The creation of the Pentagon in seventeen whirlwind months during World War II is one of the great construction feats in American history, involving a tremendous mobilization of manpower, resources, and minds. In astonishingly short order, Brigadier General Brehon B. Somervell conceived and built an institution that ranks with the White House, the Vatican, and a handful of other structures as symbols recognized around the world.
Now veteran military reporter Steve Vogel reveals for the first time the remarkable story of the Pentagon's construction, from it's dramatic birth to its rebuilding after the September 11 attack. In July 1941, the Army construction chief sprang the idea of building a single, huge headquarters that could house the entire War Department, then scattered in seventeen buildings around Washington.
Somervell ordered drawings produced in one weekend and, despite a firestorm of opposition, broke ground two months later, vowing that the building would be finished in little more than a year. Thousands of workers descended on the site, a raffish Virginia neighborhood known as Hell's Bottom, while an army of draftsmen churned out designs barely one step ahead of their execution.
Seven months later the first Pentagon employees skirted seas of mud to move into the building and went to work even as construction roared around them. The colossal Army headquarters helped recast Washington from a sleepy southern town into the bustling center of a reluctant empire.
Vivid portraits are drawn of other key figures in the drama, among them Franklin D. Roosevelt, Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson and Army Chief of Staff General George C. Marshall, Colonel Leslie R. Groves and John McShain, the charming and dapper builder who used his relationship with FDR to help land himself the contract for the biggest office building in the world.