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The Pentagon: A History

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The Pentagon: A History Cover

ISBN13: 9781400063031
ISBN10: 1400063035
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Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

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 Pentagons construction, from its dramatic birth to its rebuilding after the September 11 attack.

At the center of the story is the tempestuous but courtly Somervell–“dynamite in a Tiffany box,” as he was once described. 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 Hells 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, the president who fancied himself an architect; Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson and Army Chief of Staff General George C. Marshall, both desperate for a home for the War Department as the country prepared for battle; Colonel Leslie R. Groves, the ruthless force of nature who oversaw the Pentagons construction (as well as the Manhattan Project to create an atomic bomb); 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.

The Pentagons post-World War II history is told through its critical moments, including the troubled birth of the Department of Defense during the Cold War, the tense days of the Cuban Missile Crisis, and the tumultuous 1967 protest against the Vietnam War. The pivotal attack on September 11 is related with chilling new detail, as is the race to rebuild the damaged Pentagon, a restoration that echoed the spirit of its creation.

This study of a single enigmatic building tells a broader story of modern American history, from the eve of World War II to the new wars of the twenty-first century. Steve Vogel has crafted a dazzling work of military social history that merits comparison with the best works of David Halberstam or David McCullough. Like its namesake, The Pentagon is a true landmark.

"Among books dealing with seemingly impossible engineering feats, this easily ranks with David McCulloughs The Great Bridge and The Path Between the Seas, as well as Ross Kings Brunelleschis Dome." -Kirkus Reviews (Starred Review)

"Vogel artfully weaves architectural and cultural history, thus creating a brilliant and illuminating study of this singular (and, in many ways, sacred) American space." -Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)

"An amazing story, expertly researched and beautifully told. Part history, part adventure yarn, The Pentagon is above all else the biography of an American icon." -Rick Atkinson, Pulitzer Prize winning author of An Army at Dawn

"This book, like the Pentagon itself, is a stunning and monumental achievement." –Andrew Carroll, editor of the New York Times bestsellers, War Letters and Behind the Lines

"Superb! Not only the best biography of a building ever written, but a fascinating look at the human architecture behind the Pentagon--the saints and scoundrels of our national defense. With his decades of experience covering the military and a web of insider connections, Steve Vogel has produced a book that's not only timely and a treat to read, but a stellar example of how to write history in the twenty-first century." -Ralph Peters, author of Never Quit The Fight

“This concrete behemoth – the largest office building in the world – is also the product of considerable human ingenuity and resourcefulness, as Steve Vogel amply demonstrates in his interesting account…  This is not, of course, the first account of the [9/11] attack, but with its Clancyesque action and firsthand detail… it is surely the most vivid.” Witold Rybczynski, The New York Times Book Review , June 10, 2007

"Vogel's account shines . . . . [A]n engrossing and revealing account. . . . Vogel provides a first-rate account of the transformation of a dilapidated Arlington neighborhood into what Norman Mailer called "the true and high church of the military industrial complex."  -- Yonatan Lupu, The San Francisco Chronicle, June 10, 2007

“The saga of the construction of the Pentagon, skillfully recounted by Steve

Vogel, a military reporter on the Washington Post, is as enthralling as it

is improbable. . . . It was one of the greatest engineering feats of the

20th century–driven by the intelligence and willpower of larger-than-life

figures prepared to cut corners and demand the impossible. Mr Vogel has

brought to our notice a thrilling achievement.”–The Economist, June 30, 2007

A Wall Street Journal selection for its 2007 summer reading list.

“THE PLOT: How the Pentagon, the world's most famous defense building, was

erected just as the U.S was pulled into World War II, and its subsequent

history, including the rebuilding after the Sept. 11 attack.

THE BACKSTORY: Mr. Vogel spent two years writing and researching the book.

"The Pentagon" has drawn rave prepublication reviews, and within Random

House there is hope that it will fill the usual summer slot for a big

history title. It's printing 30,000 copies to start.

