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Context of '(8:48 a.m.-9:02 a.m.) September 11, 2001: Navy Command Center Personnel Think WTC Crash Is an Accident'

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Michael Allen Noeth.Michael Allen Noeth. [Source: Associated Press / Army Times]Personnel in the Navy Command Center at the Pentagon, which is located on the first floor of the building’s southwest face, learn of the attack on the WTC from television reports. The center is tasked with constantly monitoring global current events and also monitoring the latest status of all US Naval assets around the world. Its employees have to keep Navy leaders in Washington up to date on what is happening in the world as it directly relates to Navy operations and other security or military issues. Admiral Timothy Keating, who is the Navy’s director of operations in the Pentagon, describes it as a “nerve center.” Forty to 50 people man it constantly, 24 hours every day. Located within the center is the Chief of Naval Operations Intelligence Plot (CNO-IP), a small, highly secretive intelligence unit that constantly monitors geopolitical developments and military movements that could threaten American forces. The Navy Command Center has just been renovated, and its dozens of employees have been moving in during the past month. According to the Washington Post, the first the Command Center knows of the unfolding crisis is when Petty Officer Michael Allen Noeth sees the scene from the World Trade Center on the TV sets bolted to the wall, and shouts, “My God! What’s happened?” Another employee Lt. Kevin Shaeffer later recalls, “We quickly knew what was going on in New York City after the first plane hit the first tower… and stood up a watch to start logging events and tracking things for the Navy.” [St. Petersburg Times, 9/14/2001; Washington Post, 9/16/2001; Washington Post, 1/20/2002; Chips, 3/2003] Despite the center supposedly being a “nerve center,” those in it supposedly are not initially aware that this is a terrorist attack. According to Timothy Keating, who is presently in the Navy Command Center receiving his daily briefing, “We were quite bewildered. We couldn’t understand how a pilot could make such a significant navigational error on a day when the skies were crystal clear blue.” [Washington Post, 9/16/2001; American Forces Press Service, 9/11/2006] All 30 people in the Command Center’s main room watch the footage of the WTC on the large televisions there, whispering to each other, “Think it’s an accident?” [Virginian-Pilot, 9/7/2002] However, according to the Washington Post, “A few old hands muttered to themselves that the Pentagon was probably next.” [Washington Post, 9/16/2001] According to one officer, it is only when the second plane hits the WTC that there will be an “almost instantaneous recognition” that this is a terrorist attack. [Daily Telegraph, 9/11/2002] By that time, Keating will have gone back to his office. He too supposedly only realizes this is an attack when he sees television showing the second crash. [American Forces Press Service, 9/11/2006] Much of the Navy Command Center will be destroyed when the Pentagon is hit at 9:37 a.m. Forty-two of the 50 people working in it will be killed. [Washington Post, 1/20/2002; National Defense Magazine, 6/2003]

Entity Tags: US Department of the Navy, Timothy Keating, Kevin Shaeffer, Michael Allen Noeth

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Timothy Keating.Timothy Keating. [Source: Department of Defense]Admiral Timothy Keating, who is the Navy’s director of operations in the Pentagon, is back in his fourth-floor office for a 9:00 a.m. meeting with David Newton, the US ambassador to Yemen. Keating has just returned from the Navy Command Center on the Pentagon’s first floor, where he’d received his daily briefing, and where he’d seen the television reports of the first crash at the World Trade Center (see (8:48 a.m.-9:02 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Despite seeing the second plane hitting the WTC on television, Keating and Newton reportedly do not question their own safety at the Pentagon. Though it is now obvious that the US is under attack, they start discussing the upcoming first anniversary of the terrorist attack on the USS Cole. In 2002, Keating will recall, “We were discussing the fact that the Cole attack was coming up on a year’s anniversary—those were almost our exact words at the moment the plane impacted [the Pentagon],” which happens at 9:37. But in 2006, Keating will give a different account, telling Washington Post Radio that, after seeing the second crash on TV, he understands this is an attack. In response, he claims, he makes some phone calls and is on his way back to the Navy Command Center when the Pentagon is hit. [Sea Power, 1/2002; Shipmate, 9/2006 pdf file; American Forces Press Service, 9/11/2006] The Command Center is mostly destroyed in the attack, and 42 of the 50 people working in it are killed. [Washington Post, 1/20/2002; National Defense Magazine, 6/2003]

