Arlington National Cemetery

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Map of the cemetery from 1945
Typical graves in the hilly park landscape

The Arlington National Cemetery ( English Arlington National Cemetery ) is one of the 139 national cemeteries in the United States . It is located in Arlington in the state of Virginia immediately southwest of the federal capital Washington, DC , from which it is separated by the Potomac River . In the southeast it borders on the grounds of the Pentagon .

The cemetery was established in 1864 during the Civil War . Almost 5400 funerals take place here every year. After - with over 260,000 funerals in its history the National Cemetery in Arlington is Calverton National Cemetery in New York - the second largest cemetery in the USA. Like the United States Soldiers' and Airmen's Home National Cemetery in Washington DC, the approx. 252 hectare area is administered by the Department of the Army , while most of the other national cemeteries are administered by the Department of War Veterans and the National Park Service .

Three state funerals have been held in this cemetery so far, for Presidents William Howard Taft (1930) and John F. Kennedy (1963) and for General John J. Pershing (1948).


Traditionally, military cemeteries were set up by the respective generals to honor their fallen soldiers. During the years of the Civil War, many military operations took place between the respective capitals Washington DC and Richmond , Virginia, which are only 172 km apart. As the hospitals and makeshift cemeteries were overcrowded due to the high number of victims, Quartermaster General Montgomery Meigs suggested that General Robert E. Lee's family's 80- acre estate not far from Washington be converted into a cemetery. Lee had been an officer in the Union Army prior to the war ( West Point graduated 1829) . When the Civil War broke out, he received an offer from President Abraham Lincoln to take command of the Potomac Army . However, since he was connected to his home state of Virginia, he became commander of the Northern Virginia Confederate Army and fought successfully against the Union from then on until he had to surrender at Appomattox Court House on April 9, 1865 . Because of his decision against the United States, Lee has since been considered disloyal in the Army Officer Corps, although he enjoyed great respect. After Lee was expropriated, Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton officially declared the site a cemetery on June 15, 1864. Even before he found his contractual security, the first burials were carried out, by the end of the war almost 16,000.

In 1882, after long trials, the question of ownership was brought before the Supreme Court . The court ruled in favor of the Lee family; the Congress therefore approved a compensation of $ 150,000.

On July 27, 2010, a congressional hearing was held after it was revealed that the grave administration is still based on index cards and is said to be in very poor condition. Sometimes they were also transcribed incorrectly . Thousands of graves may have been misnamed. This has already been established in 211 graves. In addition, nameless urns were found in a garbage dump. At the end of 2010, forensic scientists also found eight urns in a single grave, which is why an investigation was opened. The totally outdated index card system was replaced in 2012 by a digital allocation system based on geosatellite data for the currently (2019) 420,000 graves.

Today's burial criteria

The selection of persons who may be laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery is subject to the following criteria:

Panorama of a section of Arlington National Cemetery

Well-known tombs and monuments

Tomb of the unknown

The Unidentified Soldier of the First World War rests below the white sarcophagus , that of the Second World War in the foreground below the marble slab on the left, that of the Korean War on the right. Identified as Michael Blassie, the unknown of the Vietnam War rested under the middle plate until 1998.

The Tomb of the Unknown at Arlington National Cemetery is also known as the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and is located on a hill above Washington, DC. This complex consists of seven marble blocks with a total mass of approx. 72  t . The so-called "Yule marble" from the state of Colorado used for this purpose served u. a. also used as building material for the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC and the Equitable Building in New York City . The structure was completed on April 9, 1932 and cost $ 48,000. Originally referred to as the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier , it was later renamed the "Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers" because other soldiers from the last wars were buried there in the following years:

  • Unknown soldier of the First World War was buried on November 11, 1921. The next of kin, to whom the national flag spread out on the coffin was folded up, was symbolically the then President Warren G. Harding .
  • Unidentified World War II soldier , buried May 30, 1958. A symbolic "closest relative" was President Dwight D. Eisenhower .
  • The burial of the Unknown Soldier of the Korean War took place the same day after that of the Second World War. Here the then Vice President Richard M. Nixon was the symbolic "closest relative".
  • Unidentified soldier of the Vietnam War , buried May 28, 1984. Symbolic "closest relative" was President Ronald Reagan .

