The Pentagon

The Pentagon

Infobox Military Structure
name= The Pentagon
location= Arlington, Virginia

caption= Southwest view of the Pentagon with the Potomac River and Washington Monument in background.
type= Headquarters of the U.S. Department of Defense
built= 1943
used= 1943 – present
controlledby= U.S. Secretary of Defense

The Pentagon is the headquarters of the United States Department of Defense, located in Arlington County, Virginia. As a symbol of the U.S. military, "the Pentagon" is often used metonymically to refer to the Department of Defense rather than the building itself.

Designed by the Swedish American architect George Bergstrom (1876 – 1955), and built by Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, general contractor John McShain, the building was dedicated on January 15, 1943, after ground was broken for construction on September 11, 1941. General Brehon Somervell provided the major motive power behind the project; [Steve Vogel, The Pentagon: a History (2003).] Colonel Leslie Groves (whose administrative ability, drive, and forcefulness led to his nomination to head the Manhattan Project in 1942) and Major Clarence Renshaw were responsible for overseeing the project for the Army.

The Pentagon is the largest [ [ The Pentagon - George Bergstrom - Great Buildings Online ] ] or one of the world's largest office buildings. [ The Pentagon, Facts & Figures] (accessed January 19, 2008)] It houses approximately 89,000 military and civilian employeesand about 3,000 non-defense support personnel. It has five sides, five floors above ground (plus two basement levels), and five ring corridors per floor with a total of convert|17.5|mi|km of corridors.

The central plaza of the Pentagon is shaped like a pentagon and is five acres (20,000 m²) in area. The open space in the center which has also a pentagon shape is informally known as "ground zero", a nickname originating during the Cold War and based on the presumption that the Soviet Union would target one or more nuclear missiles at this central location. At the center of this plaza was once the "Ground Zero Cafe", a snack bar.cite news |last=Hoffman |first=Lisa |url= |title=The 'Ground Zero Cafe' bites the dust |publisher=Capitol Hill Blue|date=September 29, 2006|accessdate=2007-01-14]

Just south of the Pentagon are Pentagon City and Crystal City, extensive shopping and high-density residential districts in Arlington. Arlington National Cemetery is to the north. The Washington Metro Pentagon station is also located at the Pentagon, on the Blue and Yellow Lines. The Pentagon is surrounded by the complex Pentagon road network. [cite web |url= |title=Mixing Bowl Interchange Complex | |accessdate=2006-11-22]



Prior to the construction of the Pentagon, the War Department was housed in a series of "temporary" buildings erected during World War I which nearly covered the National Mall. Ground was broken for the Pentagon on September 11, 1941, with construction completed in approximately sixteen months at a cost of US $83 million. A minimal amount of steel was used in construction, which was in short supply during World War II. 680,000 tons of sand, dredged from the Potomac River, was used in the reinforced concrete structure. [cite news |title=How The Pentagon Got Its Shape (Gallery) |publisher=The Washington Post |date=May 26, 2007 |url= |author=McGrath, Amanda] The exterior of the building was built using Indiana limestone.

Its unusual shape results from the fact that its originally intended site, Arlington Farms, fronted on Arlington Ridge Road and the Arlington Memorial Bridge approach, which intersected at an angle of approximately 108 degrees (the angle of a regular pentagon). [ [ Bureau of Public Roads memorandum, October 25, 1960] .] President Franklin D. Roosevelt had it constructed at its current location because he didn't want the new building to obstruct the view of Washington, D.C. from Arlington Cemetery, [cite web | title=General Information | url= | accessmonthday=December 4 | accessyear=2005 ] but the building retained its pentagonal shape because a major redesign at that stage would have been costly and because Roosevelt liked the design. Freed of the constraints of the asymmetric Arlington Farms site, however, it was modified into a regular pentagon. [cite news| url=| title= How the Pentagon Got Its Shape| first=Steve| last= Vogel| date= May 27, 2007| pages= W16| publisher=Washington Post| accessdate=2007-05-26]


As originally built, most Pentagon office space consisted of open bays which spanned an entire ring. These offices used cross-ventilation from operable windows instead of air conditioning for cooling. Gradually, bays were subdivided into private offices with many using window air conditioning units.