Entity Tags: Timothy Keating, David Newton

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Diagram showing the area of impact at the Pentagon. The Navy Command Center is highlighted in red.Diagram showing the area of impact at the Pentagon. The Navy Command Center is highlighted in red. [Source: Washington Post] (click image to enlarge)Edward Earhart, Matthew Flocco, and their supervisor Lt. Nancy McKeown are inside the Pentagon, watching the televised footage of the burning World Trade Center. They belong to a small meteorological unit based in the Navy Command Center, located on the first floor of the building’s southwest face. McKeown asks her two young aides to bring up New York on the computer because the Command Center is going to send some fighter jets there, in case there is another attack on the city. She orders them to program weather updates for military aircraft converging on New York. However, very soon after this, the Command Center is directly impacted when the Pentagon is hit, and both Flocco and Earhart are killed. [Washington Post, 9/16/2001; Reader's Digest, 9/2002; CNN, 9/8/2002; Newsday, 4/12/2006] Ronald Vauk, the watch commander in the Navy Command Center, is on the phone trying to get more fighters scrambled at the time the Pentagon is hit, though news reports say he wants them to protect Washington, not New York. [John Hopkins Magazine, 11/2001; New York Times, 11/17/2001; Baltimore Sun, 9/11/2002] At 9:24 a.m., NORAD had ordered fighters at Langley Air Force Base in Virginia to scramble (see 9:24 a.m. September 11, 2001), though these will not arrive over the Pentagon until after it is hit (see (Between 9:49 a.m. and 11:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004] According to Lt. Kevin Shaeffer, who works in the Command Center, just prior to the attack on the Pentagon, the watch section and watch leaders in the center are actively engaged in logging and recording the events going on in New York. He later says, “they all responded in exactly the way they were trained,” and, “Had the Command Center not been destroyed it surely would have been able to provide the highest levels of our Navy leadership with updates as to exactly what was occurring.” [Chips, 3/2003]

Entity Tags: Ronald Vauk, Kevin Shaeffer, Nancy McKeown

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

James L. Jones.James L. Jones. [Source: US Marine Corps]The Navy establishes a new command center at the Navy Annex in Arlington, Virginia, after its original command center was destroyed in the attack on the Pentagon. The original Navy Command Center, located on the first floor of the Pentagon, provided Navy leaders with timely information and intelligence about operations around the world. But it was destroyed, and many of its personnel died, when the Pentagon was hit (see 9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001 and 9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Washington Post, 1/20/2002; Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 133] Reportedly, 70 percent of the Navy’s spaces in the Pentagon were damaged or destroyed in the Pentagon attack. [Navy Times, 10/1/2001]
Navy Invited to Join Marines at Navy Annex - General James Jones, the commandant of the Marine Corps, therefore invited several of his Navy counterparts and their staffs to co-locate with the Marine Corps at the Navy Annex. [Sea Power, 1/2002] The Navy Annex is a huge building located a few hundred yards uphill from the Pentagon. It has enough room for 6,000 employees. Currently, about 100 Navy personnel work in it, and most of the space is used by the Marine Corps. [American Forces Press Service, 9/24/2001; Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 14; GlobalSecurity (.org), 5/7/2011] It is the location of the Marine Corps Command Center. [Sea Power, 1/2002] Admiral William Fallon, the vice chief of naval operations, has consequently made arrangements for the Navy’s leadership and support personnel to move to the Navy Annex. [Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 133]
Building Manager Unhappy about Moving People to Navy Annex - At around 3:00 p.m., Coneleous Alexander, a building manager at the Navy Annex, learns from one of the Marine Corps administrative managers of the plan to relocate the Navy Command Center to his building. The new command center will be set up in an area on the fourth floor that, Alexander will later say, “had been demolished for use by the build out for ballistic missiles.” [Naval Historical Center, 12/21/2001] It is unclear from Alexander’s account whether he means that missiles are being stored at the Navy Annex, or is referring to the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization, which has been housed at the Navy Annex since February this year. [US Department of Defense, 11/30/2001; US Air Force Academy, 5/2/2002] Alexander is unsure whether it is a good idea to move personnel to the Navy Annex. One reason for his uncertainty, he will say, is “the ballistic missiles” being there. He thinks a better choice would be to move people to Henderson Hall, the Marine Corps headquarters, which is located next to the Navy Annex.
Only Mission-Essential Personnel Allowed into Building - All the same, Marines start moving equipment into the Navy Annex, and maintenance crews set up portable air conditioners and exhaust fans for the Navy’s new command center there. It is decided that, due to the fear of another attack, only mission-essential personnel may enter the building. [Naval Historical Center, 12/21/2001; Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 133] While some Navy staffs will be able to promptly return to their spaces at the Pentagon, others have to temporarily move to offices at locations that, as well as the Navy Annex, include the Washington Navy Yard and Northern Virginia’s Crystal City office complex. [Navy Times, 10/1/2001]

Entity Tags: US Department of the Navy, Coneleous Alexander, US Department of the Marines

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

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