On May 14, 1998, by order of President Clinton , the remains of the stranger from the Vietnam War were exhumed. The body was identified by DNA analysis as First Lieutenant Michael Joseph Blassie of the US Air Force , who was shot down over South Vietnam on May 11, 1972. At the behest of his family, his remains were transferred to Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery near St. Louis , Missouri , where they were buried on July 10 of the same year. The grave of the Unknown Soldier of the Vietnam War has been empty since then and is unlikely to be occupied.

The tomb of the unknowns has been guarded by soldiers of the 3rd US Infantry Regiment since April 1948 . Due to their unusual changing of the guard, this regiment is nicknamed "The Old Guard" .

John F. Kennedy Eternal Flame

Always numerous visitors
The Eternal Flame and Tombstone of John F. Kennedy
Environment of the Kennedy grave

The grave of the 35th President of the United States, John F. Kennedy, who was assassinated on November 22, 1963, is in line with the Arlington Memorial Bridge and the Lincoln Memorial, which span the Potomac River . The idea for the establishment of an eternal flame came from the widow Jacqueline Kennedy after the funeral ceremony in the Capitol on November 24th, inspired by the tomb of the Unknown Soldier at the Triumphal Arch in Paris . The planners of the funeral on the next day complied with this request and commissioned the US Army Corps of Engineers with the implementation. Overnight, a temporary gas line was laid from a distant propane tank to the nascent tomb so that the flame could be lit a few hours later after the funeral ceremony of Jacqueline Kennedy.

Soldiers of the 3rd US Infantry Regiment "The Old Guard" stood guard at the grave until 1965, which is still visited by crowds of people today. For this reason, a permanent burial site measuring around 1.3 hectares was opened in 1967 with a paved entrance. The propane gas line for lighting the eternal flame was replaced by a fixed natural gas line. The flame itself rests on a round granite slab with a diameter of 1.5 m, which is surrounded by several irregular granite slabs from a granite quarry near Kennedy's long-time home on Cape Cod . Excerpts from his inaugural speech are engraved on white marble tablets. In order to prevent the flame from going out due to the weather, a device is installed that generates a permanent ignition spark and prevents sooting of the flame by supplying oxygen. On May 23, 1994, Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis was buried next to her husband. Their children, Arabella Kennedy (* / † 23 August 1956) and Patrick Bouvier Kennedy (* 7 August 1963 - 9 August 1963), who died prematurely, were exhumed just a few weeks after Kennedy's death and buried with their father. The final resting place of JFK's brother Robert "Bobby" Kennedy, who was shot in 1968, is close to that of his brother, as is the grave of his youngest brother Edward "Ted" Kennedy, who died in 2009 .

USS Maine Mast Memorial

"Remembering the Maine"

This memorial commemorates the 264 sailors who were killed in an explosion on 15 February 1898 on board the battleship Maine , anchored in the port of Havana , Spanish Cuba . Due to the tense political relations between the United States and the Kingdom of Spain at the time regarding the Cuba question, this event was whipped up by the American press as a Spanish attack (“Remember the Maine”) , so that the Spanish-American War broke out.

The monument was inaugurated on the 17th anniversary of this incident and cost approximately $ 56,000. The base of the structure is modeled on the Maine turret and measures about ten meters in diameter. The roughly one meter thick granite walls form a room more than two meters high, which is illuminated with daylight through eleven small windows and accessible through two bronze doors. The outer door is a lattice construction, while one half of the original ship's bell is welded onto the solid inner door and bears the words "USS MAINE, Navy Yard, New York, 1894". On each side of the entrance there is an urn resting on a small platform on a tripod with a total height of almost 1.5 m. 23 stone tablets bearing the names of the victims are incorporated into the outer facade. The following inscription is engraved above the door:

Erected in memory of the officers and men,
those during the destruction
the USS Maine
on February 15, 1898 in Havana, Cuba,
gave their lives.