WHAT GRABBED US: Anecdotes about the Pentagon's early days. The cafeteria

couldn't keep up with the flood of workers; security was so lax in 1972

that the Weathermen walked in and planted a bomb, which exploded in a

bathroom.”–Robert Hughes, The Wall Street Journal, May 11, 2007

“Steve Vogel's marvelous work recounts the construction of one

of the world's most iconic buildings - the Pentagon. But more compelling by

far, he relates the human stories underlying this huge construction effort.

. . .All this would of itself be enough to warrant a book but Vogel plunges on

to an appropriate second story: the terrorist assault of 9/11 and the

Pentagon's subsequent resurrection. This section of the book, due perhaps

to the proximity of the event, is all the more compelling. . .

–Frederick J. Chiaventone, New York Post, June 17, 2007

“Vogel's writing coupled with the dynamic, conflict-strewn

history of the Pentagon provides for a fascinating and comfortable read

while giving new insight into an old Washington landmark."–Roll Call, June 5, 2007

“Students, writers and historians will use The Pentagon as a

reference book for years to come. Vogel has created an admirable, timely

and immensely readable book. It is a must read for anyone who has ever

worked in the building.”  –The Pentagram, June 17, 2007

"Steve Vogel has provided two excellent books in one: an interesting

account of the frenetic effort to build the world's largest office building

in order to support the U.S. entry into World War II, and an equally

fascinating study of how the building survived and was reborn in the

renovation effort so rudely interrupted on Sept. 11, 2001. . . .

Vogel has done a great service to a historic structure and its people.

–Raymond Leach, The Virginian-Pilot, July 29, 2007

"Few major buildings were constructed in as much of a hurry and with as

many challenges as the building that is synonymous with the nation's

defense. Almost by accident, it is one of the best-known buildings in the

world. The building, of course, is the Pentagon, and its story is wonderfully told

in a new book ``The Pentagon — A History(Random House) by veteran

Washington Post military writer Steve Vogel. . . .Every building of any size and complexity has a story; few of them are this compelling.”

–Tom Condon, The Hartford Courant, July 22, 2007

[Vogel] "puts on display his superlative skills as a journalist with capturing

human detail. Above all, he reminds us that history is made by living

people, and he has a biographer's fascination with the details of dozens of

personalities who made the Pentagon what it is today."

–Mark Falcoff, The New York Sun, July 11, 2007

"Vogel vividly depicts the horror of those inside the  Pentagon on

September 11, 2001 and then skillfully describes the rebirth of the

Pentagon through the Phoenix Project. His intimate knowledge of the

construction process and his years of research energize these pages. . . .

[T]here is simply no better book on the massive construction - and then

restoration - of the building itself."

--Chuck Leddy, The Christian Science Monitor, July 10, 2007

"The place has a fascinating story, told in lively style by Washington

Post journalist Steve Vogel."

-- Harry Levins, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, June 24, 2007

Review:

"Washington Post journalist Vogel provides an incisive history of the Pentagon both as an architectural construct and as an American symbol, though not as an institution. Vogel traces the politics and design considerations involved in planning a new home for the previously scattered War Department (forerunner of today's Department of Defense) in the early 1940s. Wartime conservation subsequently forced builders to use the least amount of steel possible, and much concrete. The "Stripped Classical" building — erected in 16 months at a cost of $85 million — was made with five sides chiefly because it lay on remnant acres between five appropriately angled roads. At the time, it was a massive undertaking: five concentric rings of offices, 17.5 miles of corridors and a five-acre central courtyard. Vogel demonstrates how planners conceived the structure as fitting into L'Enfant's original plan for Washington, D.C., and goes on to depict it as a national icon. In this vein, Vogel describes the building as a target for protesters during the Vietnam War (with special attention to October 1967's March on the Pentagon, immortalized in Norman Mailer's Armies of the Night), and, of course, the 9/11 attack. Throughout, Vogel artfully weaves architectural and cultural history, thus creating a brilliant and illuminating study of this singular (and, in many ways, sacred) American space. Photos. (June 5)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)

