Unknowns and Old Guard

Beez Neez now Chy Whella
Big Bear and Pepe Millard
Sat 13 Aug 2011 22:37
Tomb of the Unknowns and the Soldiers Who Stand Guard

The Tomb - "Here Rests In Honored Glory An American Soldier Known But To God"


Tomb of the Unknowns: is also known as the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. It stands on top of a hill overlooking Washington, D.C. One of the more popular sites at the Cemetery, the tomb is made from Yule marble quarried in Colorado. It consists of seven pieces, with a total weight of seventy nine short tons. The tomb was completed and opened to the public on the 9th of April 1932, at a cost of $48,000. The Tomb has been perpetually guarded since the 2nd of July 1937, the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment ("The Old Guard") began guarding the Tomb on the 6th of April 1948.

The soldiers entombed here are:

  • Unknown Soldier of World War I, interred on the 11th of November 1921. President Warren G. Harding presided.
  • Unknown Soldier of World War II, interred on the 30th of May 1958. President Dwight D. Eisenhower presided.
  • Unknown Soldier of the Korean War, also interred on the 30th May 1958. President Dwight Eisenhower presided again, Vice President Richard Nixon acted as next of kin.
  • Unknown Soldier of the Vietnam War, interred on the 28th of May 1984. President Ronald Reagan presided. The remains of the Vietnam Unknown were disinterred, under the authority of President Bill Clinton, on the 14th of May 1998, and were identified as those of Air Force 1st Lt. Michael J. Blassie, whose family had him reinterred near their home in St. Louis, Missouri. 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 soldiers who stand guard at the Tomb of the Unknowns are considered to be the best of the elite 3d U.S. Infantry (The Old Guard), headquartered at Fort Meyer, Virginia. Tomb Guard Sentinels include both men and women, and are hand picked and rigorously trained. For a person to apply for guard duty at the Tomb, the applicant must be between 5' 11" and 6' 4" tall with a waist size that cannot exceed thity inches. Each Sentinel must be able to flawlessly perform seven different types of walks, honours and ceremonies, and retain vast amounts of knowledge concerning the Tomb, Arlington National Cemetery and the US Army. The average tour at the Tomb is about a year, although there is no set time for service. The Tomb has been guarded every minute of every day since 1937.
The Guard takes twenty one steps during his walk across the Tomb. It alludes to the twenty-one gun salute, which is the highest honor given any military or foreign dignitary. The Guard does not execute an about face. He stops on the twenty first step, then turns and faces the Tomb for twenty one seconds, he then turns to face back down the mat, changes his weapon to the outside shoulder, counts twenty one seconds, then another twenty one step walk down the mat.
The Guard's gloves are moistened to improve his grip on the rifle.
The Guard is changed every thirty minutes during the summer and every two during the winter and also when the cemetery is closed. 
The sad thing as we waited for the Changing of the Guard; an announcer had to remind the gathered crowd to be upstanding, be silent and turn off mobile phones. During the change a mobile went off and a young lady giggled as she told us all "It's mine". Bear took this picture of a girl actually doing some revision.
I know this is no Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace and should not be compared - however - I thought it strange that as the sergeant and soldier appeared at the far end, the first thing was a gun inspection, surely you don't leave the barracks with a dodgy weapon. I know it's just for the ceremonial purpose but it still looked odd. Plus the fact the sergeant (who turned his back on the Tomb) looked about twelve and the soldier about nine and DON'T get me started about the wearing of 'shades'.

Arlington National Cemetery Amphitheatre: The Tomb of the Unknowns is part of the Arlington Memorial Amphitheatre which has hosted state funerals, Memorial Day and Veterans Day ceremonies, also Easter. About 5,000 people attend these holiday ceremonies each year. The structure is mostly built of Imperial Danby marble from Vermont. The Memorial Display room, between the amphitheatre and the Tomb of the Unknowns, uses Botticino stone, imported from Italy. The amphitheatre was the result of a campaign by Ivory Kimball to construct a place to honour American soldiers. Congress authorised the structure on the 4th of March 1913. Woodrow Wilson laid the cornerstone for the building on the 15th of October 1915. The cornerstone contains fifteen items including a Bible and a copy of the Constitution.

Again very sad was the spectacle of an unshaved man in a vest split down both sides; gagging to get to puff on a cigarette whilst waiting for the bus, having raced through the amphitheatre, as he moved he showed way too much flesh and nipple.





 The Memorial Display room


Before the Amphitheatre was completed in 1921, important ceremonies were held at what is now known as the "Old Amphitheatre." This structure sits where Robert E. Lee once had his gardens. The amphitheatre was built in 1868 under the direction of General John A. Logan. Gen. James A. Garfield was the featured speaker at the Decoration Day dedication ceremony on the 30th of May 1868. The amphitheater has an encircling colonnade with a latticed roof that once supported a web of vines. The amphitheater has a marble dais, known as "the rostrum", which is inscribed with the U.S. national motto found on the Great Seal of the United States, E pluribus unum ("Out of many, one"). The amphitheatre seats 1,500 people and has hosted speakers such as William Jennings Bryan.



The Old Amphitheatre