Academic journal article Military Review

THE PENTAGON: A History: The Untold Story of the Wartime Race to Build the Pentagon-And to Restore It Sixty Years Later

Academic journal article Military Review

THE PENTAGON: A History: The Untold Story of the Wartime Race to Build the Pentagon-And to Restore It Sixty Years Later

Article excerpt

THE PENTAGON: A History: The Untold Story of the Wartime Race to Build the Pentagon-and to Restore It Sixty Years Later, Stephen F. Vogel, Random House, New York, 2007, 626 pages, $32.95.

The Pentagon is so closely associated with the Department of Defense that reporters routinely refer to the building as if it were the department itself. The 9/11 attack only reinforced this huge edifice's iconic value.

Journalist Steve Vogel has written an entertaining history of the Pentagon building since its inception, focusing on the people who built and rebuilt it rather than just the structure itself. Foremost among the builders was Brehon Burke Somervell, the engineer officer who rose from lieutenant colonel to lieutenant general in just two years because of his ability to organize huge construction projects as the U.S. Army mobilized for World War II. During the war Somervell was the commander of all Army service forces, ranking as an equal with General Henry "Hap" Arnold (Army Air Forces) and General Leslie McNair (Army Ground Forces).

In July 1941, while heading the War Department's construction division, Somervell got the assignment to construct temporary buildings that would gather the Army's mushrooming bureaucracy into a single place. From this task, he conceived the need for a huge permanent building, a project that he pushed through to completion despite contrary guidance from President Franklin Roosevelt and opposition from a variety of sources in the government. …

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