Usually called the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, this great monument to all of the men and women, often unknown to all but God alone, who have fallen in defense of our country is actually officially known as The Tomb of the Unknowns. The official name was selected because it was not known for certain that the remains were those of fallen soldiers. Subsequent scientific research later actually proved that at least one of the unknowns was an airman. This memorial in the heart of Arlington National Cemetery actually contains the remains of three unidentified American patriots.
On Memorial Day in 1958, two caskets—one containing the remains of an unidentified casualty of World War II; the other containing the remains of an unknown Korean War soldier—were carried by caisson to Arlington. President Dwight D. Eisenhower awarded each soldier the Medal of Honor before they were interred in separate crypts alongside the remains of their unknown brother from World War I, who had been interred on Nov. 11, 1921, known then as Armistice Day but since changed to Veterans' Day.
The crypt that once contained the remains of a soldier from the Vietnam War now lies empty. In 1998, 14 years after he had been interred at Arlington, it was announced that those remains were identified as Air Force 1st Lt. Michael Joseph Blassie, who in 1972 had been shot down near An Loc, Vietnam. He was exhumed and re-interred in his hometown of St. Louis, Mo.
Starting yesterday the soldiers of the US 3rd Infantry place a small American flag in front of the gravestones at Arlington Cemetery. The flags are placed in the center, one foot in front of the headstone. Traditionally the soldiers remain in the cemetery through the weekend, assuring that the flags will be in front of each grave during the Memorial Day weekend.
Sentinels place a flag in front of the markers for each of the 4 unknown soldiers at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
The flags will be taken out following the Memorial Day weekend
Pierre Charles L'enfant (1754-1825) was famous for designing Washington DC. He was an architect and civil engineer. He came to America to serve in the Revolutionary War and served as an engineer in the Continental Army, rising to the rank of major.
L'Enfant submitted plans for Washington with great promenades, wide open spaces that were open to everyone. He thus adapted the European model to American ideals. Interestingly, L'Enfant was a Freemason, having joined in 1789 after the War was over, therefore it should not be entirely surprising when you hear about Masonic influences in the design of Washington. Remember, of course, that George Washington (his boss) and several prominent leaders of the new country were also Freemasons.
Sadly, L'Enfant was not paid for designing Washington and much of his time was later spent trying to get Congress to pay him. Eventually he was paid a small sum, but by then he was penniless and in disgrace. A sad end for a man who contributed so much.
L'Enfant was buried at Arlington in 1909 and the monument was established in 1911. His is one of the most privileged graves at Arlington becuase really, the view over the city that he designed is magnificent.
At the end of the Civil War, Arlington was a Union cemetery. Gradually, men who had served in the Confederate States of America (CSA) armies were allowed burial at Arlington. It was not until 1901 that the soldiers buried in the national cemeteries at Alexandria and the Soldiers Home in Washington DC were reburied at Arlington.
In 1906 the request for a Confederate Memorial was granted. Moses Ezekiel, a sculptor who was also a confederate veteran, was chosen to carry out the work. Atop the memorial the female figure represents the South. In her right hand she holds a pruning hook. This is based on the biblical passage- "and they shall beat their swords into plow shares and their spears into pruning hooks.
Around this statue/memorial you will find many of the tombs of Confederate soldiers in the Civil War.
Arlington House symbolizes many things. It is the unity of the Washington and Lee families. Martha Washington, the wife of George Washington, had a son. His daughter eventually married Robert E. Lee, the famous soldier who would eventually become the military leader of the Confederacy. Though Lee never owned the property, which was an estate holding many slaves, he did live here.
Arlington House is open to visitors but some parts of it are still being remodeled and cleaned up. You can see the living quarters and the downstairs has a small wine cellar. It is a little surprising just how small the plantation house really is. In the adjacent buildings you can see some of the slave's quarters and the small garden, though frankly there is not much to see of the slaves' quarters.
The view over Washington from Arlington House is exceptional!
If you notice in the picture the flag is flying at half staff, that means there is an interment going on.
The Visitor Center at Arlington has been remodeled quite well. When you get off at Arlington Metro, you just come out of the station and the entrance to the Cemetery is like 3 minutes walk away (straight ahead and to the left).
This is a good place to start if you come here and have no idea what there is to see. I found the information desk staff very friendly and eager to help. On one side you can buy tickets for the shuttle, there are bathrooms on the other side. In the center there are some very pretty displays about what goes on at Arlington.
There is a new feature installed quite recently. There are computer driven assistance, which is especially helpful if you are coming to visit someone's grave. You can look at general outlines of what there is to see and drill down to whatever level of specificity you want.
At the end of your tour there is a well stocked bookstore if you wish to buy postcards or books.
OK. Lets get started.
This is a sculpture by Greg Wyatt that was unveiled on Memorial Day 2010. It is located outside the Visitor's Center on the way to the shuttle pickup area.
The sculpture includes a guardian angel holding a dying unknown soldier, a globe, and seven bronze figures at the top: five men in uniform representing the armed forces during World War II, a woman representing the nurse corps during World War II and a woman representing Rosie the Riveter. Twenty plaques adorn the bottom of the sculpture.“The plaques list what many historians consider to the 20 most decisive battles during World War II – 10 from the western theater and 10 from the eastern,” said Wyatt. (Source: Arlington National Cemetery Website)
The Spanish-American War (1898) was the first war that had nurses to tend to the wounded. They were organized in a quasi military unit (all volunteer). This monument honors the sacrifice of the nurses in this war . The Maltese Cross is the symbol of the Society of Spanish American War Nurses.
On April 25, 1980 a secret military mission was undertaken to attempt to rescue the American hostages at our Embassy in Iran. A freak accident caused the two military vehicles to collide, killing eight service members.
