Cause of Damage to the Pentagon: Witness Testimony
Frank Legge, Feb 2012
One might ask why it should be necessary to go into detail about statements by particular individuals when we all occasionally make mistakes in our assertions. The answer is that most of us correct our mistakes but some people, perhaps enjoying the limelight that disturbing ideas attract, do not. They persist in presenting incorrect assertions as part of their general position on 9/11 and these assertions cause damaging disputation.
In the film “Hypothesis” Prof. Steven Jones says, in reference to those who assert there were no planes at the World Trade Center: “With these crazy ideas they dilute the effort to get at the truth about 9/11.” Of course Barbara Honegger is not asserting that there were no planes at the WTC but she insists that there is proof in the evidence that no large plane hit the Pentagon and that the damage was done by explosives. This is an extraordinary assertion as it contradicts abundant eyewitness testimony. Any extraordinary assertion requires extraordinary proof to support it. In the case of the Pentagon attack there is no such proof. Making the no-plane assertion to the public does more harm than good to the 9/11 cause and should be responded to publicly so that contrary views can be expressed for comparison and discussion.
The official account of the attack on the Pentagon on 11 Sept 2001 states that it was struck by a hijacked Boeing 757 at 9:37:45 (NTSB) or 9:37:46 (9/11 Commission). Honegger asserts that the damage to the Pentagon was caused by an explosion at about 9:32, about 6 minutes before the officially reported impact. She provides a number of superficially credible references for this time, some based on stopped clocks.
The existence of two supported times for the Pentagon attack allows speculation that there may have been two incidents, an explosion and a plane impact, and that the impacting object could therefore have been something smaller than a Boeing 757, like an A3 Sky Warrior or a missile.
Many eyewitnesses contradict the speculation that the impact was caused by a smaller object. They have been recorded stating that a large commercial jet liner struck the Pentagon. Supporting the eyewitnesses is the trail of damage through the light poles, wide enough, but not too wide, for a Boeing 757. The hole in the wall was ample for the heavy parts of such a plane and a number of parts in the debris were identified as from a 757. The light parts of the plane, which would not be expected to penetrate the heavy wall, have marked the face of the Pentagon in a shape which matches the shape and wingspan of a 757. Such fine detail would be extremely hard to achieve using explosives. The flight data recorder (FDR) from AA77 was reportedly found in the debris and we now have the new decoding of its data file, which brings the plane right to the Pentagon, as described in the official reports. This file extends our knowledge of the track of the plane as it shows the plane flying virtually straight at the heading shown by the radar data from four separate facilities. This places the plane south of the Navy Annex, south of the Citgo service station and in line with the damage to the light poles. The last radar position report is south of the Sheraton hotel and only about 6 seconds prior to impact. The FDR file data reaches right to the Pentagon and shows the plane continuing to fly straight, descending smoothly, pulling up safely and striking the Pentagon near the ground, as in the official reports and in conformity with the vast majority of eye witness reports.
Beside the eyewitnesses to the impact there were many additional witnesses who, while not seeing the impact itself, reported seeing the plane approach the Pentagon and then seeing and hearing an explosive event, with a large fireball and smoke plume. There is no report of a plane flying over the roof of the Pentagon despite the hundreds of potential witnesses with a good view.
It follows therefore that, if explosives had been detonated prior to the arrival of the aircraft, there would have been two explosive events.
A search of eye witness testimony finds that many people were in a position to have observed two explosions but none have reported anything which can be interpreted as a destructive explosion followed a few minutes later by the explosive plane impact (see Appendix below). There are some who report multiple explosions but these are in the context of minor events following the plane impact; presumably events like gas bottles exploding due to heat.
Honegger is one of a number of authors who provide a great deal of useful information about events and people which raises suspicion about the accuracy of the official reports, but it is clear that there were not two explosive events at the Pentagon, nor was the Pentagon struck by a smaller object than a Boeing 757. Whether the impact was accompanied by the use of explosives is not clear. There is some evidence that it was, but there is a lack of corroboration, so it is not compelling. There is no doubt that the massive keel of the plane and the heavy cores of the engines, travelling at 556 miles per hour, according to the FDR file, would have enough energy to penetrate the wall. With so many witnesses watching the low level approach of the plane, and seeing its impact, it can be concluded that the bulk of the plane entered the Pentagon. Many witnesses use phrases like “the building swallowed the plane” to describe what they saw. Photographs show a hole in the wall ample to allow the heavy parts of the plane to enter the building.
