 757 airliner as it slammed into the western wall of the Pentagon. Hotel employees sat watching the film in shock and horror several times before the FBI confiscated the video as part of its investigation. It may be the only available video of the attack. The Pentagon has told broadcast news reporters that its security cameras did not capture the crash. The attack occurred close to the Pentagon’s heliport, an area that normally would be under 24-hour security surveillance, including video monitoring.” [Washington Times, 9/21/2001] In a later report, an employee at a gas station across the street from the Pentagon that services only military personnel says the gas station’s security cameras should have recorded the moment of impact. However, he says, “I’ve never seen what the pictures looked like. The FBI was here within minutes and took the film.” [Richmond Times-Dispatch, 12/11/2001] In late 2006, the FBI will release the footage from the gas station’s cameras, along with footage from atop the Doubletree Hotel near the Pentagon. Whether the Doubletree is the hotel referred to in the Washington Times report is unknown. Neither of the videos will show the impact on the Pentagon, though the Doubletree video shows the subsequent explosion (see September 13, 2006-Early December 2006). Footage taken by the Pentagon’s security cameras and released earlier in 2006 will show that the Pentagon’s claim—that its own cameras did not capture the impact on 9/11—was untrue (see May 16, 2006).
Lofti Raissi. [Source: Amnesty International]Lotfi Raissi, an Algerian pilot living in Britain, is arrested and accused of helping to train four of the hijackers. An FBI source says, “We believe he is by far the biggest find we have had so far. He is of crucial importance to us.” [Las Vegas Review-Journal, 9/29/2001] However, in April 2002, a judge dismisses all charges against him, calling the charges “tenuous.” US officials originally said, “They had video of him with Hani Hanjour, who allegedly piloted the plane that crashed into the Pentagon; records of phone conversations between the two men; evidence that they had flown a training plane together; and evidence that Raissi had met several of the hijackers in Las Vegas. It turned out, the British court found, that the video showed Raissi with his cousin, not Mr. Hanjour, that Raissi had mistakenly filled in his air training logbook and had never flown with Hanjour, and that Raissi and the hijackers were not in Las Vegas at the same time. The US authorities never presented any phone records showing conversations between Raissi and Hanjour. It appears that in this case the US authorities handed over all the information they had…” [Christian Science Monitor, 3/27/2002; Guardian, 9/26/2005] Raissi later says he will sue the British and American governments unless he is given a “widely publicized apology” for his months in prison and the assumption of “guilty until proven innocent.” [Reuters, 8/14/2002] In September 2003, he does sue both governments for $20 million. He also wins a undisclosed sum from the British tabloid Mail on Sunday for printing false charges against him. [Guardian, 9/16/2003; BBC, 10/7/2003; Arizona Republic, 10/14/2003] Declassified documents will later reveal that the British arrested Raissi only days after the FBI requested that the British discretely monitor and investigate him, not arrest him. [Guardian, 9/26/2005] Raissi perfectly matches the description of an individual mentioned in FBI agent Ken Williams’ “Phoenix memo” (see July 10, 2001), whom the FBI had attempted to investigate in May 2001 (see 1997-July 2001).
