184 people were killed when American Airlines Flight 77 crashed into the Pentagon on September 11, 2001. The total included 64 people aboard the flight and 120 who were working within the Pentagon. But among that number, let us not forget the 108 military personnel and veterans who also died that day.
Of the 108 military service members, 38 served with the U.S. Navy and 70 were with the U.S. Army. The remainder were civilian contractors working with the U.S. Government (Pentagon, Department of Defense (DoD), Defense Intelligence Agency, or Defense Information Agency); with private companies (Booz-Allen & Hamilton, Inc., Verizon, BTG Inc.); or were not otherwise indicated.
The ages of all those died in the Pentagon ranged from 21-year old U.S. Navy Petty Officer Third Class Daniel Martin Caballero to 71-year-old Navy Capt. (Ret.) John D. Yamnicky, Sr.
Several stories were told by people on the ground, many of whom came out of the Pentagon to see what they could do to help others.
One was U.S. Army Lt. Col. Ted Anderson:
So here I am, in the middle of what appears to be an unseemly battlefield—there’s carnage, mayhem, fire, smoke, the smell of combat, everything but the gun fire—and I have a buddy back there, and I have to get to him. You know people say, ‘Why do you go back in there’—and if you talk to firemen or policemen, they think the same way. They don’t think about it. It’s automatic that you’re going back in there. But this time, the firemen and policemen restrained us—they physically restrained us. I realize they were only doing their jobs as they saw fit, but we were trying to do our jobs too.
So why did he do what he did?
That’s been the hardest thing to live with. The fact is, there’s a code in the military that we live by—and the code states that if my brother, my comrade, is injured and is on the battlefield, you never leave him there.
Belying future events to the contrary, it was reported on September 28, 2001, that Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld announced all servicemembers killed or wounded in the attack on the Pentagon would receive the Purple Heart. He said:
For most of our history, combat has been something that has largely taken place on foreign soil. These strikes were the first on American soil since the second World War, and the first attack on our capital by a foreign enemy since the War of 1812. These assaults have brought the battlefield home to us.”
In conjunction with the Purple Heart medals, the Department of Defense created the Defense of Freedom Medal which would be awarded to all civilian DoD employees who were either killed or wounded.
Although data is difficult to find, the loss of the military personnel in the Pentagon attack may very well be the most deaths occurring in a single incident since the 1965 Battle of la Drang Valley where 300 GIs were killed in a three day battle.
We all mourn the loss of these military service members and all of the others on this Fifteenth Anniversary of 9/11. That was the reason for creating the Pentagon Memorial, located just outside the Pentagon. The memorial which honors all of those who died that day, was dedicated on September 11, 2008.
You should take your time to see this spectacular memorial when you visit Washington, D.C.
Note: after Muslim terrorist Major Nidal Hasan attacked personnel at Fort Hood, Texas on November 5, 2009, President Obama declared the incident was “workplace violence”. An addendum to the 2015 National Defense Authorization Act passed by Congress finally overroad the president’s demeaning insult to our military and awarded Purple Heart medals to all of those service members and veterans killed and wounded in that attack. This also applied to the two servicemen (one killed and one wounded) in the previous Muslim terrorist attack that occurred at the Little Rock, Arkansas, Recruiting Office on June 1, 2009.