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Arlington National Cemetery, in Arlington County, Virginiamarker is a military cemetery in the United Statesmarker, established during the American Civil War on the grounds of Arlington Housemarker, formerly the estate of the family of Robert E. Lee's wife Mary Anna Lee, a descendant of Martha Washington. The cemetery is situated directly across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C.marker and near The Pentagonmarker. It is served by the Arlington Cemeterymarker station on the Blue Line of the Washington Metromarker system.

More than 300,000 people are buried in an area of . Veterans and military casualties from every one of the nation's wars are interred in the cemetery, from the American Civil War through the military actions in Afghanistan and Iraq. Pre-Civil War dead were reinterred after 1900.

Arlington National Cemetery and United States Soldiers' and Airmen's Home National Cemeterymarker are administered by the Department of the Army. The other National Cemeteries are administered by the Department of Veterans Affairsmarker or by the National Park Service. Arlington House (Custis-Lee Mansion) and its grounds are administered by the National Park Service as a memorial to Lee.


Military funeral procession in Arlington National Cemetery, July, 1967
Plan and roadways of Arlington National Cemetery
George Washington Parke Custis acquired the land that now is Arlington National Cemetery in 1802, and began construction of Arlington Housemarker. The estate was passed down to Robert E. Lee, Custis' son-in-law, who was a West Pointmarker graduate and a United States Army officer. When Fort Sumtermarker was forced to surrender at the beginning of the American Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln offered Lee the command of the Federal army. Lee demurred, because he wanted to see how Virginia would decide.

When Virginia announced its secession, Lee resigned his commission and took command of the armed forces of the Commonwealth of Virginia, and later became commander of the Army of Northern Virginia. He quickly established himself as an able commander, defeating a series of Union generals, until his final defeat and surrender at the McLean House. Because of this decision and subsequent performance, Lee was regarded as disloyal by most Union officers. The decision was made to appropriate his farm as a graveyard for mostly Union dead.

American military cemeteries developed from the duty of commanders on the frontier and in battle to care for their casualties. When Civil War casualties overflowed hospitals and burial grounds near Washington, D.C., Quartermaster General Montgomery C. Meigs proposed in 1864 that of the Robert E. Lee family property at Arlington be taken for a cemetery. The government acquired the property for $26,800. In 1877, Custis Lee, heir to the property, sued the government claiming ownership of the land. After the Supreme Court ruled in Lee's favor, Congress returned the land to him, and then a year later he sold it back to them for $150,000.

Military burials were previously done at the United States Soldier's National Cemeterymarker in Washington, D.C., but space was filling up. "The grounds about the mansion, We pray for those who lost their lives.", Meigs wrote, "are admirably adapted to such a use." Burials had in fact begun at Arlington before the ink was even blotted on Meigs's proposal.

The southern portion of the land now occupied by the cemetery was used during and after the Civil War as a settlement for freed slaves. More than 1,100 freed slaves were given land at Freedman's Village 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.

President Lyndon B. Johnson conducted the first national Memorial day ceremony in Arlington National Cemetery, on May 30, 1968.


Arlington National Cemetery is divided into 70 sections, with some sections in the southeast portion of the cemetery reserved for future expansion. Section 60, in the southeast part of the cemetery, is the burial ground for military personnel killed in the Iraq War and the War in Afghanistan. In 2005, Arlington National Cemetery acquired 12 acres of additional land from the National Park Service, along with 17 acres from the Department of Defensemarker that was part of Fort Myermarker and 44 acres that is the site of the Navy Annex.

Section 21, also known as the Nurses Section, is the area of Arlington National Cemetery where many nurses are buried. The Nurses Memorial is located there. In the cemetery, there is a Confederate section with graves of soldiers of the Confederate States of America and a Confederate Memorial. In Section 27, there are buried more than 3,800 former slaves, called "Contrabands" during the Civil War. Their headstones are designated with the word "Civilian" or "Citizen".

Tomb of the Unknowns

The Tomb of the Unknowns
The Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery is also known as the Tomb of the Unknown Soldiermarker. It stands on top of a hill overlooking Washington, D.C.

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 short tons (72 metric tons). The tomb was completed and opened to the public April 9, 1932, at a cost of $48,000.

It was initially named the "Tomb of the Unknown Soldier." Other unknown servicemen were later entombed there, and it became known as the "Tomb of the Unknowns", though it has never been officially named. The soldiers entombed there are:

  • Unknown Soldier of World War I, interred November 11, 1921. President Warren G. Harding presided.
  • Unknown Soldier of World War II, interred May 30, 1958. President Dwight D. Eisenhower presided.
  • Unknown Soldier of the Korean War, also interred May 30, 1958. President Dwight Eisenhower presided again, Vice President Richard Nixon acted as next of kin.
  • Unknown Soldier of the Vietnam War, interred May 28, 1984. President Ronald Reagan presided. The remains of the Vietnam Unknown were disinterred, under the authority of President Bill Clinton, on May 14, 1998, and were identified as those of Air Force 1st Lt. Michael J. Blassie, whose family had him reinterred near their home in St. Louis, Missourimarker. It has been determined that the crypt at the Tomb of the Unknowns that contained the remains of the Vietnam Unknown will remain empty.

The Tomb of the Unknowns is perpetually guarded by the U.S. Army. The 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment ("The Old Guard") began guarding the Tomb April 6, 1948.

Arlington Memorial Amphitheater

Arlington National Cemetery Amphitheater
The Tomb of the Unknowns is part of the Arlington Memorial Amphitheatermarker. The Memorial Amphitheater has hosted state funerals and Memorial Day and Veterans Day ceremonies. Ceremonies are also held for Easter. About 5,000 people attend these holiday ceremonies each year. The structure is mostly built of Imperial Danby marble from Vermontmarker. The Memorial Display room, between the amphitheater and the Tomb of the Unknowns, uses Botticinomarker stone, imported from Italymarker. The amphitheater was the result of a campaign by Ivory Kimball to construct a place to honor America's soldiers. Congress authorized the structure March 4, 1913. Woodrow Wilson laid the cornerstone for the building on October 15, 1915. The cornerstone contained 15 items including a Bible and a copy of the Constitution. [12568]

Before the Arlington Memorial Amphitheater was completed in 1921, important ceremonies were held at what is now known as the "Old Amphitheater." This structure sits where Robert E. Lee once had his gardens. The amphitheater was built in 1868 under the direction of General John A. Logan. Gen. James Garfield was the featured speaker at the Decoration Day dedication ceremony, May 30, 1868. The amphitheater has an encircling colonnade with a latticed roof that once supported a web of vines. The amphitheater has a marble dais, known as "the rostrum", which is inscribed with the U.S. national motto found on the Great Seal of the United States, E pluribus unum ("Out of many, one"). The amphitheater seats 1,500 people and has hosted speakers such as William Jennings Bryan. [12569]


Remembering the Maine: The memorial to the USS Maine.
Near the Tomb of the Unknowns stands a memorial to the 266 men who lost their lives aboard the USS Maine. The memorial is built around a mast salvaged from the Maine's wreckage. The USS Maine Memorial served as the temporary resting place for foreign heads of state, Manuel L. Quezon of the Philippinesmarker and Ignacy Jan Paderewski of Polandmarker, who died in exile in the United States during World War II.
The Space Shuttle Challenger Memorial was dedicated on May 20, 1986 in memory of the crew of flight STS-51-L, who died during launch on January 28, 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 crew members, Scobee and Smith, are buried in Arlington, as well. There is a similar memorial to those who died when the Shuttle Columbia broke apart during reentry on February 1, 2003, dedicated on the first anniversary of the disaster. Astronauts Laurel Clark, David Brown and Michael Anderson are also buried in Arlington.

On a knoll just south of Arlington House, with views of the Washington Monument and Capitol, is a memorial to Pierre Charles L'Enfant, the architect who laid out the city of Washington. His remains lie below a marble memorial incised with his plan for the city. L'Enfant envisioned a grand neoclassical capital city for the young republic that would rival the capitals of European monarchies.

The cairn, the Lockerbie memorial, is a memorial to the 270 killed in the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbiemarker, Scotlandmarker. The memorial is made up of 270 stones, one for each person killed in the disaster. In section 64, there is a memorial to the 184 victims of the September 11 attacks on the Pentagon. The memorial takes the shape of a Pentagon, and lists the names of all the victims that were killed.

The noted composer, arranger, trombonist and Big Band leader Maj. Alton Glenn Miller of the U.S. Army Air Forces has been missing in action since December 15, 1944. Miller was eligible for a memorial headstone in Arlington National Cemetery as a service member who died on active duty whose remains were not recoverable. At his daughter's request, a stone was placed in Memorial Section H, Number 464-A on Wilson Drive in Arlington National Cemetery in April 1992.

There are only two mausoleums located within the confines of the Cemetery. One is for the family of General Nelson Appleton Miles located in Section 3 and the other one belongs to the family of General Thomas Crook Sullivan and it is located in Section 1.

There is a Commonwealth Cross of Sacrifice with the names of all the citizens of the USA who lost their lives fighting in the Canadian forces during the Korean War and the two World Wars.

The Women in Military Service for America Memorialmarker can be found at the Ceremonial Entrance to Arlington National Cemetery.

On May 15, 1997, after more than two decades of denying the existence of the "Secret War" in Laosmarker during the Vietnam War conflict, the U.S. government officially acknowledged this once covert war, honoring its U.S. and Laos Hmong veterans with the opening of the Laos Memorial on the Arlington National Cemetery grounds, along a path between the John F. Kennedy Eternal Flamemarker and the Tomb of the Unknownsmarker.

Site Coordinates
Tomb of the Unknownsmarker
Arlington Memorial Amphitheatermarker
USMC War Memorialmarker
Netherlands Carillonmarker
John F. Kennedy Eternal Flamemarker
Robert F. Kennedy
USS Maine Memorial
Space Shuttle Challenger Memorial

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 well over 20 per day. The Cemetery conducts approximately 6,400 burials each year. [12570]

With more than 300,000 people interred 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 Cemeterymarker, on Long Islandmarker, near Riverhead, New Yorkmarker, 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, if s/he served on active duty at some point in her/his career (other than for training). See 32 C.F.R. 553.15a

Burial criteria

Hundreds of volunteers gathered at Arlington to place more than five thousand donated Christmas wreaths on head stones in the cemetery.
The 14th annual wreath laying event is a result of Worcester Wreath Company owner Morrill Worcester's boyhood dream of doing something to honor those laid to rest in the National Cemetery.

Part 553 of Title 32 of the Code of Federal Regulations establishes regulations for Arlington National Cemetery, including eligibility for interment (ground burial) and inurnment (columbarium). 32 C.F.R. 553 Eligibility for burial differs from eligibility for inurnment in the columbarium at Arlington National Cemetery. Due to limited space, ground burial eligibility criteria are much more restrictive than other National Cemeteries, as well as more restrictive than inurnment in the columbarium.

The persons specified below are eligible for ground burial in Arlington National Cemetery, unless otherwise prohibited. The last period of active duty of former members of the Armed Forces must have ended honorably. Interment may be casketed or cremated remains.

  • Any active-duty member of the Armed Forces (except those members serving on active duty for training only).
  • Any veteran who is retired from service with the Armed Forces.
  • Any veteran who is retired from the Reserves is eligible upon reaching age 60 and drawing retired pay; and who served a period of active duty (other than for training).
  • Any former member of the Armed Forces separated honorably prior to October 1, 1949 for medical reasons and who was rated at 30% or greater disabled effective on the day of discharge.
  • Any former member of the Armed Forces who has been awarded one of the following decorations:
  • Individuals awarded the Central Intelligence Agency's (CIA) Intelligence Star which is considered the equivalent of the US Military's Silver Star and recognized as such by the President of the United States.
  • The President of the United States or any former President of the United States.
  • Any former member of the Armed Forces who served on active duty (other than for training) and who held any of the following positions:
    • An elective office of the U.S. Government (such as a term in Congress).
    • Office of the Chief Justice of the United States or of an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States.
    • An office listed, at the time the person held the position, in 5 USC 5312 or 5313 (Levels I and II of the Executive Schedule).
    • The chief of a mission who was at any time during his/her tenure classified in Class I under the provisions of Section 411, Act of 13 August 1946, 60 Stat. 1002, as amended (22 USC 866) or as listed in State Department memorandum dated March 21, 1988.
  • Any former prisoner of war who, while a prisoner of war, served honorably in the active military, naval, or air service, whose last period of military, naval or air service terminated honorably and who died on or after November 30, 1993.
  • The spouse, widow or widower, minor child, or permanently dependent child, and certain unmarried adult children of any of the above eligible veterans.
  • The widow or widower of:
    • a member of the Armed Forces who was lost or buried at sea or fell out of a plane or officially determined to be missing in action.
    • a member of the Armed Forces who is interred in a US military cemetery overseas that is maintained by the American Battle Monuments Commission.
    • a member of the Armed Forces who is interred in Arlington National Cemetery as part of a group burial.
  • The spouse, minor child, or permanently dependent child of any person already buried in Arlington National Cemetery.
  • The parents of a minor child, or permanently dependent child whose remains, based on the eligibility of a parent, are already buried in ANC. A spouse divorced from the primary eligible, or widowed and remarried, is not eligible for interment.
  • Provided certain conditions are met, a former member of the Armed Forces may be buried in the same grave with a close relative who is already buried and is the primary eligible.