The 9/11 attacks result in significant extra funding for the Pentagon. Since 1993, the building has been undergoing major renovations. These were scheduled to be complete by 2014. But in October 2001 this is declared to be too long to leave major areas of the building unprotected, and Congress soon appropriates $300 million so the renovations will be finished four years sooner. Also that month, Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz approves a $15 million package to protect command centers and other critical areas of the building against chemical, biological, and radiological attack. A road, Route 110, had been considered a security threat, as it ran within 40 yards of some of the most sensitive areas of the Pentagon. Previously, the possibility of moving it had been dismissed as too expensive, but now $40 million is promptly found to cover the cost of rerouting it, along with making other road-security improvements. Before 9/11, the renovation of the Pentagon was already the largest reconstruction project in the world, costing $2.1 billion. But, as the Washington Post reports in September 2003, following the attack on the Pentagon, “the renovation mushroomed and now encompasses about $5.3 billion worth of projects in and around the Pentagon.” In an e-mail on October 1, 2001, Pentagon Renovation Program manager Lee Evey writes, “Recent events have shaken up complacency and there is unprecedented willingness” among the services to do whatever Paul Wolfowitz and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld want. [Washington Post, 9/7/2003; Vogel, 2007, pp. 472-473]
Between October 2001 and September 11, 2002, the US Army’s Military History Detachment works on the US Department of Defense’s own book recording the 9/11 attack on the Pentagon. The 305th and 46th Military History Detachments interview every willing survivor and witness from the Pentagon attack. More than 1,000 witnesses are interviewed. The findings are to be published in book form, and kept at the Army Center of Military History in Washington, DC. [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 12/16/2001; Fox News, 12/17/2001; Juniata Magazine (Juniata College), 9/2002; Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 9/11/2002] The Historical Office of the Office of the Secretary of Defense will eventually publish a 250-page book in September 2007, which is based on many of these witness interviews (see September 2007). [Fayetteville Observer, 9/13/2007; Washington Post, 9/27/2007]
The Pentagon announces the existence of the new Office of Strategic Influence (OSI), which “was quietly set up after September 11.” The role of this office is to plant false stories in the foreign press, phony e-mails from disguised addresses, and other covert activities to manipulate public opinion. The new office proves so controversial that it is declared closed six days later. [CNN, 2/20/2002; CNN, 2/26/2002] It is later reported that the “temporary” Office of Global Communications will be made permanent (it is unknown when this office began its work). This office seems to serve the same function as the earlier OSI, minus the covert manipulation. [Washington Post, 7/30/2002] Defense Secretary Rumsfeld later states that after the OSI was closed, “I went down that next day and said fine, if you want to savage this thing fine I’ll give you the corpse. There’s the name. You can have the name, but I’m gonna keep doing every single thing that needs to be done and I have.”
[US Department of Defense, 11/18/2002]
[Source: Public domain]The book l’Effroyable Imposture (The Horrifying Fraud) is published in France. The book claims that Flight 77 did not crash into the Pentagon on 9/11. It is written by Thierry Meyssan, “president of the Voltaire Network, a respected independent think tank whose left-leaning research projects have until now been considered models of reasonableness and objectivity.”
[Guardian, 4/1/2002] The book is widely denounced by the media (See, for example, [Agence France-Presse, 3/21/2002; London Times, 5/19/2002; National Post, 8/31/2002; Baltimore Sun, 9/12/2002] ). One reporter heavily criticizes the book even while admitting never to have read it. [LA Weekly, 7/19/2002] In France, however, the book sets a publishing record for first-month sales. [Time (Europe), 5/20/2002] One of Meyssan’s theories is that people within the US government wanted to hit the Pentagon for its propaganda effect, but did not want to create a lot of damage or kill important people like Defense Secretary Rumsfeld. He notes that the plane hit the one section under construction, thus greatly reducing the loss of life. [Agence France-Presse, 3/21/2002; London Times, 5/19/2002] Furthermore, the wall at point of impact was the first and only one to be reinforced and have blast-resistant windows installed as part of an upgrade plan. [NFPA Journal, 11/1/2001]
