Tag Archives: Arlington National Cemetery

Making room for the honored dead

Arlington National Cemetery (ANC) is probably America’s most hallowed ground. Founded unofficially in the Civil War on the somewhat illegally seized grounds of Robert E. Lee’s wife’s estate, the Army cemetery today consists of 624 acres and is the final resting place of over 400,000 service members and their families.

However, it is fast running out of space. This brings us to the massive Arlington National Cemetery Southern Expansion Project, a planned 50-acre expansion that has been underway in assessment and roadway diversion for most of a decade with the primary purpose to increase the capacity for future interment at the cemetery, adding anywhere from 60,000 to 80,000 new individual gravesites at a cost of $420 million. This will allow it to continue to serve new qualifying interments into about 2060.

VOA has more details in the below video.

8th & I Showing how it’s Done

Via Marine Barracks Washington, Marine Corps Ceremonial Marchers and Body Bearers standing tall: 

Marines of Marine Barracks Washington 8th & I weathered the snowstorm to honor a fallen brother on Monday, 3 January 2022. Retired Colonel Donald C. Morse was laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery. Thank you for your service, sir. Fair winds and following seas.

(Photos by Gunnery Sgt. Donell Bryant/Marine Barracks Washington, 8th & I)

(Photos by Gunnery Sgt. Donell Bryant/Marine Barracks Washington, 8th & I)

(Photos by Gunnery Sgt. Donell Bryant/Marine Barracks Washington, 8th & I)

Notably, Col. Morse, 59, was former Commander, 2nd Tank Battalion.

The battalion-strength “Oldest Post of the Corps” traces its founding to 1801 and Lt. Col. William Ward Burrows, the second Commandant. Located on the corners of 8th & I Streets in southeast Washington, D.C., the Barracks supports both ceremonial and security missions in the nation’s capital.

Its current CO is Col. Teague A. Pastel (USNA ’96).

Its three primary units are Company A –comprised of 1st and 2nd Platoon, which are ceremonial marching platoons; the Silent Drill Platoon, and the Marine Corps Color Guard Platoon– Bravo Company— consisting of the Ceremonial Marchers of 1st, 2nd and 3rd Platoons along with the  Marine Body Bearers— and the Guard Company which stand post at Camp David and the White House.

The Barracks is also home to the Marine Drum & Bugle Corps as well as the Marine Band and is the site of the Home of the Commandants, which, along with the Barracks, is a registered national historic landmark.

No Snow Days for the Old Guard

Arlington National Cemetery noted this week it is witnessing its first snowfall of the year with a series of photos that show quiet stillness and dignified respect.

(Photos by: Elizabeth Fraser, U.S. Army/ Arlington National Cemetery)

The above memorial is the mast of the lost USS Maine (Battleship No. 10), sunk in 1898, an event that sparked the Spanish-American War. It was dedicated at the cemetery in 1915 after the warship was raised. 

Among the images were some of the Sentinels of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, who stand watch 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, in any weather.

Drawn from volunteers of the Fort Myer-based 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment, known as “The Old Guard,” they are equipped with Vietnam-era M14 rifles rather than the more current M16 or M4 variants. Sergeants of the Guard carry one of four custom M17 9mm pistols, specially crafted for the unit by Sig Sauer. 

The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at 100

On 11 November 1921, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery was installed as a solemn final resting place for one of America’s unidentified service members.

The mortal remains of that initial Soldier, whose identity was only “Known but to God,” was selected from unknown Americans who gave up their lives in France during the Great War. Over 38,000 Americans were buried in French soil at military cemeteries in the Meuse-Argonne, St. Mihiel, Somme, and Aisne-Marne regions. One set of unidentified remains were selected from each cemetery for review.

From those four sets of identical flag-draped caskets, a decorated GI who had served in the conflict and had been twice wounded, Sgt. Edward F. Younger, selected one to become the Unknown Soldier by resting a bouquet of white roses on its cover. The Unknown was then taken to the port of Le Harve under a ceremonial escort provided by French and American troops and attended by thousands of locals along the way.

André Maginot, the French Minister of Pensions, presented the French Legion of Honor– the country’s highest order of merit– to the Unknown Soldier.

French Minister of Pensions M. Maginot pinning the Cross of Legion of Honor upon the casket.in Le Havre, France, October 25, 1921. Maginot was a Great War veteran himself, who as a sergeant had both of his legs shattered in the conflict. (Bibliotheque nationale de France)

The casket was carried aboard Dewey’s old flagship, the armored cruiser USS Olympia (C-6; CA-15; CL-15; IX-40) on 25 October by Sailors and Marines while the warship’s band played both the American and French national anthems as well as Chopin’s “Funeral March.”

Unknown Soldier’s body going aboard USS Olympia, Le Havre, France, October 25, 1921. The original image is from the collections of the Marine Corps, #521763.

Installed on one of the cruiser’s topside hatches, the Unknown was guarded by Marines and Sailors for the voyage across the Atlantic to the Washington Navy Yard, where Olympia arrived on 9 November.

Casket of the Unknown Soldier in its transporting case on the after end of the superstructure of USS Olympia. (Original image is from the collections of the Marine Corps, #521778.)

USS Olympia (CL-15, originally Cruiser # 6) Arriving at the Washington Navy Yard, D.C., with the remains of the Unknown Soldier, 9 November 1921. She had transported the remains from France. Among the destroyers in the background, immediately beyond Olympia’s bow, are: USS Barney (DD-149) and USS Blakeley (DD-150). Courtesy of Edward Page, 1979. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 89731

A detail of Marines and sailors lift the body of the unknown soldier as the funeral party disembarks USS Olympia (CL-15) at Washington, DC after its trip from Le Harve, France. (Original image is from the collections of the Marine Corps, #521811)

There, the remains were transferred to the escort of the Army.

