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29 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The extraordinary life and times of a unique building and the men who built and rebuilt it
Brehon B. Somervell isn't a name you hear much. He was a Brigadier General in the months before America's involvement with World War II. He foresaw the need to consolidate the U. S. Army's command in a single structure rather than the seventeen locations it currently occupied in Washington, D.C.

Over a weekend, he and his surprised aides created the basic...
Published on June 24, 2007 by Jerry Saperstein

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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting Story but no compelling characters
This book retells the well known story of how the Pentagon, well known as the world's largest building was built. There is nothing really relevatory in it. The story focuses almost exclusively on the governmental infighting over building it and there is not a single compelling character among the main characters that Mr. Vogel places at the heart of the story. The...
Published on August 14, 2007 by R. C Sheehy


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29 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The extraordinary life and times of a unique building and the men who built and rebuilt it, June 24, 2007
Brehon B. Somervell isn't a name you hear much. He was a Brigadier General in the months before America's involvement with World War II. He foresaw the need to consolidate the U. S. Army's command in a single structure rather than the seventeen locations it currently occupied in Washington, D.C.

Over a weekend, he and his surprised aides created the basic plans for what was then the world's largest building, what we know today as the Pentagon.

Somervell not only was responsible for the Pentagon, but ultimately managing the supply system that kept 13 million U.S. troops around the world supplied with bullets, beans and everything else they needed. General Richard Groves went on to manage the Manhattan Project which developed the first nuclear weapons.

The story of the fulfillment of Somervell's vision is absolutely fascinating. Steve Vogel is an exceptionally able writer who brings to life the daily adventures of men and women who more than sixty years ago built and then populated the Pentagon. There isn't a dull page in the book as Vogel describes the race to complete the building, which Somervell had said would take a year. The enormity of task and how ordinary men rose to meet the challenge comes across powerfully in Vogel's prose.

Vogel traces the decades of the building's life, how it was manipulated, expanded and altered to meet the needs of successive generations. (President Roosevelt, we are told, didn't forsee any military need for the building after WWII and had planned on it becoming an archive. As it turned out, that insistence was fortuitous.)

The story includes an interesting retelling of the great march on the Pentagon in 1967. Vogel reminds us that Bill Ayers, a radical, succeeded in getting a bomb planted in the Pentagon which narrowly missed killing several cleaning women. An unrepentant Ayers published a book bragging about his exploits on September 11, 2001.

Vogel tells the story of September 11 and the heroic efforts to rebuild the Pentagon.

Overall, Vogel has thoroughly explored this bit of history and produced a compelling book about one of the largest structures ever created, the men and women who built it, occupied it and those who rebuilt it. A must-read for military, engineering and history buffs.

Jerry
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars WW2 Era Comes Alive!!, June 7, 2007
Vogel makes the WW2 era come alive in this enteraining and informative look at the history of the conception, design and construction of the largest office building in the world. While the front line guys were defending the free world from the axis powers, the Corps of Engineers and others were working just as hard in DC to get the headquarters building built. Also included is the 911 attack and amazing reconstruction from the devastation.

READ AND ENJOY!
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars History Comes Alive, June 17, 2007
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Priam Farll (New York, NY USA) - See all my reviews
A brilliant achievement. Perhaps the finest history book I've read since David McCullough's "The Path Between the Seas" and "The Great Bridge." There isn't a dull page uninteresting paragraph in the entire book. What is most fascinating is you need not be interested in the military to find the book thoroughly engrossing.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars I never knew..., August 4, 2007
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Was it a coincidence that the ground-breaking was on 9/11/41? I don't know, but that's one of the many interesting things that I learned from reading this book. The author also gives you great background on the Pentagon as well. I found it very interesting how the mindset of defense spending was so different from what it is like today. Who would argue over where to build a structure today? Any military or general history buff (life myself) would enjoy this book!
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting Story but no compelling characters, August 14, 2007
This book retells the well known story of how the Pentagon, well known as the world's largest building was built. There is nothing really relevatory in it. The story focuses almost exclusively on the governmental infighting over building it and there is not a single compelling character among the main characters that Mr. Vogel places at the heart of the story. The section between the building and the 9/11 attacks do not contribute to the story at all.

The only reason I don't rate this story any lower is the section on the 9/11 attack. This is an often overlooked aspect of 9/11 and for the only part of the book, Mr. Vogel writes a compelling story about the sacrifice at the Pentagon and the amazing effort to rebuild it all within one year. The characters are compelling and well written, not presented as bureaucrats like the first half of the book. Thankfully this keeps the book from being a total bore.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Pentagon: A very compelling history, September 1, 2007
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Mr. Vogel has written a very interesting history of a unique and famous building. Of course, it isn't just the building, it's the people, the times, the purpose for the building at the time it was built, the unfolding drama of the United States taking its place in the world after World War II, the Viet Nam protests, and most compelling, the September 11 attack on the Pentagon. I must say that initially, I did not think I would want to read a 500 page book about a building, even if it was the Pentagon; but as I perused the pages and the pictures, I thought: this could be very interesting. And it was. The book was very readable, and very insightful. You will learn quite a bit about how people handle power and influence. The brief overview of James Forrestal and other early Defense Department leaders was quite interesting. I found myself quite taken by the descriptions of the courageous people who first built the Pentegon and later, the even more courageous people who, in one year, repaired the extensive 9/11 damage. I commend this book to all who seek to understand more, not only about the Pentagon, but about Washington in the 1940s, the military, and the transition of America to a world power after World War II.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Exciting read, August 14, 2007
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Amazon Customer (Los Angeles, CA USA) - See all my reviews
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This is a page turner, an exciting story. With all the evidence around of government screw-ups, it's restorative to read of not one but two spectacular successes, no, three: the building of the Pentagon in 1941-42, the reconstruction in the late 1990s, and the rebuilding after the attack of 9/11, which the reconstruction assured relatively minimal devastation. The people come to life as the author tells their remarkable stories.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Where There is a Will, There is a Way, January 16, 2008
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Steve Vogel has written a fascinating account of how this iconic building was conceived, designed and built. Well written, filled with larger than life characters and detailed descriptions of political infighting in Washington, it is also a history of America's military engagements - from Pearl Harbor and World War II to September 11th and the global war on terror.

This excellent book aptly illustrates the maxim that "where there is a will, there is a way."
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A very complete biography of the Pentagon., November 3, 2011
By 
Keith Bukovich (Trenton, MI United States) - See all my reviews
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As a building the Pentagon was constructed in something of a great rush from 1941-43; but its physical history is as dull as dish water but as important as the symbolism the structure has acquired over the years. At the time this book was written in 2007, author Steve Vogel was a Washington Post reporter and he informs the reader of the backroom handshakes that began the project and centers it on the army officer who was in charge -- General Brehon Somervell. Gen. Somervell first envisoned the Pentagon being built on a five-sided parcel of land adjacent to Arlington Cemetery, but President Roosevelt ordered it moved down the Potomac River.

Vogel introduces to the reader the various architects, contractors, and workers involved (there were no environmental impact statements required in 1941); Vogel also relates labor and social incidents, such as segregation, during the construction; and furthermore, he gives proposed ideas for postwar disposition of the Pentagon. The Pentagon never became an archival center as Pres. Roosevelt had imagined, but instead was retrofitted, restored, and, after 2001, partially rebuilt to maintain it as the American military's central command post. Writing about everyday events such as broken pipes, eccentric ones that took place during the anti-Vietnam War protests in 1967, and the severe terrorist attack of 9/11, Vogel has produced a comprehensive biography of the Pentagon. I recommend this book to all interested readers.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent reading!, December 27, 2009
By 
M. Barton (Falls Church, VA USA) - See all my reviews
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I wasn't sure what to expect when I first saw this book, and actually purchased it solely on the recommendation of a friends. 20 pages in, I was hooked. While probably most people on the planet have heard of the Pentagon, probably very few - even most of those who have worked in the building - know the full story of how the building was conceived, the myriad political/engineering/architectural/social issues involved in its genesis and construction. This account has it all.

It focuses on the key players - Brehon Somervell in particular, who was critical to the building proceeding despite growing political opposition in the pre-Pearl Harbour political climate, though some concessions were required (such as it not being built in the preferred location, next to the Memorial Bridge at a place called Arlington Farm as it would upset the aesthetic from Lee House to the Lincoln Memorial. So it was moved half a mile downriver to its present location. There were also strict limitations on its size. Following Pearl Harbour, Somervell dispensed with the size and even budgetary limitations (it eventually cost about twice the original appropriation). By focusing on the individuals concerned as a theme throughout, the book retained a strong human touch. I never thought a book about a building being built could be so interesting - the imagery offered by many of the original inhabitants is a real strength of Vogel's work.

The real highlight for me, however, was the final section dealing with the reconstruction of the Pentagon after 9/11. It was one of the most compelling accounts of the attacks that day that I've ever read - again mainly due to the thoughtful way Vogel meshes the accounts of survivors with the affect of the aircraft's impact on the building. This creates a very strong and engrossing narrative - and ties some of the points made earlier about some seemingly arcane engineering details.

This is a great book, and I'd suggest one for anyone interested in US politics, US military history, and of course anyone looking for a credible participant's account of what happened on 9/11.
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The Pentagon: A History
The Pentagon: A History by Steve Vogel (Paperback - May 27, 2008)
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