The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier:
--Contributed by: J. (Pittman) Younkin
Here Rests In Honored Glory An
American Soldier Known But To God
1. When was the tomb officially
The Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery in
Arlington, Va., is also known as the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, and has never been
2. On what date did President Warren G.
Harding officiate at the interment ceremonies to lay the first unknown soldier of WWI to
rest at the tomb?
The body of an unidentified soldier, killed in France, was laid to
rest on 11 November 1921.
2. How many steps does the
guard take during his walk across the tomb of the unknowns and why?
Twenty one steps. It alludes to the
twenty-one gun salute, which is the highest honor given any military or foreign dignitary.
3. How long does the
Sentinel hesitate after his about face to begin his return walk and does he carry his
rifle on the same shoulder all the time, and if not, why not?
He does not execute
an about face. He stops on the 21st step, then turns and faces the Tomb for 21 seconds.
Then he turns to face back down the mat, changes his weapon to the outside shoulder,
counts 21 seconds, then steps off for another 21 step walk down the mat. He faces the Tomb
at each end of the 21 step walk for 21 seconds. The Sentinel then repeats this over and
over until he is relieved at the Guard Change.
4. Why are his gloves wet?
His gloves are moistened to prevent his losing his grip on the rifle.
5. Does he carry his rifle on the same shoulder all the time and if not, why not?
He carries the rifle on the shoulder away from the tomb. After his march across the path,
he executes an about face and moves the rifle to the outside shoulder.
often are the Guards changed?
The Guard is
changed every thirty minutes during the summer (April 1 to Sep 30) and every hour during
the winter (Oct 1 to Mar 31). During the hours the cemetery is closed, the guard is
changed every 2 hours. The Tomb is guarded, and has been guarded, every minute of every
day since 1937.
7. Do you guard all night long, even when the cemetery is closed?
The Tomb is guarded
24 hours a day, 7 days a week. In fact, there has been a Sentinel on duty in front of the
Tomb every minute of every day since 1937. And the Sentinel does not change the way he
guards the Tomb, even at night when there is no one around. The Sentinels do this because
they feel that the Unknown Soldiers who are buried in the Tomb deserve the very best they
have to give.
When was the Unknown of Vietnam added?
The Unknown service member from the Vietnam
War was designated by Medal of Honor recipient U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Maj. Allan Jay
Kellogg Jr. during a ceremony at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, May 17, 1984. The Vietnam Unknown
was transported aboard the USS Brewton to Alameda Naval Base, Calif. The remains were sent
to Travis Air Force Base, Calif., May 24. The Vietnam Unknown arrived at Andrews Air Force
Base, Md., the next day. Many Vietnam veterans and President and Mrs. Ronald Reagan
visited the Vietnam Unknown in the U.S. Capitol. An Army caisson carried the Vietnam
Unknown from the Capitol to the Memorial Amphitheater at Arlington National Cemetery on Memorial Day, May 28, 1984. President
Reagan presided over the funeral, and presented the Medal of Honor to the Vietnam Unknown.
9. What happened to the soldier that
was in the Tomb from the Vietnam War?
The remains of the
Vietnam Unknown Soldier were exhumed May 14, 1998. Based on mitochondrial DNA testing, DoD
scientists identified the remains as those of Air Force 1st Lt. Michael Joseph Blassie,
who was shot down near An Loc, Vietnam, in 1972. It has been decided that the crypt that
contained the remains of the Vietnam Unknown will remain vacant.
Items 2-7 and 9 are
from the Society of the Honor Guard
Tomb of the Unknown Soldier website. For more information about the tomb and the
Sentinels'' duties, go to their Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page. For more
information about items 1, 8 and the tomb go to Arlington National
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