50 The Tomb Of The Unknown Soldier Facts: Here's All You Need To Know

Devangana Rathore
Feb 23, 2023 By Devangana Rathore
Originally Published on Jan 17, 2022
Edited by Jacob Fitzbright
Fact-checked by Sakshi Raturi
Learn some fascinating Tomb of the Unknown Soldier facts in this article.
Age: 3-18
Read time: 9.4 Min

The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier was made to pay tribute to those unknown heroes who made the ultimate sacrifice in defense of their country's integrity and honor during the First World War, the Second World War, and the Korean War.

It was also made to memorialize those who have died in some of America's most significant battles, anonymous service members are buried beneath a tomb. Let's learn about these unknown heroes.

The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier commemorates warriors for their courage and acts as a remembrance of the sacrifices warriors have given throughout American history.President Warren G. Harding officiated an interment ceremony for an unnamed soldier killed during the First World War on Veterans Day in 1921 at Arlington National Cemetery.

Since then, three more troops have been placed into the Tomb of the Unknowns or the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier monument, while one has been removed. An inscription on the back of the Tomb says, 'Here rests in honored glory an American soldier known but to God'.

The Location Of The Tomb Of The Unknown Soldier

The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is a famous memorial devoted to the unidentified remains of slain U.S. service members. It can be found in the Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia, USA. Arlington National Cemetery's most famous memorial is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Congress passed a scheme to resurrect an unknown soldier from the First World War and bury him with full military honors in a tomb at the Arlington National Cemetery.

  • The bodies were laid out in four identical caskets next to Army sergeant and First World War soldier Edward F.
  • Younger selected the third box from the left by laying a bouquet of white roses on it after the four identical caskets were placed up for his examination.
  • The Tomb has also functioned as a place of grieving and meditation for those who have served in military service.
  • On March 4, 1921, Congress allowed the internment of an unknown soldier, and the event took place in the plaza of Arlington National Cemetery's Memorial Amphitheater on November 11.
  • An army sergeant chose the honoree from four unknowns exhumed from four of America's cemeteries of France.
  • In 1866, the first Tomb of the Unknown Soldier was established in honor of the Civil War's unknown soldiers.


The Purpose Of Building The Tomb Of The Unknown Soldier

The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is a memorial to unidentified U.S. service members. The Medal of Honor was bestowed to the United States Unknowns buried by the presidents of the United States who officiated over their burials. Unidentified remains were commonly interred in mass graves in the United States before the Civil War. For example, unknown soldiers and marines from the War of 1812 are interred at Arlington National Cemetery after being found interred at the Washington Barracks and entombed at Arlington National Cemetery during 1905.

  • In 1862, a network of national graves was developed to ensure that all service members were buried correctly. Despite this, many unknown remains were discovered after the Civil War.
  • The casket was put on a caisson and brought to Arlington National Cemetery the next day, Armistice Day.
  • From his arrival in the U.S. until Armistice Day, 1921, Soldier lay in state in the Capitol Rotunda, the 'physical and symbolic heart' of America.
  • An anonymous American army soldier had landed in the nation's capital two days ago from a military cemetery of France, where he had died somewhere on a World War I battle.
  • Hamilton Fish Jr., a First World War veteran and a New York Congressman, sponsored legislation in December 1920 that called for the burial of one unknown American Soldier in a unique tomb to be constructed in Arlington National Cemetery.
  • The purpose was 'to return home the corpse of an unknown American soldier who in himself symbolizes no section, religion, or race in the late conflict and who exemplifies, however, the spirit of America and the greatest sacrifice of the gallant dead', according to the legislation.
An anonymous American army soldier had landed

The Unknown Victims Of The First World War

The Graves Identification Service was established by the Defense Department as a new entity inside the Quartermaster Corps to manage burials. Americans, on the other hand, argued whether the dead should be repatriated during and after First World War. Repatriation was more difficult with over 100,000 U.S. casualties.

  • France and the United Kingdom, which suffered far more losses and unknown deaths than the United States, prohibited the repatriation of their people's corpses.
  • On November 11, 1920, on Armistice Day, France and the United Kingdom each repatriated and cremated one unknown Soldier to relieve the pain of their people.
  • The Unknown Warrior of the United Kingdom was buried in Westminster Abbey  (London), and the Unidentified Soldier of France was buried at the foot of the Arc de Triomphe (Paris).
  • The Tomb of the Unidentified Soldier was initially just a basic marble slab.
  • Thousands of tourists traveled to Arlington National Cemetery in its early years to pay homage to the Unknown Soldier as well as the military members he represented by mourning at the Tomb.
  • The coffin has three wreaths on every side panel (north and south) of the Tomb. Three figures depict Peace, Valor, and  Victory on the front (east). 'Here rests in honored glory an American soldier known but to God', reads the inscription on the reverse (west).


The Unknown Victims Of The Second World War And The Korean War

Following the Second World War, many Americans favored the concept of burying and honoring a Second World War Unknown. However, the onset of the Korean War in 1950 stopped such preparations. President Dwight D. Eisenhower authorized the selection and internment of Unknowns from Second World War and Korea in August 1956. The interment of an unknown American soldier of the Second World War at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier was approved by Congress in June 1946.

