Hey, everyone. It’s been a while since I’ve written a Mystery Monday post. This time, it’s more history than mystery, except for the names of the three men interred in a tomb in Arlington National Cemetery.
I wrote this post for Veteran’s Day back in 2019 but decided to take off for NaNoWriMo. Since Memorial Day—a time in which we honor the men and women who gave their lives in service of our country—is later this month, I thought this was a more appropriate time to share it.
I had the privilege of visiting The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier a few years ago and was able to see the changing of the guard ceremony. It was a touching and somber occasion. Here’s a bit of the history behind the tomb.
On Memorial Day 1921, the bodies of four unknown soldiers who served in World War I were exhumed from American Cemeteries in France.
Army Sgt. Edward F. Younger, a highly decorated veteran of the Great War, selected the first unknown soldier from four identical caskets. The chosen one was transported to the United States on the USS Olympia. The remaining three were interred in Meuse Argonne Cemetery in France.
The Unknown was interred in the tomb on November 11, 1921, with President Warren G. Harding officiating at the ceremony.
In 1956, President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed a bill to honor unknowns from World War II and the Korean Conflict.
Two unknowns from World War II—one from the Pacific Conflict, the other from the European Theater were exhumed. Four unknowns from the Korean War were disinterred from the National Cemetery of the Pacific in Hawaii.
Army Master Sgt. Ned Lyle made the final selection. Both caskets lay in state at the Capitol Rotunda from May 28 – May 30, 1958.
President Eisenhower awarded both the Medal of Honor. They were then laid to rest beside their World War I comrade.
The Unknown service member from the Vietnam War was designated by Medal of Honor recipient U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Maj. Allan Jay Kellogg Jr. during a ceremony at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, May 17, 1984.
An Army caisson carried the Vietnam Unknown from the Capitol to the Memorial Amphitheater at Arlington National Cemetery on Memorial Day, May 28, 1984. President Reagan presided over the funeral and presented the Medal of Honor to the Vietnam Unknown.
On May 14, 1998, the Vietnam Unknown’s remains were exhumed. Mitochondrial DNA testing confirmed the body was that of Air Force First Lt. Michael Joseph Blassie, who was shot down in 1972. Blassie’s remains were returned to his family in St. Louis, Missouri, and he was reinterred at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery.
A marker over the crypt where his body once rested now reads, “Honoring and Keeping Faith with America’s Missing Servicemen.”
With advancements in DNA testing, there likely will never be another unknown soldier. However, the three entombed in Arlington serve as a reminder of the sacrifice made by many.