The Pentagon was built under a strict no-frills pact between Congress and War Department leaders, as recalled by Alfred Goldberg in his 50th anniversary book of Pentagon history and lore: “Throughout World War II and for some years afterward the halls remained Spartan – stark and unadorned. Gradually, the Office of the Secretary of Defense and the military departments decorated rings and corridors in their separate areas and common areas in the A ring.”
Today, many Pentagon hallways and alcoves feature exhibits, portraits, and memorials. One of the most often visited is the Hall of Heroes, dedicated to the 3,460 recipients of the nation’s highest military decoration: the Medal of Honor. While it’s often used for solemn public events such as promotions, retirements, and other award ceremonies, the hall’s most notable ceremonies occur when a new nameplate is added to its walls. The first such ceremony took place on May 14, 1968, on the day the Hall of Heroes was first dedicated by President Lyndon B. Johnson, who added the names of four service members, one from each armed forces branch, for their actions in the Vietnam War: Spc. 5 Charles C. Hagemeister, U.S. Army; Sgt. Richard A. Pittman, U.S. Marine Corps; BM1C James E. Williams, U.S. Navy, and Capt. Gerald O. Young, U.S. Air Force.
“They will place their names now in a new Hall of Heroes,” said Johnson, “created here in the Pentagon as a memorial to all who have earned their country’s highest award for courage in combat.” It was the first time all four services had been represented in a Medal of Honor Ceremony, and the medals were bestowed in the Pentagon’s center courtyard. After the ceremony, Johnson climbed a staircase behind him and cut a red ribbon in front of the entrance to the new hall.
The Hall of Heroes has been moved three times since its dedication, and is now in the Pentagon’s main concourse: 2nd floor of the D ring, in corridor 10. Visitors to the hall will see that some of the names have an asterisk next to them – these denote service members who received two Medals of Honor for two separate acts of bravery. Other names are marked with dots to denote Marines who were under the command of the Army during World War I, and who received both the Army and Sea Service versions of the Medal of Honor for a single act of bravery.