Return to Tomb of the Unknowns (place)

The Tomb of the Unknowns, also known as the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier(s), although it was never officially given either (or any) name, is a monument to unknown casualties of war located in America's most famous military burial ground, Arlington National Cemetery.

The tomb was originally created in 1921 in memory of the unidentifiable war dead of World War I, and the first unknown remains were entombed on Armistice Day of that same year. The original tomb, made of white "Yule" marble, was relatively unassuming and low to the ground. In 1932 the tomb as we know it today made its debut - a white marble sarcophagus on a base, roughly 7 feet wide by 13 feet long by 7 feet high. The narrow eastern face bears an anthropomorphic relief of Peace, Victory, and Valor, while the western face bears the following inscription:

HERE RESTS IN
HONORED GLORY
AN AMERICAN
SOLDIER
KNOWN BUT TO GOD

In 1952 unknowns from World War II and the Korean War joined the original, and in 1984 Vietnam got its representative. The crypts of these three unknowns are west of the sarcophagus, with markers set into the ground. In 1998 the Vietnam remains were exhumed and advances in mitochondrial DNA testing enabled scientists to identify them as those of Air Force First Lieutenant Michael Blassie. The Vietnam crypt is now empty and will not be refilled, and it is doubtful that another unknown will ever be interred.

In each case, the selection and interment of the unknowns was identical - several sets of unknown remains from the conflict were exhumed from military graveyards and placed in identical caskets, and a distinguished serviceman was directed to select one at random. The remains were then taken to lay in state in the Capitol Rotunda for a brief period and then transported to Arlington, where they were posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor and then interred by the President of The United States of America.

As the remains (until recently), represented no particular soldier, they stood to represent the valor and sacrifice of soldiers in general, and the memorial is considered by many as second only to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in terms of beauty and emotional impact. The tomb is under constant guard by the ceremonial 3rd United States Infantry Regiment, and their Changing Of The Guard ceremony is America's closest parallel to that of Buckingham Palace. The tomb is open to the public, and is a major tourist attraction.

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