The Army Lawyer | Issue 5 2021View PDF
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On 10 September 2021, The Judge Advocate General’s Legal Center and School (TJAGLCS) held a joint and allied remembrance marking the twenty years since al-Qaeda’s attacks on New York City and the Pentagon. After introductory remarks from TJAGLCS Commanding General Brigadier General Alison Martin and Regimental Historian Mr. Fred Borch, representatives from the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard, along with their counterparts from the United Kingdom and Germany, talked briefly about how their respective services and countries responded in the days, weeks, and months after the terrorist attack.

Captain Keith Gibel, U.S. Navy Judge Advocate. (Credit: Jason Wilkerson, TJAGLCS)

The event began with the playing of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) hymn and the National Anthem. After an invocation by Chaplain (Major) Joshua Chittim, Brigadier General Martin provided a brief overview of what happened on the morning of September 11th. She highlighted the shock felt not only by Americans but by everyone in the world after the horrific attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. The 9/11 attack in the United States triggered Article 5 of the NATO Charter, providing evidence of this sense of shared shock. Article 5 provides for collective defense for all NATO members.1 Thus the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon were also an attack on every NATO ally.

Mr. Borch followed with remarks about the impact of 9/11 on the United States. Within hours of the attack, authorities closed all airspace in the United States and Canada. Three days after the attack, Congress passed the Authorization for the Use of Military Force—which authorized then-President George W. Bush to invade Afghanistan to destroy al-Qaeda and the Taliban.2 Mr. Borch continued by mentioning that, in November 2001, President Bush issued a Military Order that created military commissions to prosecute terrorists—commissions that exist to this day at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.3 Mr. Borch closed by mentioning that structural changes in the government followed the 9/11 attacks, including the enactment of the PATRIOT Act,4 the creation of the Department of Homeland Security, and the establishment of the Director of the Office of National Intelligence.

Lieutenant Commander Emily Miletello, U.S. Coast Guard Judge Advocate. (Credit: Jason Wilkerson, TJAGLCS)

After pausing for a moment of silence at 8:46 a.m.—to commemorate the moment when American Airlines Flight 11 crashed into the north tower of the World Trade Center—the ceremony continued with Lieutenant Colonel Jess Rankin highlighting the efforts of New York National Guard Soldiers in the hours after the attack. By the evening of September 11th, more than 1,500 Soldiers were serving in New York City, providing security, logistical, and medical support to those in need.

Captain Keith Gibel, U.S. Navy, summarized the Navy’s response. Naval aviators flew combat air patrol missions and set sail to guard America’s cities. The hospital ship U.S.N.S. Comfort deployed to New York City to provide much needed medical and logistical support for the thousands of first responders, firefighters, police officers, and other volunteers working at Ground Zero.

Lieutenant Colonel Andrew Farquhar, British Army Legal Services Exchange Officer. (Credit: Jason Wilkerson, TJAGLCS)

Marine aviators began making combat air patrols over the United States—a first in Marine Corps history according to Lieutenant Colonel David Seagraves, U.S. Marine Corps. Marine aircraft had previously flown such patrols only outside the United States. Marines at the Pentagon set up a command center near the building and, working alongside fellow Service members and civilians, played a large role in the rescue and recovery effort.

“All available boats. This is the United States Coast Guard. Anyone who wants to help with the evacuation of lower Manhattan, report to Governors Island.”5 With this powerful quote, Lieutenant Commander Emily Miletello, U.S. Coast Guard, explained in the aftermath of the attacks, the only way for Americans to leave lower Manhattan was by water. The Coast Guard, using its own vessels and with the assistance of some 150 tugboats, ferries, and recreational vehicles, ultimately evacuated some 500,000 people from the chaos and confusion of lower Manhattan.

Major Ryan Fisher, U.S. Air Force Judge Advocate. (Credit: Jason Wilkerson, TJAGLCS)

Major Ryan Fisher, U.S. Air Force, noted the Air Force’s primary response to the 9/11 attacks began on 7 October, when U.S. Air Force B-1, B-2, and B-52 bombers, flying sorties around the clock, conducted air strikes against Taliban and al-Qaeda targets as part of Operation ENDURING FREEDOM.

The ceremony closed with reflections from representatives from the United Kingdom and Germany. Lieutenant Colonel Andrew Farquhar explained that British Prime Minister Tony Blair immediately publicly pledged Britain “would stand ‘full square alongside the U.S.’ in the battle against terrorism.”6 Ultimately, some 150,000 members of the British Armed Forces would go on to serve in Afghanistan. “Today, we are all Americans.”7 Lieutenant Colonel Jan Ganshow explained that Germany also immediately stood in solidarity with the United States—and that Germany would and must honor its obligations under the NATO Treaty. Members of the German armed forces would also serve in Afghanistan alongside Americans in the fight against terrorism.

Lieutenant Colonel Rankin then noted that, at 9:03 a.m., United Airlines Flight 175 hit the south tower of the World Trade Center, and that, at 9:37 a.m., American Airlines Flight 77 crashed into the Pentagon. At 10:03 a.m., United Airlines Flight 93 crashed into a field outside Shanksville, Pennsylvania, after passengers on that flight fought the terrorists to regain control of the airplane. While they did not succeed in taking control, the heroic passengers did prevent an attack on either the White House or the Capitol.

September 11th, 2001 was not just an American tragedy, but a global one. Citizens of more than seventy-eight countries were killed that day, including individuals from the United Kingdom and Germany. The ceremony closed with the playing of Taps—a somber but fitting end, twenty years after a day of great loss, sacrifice, and heroism. TAL

Mr. Borch is the Regimental Historian, Archivist, and Professor of Legal History and Leadership at The Judge Advocate General’s Legal Center and School in Charlottesville, Virginia.

LTC Rankin is the Director, Training Developments Directorate, at The Judge Advocate General’s Legal Center and School in Charlottesville, Virginia.


1. N. Atl. Treaty Org. Charter, art. 5.

2. Authorization for the Use of Military Force, Pub. L. 107-40, 115 Stat. 224 (2001).

3. Military Order of November 13, 2001—Detention, Treatment, and Trial of Certain Non-Citizens in the War Against Terrorism, 66 Fed. Reg. 57,831 (Nov. 13, 2001).

4. Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism (USA PATRIOT ACT) Act of 2001, Pub. L. 107-56, 115 Stat. 272 (2001).

5. Lieutenant Michael Day, U.S. Coast Guard (Sept. 11, 2001),

6. N.Y. Times, Reuters, AP, Agence France-Presse, Reaction from Around the World, N.Y. Times (Sept. 12, 2001),

7. Today, We Are All Americans, Le Monde (Sept. 12, 2001).