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The Pentagon is America's most important military building. In addition, it is the largest office building in the world, and holds over 25,000 military and civilian personal. It is the headquarters of The United State's Department of Defense, the head military branch of The United States Government. Even though it is actually located in Virgina, it's mailing address is for Washington, D.C., which is just across from the Pentagon on the Potomac River. The Pentagon's name comes from it's shape, a pentagram, meaning that it has five equal sides. There is a total of seven stories in this building, two below ground and five above ground. The center of the structure is an open space, and is commonly referred to as “Ground Zero,” due to the fact that this was the most obvious place for an enemy to drop a nuclear bomb during the Cold War.
Construction on The Pentagon begun on September 11, 1941. It is built mostly of concrete, which was made from rocks gathered from the deep of the Potomac River. There were two reasons for this – at the time, steel was being conserved by the government because it was needed for the war, and concrete provides a safer structure in the event of a nuclear blast. The original site for the building was in an area known as Arlington Farms, but concerns that the new building would block the views of Washington, D.C. from Arlington National Cemetary caused President Franklin D. Roosevelt to choose the present location. Those walking around this huge building are guided by a system of maps. Each of the five above ground rings of the building are named “A” through “E”, and each of the seven underground rings are named “A” through “G”.
Since the Pentagon is the most important military structure, the building has also been the site of peace protests and terroritst attacks, beginning in the 1960's. Young people from across the country would often flock to the Pentagon to hold protests against American involvement in the Vietnam War. The most famous of these many protests was The March on the Pentagon in 1967, which included 35,000 anti-war protestors. In 1972, to get back at The United States for what some believed were wrong actions taken by President Nixon in Vietnam, a domestic terroritst group exploded a bomb in a restroom of the Pentagon.
Beginning in 1998, the government begun a 12-year plan to completely rebuild the Pentagon, sections at a time. This is because the old-style of building featured large open rooms, and the new needs were to have smaller, private offices. This renovation process was interrupted by the largest terroritst attack on any American government building in history, on September 11, 2001. The Pentagon was struck by American Airlines Flight 77, which was one of four airliners hijacked by terrorists that morning (two others hit The World Trade Center in New York, and the fourth crashed in a field in Pennsylvania before being able to hit The White House). Because of the attack, stronger outer walls were added to The Pentagon, and other steps were taken to make the building more secure. One of the steps to make the buidling safer was the cancellation of public tours. Visitors used to be able to come and view the many displays in the building, many offering historical documents from the history of America.
Today, The Pentagon is off-limits to visitors except on a special basis for pre-approved groups. It still serves as the strong military center of The United States, and will be completed with its safer, stronger renovations, in the year 2010.