The first two of five stills of the Pentagon impact. [Source: Public domain]A series of photos surfaces purporting to show a plane crashing into the Pentagon on 9/11. It is not clear who released the photos, but the Pentagon asserts that they are authentic and were taken by a Pentagon security camera. The release of these pictures comes within days of the publication of the book l’Effroyable Imposture that disputes the claim that Flight 77 hit the Pentagon (see Early March 2002). “Officials could not immediately explain why the date typed near the bottom of each photograph is September 12 and the time is written as 5:37 p.m.,” the book notes. [US department of Defense, 9/11/2001; Associated Press, 3/8/2002; Fox News, 3/8/2002] The whole video, together with another also taken by a Pentagon security camera, will be released in 2006 (see May 16, 2006). [Associated Press, 5/17/2006]
David Manning [Source: Britainusa.com]Britain is accused of falsely claiming the existence of an al-Qaeda biological and chemical weapons laboratory in Afghanistan in order to justify the deployment of Royal Marines to the country. A British government source says that documents found by American soldiers in a cave near the village of Shah-i-Kot indicates that Osama bin Laden had acquired chemical and biological weapons. The source also claimed that American forces had discovered the laboratory in a cave near the city of Gardez earlier this month. These claims are used to justify the deployment of 1,700 Royal Marines. But once these claims are made public, they are strongly denied by the Pentagon and State Department. A US Army official says, “I don’t know what they’re saying in London but we have received no specific intelligence on that kind of development or capability in the Shah-e-Kot valley region - I mean a chemical or biological weapons facility.” British intelligence, military, and Foreign Office sources also deny any knowledge of the claims. The only evidence related to any sort of laboratory was the discovery near Kandahar last December of an abandoned, incomplete building containing medical equipment, which had been previously reported. The source of the claims is eventually identified as an off-the-record briefing by Prime Minister Tony Blair’s senior foreign policy adviser, David Manning. The Prime Minister’s office says it sticks to “the thrust of the story.” It claims that although evidence points to al-Qaeda’s interest in acquiring such weapons, Manning had “not actually told” reporters a laboratory had been found. [Observer, 3/24/2002]
National Security Adviser Rice tries to explain what Bush knew and when in her May 16, 2002 press conference. [Source: CNN]National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice states, “I don’t think anybody could have predicted that these people would take an airplane and slam it into the World Trade Center, take another one and slam it into the Pentagon, that they would try to use an airplane as a missile,” adding that “even in retrospect” there was “nothing” to suggest that. [White House, 5/16/2002] Contradicting Rice’s claims, former CIA Deputy Director John Gannon acknowledges that such a scenario has long been taken seriously by US intelligence: “If you ask anybody could terrorists convert a plane into a missile? [N]obody would have ruled that out.” Rice also states, “The overwhelming bulk of the evidence was that this was an attack that was likely to take place overseas.” [MSNBC, 5/17/2002] Slate awards Rice the “Whopper of the Week” when the title of Bush’s August 6 briefing is revealed: “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in US.” [Slate, 5/23/2002] Rice later will concede that “somebody did imagine it” but will say she did not know about such intelligence until well after this conference. [Associated Press, 9/21/2002]
The Independent carries a story entitled, “Unanswered Questions: The Mystery of Flight 93,” a rare critique of the official version of events around that plane’s crash. Most of the information is a summation of what was reported before. However, there is one interesting new theory. Theorizing why witnesses did not see smoke from the faltering plane, the article points to the 1996 research of Harvard academic Elaine Scarry, “showing that the Air Force and the Pentagon have conducted extensive research on ‘electronic warfare applications’ with the possible capacity to intentionally disrupt the mechanisms of an aeroplane in such a way as to provoke, for example, an uncontrollable dive. Scarry also reports that US Customs aircraft are already equipped with such weaponry; as are some C-130 Air Force transport planes. The FBI has stated that, apart from the enigmatic Falcon business jet, there was a C-130 military cargo plane within 25 miles of the passenger jet when it crashed (see September 14, 2001). According to the Scarry findings, in 1995 the Air Force installed ‘electronic suites’ in at least 28 of its C-130s—capable, among other things, of emitting lethal jamming signals.” [New York Times Magazine, 11/19/2000; Independent, 8/13/2002]
