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The Building – A Biography of the Pentagon

By: David Alexander (810.1/36043)
Publisher: Zenith Press ISBN: 9780760320877

The Pentagon has been called many things by many people, but to the people who work there its simply known as “the Building.”

It’s monumental in its five-pointed symmetry: five sides, five rings, and five floors encompassing over six million square feet of floor space and covering twenty-nine acres of formerly swampy ground. From the beginning, however, it was more than just a monumental structure. Over its history the Building has become a living, breathing organism of many parts: limestone and steel, the people who call it home, and its mission of defending America. The Building highlights both the nuts and bolts of its architecture and the remarkable people who have walked its corridors, guiding the United States through World War II, the Cold War, and now the War on Terror. The generals and admirals and the politicians come and go, their roles filled by fresh faces, but the Building continues. This is its story.

Early on, Army Chief of Staff General George Marshall and his boss, Secretary of War Henry Stimson, charged by President Roosevelt to shake things up, did just that, creating a mass army that took on and defeated the best that Germany and Japan could throw at them. After the war, in 1947, came the creation of the Department of Defense and an independent air force. Later, Kennedy administration Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, formerly president of Ford Motor Company, brought his “whiz kids” mentality to the Pentagon as the Vietnam War escalated, treating was not unlike the auto business, manageable by numbers. Continuing throughout the Cold War, the fall of the Soviet Union, the rise of terrorism, and the transforming moment of 9/11, David Alexander evokes the evolving “personality” of the Building as those inside react too-and try to anticipate-the changing world outside its walls.

February 2009


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