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Sunday, May 6, 2012

911 - The Mystery of the Helicopter Flying Around the Pentagon Before the Attack There


The Mystery of the Helicopter Flying Around the Pentagon Before the Attack There on 9/11


A U.S. Park Police helicopter flying over the Pentagon
A mysterious helicopter was seen flying near the Pentagon in the minutes before the attack there on September 11, 2001. Several witnesses have described seeing the helicopter, which circled the Pentagon and then apparently landed for a brief period on the helipad, near where the building was subsequently hit. It then flew off very shortly before the attack took place. And yet there has never been any public acknowledgement of this incident, or any official explanation of what the helicopter was doing at the Pentagon at that time.

While interviewing one of the witnesses to the incident, however, a Navy historian revealed that the helicopter belonged to the United States Park Police, and, the historian said, had been instructed to intercept the aircraft that was on a crash-course for the Pentagon.

Official accounts have claimed that Park Police helicopters only took to the air after the Pentagon was hit, to provide assistance in response to the attack. However, evidence casts doubt on this version of events. A woman who was dating one of the Park Police helicopter pilots has written an account of her experiences on September 11, which clearly supports the contention that the helicopters took off before the Pentagon attack occurred. And there are several contradictions between the various accounts describing the official narrative, indicating this narrative may, at least partly, have been fabricated. Furthermore, it appears there could have been a deliberate attempt to cover up the true details of what happened. The Navy historian in fact told the eyewitness he interviewed: "Don't tell anyone about that story. ... We don't want the press to get this."

WITNESSES SAW HELICOPTER BY THE PENTAGON
Several individuals have recalled seeing a helicopter flying near the Pentagon just before the attack there on September 11. Shortly after the attack occurred, a senior Air Force officer at the Pentagon told CNN's Chris Plante that he had seen "a helicopter circle the building," which had "disappeared behind the building where the helicopter landing zone is ... and he then saw [a] fireball go into the sky" when the Pentagon was hit. [1] Jennifer Reichert had been stuck in traffic on the road in front of the Pentagon. She described that "a helicopter [took] off from the heliport at the Pentagon." Then, "Minutes--maybe seconds--later," she heard the aircraft coming toward the Pentagon and then felt the explosion of the crash. [2]

Jeffrey Mark Parsons, an assistant chief patrol agent with the United States Border Patrol, saw the helicopter from a window on the 17th floor of his hotel, the Marriott Residence Inn in Arlington. Two or three minutes before the Pentagon was hit, Parsons recalled, he saw a blue and white helicopter flying in at "a weird angle" and circling "between the hotel and the Pentagon, going toward the landing pad [at the Pentagon] where that airliner ultimately hit." Parsons said he thought the helicopter "landed on the pad." He recognized the helicopter as a Huey from the noise it made, as he had flown Hueys and knew they made "a very distinct sound." [3]

HELICOPTER BELONGED TO THE PARK POLICE
The identity of this helicopter was revealed by John Darrell Sherwood, a Navy historian who interviewed Parsons about the incident. The helicopter's pilot had previously described what happened to a Marine Corps historian who was a colleague of Sherwood's. According to Sherwood, the helicopter was a Huey belonging to the Park Police that "had been directed to try to intercept that airline" that subsequently hit the Pentagon. The helicopter had been "in the area" of the Pentagon, when the pilot received a call telling him, "Try to intercept this plane, try to distract the plane, try to do something to, you know, prevent the plane from going into the Pentagon." The helicopter had then gone "to try to distract" the approaching aircraft. Although the helicopter had flown away from the Pentagon before the building was hit, its pilot "saw the plane go in, and then the next thing he started doing is medevacing people out of there," according to Sherwood. [4]

The Park Police Aviation Unit is located in Anacostia Park in southeast Washington, DC, across the Potomac River from the Pentagon. It has two Bell 412 helicopters, which are a modern version of the Huey. [5] These helicopters are colored blue and white, like the helicopter Parsons described. [6] The aviation unit's missions include the provision of aviation support for law enforcement, medical evacuation ("medevac"), search and rescue, and presidential and dignitary security. [7]

HELICOPTERS TOLD TO RESPOND TO PLANE HEADING FOR WASHINGTON
Sherwood's claim that at least one of the Park Police Aviation Unit's Hueys was launched prior to the attack on the Pentagon, and was instructed to intercept an approaching aircraft, has been supported by the account of Stephanie Hughes, a nurse at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore. At the time of the 9/11 attacks, Hughes was dating Sergeant Keith Bohn, one of the Park Police's helicopter pilots.