On the stone base of the original's main mast of the Maine attached. The also preserved cross mast is now in the US Naval Academy in Annapolis , Maryland . Of the fallen in Maine, 229 men were buried near the memorial. The Maine Mast Memorial was the temporary resting place of two foreign heads of state who died in exile during World War II. The corpse of the Philippine President Manuel Quezon († August 1, 1944) was transferred to his homeland after the war, while that of the Polish Prime Minister Ignacy Jan Paderewski († June 29, 1941) only after the fall of the Iron Curtain , on March 3 July 1992 was laid to rest in Warsaw .

Arlington Memorial Amphitheater

The outer facade of the Arlington Memorial Amphitheater is modeled on the Roman amphitheater. The columns made of white marble correspond to the Ionic style .
Interior view of the arena with a view of the podium

The Arlington Memorial Amphitheater houses the Tomb of the Unknown and is the scene of various memorial ceremonies, especially on Memorial and Veterans Day , in which around 5000 people take part each year. State funerals of famous Americans took place here, such as General of the Armies John "Black Jack" Pershing, General of the Air Force Henry "Hap" Arnold and five victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks .

This building consists mainly of the so-called Imperial Danby marble from the state of Vermont . The Memorial Display Room located between the arena and the Tomb of the Unknowns is home to numerous plaques and was imported from Botticino - limestone built. A small chapel is located under the podium. The frieze above the portico is engraved with the names of 44 battles in which United States soldiers fought from the War of Independence to the Spanish-American War . In addition, 14 generals and admirals from the time before the First World War are immortalized on either side of the podium.

Indoor panorama

This structure is thanks to the efforts of Judge Ivory Kimball (1843-1916), who campaigned for years for a memorial to pay homage to the soldiers of the United States. Kimball was president of the local state faction of the Grand Army of the Republic , an association of former Union Army veterans of the Civil War. The United States Congress approved the construction on March 4, 1913. The foundation stone was laid two years later on October 15 by then President Woodrow Wilson . The 15 objects brought in as a time capsule include a. the Bible and a copy of the Constitution .

Before the amphitheater was completed in 1921, the previous events took place in the Old Amphitheater , which was built on Decoration Day (now Memorial Day) on May 30, 1868 on the initiative of General John Logan in the former ornamental garden of Robert E. Lee. Among the first speakers that day was u. a. later President James Garfield . The building structure consists of a round colonnade with a lattice-like roof, which was originally overgrown with tendrils of grapevines , comparable to a pergola . In the auditorium itself, which can hold around 1500 people, there is a marble podium on which the national motto E pluribus unum is engraved.

Confederate Memorial

Confederate Memorial , memorial to the fallen of the southern states

Arlington National Cemetery was created after the Civil War as a burial and memorial site for the Northern States . There was no memorial and no official commemoration for those who died in the southern states, who were also buried there. It was not until the end of the 19th century and as a result of the common struggle in the Spanish-American War that attitudes changed. In 1900, Congress decided to establish a Confederate Section in the National Cemetery. The central monument was designed by the renowned sculptor and Confederate Civil War veteran Moses Jacob Ezekiel ; it was unveiled on June 4, 1914. The main figure of the monument is a young woman as personification of the “South”, underneath the surrounding inscription And they shall beat their swords into plow shares and their spears into pruning hooks ( Mi 4,3  EU ). The figure stands on a pedestal with the coats of arms of the southern states, deities, soldiers and scenes that illustrate the consequences of the war for the civilian population. Under the dedication inscription of the United Daughters of the Confederacy is the Latin motto Victrix causa deis placuit, sed victa Catoni .

Netherlands Carillon

This carillon was a gift from the Dutch people to the United States in 1954 in gratitude for help during and after World War II. The tower, originally provided with 49 bells, first stood in West Potomac Park before it was placed in its current position in 1960 not far from the United States Marine Corps War Memorial . The 50th bell was added on May 5, 1995 on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the liberation of the Netherlands from National Socialist rule.