Since 1998, the Pentagon has been undergoing a major renovation, known as the Pentagon Renovation Program. This program, scheduled to be completed in 2010, involves the complete gutting and reconstruction of the entire building in phases to bring the building up to modern standards, removing asbestos, improving security and providing greater efficiency for Pentagon tenants. Recently, the process of sealing all of the building's windows began.

The new space will include a return to open office bays, with a new Universal Space Plan of standardized office furniture and partitions developed by Studios Architecture. [ [ Renovation] of the Pentagon. Retrieved October 7, 2006.]


During the late 1960s the Pentagon became a focus for protests against the Vietnam War. In one of the better known incidents, on October 21, 1967, some 35,000 anti-war protesters organized by the National Mobilization Committee to End the War in Vietnam, gathered for a demonstration at the Defense Department (the "March on the Pentagon"), where they were confronted by some 2,500 armed soldiers. Abbie Hoffman satirically declared the group's intention of levitating the Pentagon convert|300|ft|m|-1 by means of meditation, wobbling it once in mid-air in order to exorcise evil spirits. On May 19, 1972, the American radicals known as the Weather Underground Organization successfully planted and exploded a bomb in a Pentagon restroom in retaliation for the Nixon administration's bombing attacks on Hanoi during the final stages of the Vietnam War. On March 17, 2007, an estimated 4,000 to 15,000 protested the Iraq War. [ "4 Years After Start of War, Anger Reigns", Washington Post, 2007-03-17 page A1] The protesters marched from the Lincoln Memorial, down Route 27 to the Pentagon’s north parking lot. Estimates of actual protestors varies significantly because the march area is in the area of the National Mall, the Lincoln Memorial, and Arlington; and a high number of tourists curiously attracted to the march may have been included in the tallies.

eptember 11 attack

American Airlines Flight 77 was hijacked by five radical/fundamentalist-islamic terrorists and at 9:37 a.m. EDT on September 11, 2001, the jetliner was deliberately crashed into the west side of the Pentagon as part of the September 11 terrorist attacks. All 64 people on the airliner were killed as well as 125 people who were in the building. The impact of the plane severely damaged the structure of the building and caused its partial collapse.

At the time of the attacks the Pentagon was under renovation and several offices were unoccupied, resulting in fewer casualties. Contractors already involved with the renovation were given the extra task of rebuilding the sections damaged in the attacks. This additional project was named the "Phoenix Project", and was charged with having the outermost offices of the damaged section occupied by September 11, 2002. [cite web | title=Pentagon Renovation Program | url= | accessmonthday=December 4 | accessyear=2005 ] [cite web | publisher = BBC News | title= Americas: Pentagon staff reclaim destroyed offices | url= | accessmonthday=December 4 | accessyear=2005 ] [ [ Pentagon History - September 11, 2001 ] ]

Pentagon Memorial

The Pentagon Memorial was constructed at the Pentagon in memory of those who died there and on American Airlines Flight 77 in the September 11 attacks. [ [ Pentagon Memorial] Web site] [ [ Official press release] at the United States Department of Defense] It was opened to the public on September 11, 2008, the seventh anniversary of the attacks. Nearly 20,000 people were present for the dedication. President George W. Bush dedicated the memorial as "an everlasting tribute to the 184 souls who perished." [cite news |first=Debbie |last=Wilgoren |coauthors=Nick Miroff, Robin Shulman |title="Pentagon Memorial Dedicated on 7th Anniversary of Attacks" |url= |work=The Washington Post |publisher=The Washington Post Company |date=2008-09-11 |accessdate=2008-09-11 ] The memorial consists of a two-acre park with 184 benches, according to the victims' ages, from 3 to 71. The Pentagon Memorial is the first memorial at an attack site to be completed; memorials at the World Trade Center and in Shanksville, PA (Flight 93 National Memorial),For the fifth anniversary of the September 11, 2001 attacks, a memorial of 184 beams of light shone up from the center courtyard of the Pentagon, one light for each victim of the attack.