On her personal blog, Hughes has written that on the morning of September 11, she was driving to the aviation unit to meet Bohn for a late breakfast after he finished work, having just been on the night shift. On the way, she heard reports on the radio about the first plane crashing into the World Trade Center. When she arrived at the unit, she saw its two helicopters taking off, but assumed that Bohn, having completed his shift, was not flying in either of them.

But, Hughes recalled, "When I got inside the hangar, he was not there." The only person around was the aircraft maintenance technician, who told Hughes that the unit had "just got a call to respond to the White House, that a plane was headed to Washington, DC, and that they were to go airborne." Bohn had left Hughes "a quickly scribbled note" that said, "Got called into the air, there is another plane headed this way, go home and wait for me to call." This clearly appears to have been before the Pentagon was hit. At that time, Hughes recalled, "CNN was on the TV and it was showing video of the World Trade Center." As she headed home, Hughes called her mother and sister, "to tell them what was going on, in case I was the only non-police person who knew a plane was headed to Washington, DC." After she arrived home, Hughes was "glued to the TV, and it was then [that] the Pentagon was being identified as being hit." [8]

However, official accounts told a different story to this. They made no mention of Park Police helicopters taking off to intercept a plane heading toward Washington, or flying around the Pentagon before it was attacked. Instead, these accounts claimed that the aviation unit only launched its helicopters after the Pentagon was hit.

AVIATION UNIT RESPONDED TO THE PENTAGON ATTACK
The morning of September 11, the Park Police Aviation Unit was holding a large training event, in preparation for the upcoming meetings of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank in Washington. [9] Personnel there learned of the first attack in New York from television reports, but initially thought it was an accident. But when they saw the live coverage of the second plane hitting the WTC at 9:03 a.m., they realized it was a deliberate attack. [10]

Shortly after 9:37 a.m., when the Pentagon was hit, the aviation unit's "aircraft crash phone" started to ring. The crash phone is a direct communications line from the control tower at Washington's Reagan National Airport, which enables the aviation unit to respond quickly to incidents at the airport. Sergeant Ronald Galey, one of the unit's helicopter pilots, has said that he answered the call. The caller alerted the unit to the crash. [11]

According to official accounts, the Park Police Aviation Unit then became one of the first agencies to respond to the attack on the Pentagon. Its two Hueys were quickly prepared for takeoff, and then launched and arrived at the Pentagon within minutes. [12]

One of the helicopters, which has the call sign "Eagle I," was piloted by Galey. Also onboard were rescue technician Sergeant John Marsh and rescue team officer John Dillon. Flying in the other helicopter, "Eagle II," were Bohn and his copilot, Sergeant Kenneth Burchell, along with the aviation unit commander Lieutenant Philip Cholak and assistant commander Sergeant Bernard Stasulli, and two Defense Department medics who had been attending the training event: Keith Kettell and Jason Kepp. [13]

Eagle I reached the Pentagon within four minutes of the unit receiving the alert and Eagle II arrived two minutes later, according to Rotor & Wingmagazine. [14] Upon arrival at the Pentagon, Eagle II landed to conduct medical evacuations while Eagle I circled overhead. [15]

That the Park Police helicopters were at the Pentagon after the attack there is beyond doubt. They were caught on film and witnessed by reporters. For example, at 9:48 a.m., CNN's Chris Plante reported from the Pentagon, "There is a Park Police helicopter overhead." [16] And at 10:11 a.m., Dave Statter of CBS affiliate Channel 9 reported that medics at the Pentagon were taking a man suffering burn injuries "to the U.S. Park Police Eagle helicopter. ... The Eagle helicopter from [the] Park Police is landing, taking this man to the hospital." [17] Accounts only conflict over whether at least one of these helicopters had also been flying near the Pentagon in the minutes before the attack.

