At 5:45 in Washington, D.C., the switchboard at the Pentagon was warned that bombs planted somewhere in the building would go off in ten minutes. "You killed hundreds of us today in the streets of Washington," said the woman's voice. "But we are still giving you a chance to evacuate the building. You do not have time to find the bombs. Leave the Pentagon now, and let history be the judge of which side truly fought for life and against death."
Somehow the fact that the caller had said bombs (plural) had not gotten through. And the actual explosions were far more powerful than the caller had implied. Since a proper investigation was never subsequently undertaken, no one knows precisely what type of explosive was used, how many bombs there were, how they were introduced into the Pentagon, Where they were placed, and how they were set off. Nor was the most interesting question of all ever satisfactorily answered: Who done it? In any case, at 5:55 P.M., Washington time, a series of explosions destroyed one-third of the river side of the Pentagon, ripping through all four rings from the innermost courtyard to the outermost wall.
There was great loss of life. Hundreds of people who had been working on that side of the building were killed. Although the explosion had not visibly touched their bombproof shelter, the Secretary of Defense, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and numerous other high-ranking military persons were found dead; it was assumed that the concussion had killed them, and in the ensuing chaos nobody bothered to examine the bodies carefully. After the explosions the Pentagon was belatedly evacuated, in the expectation that there might be more of the same. There was no more, but the U.S. military establishment was temporarily without a head.
Another casualty was Mr. H. C. Winifred of the U.S. Department of Justice. A civil servant with a long and honorable career behind him, Winifred, apparently deranged by the terrible events of that day of infamy, took the wheel of a Justice Department limousine and drove wildly, running twenty- three red lights, to the Pentagon. He raced to the scene of the explosion brandishing a large piece of chalk, and was trying to draw a chalk line from one side of the gap in the Pentagon wall to the other when he collapsed and died, apparently of a heart attack.