Tomb of the Unknown Soldier Centennial Commemoration
Good morning. My name is Alison Finkelstein and I am senior historian at Arlington National Cemetery exactly 100 years ago. Today. On November 11th 1921 a grand military procession wound its way through the streets of Washington, D. C, departing from the U. S. Capitol. It took about three hours to cross the Potomac river and arrive here at Arlington National Cemetery. But this was no victory parade celebrating the end of the war. Rather, it was a somber funeral procession to inaugurate a new American tradition. The tombs of the unknown soldier. It is the centennial of the tombs creation that has brought us together today and compelled us to stage ceremonies that harken back to the events of 1921. Today you will witness a military procession inspired by the one that carried the unknown soldier to his eternal resting place. In 1921. While not a recreation or a reenactment, it is meant to evoke elements of that event. It will include service members from every branch of the military attaches from around the world, military musicians, soldiers, and historic uniforms and an aerial review throughout the procession. I will be providing historical commentary to contextualize it within the history of the tomb of the unknown soldier. We want you to understand that the events you are witnessing are much more than a spectacle of military precision. They are a living breathing testament to our nation’s unbroken promise to never forget those who have died in service to the United States of America as the culmination of a year long effort to commemorate the tune centennial This procession declares our nation’s commitment to memorialize ng are unknown dead. The tomb of the unknown soldier is a product of the First World War. During that conflict, advances in technology and improved weapons killed at an alarming rate and left millions dead and unidentifiable, devastated families mourned and nations searched for ways to honor the fallen especially unknowns 1920, Great Britain and France. Each selected one unidentified service member to bury in a special tomb to memorialize all of their unknown dead. Inspired by them, many Americans wanted to do the same World War One veteran and Representative Hamilton Fish introduced legislation to create an American tomb and after some debate, Congress decided to locate it at Arlington’s new memorial amphitheater. After its approval in March 1921, all eyes turned to France. The selection of America’s unknown soldier took place in the French town of Shallow Sumar on October 24, 1921. Four sets of unidentified remains had been disinterred from four American cemeteries in France. Throughout this process, the army tried to ensure they were burying an American who could truly never be identified decorated World War One. Veteran Sergeant Edward f younger selected the unknown by placing a spray of white roses upon one of the four caskets after a series of ceremonies, the unknown departed aboard the USs Olympia. The outpouring of support from the French forged the eternal connection between the nascent tomb and France Amidst ceremonies and salutes the US Olympia arrived at the Washington Navy Yard with the unknown soldier on November 9, 1921. A court. It took him to the Capitol Rotunda where he lay in state until the morning of the funeral honored their like presidents and luminaries. Over 90,000 people came to pay their respects. This torrent of public participation became a hallmark of the 1921 events. The military understood that for many people this could be a moment of possible closure from the tragedies of the war or the chance to say goodbye to a family member or comrade without a known grave. The massive funeral procession on November 11 provided another opportunity for the public to memorialize the unknown soldier On that misty chilly morning a century ago. The procession formed at the Capitol and departed around 8:30 AM. The streets and sidewalks of Washington were filled with crowds, several rows deep streetlights and storefronts were decorated with American flags. The patriotic, the mood still retained the air of a funeral march. The routes have been carefully chosen to allow the maximum amount of Spectators to watch this lineup of percent participants included the military and representatives of the many veterans, civilians, organizations and leaders who had supported the war effort as while discuss in between the upcoming flyovers. The composition of the procession aimed for inclusivity so it could genuinely be a national tribute to the unknown soldier. Let’s turn now to the start of our own joint full honors procession. It includes an element absent from the 1921 events, a joint service aerial review from the United States Army, the United States Marine Corps, the United States Navy, the United States Coast Guard and the United States Air Force. While we cannot see the service procession from here, the United States Army Band Pershing’s own will be performing each service song in conjunction with its respective service