The New York Times reports that the official Pentagon study assessing the structural effect of the 9/11 attack on the Pentagon was completed in July 2002 but has not been released, and may never be released. The study, conducted by the Army Corps of Engineers, “was specifically intended to consider Pentagon security in the light of new terrorist threats… Some, confused over what could be considered sensitive in the report, have expressed outrage that the lessons it may hold for other buildings could be squandered.” Engineers outside the investigation say the implications are considerable, since the design of the Pentagon is much more similar to other major buildings elsewhere than the design of the WTC. If the report were released, it is likely building codes would be changed and many lives saved in the long term. [New York Times, 11/5/2002]
Sixteen months after the attack occurred, the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) releases its Pentagon Building Performance Report on the Pentagon’s architectural response to the impact, blast, and subsequent fires caused by the Flight 77 crash on 9/11. [American Society of Civil Engineers, 1/17/2003] The report, which was finished several months earlier (see September 14, 2001-April 2002), admits “the volume of information concerning the aircraft crash… is rather limited,” but the team is able to give some details of the impact. The report reproduces the five frames of security camera footage made public in 2002 that showed the strike on the Pentagon (see March 7, 2002), seeing in them the approaching aircraft with its top about 20 feet above ground before exploding against and into the building. [Mlakar et al., 1/2003, pp. 14 ] The report notes the plane struck a construction generator and vent structure on the lawn and speculates “portions of the wings might have been separated from the fuselage before the aircraft struck the building.” [Mlakar et al., 1/2003, pp. 35-36 ] The ASCE finds that the plane hit the northern edge of Wedge One of the building—its southwest corner—which had been recently renovated, and that the plane made a 90 foot hole in the outer wall, destroying most ground floor support columns there and the limestone and brick façade between and in front of them. Aircraft debris is then reported to have passed through the building’s three outer rings E, D, and C, following the plane’s trajectory, entering the unrenovated Wedge Two towards the end of the path of destruction. [Mlakar et al., 1/2003, pp. 39 ] The report does not say what caused the much-debated hole in the wall of Ring C, which led on to an internal driveway in the middle of the building. However, in a section on the damage caused by the debris it notes, “There was a hole in the east wall of Ring C, emerging into AE drive,” and a photo of the C Ring hole is included in the report. [Mlakar et al., 1/2003, pp. 28 ]
Andreas von Bulow, a former German government minister, releases a book called “Die CIA und der 11. September” (The CIA and September 11), in which he alleges US government complicity in 9/11. Von Bulow was Federal Minister of Research and Technology under Chancellor Helmut Schmidt, and before that was high up in Germany’s Ministry of Defense. [Der Spiegel (Hamburg), 9/8/2003] He argues that 9/11 was a covert operation in which the CIA and the Israeli Mossad played a role. He suggests remote control could have been used to direct the hijacked planes into their targets; that the WTC towers collapsed due to explosives; that no planes crashed into the Pentagon or in Pennsylvania; and that the CIA had faked mobile phone calls from Flight 93 passengers. [Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (Frankfurt), 9/9/2003; International Herald Tribune, 10/1/2003; Daily Telegraph, 11/20/2003] Von Bulow tells the Daily Telegraph, “If what I say is right, the whole US government should end up behind bars.” The book is a bestseller in Germany, selling over 100,000 copies. [Daily Telegraph, 11/20/2003] He previewed some of his theories in a January 2002 interview (see January 13, 2002). [Daily Telegraph, 11/20/2003]
David Ray Griffin.