One possible explanation for the substantial time discrepancy is that the official account of the time of impact is incorrect. As Honegger points out there were several variations of the impact time initially reported, indicating faulty data handling. The final official times are in reasonable accord with the FDR file, being only about 6 seconds short. This suggests that the authorities quickly decided to settle on the FDR file data to over-ride the confusion which had arisen but did not know that the last data frames in the file, covering four seconds, had not been decoded. There are, however, other sources of data from which the time of impact can be calculated. As the plane was being followed by several radar installations, confirmation is possible from their recorded data.
It has been alleged that the authorities may have manipulated the FDR and radar data for some ulterior purpose. Luckily it is possible to verify the radar data. John Farmer has examined this question in great detail. He points out that the time of one event recorded by radar, namely the impact of UAL175 on the South Tower, is known precisely from several videos. This can be used to correct the timeline of the nearest radar source, which happened to be JFK. Then by matching the JFK data with other radar stations which were simultaneously monitoring other events, the timelines of all those stations can be corrected. His final estimate of the impact time at the Pentagon is within 3 seconds of the time estimated from the FDR file, 9:37:52. There is thus no possibility that the impact could have occurred 6 minutes earlier.
Summary and Conclusion
The two speculations which arise from Barbara Honegger’s work are (1) that the Pentagon may have been hit by something smaller than a Boeing 757 and (2) that the damage, at the same moment or several minutes earlier, was caused only by explosives.
There is very strong witness testimony and physical evidence that the Pentagon was hit by a large commercial plane, which rules out the first speculation, and there are witnesses whose testimony rules out two separate substantial explosive events (see appendix below). The possibility that explosives were used at the moment of impact to enhance the impact damage is not ruled out.
See also the page titled “Comments on a talk by Barbara Honegger“.
Witnesses to a single explosive event
In this appendix is a list of 9 witnesses who were outside the Pentagon close to the impact point, and present for an extended period before the impact, and thus in a position to report an explosion or damage appearing in the wall of the Pentagon prior to the plane impact. None of these witnesses does so. No witness can be found who reported two large explosions. This rules out the possibility that there were two explosive events related to the Pentagon attack. Many of the original links to these testimonies no longer work. In these cases I have provided a link to the extensive collection stored at 911research.wtc7.net.
1. Sean Boger, interview document, USA Center for Military History. Boger’s vantage point, the Pentagon Heliport control tower, had glass extending round the side of the tower, so he would have had an unobstructed view of the impact point. He comments on normal activities and mentions that he is looking out at the road and noting that traffic has stopped, then says:
“I just see…the nose and wing of an aircraft coming right at us and he didn’t veer. And then you just heard the noise, and then he just smacked into the building, and when it hit the building, I am watching the plane go all the way into the building”. “So once the plane went into the building it exploded, and once it exploded, I hit the floor and just covered up my head. It was like glass shattering and ceiling tile was falling…”
2. Alan Wallace and Mark Skipper. [These witnesses were working normally, close enough to the plane impact point that they were scorched by the heat, but did not mention a prior explosion.] The meticulous Wallace moved the fire truck out of the way, parking it about 15 feet from the Pentagon. That’s when Wallace got a call from his chief at nearby Fort Myer telling him of the attacks in New York and to be on alert. Minutes later, Wallace and his buddy Mark Skipper looked up and saw the gleam of a silver jetliner. But it was flying too low, maybe less than 25 feet off the ground. And it was heading right at them. “I yelled to Mark, ‘Let’s go!'” He bolted to the right, and a second later felt the searing heat of the blast behind him. He hit the ground and rolled under a parked van as a fire engulfed his fire truck, then blew through the firehouse. Wallace got back to his feet, saw Skipper had escaped, then rushed to the scorched fire truck to see if it would run, but the truck only belched fire. It wouldn’t move. So Wallace switched on the truck’s radio. “Foam 61 to Fort Myer,” he said. “We have had a commercial carrier crash into the west side of the Pentagon at the heliport, Washington Boulevard side. The crew is OK. The airplane was a 757 Boeing or a 320 Airbus.” Although he was still frantic and shaken, Wallace’s report turned out to be painfully accurate.
