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FWD: The Pentagon PBX

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  • Mark J. Cuccia
    Last Saturday, 07-February-2009, Doug (chelsea2 at ymail dot com) posted the following to the Yahoo TENproject group, a group devoted to old-time telephone
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 14, 2009
      Last Saturday, 07-February-2009, Doug (chelsea2 at ymail dot com)
      posted the following to the Yahoo "TENproject" group, a group
      devoted to old-time telephone EXchange NAmes....

      Date: Saturday, February 7, 2009 10:55 AM (CST)
      From: chelsea2 at ymail dot com
      To: TENproject at yahoogroups dot com
      Subject: [TENproject] The Pentagon PBX

      I've heard The Pentagon had the world's largest PBX, but haven't
      found information on the number of positions or extensions. Does
      anyone recall their main number during cord board days?

      Today, Doug (chelsea2 in his handle/email is from his old NYC
      telephone EXchagne name, CHelsea 2-) emailed me directly and
      said that nobody had so far replied to him either on the group
      or directly by email with any information about the history of
      the Pentagon's PBX, and asked me if I knew of anywhere else he
      might post.

      I asked him if he was on Yahoo:Central Office/Xbar, Yahoo:
      SingingWires (TCI), or Yahoo:Cold War Comms, which would have
      people who might know more about the history of the Pentagon
      PBX. He said that he was not on these groups, so I am forwarding
      his inquiry now.

      Does anyone have any ideas which might answer his questions?

      I did email him the following this Saturday morning (14-Feb-2009)
      from what I know about the Pentagon's phone system, which isn't
      all that much, although I do know something about the DC/MD/VA
      metro area:


      As for the telephone number of the Pentagon, there is at least
      one episode of Hawaii Five-O from the late 1960s-era where an
      Army officer calls the Pentagon from McGarret's office at Five-O,
      but he uses the OPERATOR to place the LD call to "202-etc".

      Customer dialing between the mainland and Hawaii, and the
      mainland and Alaska didn't "officially" begin until circa 1970/71
      (although there might have been some unofficial exceptions prior,
      maybe only to Honolulu HI or Anchorage or Fairbanks or Juneau AK)
      so when I saw this 1968 or 1969 episode of H-5/0 and the Army
      officer calls the LD operator and asks her for the Pentagon at
      202-etc, I wasn't all that surprised.

      Back prior to October 1990, the Maryland and northern VA suburbs
      of DC could be dialed from "the outside world" with 202, even
      though at that time, ALL of MD was officially 301, and at least
      northern and western VA was officially 703 (all of VA was 703
      prior to June 1973 when 804 split off for southeastern and
      central VA).

      Starting in October 1990, calls to the northern VA suburbs HAD
      to be dialed with 703 and NO LONGER was 202 allowed, on calls
      from "the world", including on calls from DC and from MD!
      Similarly, in Oct.1990, calls to the MD suburs HAD to be dialed
      with 301 and NO LONGER was 202 allowed, on calls from "the world"
      including on calls from DC and from northern VA!
      And even local calls from the MD sub's and northern VA sub's now
      HAD to be dialed as ten-digits, 202+seven-d. Seven-digit dialing
      was NO LONGER allowed on ANY (local) calls crossing the state/DC

      And now that 301 is overlaid with 240, and that 703 is overlaid
      with 571 (since the late 1990s), even local calls WITHIN the
      MD sub's and within the northern VA sub's must be dialed as ten
      digits with the proper area code.

      DC itself still has permissive seven-digit intra-202 dialing,
      although I suspect that most people dial most intra-202 calls
      these days as all ten-digits, especially with cellular phones
      and stuff, and people who live in VA/MD and work in DC, etc.

      As for the telephone number quoted on H-5/0 in 1969(?), I don't
      remember the exact telephone number, but I seem to think it was
      202-545-something. And I did check today's 703-545, and it is
      a c.o.code based in Arlington VA for the c.o.switch located at
      the Pentagon. But I don't remember WHAT the last-four-digits
      quoted in the episode were, though.

      There are SEVERAL 202-54x now 703-54x c.o.codes associated with
      the Pentagon though! and although I don't remember the last four
      digits of the number quoted on Hawaii Five-O, the current main
      line-number for the Pentagon is -6700. In its full format, the
      current main "switchboard" number for the Pentagon is

      SO, if anyone has any further details on the history of the
      Pentagon's PBX please send to Doug (chelsea2 at ymail dot com),
      but also post to the Group, since I know that others will have
      an interest as well!

      Mark J. Cuccia
      Lafayette LA, formerly of New Orleans LA pre-Katrina
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