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DoD Holds Press Briefing in Pentagon

By Sgt. 1st Class Kathleen Rhem, USA
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Sept. 11, 2001 – "The Pentagon is functioning" is the message Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld sent by holding a press conference in the building's briefing room barely eight hours after terrorists allegedly crashed a hijacked commercial jetliner into the national military headquarters.

"It's an indication that the United States is functioning in the face of this terrible act against our country," Rumsfeld said. "(The Pentagon) will be in business tomorrow."

Accompanying Rumsfeld on the press conference podium were several other senior federal officials including Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army Gen. Henry Shelton, Rumsfeld, and U.S. Sens. John Warner of Virginia and Carl Levin of Michigan.

The secretary told reporters it's not possible to have solid casualty figures at this time and that the various Defense Department components are working to account for their people. He said there could be no survivors among the 64 passengers aboard the commercial plane that crashed into the building.

"There is no question but that the attack today was a vicious, a well-coordinated, massive attack against the United States of America," Rumsfeld said. "What words the lawyers will use to characterize it is for them (to decide)."

Shelton called the events of Sept. 11 "an outrageous act of barbaric terrorism carried out by fanatics." He said this was a reminder of the "tragic dangers" that military people face day in and day out. The chairman refused to discuss what actions the United States would take in retaliation.

"But make no mistake about it," he said, "your armed forces are ready."

Levin, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, called terrorists "the common enemy of the civilized world." "Our intense focus on recovering and helping the injured and families of those killed is matched only by our determination to prevent more attacks," he said.

"This is indeed the most tragic hour in America's history," said Warner, former committee chairman and its ranking minority party member. "And yet I think it can be our finest hour as our president and those with him (including) the men and women of the armed forces stand ready not only to defend this nation and our allies against further attack but to take such actions as are directed in the future in retaliation for this series of terrorist attacks (that are) unprecedented in world history."

Warner called upon the entire world to step up and help. "We're in this together," he said. "The United States has borne the brunt, but who can be next. Step forward and let us hold accountable and punish those that have perpetrated this event."

Asked by reporters about possible retaliation, Rumsfeld called the question premature.

Family members may contact service representatives: 

  • Army: 1-800-984-8523 or 703-428-0002.
  • Navy and Marine Corps: 1-877-663-6772
  • Air Force: 1-800-253-9276.

Navy and Marine Corps personnel assigned to the Pentagon are also asked to call 1-877-663-6772 for accountability purposes, defense officials said.

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DoD News Briefing on Pentagon Attack, Sept. 11, 2001

Click photo for screen-resolution imageDefense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld tells reporters that "people who work in this building do so voluntarily, and they are brave people." Rumsfeld held his press conference in the Pentagon at about 6:15 p.m., about eight hours after a suspected hijacked commercial airliner smashed into the building Sept. 11, 2001. At the conference podium were (from left) Army Secretary Thomas White, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army Gen. Henry Shelton, Rumsfeld, U.S. Sen. John Warner of Virginia and U.S. Sen. Carl Levin of Michigan. Levin is chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee; Warner is ranking minority party member of the committee. Photo by Jim Garamone.  
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageMilitary medical personnel rush to the Pentagon to aid victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, plane crash that called for the help of rescue workers and firefighters throughout the metropolitan area. Photo by Paul Disney, USA.  
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageAn evacuation helicopter ferries injured victims to local medical facilities following the suspected terrorist crash of a hijacked commercial airliner into the Pentagon, Sept. 11, 2001. Photo by Paul Disney, USA.  
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageRescue teams and fire departments aid Pentagon workers Sept. 11, 2001, after the building was set ablaze by a plane crash. Photo by Paul Disney, USA.  
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageSmoke and debris from the Sept. 11, 2001, plane crash at the Pentagon damaged several parts of the military headquarters in Arlington, Va. Photo by Paul Disney, USA.  
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageLocal firefighters battle the blaze set by a plane crash at the Pentagon Sept. 11, 2001. Photo by Paul Disney, USA.  
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageA firefighter douses smoke billowing from the windows of the Pentagon after a plane crash Sept. 11, 2001,. Photo by Paul Disney, USA.  
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageA soldier calls loved ones outside of the Pentagon Sept. 11, 2001, after a plane crashed into the west side of the building near the heliport. Photo by Paul Disney, USA.  
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageA plane crash set the Pentagon ablaze Sept. 11, 2001, less than an hour after suspected terrorists crashed two airliners into the World Trade Center in New York and destroyed the twin 110-story buildings. Photo by Paul Disney, USA.  
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageLocal firefighters helped douse the blaze set by a plane crash at the Pentagon Sept. 11, 2001. Photo by Paul Disney, USA. (Click photo for screen-resolution image.)   
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageA hijacked commercial airliner crashed into the Pentagon Sept. 11, 2001, near the building heliport -- the white patch on the left side of the building in this stock aerial photograph. DoD Photo.  
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