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ERROR: 'The Pentagon Attack Left Only a Small Impact Hole'

This image is commonly cited to assert that the initial impact hole in the Pentagon was less than 20 feet across. However, fire suppression foam conceals the broad expanse of breached walls on the first floor.

The most common argument advanced to support the no-757-impact theory is that, on the one hand, there was almost no aircraft debris outside the Pentagon, but on the other, the hole in the building's facade was much too small to have admitted the plane into the building. The conclusion that no jetliner crashed there seems simple and inescapable when presented with certain photographs. However, analysis of the available photographs shows that the debris outside the building is difficult to quantify, and the dimensions of the impact hole (or more accurately, holes) are frequently underestimated.

Hole Dimensions

Some of the most prominent advocates of the no-757-impact theory have radically mis-characterized the dimensions of the impact "hole". Thierry Meyssan describes the hole as 15 to 17 feet wide, apparently on the basis of photographs, such as the one to the right, in which the spray from the fire suppression efforts obscures the first floor, which had far more extensive damage.

Gerard Holmgren, in his paper, Physical and Mathematical Analysis of the Pentagon Crash states that the hole was at most 65 feet wide, since that was the width of the section of the building that collapsed. He bases this assertion on the photograph in the third illustration in the right margin, which shows that the collapsed region of the building was about 65 feet wide.
This pre-collapse photograph shows completely punctured walls extending 30 feet to the north of the collapsed section that Holmgren asserts marks the maximum extent of impact damage.
However, Holmgren's estimate of impact hole size ignores the missing first-floor walls to the left of the collapsed section, and ignores the fact that the fire truck obscures missing walls to the right of the collapsed section.

Further evidence that the hole extended beyond the collapsed section is provided by the photograph to the right, which reveals obliterated walls extending about 24 feet beyond the expansion joint that Holmgren claims marked the maximum extent of the damage.

Holmgren then states:

It should be noted that the original hole was much smaller. The 65 ft wide hole developed when a section of the wall collapsed later.
Look at the following photos, taken soon after the crash, before that section of wall collapsed. The thick smoke and the water jets from the firefighters make it difficult to get a clear view, but we can determine that the hole wasn't anywhere near even 40 ft wide. Probably less than 20. In most of the photos, it's difficult to find any hole at all.

Holmgren's reliance on photographs in which smoke and water jets obscure the impact zone contrasts with the careful and systematic analysis of the anonymous author in a page posted at www.nerdcities.com/guardian in 2002, and later preserved by 9-11 Research at this mirror after the nerdcities.com site disappeared. The six-part graphic in the right margin summarizes the method that author used to estimate the maximal dimensions of the region of broken-away walls: He combined the information from several pre- and post-collapse photographs to produce a composite that outlines the region of impact punctures. That region extends about 90 feet on the first floor -- wide enough to have allowed the vast majority of a 757 to enter the building, even considering the trajectory of the plane.

The guardian author concludes that the damage was consistent with the crash of a large aircraft, but not a 757.

Overall, though, the damage to the Pentagon is about as extensive as one would expect from the crash of a large aircraft, that was a bit smaller than a Boeing 757.

However, the same author does not make a convincing case as to why the damage only fits a smaller aircraft than a 757. The impact simulation in the right margin suggests that the damage fits the profile of a Boeing 757 quite well.

One of the most detailed examinations of exterior impact damage was in an article by an anonymous author written in February of 2003.

e x c e r p t
title: Pentagon -- Exterior Impact Damage
authors: anonymous
The following annotated photos show exactly the locations of impact damage on the Pentagon E-ring facade. The outer limestone facade was breached between column lines 8 and 18, producing a hole spanning approximately 96 feet. Additional impact damage can be found between columns 5 and 8 and between columns 18 and 20. The entire width of impacted facade measured at least 140 feet, as indicated by the building plan in the Arlington After Action Report.
...
We see that the entire left wing damaged the building, and almost the entire wing except for the wing tip entered the building. The right wing just a little past the right engine also entered the building. However the rest of the wing, about two-thirds of the length of the wing, did not. The reason for this was the angle of the wings. The right wing was higher than than left; if the wings were level, the right wing would have demolished the white construction trailer in addition to the emergency generator next to it. The outer portion of the wing crashed above the first floor, and the horizontal second floor slab (more strongly reinforced than the vertical columns and which was parallel to the vector of the impacting wing) absorbed much of the force of the impacting wing above the first floor. The left wing slipped below the second floor slab and thus created a larger hole. The right wing did inflict considerable damage above the first floor, but the limestone facade was only breached between columns 13 and 15 on the second floor. Due to the strength of the floor slabs, the dimensions of the hole reflects the structure more than the actual dimensions of the plane.

The airliner, however, did not inflict much visible damage between columns 20 and 22. One should note in this vein that there is impact damage on the third and fourth floors between columns 18 and 21. This suggests that the wing fragmented into pieces after the impact with the power generator, and the outer wing tip was hurled up to the third and fourth floors.

page last modified: 2007-09-15
Copyright 2004 - 2011,911Review.com / revision 1.08 site last modified: 12/21/2012
These two photographs by Jason Ingersoll clearly show extensive punctures to the right of the central impact hole.
This illustration shows the relationship of the 18-foot-wide second-floor puncture to the far more extensive first-floor punctures. (The lower image is a montage and does not accurately depict the positions of objects such as cable spools relative to the facade.)
Gerard Holmgren used this image to conclude that the Pentagon's impact hole was at most 65 feet wide, despite its clearly showing punctures extendeing far beyond the 65-foot-wide collapsed span.
A detailed analysis of the extent of impact punctures in the Pentagon's facade was produced by the anonymous author "guardian". It shows that region of breached walls spanned approximately 90 feet on the first floor and 18 feet on the second floor.
This photograph, reproduced in the FEMA Report, shows punctured walls extending to column line 8, about 50 feet to the north of the impact hole center.
In this annotated photograph, regions of punctured walls are outlined in red, and regions of breached limestone are outlined in green.
This simulation shows the correspondence between a Boeing 757 on the estimated impact trajectory and the damage to the Pentagon's facade. Red regions of the facade denote punctured walls and brown regions denote facade damage such as breached limestone.
This photograph, taken after much of building debris had been removed, shows portions of the facade to the right of the impact center that sustained damage, apparently from the right wing.