The Pentagon

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    Your tax dollars at work![1]

    "Headquarters? What is it?"

    "It's a big building where generals meet, but that's not important right now."

    U.S. Military Headquarters, located in Virginia near Washington, D.C. Nobody ever mentions its street address, but it actually has one: 47 N Rotary Road, Arlington, Virginia, 22211 .

    Architecturally, it's a distinctive, pentagonal building, with 5's as a recurring theme: 5 sides, 5 floors, 5 concentric rings. It has 17.5 miles (28.2 km) of corridors, and those five 108° angle corners result in a very confusing layout. The interior is notoriously homogeneous; if you don't read the signs, it's easy to get lost there, since every area looks like every other area. Not to mention that it's easy to lose track of which floor you're on, as some of those corridors are actually ramps, and before you know it, you're up a floor from where you meant to be. It doesn't help that some corridors that should connect to others are off-limits because there's some high-security office in that stretch, forcing detours which offer more opportunity for confusion. Agent Maxwell Smart got lost inside it for several days.

    Since the military's top brass does most of its planning there, and since the building is so easy to spot from the air, it was one of the targets of the September 11th, 2001 terrorist attacks. The structure survived in part because it had recently been retrofitted with kevlar. Well before that, however, the exact center of the building was a potential target of Soviet missiles; in fact, until the past decade, the cafe at the center of the structure was informally referred to as the "Ground Zero Cafe".

    The building is such a strong symbol of the American military that it's practically synonymous with it, or with the military-industrial complex. When the Defense Department makes an announcement, newscasters will say "The Pentagon announced today...". When the government pays a military contractor (what to the public seems like) an unreasonably large sum for a mundane item, such as a toilet seat or screwdriver, that's Pentagon Spending. When the U.S. military offers cheap assistance to movie producers in order to make a blockbuster movie showing tanks or fighter planes, that's Backed by the Pentagon. Et cetera. In the UK "Horse Guards" (a building, not a group of people) formerly had the same connotations of being synonymous with the military, but this faded when the leadership moved out at the start of the twentieth century.

    The distinctive shape and design of the Pentagon and its relationship to other stock mystical symbols as pentagrams lead some to imagine that the building is holding something inside beside a garden. For instance, early Internet culture half-jokingly spoke of the Cosmic Horror Shub-Internet, cause of all network slowdown, lurking beneath the Pentagon.

    The building itself has appeared as a setting for a few works, but is not as popular a setting as the U.S. Capitol or The White House farther north.


    The Pentagon in fiction:

    Advertising[edit | hide | hide all]

    • Just before the first IKEA stores opened in the U.S., IKEA staged a teaser advertising blitz on roadside billboards. One such ad featured the tagline "More talked about than this" above a picture of the birthmark on Gorbachev's forehead. Another billboard sported the tagline "More economical than this" above a picture of a wrench on which were stamped the words, "PROPERTY OF THE PENTAGON".

    Film[edit | hide]

    • Broken Arrow 1996
    • Eagle Eye
    • Executive Decision
    • G.I. Jane
    • In Independence Day, U.S. Space Command is in the Pentagon. [2] It even has a picture of the building stenciled on a glass divider.
    • No Way Out: Most of the film takes place in the Pentagon building.
      • Parts with Kevin Costner at the concourse and in the NATO corridor were actually filmed at the real thing, despite the fact that the film did not receive official DoD support. This was made possible because at the time of filming, the Pentagon building itself was not owned by DoD, but by the General Services Administration (GSA). The producers could therefore film in public corridors and hallways. This loophole was finally closed in 1992 when ownership was transferred to DoD.
      • The Secretary of Defense's office in the movie was actually filmed in the Department of the Interior building in Washington, DC.
    • The Sum of All Fears
    • Thirteen Days: Two scenes; first, when the navy commander who made the low altitude reconnaissance flight over Cuba is questioned by the Joint Chiefs of Staff; and second, when the CNO, Admiral Anderson, clashes with Secretary of Defense McNamara in the NMCC.
    • Transformers
    • Under Siege


    Literature[edit | hide]

    • Being five-sided, it was inevitable that Pentagon cropped up in The Illuminatus Trilogy: in the books, Yog-Sothoth has been trapped within the pentagon formed by its walls (he was also trapped in a similar construct back on Atlantis), but the walls are blown up later in the trilogy and he escapes.
    • Every so often, Tom Clancy sends Ryan-verse characters to or from this. When important minor characters have job titles like 'Admiral', it's not unusual.
    • A 1950s-vintage U.S. Army joke cited in A Dictionary of Soldier Talk told of a Soviet agent sent on a Suicide Mission to destroy the Pentagon with a suitcase nuke. After a week lost inside the building, he staggered out and reported to Moscow "that his intimate view of the Pentagon in action had convinced him that its undisturbed existence was essential to the safety of the Soviet Union."

    Live-Action Television[edit | hide]

    • E-Ring: The title comes after the name of the outermost concentric ring of the Pentagon building, where The Powers That Be, i.e. the top civil & military leadership, has their spacious offices.
    • JAG: In some episodes, usually the in Secretary of the Navy's office, and at least once in the NMCC. The real office of the Navy's Judge Advocate General is located in the Pentagon building, but in this series it's located at a separate location in Falls Church, Virginia.
    • Path to War
    • The Pentagon Wars
    • Stargate SG-1: Some episodes. The season 6 episode "Disclosure" takes place in the Pentagon.
    • Stargate Universe: Homeworld Command is located in the Pentagon.
    • The State Within

    Music[edit | hide]

    "The monkeys in the Pentagon are gonna cook our goose,
    They're gonna push the button, all they need is an excuse!"

    Video Games[edit | hide]

    • Pentagon is a World Wonder in Civilization III that gives massive bonuses to your military units.
    • The Pentagon is also a World Wonder (for Western Civilizations) in Empire Earth II. It allows houses (normally built to raise your population cap) to shoot at enemies.
    • A (not the) Pentagon is also a national wonder in Cyber Nations, again giving bonuses to military attacks and defences.
    • You get to blow it up in Command & Conquer: Red Alert 2 as the Soviets.
      • You also get asked to do this in the first game, as a Nod commander under Seth. Your orders, and Seth's life, are revoked by Kane.
        • And in Tiberium Wars, you defend it against a Nod attack during the GDI campaign. It's also where the head of the GDI military makes his command center.
    • In Fallout 3 the headquarters of the Brotherhood of Steel in the East is in the ruins of the Pentagon.
    • Call of Duty: Black Ops has a short level set in the pentagon where the player receives orders from the President and Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara.
      • There's also a bonus Zombies level there unlocked after finishing the Campaign, in which you play as JFK, Richard Nixon, Fidel Castro, and McNamara.
    • In Magical Cannon Wars they're the enemy and control Zero, one of their weapons.

    Your identity has been noted. Greetings from Fort Meade.

    1. Unless you're not American, in which case it's those Americans' tax dollars at work.
    2. U.S. Space Command (1985-2002) was actually located in Colorado Springs, Colorado!