THE VETERANS' PRESS: The Pentagon: A five sided foxhole
| June 21, 2022 1:00 AM
5D660…5th floor, D ring, 6th corridor, room 60. This was my office at the Pentagon during my Navy tour from 1971 to 1974. Finding it on my first day of duty felt like…well…it felt like I was roaming around 6 million square feet of space. Because I was.
The Pentagon, headquarters of the United States Department of Defense, is the largest office building in the world. Located on 583 acres in Arlington, Virginia, across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C., it is the home to the Secretary of Defense, the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the highest echelons of the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force and Space Force. The Coast Guard is headquartered in downtown Washington, D.C.
Before the Pentagon was built, the United States Department of War "main office" was housed in a temporary World War I structure along Constitution Avenue. Other divisions, and departments of the military, were spread out in dozens of other buildings throughout Washington. In the late 1930's, a new War Department building was complete, but the space was immediately determined too small. On July 28, 1941, Congress authorized funding for a new Department of War. Requirements for the new building were that it use a minimal amount of steel to reserve that resource for war needs, and that the building be turned into a hospital, office or warehouse when World War II was over.
Contracts totaling over $31 million (equivalent to $428 million in 2020) were awarded and construction began on the 1,100 acres of land which was once part of the estate belonging to General Robert E. Lee. Ground was broken on Sept. 11, 1941. And yes, you read it correctly — 9/11. Exactly 60 years before the ill-fated 9/11.
The Pentagon was built using 680,000 tons of sand dredged from the Potomac River, 435,000 yards of concrete, and 43,000 tons of steel. After the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, construction went into high gear. Because it was built in sections, employees were able to move in by the end of April 1942 — a mere eight months after the first batch of concrete was poured. With the help of 1,000 architects and a round-the-clock multiple shift crew, the Pentagon was completed on Jan. 15, 1943. The war was at its height, so officials decided the building would remain the military's command center.
Some fun facts about the Pentagon:
• It has six different zip codes
• It has 284 bathrooms and 4,200 clocks
• There are seventeen and a half miles of hallways within the Pentagon
• The 16 parking lots can hold 8,770 cars.
• The Pentagon was designed five-sided due to existing roads that surrounded the building site
• About 30,000 people work at the Pentagon, making the Department of Defense the largest employer in the world
So, it's no wonder my first days at the Pentagon were akin to a corn maze. However, I followed in the shadow of a great man. When Dwight David Eisenhower took his position as Army Chief of Staff after World War II ended, he got lost while on a walk and was compelled to ask a group of stenographers for directions back to his own office. Perhaps this event prompted his famous quote: "Accomplishment will prove to be a journey, not a destination."
Search "facts about the Pentagon" for more about this remarkable building and its history.