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The Five Sided Fantasy Island -- an analysis of the Pentagon explosion

Rebutting "Pentagon 9/11 Getting the Facts Straight"

Eyewitnesses and the Plane-Bomb Theory


Explicit eyewitnesses
Debris eyewitnesses
Fantastic eyewitnesses
Supporting eyewitnesses
Explosion eyewitnesses
Vague eyewitnesses
C130 eyewitnesses



Eyewitness accounts that tend to support "alternative" theories

Lt. Col. Ted Anderson : "We ran to the end of our building, turned left and saw nothing but huge, billowing black smoke, and a brilliant, brilliant explosion of fire." (...) One of the Pentagon's two fire trucks was parked only 50 feet from the crash site, and it was "totally engulfed in flames," Anderson says. Nearby, tanks full of propane and aviation fuel had begun igniting, and they soon began exploding, one by one. (...) Back in the building again, Anderson said he began "screaming and hollering for people as secondary and third-order explosions started going off. One of them was a fire department car exploding-I think my right eardrum exploded at the same time, and it unequivocally scared the heck out of me."
Anderson does not mention seeing any aircraft parts, fragments or confetti.  What he does see, are exploding tanks full of propane and aviation fuel.  Where would these have come from?  Could they be from the construction trailers, and if so, how were they thrown free?  The Boeing's huge wing tanks would surely have been demolished in the "collision".   

Some strange little tanks are also visible in the photographs of the Pentagon lawn following the initial explosion (although some of these might have been air tanks used by the firefighters to assist in breathing near intense fires.) 

Paul Begala, a Democratic consultant, said he witnessed an explosion near the Pentagon. "It was a huge fireball, a huge, orange fireball," he said in an interview on his mobile phone. He said another witness told him a helicopter exploded. (AP, Washington, 9/12/2001 11:45:33 PM
Begala is actually the left-wing "partisan hack" on CNN's Crossfire show (as he was so memorably described by Jon Stewart.)  His description of the "fireball" is not especially noteworthy.  However, the second-hand information about the helicopter explosion is very interesting.  If in truth a Boeing hit the Pentagon, why would anyone describe that event as a helicopter explosion?  On the other hand, if the pyrotechnics did include the destruction of a helicopter, it might account for a few odd bits of aluminum that were photographed on the scene.

Richard Benedetto, a USA TODAY reporter, was on his way to work, driving on the Highway parrallel to the Pentagon : "It was an American Airlines airplane, I could see it very clearly.(...) I didn't see the impact. (...) The sound itself sounded more like a thud rather than a bomb (...) rather than a loud bomb explosion it sounded muffled, heavy, very deep. I didn't see any flaps, it looked like the plane was just in normal flying mode but heading straight down. It was straight. The only thing we saw on the ground outside there was a piece of a ... the tail of a lamp post. (Video)
high bandwidth : http://digipressetmp3.teaser.fr/uploads/491/Benedetto2.ram
low bandwidth : http://digipressetmp3.teaser.fr/uploads/491/Benedetto.ram

