Associated Press WriterWASHINGTON (AP) -- U.S. fighter aircraft patrolled America's skies and Navy warships sailed into waters off New York today as the military remained on high alert in response to the deadly terrorist strikes at the Pentagon and World Trade Center.
"Aircraft have been up all night all over the United States - including the AWACS," said a senior military officer who'd entered the Pentagon before dawn today.
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Army Gen. Henry H. Shelton, entered the Pentagon in the early morning hours and began briefings that were scheduled to last most of the day, said the officer, who spoke only on condition of anonymity.
U.S. military operations around the globe maintained their "high alert" status ordered Tuesday by President Bush.
Pentagon spokesman Capt. Tim Taylor said no changes had occurred in the "Threatcon Delta" alert for U.S. military forces.
Early today, the aircraft carrier USS George Washington was in position off the coast of New York City.
Meanwhile, the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise, which was due to come home from the Persian Gulf, was ordered to remain in the area indefinitely. The carrier USS Carl Vinson, remains in the region as well, the official said.
The carrier battle groups normally include cruisers and submarines which could be the launchpads for long-range cruise missile strikes, should a retaliatory strike be ordered.
At the Pentagon, smoke continued to billow from the charred hole of rubble left by the terrorist jetliner strike that had plowed into the southern side of the building. Acrid smoke filled many of the corridors. Workers in nearly half of the building were asked not to return to work, even though officials had said the Pentagon would be "fully operational."
"We have been attacked like we haven't since Pearl Harbor," said Adm. Robert J. Natter, commander of the U.S. Atlantic Fleet in Norfolk, Va.
Natter also sent the USS John F. Kennedy to the New York region, an Atlantic Fleet spokesman said.
The USNS Comfort, a hospital ship in Baltimore harbor, also was made available.
Also deployed were amphibious ships, guided missile cruisers and guided missile destroyers that are capable of responding to threats from the air and sea. The amphibious ships were carrying Marines and sailors to provide security, surgical teams and limited hospital bed capacity.
The U.S. Pacific Fleet had a number of ships underway in the Pacific Ocean, a Navy official at Pearl Harbor said.
The USS John C. Stennis aircraft carrier was steaming off San Diego and two guided missile cruisers, three guided missile destroyers and five guided missile frigates were at sea in the eastern Pacific, he said.
The USS Russell guided missile destroyer, the Navy rescue ship USS Salvor and the Navy oiler USNS Yukon were off Hawaii.
Bush was in Florida at the time of the attacks Tuesday morning and was flown to Air Force bases in Louisiana and Nebraska before returning to Washington for an Oval Office address to the nation Tuesday evening.
Congressional leaders were taken to the safety of an undisclosed location outside Washington, and military aircraft were seen patrolling the skies above the capital.
Natter placed naval installations under his command on the highest security condition. He is in charge of 188 ships, 1,223 aircraft, 37 shore stations and more than 125,000 sailors and Marines and civilian employees. The Atlantic Fleet provides combat-ready forces to support American and NATO commanders around the world.
Elsewhere in the country, fighters, airborne radar and refueling planes were scrambled, according to an air national guard spokesman at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla.
The North American Aerospace Defense Command also was on its highest alert status.
"We have all of our air sovereignty aircraft -- fighters, surveillance and other support aircraft -- ready to respond," NORAD said in a statement.
The U.S. portion of the St. Lawrence Seaway also was closed, said Lynn Duerod, spokeswoman for the Army Corps of Engineers in Detroit.
------On the Net: