This Week in History

The Capitol Building, the White House, the Washington and Lincoln Memorials-all buildings that define Washington, DC. Yet,  when we schedule those tours around the city, it seems as if we forget about (or don’t pay as much attention to) one of the most unique and powerful structures in our country-the Pentagon.

This “Week in History” highlights the conception and construction of the building responsible for the National Security and Defense of our Nation. 

blog post 01-13“Hell’s Bottom,” No More. The Pentagon and immediate grounds only a few years after completion. (Signal Corps collection). Photo Credit: USAMHI

“As the United States military machine ramped up with the onset of World War II in 1939, so too did the manpower and infrastructure to support it. At the time, the War Department was spread throughout seventeen buildings in Washington, D.C., which caused some difficulty for the roughly 24,000 civilian and military personnel who worked there. And it was estimated that by the middle of 1942, the workforce would reach 30,000. As a result, in July 1941, President Franklin Roosevelt requested several new buildings be built in order to house the expected increase in department employees. Rather than add more office space to an already congested city, a plan was suggested to move the site across the Potomac River, which would still offer ease of travel to and from Washington. By August of the same year, a bill with authorization for funding and construction had been approved by Congress.”

The Pentagon would take only sixteen months to complete: an amazing feat which at times boasted 15,000 workers on a 24-hour shift. The Pentagon was officially opened on Jan. 15, 1943, with the total cost tallied at $83 million. At the time, it was by far the largest office space in the world. It eclipsed the Empire State Building’s floor space by three times, contained over seventeen miles of corridors, and would house roughly 33,000 War Department employees before the war’s end. While critics disparaged its size, location, and cost early on, the Pentagon was an engineering marvel that would prove its worth not only during the Second World War but for decades to follow. Today, along with the other uniformed services and the senior leadership of the Defense Department, the Department of the Army’s headquarters calls the Pentagon home.

To learn more about the Pentagon’s beginnings and view additional photos of the construction, visit

Have you ever visited the Pentagon? If so, we would like to hear about your experience.