[Source: Public domain]The book “The New Pearl Harbor: Disturbing Questions about the Bush administration and 9/11,” written by theology professor David Ray Griffin, is released. The Daily Mail calls it “explosive.” Well known historian Howard Zinn calls the book: “the most persuasive argument I have seen for further investigation of the Bush administration’s relationship to that historic and troubling event.” The book suggests there is evidence that the Bush administration may have arranged the 9/11 attacks or deliberately allowed them to happen. It questions why no military fighter jets were sent up to intercept the hijacked planes after the terrorists first struck. It also explores the question of whether the Pentagon was really hit by Flight 77, and suggests that explosives could have assisted the collapse of the World Trade Center. [Democracy Now!, 5/26/2004; Daily Mail, 6/5/2004] The book sells well, but is virtually ignored by the mainstream US news media. Those who do report on the book generally deride it. For example, Publishers Weekly states, “Even many Bush opponents will find these charges ridiculous, though conspiracy theorists may be haunted by the suspicion that we know less than we think we do about that fateful day.” [Publishers Weekly, 3/22/2004]
In a speech given on this day, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld describes terrorists as “the people who attacked the United States in New York, shot down the plane over Pennsylvania and attacked the Pentagon…” His comment that Flight 93 was “shot down” draws attention. A few days later, CNN reports, “A Pentagon spokesman insisted that Rumsfeld simply misspoke, but Internet conspiracy theorists seized on the reference to the plane having been shot down.” [CNN, 12/24/2004; CNN, 12/27/2004]
A frame from the video showing the attack on the Pentagon. [Source: US Department of Defense]For the first time, the US Department of Defense officially releases video footage of the Pentagon attack. Two security cameras outside the building recorded the footage on the morning of 9/11 (see 9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001). [US Department of Defense, 9/11/2001; US Department of Defense, 9/11/2001; Associated Press, 5/17/2006; Washington Post, 5/17/2006] The digital cameras positioned north of the crash site had recently been installed and were still undergoing testing. They were part of a security system that enabled a guard in a booth to identify drivers heading toward the parking lot for the Pentagon Mall Entrance. [Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 161] The Pentagon releases the two videos in response to a Freedom of Information Act request and related lawsuit by the public interest group Judicial Watch. It previously refused to do so because, it said, the tapes were “part of an ongoing investigation involving Zacarias Moussaoui.” [Judicial Watch, 5/16/2006] Both tapes were played as evidence during Moussaoui’s recent death penalty trial. [Washington Post, 5/17/2006] However, the footage is of poor quality and several still images from one of the tapes have in fact already been released unofficially (see March 7, 2002). [Associated Press, 5/17/2006] Furthermore, Judicial Watch had sought all recordings of the Pentagon attack, including those taken by cameras at the nearby Sheraton Hotel and Citgo gas station, and Virginia Department of Transportation traffic cameras (see (After 9:37 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Judicial Watch, 5/16/2006] According to CNN’s Jamie McIntyre: “[T]here are at least 80 other tapes that the government is holding onto. We’re told that they don’t really show much, but sources have told us that at least one of the tapes from a security camera at a nearby hotel may have captured the plane in the air.” [CNN, 5/20/2006] So far, none of these tapes have been made public, though the FBI will release the footage from the Citgo gas station and video taken from the Doubletree Hotel in Arlington later this year (see September 13, 2006-Early December 2006). Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton says he hopes the newly released Pentagon security camera footage “will put to rest the conspiracy theories involving American Airlines Flight 77.” For example, some suggest a missile hit the Pentagon on 9/11. [BBC, 5/16/2006] However, it appears to have the opposite effect, causing Internet traffic to 9/11 conspiracy websites to soar. James Fetzer, co-chair of the group Scholars for 9/11 Truth, says of the videos: “There is no new information here whatsoever… You can’t tell what in the world is hitting the Pentagon.” [CanWest News Service, 5/18/2006]