Prohibitions Against Burial or Inurnment

Congress has from time to time created prohibited categories of persons that, even if otherwise eligible for burial, lose that eligibility. One such prohibition is against certain persons who are convicted of committing certain state or federal capital crimes, as defined in statute. See 38 U.S. Code § 2411. Capital crime is a specifically defined term in the statute, and for state offenses can include offenses that are eligible for a life sentence (with or without parole). The reasoning for this provision originally was to prevent Timothy McVeigh from being eligible at Arlington National Cemetery, but it has since been amended to prevent others.

Also prohibited under the same statute are those determined, with clear and convincing evidence, to have avoided such conviction by death or flight. See 38 U.S. Code § 2411. This provision was meant to deal with situations where eligible persons commit murder and then commit suicide or flee and avoid a conviction for that crime, which would mean they would not lose their eligibility like those that made it to trial and conviction.

Notable burials

Respectful silence is requested at Arlington.
Other frequently visited sites in the cemetery include the grave of President John F. Kennedy, who is buried with his wife and two of their children. His remains were placed there on March 14, 1967, a reinterment from his original Arlington burial site, some 20 feet away, where his body was interred in November 1963. His grave is marked with an eternal flamemarker. The remains of his brothers, Senator Robert F. Kennedy and Senator Edward M. Kennedy, are buried nearby. The latter's graves are marked with simple crosses and footstones. On December 1, 1971, Robert Kennedy's body was reinterred 100 feet from its original June 1968 burial site.

The first soldier to be buried in Arlington was Private William Henry Christman of Pennsylvaniamarker on May 13, 1864.

Military burials

As of May 2006, there were 367 Medal of Honor recipients buried in Arlington National Cemetery, nine of whom are Canadiansmarker.

Service members with other distinguished careers

Notable civilians

Whether or not they were wartime service members, U.S. presidents are eligible to be buried at Arlington, since they oversaw the armed forces as commanders-in-chief.

Three state funerals have been held at Arlington: those of Presidents William Howard Taft and John F. Kennedy, and that of General John J. Pershing.

Media access controversy

Until 2005, the cemetery's administration gave free access, with the family's permission, to the media to cover funerals at the cemetery. According to the Washington Post, over the past several years the cemetery has gradually imposed increasing restrictions on media coverage of funerals.

After protesting the new restrictions on media representatives, Gina Gray, the cemetery's new public affairs director, was demoted and then fired on June 27, 2008, after only three months in the job. Days after Gray began working for the cemetery and soon after she had spoken to the media about the new restrictions, her supervisor, Phyllis White, began requiring Gray to notify White whenever she "left the building." On June 9, White changed Gray's title from Public Affairs Director to "Public Affairs Officer." A few days later, when Gray took sick leave, White disconnected Gray's email BlackBerry. In the termination memo, White stated that Gray had, "been disrespectful to me as your supervisor and failed to act in an inappropriate (sic) manner." Thurman Higginbotham, deputy director of the cemetery stated that Gray's release from employment, "had nothing -- absolutely nothing to do with -- with media issues."

Secretary of the Army Pete Geren, has asked his staff to look into Gray's dismissal. Said Gray in response, "I am definitely encouraged by any investigation into the mismanagement at Arlington Cemetery." In July 2009 Gray filed suit against the US Army under the Freedom of Information Act, stating that the US Army had refused to publicly release its findings from the probe into Gray's dismissal. In the suit, Gray claims that the probe found that Higginbotham had lied to federal investigators and that someone had illegaly accessed Gray's government email account and sent an email in her name. At least two members of Congress, Jim Webb and Howard McKeon, are watching the lawsuit.

The U.S. Army stated that it had not received any complaints about the newer, more restrictive policies concerning media coverage of funerals. But CNN reported that some families have complained about not being able to decide for themselves on the level of media access allowed.

See also


External links

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