!! History Commons Alert, Exciting News
Profile: Aubrey Davis
Aubrey Davis was a participant or observer in the following events:
Firefighters and other rescuers at the Pentagon crash site. [Source: US Department of Defense]Emergency responders and others at the Pentagon experience serious problems with communications following the attack there. These difficulties last for several hours. [US Department of Health and Human Services, 7/2002, pp. 12-13 ; Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 114] According to a federally funded report on the emergency response to the Pentagon attack, communications systems had been busy “even before American Airlines Flight 77 crashed into the Pentagon.” But when the crash occurs, “all area communications [seem] simultaneously overwhelmed.” [US Department of Health and Human Services, 7/2002, pp. A34 ] The Defense Department’s book about the Pentagon attack later describes, “Almost immediately radio traffic gridlocked, land lines were unavailable, and cellular telephone networks became so overloaded that for a time Pentagon officials and employees as well as some emergency responders could not call outside.” [Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 114] This leads to significant problems: “Firefighters calling the [Arlington County Emergency Communications Center] couldn’t get through. Relatives of Pentagon workers found cellular and land lines jammed.” [US Department of Health and Human Services, 7/2002, pp. A34 ] The DiLorenzo Tricare Health Clinic at the Pentagon and the Rader Clinic at nearby Fort Myer are unable to establish reliable communications. Reportedly, “Hospitals and clinics could not be informed about the flow of casualties, and perhaps more damaging, communication between the fire and rescue and the emergency medical elements on-site was severely impaired.” [Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 114] Officer Aubrey Davis of the Pentagon police heads to the crash site with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld immediately after the Pentagon is hit. He receives frantic pleas over his radio, regarding Rumsfeld’s whereabouts. But, as Davis later recalls, “the system was overloaded, everyone on the frequency was talking, everything jumbled, so I couldn’t get through and they went on asking” (see (9:38 a.m.-10:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Cockburn, 2007, pp. 1-2] Cellular and landline telephone communications remain “virtually unreliable or inaccessible during the first few hours of the response.” But later on, in the afternoon, Verizon technicians and Secret Service technical staff install portable cellular towers at the Pentagon, and this significantly increases cell phone access. [US Department of Health and Human Services, 7/2002, pp. C36 ] Communications problems are experienced not just around the Pentagon but also in the broader Washington area, with some senior government officials being affected (see (After 8:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Verton, 2003, pp. 149]
Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld heads for the crash site immediately after the Pentagon is hit. At the time of the attack, Rumsfeld is in his office proceeding with his regularly scheduled CIA briefing, despite being aware of the two attacks on the World Trade Center earlier on. Waiting outside his door is Officer Aubrey Davis of the Pentagon police, who is assigned to the defense secretary’s personal bodyguard and has come of his own initiative to move Rumsfeld to a better-protected location. According to Davis, there is “an incredibly loud ‘boom,’” as the Pentagon is struck. Just 15 or 20 seconds later, Rumsfeld walks out of his door looking composed, having already put on the jacket he normally discards when in his office. Davis informs him there is a report of an airplane hitting a section of the Pentagon known as the Mall. Rumsfeld sets off without saying anything or informing any of his command staff where he is going, and heads swiftly toward the Mall. Davis accompanies him, as does Rumsfeld’s other security guard Gilbert Oldach, his communications officer, and the deputy director of security for the secretary’s office. Finding no sign of damage at the Mall, Davis tells Rumsfeld, “[N]ow we’re hearing it’s by the heliport,” which is along the next side of the building. Despite Davis’s protests that he should head back, Rumsfeld continues onward, and they go outside near where the crash occurred. [Cockburn, 2007, pp. 1-2; Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 130; Democracy Now!, 3/7/2007] The Pentagon was hit on the opposite site of the huge building to Rumsfeld’s office. [Reuters, 9/11/2001] Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs Victoria Clarke will say that Rumsfeld is “one of the first people” to arrive at the crash scene. [KYW Radio 1060 (Philadelphia), 9/15/2001] He spends a brief time there (see Between 9:38 a.m. and 10:00 a.m. September 11, 2001), before returning to the building by about 10:00 a.m., according to his own account (see (10:00 a.m.-10:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 3/23/2004] Rumsfeld will later justify his actions following the attack, saying, “I was going, which seemed to me perfectly logically, towards the scene of the accident to see what could be done and what had happened.” [US Department of Defense, 8/12/2002] As journalist Andrew Cockburn will point out, though, “[T]he country was under attack and yet the secretary of defense disappears for 20 minutes.” [C-SPAN, 2/25/2007] John Jester, the chief of the Defense Protective Service, which guards the Pentagon, will criticize Rumsfeld for heading to the crash scene at this time. He will say: “One of my officers tried to stop him and he just brushed him off. I told [Rumsfeld’s] staff that he should not have done that. He is in the national command authority; he should not have gone to the scene.” [Historical Office, Office of the Secretary of Defense, 10/19/2001 ] The numerous reports of Rumsfeld going outside to the crash scene are apparently contradicted by counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke. In his 2004 book Against All Enemies, Clarke will give the impression that Rumsfeld never leaves a video conference for very long after the Pentagon is hit, except to move from one secure teleconferencing studio to another elsewhere in the Pentagon. [Clarke, 2004, pp. 7-9] However, video footage confirms that Rumsfeld does indeed go to the crash site. [CNN, 8/17/2002]
