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Arlington National Cemetery

Arlington Cemetery
Arlington Cemetery

Arlington National Cemetery, in Arlington, Virginia, is an American military cemetery established during the American Civil War on the grounds of Robert E. Lee's home. It is situated directly across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C., next to the present day location of The Pentagon, and is served by the Arlington Cemetery station on the Blue Line of the Washington Metro system.

Veterans from all the nation's wars are buried in the cemetery, from the American Revolution through the military actions in Afghanistan and Iraq. Pre-Civil War dead were reinterred after 1900.

Arlington National Cemetery and Soldiers Home National Cemetery are administered by the Department of the Army. All other National Cemeteries are administered by the Department of Veterans Affairs, or the National Park Service.

Arlington House (Custis-Lee Mansion) and the grounds in its immediate vicinity are administered by the National Park Service.


Dispute over the land's confiscation

The Custis estate (Arlington Mansion and 200 acres (800,000 m&sup2) of ground immediately surrounding it) was confiscated from Robert E. Lee during the Civil War, and was designated officially as a military cemetery June 15, 1864, by Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton. In 1882, after many years in the lower courts, the matter of the ownership of Arlington National Cemetery was brought before the United States Supreme Court. The Court affirmed a Circuit Court decision that the property in question rightfully belonged to the Lee Family. The United States Congress then appropriated the sum of $150,000 for the purchase of the property from the Lee Family.

The Tomb of the Unknowns
The Tomb of the Unknowns

Tomb of the Unknowns

The Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery is also known as the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, and has never been officially named. The Tomb of the Unknowns stands atop a hill overlooking Washington, DC.

One of the more popular sites at the Cemetery, the Tomb is made from Yule marble quarried in Colorado. It consists of seven pieces, with a total weight of 79 tons. The Tomb was completed and opened to the public April 9, 1932, at a cost of $48,000.

It was at first the "Tomb of the Unknown Soldier." Other unknown servicemen were later buried there, and the name became "Tomb of the Unknowns."

The Tomb of the Unknowns is guarded by the U.S. Army 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. The 3rd U.S. Infantry (The Old Guard) began guarding the Tomb April 6, 1948.

Other notable sites

Other frequently visited sites in the cemetery are the USMC War Memorial, commonly known as the "Iwo Jima Memorial"; the Netherlands Carillon; and the grave of President John F. Kennedy. Kennedy is buried with his wife and some of their children. His grave is marked with an "Eternal Flame." His brother Senator Robert F. Kennedy is also buried nearby.

The federal government dedicated a model community for freed slaves, Freedman's Village, near the current Memorial Amphitheater, December 4, 1863. More than 1,100 freed slaves were given land by the government, where they farmed and lived during and after the Civil War. They were turned out in 1890 when the estate was repurchased by the government and dedicated as a military installation.

In Section 27, are buried more than 3,800 former slaves, called "Contrabands" during the Civil War. Their headstones are designated with the word "Civilian" or "Citizen."

The Space Shuttle Challenger Memorial was dedicated on May 20, 1986 in memory of the crew of Shuttle flight STS-51-L, who died during launch on 28 January 1986. Transcribed on the back of the stone is the text of the John Gillespie Magee, Jr. poem entitled High Flight. Although many remains were identified and returned to the families for private burial, some were not, and were laid to rest under the marker. Two of the crewmembers, Scobee and Smith, are buried in Arlington, as well. There's also a similar memorial to those who died when Shuttle Columbia broke apart during reentry on February 1, 2003, dedicated on the first anniversary of the disaster.

There are memorials to those killed in two acts of terrorist violence:

  • The Pentagon memorial, which takes the shape of the Pentagon, is the memorial to the 184 victims of the terrorist attack on The Pentagon on September 11, 2001. The memorial lists the names of the 184 victims that were killed.
  • The cairn, the Lockerbie memorial, which is the memorial to the 270 killed in the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland. The memorial is made up of 270 stones, one for each person killed in the disaster (259 on the plane, 11 on the ground). The fact that 189 of the victims were Americans made the bombing the worst act of pre-9/11 terrorist violence.

Burial procedures

The flags in Arlington National Cemetery are flown at half-staff from a half hour before the first funeral until a half hour after the last funeral each day. Funerals are normally conducted five days a week, excluding weekends.

Funerals, including interments and inurnments, average 20 a day. The Cemetery conducts approximately 5,400 burials each year.

With more than 260,000 people buried there, Arlington National Cemetery has the second-largest number of people buried of any national cemetery in the United States. The largest of the 130 national cemeteries is the Calverton National Cemetery, on Long Island, near Riverhead, New York, which conducts more than 7,000 burials each year.

In addition to in-ground burial, Arlington National Cemetery also has one of the larger columbariums for cremated remains in the country. Four courts are currently in use, each with 5,000 niches.

When construction is complete, there will be nine courts with a total of 50,000 niches; capacity for 100,000 remains. Any honorably discharged veteran is eligible for inurnment in the columbarium.

Notable burials

Notable military figures buried here include:

Among those interred here are wartime service members who went on to other distinguished careers such as:

Notable civilians interned or commemorated at Arlington include:

  • Julian Bartley, Sr. (54), and his son Jay Bartley (20), killed together in the US Embassy, Nairobi terrorist attack.
  • Dana Falkenberg (3) Killed in the terrorist attack on the Pentagon. Buried in a mass grave with four others.
  • Michael P. Hammer American Foreign Service officer captured and murdered by guerillas in El Salvador.
  • Marie Teresa Rios Versace, author of Fifteenth Pelican, basis for The Flying Nun TV show.

On July 24, 1998, U.S. Capitol Police Officers John Michael Gibson, 42, and Jacob Joseph Chestnut, 58, were killed in the line of duty and granted burials at the Cemetery.

See also

List of other famous cemeteries

External links

Last updated: 10-24-2005 00:55:04
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