Review:

"'Washington Post journalist Vogel provides an incisive history of the Pentagon both as an architectural construct and as an American symbol, though not as an institution. Vogel traces the politics and design considerations involved in planning a new home for the previously scattered War Department (forerunner of today's Department of Defense) in the early 1940s. Wartime conservation subsequently forced builders to use the least amount of steel possible, and much concrete. The 'Stripped Classical' building — erected in 16 months at a cost of $85 million — was made with five sides chiefly because it lay on remnant acres between five appropriately angled roads. At the time, it was a massive undertaking: five concentric rings of offices, 17.5 miles of corridors and a five-acre central courtyard. Vogel demonstrates how planners conceived the structure as fitting into L'Enfant's original plan for Washington, D.C., and goes on to depict it as a national icon. In this vein, Vogel describes the building as a target for protesters during the Vietnam War (with special attention to October 1967's March on the Pentagon, immortalized in Norman Mailer's Armies of the Night), and, of course, the 9/11 attack. Throughout, Vogel artfully weaves architectural and cultural history, thus creating a brilliant and illuminating study of this singular (and, in many ways, sacred) American space. Photos. (June 5)' Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)"

Review:

"The Pentagon was built upon a foundation of lies, secrecy and cost overruns. When the gargantuan five-sided structure was being constructed with miraculous speed at the start of World War II, the officials responsible for the new War Department headquarters told a series of untruths about what was in the works.

At the time, Congress and the press were asking too many questions. Harry... Washington Post Book Review (read the entire Washington Post review)

Synopsis:

Award-winning journalist Vogel tells the remarkable, previously untold story of the Pentagons creation. The construction of the biggest office building in the world in a mere 17 months was one of the greatest public-works feats in American history, and a wartime display of resources, talent, and power.

Synopsis:

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.

At the center of the story is the tempestuous but courtly Somervell–“dynamite in a Tiffany box, ” as he was once described. 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 reluctantempire.

Vivid portraits are drawn of other key figures in the drama, among them Franklin D. Roosevelt, the president who fancied himself an architect; Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson and Army Chief of Staff General George C. Marshall, both desperate for a home for the War Department as the country prepared for battle; Colonel Leslie R. Groves, the ruthless force of nature who oversaw the Pentagon’s construction (as well as the Manhattan Project to create an atomic bomb); 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.

The Pentagon’s post-World War II history is told through its critical moments, including the troubled birth of the Department of Defense during the Cold War, the tense days of the Cuban Missile Crisis, and the tumultuous 1967 protest against the Vietnam War. The pivotal attack on September 11 is related with chilling new detail, as is the race to rebuild the damaged Pentagon, a restoration that echoed the spirit of its creation.

This study of a single enigmatic building tells a broader story of modern American history, from the eve of World War II to the new wars of the twenty-first century. Steve Vogel has crafted a dazzling work of military social history that merits comparison with the best works of David Halberstam or David McCullough. Like its namesake, The Pentagon is a true landmark.

"Among books dealing with seemingly impossible engineering feats, this easily ranks with David McCullough’s The Great Bridgeand The Path Between the Seas, as well as Ross King’s Brunelleschi’s Dome." -Kirkus Reviews (Starred Review)

"Vogel artfully weaves architectural and cultural history, thus creating a brilliant and illuminating study of this singular (and, in many ways, sacred) American space." -Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)

"An amazing story, expertly researched and beautifully told. Part history, part adventure yarn, The Pentagon is above all else the biography of an American icon." -Rick Atkinson, Pulitzer Prize winning author of An Army at Dawn

"This book, like the Pentagon itself, is a stunning and monumental achievement." –Andrew Carroll, editor of the New York Times bestsellers, War Letters and Behind the Lines

"Superb Not only the best biography of a building ever written, but a fascinating look at the human architecture behind the Pentagon--the saints and scoundrels of our national defense. With his decades of experience covering the military and a web of insider connections, Steve Vogel has produced a book that's not only timely and a treat to read, but a stellar example of how to write history in the twenty-first century." -Ralph Peters, author of Never Quit The Fight

