Arlington National Cemetery: Part III
"We here highly resolved that these dead shall not have died in vain." Abraham Lincoln
By: Marv Rodney
In the October issue of The ENDEAVOR News Magazine we reviewed some of the major sections and burial criteria at the Arlington National Cemetery. In this issue, we will discuss the Cemetery’s Memorial Amphitheater and the Tomb of the Unknowns.
The Tomb of the Unknowns is part of the Arlington Memorial Amphitheater which hosts state funerals and ceremonies on Memorial and Veterans Days and Easter with an attendance of about 5,000 people. This imposing structure is built of Imperial Danby marble from Vermont. The Memorial Display room, between the amphitheater and the Tomb of the Unknowns, uses Botticino stone, imported from Italy.
Judge Ivory Kimball, a former Officer of the Grand Army of the Republic petitioned Congress during several sessions to construct a place in which America’s defenders could be honored. Finally, on March 4, 1913 Congress authorized the structure. A year and a half later, President Woodrow Wilson laid the cornerstone for the building encasing 15 items including a Bible and a copy of the Constitution. Before its completion in 1921, important ceremonies were held at a smaller structure known now as the Old Amphitheater and located to the rear of the Custis Lee Mansion. Here too can be found a marble dais, known as the rostrum, which is inscribed with the U.S. national motto found on the Great Seal of the United States, E pluribus unum , “Out of many, one."
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The Tomb of the Unknowns or the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier stands on top of a hill overlooking Washington, D.C. One of the more popular sites at the Cemetery, the tomb is made from Yule marble quarried in Colorado. It was completed and opened to the public on April 9, 1932, at a cost of $48,000 and initially named the, Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
The white marble sarcophagus, placed above the grave of an Unknown Soldier of World War I, 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 six wreaths, three sculpted on each side, represent the six major campaigns of World War I. Inscribed on the back of the tomb are the words:
“Here rests in honored glory an American soldier known but to God.”
West of this sarcophagus 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. Other unknown servicemen were later entombed here and it became known as the Tomb of the Unknowns, though its name has never been officially changed. The soldiers entombed are:
The Tomb of the Unknowns has been perpetually guarded since July 2, 1937, by the U.S. Army. The 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment, also known as The Old Guard, began guarding the Tomb on April 6, 1948. In next quarter’s issue and the last issue in this series, I will provide a high-level overview of the Old Guard’s role in guarding the Tomb of the Unknowns as well as meaningful aspects of this ceremonial display of respect.
As a matter of interest, the U.S. Army now requires a joint or concurrent resolution from Congress before it will place new memorials at Arlington due to the lack of space for burials and the large amount of space that memorials require.
The above information was extracted in part from The Official Website of Arlington National Cemetery and Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Reproduction of this article in whole or in part requires the written permission of the ENDEAVOR news magazine.
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