3. Frank Probst. [This witness had just walked past the point where the plane would hit. He did not mention a prior explosion or damage to the wall.] A Pentagon renovation worker and retired Army officer, he was inspecting newly installed telecommunications wiring inside the five-story, 6.5-million-square-foot building. The tall, soft-spoken Probst had a 10 a.m. meeting. About 9:25 a.m., he stopped by the renovation workers’ trailer just south of the Pentagon heliport. Someone had a television turned on in the trailer’s break room that showed smoke pouring out of the twin towers in New York. “The Pentagon would make a pretty good target,” someone in the break room commented. The thought stuck with Probst as he picked up his notebook and walked to the North Parking Lot to attend his meeting. Probst took a sidewalk alongside Route 27, which runs near the Pentagon’s western face. Traffic was at a standstill because of a road accident. Then, at about 9:35 a.m., he saw the airliner in the cloudless September sky. American Airlines Flight 77 approached from the west, coming in low over the nearby five-story Navy Annex on a hill overlooking the Pentagon. He has lights off, “wheels up, nose down,” Probst recalled. The plane seemed to be accelerating directly toward him. He froze. “I knew I was dead,” he said later. “The only thing I thought was, ‘Damn, my wife has to go to another funeral, and I’m not going to see my two boys again.'” He dove to his right. He recalls the engine passing on one side of him, about six feet away.
4. Jack Singleton. “Where the plane came in was really at the construction entrance,” says Jack Singleton, president of Singleton Electric Co. Inc., Gaithersburg MD, the Wedge One electrical subcontractor. “The plane’s left wing actually came in near the ground and the right wing was tilted up in the air. That right wing went directly over our trailer, so if that wing had not tilted up, it would have hit the trailer. My foreman, Mickey Bell, had just walked out of the trailer and was walking toward the construction entrance.”
5. Mickey Bell. The jet came in from the south and banked left as it entered the building, narrowly missing the Singleton Electric trailer and the on-site foreman, Mickey Bell. Bell had just left the trailer when he heard a loud noise. The next thing he recalled was picking himself off the floor, where he had been thrown by the blast. Bell, who had been less than 100 feet from the initial impact of the plane, was nearly struck by one of the plane’s wings as it sped by him. In shock, he got into his truck, which had been parked in the trailer compound, and sped away. http://911research.wtc7.net/pentagon/evidence/witnesses/bart.html
6. Mark Bright. Defense Protective Service officers were the first on the scene of the terrorist attack. One, Mark Bright, actually saw the plane hit the building. He had been manning the guard booth at the Mall Entrance to the building. [Is there any way this officer would not have known about an explosion prior to the impact?] “I saw the plane at the Navy Annex area,” he said. “I knew it was going to strike the building because it was very, very low — at the height of the street lights. It knocked a couple down.” The plane would have been seconds from impact — the annex is only a few hundred yards from the Pentagon. He said he heard the plane “power-up” just before it struck the Pentagon. “As soon as it struck the building I just called in an attack, because I knew it couldn’t be accidental,” Bright said. He jumped into his police cruiser and headed to the area.
7. Omar Campo. “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.”
8. Michael DiPaula, 41, project coordinator Pentagon Renovation Team – He left a meeting in the Pentagon just minutes before the crash, looking for an electrician who didn’t show, in a construction trailer less than 75 feet away. Suddenly, an airplane roared into view, nearly shearing the roof off the trailer before slamming into the E ring. ‘It sounded like a missile,’ DiPaula recalls . . . Buried in debris and covered with airplane fuel, he was briefly listed by authorities as missing, but eventually crawled from the flaming debris and the shroud of black smoke unscathed.
9. WilliamYeingst. 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
 Honegger B., The Pentagon Attack Papers by Barbara Honegger, http://loveforlife.com.au/content/07/12/11/pentagon-attack-papers-barbara-honegger
 9/11 Research, What the Physical Evidence Shows, http://911research.wtc7.net/essays/pentagon/index.html
 Legge F. and W. Stutt, Flight AA77 on 9/11: New FDR Analysis Supports the Official Flight Path Leading to Impact with the Pentagon, http://www.journalof911studies.com/volume/2010/Calibration%20of%20altimeter_92.pdf
 9/11 Research, Eyewitness reports, http://911research.wtc7.net/pentagon/analysis/conclusions/jetliner.html