A POSSIBLE COVER-UP
Although official accounts have made no mention of a Park Police helicopter flying near the Pentagon before it was attacked, or being instructed to intercept a hostile aircraft approaching Washington, it is possible that this is because attempts have been made to suppress this information.

Supporting this contention is the fact that after Jeffrey Mark Parsons recalled seeing the helicopter during his interview with John Darrell Sherwood, and after Sherwood then revealed that the helicopter belonged to the Park Police, Sherwood told Parsons to keep quiet about the incident. He said: "Don't tell anyone about that story because that's one of our, I think that's one of the best stories that's going to come out of this. We don't want the press to get this."

Sherwood also seemed uncomfortable about answering why the helicopter was flying near the Pentagon before the attack. After Sherwood explained that the helicopter's pilot had been instructed to try and intercept the aircraft that subsequently hit the Pentagon, Parsons asked him, "Then they knew it was headed toward the Pentagon before it actually hit the Pentagon, then?" Sherwood immediately changed the subject and talked about a fighter jet that had been flying in from North Carolina. Finally, he said, "So, I guess that helicopter swung around, but, by the time he got around the plane was already into the building." [18]

CONTRADICTIONS IN OFFICIAL ACCOUNTS
Casting doubt on the official narrative is the fact that there are a number of contradictions in the various accounts in which that narrative has been put forward. For example, as previously mentioned, Ronald Galey has claimed he was still on the ground at the aviation unit at the time the Pentagon was hit, and he was therefore able to answer the call on the aircraft crash phone in which the crash was reported. [19] However, Galey has given conflicting accounts about what the air traffic controller at Reagan Airport, David Walsh, supposedly told him in the call. [20]

In November 2001, Galey recalled Walsh saying, "We have a 757 down somewhere in the vicinity of the 14th Street Bridge," which goes over the Potomac River, near the Pentagon. [21] Later that month, Galey gave a slightly different account, recalling that Walsh said the control tower had "lost a 757 somewhere in the vicinity of the Pentagon." [22] But in January 2002, Galey said that Walsh specifically mentioned a plane hitting the Pentagon. Walsh supposedly said that "they had a 757 go into the Pentagon and they needed us to respond to the incident." [23]

And then, later that year, Galey gave a very different account. He recalled Walsh saying, "We have a 757 down on the north end of the airport," referring to Reagan Airport, which is about a mile away from the Pentagon. [24] Galey's fellow pilot, Keith Bohn, had earlier given a similar account. In November 2001, he said that in the initial phone call the aviation unit received about the attack, it was told there was "an aircraft down at the end of the runway at National Airport." [25]

A possible explanation for these conflicting accounts is that Galey had taken off before the Pentagon attack took place and therefore did not answer the call on the aircraft crash phone. Perhaps because he was ordered to keep quiet about his actual experiences from that time, Galey had been uncertain over what he should say instead, and so gave differing accounts when interviewed.

CONFLICTING DESCRIPTIONS OF TAKEOFFS
Also casting doubt on the accuracy of the official narrative is the fact that there have been conflicting accounts of which of the Park Police Aviation Unit's Hueys took off first, and how long it took for the two helicopters to launch after the unit was called about the crash.

According to most accounts, Eagle I was the first of the helicopters to take off. [26] Eagle II reportedly took longer to prepare for takeoff, as a few minutes were required to install a mass casualty kit, which would allow it to carry four patients instead of two, and so it took off after Eagle I. [27] However, a couple of months after 9/11, Galey said in an interview that Eagle II in fact took off first, while Eagle I, which he had been piloting, "launched right after." [28]

According to National Park Service reports, Eagle I took off less than two minutes after the aviation unit received the alert over the crash phone and Eagle II followed it about a minute later. [29] However, the Arlington County After-Action Report on the emergency response to the Pentagon attack stated that Eagle I took off at "approximately 9:43 a.m.," five or six minutes after the attack occurred, and "Eagle II launched eight minutes later at 9:51 a.m." [30]

A possible reason for these conflicting accounts is that the Park Police helicopters took off earlier than was being claimed, but the unit's personnel had been told to keep quiet about this. Those personnel may have been uncertain about what they should instead be saying publicly, and so their false accounts of the order of events sometimes contradicted each other.

