The Story of the Unknown Soldier
Final Resting Place of America's Unkown Soldier in Washington, DC. Underwood & Underwood. GGA Image ID # 1805604229
Brought from France Aboard Admiral Dewey's Old Flagship and Tenderly Carried from the " Olympia " to Rotunda of Capitol.
A plain soldier, unknown but weighted with honors as perhaps no American before him because he died for the flag in France, lay in a place where only martyred Presidents Lincoln, Garfield, and McKinley have slept in death.
He kept lonely vigil lying in state under the vast, shadowy dome of the Capitol. Only the motionless figures of the five armed comrades, one at the head and one facing inward at each corner of the coffin, kept watch with him.
But far above, towering from the great bulk of the dome, the brooding figure of Freedom watched too, as though it said "well done" to the servant faithful unto death, asleep there in the vast, dim chamber below.
America's unknown dead is home from France at last, and the nation has no honor too great for him. In him, it pays its unstinted tribute of pride and glory to all those sleeping in the far soil of France. It was their homecoming day, their day of days in the heart of the nation, and they must have known it for the heartbeat of a nation defies the laws of space, even of eternity.
Drenched skies and a gray, creeping chilling rain all through the day seemed to mark the mourning of this American soil and air at the coffin of this unknown hero. But no joy of the full maid of honor was denied the dead on that account. From the highest officials of this democratic government to the last soldier or marine or bluejacket, rain and cold meant nothing besides the desire to do honor to the dead.
Flag Draped Casket of Unknown Soldier on the Cruiser USS Olympia. GGA Image ID # 180589c2fe
The ceremonies were brief. They began when the far boom of saluting cannon down the river signaled the great gray cruiser Olympia's coming. The fog of rain hid her slow approach up the Potomac, but fort by fort, post by post, the guns took up the tale of honors for the dead as she passed.
Slowly the ship swung into her dock. Along her rails stood her crew in long dark blue lines, rigid at attention and with a solemn expression uncommon to the young faces beneath the jaunty sailor hats. Astern, under the long, gray muzzle of a gun that once echoed its way into history more than twenty years ago in Manila Bay, lay the flag-draped casket.
Above a tented awning held off the dripping rain, the inner side of the canvas lined with great American flags to make a canopy for the sleeper below. At attention stood five sailors and marines as guards of honor for the dead at each corner and the head of his casket.
Below on the cobbled stretch of the old dock at Washington Navy Yard, a regiment of cavalry waited, sabers at “present,” and the black-draped gun caisson with its six black horses to carry the casket to the Capitol. The troopers formed in a line facing toward the ship as she swung broadside to her place, and the gangway was lifted to her quarterdeck. To their right, a mounted band stilled its restless horses.
On the ship, the trim files of her marine guard stood at attention. Rear-Admiral Lloyd H. Chandler, to whom had fallen the duty of escorting this dead private soldier over the Atlantic from France, was garbed in the full, formal naval dress as were officers of his staff.
Just as the ship’s bell clanged out the quick, double strokes of “eight bells,” the sailors’ four o’clock and the hour set for arrival, the bugles rang again, and the crew again lined the rails far above the dock.
The marine guard filed down the gangway to face the troopers across the pier, the ship’s band came down and formed beyond the marines.
On deck at the gangway head, four sides-boys took their place on each side facing toward each other, the boatswain waiting behind them to pipe a dead comrade over the side with the honors accorded only to full Admirals of the fleet.
Cars bearing Secretaries Weeks and Denby, Assistant Secretary Wainwright, General Pershing, Major General Harbord, Admiral Coontz, and Major General Lejeune, the Marine commandant, and their aides rolled up, with Secretary Weeks on the right next to the gangway and Secretary Denby next, then General Pershing and Admiral Coontz; these highest officers of the army and navy formed in a line facing down the open space between the troops and marines.
On deck, the bugles called attention. A group of petty officers stepped forward to raise the casket. A forward gun crashed to the first drumming roll of the minute guns of sorrow. The Olympia's band sounded the opening chords of Chopin's "Funeral March," and to the slow half-step and carried high on his navy and marine corps comrades' shoulders. The unknown was tenderly lifted down the steep pitch to the dock.
Admiral Chandler and his aides came behind, cocked hats off in the cold rain, and held across their breasts. Below, the cabinet members also stood bareheaded in the rain, the army and navy officers at salute.
Just as the casket passed out through the rails, overside to the plank, the wail of the bo’sun’s pipe sounded shrilling the last salute of the sea to the dead. It sounded oddly against the background of the lament, and as the sound of the pipe died away, the gun forward barked the passing of another minute again.
Step by step, the bearers labored down the plank, sanded against the slippery murk of the rain, to the cobbled dock floor below. Again the pipe above wailed as they stepped ashore at last, and the unknown was again on American soil.
Slowly the flag-draped casket moved down between the line of troops and marines and under the eyes of the bluejackets standing rigidly at the ship’s rails high above.
As they came abreast of the ship’s band, the lament was stilled, a marine bugler sounded four flourishes of salute to a general officer. Then the stirring, lifting strains of “The Star-Spangled Banner” rang out to the gray sky, the nation’s hymn of freedom.
Again the bearers took up the slow march to the waiting gun carriage; furthermore, the funeral march's wail cut through with the crash of the gun above sounded.
The caisson waited in a space between the second and third squadrons of the Third Cavalry's full strength from Fort Myer. Beside it stood the Army's eight body bearers headed by Sergeant Woodfill, a hero of heroes among Americans who fought in France.
