Local historians for many years have wondered about the Pentagon. When it was built as the nation's military headquarters during World War II, it was widely assumed that the military would shrink back to its prewar size. What would happen to that big building on the former site of Washington-Hoover Airport and the Agriculture Department's experimental farm?
When the Pentagon was being proposed, some congressmen asked that question, which, to Metro Scene's knowledge, never has been fully answered -- until now.
Last Saturday, speaking at a meeting of the Council on America's Military Past at Blackie's House of Beef, Army Corps of Engineers historian Martin K. Gordon disclosed President Franklin D. Roosevelt's stated ideas for the Pentagon's future. Gordon recently visited the Roosevelt Library at Hyde Park, N.Y., and combed through papers relating to the Corps of Engineers, which was largely responsible for the Pentagon construction.
At the time the Pentagon was being built, the War Department -- now less threateningly named the Department of the Army -- was housed in a building that is the oldest wing of the present State Department building in Foggy Bottom.
To a congressman who wondered about the future use of the Pentagon, Gordon found, FDR wrote that "eventually the building would be used for minor offices, files and storage," while the offices of the War Department (which then included the Army and its Air Corps) and the Navy would be "in the area west of the Interior Department building," which is near the eastern fringe of Foggy Bottom.
So much for the prescience of a president.