Date of Interview: 12 March 2002
Interviewer: CAPT Michael McDaniel, USNR, Navy Combat Documentation Detachment 206
At the time of the attack, CDR Stratton was serving in OPNAV N512, the policy and doctrine branch of OPNAV N3/N5 (Plans, Policy, Operations). He worked on special operations force issues. On the morning of the attack, he was at work at the Pentagon.
Oral History Summary:
CDR Stratton was in his office on the fourth deck of D ring on the southwest corner of the Pentagon when he heard and felt the impact of the plane. Looking out the window, he could see black smoke and debris. He and the others in his office made the decision to evacuate. After making it down Corridor 3 to the A Ring, he ran into someone he knew, CDR Mike Spence. When they got separated near Corridor 4, CDR Stratton wanted to wait for him. After a minute, CDR Stratton headed back down Corridor 3 towards E Ring hoping to run into him again. Along the way, he ran into Admiral Keating (OPNAV N3/N5) and Admiral McGinn (N7). Although Admiral Keating told CDR Stratton to get out of the building, CDR Stratton waited for his friend. Once they met up again, CDR Stratton went down into the Courtyard. For the next few hours, he worked alongside the others trying to help personnel out of the burning building, preparing triage and medical stations to provide assistance when they thought rescue was still possible, then assisting the FBI identify physical evidence in the area.
That evening, after making it home, CDR Stratton finally began thinking about the people he might have known in the Navy Command Center. One of his closest work friends, CDR Bill Donovan, who was on the OPNAV N513 staff, worked out of the Command Center. CDR Stratton and CDR Donovan had worked together on the N512 staff before CDR Donovan was reassigned. They’d also spent many lunch breaks playing soccer with other personnel who worked at the Pentagon. That evening, CDR Stratton learned that his friend was among those missing.
N3/N5 leadership began setting up support systems for the families of the N3/N5 personnel that had been lost in the attack. Because CDR Stratton was friends with CDR Donovan and knew his family, he was assigned to be the N3/N5 representative for CDR Donovan’s family. He was not the CACO (Casualty Assistance Calls Officer), but he worked alongside the assigned CACO, and provided support that supplemented the CACO process. CDR Stratton was there at the time of the official notification and spent many days and weeks provided personal support to CDR Donovan’s wife and children. He helped set up the memorial and the funeral for CDR Donovan and escorted his wife to the memorials and funerals for some of the other N3/N5 personnel. CDR Stratton also escorted the cremated remains of CDR Donovan from Dover to his final resting place at the United States Naval Academy.
In his oral history, CDR Stratton provided many personal stories about his efforts in the aftermath of the attack, his friendship with CDR Donovan, and the ways he and others in the community had rallied to support the Donovan family after the attack. He spoke openly and shared touching anecdotes, including the story of the drive from Dover to the Academy with CDR Donovan’s remains as well as the story of the funeral that followed.
Content Warnings: Sensitive Content
Oral History Abstract and Transcript: Stratton, Jeff CDR Pentagon Attack Oral History (PDF, 494kb)
Related Oral Histories:
Brown-Wahler, Yvette CDR
Hannes, Kevin CDR
Miller, Kevin CDR
O’Brien, Patrick CAPT
Powell, Craig CDR
Sell, Olin LT
Spence, Mike (James) CAPT
Pentagon Attack Narrative Account (AR/668):
Stratton, Jeff CDR (PDF, 132kb)
One of the individuals CDR Stratton and CDR Donovan played soccer with, Kevin Maney, was a contributor to USA Today. A short piece Maney wrote about their first game after the attack was picked up by NPR. That story is available here:
"Back in the Game" - An essay by Kevin Maney