The first headstones at Arlington National Cemetery were simple white headstones with the personal information and gravesite number etched into the stone. Later, lithochrome (a special type of water-resistant paint applied to headstones/markers that darkens all of the letters) was introduced to make the inscriptions easier to read. Over time, depending on location, conditions and the specific lithochrome paint used, the blackening fades. The fading occurs in a very non-uniform way, both within a particular headstone and across a section. Additionally, there are sections that were traditionally non-lithochromed where lithochromed headstones have been introduced. The current policy states that headstones will be ordered consistent with the character of the section in which they are to be placed.
- Headstones ordered for sections 54, 59, 60, and 64, as well as niche covers for the Columbarium and Niche Wall, will be lithochromed.
- Lithochrome will not be used when ordering headstones for any other section.
- Headstones and niche covers will only be replaced because of fading, if requested by the immediate next-of-kin as listed on the original record of interment.
- Any new sections or sections not listed above will not have lithochrome.