Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery

The Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Va., is also known as the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, and has never been officially named. The Tomb of the Unknowns stands atop a hill overlooking Washington, D.C. On March 4, 1921, Congress approved the burial of an unidentified American soldier from World War I in the plaza of the new Memorial Amphitheater.

The white marble sarcophagus has a flat-faced form and is relieved at the corners and along the sides by neo-classic pilasters, or columns, set into the surface. Sculpted into the east panel which faces Washington, D.C., are three Greek figures representing Peace, Victory, and Valor.

The Tomb sarcophagus was placed above the grave of the Unknown Soldier of World War I. West of the World War I Unknown are the crypts of unknowns from World War II, Korea and Vietnam. Those three graves are marked with white marble slabs flush with the plaza.

The Unknown of World War I

On Memorial Day, 1921, four unknowns were exhumed from four World War I American cemeteries in France. U.S. Army Sgt. Edward F. Younger, who was wounded in combat, highly decorated for valor and received the Distinguished Service Medal in "The Great War, the war to end all wars," selected the Unknown Soldier of World War I from four identical caskets at the city hall in Chalons-sur-Marne, France, Oct. 24, 1921. Sgt. Younger selected the unknown by placing a spray of white roses on one of the caskets. He chose the third casket from the left. The chosen unknown soldier was transported to the United States aboard the USS Olympia. Those remaining were interred in the Meuse Argonne Cemetery, France.

The Unknown Soldier lay in state in the Capitol Rotunda from his arrival in the United States until Armistice Day, 1921. On Nov. 11, 1921, President Warren G. Harding officiated at the interment ceremonies at the Memorial Amphitheater at Arlington National Cemetery.

The Unknown of World War II and Korea

On Aug. 3, 1956, President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed a bill to select and pay tribute to the unknowns of World War II and Korea. The selection ceremonies and the interment of these unknowns took place in 1958. The World War II Unknown was selected from remains exhumed from cemeteries in Europe, Africa, Hawaii and the Philippines.

Two unknowns from World War II, one from the European Theater and one from the Pacific Theater, were placed in identical caskets and taken aboard the USS Canberra, a guided-missile cruiser resting off the Virginia capes. Navy Hospitalman 1st Class William R. Charette, then the Navy's only active-duty Medal of Honor recipient, selected the Unknown Soldier of World War II. The remaining casket received a solemn burial at sea.

Four unknown Americans who died in the Korean War were disinterred from the National Cemetery of the Pacific in Hawaii. Army Master Sgt. Ned Lyle made the final selection. Both caskets arrived in Washington May 28, 1958, where they lay in the Capitol Rotunda until May 30.

That morning, they were carried on caissons to Arlington National Cemetery. President Eisenhower awarded each the Medal of Honor, and the Unknowns were interred in the plaza beside their of World War I comrade.

The Unknown of Vietnam

The Unknown service member from the Vietnam War was designated by Medal of Honor recipient U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Maj. Allan Jay Kellogg Jr. during a ceremony at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, May 17, 1984. The Vietnam Unknown was transported aboard the USS Brewton to Alameda Naval Base, Calif. The remains were sent to Travis Air Force Base, Calif., May 24. The Vietnam Unknown arrived at Andrews Air Force Base, Md., the next day. Many Vietnam veterans and President and Mrs. Ronald Reagan visited the Vietnam Unknown in the U.S. Capitol. An Army caisson carried the Vietnam Unknown from the Capitol to the Memorial Amphitheater at Arlington National Cemetery on Memorial Day, May 28, 1984. President Reagan presided over the funeral, and

The president also acted as next of kin by accepting the interment flag at the end of the ceremony. The interment flags of all Unknowns at the Tomb of the Unknowns are on view in the Memorial Display Room. The Memorial Bridge leading from Washington, D.C., to Virginia is lined with a joint-service cordon as the remains of the Vietnam War Unknown are taken by motor escort to Arlington National Cemetery for interment in the Tomb of the Unknowns.

(The remains of the Vietnam Unknown were exhumed May 14, 1998. Based on mitochondrial DNA testing, DoD scientists identified the remains as those of Air Force 1st Lt. Michael Joseph Blassie, who was shot down near An Loc, Vietnam, in 1972. It has been decided that the crypt that contained the remains of the Vietnam Unknown will remain vacant.)

Source: www.arlingtoncemetery.org/visitor_information/tomb_of_the_unknowns.html

The Honor Guard
Little known facts

 
1. How many steps does the guard take during his walk across the tomb of the Unknowns and why?

21 steps. It alludes to the twenty-one gun salute, which is the highest honor given any military or foreign dignitary.


2. How long does he hesitate after his about face to begin his return walk and why?

21 seconds for the same reason as above


3. Why are his gloves wet?

His gloves are moistened to prevent his losing his grip on the rifle.


4. Does he carry his rifle on the same shoulder all the time and if not, why not?

He carries the rifle on the shoulder away from the tomb.  After his march across the path, he executes an about face and moves the rifle to the outside shoulder.


5. How often are the guards changed?

Guards are changed every thirty minutes, twenty-four hours a day, 365 days a year.


6. What are the physical traits of the guard limited to?

For a person to apply for guard duty at the tomb, he must be between 5' 10" and 6' 2" tall and his waist size cannot exceed 30." Other requirements of the Guard: They must commit 2 years of life to guard the tomb, live in a barracks under the tomb, and cannot drink any alcohol on or off duty during their tour of duty. They cannot swear in public for the rest of their lives and cannot disgrace the uniform (fighting) or the tomb in any way. After two years, the guard is given a wreath pin that is worn on their lapel signifying they served as guard of the tomb. There are only 400 presently worn. The guard must obey these rules for the rest of their lives or give up the wreath pin.

The shoes are specially made with very thick soles to keep the heat and cold from their feet. There are metal heel plates that extend to the top of the shoe in order to make the loud click as they come to a halt. There are no wrinkles, folds or lint on the uniform. Guards dress for duty in front of a full-length mirror.

The first six months of duty a guard cannot talk to anyone, nor watch TV. All off duty time is spent studying the 175 notable people laid to rest in Arlington National Cemetery. A guard must memorize who they are and where they are interred. Among the notables are: President Taft, Joe E. Lewis {the boxer} and Medal of Honor winner Audie Murphy, {the most decorated soldier of WWII} of Hollywood fame. Every guard spends five hours a day getting his uniforms ready for guard duty.



ETERNAL REST GRANT THEM O LORD, AND LET PERPETUAL LIGHT SHINE UPON THEM.

In 2003 as Hurricane Isabelle was approaching Washington, DC, our US Senate/House took 2 days off with anticipation of the storm. On the ABC evening news, it was reported that because of the dangers from the hurricane, the military members assigned the duty of guarding the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier were given permission to suspend the assignment. They respectfully declined the offer, "No way, Sir!" Soaked to the skin, marching in the pelting rain of a tropical storm, they said that guarding the Tomb was not just an assignment, it was the highest honor that can be afforded to a service person. The tomb has been patrolled continuously, 24/7, since 1930.


God Bless and keep them.