AVIATION UNIT DECIDED TO 'GET READY' AFTER SECOND WTC ATTACK
There is an additional problem with the official narrative of the Park Police Aviation Unit's actions on September 11. As previously mentioned, when personnel at the unit saw the live television coverage of the second plane hitting the WTC, they immediately realized it was a deliberate attack. At that point, according to Galey, "We just started talking, 'Hey, we'd better get ready.'" Also, Galey has recalled, "we started some further discussion as to what other potential targets might be." [31]

Galey said that when the Pentagon was hit, at 9:37 a.m., he "heard a tremendous explosion" and then saw smoke rising from the vicinity of the Pentagon. [32] He claimed he did not realize the smoke was coming specifically from the Pentagon, only from "some military installation over there." All the same, Galey said, when aviation unit personnel heard the explosion, "We just knew what it was." He said, "I mean we've all been expecting something like this, for an attack of some sort." [33]

And yet, according to the official narrative, the Park Police's two Hueys did not take off to defend potential targets in Washington, or at least keep watch for any approaching hostile aircraft, in the 34 minutes between the second attack in New York and the attack on the Pentagon. This in spite of the fact that the unit's personnel had been "expecting something like" the Pentagon attack to happen, and had decided, "we'd better get ready," right after seeing the second WTC tower being hit on television.

WHY WAS A HELICOPTER FLYING NEAR THE PENTAGON? 
As we can see, there is clear evidence that one of the Park Police's helicopters was flying close to the Pentagon, and possibly landing there briefly, very shortly before the attack there took place, and that attempts have been made to suppress this fact.

This leads to important questions that have so far been unaddressed. If, as John Darrell Sherwood and Stephanie Hughes indicated, one, or both, of the Park Police's helicopters were ordered to intercept the suspicious aircraft that was approaching Washington, who issued that order? And why did the helicopter fly away from the Pentagon before the attack there? Might there have been a different reason why the helicopter was flying near the Pentagon? If so, what was it?

Also, why has there been no official acknowledgement of the helicopter's presence near the Pentagon just before the attack there? No official explanation has been put forward as to what the helicopter was doing. And yet surely the authorities would have wanted to publicize what was apparently a courageous attempt at defending the Pentagon from the imminent attack? Why, then, does it appear that there has been a cover-up of this incident?

Clearly, this matter should be investigated further. To begin with, records pertaining to it need to be made public. These would include any unreleased transcripts and recordings of interviews with the relevant individuals, such as Park Police Aviation Unit personnel, the person who ordered the helicopter toward the Pentagon, and additional witnesses who saw the helicopter near the Pentagon. Pilots, crew members, and others connected with the aviation unit could also now be re-interviewed about their experiences on 9/11.

Logs and other records from the aviation unit might also clarify what happened. And the U.S. government reportedly has around 80 unreleased video tapes relating to the Pentagon attack. [34] If these were made public, perhaps one or more of them would show the helicopter and reveal exactly when it first arrived at the Pentagon.

As well as casting light on the mystery of the helicopter flying around the Pentagon, these records might reveal other important details relating to the Pentagon attack. Such information would surely take us closer to knowing the truth about 9/11.

