Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

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Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, form of memorial to a nation's war dead, adopted by many countries after World War I. The Tomb of the Unknowns, a memorial to the American dead of World Wars I and II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War, is in Arlington National Cemetery, just outside Washington, D.C. On Nov. 11, 1921, an unidentified soldier who had been killed in France was buried there in a temporary crypt over which a marble slab was placed; the completed tomb, a sarcophagus of Colorado marble placed on the original base, was dedicated as the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier on Nov. 11, 1932. On Memorial Day, 1958, the bodies of two other unknown soldiers—one of whom had died in World War II, the other during the Korean War—were buried in the tomb, which was renamed the Tomb of the Unknowns. Remains of an unknown soldier from the Vietnam War were interred here in 1984, but later investigations revealed the soldier's identity, and they were removed. Deciding that scientific advances, including DNA tests (see DNA fingerprinting), had made Vietnam War or future unknowns unlikely, the Pentagon announced (1999) that no new remains would be placed in the memorial.

The best known of other such memorials are those in Westminster Abbey in London and under the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. Similar tombs are in Baghdad, Russia, and elsewhere.

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UNKNOWN SOLDIER, TOMB OF THE, in Arlington National Cemetery near Washington, D.C., was dedicated in 1921 by President Warren G. Harding as a memorial to all American soldiers and sailors who lost their lives in World War I. An unknown serviceman was chosen and buried with a two-inch layer of earth brought

from France so that he could rest on the earth on which he died. The tomb itself was not completed until 1932. In 1958, President Dwight D. Eisenhower participated in ceremonies at which two other nameless soldiers, one to represent members of the armed forces lost in World War II and one to represent those who died in the Korean War, were also buried in the tomb. At that time, the monument was renamed the Tomb of the Unknowns. In 1973, Congress authorized plans to add a burial place for an unidentified casualty of the Vietnam War. The Vietnam unknown was interred in 1984, although his remains were disinterred in May 1998 after his body was identified using methods previously unavailable. His body was returned to his family, and the crypt remains empty. The bodies within the tomb have been selected with great care to avoid future identification. The present tomb was designed by Thomas Hudson Jones and Lorimer Rich and dedicated in 1932 on the site of a former uncompleted monument. A perpetual military guard is maintained at the tomb.

Frederick P.Todd


See alsoCemeteries, National ; Memorial Day ; Prisoners of War andvol. 9:Dedicating the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier .