This Month in Arlington History

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Twenty-eight years ago on Jan. 28, 1986, the country watched as the space shuttle Challenger exploded just moments into its launch from the Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral, Florida. The crew included schoolteacher Christa McAuliffe, shuttle commander Francis R. (Dick) Scobee, pilot Michael J. Smith, mission specialists Ellison S. Onizuka, Judith A. Resnik and Ronald E. McNair, and payload specialist Gregory B. Jarvis. The remains of the shuttle crew were located and identified in the weeks after the explosion; however, not all of the recovered remains could be individually identified. As a result, on May 20, 1986, the co-mingled remains of all seven Challenger astronauts were buried together in Section 46 at Arlington National Cemetery. The Challenger memorial was dedicated on March 21, 1987. It serves as the headstone for the remains which are in the base of the monument. 

Click here to learn more about the Challenger.


The USS Maine Mast Memorial in section 24 of Arlington National Cemetery was dedicated Feb. 15, 1915, 17 years after the battleship exploded on the night of Feb. 15, 1898 in Havana Harbor, Cuba. The mast is the actual main mast from the USS Maine. There are 229 casualties of the Maine buried in section 24 near the memorial.

Currently, the Mast of the Maine is undergoing a two-phase project by the National Park Service to restore features of the memorial that have been lost, damaged or altered over the years. The project is expected to be complete by Memorial Day 2014.

USS Maine Memorial

Click here to learn more about the USS Maine.


March is Women's History Month

In recognition of Women's History Month and Arlington National Cemetery's 150th anniversary, we recognize Civil War nurse Juliet Ann Opie Hopkins interred in section one at Arlington. She was known as the "Florence Nightingale of South." Born on a plantation in Jefferson County, West Virginia on May 7, 1818, Juliet Ann Opie relocated to Mobile, Alabama after marrying her second husband, Arthur F. Hopkins. When her husband was appointed to oversee Alabama hospitals, they sold their real estate and donated the money to the cause of the Confederate States of America. Juliet worked to convert three tobacco factories into hospitals and cared for patients. She also visited areas of conflict to care for the wounded. As the war efforts expanded into much of Alabama, Juliet and her husband were forced to take refuge in Georgia. After the war, they returned to Alabama where Arthur Hopkins died in November 1865. Juliet relocated to New York where she still owned property. She died at her daughter's home in Washington, D.C. on March 8, 1890. She is buried in section one at Arlington National Cemetery.Juliet Ann Opie Hopkins


Members of the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment - “The Old Guard” - have guarded the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier every second, of every day regardless of weather or holidays since April 6, 1948.

“The Old Guard” is the Army's official ceremonial unit and escort to the president, and it also provides security for Washington, D.C., in time of national emergency or civil disturbance.

The unit received its unique name from Gen. Winfield Scott during a victory parade at Mexico City in 1847 following its valorous performance in the Mexican War. Fifty campaign streamers attest to the 3rd Infantry's long history of service, which spans from the Battle of Fallen Timbers to World War II and Vietnam.

Since World War II, “The Old Guard” has served as the official Army Honor Guard and escort to the President. In that capacity, 3rd Infantry soldiers are responsible for conducting military ceremonies at the White House, the Pentagon, national memorials and elsewhere in the nation's capital. In addition to their 24-hour vigil at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, soldiers of “The Old Guard” provide military funeral escorts at Arlington National Cemetery and participate in parades at Fort Myer and Fort Lesley J. McNair.

For more on “The Old Guard” go to


Section 27 with Cherry Blossoms

Over 150 Years of Arlington National Cemetery

In May 1864, one month prior to its establishment as a national cemetery, the first military burials took place at Arlington National Cemetery. The four burials took place in Section 27, the oldest section of the cemetery:

  • Pvt. William Henry Christman, 67th Pennsylvania Infantry, was the first military service man interred in Arlington.
  • Pvt. William H. McKinney, 17th Pennsylvania Cavalry, was the first to have family present at funeral.
  • Pvt. William Reeves, 76th New York Infantry, was the first draftee interred.
  • Pvt. William Blatt, 49th Pennsylvania Infantry, was the first battle casualty interred.




