Hundreds of group burial markers can be found in Arlington National Cemetery. Importantly, a group burial differs from the gravesite of an unknown service member. In a group burial, remains have been identified, but due to the circumstances of death, individuals cannot be separately distinguished. In such cases, the Department of Defense directs that all remains be interred together, marked by a headstone with each person's name and other pertinent data.
Group burials at Arlington National Cemetery include:
The largest group burial at Arlington National Cemetery took place on June 15, 1949, when 250 men from the USS Serpens were interred in 52 caskets. These men — 193 U.S. Coast Guard sailors, 56 U.S. Army soldiers and a U.S. Public Health Service surgeon — died on the night of January 29, 1945, when the U.S. Coast Guard ammunition ship exploded and sank at Lunga Beach, Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands. Their names are inscribed on the octagonal memorial.
In front of the Memorial Amphitheater, a memorial commemorates 18 sailors who died aboard the aircraft carrier USS Forrestal during the Vietnam War. On July 29, 1967, while patrolling the South China Sea, the Forrestal caught on fire. Caused by an electrical surge on the flight deck, the fire spread quickly and detonated a bomb. One hundred thirty-four personnel lost their lives in the accident, one of the worst in the Navy's post-World War II history.
In April 1980, eight U.S. service members were killed during a commando raid while attempting to rescue 53 American hostages in Teheran, Iran. Three are buried together across from the Memorial Amphitheater. A large, square headstone reads, "Killed in the line of duty — Iran." While offering no details about the rescue mission, the marker stands in silent tribute to those who sacrificed their lives while endeavoring to save others.
On September 12, 2002, a funeral service for the 184 victims of the September 11, 2001 attack on the Pentagon was held at Memorial Amphitheater. While the service honored all 184 victims, it offered special recognition to the five families that did not receive any recovered remains of their loved ones. Following the service, a group burial was held in Section 64. A five-sided granite group marker stands over the gravesite, bearing the names of all those who perished in the Pentagon or aboard American Airlines Flight 77.