  • The Second World War, which raged across four continents, made choosing an Unknown more difficult. The chosen Unknown has to symbolize all unnamed American soldiers who died throughout the war, not simply those from one theater.
  • The Army retrieved five corpses in Fort McKinley American Cemetery of the Philippines as well as the National Memorial Cemetery in the Pacific (Hawaii) to symbolize the Pacific Theater of the Second World War. They also retrieved four remains from the Korean War who were interred at the National Memorial Cemetery in the Pacific at the same time.
  • The caskets were all transported to Hickam Airbase in Hawaii. Army Master Sergeant Ned Lyle chose the Korean War Unknown on May 15, 1958. Colonel Glenn T. Eagleston of the United States Air Forces decided the Second World War Trans-Pacific Unknown.
  • The Korean War and Second World War Unknowns' caskets were subsequently brought to Washington, D.C. on the USS Blandy, whereas the remaining Second World War Unknowns were laid to rest at sea.
  • Arlington National Cemetery started to add a third vault to the Tomb before the Vietnam War ended. However, many others felt that technological advancements would soon allow all bodies from Vietnam to be identified.
  • On Veterans Day, November 11, 1978, at Memorial Amphitheater, President Jimmy Carter, with Max Cleland, Chief of the U.S. Military Administration and a Vietnam veteran, presented a bronze plaque commemorating American service personnel in the Vietnam War.
  • Medal of Honor winner Royal Marines Sergeant Major Allan Jay Kellogg, Jr. identified the remains as the Vietnam War Unidentified in a special ceremony on May 17, 1984, at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.
  • To honor the unknown, every military branch actively participated in the transportation. An Honor Guard of nine enlisted soldiers and Lt. Denis Muller made up the Troops of Marine Barracks Hawaii (Pearl Harbor). The corpse was then transferred aboard the USS Brewton at Travis Air Force Base (California).
  • The Vietnam War Unknown was placed onto a C-141B Starlifter in California before being transferred to Andrews Airbase of Maryland.
  • From May 25-28, 1984, the Vietnam War Unknown was on display in the Rotunda of the U.S. Capitol.
  • A military procession carried the body to Arlington National Cemetery for interment on May 28, Memorial Day.
  • President Reagan told the crowd that the administration would continue to search for missing in action (MIA) service members from the Vietnam War in his eulogy. However, the Vietnam War unidentified would lie for nearly 14 years at the Tomb of the Unidentified Soldier.
  • On November 17, 1925, a civilian guard was initially stationed at the Tomb to discourage families from eating on the flat stone slab with city views, among other reasons.
  • Troops from neighboring Fort Myer were deployed to protect the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier for the first time in March 1926.
  • The guardians discouraged visitors from climbing or treading on the Tomb, only present during daytime hours. However, the soldiers became a 24/7 presence in 1937, keeping an eye on the Unknown Soldier at all hours.
  • If the weather circumstances ever put the Soldiers at risk of death or injury, the Tomb Guards have options ready to go. Soldiers who volunteer to protect the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier should be in fantastic physical condition.
  • When they are not on guard duty, they must maintain their physical fitness. They must be between 70-76 in (177.8-193 cm) tall and have a spotless service record. Their physical stature should correspond to their height.
  • On April 6, 1948, the 3rd United States Infantry Regiment, sometimes referred to as 'The Old Guard', was selected as the Army's official ceremonial regiment.
  • The Old Guard started protecting the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at that time.
  • The Tomb of the Unidentified Soldier is protected 365 days a year, 24 hours a day, as well as in any weather conditions by Tomb Guard sentinels. The title of Tomb Guard is quite prestigious. 
  • Soldiers who choose to be Tomb Guards should go through a rigorous selection process as well as extensive training.
  • Each step in the Tomb Guard's ritual has significance. The Guard walks down the black carpet behind the Tomb precisely 21 steps, then turns and looks east for 21 seconds, then turns and looks north for 21 seconds, before marching down the mat for another 21 steps.
  • Following that, the Guard makes a swift 'shoulder-arms' motion, placing their gun on the shoulder nearest to the visitors, indicating that they are standing between the Tomb as well as any potential threat.
  • The most excellent symbolic military award that can be bestowed is the 21-gun salute, represented by the number 21.
  • Each hour on the hour between October 1 to March 31, as well as every half hour between April 1 to September 30, the armed Guard of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is replaced in an elaborate ceremony.
  • Visitors can see the changing of the Guard and show their appreciation to the Unknown Soldiers at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
  • People will be directed to the south walk for admission through a one-way pedestrian path at Memorial Drive (near west stairs at Memorial Amphitheater).
  • Thousands of wreath-laying rituals are held each year by a variety of groups.
  • Unfortunately, the mausoleum was defaced on June 12, 2020, when somebody painted 'committed genocide' on the front of the Tomb.
  • Next to the Tomb is a little green hut. The Sentinel retreats to 'The Box' (fondly called) during wreath-laying rituals while Taps and flowers are handed.
  • Individual Civil War unidentified burials can be found at Arlington National Cemetery and the remains of 2,111 Confederate and Union troops buried under the Tomb of Civil War Unknowns.
  • Veterans Day and Memorial Day are the two primary holidays formally celebrated at Arlington National Cemetery.

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Written by Devangana Rathore

Bachelor of Arts specializing in English Language, Master of Philosophy

Devangana Rathore picture

Devangana RathoreBachelor of Arts specializing in English Language, Master of Philosophy

Devangana is a highly accomplished content writer and a deep thinker with a Master's degree in Philosophy from Trinity College, Dublin. With a wealth of experience in copywriting, she has worked with The Career Coach in Dublin and is constantly looking to enhance her skills through online courses from some of the world's leading universities. Devangana has a strong background in computer science and is also an accomplished editor and social media manager. Her leadership skills were honed during her time as the literacy society president and student president at the University of Delhi.

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