This Memorial honors the sacrifice of the men who died on this mission. They were 5 airmen and 3 Marines. Three of the soldiers are buried at Arlington in individual graves. This memorial is located near the Amphitheater.
In Honor of Members of the
United States Armed Forces who
Died During an Attempt to Rescue
American Hostages Held in Iran
25 April 1980
U.S. MARINE CORPS
JOHN D. HARVEY-SGT
30 MAY 1958
GEORGE N. HOLMES-CPL
20 JULY 1957
DEWEY L. JOHNSON-SSGT
26 MAY 1948
U.S. AIR FORCE
RICHARD L. BAKKE-MAJ
13 MAY 1946
HAROLD L. LEWIS, JR.-MAJ
26 FEBRUARY 1945
JOEL C. MAYO-TSG
26 OCTOBER 1945
LYN D. McINTOSH-MAJ
11 OCTOBER 1946
Charles T. McMILLAN-CAPT
4 OCTOBER 1951
On January 28, 1986 the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded just a few seconds after liftoff, all seven astronauts were killed instantly.
Where remains could be identified they were buried. The unidentified remains were buried in a common grave in Section 46. The pilot, Capt. Michael Smith is buried in Section 7 A and "Dick" Scobee is buried in Section 46. This memorial stands over the unidentified remains of the Challenger crew.
The Poem on the back of the memorial reads:
Oh, I have slipped the surly bonds of earth
and danced the skies on laughter silvered wings,
sunward I've climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
of sun split clouds - and done a hundred things
you have not dreamed of
wheeled and soared and swung
high in the sunlit silence hov'ring there.
I've chased the shouting wind along and flung
my eager craft through footless halls of air.
Up, up the long delirious, burning blue
I've topped the windswept heights with easy grace
where never lark or even eagle flew
and while with silent, lifting mind I've trod
the high untrespassed sanctity of space
put out my hand, and touched the face of God.
John Gillepie Magee, Jr.
Crew of the Space Shuttle Challenger
Commander Michael J. Smith, Pilot
Commander Francis R. "Dick" Scobee (buried in Section 46 to the left of the Challenger Monument)
Ronald E. McNair, Mission Specialist
Ellison Onizuka, Mission Specialist
S. Christa McAuliffe, Payload Specialist (and teacher)
Gregory B. Jarvis, Payload Specialist
Judith A. Resnik, Mission Specialist
The USS Maine was sunk in Havana Harbor (Cuba) on February 15, 1898. Two officers and 250 men were killed at the time of explosion, many others later died of their wounds. Of the 65 bodies recovered in a later salvage operation, one was identifiable. The others were sent to Arlington for burial. There are now 229 casualties from the USS Maine at Arlington, of which 62 are known. They are buried in Section 24 by the Mast of the USS Maine.
The inscription reads
Erected in Memory of the Officers and Men
Who Lost Their Lives in the Destruction
Of the USS Maine at
Havana, Cuba, February Fifteenth MDCCCXCVIII
This is close to Arlington House when you are going through the cemetery.
The monument was dedicated in September 1866. The vault contains the remains of 2,111 soldiers who were scattered in the area around the Battle of Bull Run. This was the first monument honoring unknown soldiers at Arlington. For some soldiers only fragments could be recovered and it is generally agreed that the vault contains the remains of both Union and Confederate soldiers.
Located in Section 26 of Arlington National Cemetery, close to Arlington House
The Battle of the Bulge took place from December 16, 1944 to January 25, 1945 in the Ardennes region of Belgium, France and Luxembourg. The German offensive sought to split up the British and American lines, allowing the Germans to capture Antwerp and possibly encircle 4 allied armies.
This was the longest and deadliest battle in World War II. Estimates of American casualties vary from 80.9 to over 100 thousand. About 19,000 Americans were killed by most estimates.
The Battle of the Bulge also was the first time that African American troops were allowed into actual combat.
On May 8, 2006, the Memorial was unveiled and officially dedicated. The memorial was unveiled by Guy Verhofstadt, Prime Minister of Belgium, and Octavie Modert, Secretary of State for Culture, Luxembourg
This is a gift from the people of the Netherlands to the people of the United States in gratitude for American participation and sacrifice during World War II. It was moved to its present location next to Arlington Cemetery in 1960. Each of the 50 bells symbolizes a group within Dutch society. The carillon was dedicated on May 5, 1960, the anniversary of the liberation of the Netherlands from the Nazis.
I have heard the bells played from afar and it is a real delight
President Kennedy is the most famous of the burial sites at Arlington. He is buried beside his wife, Jacqueline B. Kennedy Onassis and two predeceased children. A few steps away from the President are the grave sites of his three brothers. I find it interesting to note how different their sites are from his.
Senator Robert F. Kennedy (Nov 20,1925-June 6, 1968) was the brother of President John F. Kennedy. After serving in the US Navy at the end of World War II, Kennedy entered politics. He served as Attorney General under his brother and later was U.S. Senator (New York) until his death. He was assassinated during the 1968 Presidential campaign, which it is very likely he would have won had he lived.
Senator Kennedy is buried near his brother in Section 45 of Arlington Cemetery. His grave is marked by a simple white cross and marble grave marker. His brother, Senator Edward M. Kennedy was buried in 2009 nearby with the identical white cross and grave marker.
A bit farther down from his brothers is the site of Joseph P. Kennedy Jr., their oldest brother.
"Joe" Kennedy was the oldest of the Kennedy brothers and was a naval aviator in World War II. He died over England in August 19, 1944 when explosives detonated in his plane. He was posthumously awarded the Navy Cross, the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Air Medal. His headstone is a standard military headstone showing his service and decorations.