The Tomb of the Unknowns: Here Rests In Honored Glory An American Soldier Known But To God
–Contributed by: J. (Pittman) Younkin
1. When was the tomb officially named?
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 officially named.
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.
6. How 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.
8. 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 Cemetery website.