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Profile: Robert Natter
Robert Natter was a participant or observer in the following events:
Naval Station Norfolk. [Source: US Navy]Rudy Washington, who is one of Rudolph Giuliani’s deputy mayors, sees the smoking North Tower as he is being driven into downtown Manhattan. He immediately calls Admiral Robert Natter, the commander of the US Atlantic Fleet at Norfolk Naval Station, Virginia, the world’s largest naval base. He requests air cover over New York. Norfolk Naval Station is in the region of Naval Air Station Oceana, which has F-14 Tomcats and F/A-18 Hornets. It is also near Langley Air Force Base. Natter says he will need to get in touch with the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), but will then call back. [Digital Journalist, 10/2001; CBS News, 4/3/2003; New York Daily News, 5/20/2004; Global Security (.org), 5/25/2006] Around this time, Washington also calls Patrick Burns at the base. Burns usually works in New York as the director of fleet support for the Navy, a civilian position that works closely with the mayor’s office and numerous other agencies. He is at Norfolk Naval Station for his two-week Naval Reserve obligation. Washington tells Burns, “I need you here.” No doubt anticipating there will be mass casualties, he adds, “I need that hospital ship.” He is referring to the hospital ship the USNS Comfort. [Associated Press, 9/11/2001; Notre Dame Magazine, 4/2007] However, the Comfort, which is based in Baltimore, will only set off for New York at 3 p.m. the following day, and arrive at Pier 92 in Manhattan late in the evening of September 14. [US Navy, n.d.; Military Sealift Command, 9/18/2001]
The USS George Washington. [Source: Summer Anderson / Department of Defense]After the attack on the Pentagon, Navy ships and aircraft squadrons that are stationed, or at sea, along the coast of the United States are, reportedly, “rapidly pressed into action” to defend the country. Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Vern Clark is evacuated from his office in the Pentagon after the building is hit, and soon relocates to the Navy’s Antiterrorist Alert Center in southeast Washington, DC, where a backup Navy command center is being established (see After 9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001). Clark later explains, “We had carriers at sea. I talked to Admiral Natter [Adm. Robert J. Natter, commander in chief, US Atlantic Fleet] and Admiral Fargo [Adm. Thomas B. Fargo, commander in chief, US Pacific Fleet] about immediate loadouts [of weapons and armed aircraft] and the positioning of our air defense cruisers. Fundamentally, those pieces were in place almost immediately and integrated into the interagency process and with the FAA [Federal Aviation Administration].” The aircraft carrier USS George Washington is currently at sea conducting training exercises. It is dispatched to New York, “following the recovery of armed F-14 Tomcats and F/A-18 Hornets from Naval Air Station Oceana,” in Virginia Beach, Virginia. According to Sea Power magazine, another aircraft carrier—the USS John F. Kennedy—that is departing Mayport, Florida, is ordered to patrol the waters off Hampton Roads, Virginia, “to protect the Navy’s vast shore complex in Norfolk.” [Associated Press, 9/12/2001; Sea Power, 1/2002; Notre Dame Magazine, 4/2007] The John F. Kennedy has nearly a full air wing of 75 fighter, attack, and reconnaissance planes aboard it, while the George Washington has only a limited number of aircraft on board. [Virginian-Pilot, 9/12/2001] Admiral Natter orders two amphibious ships—the USS Bataan and the USS Shreveport—to proceed to North Carolina, to pick up Marines from Camp Lejeune, in case additional support is needed in New York. “Within three hours, an undisclosed number of Aegis guided-missile cruisers and destroyers also were underway, their magazines loaded with Standard 2 surface-to-air missiles. Positioned off New York and Norfolk, and along the Gulf Coast, they provided robust early-warning and air-defense capabilities to help ensure against follow-on terrorist attacks.” Vern Clark later recalls that, after the Pentagon attack, “We were thinking about the immediate protection of the United States of America.” [Sea Power, 1/2002] Yet, according to CNN, it is not until 1:44 p.m. that the Pentagon announces that five warships and two aircraft carriers—the USS George Washington and the USS John F. Kennedy—are to depart the Naval Station in Norfolk, Virginia, so as to protect the East Coast (see 1:44 p.m. September 11, 2001). [CNN, 9/12/2001] And, according to some reports, the Navy only dispatches missile destroyers toward New York and Washington at 2:51 p.m. [Washington Post, 9/12/2001; Fox News, 9/13/2001; Associated Press, 9/11/2006]
Robert Natter. [Source: CBS]Rudy Washington, who is one of Rudolph Giuliani’s deputy mayors, had earlier on called Admiral Robert Natter, the commander of the US Atlantic Fleet at Norfolk Naval Station, Virginia, and requested air cover over New York (see (Between 8:46 a.m. and 9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001). After the WTC’s South Tower collapses at 9:59, Washington heads to City Hall, where he again communicates with Natter. Natter informs him that the Pentagon has been hit, and says he has now gotten permission from NORAD to send some fighter jets over the city. [New York Daily News, 5/20/2004] However, when exactly these jets are launched and when they arrive over New York is unstated. Patrick Burns, who is currently at the Norfolk Naval Station for his two-week Naval Reserve obligation, later recalls, “Air cover was already up with Navy jets out of Naval Air Station Oceana.” Naval Air Station Oceana, in Virginia Beach, Virginia, is home to F-14 Tomcat and F/A-18 Hornet fighters. But Burns does not state a time for when these fighters are airborne. [Virginian-Pilot, 9/22/2001; Digital Journalist, 10/2001; Notre Dame Magazine, 4/2007] The 9/11 Commission Report will make no mention of any Naval fighters. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004]
Rudy Washington. [Source: Congress of Racial Equality]After being caught in the dust plume when the WTC’s South Tower collapses at 9:59, Rudy Washington, who is one of Rudolph Giuliani’s deputy mayors, heads to City Hall, where he coordinates the city’s emergency response to the attacks. He is in contact with New York Governor George Pataki, high-ranking New York Police Department officers, and Navy Admiral Robert Natter, the commander of the US Atlantic Fleet (see (Shortly After 9:59 a.m.) September 11, 2001). He orders the closing of bridges. (Though, according to some accounts, the New York Port Authority ordered all bridges to be closed earlier on, at 9:21 (see 9:21 a.m. September 11, 2001).) As New York Daily News columnist Stanley Crouch later describes, Washington also finds “heavy machinery to get downtown for the cleanup and got the Navy to guard against a seaborne attack. He evacuated City Hall, which shook like crazy when the second tower fell. He gathered people who could give medical help, gave the order to find lights that could be used at Ground Zero and worked out new phone communications, since power was being lost. Accompanied by city engineers, he went into the streets around the fallen towers, testing the ground to make sure it would hold when the heavy equipment came in.” Washington’s efforts at developing an emergency strategy are reportedly aided by what he learned at an anti-terrorist training session chaired by counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke and held at the WTC, in preparation for the millennium celebration (see (Late 1999)). Stanley Crouch later credits Rudy Washington with having “ran New York for the first few hours after the attack during a period when Giuliani was thought to have been killed inside the first building that went down.” [New York Daily News, 5/20/2004] During the initial hours following the attacks, between around 9:50 a.m. and midday, Mayor Giuliani is moving around between a series of temporary command posts (see (9:50 a.m.-10:10 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and (After 10:28 a.m.-12:00 pm.) September 11, 2001).
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