“This concrete behemoth – the largest office building inthe world – is also the product of considerable human ingenuity and resourcefulness, as Steve Vogel amply demonstrates in his interesting account…  This is not, of course, the first account of the 9/11] attack, but with its Clancyesque action and firsthand detail… it is surely the most vivid.” — Witold Rybczynski, The New York Times Book Review, June 10, 2007

"Vogel's account shines . . . . A]n engrossing and revealing account. . . . Vogel provides a first-rate account of the transformation of a dilapidated Arlington neighborhood into what Norman Mailer called "the true and high church of the military industrial complex."  -- Yonatan Lupu, The San Francisco Chronicle, June 10, 2007

“The sag

What Our Readers Are Saying

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Dr. Rico, August 27, 2007 (view all comments by Dr. Rico)
The tale of the Pentagon includes the political struggle to find a site, secure appropriations, pacify Congressmen, and work with commissions; the race to build the world's largest office building in wartime; the design and construction problems and solutions; the personal stories of the leaders (and many ordinary workers) who got the job done; the story of the 1967 march on the Pentagon; the frightening account of the September 11 attack; and the inspirational effort to rebuild the building. Steve Vogel is dogged enough to do all the reporting and skilled enough to tell all the strands of this tale. He doesn't hesitate to criticize military men or their civilian colleagues and leaders, but he is also willing to show the admirable qualities of the people who work in the Pentagon. The book is exciting, funny, vivid, detailed, and ultimately moving. Specialists will enjoy reading about urban planning, design, construction, and renovation. But it will also appeal to those interested in politics, in World War II, in getting big jobs done, and in the stories of ordinary Americans doing extraordinary things.
Was this comment helpful? | Yes | No
(3 of 6 readers found this comment helpful)

Product Details

ISBN:
9781400063031
Subtitle:
A History
Author:
Vogel, Steve
Publisher:
Random House
Subject:
History
Subject:
Military - United States
Subject:
Buildings
Copyright:
Publication Date:
June 2007
Binding:
Hardback
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Illustrations:
2 8-PP PHOTO INSERTS, CHAPTER- OPENING I
Pages:
656
Dimensions:
9.56x6.46x1.50 in. 2.27 lbs.

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History and Social Science » Military » US Military » General

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Product details 656 pages Random House - English 9781400063031 Reviews:
"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "Washington Post journalist Vogel provides an incisive history of the Pentagon both as an architectural construct and as an American symbol, though not as an institution. Vogel traces the politics and design considerations involved in planning a new home for the previously scattered War Department (forerunner of today's Department of Defense) in the early 1940s. Wartime conservation subsequently forced builders to use the least amount of steel possible, and much concrete. The "Stripped Classical" building — erected in 16 months at a cost of $85 million — was made with five sides chiefly because it lay on remnant acres between five appropriately angled roads. At the time, it was a massive undertaking: five concentric rings of offices, 17.5 miles of corridors and a five-acre central courtyard. Vogel demonstrates how planners conceived the structure as fitting into L'Enfant's original plan for Washington, D.C., and goes on to depict it as a national icon. In this vein, Vogel describes the building as a target for protesters during the Vietnam War (with special attention to October 1967's March on the Pentagon, immortalized in Norman Mailer's Armies of the Night), and, of course, the 9/11 attack. Throughout, Vogel artfully weaves architectural and cultural history, thus creating a brilliant and illuminating study of this singular (and, in many ways, sacred) American space. Photos. (June 5)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "'Washington Post journalist Vogel provides an incisive history of the Pentagon both as an architectural construct and as an American symbol, though not as an institution. Vogel traces the politics and design considerations involved in planning a new home for the previously scattered War Department (forerunner of today's Department of Defense) in the early 1940s. Wartime conservation subsequently forced builders to use the least amount of steel possible, and much concrete. The 'Stripped Classical' building — erected in 16 months at a cost of $85 million — was made with five sides chiefly because it lay on remnant acres between five appropriately angled roads. At the time, it was a massive undertaking: five concentric rings of offices, 17.5 miles of corridors and a five-acre central courtyard. Vogel demonstrates how planners conceived the structure as fitting into L'Enfant's original plan for Washington, D.C., and goes on to depict it as a national icon. In this vein, Vogel describes the building as a target for protesters during the Vietnam War (with special attention to October 1967's March on the Pentagon, immortalized in Norman Mailer's Armies of the Night), and, of course, the 9/11 attack. Throughout, Vogel artfully weaves architectural and cultural history, thus creating a brilliant and illuminating study of this singular (and, in many ways, sacred) American space. Photos. (June 5)' Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)"
"Synopsis" by , Award-winning journalist Vogel tells the remarkable, previously untold story of the Pentagons creation. The construction of the biggest office building in the world in a mere 17 months was one of the greatest public-works feats in American history, and a wartime display of resources, talent, and power.
"Synopsis" by , 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.

