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The history of the Pentagon dates back to mid 20th century. The area used to be nothing but wasteland and dumps. It was in 1941, shortly before the US entry into the Second World War, that the decision to construct a building which gathered all Defense personnel in one building was taken.
An extraordinary need
At the time, the War Department work force numbered more than 24,000 people, housed in 17 different buildings. Needless to say, the new building would have to be huge in order to fit all these people into one single building.
The guidelines given was also not to provide office for the current 24,000 employees, but to have a maximum capacity of 40,000 while at the same time keeping the building less than six stories high.
A pentagonal building
This, not so easy task, was solved by Engineer officer General Brehon B. Somervell and his two subordinates, who together proposed a five-sided building design. This shape is commonly known as a pentagonal shape, which has given the building its name. The construction started right away with 41,000 concrete piles and 5,5 million cubic yards of earth forming the foundation of the building.
The construction process went incredibly fast and the building stood completed in January 1943, only 16 months after the start of the construction. A normal time period for a project of this magnitude was around four years. In total, around 4,000 men were working the building in three shifts, which explains the remarkably fast completion of the building.
Visitors looking at the outside of the Pentagon will see that it is rather stripped of details and other ornamentation. This is a choice the designers made, as they wanted to minimize or avoid using critical war materials when possible. For example, they used concrete drainpipes rather than metal and they eliminated bronze doors and copper ornaments.
The building might look like a big block, but the fact is the Pentagon is built as five pentagonal rings, with space in between each ring to allow sunlight into the building. In the middle of the Pentagon you can even find a small park.
Exactly 60 years after the initial construction of the Pentagon, the September 11 attacks occurred, in which American Airlines Flight 77 crashed into the west side of the building. The flight penetrated three of the five pentagonal rings, killing a total of 184 people. Luckily, the area hit by the plane was undergoing renovations, which left several offices unoccupied. Otherwise the death toll would likely have been even higher.
The Phoenix Project
After the attacks, a massive project was initiated with the task of rebuilding the damaged sections within one year. It was named the “Phoenix Project” with reference to the mythological Phoenix bird, which always rises from the ashes.
The 9/11 attacks also lead to the construction of the Pentagon Memorial. The construction of this memorial began in 2006 and was dedicated on September 11, 2008.
Why visit Pentagon ?
The Pentagon is headquarters of the Department of Defense and one of the world’s largest office buildings. It has about three times the floor space of the Empire State Building, which gives you an indication of its enormous size.
Today, the Pentagon is almost as a city in itself. It has more than 20.000 employees and parking lots for over 8.000 cars. While in the building, they tell time by 4,200 clocks, drink from 691 water fountains and can utilize any of the 284 rest rooms.
Even though the building was constructed during the early years of World War II, it is still thought of as one of the most efficient office buildings in the world. Despite its enormous size, it only takes around seven minutes to walk between any two points in the building.
Getting an in depth look of the inside of the Pentagon can be hard if you haven’t booked a time in advance.
The Pentagon Memorial
The memorial built after the 9/11 attacks contains 184 benches, one for each victim of the attack, arranged in order of the year of birth of each individual. Each bench also carries the name of a victim with a small pool of water under it.
Visitors paying extra attention will see that some of the benches points towards the Pentagon while others point away. This is no coincidence, but symbolizes whether or not the victim was inside the plane or at the Pentagon.
The benches for the 59 victims on board the plane are arranged so that someone reading the name on the end of the bench will face the sky where the plane came from. The 125 benches for the victims inside the Pentagon face the opposite direction, so someone reading the name will look up and see the façade of the Pentagon where the jet hit that day.
The Pentagon is located in eastern United States. It lies situated on the old Potomac River floodplains in Arlington County, next to Washington D.C. For the exact location of the Pentagon, check out the location map to the right!
Interactive location map. For a larger and more detailed map, check out our US map.
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