The Meaning

The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier serves as a symbolic grave for all war dead whose remains have not been found or identified.

The Tomb began with one unknown service member from World War I, and today is the grave of three unidentified service members. Its meaning has evolved to represent the memory of all military members throughout American history.

History

The idea for the Tomb was inspired by ceremonies held in London and Paris in 1920, where the British and French interred Unknown Soldiers at the end of World War I. One of four exhumed American unknowns was selected in 1921 to be interred at Arlington National Cemetery.

Meaning

The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier serves as a symbolic grave for all war dead whose remains have not been found or identified.

The Tomb began with one unknown service member from World War I, and today is the grave of three unidentified service members. Its meaning has evolved to represent the memory of all military members throughout American history.

History

The idea for the Tomb grew out of ceremonies in London and Paris in 1920, when the British and French interred their Unknown Soldiers from World War I. One of four exhumed American unknowns was selected in 1921 to be interred at Arlington National Cemetery.

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Q&A

Ten Facts You May Not Know About the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

Servicemen in uniform guarding the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

Yes. Unidentified remains of our fallen from each war are interred on the Memorial Plaza. The first, located in the largest of the three are from WWI. WWII, Korea and empty crypt between from Vietnam are located behind the WWI in their own separate crypts. In total, three sets of remains who are Medal of Honor recipients are located on the Memorial Amphitheater plaza.

Yes. The regiment integrated (1994?) the tomb of the unknown soldier platoon, is an integrated platoon. There have been five women who have earned the Tomb Guard Identification Badge (www.tombguard.org)

Each soldier who serves the Tomb are three time volunteers. First, volunteer to serve the United States Army, second, volunteer to serve the 3d United States Infantry Regiment “The Old Guard”, third, volunteer to serve and start training as a Tomb Guard for the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

Yes. Tomb Guards are at the heart of what they do, human. You can’t drink on duty. But normal life’s liberties are something anyone has the freedom to enjoy.

“Sacrifice, suffering, and grief are synonymous with war. A nation of families, friends and citizens, mourning the loss of their loved ones, need closure in order to start their grieving process. They need a place that represents this loss and celebrates the service and sacrifice that protect the liberties of free nations. Special days were dedicated for paying tribute to those who served since the earliest days of U.S. history. Yet, at the beginning of the 20th century, there remained no singular place for Americans to visit in order to pay tribute to those who gave all. Considering the amount of sacrifices made throughout U.S. history, it seemed natural when the U.S. Congress enacted legislation following World War I to dedicate such a place. “We have had no national expression of any sort since the war ended that would give the people an opportunity to show their appreciation of the services over there of the young manhood of the nation and it seems to me it would be a very fine thing for Congress to make some provision for a ceremony that would give the people of the country an opportunity to do that.”

General of the Armies John Pershing (Reference- tombguard.org)

Typically, The President of the United States or his representative.

“On the morning of October 24, 1921, the French people began to gather near the town square in front of the Hôtel de Ville. Although the ceremony would not take place until 11:00AM, many were present to pay their respects. The original plan provided for an American officer to make the selection, much like the British, but at the last minute a non-commissioned officer was chosen by Major General Harry Rogers: he wanted someone that possibly served beside the Unknown Soldier in the trenches. Sergeant Edward F. Younger, of the Army of Occupation on the Rhine (assigned to the 50th Infantry), was designated to make the final selection: He was the recipient of two wound chevrons (precursor to the Purple Heart) and had fought on many of the same battlefields that the unknown candidates possibly fell. This ceremony, though simple was most impressive. While a French military band played, Sergeant Younger slowly entered the room where the four caskets were placed. Passing between two lines formed by the officials he silently advanced to the caskets, circled them three times and placed a spray of white roses on the third casket from the left. He then faced the body, stood at attention, and saluted. He was immediately followed by officers of the French Army who saluted in the name of the French people.”

Yes, the Regiment has participated in all recent conflicts.

Yes. Visitors can view the Memorial Amphitheater plaza during cemetery hours and if so choose to watch the changing of the guard every hour during the winter months, or every half hour during the summer months.

The United States Army was given the mission in 1926, starting with the 3d Cav Regt, the Old Guard took over the right in 1948.

Tour the Tomb

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Guarding the Tomb

Soldiers were first assigned to guard the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in 1926, to discourage visitors from climbing or stepping on it. In 1937, the guards became a 24/7 presence, standing watch over the Unknown Soldier at all times.

Snow, sleet, heat, wind and rain, they never give up the guard.

Spring

Fall

Summer

Winter

Every Minute of Every Day

The changing of the guard takes months to perfect but only minutes to perform. The routine is characterized by practiced precision performed by sentinels who are members of the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment, known as “The Old Guard.” There has been a sentinel on duty in front of the Tomb every minute of every day since 1937.

Soldiers who volunteer to become Tomb Guards undergo a strict selection process and intensive training. Each element of the routine has meaning, with the number 21 repeated to represent the highest symbolic military honor that can be bestowed: the 21-gun salute.

Centenarian Sentinel

At age 100, World War II veteran Jack Eaton returned to Arlington to visit the Tomb he guarded from 1938-1940.

The Sentinel's Creed

“My dedication to this sacred duty is total and whole-hearted. In the responsibility bestowed on me never will I falter. And with dignity and perseverance my standard will remain perfection. Through the years of diligence and praise and the discomfort of the elements, I will walk my tour in humble reverence to the best of my ability. It is he who commands the respect I protect, his bravery that made us so proud. Surrounded by well meaning crowds by day, alone in the thoughtful peace of night, this soldier will in honored glory rest under my eternal vigilance.”

Listen:

Click below to learn more about the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

Why is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier so important?

Are there remains in the Tomb?

Can women guard the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier?

How do soldiers get picked to guard the Tomb?

Who lays a wreath every year at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier?

Does ANC have another tomb for unknowns from other conflicts?

How many other unknowns are buried at ANC?

There are over 4,000 other unknowns buried at Arlington National Cemetery, from the Civil War through the 20th century.

Has anyone ever tried to get past the Tomb Guards, or attempted to deface the Tomb?

Do you have to pay to be buried at Arlington National Cemetery?

These Heroes Are Not Forgotten

Due to advances in recovery methods, science and technology, it is unlikely that additional unidentified service members will be added to the Tomb. The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency works to locate and identify all unaccounted for U.S. military personnel.