No. 421


I am indebted to Pastor Leon Schulz, who lives in Menno, South Dakota, for the title and a portion of my contents for you today. I got a letter from Pastor Schulz a few weeks ago with the question, ãWhy is the Pentagon five-cornered, rather than six-cornered, square, round or any other shape?ä This question came up because the town of Menno was building a Veteranâs Memorial and it was to be placed on a cement foundation, which is pentagon shaped, or five cornered, in reference to the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. He got the idea to write me after reading my column ãWhy the American Flag has Thirteen Foldsä and figured I may know the answer or at least I could find it. He was right on the second part of that statement. With some help, I did find it.

The reason I have decided to share this with you is because the Pentagon is important in the life of every American. We all remember the horror that took place on September 11, 2001 when terrorists flew that jetliner into the East wall of the Pentagon the same day they destroyed the World Trade Center. The Pentagon is where the vast majority of all planning, deployment and direction of our Nationâs Armed Forces takes place. The President is the Commander in Chief, but the Pentagon is the hub or nerve center for all military operations.

Our nationâs defense is vital to each one of us and is one of the few things contained in the Preamble to our Constitution. Because we all need to be reminded of this from time to time, here is what it says: ãWe the People of the United States, in order to form a more perfect Union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our prosperity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.ä

Now, back to the Pentagon. The Pentagon in Washington, D.C. got its name after the fact. The word pentagon means, ãA polygon having five sides and five angles.ä The Pentagonâs unusual five-sided configuration was dictated by the site originally proposed adjacent to Memorial Drive, about three-fourths of a mile north of where the building was actually constructed. An early plan called for a square structure with one corner cut off to accommodate an existing road.

This resulted in a skewed Pentagon shape. Serious objections were raised to locating the building on open land directly between Arlington Cemetery and Washingtonâs Monumental Core, and discussions ensued regarding selection of a building site, resulting in less visual and physical impact from the project. During the debate on the site, the projectâs chief architects, George Edwin Bergstrom and David J. Whitmire, continued to refine the design. The final design retained the five sides, in the form of a true pentagon, which gave rise to the buildingâs name. The shape resulted in the most efficient use of available space.

The concept of using several concentric rings to contain the space evolved during further refinement of design. Preliminary design and drafting took just 34 days. A project of this magnitude and urgency demanded the rapid assembly and an unprecedented design and production effort. The office of the chief architect rapidly grew to 327 architects and engineers, who were supported by 117 field inspectors. The weekly output of prints ranged from 12,000 to 30,000, with reproduction machines running on a 24-hour basis. For periods of time, new drawings were issued nightly. The reproduction effort consumed 15,000 yards of print paper per week.

There is no way to know for sure, but I suspect that like me, most Americans do not know when the Pentagon was built. Construction began on September 11, 1941(what a coincidence) and was completed on January 15, 1943. For people who were living back then, the need was urgent as our nation was fighting WW II and the end was not yet in sight. At one stage of construction, 15,000 people were employed on the job, working three shifts, 24 hours a day. At night, they worked under floodlights. Construction took just 16 months, a remarkable feat of engineering and management.

I am very hopeful this information will be helpful to Pastor Leon Shulz and his fellow patriots in Menno, South Dakota, when they dedicate their Veteranâs Memorial on Sunday, November 9, which is just two days prior to Veterans Day. We should never forget those brave men and women who sacrificed so that the United States of America would continue to be a free nation. We owe these people so much and that is what Veteranâs Memorials and Veteranâs Day is all about. God Bless America and let Freedom Ring. (Jim Davidson is a motivational speaker and syndicated columnist. You may contact him at 2 Bentley Drive, Conway, AR 72034.)