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Reported Pentagon Death Toll May Be Too High

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Sept. 12, 2001 – The number of dead in the Sept. 11 terrorist attack on the Pentagon may be much lower than earlier estimates, DoD officials said today.

"We currently believe and are hopeful" that the number of casualties is not as high as originally reported, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said at an afternoon press conference.

Arlington County fire officials had told the press Sept. 11 that up to 800 people might be dead in the attack on the Pentagon. The number would include the passengers aboard the hijacked airliner that smashed into the building.

"The work (in the impact area) is still going forward. We won't know for some time precise numbers," Rumsfeld said. "From everything we currently know, the number reported is not high, and we certainly pray that's the case."

Rumsfeld said the attacks in New York and in Washington are a different kind of conflict and have given America a "new definition of the battlefield in the world."

"It's not unique," he said, "but given our geography and circumstance, it is new for this country."

The secretary stressed the need for all DoD members to protect classified information. "It's important to underline that when people deal with information and make it available, it reduces our chances of tracking down and dealing with the people who have perpetrated these attacks," he said.

Further, divulging classified information about ongoing military operations inevitably puts American service members at risk. He asked all who have access to classified information to weigh these effects and keep the information safe.

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Click photo for screen-resolution imageSmoke still rose from the roof of the Pentagon the morning after a Boeing 757 slammed into the five-sided building Sept. 11, 2001. Firemen seemed to have doused the fires by the afternoon of Sept. 12. Photo by Rudi Williams.  
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageFiremen cut and broke holes into the roof of the Pentagon to find and douse flames that spread after the building was struck by a hijacked airliner Sept. 11, 2001. The building's roof is a layer of wood sandwiched by masonry and slate. Flames at the crash site ignited the layer of wood and spread, shielded by the masonry and stone. Photo by Rudi Williams.  
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