At the center of the story is the tempestuous but courtly Somervell–“dynamite in a Tiffany box, ” as he was once described. 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 reluctantempire.

Vivid portraits are drawn of other key figures in the drama, among them Franklin D. Roosevelt, the president who fancied himself an architect; Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson and Army Chief of Staff General George C. Marshall, both desperate for a home for the War Department as the country prepared for battle; Colonel Leslie R. Groves, the ruthless force of nature who oversaw the Pentagon’s construction (as well as the Manhattan Project to create an atomic bomb); 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.

The Pentagon’s post-World War II history is told through its critical moments, including the troubled birth of the Department of Defense during the Cold War, the tense days of the Cuban Missile Crisis, and the tumultuous 1967 protest against the Vietnam War. The pivotal attack on September 11 is related with chilling new detail, as is the race to rebuild the damaged Pentagon, a restoration that echoed the spirit of its creation.

This study of a single enigmatic building tells a broader story of modern American history, from the eve of World War II to the new wars of the twenty-first century. Steve Vogel has crafted a dazzling work of military social history that merits comparison with the best works of David Halberstam or David McCullough. Like its namesake, The Pentagon is a true landmark.

"Among books dealing with seemingly impossible engineering feats, this easily ranks with David McCullough’s The Great Bridgeand The Path Between the Seas, as well as Ross King’s Brunelleschi’s Dome." -Kirkus Reviews (Starred Review)

"Vogel artfully weaves architectural and cultural history, thus creating a brilliant and illuminating study of this singular (and, in many ways, sacred) American space." -Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)

"An amazing story, expertly researched and beautifully told. Part history, part adventure yarn, The Pentagon is above all else the biography of an American icon." -Rick Atkinson, Pulitzer Prize winning author of An Army at Dawn

"This book, like the Pentagon itself, is a stunning and monumental achievement." –Andrew Carroll, editor of the New York Times bestsellers, War Letters and Behind the Lines

"Superb Not only the best biography of a building ever written, but a fascinating look at the human architecture behind the Pentagon--the saints and scoundrels of our national defense. With his decades of experience covering the military and a web of insider connections, Steve Vogel has produced a book that's not only timely and a treat to read, but a stellar example of how to write history in the twenty-first century." -Ralph Peters, author of Never Quit The Fight

“This concrete behemoth – the largest office building inthe world – is also the product of considerable human ingenuity and resourcefulness, as Steve Vogel amply demonstrates in his interesting account…  This is not, of course, the first account of the 9/11] attack, but with its Clancyesque action and firsthand detail… it is surely the most vivid.” — Witold Rybczynski, The New York Times Book Review, June 10, 2007

"Vogel's account shines . . . . A]n engrossing and revealing account. . . . Vogel provides a first-rate account of the transformation of a dilapidated Arlington neighborhood into what Norman Mailer called "the true and high church of the military industrial complex."  -- Yonatan Lupu, The San Francisco Chronicle, June 10, 2007

“The sag

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