After laying in state at the Capitol Rotunda for two days and being visited by 90,000 people, the casket was transported to Arlington on Armistice Day, celebrating the end of the Great War that had occurred three years prior on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918.

The procession from the Capitol to Arlington included several military units to include those from nine allied nations as well as nurses who served in France, while Gen. John Persing, who commanded the American forces in Europe during the war, walked behind the horse-drawn funeral caisson.

Honors rendered that day included the presentation of the Medal of Honor by President Harding. Four military chaplains (to include a rabbi) participated in the funeral service. A national two-minute silence augmented the thousands in attendance. Flowers and wreaths were massed while salutes were fired. Pershing deposited some soil from France into the tomb. The chief of the Crow Nation rested his coup stick across the tomb as a tribute to the fallen and presented his war bonnet.

Today, Armistice Day is known as Veterans Day and the Tomb has had other Unknowns interred to include the World War II and Korean War Unknowns in 1958 and 1984, respectively. Guarded originally by details from nearby Fort Myer and, since 1948, by an elite group of Sentinels provided by the 3rd Infantry Regiment “The Old Guard,” the Tomb has been reverently secured 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, no matter the weather.

In honoring the 100th anniversary of the interment of the WWI Unknown Soldier, for the first time in a century, the public has been allowed entrance to the normally off-limits Tomb of the Unknown Soldier Plaza this week to place flowers near the memorial.

On Veterans Day, Nov. 11, the public is invited to observe a joint full honors procession, meant to replicate elements of the World War I Unknown Soldier’s 1921 funeral procession. Following this, there will be a combined services flyover of the cemetery and the National Mall in conjunction with the Armed Forces Full Honors Wreath Ceremony to honor the Unknowns and the centennial of the Tomb, set for 11 a.m.

For more information on the Tomb, here is a tour of the display room in the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier Exhibit at Arlington National Cemetery.

As for Olympia, she lingered on in Naval service, decommissioned in 1922 and preserved as a relic/floating office space at the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard until 1957 when she was stricken and transferred to a local non-profit for use as a civilian-run museum ship, a task she continues to perform today.

A lead plaque was installed on the cruiser’s hatch in the 1920s where the Unknown had rested for the trip from France but, sadly, is not on the ship today, being removed when she was decommissioned. However, it is preserved at the NMUSN. 

A commemorative plaque, part of the exhibit of the cruiser USS Olympia at the National Museum of the U.S. Navy (NMUSN), hangs on display during a symposium held to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the arrival of the Unknown Soldier to U.S. soil after WWI. The plaque identifies where the casket containing the remains of the Unknown Soldier was placed aboard the cruiser USS Olympia during the voyage from Le Havre, France to Washington, D.C. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jalen D. Walton)

95 Years on Post

Here we see an image of the first permanent armed military guard walking his post at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, Arlington National Cemetery, 25 March 1926.

Per Arlington:

On March 24, 1926, Major General Fox Connor, the Army’s deputy chief of staff, sent a memorandum to the adjutant general, explaining: “The Secretary of War desires that orders be issued establishing an armed guard (rifle) at the tomb of the unknown soldier in Arlington Cemetery…. If practicable, orders should be issued by telephone this afternoon in order that the guard may begin tomorrow morning.” Per these orders, the first armed military guard began duty at the Tomb on the morning of March 25, 1926.

The initial day guard, a detail of troopers from 2nd Squadron, 3rd Cavalry (Brave Rifles) at nearby Ft. Meyer, was later expanded to a 24/7 post in 1937, then assumed by the 3rd U.S. Infantry (The Old Guard)– who continue to stand post today— in 1948. 2-3 CAV, which had been sent to D.C. after arriving back from Occupation duty in Germany in 1919, spent so much time assigned to public duties around the District during the interwar period that it was known during this time as the “President’s Own.”

A smartly turned out 2-3 trooper on guard at the Tomb. Note the spurs as the regiment was still mounted until 1940.

The Tomb itself was dedicated on Armistice Day (11 November) 1921, making it 100 this year. Arlington has a special program to honor this somber milestone.

Vale, Art Cook

After falling in love with smallbore riflery while at Boy Scout Camp as a kid, Arthur Edwin Cook, “Art” or sometimes just “Cookie” to his friends, went on to become pretty good at it, winning two National Junior Smallbore Rifle Championships in high school– and pitching in to help train Navy personnel in marksmanship during WWII although he was too young to enlist himself.

Speaking of youth, while attending the University of Maryland as a member of their All-American rifle team, he took a break to represent the U.S. at the XIV Olympiad in London, pulling down the Gold in the 50m Free Rifle Prone rifle, both setting a world record at the time with a score of 599 in a 60-round course and becoming the youngest American– at age 20– to bring back the gold in Olympic shooting sports until 2008.

Air Force veteran, gold medalist, and renowned shooting sports coach and icon Arthur Cook just left for that big shooting match in the sky last week, aged 92.

The newest badge on the block, for those who tend the stones

Soldiers assigned to The Caisson Platoon, 1st Battalion, 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) were awarded, for the first time in military history, the Military Horseman Identification Badge, during a ceremony in Conmy Hall, Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, Va., Sept. 29, 2017:

(Photo by Spc. Gabriel Silva, 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment “The Old Guard”).

Requirements for the badge include the completion of 100 Armed Forces Full Honors Funeral at Arlington National Cemetery, the 10-week Basic Horsemanship Course (BHC), serve honorable for a minimum of 9 months at The Caisson Platoon and be recommended by the Commander of 1st Battalion, 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment.