Tag Archives: M14

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.

Remember, today is not about saving (up to) 40 percent on select items

It’s a small plot of land that’s never left unguarded. The Sentinels who guard the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier are a small and exclusive group. They stand their post 24 hours a day, 365 days a year regardless of the weather. Hear the Sentinel’s Creed and you’ll know why. DOD video edited by Air Force Staff Sgt. Jared Bunn

TBT, Springfield Armory edition

This Springfield Armory layout from 1961 shows a then-current uniform of a Captain in the U.S. Army Air Defense Artillery with a new M14 rifle and jungle boots coupled with a view of World War II-era army uniform and one from the Spanish-American War.

Of interest, the WWII “Ike” jacket has an SFC sleeve patch, 4th Armoured Division shoulder sleeve patch, German Occupation medal, and good conduct medal. A “K” ration box rests on top while an M1 rifle and coverless M1 helmet and liner chill nearby.

The SpanAm War shot includes the iconic U.S. M1892 Krag along with the khaki 1889 Pattern campaign hat and 1898 Pattern blouse.

A lot worse than a rock in your shoe

Vietnam, Marines of Company H, 2nd Battalion, 4th Regiment, walk through a punji-staked gully; 28 January 1966. Note the M14 battle rifle, Marlboro (they were issued in packs of 5 in C-rats) and bare M1 helmet.

General Photograph File of the U.S. Marine Corps, 1927 – 1981; Records of the U.S. Marine Corps, Record Group 127; National Archives at College Park, College Park, MD. Photograph 127-N-A186578

Punji sticks are ancient anti-personnel devices, with the British reportedly encountering them in Burma as far back as the 19th Century and, as noted in our post on the frogmen of Balikpapan, the Japanese used them extensively in WWII. Today they are banned from use in warfare under Protocol II of the UN’s 1980 Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons. 

Of course, those who are most likely to use them never had much use for what Geneva had to say, anyway.

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

PI Marines rake in interesting finds on the Southern Islands

The Philippine Marines have been busy doing hearts and minds type missions in the Sulu area for the past several months and have managed to get 246 weapons turned over (with a little help from martial law.)

About half are vintage M1 Garands, followed by a decent haul of M14s and M16s, as well as a smattering of other hardware to include M79 bloop tubes, 81mm mortars and 90mm recoilless rifles.

Dig the M79s, with one using a boot top as a pad…also the fifth gun up is a suppressed M1 Carbine with a homemade wooden pistol grip…

Yes, that is a Vietnam-vintage Colt XM177 in the foreground, followed by (likely Manila-made Eslico) M16s. You never know what you are going to come up with in the PI

More in my column at Guns.com.

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.

When it comes to captured enemy weapons, the Army never throws anything away

I recently had the chance to tour U.S. Army’s Museum Support Center at Anniston Army Depot, the keepers of the flame for military history in the country.

The 15,200-acre installation in North Alabama was established in World War II and overhauls both small arms and vehicles for the Army. A longstanding tenant on the sprawling base, based out of Building 201, is the Museum Support Center, operated by the Center of Military History. The CMH maintains an immense collection of 650,000 historic items across 228 sites including 57 large museums that are a part of the Army Museum Enterprise. Items not yet on display, waiting for a public home, or are excess to current museum needs are stored in the “Army’s attic” in Anniston.

In secured storage at the MSC are 13,000 live weapons of all sorts, ranging from 13th Century Ottoman gear to guns captured recently in Afghanistan…and they were gracious enough to roll out the red carpet for me:

More in my column at Guns.com

Kwajalein calling

Rock Island Auction House has released some teaser information about their upcoming Premier Auction in May, and it has just about one of every full-auto or select-fire offering on your fave list.

While they do not have the full item descriptions listed yet, they have released some highlight images and what they show– besides the regular fare of 19th Century collectible lever guns and 18th Century dueling pistols– is a cornucopia of Title II/Class 3 items. Outside of the full Call of Duty collection, you aren’t going to find these guns in one place. There is even a Heckler & Koch HK21, a type I haven’t seen since I worked with NASA.

Among the neater pieces I saw was a Japanese Type 11 light machine gun– Kijirō Nambu’s take on the French 8mm Hotchkiss chambered in 6.5x50mm Arisaka. This particular piece was captured on Kwajalein Atoll in 1944 by the Recon troop of the 7th Cav.

captured-by-7th-cav-rcn-trp-kwaj-5-feb-1944-hotchkiss-machine-gun-japanese-ria
More (including a lot more photos) in my column at Guns.com

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