Benedetto is a USA Today reporter.  His description of a "thud rather than a bomb" seems to clearly contradict many eyewitnesses.  However, his statement that the only thing on the ground on the highway was the downed lamp post, agrees perfectly with the photographic images of that same highway.  If the highway was covered in shrapnel and aircraft debris (as several witnesses claim) then why didn't Benedetto see any of this?
John Bowman, a retired Marine lieutenant colonel and a contractor, was in his office in Corridor Two near the main entrance to the south parking lot. "Everything was calm,' Bowman said. "Most people knew it was a bomb. Everyone evacuated smartly. We have a good sprinkling of military people who have been shot at."
Interesting that "most people knew it was a bomb".  Perhaps they were correct.  
It was a passenger plane. I think an American Airways plane, Mr Campo said. "I was cutting the grass and it came in screaming over my head. I felt the impact. The whole ground shook and the whole area was full of fire. I could never imagine I would see anything like that here."
Campo is a gardener at Arlington National Cemetery.  This account tends to indicate that the 757 was seen towards the Arlington side of the Naval Annex.
LTC Victor Correa work at the Pentagon. (...) LTC Victor Correa's office, what was the Army's Deputy Chief of Staff for Personnel, now the Army G-1, was in the path of the Boeing 757 that crashed into the Pentagon on a sunny fall morning. He was walking over to talk to a co-worker in the next cubicle when he was knocked down by the impact. "I saw a fireball come over my head," said Correa, an Active Guard Reservist now assigned to Joint Chiefs of Staff, J-5. "The fireball was coming like a wind-cloud of smoke trailing it. I also noticed to my right the windows going out and coming back in. The fireball came in and out quick - the speed of lightning. As it went back, it left a cloud of smoke and started dropping. At that time the fire system went up." Being knocked down turned out to be a life-saver. (...) "We thought it was some kind of explosion. That somehow someone got in here and planted bombs because we saw these holes."
Another military staffer whose first impression was that the explosion was caused by planted bombs, not by a jetliner crash.
Instead of following the streams of people away from the Pentagon, Steve DeChiaro ran toward the smoke. As he reached the west side of the building he saw a light post bent in half. "But when I looked at the site, my brain could not resolve the fact that it was a plane because it only seemed like a small hole in the building," he said. "No tail. No wings. No nothing." He followed the emergency crews that had just arrived. He saw people hanging out of windows and others crawling from the demolished area. "These people were covered in what I thought was powder - I don't know anything about medicine or first aid, I'm an engineer - but it looked like powder," DeChiaro said. "Only later did I find out that it was their skin." Civilians and soldiers joined emergency crews who were rushing inside to pull out anyone they could. But shortly after 10 a.m. police yelled at people to get back. "Just as we're about to open the door, they start screaming, 'There's another inbound plane', " DeChiaro said. "At that moment, your thoughts are: 'I go in the building, I get killed, then I'm no help to anybody.' In hindsight, I think we should have gone back in that building." For nearly 15 minutes, they stood watching the Pentagon burn and periodically checked the sky for another plane. That plane never reached Washington but fell, instead, in rural Pennsylvania. Teams of two and three eventually were sent back in to find more victims. But as the day grew longer, the flow of the injured stopped.
DeChiaro doesn't mention seeing any 90-foot wide damaged area to the first floor of the building, such as was shown by later photographs. Perhaps a sequence of explosions following the initial "collision" may have created this broader pattern of damage.  This witness also does not report seeing any aircraft debris, although he was certainly in a position to see shrapnel and confetti, if there had been any.
"The only way you could tell that an aircraft was inside was that we saw pieces of the nose gear. The devastation was horrific. It was obvious that some of the victims we found had no time to react. The distance the firefighters had to travel down corridors to reach the fires was a problem. With only a good 25 minutes of air in their SCBA bottles, to save air they left off their face pieces as they walked and took in a lot of smoke," Captain Defina said. Captain Defina was the shift commander [of an aircraft rescue firefighters crew.]
The lack of any recognizable aircraft debris other than "pieces of the nose gear" is very surprising.  Perhaps the nose gear was planted, or perhaps it was from the helicopter.
Gilah Goldsmith, personnel attorney at the Pentagon. When she got to her office sometime around 9, she phoned her daughter and heard "an incredible whomp noise." It didn't seem so unusual since her office is situated near a narrow area where trucks sometimes come by and hit the wall. Goldsmith was told to evacuate. "We saw a huge black cloud of smoke," she said, saying it smelled like cordite, or gun smoke.
Why would a jetliner crash smell like "cordite or gun smoke"?
Being a former transport type (60's era) I cannot understand how that plane hit where it did giving the direction the aircraft was taking at the time. As most know, the Pentagon lies at the bottom of two hills from the west with the east side being next to the river at 14th street bridge. One hill is at the Navy Annex and the other is Arlington Cemetery. The plane came up I-395 also known as Shirley Hwy. (most likely used as a reference point.) The plane had been seen making a lazy pattern in the no fly zone over the White House and US Cap. Why the plane did not hit incoming traffic coming down the river from the north to Reagan Nat'l. is beyond me . Strangely, no one at the Reagan Tower noticed the aircraft. Andrews AFB radar should have also picked up the aircraft I would think. Nevertheless, the aircarft went southwest near Springfield and then veered left over Arlington and then put the nose down coming over Ft Myer picking off trees and light poles near the helicopter pad next to building. It was as if he leveled out at the last minute and put it square into the building. The wings came off as if it went through an arch way leaving a hole in the side of the building it seems a little larger than the wide body of the aircraft. The entry point was so clean that the roof (shown in news photo) fell in on the wreckage. They are just now getting to the passengers today. The nosewheel I understand is in the grass near the second ring. Right now it is estimated that it will take two years to repair the damage. Ironcally, the area had just been remodeled with most of the area was still blocked off and some offices were empty. I know a young Army Major who went to a planned staff meeting at 8:30 am sharp. He left his office and attended the meeting, there was something he needed. He called his friend also a major near his office on his cell phone. As they were talking his friend said, My God a plane has just came through near your office "(which was not part of the new area, but near it ). Fire rolled down the hallway, somehow his friend on the phone ducked down another hallway. Four of the Major's friends did not make it. Incidently, the fireball also went along the outside of the building as shown by the blackend side of the building to left of the impact point. The reason the fire took so long to put out was because the attic was filled with "horse hair" for insulation put there in 1942 when the building was built.
