views updated May 11 2018


PENTAGON, situated in Arlington, Virginia, across the Potomac River from the nation's capital, is the home of America's defense establishment and symbolizes the country's warmaking capability and its projection abroad. In June 1941, the War Department moved into its new War Department Building, but the rapid growth of the armed forces in the months before Pearl Harbor had already made the structure inadequate. To meet the demand for office and storage space, Brigadier General Brehon B. Somervell, chief of the construction division in the quartermaster general's office, advanced the idea of a single building to house the expanding department. The Arlington site was selected for its accessibility to Washington and the availability of land already owned by the government. Discussions over location, size, and shape, some of which involved President Franklin Roosevelt, eventually produced a five-sided structure with five floors and floor space of more than six million square feet. The

pentagonal shape, the idea of architect G. Edwin Bergstrom, was adapted from army forts that were similarly shaped, thus giving the Pentagon the image of a fortress. It consists of five concentric pentagonal rings connected by perpendicular corridors. The building is 71 feet high and each outer side is 921.6 feet long. It covers 28.7 acres and rests on a site of 280 acres with parking for 9,500 vehicles. The final cost of what is the largest office building in the world was $50 million, with additional costs of roads and external buildings raising the total to $85 million.

Construction of the Pentagon began in September 1941 and took sixteen months to complete, utilizing as many as 15,000 workers on site. It has a slab-and-beam reinforced concrete framework with a limestone facade. Its style is "stripped classicism, " a synthesis of classical and modern styles similar to that of other government buildings built at that time. Architects were Bergstrom and David J. Witmer. Supervising construction for the army were Somervell, Colonel Leslie R. Groves, and Captain Clarence Renshaw. The primary building company was John McShain, Inc. The Pentagon officially opened in January 1943 and reached its highest occupancy of 33,000 employees that year and again in 1952 during the Korean War. Since the reorganization of the military establishment in 1947, the Pentagon has become the home of the Department of Defense, including its secretary, the Departments of the Army, Navy, and Air Force, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the war room of the National Military Command System. It was the scene of several antiwar protests during the Vietnam era. On 11 September 2001, terrorists hijacked an American Airlines plane and crashed it into the west wing of the Pentagon, killing 189 people.


Goldberg, Alfred. The Pentagon: The First Fifty Years. Washington, D.C.: Historical Office, Office of the Secretary of Defense, 1992.

Ronald L.Heinemanna

See alsoDefense, Department of ; Defense, National ; War Department .

The Pentagon

views updated May 21 2018

The Pentagon is the building that houses the U.S. Department of Defense, located in Arlington, Virginia, just across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C. As the name indicates, it is a five‐sided building, composed of five concentric pentagons interconnected by corridors.

The Pentagon was constructed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers between 1941 and 1943 to consolidate various offices in the War Department, which was expanding rapidly during World War II. Covering an area of thirty‐four acres, with four stories aboveground, the reinforced concrete building was designed to provide 5 million square feet of floor space for 40,000 employees. When completed, the Pentagon was the world's largest office building. In 1947, it became the headquarters of the newly established Department of Defense. The term “the Pentagon” often refers to the Defense Department.


Lenore Fine and and Jesse Remington , The Corps of Engineers: Construction in the United States, in Office of the Chief of Military History, U.S. Army in World War II: The Technical Services, 1972.

John Whiteclay Chambers II


views updated May 21 2018

pen·ta·gon / ˈpentəˌgän/ • n. 1. a plane figure with five straight sides and five angles.2. (the Pentagon) the pentagonal building serving as the headquarters of the U.S. Department of Defense, near Washington, DC. ∎  the U.S. Department of Defense: the Pentagon said 19 of its soldiers had been killed.DERIVATIVES: pen·tag·o·nal / penˈtagənəl/ adj.

Pentagon, the

views updated May 29 2018

Pentagon, the the pentagonal building serving as the headquarters of the US Department of Defense, near Washington DC. It was built in 1941–3. Pentagonese is euphemistic or cryptic language supposedly used among high-ranking US military personnel.
Pentagon Papers a confidential report on US involvement in Indochina, commissioned in 1967 by Robert McNamara as Secretary of Defense, which in 1971 were leaked to the New York Times by the military defense analyst Daniel Ellsberg.


views updated May 29 2018

Pentagon Headquarters of the US Department of Defense in Arlington, Virginia. The complex consists of five concentric buildings in pentagonal form and covers 14ha (34 acres). It was completed in 1943. The Pentagon has come to signify the US military establishment. On September 11, 2001, terrorists piloted a passenger aircraft into the west wing of the Pentagon, killing 125 people in the building and all 64 passengers.


views updated May 18 2018

pentagon XVI. — F. pentagone or late L. pentagōnum — Gr. pentágōnon, sb. use of n. of pentágōnos; see PENTA-, -GON.
So pentagonal XVI. — F. or medL.

About this article

the Pentagon

All Sources -
Updated Aug 24 2016 About content Print Topic


the Pentagon