aerial flyover in between each aerial formation. I will provide commentary to continue the narrative of the 1921 procession. At this time, the United States Army will be represented by four you age 60 black hawks from the 12th Aviation Battalion, based out of Davison Army airfield, Fort Belvoir Virginia. The army band will be performing our song, but the army was strolling along the coast by Harold W. R. Mm. Hmm. Army collection of the unknown soldier as well as the organization of the 1921 procession and funeral General H. H. Band holds the commander of the Military district of Washington headed the procession behind him, marched us army band and drum corps, then a composite unit of soldiers, sailors, marines, and national guardsmen, followed by a mounted field artillery battalion and a mounted cavalry squadron. After these servicemen came the foreign military chaplains who would participate in the funeral service. They were chosen to reflect the religious diversity of the military and it’s different branches. They included the right reverend Charles H Brent who had served as senior chaplain, overseas Army reserve chaplain, Rabbi Moses last paren navy chaplain, JB Fraser and Chaplin jt accident. The case on holding the unknowns casket came after the chaplain’s surrounded in a column formation by eight body bearers and 12 honorary pallbearers following the case on watched general john J. Pershing, commander of the American expeditionary forces in World War One, walking alongside the president Pershing led a distinguished group of officers who escorted the president, Vice president, Supreme Court, cabinet, state Governors, Senate and House of Representatives. Former President Woodrow Wilson rode in a carriage due to his ill health. This group of dignitaries represented the highest levels of America’s elected leaders and military officials. They came out to pay this tremendous tribute to the unknown soldier. In doing so. They honor all of the unknown American dead and publicly demonstrated their gratitude to all who lost their lives in World War One. Their participation also recognized the service of every veteran and civilian who supported the war effort by pausing to honor this one humble soldier. They showed their respect for the larger contributions made by the American people. As we return to our current procession, we will see the United States Marine Corps represented by two V 22 Ospreys from Marine medium tiltrotor training squadron 204 based at Marine Corps air station, new river north Carolina, the United States Marine Corps’ Marines. Him now being performed was composed by Jacques Offenbach. Many representatives of the Marine Corps marched in the 1921 procession. They included General john Allen Jr escorted the president pro temporary of the Senate. Major General narrator, Medal of Honor recipient. Sergeant Ernest a Jensen. One of the body bearers. Active duty Marines and veterans were also in the lineup like today’s recession. The one in 1921 included all branches of the military in that procession. A century ago, the formation of military and political leaders was followed with a section of the Army Drum corps to keep up the quick time cadence for the largest section which followed behind it composed of veterans, civilians and organizations. At the front of this lineup marched recipients of the Medal of Honor eight abreast from the front to the back. They marched in order according to the date of their awards, not their rank. They represented the many conflicts with the Medal of honor recipients still living providing a tribute to the unknown from distinguished veterans both past and present. Next came representatives from all of the military branches, the Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard marching together in rows of eight. They included officers and enlisted men. The inclusion of this joint service group emphasized an important message repeated throughout the 1921 ceremonies despite being referred to as the unknown soldier. He was in fact intended to represent all branches of the military, not just the army. in his anonymity. He could have been a soldier, a sailor, a marine or an aviator as America’s unknown. Those differentiations no longer mattered. Whoever he was in life in death. He symbolized all of America’s fighting forces. This included members of the United States Navy and the United States Coast Guard. These two branches had an especially resonant connection with the unknown soldier which we’ll explore after the Navy’s flyover about to happen at this time, the United States Navy will be represented by four f 18 super hornets from Strike Fighter Squadron 81 based at Naval Air station Oceana Virginia. While anchors away from closed by Charles H. Zimmerman is, it may be played an important part of the World War One. The fact that was reflected in their involvement in 1921 ceremonies. The sailors and marines stationed aboard the famed ship, the U. S. S. Olympia participated in the unknowns departure from France and protected him during the turbulent voyage