“Here’s Why” of the week


Taking our “Here’s Why” from the paper to the blog. An explanation for why something is the way it is in the Air Force/military.

The façade of the Supreme Court. The Taj Mahal. The Leaning Tower of Pisa. All iconic landmarks. All composed of marble.

Via bbp.dau.mil

An iconic building to military personnel and the world’s largest office building — the Pentagon — could have been made out of marble, but building planners said, “No way.” Why?

According to the Pentagon tours website, the Pentagon has no marble because “it was built during World War II, and Italy, the source of marble, was an enemy country.”

The military also needed a headquarters because of the rapidly increasing number of service members in the Washington, D.C., area during World War II, so the building plans for the Pentagon were ordered to be drawn up pretty fast.

On July 17, 1941, a Thursday, Gen. Brehon B. Somervell ordered drawings for a 4-million-square-foot, air-conditioned office building for 40,000 workers, with four stories but no elevators (there are some elevators now for handicapped accessibility); over the weekend, architects came up with the a five-sided building fulfilling all of Somervell’s requirements.

The building was constructed out of reinforced concrete. The design supposedly ensured that a walk between any two points in the building should take no more than seven minutes.

The Pentagon opened 16 months later on January 15, 1943.


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  1. Norm from GA on

    I suspect that some of the 17 elevators in the building may have been added later to accommodate the handicapped. However, I am sure that the majority of them, freight elevators, were in the original plans; the ramps would not be very efficient for moving supplies, furnishings and equipment. BTW, as I understand it, expecting people to use ramps, and stairs, rather than elevators to go between floors (escalators only went in one direction) was not (just) to encourage physical fitness, but to save a strategic material, steel.

    Actually, when I worked there, there was a story going around that with all the ramps and over-sized elevators, the building was originally designed to be eventually used as a veterans hospital, since WWII would be the last war, Of course, one would have to accept that our leaders were sharp enough to foresee the development of the atomic bomb and/or the United Nations, but too dumb to know that would never be enough to end international conflicts.

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