Hovis was not an eyewitness, he visited the Pentagon on 9/14/01.  However, a few notes of skepticism about the "official story" come through pretty clearly in this account.
The worker, William Middleton Sr., was running his street sweeper through the cemetery when he heard a harsh whistling sound overhead. Middleton looked up and spotted a commercial jet whose pilot seemed to be fighting with his own craft. Middleton said the plane was no higher than the tops of telephone poles as it lurched toward the Pentagon. The jet accelerated in the final few hundred yards before it tore into the building.
Middleton is another testimonial that puts the flight path over Arlington Cemetery.
This is a hole in -- there was a punch-out. They suspect that this was where a part of the aircraft came through this hole, although I didn't see any evidence of the aircraft down there. (...) This pile here is all Pentagon metal. None of that is aircraft whatsoever. As you can see, they've punched a hole in here. This was punched by the rescue workers to clean it out. You can see this is the -- some of the unrenovated areas where the windows have blown out.
Mitchell was an audio-visual specialist who went through the Pentagon with a TV camera.  This testimony is a categorical contradiction of eyewitnesses like congresswoman Judy Biggart, who claimed that there she saw a seat, and part of the tail.
The airliner crashed between two and three hundred feet from my office in the Pentagon, just around a corner from where I work. I'm the deputy General Counsel, Washington Headquarters Services, Office of the Secretary of Defense. (...) My colleagues felt the impact, which reminded them of an earthquake. People shouted in the corridor outside that a bomb had gone off upstairs on the main concourse in the building. No alarms sounded. I walked to my office, shut down my computer, and headed out. Even before stepping outside I could smell the cordite. Then I knew explosives had been set off somewhere. I looked to my right and saw a raging fire and smoke careening off the facade to the sky. (...) Two explosions, a few minutes apart, prompted me to start walking.
Perkal smelled cordite and "knew explosives had been set off somewhere", and other people in the corridor were shouting the same thing.
October 18, 2001 - Christine Peterson, '73 found herself in the thick of last month's terrorist tragedy, and submitted this report. It offers a personal perspective on the events in Washington, D.C., which have perhaps been overshadowed in the media by the scope of the horrors in New York. It was 9:30 a.m. on Tuesday, September 11th, and traffic was terrible. For all of my twenty-eight years living in the Washington, D.C. area, terrible traffic was a constant. I'd been in Boston the day before and gotten home late. That morning I repacked my suitcase because I was heading out to San Francisco on the 3:20 p.m. flight. I just needed a few hours in the office first, and now I was officially late for work. I was at a complete stop on the road in front of the helipad at the Pentagon; what I had thought would be a shortcut was as slow as the other routes I had taken that morning. I looked idly out my window to the left -- and saw a plane flying so low I said, "holy cow, that plane is going to hit my car" (not my actual words). The car shook as the plane flew over. It was so close that I could read the numbers under the wing. And then the plane crashed. My mind could not comprehend what had happened. Where did the plane go? For some reason I expected it to bounce off the Pentagon wall in pieces. But there was no plane visible, only huge billows of smoke and torrents of fire. (...) A few minutes later a second, much smaller explosion got the attention of the police arriving on the scene.
Peterson looked to the left to see the airplane approach, so she must have been going northbound on Washington Blvd, caught in slow traffic.  If she was near the helipad, then any plane in position to hit the lampposts would have been far behind her, rather than overhead.  Steve Riskus (whose testimony is not included in the Bart-Hoffman collection) similarly indicated that the 757 approached on a path far to the north of the lamp pole damage.
Skarlet, webmaster of punkprincess.com : As I came up along the Pentagon I saw helicopters. (...) it was headed straight for the building. It made no sense. (...) A huge jet. Then it was gone. A massive hole in the side of the Pentagon gushed smoke. The noise was beyond description. The smell seemed to singe the inside of my nose. The earth seemed to stop shaking for a second, but then sirens began and the ground seemed to shake again - this time from the incoming barrage of firetrucks, police cars. military vehicles. (...) I called my boss. I had no memory of how to work my cellphone. I hit redial and his number came up. "Something hit the Pentagon. It must have been a helicopter." I knew that wasn't true, but I heard myself say it. I heard myself believe it, if only for a minute. "Buildings don't eat planes. That plane, it just vanished. There should have been parts on the ground. It should have rained parts on my car. The airplane didn't crash. Where are the parts?" That's the conversation I had with myself on the way to work. It made sense this morning. I swear that it did. (....) I finally cleared my head enough to drive and spent hours getting home. I spent an eternity in my car. I couldn't roll up the windows, the car smelled like the Inferno. Concrete dust coats the outside of the car, turning it a weird color. Eventually I got back here, back to the place I should have stayed in the first place. There seems to be no footage of the crash, only the site. The gash in the building looks so small on TV. The massiveness of the structure lost in the tight shots of the fire. There was a plane. It didn't go over the building. It went into the building. I want them to find it whole, wedged between floors or something. I know that isn't going to happen, but right now I pretend. I want to see footage of the crash. I want to make it make sense. I want to know why there's this gap in my memory, this gap that makes it seem as though the plane simply became invisible and banked up at the very last minute, but I don't think that's going to happen. I don't want to see footage of the crash. It seems so unhealthy to see the planes in NY crash over and over. To see the building fall again and again. I saw it once, the Pentagon is shambles. I don't know that I want to see the crash ever again. Even the pictures of the blaze are too much right now as the firefighters try to contain it. It's weird to watch it on TV while the same smoke drifts by your windows. I've showered and showered. Ultimately, I think I'm going to throw away my clothes. I don't think the smell will ever come out. I've reached my parents. My brother is already on a Classified assignment. Who the hell knows where he is. I'm assuming he's safe. I have no idea. Posted by skarlet at September 11, 2001 08:41 PM
Skarlet told her boss that a helicopter hit the Pentagon.  We think it's possible her first impression might actually have been correct.  