The bell tower created by Joost Boks is a 40 m high, steel plate reinforced, open steel construction with a floor area of ​​approx. 7.6 × 11 m. A staircase leads to a viewing platform at a height of approx. 25 m, on which the glockenspiel gaming table , which is locked by glass walls, stands. The 50 bronze bells have a total mass of approx. 28 t, whereby the largest with a diameter of over 2 m alone weighs 5.7 t, while the smallest with a diameter of only 20 cm weighs only 16 kg. The building stands flanked by two bronze lions, on an 800 m² square paved with quartzite , which is surrounded by a lava stone wall. The surrounding area is planted with thousands of tulips .

The carillon plays the so-called Westminster Chimes every hour on the hour and patriotic American music twice a day. Music will be played on May 5th, July 4th, Independence Day , September 2nd and Thanksgiving . In the summer months, the Netherlands Carillon hosts numerous concerts and lectures.

More tombs and monuments

Cenotaph in honor of the crew of the Space Shuttle Challenger

The Space Shuttle Challenger Memorial was commissioned by the 99th Congress of the United States on June 12, 1986 to honor the seven crew members who died on January 28, 1986 in the explosion of the Challenger Shuttle . At the end of March of the same year, the monument was inaugurated with a ceremony. Of the seven astronauts, the commander Dick Scobee and the pilot Michael Smith were buried in the immediate vicinity of the monument. The unidentified corpses found their final resting place under the massive block of white marble. It is provided with a bronze plaque on its front which contains the names and faces of the victims. The back is engraved with the engraved poem High Flight by John Gillespie Magee . A similar memorial was erected for the Columbia crew who died in early February 2003 . The remains of the astronauts Laurel Clark , David Brown and Michael Anderson were buried in Arlington by their crew .

On a flat hill south of Arlington House, overlooking the Washington Monument and the Capitol on the east bank of the Potomac, a marble memorial commemorates Pierre Charles L'Enfant . The native French was the planner of the capital Washington, DC

There are only two mausoleums in the entire cemetery . They belong to the families of General Nelson Appleton Miles and Thomas Crook Sullivan .

The Pan Am Flight 103 Memorial Cairn or Lockerbie Cairn was inaugurated in 1995 by then President Bill Clinton . This red from 270 blocks of Scottish sandstone existing tower commemorates the victims of the Lockerbie bombing , all 259 inmates of a in which on 21 December 1988 Boeing 747 of Pan Am and eleven people died on the ground after Libyan terrorists over the Scottish town of Lockerbie one Detonated bomb on board. Until the terrorist attacks of September 11th, this was the most serious terrorist attack against citizens of the United States, with 189 US victims.

The Third Infantry Division Monument , erected in the 1990s, commemorates over 10,000 soldiers of the 3rd US Infantry Division who died in combat during both World Wars and during the Korean War or have been missing since then.

Characters buried in Arlington

Grave of Pierre L'Enfant , Washington, DC city planner
View of the cemetery and the Pentagon in the background
Graves in Arlington National Cemetery

As of May 2006, 367 Medal of Honor soldiers were buried in Arlington National Cemetery, nine of whom were Canadian citizens . The more well-known military include a. the first chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Omar Bradley (1893-1981), James Doolittle (1896-1993), known for the so-called " Doolittle Raid ", the well-known admiral in the Pacific War William F. Halsey (1882-1959), John “Black Jack” Pershing (1860–1948), the highest ranking US officer in Japanese captivity, Jonathan Wainwright (1883–1953) and “Slew” McCain (1884–1945) and John Sidney McCain junior (1911–1981), grandfather and father of former Republican presidential candidate John McCain . The first female fighter pilot in the US Navy, Kara Spears Hultgreen (1965-1994), who died in 1994, was also buried in Arlington.

Some of the buried were known in other fields besides their military careers, including the multiple medalist at the Olympic Summer Games Willis A. Lee (1888-1945), the film actor Audie Murphy (1925-1971), the Iraq war critic David Haskell Hackworth (1930 –2005), the former Foreign Minister and Nobel Peace Prize laureate George C. Marshall (1880–1959) and the crime writer Dashiell Hammett (1894–1961) , who was known for the so-called “ Marshall Plan ” .

