Tag Archives: M-14

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)

Guns of the U.S. Army, 1775-2020

While you may know of today’s standard U.S. Army infantry rifles, and those of the 20th Century, how about those present at Lexington and Concord or the line of Springfield muskets from 1795 through 1865? What came after?

For all this and more, check out the easy 2,000-word primer I did for this last weekend at Guns.com.

Coming at you from 1962

The last rifle built for the U.S. military at Springfield Armory was the M14, and historic photos from its production vouch that it was made “old school.”

Put into production in 1959 to replace several weapons to include the .30-06-caliber WWII-era M1 Garand, the select-fire M14 would be manufactured by Springfield Armory, Winchester, Harrington & Richardson and TRW through 1964. In all, more than 1.3 million of these 7.62x51mm chambered battle rifles were cranked out before the line was closed in favor of the contractor produced M16.

Staining and fitting the M14’s wooden stock, a task not too different from the Armory’s past work on the M1 and M1903.

Function firing an M14 on full-auto. Note the four spent cases in the air. Besides the semi-auto M1 Garand and M1 Carbine, the M14 was intended to replace the M3 submachine gun, select-fire M2 Carbine, and the M1918 Browning Automatic Rifle.

Function firing an M14 on full-auto. Note the four spent cases in the air. Besides the semi-auto M1 Garand and M1 Carbine, the M14 was intended to replace the M3 submachine gun, select-fire M2 Carbine, and the M1918 Browning Automatic Rifle.

More in my column at Guns.com

Devil Dogs a-go-go

Official caption: “1/8 Marines move up to the front lines to relieve Marines from 3/6, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. USMC Photo May 8 1965.” Note the M14s, canvassed mortar tube, two cases of mortar shells, and the box of C-rats.

DEFENSE DEPT. PHOTO (MARINE CORPS) A19567

As noted by The Tank Museum:

The M274 Mechanical Mule was one of the smallest military vehicles priced. It was intended to move casualties of supplies in jungle terrain where even a jeep couldn’t go, or for airborne units where it could be helicoptered or airdropped. 11,000 were built between 1956 and 1970. The steering column could be tilted right down, allowing it to be “driven” in reverse by a man crawling behind it. Despite its complete lack of armor, it could be used to mount heavy weapons up to the 106mm recoilless, though it was intended merely to move them from place to place.

Let’s go down to the Dominican Republic, we’ll get together, have a few laughs…

DEFENSE DEPT. PHOTO (MARINE CORPS) A4503022. May 8 1965, Sgt R.O. Shaw.

Caption: Locating a Sniper—A rifle squad from Company “D,” 1st Battalion, 8th Marines, 4th Marine Expeditionary Brigade, searches for a sniper firing at the position inside the International Safety Zone in Santo Domingo. Note the M1 helmets, Korean War style flak vests and M-14.

The action in the Dominican Republic was not the pushover some often chalk it up to. In the end, Johnson lamented ordering troops into action there. The below doc from the invasion is surprisingly gritty, and directly addresses the sniper problem in the above photo.

How many Devils can you cram in a boat?

U.S. Marines, grouped in fours and fives in outboard motor boats, approach the beach in an amphibious assault in  the Rung Sat Zone, 35 miles from Saigon. Rung Sat, infested with Viet Cong, is the target of Operation Jackstay,  involving 1,200 Marines. Photo taken 03/26/1966.

U.S. Marines, grouped in fours and fives in outboard motor boats, approach the beach in an amphibious assault in the Rung Sat Zone, 35 miles from Saigon. Rung Sat, infested with Viet Cong, is the target of Operation Jackstay, involving 1,200 Marines. Photo taken 03/26/1966.

P.S. Dig those M14’s, baby.

What Happened to the M14 rifle?

The M14 was the standard service rifle of the US military for a couple years. They were produced from July 1959 to June 1964. Records show that some 1,380,358 M14 rifles were made. The M16 was ordered as a replacement for the brand new M14 by direction of Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara starting in 1966. By 1970 the barley used weapon had been largely replaced in active duty. The National Guard discontinued using the weapon by 1980. No less than 479,367 M14 rifles were destroyed in 1993-94 and an unknown number were de-milled (cut with a blowtorch and welded shut) then transferred to JROTC units as drill weapons. Over 321,905 surplus arms were exported to foreign militaries under the Excess Defense Articles program and others. These were largely transferred abroad to Greece, Israel, the Philippines, South Vietnam, Taiwan, Turkey, Venezuela, Columbia, Iceland (which doesn’t have a military), and Lebanon in the 1970s and 1980s and the new Baltic countries of Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia in the 1990’s.

Today the US military has less than 10% of the original M14 production left in its depots. The navy has replaced most of the 2000 M14s in their inventory with M16s just this year but plans to keep a couple M-14 rifles on board each ship to shoot lines (ropes). The Air Force has 3,500 M-14s listed in their arsenals. Most of these are for base honor guards but a few do see service with deployed EOD units to blow up things from a distance.

The US Army still has 22,660 of the rifles in use and another 87,462 of all grades in storage. The Rock Island Arsenal converted 1,435 M14 National Match variant rifles to M21 sniper rifles with ART scopes in 1969. The M21 was the Army’s dedicated sniper rifle until 1988 when it was replaced by the M24 bolt action rifle (based on the Remington 700). The M14 was dusted off again during the Global War on Terrorism to serve again in a sniper role. A number of the weapons in active issue are the designated marksmen rifles (DMR). These rifles are given to platoon-level marksmen who have taken a two week course in battlefield long range fire. This concept has been used by the Warsaw Pact since the end of World War Two but is new to the US Army. This is different from the two man scout sniper teams (aka ‘real snipers’) popularized since Vietnam. The DMR rifle has been equipped with either a Leupold or Unertl ten power scope. The Marines also issue no less than 381 of these DMRs.

Besides the Corps of Cadets at West Point, Annapolis and the Air Force Academy, the 3rd United States Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) keepers of Arlington National Cemetery is the sole remaining regular United States Army combat field unit where the M14 is still issued as the standard rifle.