Navigating the building

There is a concourse on the southeast side of the second floor of the building. It contains a mini-shopping mall. Located near the Metro bus and rail stations, this is the main entrance for visitors.

Floors in The Pentagon are lettered "B" for Basement and "M" for Mezzanine, both of which are below ground level. The concourse is located on the second floor at the metro entrance. Above ground floors are numbered 1 to 5.

The concentric rings are designated from the center out as "A" through "E" (with addition "F" and "G" in the basement). "E" Ring offices are the only ones with outside views and are generally occupied by senior officials.

Office numbers go clockwise around each of the rings, and have two parts: a nearest-corridor number (1 to 10) followed by a bay number (00 to 99), so office numbers range from 100 to 1099. These corridors radiate out from the central courtyard, with corridor 1 beginning with the Concourse's south end. Each numbered radial corridor intersects with the corresponding numbered group of offices (for example, corridor 5 divides the 500 series office block).

Room numbers are given as the floor, concentric ring, and office number (which is in turn the nearest corridor number followed by the bay number). Thus, office 2B315 is on the second floor, B ring, and nearest to corridor 3 (between corridors 2 and 3). One way to get to this office would be to go to the second floor, get to the A (innermost) ring, go to and take corridor 3, and then turn left on ring B to get to bay 15. [cite web | url= | title=How to Find a Room in the Pentagon | accessmonthday=September 13 | accessyear=2007 | publisher=Headquarters, Dept. of the Army]

Law Enforcement and Protection

The Pentagon Force Protection Agency (PFPA) is a United States government agency comprising both sworn federal police officers, the United States Pentagon Police and civilian CBRN technicians, and non-sworn civilian anti-terrorism investigative and physical security personnel, and is responsible for the protection of the Pentagon.

The Department of Defense created the PFPA after the September 11, 2001 attacks. The new agency absorbed the Defense Protective Service (DPS) and assumed its role of providing basic law enforcement and security for the Pentagon and Department of Defense sites in the 280 acre (1.1 km²) "Pentagon Reservation" and greater National Capital Region (NCR).

PFPA was also charged with providing force protection against the full spectrum of potential threats through robust prevention, preparedness, detection, and response measures. The United States Pentagon Police is the primary federal law enforcement arm of the Pentagon Force Protection Agency.


The Pentagon has many of its own fast food operations, including Subway, McDonald's, Dunkin' Donuts, Panda Express, Starbucks, Sbarro, among others. [cite web |url= |title=Concessions - The Pentagon |publisher=Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs |accessdate=2008-03-30] A multibranded KFC, Pizza Hut, and Taco Bell restaurant opened in 2003, when renovations to the food court were completed. [cite news |url= |title=Pentagon Gets New KFC/Pizza Hut/Taco Bell Multibranded Restaurant |publisher=AllBusiness |date=August 13, 2003] Food services are managed by the Navy Exchange. The Center Courtyard Cafe reopened in Spring 2008, [cite news |url= |title=Center Courtyard Cafe |publisher=Pentagon Renovator Newsletter |date=February 2008|format=PDF] replacing the "Ground Zero Cafe" snack bar that was previously there.

The "Pentagon Athletic Center" (PAC), a fitness center for military and civilian staff, opened in 2004 [ [ Pentagon Renovation Program ] ] adjacent to the north side of the Pentagon, replacing the Pentagon Officers Athletic Club (POAC) which had operated for 55 years in a structure between Route 110 and the parade grounds.

Each year, the Pentagon grounds are a major focus for hosting the Marine Corps Marathon and the Army Ten-Miler running events.Infobox_nrhp | name =Pentagon Office Building Complex
built =1941
architect= Bergstrom,G.E.; Witmer,D.J.
architecture= Classical Revival, Modern Movement, Other
designated= October 05, 1992cite web|url=
title=Pentagon|accessdate=2008-06-27|work=National Historic Landmark summary listing|publisher=National Park Service
added = July 27, 1989
refnum=89000932cite web|url=|title=National Register Information System|date=2008-04-15|work=National Register of Historic Places|publisher=National Park Service]


There are a number of historical displays in the building, particularly in the "A" and "E" rings. In 1976, the Pentagon began offering guided tours to the general public, as part of the American Bicentennial. [cite news | first=Stephen | last=Stewart | url= | title=Penetrating the Pentagon | author= Halloran, Richard | publisher=The New York Times | pages=Section 10, page 39 | date=1982 April 18 ] Tours for the general public were suspended after the September 11, 2001 attacks, but are currently available on a pre-arranged basis to veterans, educational institutions, church groups, boy/girl scouts, other groups and the general public.cite web|url=|title=The Pentagon Tour Request|date=2008-08-08]

Pentagon in popular culture

Abbie Hoffman's comment about levitating the building during the October 21, 1967, demonstration became the basis for the plot element in the metafictional novel "Illuminatus!" by Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson that the soldiers prevented the levitation because it also would have exorcised the Lovecraftian Outer God Yog-Sothoth, deliberately entrapped within the Pentagon by the Illuminati. [ [] ] The film "No Way Out", starring Kevin Costner and Sean Young, involved a manhunt within the Pentagon for much of the film.

Facts and figures

*Construction began September 11, 1941.
*Construction was completed on January 15, 1943.
*Total cost of project (including outside facilities) was $83,000,000 (over $1 billion in 2008 dollars).


*Total land area: convert|583|acre|km2|0|abbr=on
*Location: 38.87099°N, 77.05596°W
*Cost: $2,245,000
*Area covered by Pentagon bldg: convert|29|acre|ha|0|abbr=on
*Area of center court: convert|7|acre|m2|abbr=on
*Access highways built: 30 miles (48 km)
*Overpasses and bridges built: 35


*Parking space: convert|264|acre|km2|abbr=on
*Capacity (vehicles): 8,770

Main building

*Cost of building: $49,600,000
*Gross floor area: convert|6636360|sqft|m2|-1|abbr=on
*Cubic contents: convert|77015000|cuft|m3|-3|abbr=on
*Length of each outer wall: convert|921|ft|m|0|abbr=on
*Height of building: 77 ft 3.5 in (24 m)
*Number of floors, plus mezzanine and basement: seven, five above ground, two below
*Total length of corridors: 17.5 miles (28 km)
*Protected by the Pentagon Force Protection Agency- United States Pentagon Police


*Stairways: 131
*Escalators: 50
*Elevators: 27
*Windows: 8,999
*Rest rooms: 500
*Fixtures: 4,900
*Drinking fountains: 691
*Clocks installed: 4,200
*Light fixtures: 16,250
*Daily lamp replacements: 250
*Total glass area: convert|309276|sqft|m2|0|abbr=on
*Telephone cable: convert|100000|mi|km|-4
*Telephone calls made daily: 200,000
*Pieces of mail handled monthly by the Defense Post Office: 5,000,000

ZIP codes

* Even though the building is located in Virginia, the United States Postal Service requires that "Washington, D.C." be used in conjunction with the six ZIP codes assigned to it:
**20301 - Secretary of Defense
**20310 - Army
**20318 - Joint Chiefs of Staff
**20330 - Air Force
**20350 - Navy
**20380 - Marine Corps


External links

* [ The Pentagon website]
* [ Pentagon Force Protection Agency]
* [ Pentagon Renovation Program]
* [ The Worldwide Network of US Military Bases]
* [ Navigating the Pentagon]
* [ Great Buildings Online - The Pentagon]
* [ How the Pentagon Got Its Shape] - The Washington Post, May 26, 2007
* [ A House Divided: Pentagon Trivia Fact] retrieved June 13, 2008.
**Satellite image from [ Mapygon]

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