NOTES
[1] "Terrorism Strikes in the United States in a Massive Attack." Breaking News, CNN, September 11, 2001.
[2] "'A Constant Reminder.'" Washington Post, September 5, 2002.
[3] Jeffrey Mark Parsons, interview by John Darrell Sherwood. U.S. Naval Historical Center, December 13, 2001.
[4] Ibid. Although there is no mention of the name of the historian who interviewed Parsons in the transcript of the interview, the fact that Sherwood was the interviewer was revealed in Alfred Goldberg et al.,Pentagon 9/11. Washington, DC: Defense Department, Office of the Secretary, Historical Office, 2007, p. 258.
[5] Bill Wagstaff, "Aeromed Helos Find Little to do but Grieve." Aviation International News, October 1, 2001Mark Forror, "Compassion Under Fire." Rotor & Wing, November 2001"Aviation Unit." United States Park Police, n.d.
[6] Janet A. McDonnell, National Park Service: Responding to the September 11 Terrorist Attacks. Washington, DC: National Park Service, 2004, p. 24.
[7] "Aviation Unit."
[8] Stephanie Hughes, "Where Were You on 9/11?" A Ditchin' Time Quilts, September 11, 2010.
[9] Keith Bohn, interview by Gary Solis. U.S. Naval Historical Center, November 19, 2001Janet A. McDonnell, National Park Service: Responding to the September 11 Terrorist Attacks, pp. 18-20.
[10] Ronald Alan Galey, interview by Gary Hall et al. U.S. Naval Historical Center, November 20, 2001Ron Galey, interview by Mark Schoepfle. National Park Service, January 17, 2002.
[11] Ron Galey, interview by Mark SchoepfleJanet A. McDonnell,National Park Service: Responding to the September 11 Terrorist Attacks, p. 20.
[12] Ron Galey, interview by Mark Schoepfle; Alfred Goldberg et al.,Pentagon 9/11, pp. 161-162.
[13] U.S. Congress. House. Commemorative Joint Meeting of the Congress of the United States in Remembrance of the Victims and Heroes of September 11, 2001. 107th Cong., 2nd sess., September 11, 2002Bill Line, "National Capital Region Contributes to September 11th Help Efforts." National Park Service, September 21, 2002Janet A. McDonnell, National Park Service: Responding to the September 11 Terrorist Attacks, p. 20.
[14] Mark Forror, "Compassion Under Fire."
[15] Janet A. McDonnell, National Park Service: Responding to the September 11 Terrorist Attacks, pp. 20-21.
[16] CNN, September 11, 2001.
[17] CBS 9, September 11, 2001.
[18] Jeffrey Mark Parsons, interview by John Darrell Sherwood.
[19] Ron Galey, interview by Mark Schoepfle.
[20] Air Traffic Division Event Summary. Federal Aviation Administration, September 18, 2001.
[21] Mark Forror, "Compassion Under Fire."
[22] Ronald Alan Galey, interview by Gary Hall et al.
[23] Ron Galey, interview by Mark Schoepfle.
[24] Bill Line, "National Capital Region Contributes to September 11th Help Efforts."
[25] Keith Bohn, interview by Gary Solis.
[26] Ibid.; U.S. Congress. House. Commemorative Joint Meeting of the Congress of the United States in Remembrance of the Victims and Heroes of September 11, 2001"Helicopter Crews Were First on Scene Sept. 11." NBC 4, September 11, 2003.
[27] Janet A. McDonnell, National Park Service: Responding to the September 11 Terrorist Attacks, p. 20.
[28] Ronald Alan Galey, interview by Gary Hall et al.
[29] Bill Line, "National Capital Region Contributes to September 11th Help Efforts""9.11.01 Remembrance: Washington DC Area." National Park Service, October 22, 2002.
[30] Arlington County, Virginia, report, Titan Systems Corp., Arlington County: After-Action Report on the Response to the September 11 Terrorist Attack on the Pentagon. 2002, p. A-45.
[31] Ronald Alan Galey, interview by Gary Hall et al.Ron Galey, interview by Mark Schoepfle.
[32] Ron Galey, interview by Mark SchoepfleJanet A. McDonnell,National Park Service: Responding to the September 11 Terrorist Attacks, p. 20.
[33] Ronald Alan Galey, interview by Gary Hall et al."Helicopter Crews Were First on Scene Sept. 11."
[34] "The Stories Behind the Stories." On the Story, CNN, May 20, 2006.

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