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(9:36 a.m.) September 11, 2001: Senior Navy Officer Wants Report of Hijacked Plane Approaching Washington Kept Secret

William Douglas Crowder.William Douglas Crowder. [Source: US Navy]A senior Navy officer at the Pentagon is told in a phone call that another hijacked aircraft is heading toward Washington, DC, and yet he tells a colleague who also receives this news to keep the information to himself. [US Naval Historical Center, 10/10/2001] Rear Admiral William Douglas Crowder is the executive assistant to Admiral William Fallon, the vice chief of naval operations. [US Department of Defense, 9/26/2001; Proceedings, 9/2002] He is working in Fallon’s office, on the fourth floor of the Pentagon’s E-ring. [US Naval Historical Center, 10/10/2001; Washington Post, 11/17/2006] Fallon is currently down the hall, in the office of Admiral Vern Clark, the chief of naval operations. Those in Fallon’s office are aware of the attacks on the World Trade Center, and have speculated that if this is an organized attack, then Washington, and specifically the Pentagon, is a likely target (see (8:48 a.m.-9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001).
Crowder Told of Plane Approaching Washington - Crowder now answers a call from the Navy Command Center, which is on the first floor of the Pentagon’s southwest face. His deputy, Commander David Radi, listens in on the call, as he is required to. Captain William Toti, the special assistant to the vice chief of naval operations, will later describe what Crowder is told. Toti will recall, “I was not listening in, but the gist of the conversation was there’s another airplane that’s been hijacked that’s heading towards Washington.” [US Naval Historical Center, 10/10/2001] (An intelligence unit located within the Navy Command Center was recently notified of “indications of another aircraft that’s been hijacked” and that is “heading out to DC” (see Shortly Before 9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Daily Telegraph, 9/11/2002] ) Crowder replies to the caller, “Okay, got it.”
Crowder Instructs Deputy to Keep Information Secret - Radi appears afraid. Presumably referring to the office staff’s prediction of a possible attack on the Pentagon, he says: “Holy sh_t. Captain Toti, it’s coming true.” Crowder runs out of the office to go and tell Fallon what he has just learned. But as he is heading out, he calls back to Radi: “That’s close hold. Don’t tell anybody what you just heard.” Toti will comment, “Remember that Crowder and Radi are the only two people who heard” about the approaching hijacked plane. Just then, the Pentagon is hit: “Not 30 seconds after Crowder hangs up and runs out the door,” Toti will recall, “we hear the airplane, the jet engines, and feel impact. The building shook like an earthquake. We heard the explosion.” [US Naval Historical Center, 10/10/2001] No steps have been taken to evacuate the Pentagon or alert its workers before the building is hit (see Before 9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Vogel, 2007, pp. 429]
Officer Finds Crowder's Order 'Peculiar' - In an interview a month later, Toti will reflect: “In retrospect, I wonder what the hell was close hold about that fact that there was a hijacked airplane coming in towards the Pentagon. If anything, it would have been nice to alert people of that.” He will add that he has not asked Crowder “why he said that,” but says Crowder’s instruction to Radi “stuck out in [my] mind at the time as kind of a peculiar thing to say.”
Officer Told Not to Go to Command Center - Toti’s life is likely saved because, just before the call about the approaching plane is received, Crowder told him not to go to the Navy Command Center—a part of the Pentagon that suffers serious damage when the building is hit. After seeing the burning WTC on television, Toti had been uncomfortable that his office had not received any information about what was going on from the Command Center. After “a few minutes of hearing nothing,” he had suggested to Crowder “that I go to the ops center to see if they had any information we should pass to senior Navy leadership.” But, as Toti was heading out the door toward the Command Center, Crowder instructed him: “Wait, give them another minute. If they don’t call by then, you can go down.” Toti therefore returned to his desk. “Just then,” Toti will recall, Crowder receives the call from the Command Center about the hijacked plane approaching Washington. [US Naval Historical Center, 10/10/2001; Proceedings, 9/2002] Much of the Navy Command Center is destroyed when the Pentagon is hit (see 9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001), and 42 of the 50 people working in it are killed. [Washington Post, 1/20/2002; National Defense Magazine, 6/2003] Toti will say that Crowder “probably saved my life.” [US Naval Historical Center, 10/10/2001]

Entity Tags: David Radi, William J. Toti, William Douglas Crowder

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

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