Randy Papadopoulos, Nancy Berlage, and Diane Putney, three of the authors of Pentagon 9/11. [Source: Samantha L. Quigley / US Department of Defense]Defense Department historians release a book chronicling the September 11 attack on the Pentagon. The 250-page book includes the accounts of survivors, rescuers, and emergency responders, and includes previously unpublished photos of the wreckage, aircraft parts, and rescue efforts. [Fayetteville Observer, 9/13/2007; Washington Post, 9/27/2007] Titled Pentagon 9/11, it is published by the Historical Office of the Office of the Secretary of Defense, in collaboration with the Naval Historical Center, and with the assistance of the Army, Air Force, and Marine Corps historical offices. [US Department of Defense, 9/10/2007] More than 1,300 interviews were collected for it (see October 2001-September 11, 2002), of which the authors used more than 300 in putting together their account. [Washington Post, 9/27/2007] Randy Papadopoulos, a historian with the Naval Historical Center who co-authored Pentagon 9/11, calls it “the first scholarly study of what happened at the Pentagon on 11 September 2001.” [American Forces Press Service, 9/7/2007] Reportedly, one reason for writing the book was to counter skepticism and alternative theories that suggest the US government was behind the attack, and a missile rather than a hijacked aircraft hit the Pentagon (see Early March 2002). [Washington Post, 9/27/2007] Diane Putney, one of the book’s authors says, “I have no doubt it was American Airlines Flight 77 [that hit the building].” Her conclusion is reportedly based on a piece of the plane that was discovered, which bore the American Airlines logo. [American Forces Press Service, 9/7/2007]
Inactive Marine sergeant and employee of BAE Systems Dakota Meyer (see March 2011) decides to resign from his job with BAE over the company’s intent to sell PAS-13 thermal optical scopes to Pakistan (see April 2011 and April 29, 2011). Meyer attempts to find a position with his previous employer, AUSGAR Technologies, Inc. (see June 2010 - March 2011), before resigning. He does find an open position and will later give two weeks’ notice to BAE (see May 31, 2011), but be told that his rehire has been blocked by the Pentagon (see June 1, 2011). [District Court of Bexar County, TX, 11/28/2011; Wall Street Journal, 11/29/2011]
After inactive Reserve Marine Sergeant Dakota Meyer resigned from his job at BAE Systems over BAE’s intended sale of PAS-13 thermal optical scopes to Pakistan (see May 31, 2011) and is slotted to get a position with his former employer AUSGAR Technolgies (see Before May 31, 2011), he receives an email from an employee of AUSGAR stating that his re-hire has been blocked by Pentagon program manager Robert Higginson. [Wall Street Journal, 11/29/2011]
After being informed that his rehire at AUSGAR Technologies has been blocked by program manager Robert Higginson at the Pentagon (see June 1, 2011), former Marine Sergeant Dakota Meyer files a defamation lawsuit against BAE Systems, his former employer, and his supervisor at BAE, Bobby McCreight. [Wall Street Journal, 11/29/2011]
Court papers are filed in Medal of Honor recipient Sergeant Dakota Meyer’s (see September 15, 2011) defamation of character lawsuit in the district court of Bexar County (San Antonio), Texas (see After June 1, 2011). The suit is against Meyer’s former employer BAE Systems (a British-owned defense contractor that has contracts with the US government) and supervisor Bobbie McCreight. Meyer’s legal team writes in the court documents that the defamation came after Meyer expressed concern over BAE’s intent to sell PAS-13s (advanced optic scopes) to Pakistan (see April 2011 and April 29, 2011). The court filing also alleges that BAE prevented his hiring by another defense contractor, AUSGAR Technologies (see Before May 31, 2011 and May 31, 2011), by telling Pentagon program manager Robert Higginson on the phone that Meyer was mentally unstable and had a drinking problem. The phone conversation is said to have occurred at some point in the last 10 days of May 2011, according to the filing. [District Court of Bexar County, TX, 11/28/2011; BBC, 11/30/2011; Agence France-Presse, 11/30/2011; Washington Business Journal, 11/30/2011]
Receive weekly email updates summarizing what contributors have added to the History Commons database
Developing and maintaining this site is very labor intensive. If you find it useful, please give us a hand and donate what you can.
If you would like to help us with this effort, please contact us. We need help with programming (Java, JDO, mysql, and xml), design, networking, and publicity. If you want to contribute information to this site, click the register link at the top of the page, and start contributing.