across the Atlantic until they transferred his casket to the army. Upon arrival at the Washington Navy yard, several admiral served as honorary pallbearers in the procession and chief water tender Charles, Leo O’Connor and chief torpedo man. James Delaney were included among the eight body bearers. The Navy’s connection to the new tomb ran deep since the unknown was meant to symbolically represent all American fatalities without a known grade. It stood in for those missing and lost are buried at sea with the Navy and Coast Guard resting at the bottom of the ocean forever un recoverable. These Americans also lacked a grave. Their loved ones have nobody to bury or grave site to visit. The tomb would function as their grave and honor their memory. The lives of these missing Service members from the Navy and Coast Guard would also later be memorialized along with all other missing Service members at the overseas cemeteries run by the American battle monuments commission Written on the walls of missing at Brookwood American cemetery in England and that surround American cemetery in France are the names of the 574 naval personnel missing and lost are buried at sea during World War I Brookwood American cemetery also contains the names of the 126 US Coast Guardsman missing and lost or buried at sea. In 1917, the Coast Guard had been transferred from the Treasury Department to the Navy and it functioned as part of the military during the war. Comment on to the Coast Guard, William Reynolds marched in the procession along the other military leaders representing the Coast Guard Service. As we turn now to the U. S. Coast Guard Formation, it is important to remember their contributions to the war and tragic connections to the tomb While the band performs the United States Coast Guard, simple apparatus composed by Captain Francis Psaltis, Pond boss Hogg. The Coast Guard will be represented by C 1 30 Hercules from Coast Guard Air station Elizabeth City north Carolina 1921 processions, inclusivity of all service branches like the Coast Guard, also extended to the veterans and civilians invited to participate. It included 132 World War I veteran’s chosen to represent their state or territory. This cohort had a particularly strong bond with the unknown. They were his comrades and may have served alongside him. The remainder of the 1921 procession consisted of dozens of veterans groups and civilian organizations. While we don’t have time to mention them all, a brief overview shows the scope of this national tribute. Civil War veterans marched at the front of this group linking the procession to the war. That led to the creation of Arlington National Cemetery. Other veterans groups, including the American legion, the Veterans of Foreign Wars, the Military Order of the World War and the Spanish American war veterans. The procession tried to showcase the military’s diversity by including the Indian War Veterans Association, a group of African American veterans, the Jewish veterans of the World War, the Jewish welfare board and the National catholic War Council because the unknown could have been of any race, religion or ethnicity, their participation underscored this important point. Some of the civilian organizations that supported the war effort also took part, such as the Salvation Army, YMCA and Red Cross. Women’s groups played an especially prominent role recognizing women’s key roles in the war. Many marched in uniforms such as the overseas nurses. Red Cross and others. The women’s overseas Service League represented the thousands of pioneering women who served overseas as telephone operators, nurses, physical and occupational therapists and other capacities. Some like the American war mothers attested to women’s roles on the home front. Their number included gold star mothers who lost a child to the war. These gold star mothers had a deeply personal connection to the tomb, which lasts to this day. For some that one unknown varied. There could have been their child. We will return to the story of 1921 after our final flyover representing the United States Air Force for F 16 fighting falcons from the 113th Wing Dc Air National Guard, located at Joint base Andrews Maryland will perform a missing man formation, an aerial salute and memory of fallen or missing service members. The aircraft will fly in formation with the space where one aircraft should be symbolizing that person’s absence. The U. S. Air Force song composed by Robert Macarthur Crawford is also now, Yeah. Uh all the Air force is not organized as an independent service branch until 1947 which traces its lineage back to the Army Air Service and the broader one Army aviators served in reconnaissance and combat and other functions. Many died in the line of duty and their sacrifices were recognized in the larger 1921 confederation. Once the 1921 procession reached the memorial amphitheater, the funeral services began Around 100,000 people had gathered to listen through an amplification system installed for the event. In his address, President Warren Harding