At any rate, she quite correctly thinks that in the wake of a real plane crash, "it should have rained parts on my car" but there weren't any parts.  

Skarlet has a "gap" in her memory, a gap that's filled with the impression that the plane "banked up at the very last minute" just after it disappeared. Funny that she should say that, since we think that's more or less what really happened -- although we would have said that it banked up first, before it disappeared into the orange and black cloud. 

Skarlet's brother is on a "Classified assignment".

Levi Stephens 23, courier Armed Forces Information Service - According to one witness, "what looked like a 747" plowed into the south side of the Pentagon, possibly skipping through a heliport before it hit the building. Personnel working in the Navy Annex, over which the airliner flew, said they heard the distinct whine of jet engines as the airliner approached. "I was driving away from the Pentagon in the South Pentagon lot when I hear this huge rumble, the ground started shaking ... I saw this [plane] come flying over the Navy Annex. It flew over the van and I looked back and I saw this huge explosion, black smoke everywhere."
This is very vague and second-hand.  Note that the approaching plane is placed over the Navy Annex.

Just prior to the impact there were three firemen on the helipad at the Pentagon. The president was supposed to land at the helipad two hours after the impact, and so they had just pulled the foam truck out of the firehouse and were standing there when they looked up and saw the plane coming over the Navy Annex building. They turned and ran, and at the point of impact were partially shielded by their fire truck from the flying debris of shrapnel and flames. They were knocked to the ground by the concussion, were able to get up, go over to the fire truck, and initially they were able to get it started to call for help at Fort Myer. And then they had to put out parts of their uniform--their bunker gear was actually on fire, so the first thing they had to do was put out their own fire truck and their fire equipment and they tried to start the truck and move it, but they discovered that it wouldn't move. They got out and looked, and the whole back of the fire truck had melted.
Audio : http://americanhistory.si.edu/september11/collection/audio.asp?ID=6
Transcript : http://americanhistory.si.edu/september11/collection/transcript.asp?ID=6

Yeingst is not an eyewitness, he is a museum curator at the Smithsonian.  His account is quite fanciful -- pictures of the Pentagon firetruck show that it changed its position after the crash, and was quite useful with its firehoses blasting away.  It certainly was not "melted" in any significant way.  Yeingst does agree with all the witnesses placing the approaching 757 over the Navy Annex.  

But the main reason we have included Yeingst in this collection of "supportive accounts" is the odd lack of any identifiable aircraft debris from the Pentagon in the Smithsonian collection.  They have only a single, completely amorphous chunk of something that supposedly fell into a car on the Washington Blvd.  We would really like to get a look at that big section of fuselage photographed by Mark Faram, or maybe some turbine blades.  Where are they, Mr. Yeingst?