Arlington National Cemetery was established June 15, 1864 by Brig. Gen. Montgomery C. Meigs, who commanded the garrison at Arlington House. A stone and masonry burial vault in the rose garden, 20 feet wide and 10 feet deep, and containing the remains of 1,800 Bull Run casualties, was among the first monuments to Union dead erected under Meigs' orders. Meigs himself was later buried within 100 yards of Arlington House with his wife, father and son; the final statement to his original order. Read more about the history of Arlington National Cemetery.

Section 1



Korean War Memorial Bench

A memorial bench sits in silent remembrance of the departed and the missing near the Memorial Amphitheater at Arlington National Cemetery.

On July 27, 1953, the armistice ending the Korean War was signed. The United States, North Korea and China signed the armistice, which ended the war which began in 1950. A total of 33,651 service members died in battle during the Korean War: U.S. Army - 27,709; U.S. Marines - 4,269; U.S. Air Force - 1,198; and U.S. Navy - 475. A total of 7,140 service members became prisoners of war. The Unknown from the Korean conflict was interred at the Tomb of the Unknowns on Memorial Day, May 30, 1958 and symbolically represents all Americans who died during that war.


On the morning of August 2, 1943, PT-109 was rammed by the Japanese Destroyer AMAGIRI while patrolling in the Blackett Strait near the Island of Kolombangara. The ramming cut away the PT boat's starboard side and left her completely disabled. As the ship slowly sank, the crew abandoned ship to swim to a nearby island. With the aid of local residents, the crew was returned to the Rendova PT Base on August 8, 1943. PT-109 was commanded by an officer who later became President of the United States, Lieutenant (Junior Grade) John F. Kennedy. He is buried in section 45.

John F. Kennedy Grave


Major General Philip Kearny, Jr., United States Army, died September 1, 1862. He was known for his fearless character in battle earning him the nickname "Kearny the Magnificent." He is also known for his leadership in the Mexican-American War and American Civil War. During a battle in the Mexican-America War, Kearny led a daring cavalry charge and suffered a wound to his left arm which was later amputated. After the war, Kearny served in Army recruiting in New York City. While there, he was promoted to major but later resigned his commission. When the American Civil War broke out in 1861, Kearny returned to the Army and was appointed a brigadier general. The Army had been reluctant to restore his commission due to his disability, but realized the need for experienced combat officers like Kearny. He was killed in action in the 1862 Battle of Chantilly. Kearny was buried at Trinity Churchyard in New York. In 1912, his remains were exhumed and re-interred at Arlington National Cemetery in section 2, under the equestrian statue in his honor.

Kearny Memorial


On October 12, 2000, the U.S. Navy destroyer, the USS Cole docked for refueling at the port of Aden in Yemen. At approximately 11:18 a.m. local time, a small craft approached the port side of the ship and set off an explosion. The terrorist organization al-Qaeda took responsibility for the attack. The blast put a 40-by-40 foot gash in the port side of the destroyer, taking the lives of 17 sailors and injuring 39 others. Electronics Technician Chief Petty Officer Richard D. Costelow, Signalman Seaman Cherone L. Gunn, and Hull Maintenance Technician Petty Officer 2nd Class Class Kenneth E. Clodfelter, three of the 17 victims, were laid to rest side-by-side in Section 60 of Arlington National Cemetery.

USS Cole Memorial


The Funeral of President John F. Kennedy

The nation had experienced the assassination of a president three times before November 1963. But for the first time in history, the nation could watch as the state funeral of President John F. Kennedy took place in Washington, DC, Monday, Nov. 25, 1963. 

The funeral cortege made the three mile march from St. Matthew's Cathedral to Arlington where Cardinal Richard J. Cushing, Archbishop of Boston, conducted the burial service. At the end of the service, Mrs. Kennedy lit the torch that would become the eternal flame.

Read more about the planning and preparations for the state funeral of President Kennedy at

John F. Kennedy Funeral


Freedman's Village

One hundred fifty years ago on Dec. 4, 1863, the federal government officially dedicated Freedman's Village, a model community for freed slaves, with a ceremony attended by members of Congress and other notables. Arlington Estate was selected as the site for Freedmen's Village May 5, 1863 because of its location outside of Washington where camps were overcrowded and in poor condition. More than 1,100 freed slaves lived at Freedman's Village where they farmed and lived during and after the Civil War. The village provided housing, education, employment training, medical care, and food. An 1865 plan of the village shows an organized community with over fifty residences, a hospital, a school, an "old people's home" and a laundry.

Freedman's Village Map