WASHINGTON (AP) Air Force F-16s patrolled the skies over Washington, Navy warships were sent to Manhattan and military commanders ordered forces on highest alert after yesterday”s terrorist attacks.
President Bush, in an Oval Office address, vowed to find those responsible.
At a Pentagon briefing earlier, Joint Chiefs Chairman Henry H. Shelton said, “I have no intention of discussing what comes next. But make no mistake about it, your armed forces are ready.”
Some 10 hours before that briefing, a Boeing 757 plowed into the Pentagon, after two hijacked airliners had struck the towers of New York”s World Trade Center.
But what would happen next including potential retaliatory strikes wasn”t exactly clear.
President Bush put U.S. forces around the globe on the highest possible alert, “Threatcon Delta.”
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld denied that U.S. forces were responsible for the explosions heard yesterday night near Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan. “In no way is the U.S. government connected,” he said at the Pentagon briefing.
A senior defense official said the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise, which was due to come home from the Persian Gulf, was ordered to remain in the area indefinitely. A second carrier, the USS Carl Vinson, remains in the area as well, the official said.
Officials at military sites across the country reported that only essential military personnel would be permitted on their bases. All unnecessary military flights were canceled, and the North American Aerospace Defense Command took steps to protect the military”s computer systems from hackers, a spokesman said.
NORAD which also defends U.S. airspace from foreign invasion was also on its highest alert. Around the country, fighters, airborne radars and refueling took the skies, officials said.
NORAD controllers did track one of the hijacked planes, but it crashed into the World Trade Center even as fighters were scrambling, said Col. Mike Perini, NORAD spokesman.