View of Arlington National Cemetery.
Arlington National Cemetery, in Arlington, Virginia, is an American military cemetery established during the American Civil War on the grounds of Robert E. Lee's home, near Washington, D.C, next to where The Pentagon is now.
The Custis estate (Arlington Mansion and 200 acres of ground immediately surrounding it) was confiscated from Robert E. Lee during the Civil War, and was designated officially as a military cemetery June 15, 1864, by Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton. In 1882, after many years in the lower courts, the matter of the ownership of Arlington National Cemetery was brought before the United States Supreme Court. The Court affirmed a Circuit Court decision that the property in question rightfully belonged to the Lee Family. The United States Congress then appropriated the sum of $150,000 for the purchase of the property from the Lee Family.
The Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery is also known as the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, and has never been officially named. The Tomb of the Unknowns stands atop a hill overlooking Washington, D.C.
Other frequently visited sites in the cemetery are the USMC War Memorial, the Netherlands Carillon, and the grave of President John F. Kennedy. Kennedy is buried with his wife and some of their children. His grave is marked with an "Eternal Flame." His brother Senator Robert F. Kennedy is buried nearby.
Veterans from all the nation's wars are buried in the cemetery, from the American Revolution through the Persian Gulf War and Somalia. Pre-Civil War dead were reinterred after 1900.
The federal government dedicated a model community for freed slaves, Freedman's Village, near the current Memorial Amphitheater, Dec. 4, 1863. More than 1,100 freed slaves were given land 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.
In Section 27, are buried more than 3,800 former slaves, called "Contrabands" during the Civil War. Their headstones are designated with the word "Civilian" or "Citizen."
Arlington National Cemetery and Soldiers Home National Cemetery are administered by the Department of the Army. All other National Cemeteries are administered by the Department of Veterans Affairs, or the National Park Service.
Arlington House (Custis-Lee Mansion) and the grounds in its immediate vicinity are administered by the National Park Service.
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 20 a day.
With more than 260,000 people buried there, Arlington National Cemetery has the second-largest number of people buried of any national cemetery in the United States. Arlington National Cemetery conducts approximately 5,400 burials each year. The largest of the 130 national cemeteries is the Calverton National Cemetery, on Long Island, near Farmingdale, N.Y. That cemetery conducts more than 7,000 burials each year.
The Tomb of the Unknowns is one of the more-visited sites at Arlington National Cemetery The Tomb is made from Yule marble quarried in Colorado. It consists of seven pieces, with a total weight of 79 tons. The Tomb was completed and opened to the public April 9, 1932, at a cost of $48,000.
It was at first the "Tomb of the Unknown Soldier." Other unknown servicemen were later buried there, and the name became "Tomb of the Unknowns."
Unknown Soldier of World War I, interred Nov. 11, 1921. President Harding presided. Unknown Soldier of World War II, interred May 30, 1958. President Eisenhower presided. Unknown Soldier of the Korean Conflict, interred May 30, 1958. President Eisenhower presided, Vice President Nixon acted as next of kin. An Unknown Soldier of the Vietnam Conflict, interred May 28, 1984. President Reagan presided. The remains of the Vietnam Unknown were disinterred May 14, 1998, and were identified as those of Air Force 1st Lt. Michael J. Blassie, whose family has reinterred him near their home in St. Louis, Mo. 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 guarded by the U.S. Army 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. The 3rd U.S. Infantry (The Old Guard) began guarding the Tomb April 6, 1948.
On July 24, 1998, U.S. Capitol Police Officers John Michael Gibson, 42, and Jacob Joseph Chestnut, 58, were killed in the line of duty. They are buried in Arlington National Cemetery. Special Agent Gibson is buried in Section 28. Officer Chestnut, a retired Air Force master sergeant, is buried in Section 4.
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.
Some of the notable military figures buried here are:
- Dashiell Hammett, author
- Joe Louis, World Heavyweight boxing champion
- Lee Marvin, actor
- Audie Murphy, actor, America's most decorated combat soldier of WW II
- William Howard Taft, President, and Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.