With the heavyweight boxing world champion from 1937 to 1949 Joe Louis (1914–1981) or the inventor and entrepreneur George Westinghouse (1846–1914), well-known personalities who had not pursued a military career are also buried.

In addition to the veterans, well-known politicians were buried in Arlington Cemetery, including the 27th President William Howard Taft (1857–1930), Secretary of State John Foster Dulles (1888–1959) and the 35th President John F. Kennedy (1917–1963 ) alongside his wife Jackie Kennedy (1929–1994) and his brothers, Senator and Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy (1925–1968) and Senator Edward Kennedy (1932–2009).

NASA astronauts Virgil Grissom (1926–1967) and Roger Bruce Chaffee (1935–1967), who died in the Apollo 1 disaster , found their final resting place here.

In addition to Americans, foreigners were also given the honor of being buried in Arlington. Among the more famous are the French Pierre Charles L'Enfant (1754-1825) and the British Major General Orde Charles Wingate (1903-1944).

See also


  • The last honor. Arlington Cemetery. Shown on May 13, 2013, 9:00 p.m. - 9:45 p.m. in Phoenix. (Origin, funeral ceremony).

Web links

Commons : Arlington National Cemetery  - Collection of Images

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Geoffrey C. Ward: The Civil War. An Illustrated History . Based on a documentary filmscript by Geoffrey C. Ward, Ric Burns, and Ken Burns . Knopf, New York NY 1990, ISBN 0-679-74277-8 .
  2. Thousands of Arlington Graves Could Be Mislabeled, Senator Says. In: Retrieved June 21, 2011 .
  3. Graves scandal in Arlington: Shambles at US National Cemetery. (No longer available online.) In: Archived from the original on August 2, 2010 ; Retrieved June 21, 2011 .
  4. ^ Statement of press spokeswoman Carie Mika in the ORF1 radio show Arlington: The most transfigured park of the dead in the USA (Journal Panorama of October 9, 2019)
  5. ^ Army investigating 8 sets of remains buried in single gravesite at Arlington. In: Retrieved June 21, 2011 .
  6. Eligibility for Interment (Ground Burial). In: Retrieved October 23, 2007 .
  7. ^ William Manchester : The Death of a President. November 20 - November 25, 1963 . Harper & Row, New York NY et al. a. 1967.
  8. JFK Eternal Flame. (No longer available online.) In: Archived from the original on October 14, 2008 ; Retrieved December 15, 2007 .
  9. ^ The USS Maine Mast Memorial. (No longer available online.) In: Archived from the original on October 19, 2007 ; Retrieved October 31, 2007 .
  10. USS Maine Memorial (pictures). In: Retrieved October 31, 2007 .
  11. ^ Background of Ignacy Jan Paderewski at Arlington National Cemetery. (No longer available online.) In: Archived from the original on November 24, 2005 ; Retrieved October 31, 2007 .
  12. ^ The Memorial Amphitheater at Arlington National Cemetery. (No longer available online.) In: Archived from the original on July 6, 2010 ; Retrieved October 29, 2007 .
  13. Old Amphitheater. (No longer available online.) In: Archived from the original on June 19, 2010 ; Retrieved October 29, 2007 .
  14. ^ Confederate Memorial
  15. ^ The Netherlands Carillon. In: National Park Service. Retrieved November 3, 2007 .
  16. ^ Space Shuttle Challenger Memorial. (No longer available online.) In: Archived from the original on October 19, 2007 ; Retrieved December 16, 2007 .
  17. ^ Third Infantry Division Monument. (No longer available online.) In: Archived from the original on October 19, 2007 ; Retrieved December 16, 2007 .
  18. Medal of Honor Recipients, Buried at Arlington National Cemetery. In: Retrieved December 16, 2007 .
This version was added to the list of articles worth reading on April 3, 2008 .

Coordinates: 38 ° 52 ′ 37 ″  N , 77 ° 4 ′ 21 ″  W.