Stephen Cambone. [Source: US Department of Defense]Immediately after the Pentagon was hit, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld left his office and headed to the crash scene (see 9:38 a.m. September 11, 2001). For the 20 minutes or so that he is gone, others are desperately trying to contact him. Among those seeking Rumsfeld are Stephen Cambone, his closest aide, who is currently in the Pentagon’s Executive Support Center (see Shortly After 9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001), and also the National Military Command Center (see 9:39 a.m. September 11, 2001). Officer Aubrey Davis of the Pentagon police, who is accompanying Rumsfeld, is receiving frantic calls over his radio saying, “Where’s the secretary? Where’s the secretary?” Davis is unable to answer these requests. He later recalls, “I kept saying, ‘We’ve got him,’ but the system was overloaded, everyone on the frequency was talking, everything jumbled, so I couldn’t get through and they went on asking.” A senior White House official, who is in its Situation Room trying to coordinate a response to the attacks, will later angrily condemn Rumsfeld for having been out of touch during such a critical period. He says, “What was Rumsfeld doing on 9/11? He deserted his post. He disappeared. The country was under attack. Where was the guy who controls America’s defense? Out of touch! How long does it take for something bad to happen? No one knew what was happening. What if this had been the opening shot of a coordinated attack by a hostile power? Outrageous, to abandon your responsibilities and go off and do what you don’t need to be doing, grandstanding.” [Cockburn, 2007, pp. 2-4; C-SPAN, 2/25/2007]
Rumsfeld show on a video broadcast on CNN helping carry a stretcher shortly after the Pentagon attack. He is in the center of the picture, wearing a dark jacket. [Source: CNN]Within seconds of the Pentagon being hit, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld rushed out of his office and headed toward the crash scene (see 9:38 a.m. September 11, 2001). According to Officer Aubrey Davis, who is currently accompanying Rumsfeld as his bodyguard, when they reach the site, “There were the flames, and bits of metal all around. The secretary picked up one of the pieces of metal. I was telling him he shouldn’t be interfering with a crime scene when he looked at some inscription on it and said, ‘American Airlines.’” According to Rumsfeld, a person who’d seen the attack on the Pentagon informs him a plane had flown into it. Rumsfeld later recalls: “I saw people on the grass, and we just, we tried to put them in stretchers and then move them out across the grass towards the road and lifted them over a jersey wall so the people on that side could stick them into the ambulances. I was out there for a while, and then people started gathering, and we were able to get other people to do that, to hold IVs for people. There were people lying on the grass with clothes blown off and burns all over them.” [Parade Magazine, 10/12/2001; Cockburn, 2007, pp. 1-2] Versions of this story will appear elsewhere. [Star-Tribune (Minneapolis), 9/12/2001; Larry King Live, 12/5/2001; ABC News, 9/11/2002; Vanity Fair, 5/9/2003] Video footage confirms that Rumsfeld helps carry a stretcher at the crash scene. [CNN, 8/17/2002] One report will even describe him pulling budget analyst Paul Gonzales to safety from the burning wreckage. [Daily Telegraph, 9/16/2001] However, Gonzales later offers his own detailed recollections of pulling other people to safety, which fail to involve Rumsfeld in any way. [Washington Post, 3/11/2002] Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs Victoria Clarke will say Rumsfeld is gone from the building for “about half an hour.” [WBZ Radio 1030 (Boston), 9/15/2001] A Pentagon spokesperson has Rumsfeld helping at the crash site for “15 minutes or so.” [Reuters, 9/11/2001] Another account will claim he loads the wounded onto stretchers for 15 minutes. [Scripps Howard News Service, 9/11/2001] However, considering the time it would have taken to walk to the crash site—each side of the enormous Pentagon is the length of three football fields—journalist Andrew Cockburn later concludes that Rumsfeld could only have been at the crash scene for a brief period. [Cockburn, 2007, pp. 3] Rumsfeld reportedly heads back into the Pentagon at the urging of a security agent, though in an interview soon after 9/11 he will claim the decision to go back inside was his own, saying, “I decided I should be in [the building] figuring out what to do, because your brain begins to connect things, and there were enough people there to worry about that.” [Parade Magazine, 10/12/2001; Washington Post, 1/27/2002] He tells the 9/11 Commission, “I was back in the Pentagon with a crisis action team shortly before or after 10:00 a.m.” (see (10:00 a.m.-10:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 3/23/2004] While Rumsfeld is at the crash scene, others are frantically trying to get in touch with him but are unable to do so (see (9:38 a.m.-10:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001).
Receive weekly email updates summarizing what contributors have added to the History Commons database
Developing and maintaining this site is very labor intensive. If you find it useful, please give us a hand and donate what you can.
If you would like to help us with this effort, please contact us. We need help with programming (Java, JDO, mysql, and xml), design, networking, and publicity. If you want to contribute information to this site, click the register link at the top of the page, and start contributing.