emphasized how the unknown could have come from any American family. He explained that we know not whence he came, but only that his death marks him with the everlasting glory of an American dying for his country. He also pled for peace in the wake of a conflict that had obliterated the identities of so many combatants after the unknowns burial in a temporary tomb, it took 11 years to complete its design. In the meantime, it became a revered site for pilgrimages and ceremonies. In 1958 1, unknown from World War two and one from the Korean war were buried at the tomb in 1984 1, unknown from the Vietnam war was also entered there 1998 advances in DNA technology enabled him to be identified as Air Force First Lieutenant Michael J. Blassie. Following his family’s wishes, he was reburied in Jefferson barracks national cemetery. His energy crypt. Now you are all missing Service members from the Vietnam War. The tomb of the unknown soldier has undergone a fascinating evolution since its creation a century ago today, although it began as the grave of one unidentified service member from World War Two. It has become a multi generational shrine, it now represents all American unknowns. No matter where they are buried or when they died, it stands at the heart of Arlington National Cemetery as an eternal monument to the sacrifices of all members of the military and their families throughout the nation’s history. 100 years later our nation has come together again to commemorate this anniversary and rededicate our commitment to memorializing our war dead. As you witnessed these events, we encourage you to reflect on the tombs significance and what it means to you. Think about the three unidentified Americans buried there and the families they left behind. Look beyond the grand marble monument that dominates this hillside shrine and remember the personal sacrifices it represents. You are ensuring that their legacy lives on and that the stories of their service will be told generation after generation, century after century. You are writing the next chapter of the tongues history a chapter that begins today. This chapter now takes center stage with our current procession narrated by specialist browning of the U. S. Army’s third Infantry Regiment. The old guard Ladies and gentlemen, please stand and focus your attention as the procession approaches. Pershing zone will now play battle hymn of the republic, composed by William Steph. Okay. Yeah. Okay. Yeah. Okay. Mhm. The commander of troops for today’s procession, Colonel Patrick Roddy is leading the joint service staff consisting of representatives from each service. Right Oh right all right next we have soldiers wearing period uniforms depicting the eras in which the unknowns originate 1917, the army was called upon to deploy overseas to defeat the armies of the German Kaiser in World War Wide. The forces of tyranny and oppression again threatened our country and her allies with the outbreak of the Second World War. After the bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 by Japan In June 1950, the Cold War turned hot as American forces joined with the United Nations to resist Communist aggression in Korea, Representing the countries who participated in the various 1921 ceremonies are foreign attaches from Australia Belgium, Canada Czech Republic France animals and the United States, United States Army Pershing. Socialist premier man in our senior service person. So special events of national and international significance. The United States Army Band is under the direction of colonel and mesh and led by drum major Robert Moore. Next information, Honor Guard Company, third Infantry Regiment. The Old Guard representing the United States Army, commanded by lieutenant john and led by Sergeant first class john Robinson. Next information, marine barracks Washington represented the United States, commanded by first Lieutenant David jones and led by gunnery sergeant, Walter von Since the days of the American revolution, the colors have been one of the most important elements of a military unit at the center of today’s formation and bearing the national color is the Armed Forces Color Guard. Led by Sergeant David Weston. Okay. Next in formation, the Navy ceremonial guard representing the United States Navy, commanded by Lieutenant Richard Green and led by Petty Officer, second class Joaquin resident hero. Yeah, next information. The United States Air Force Honor Guard ceremonial flight represented the United States Air Force, commanded by senior Master Sergeant Kelly McKinley and led by Tech Sergeant Brandon Lifer. Yeah, next information, the United States Coast Guard ceremonial Honor Guard representing the United States Coast Guard, commanded by Lieutenant Commander, Christopher Camry and led by lieutenant junior grade Casey blau. Just as Americans did a century ago, you are ensuring that their sacrifices were not in vain and that their memory lives on. Ladies and gentlemen, this concludes our ceremony. Thank you for attending and enjoy the rest of your day.