A Tragedy After the Unknown’s Funeral: Charles Whittlesey and the Costs of Heroism

By JENIFER LEIGH VAN VLECK on 11/17/2021

On November 24, 1921, two weeks after he and other Medal of Honor recipients participated in the funeral of the Unknown Soldier, Colonel Charles Whittlesey boarded the S.S. Toloa, en route to Havana, Cuba from New York. At the beginning of the voyage, nothing seemed out of the ordinary. On November 26, around 11:30 PM, Whittlesey announced that he was retiring for the night. He was never seen or heard from again. 

Frank Witchey: The Maestro of the Trumpet

By JENIFER LEIGH VAN VLECK on 11/5/2021

As we commemorate the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier centennial, today we highlight one of the individuals who played—literally—a key role in the 1921 funeral ceremony: Army bugler Frank Witchey.

Graves B. Erskine: Marine Hero Who Commanded the Unknown Soldier’s Honor Guard

By JENIFER LEIGH VAN VLECK on 11/4/2021

In honor of the 246th birthday of the United States Marine Corps (USMC) on November 10, and the 100th anniversary of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier on November 11, we highlight Graves B. Erskine, who is buried in Section 5 of the cemetery. A USMC World War I veteran and future general, then-Captain Erskine commanded the guard of honor that watched over the Unknown’s casket during its turbulent voyage from France to the United States aboard the USS Olympia from October 25 to November 9, 1921.

Chief Plenty Coups and the American Indian Tribute to the Unknown

By JENIFER LEIGH VAN VLECK on 10/29/2021

Chief Plenty Coups, the last traditional chief of the Apsáalooke (Crow) tribe of the Great Plains, was among the distinguished dignitaries at the burial of the World War I Unknown Soldier on November 11, 1921. Chosen to represent American Indian peoples at the funeral service, he presented several culturally significant gifts to the Unknown: a coup stick and lance (originally bundled together) and a war bonnet.

How to Get to the #Tomb100 Flower Ceremony

By JENIFER LEIGH VAN VLECK on 10/28/2021

Are you planning on attending the Public Flower Ceremony as part of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier Centennial Commemoration? If so, this blog post is for you! Below is everything you need to know about how to get to Arlington National Cemetery and how to participate. 

Teaching and Learning About the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

By JENIFER LEIGH VAN VLECK on 10/27/2021

As part of Arlington National Cemetery’s new Education Program, an educational module on the history and significance of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is available at https://education.arlingtoncemetery.mil. The module is a resource for teachers, students and adult “lifelong learners.” It includes lesson plans, assignments and primary source readings for elementary, middle and high school students, as well as self-guided walking tours that can be used to explore the cemetery either virtually or in person. Lesson plans align with national and state social studies standards and can be easily adapted for homeschooling or virtual learning.

The Centennial Flower Ceremony: Meaning, Symbolism and History

By JENIFER LEIGH VAN VLECK on 10/27/2021

On November 9 and 10, 2021, the public will have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to commemorate the centennial of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier by participating in a special flower ceremony at the Tomb. Rife with meaning, this special event references significant moments and symbols from the Tomb’s history.

Andre Maginot: The French Patriot Who Bade Farewell to the Unknown Soldier

By JENIFER LEIGH VAN VLECK on 10/22/2021

On October 25, 1921, France’s Minister of Pensions, André Maginot, stood before the flag-draped casket of America’s Unknown Soldier on the dock at Le Havre, France. Flanked by members of the American and French military, civilians, and cameramen, he concluded his remarks by speaking to both the American Unknown Soldier and the French Unknown Soldier: “We can no more separate you than we can separate the two flags which the enemy brought together,” he stated. Then, tall and erect even while leaning on a cane, Maginot placed the French Legion of Honor medal on the casket before it was borne on the shoulders of American sailors and marines for the journey home aboard the USS Olympia.

A Humble Sergeant: Edward F. Younger and the Unknown Soldier

By JENIFER LEIGH VAN VLECK on 10/20/2021

On October 24, 1921, when Sergeant Edward F. Younger entered City Hall in Châlons-sur-Marne, France, and gazed upon the four identical caskets that lay before him, he embarked on a task that forever linked him to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

Patton and World War I’s Unknown Soldier

By JENIFER LEIGH VAN VLECK on 10/20/2021

In 1921, Major George S. Patton Jr. held an important role during ceremonies for America’s World War I Unknown Soldier. The man who would become an iconic general, known for commanding victorious armies in World War II, was then the commander of the 3rd Cavalry Regiment’s 3rd Cavalry Squadron. On November 9, 1921, Patton helped escort the Unknown Soldier’s casket from the USS Olympia to the U.S. Capitol, where the Unknown would lie in state for two days. On November 11, the day of the Unknown’s burial ceremony, he marched in the procession that escorted the casket to Arlington National Cemetery.