The soldiers took over the burden at the gun carriage and could be seen a withered handful of flowers, the only decoration on the flag-wrapped casket.
They were the blooms with which this casket was chosen from others there in France before the long journey home began. Through it all, they have lain there above the breast of the dead, yellowing with each passing day. They will go with the unknown to his last sleep in the stone crypt at Arlington.
As the casket was strapped in place, an order rang out, and the cavalry band swung off to the left, playing “Onward Christion Soldiers.” Behind them, sabers, cap brims and saturated colors dripping with rain, came the troopers four abreast, troop after troop; then the caisson, the following squadron, Secretaries Weeks and Denby riding together in a closed car, General Pershing and Admiral Coontz, and behind these the other officers and officials.
The horses swung away at a slow trot. Ahead the winding road to the old gateway was lined on either side with marines at present arms.
Behind them, row after row of thousands of just plain American citizens who had braved cold and rain for hours to stand bareheaded as the body of this honored fellow countryman was carried by.
Out through the gateway, the cortege clattered to find other crowds lining the way under the daylight of a fading Autumn day. It moved quickly on through the streets, ringing to the band's melody and the horses' shoes' drumming on the wet pavement.
On it went, to swing at last into the great plaza before the Capitol and there, troopers again drew up in line, facing the massive building with sabers at "present" as the casket was lifted down and carried up the broad stairway to be placed on the catafalque in the dim rotunda. The two Secretaries, bareheaded, followed and behind them the officers and others.
There were few in the great hall. The only lights were those high among the pillars above the sculptured walls, and the last fading gleams of the day through the high windows.
The waiting guard, which would stand through the long night about the bier, stood at present arms as the casket was carried in and set in place on the high, black-draped structure on which McKinley's body was last to repose in state.
There was a pause then until the ring of command out on the plaza, the flurry of drawn steel as the sabers of the cavalry leaped out again to present announcing that President and Mrs. Harding had arrived. The last rites of the day were at hand.
As the President and Mrs. Harding came into the dim chamber, brilliant lights leaped up to make possible a picturing of the scene for all America to see. The cameras clicked. There was no other sound. About the bier, the guard stood with rifle butts grounded.
Mrs. Harding stepped forward, a wide white ribbon in her hand. She had stitched it herself, and stepping up on the base of the catafalque, she laid it across the casket, a slash of white across the rain-sodden flag with its withered cluster of French flowers.
President Harding Decorates Casket of Unknown Soldier with Silver Shield. GGA Image ID # 18059f323d
As Mrs. Harding stepped down, the President took her place and to the ribbon pinned a silver shield of the United States, set with forty-eight golden stars. It is symbolic of the heart of the nation that goes with this soldier to his tomb.
Then a wondrous wreath of crimson roses was handed to Mr. Harding, and he laid it softy on the casket near the head and gave place to Vice-President Coolidge and Speaker Gillett. They moved forward together to lay the tribute of Congress, a wreath of pink roses and snapdragons, in place.
Chief Justice Taft moved forward from the opposite side, bearing the Supreme Court's floral tribute, a wreath of chrysanthemums and carnations.
Secretary Weeks laid the army’s token of remembrance, a wreath of white roses, against the casket at the head, and Secretary Denby placed the Navy’s offering, chrysanthemums, and roses, set on an easel, at the foot of the bier.
Over and to one side, against the wall, were placed the great masses of pink blossoms that were warmed to life by France's sun to be carried all the long way on the Olympia.
Then General Pershing stepped forward to place his tribute and that of the American Expeditionary Force on this unknown, gallant comrade’s coffin. It was a wreath of giant pink chrysanthemums, and as he placed it, the officer paused a moment, then stepped back a pace or two and, drawing his figure to its full height, lifted his hand to cap brim in rigid salute to the dead.
Thousands Mourn Dead in Capitol Rotunda.
Great and small folks moved in endless procession through the Capitol's rotunda to pay tribute to the Unknown Dead lying in state there as only Presidents have known.
The day was set aside for it. All who could speak for groups in the land or the powers of the world were free to place their floral offerings at his bier.
Hour by hour, the heaping flowers about the casket grew mountain high and spread about the vast chamber. Flowers that bloomed in France were there, and flowers brought in all their beauty from South Africa, 9,000 miles away.
There was not a minute of the day unclaimed by those who would do honor to the dead. There was no organization of veterans or patriotic people over the land unrepresented.
Among the most formal of the pilgrimages to this shrine of patriotic valor was that planned by the British Embassy. From the embassy building, there was arranged a parade headed by Arthur J. Balfour, head of the British delegation to Washington and former Prime Minister, and Sir Auckland Geddes, British Ambassador. Nearly a score of automobiles formed the procession, and two motor trucks carried the flowers.
A wreath from King George was among them, Lord Cavan acting for the King. It bore the legend: As Unknown, and yet well known; As dying, and behold, we live.
There was a wreath, too, from Canada, its inscription saying But that which put the Glory of Grace into All that he did was that he did it of pure Love to his Country.
That from Premier Lloyd George said: Nameless, yet his name liveth evermore.
And that from India said: They never die who die to make life worth living.
There were wreaths also from Australia and New Zealand, and all of these except that from India were made of flowers grown in English soil, brought over as living plants.
From the Grand Army of United Veterans of Canada came a wreath placed by Sergeant Richardson, the oldest living wearer of the Victoria Cross. There were flowers from Newfoundland, and from the Army and Navy War Veterans of Canada came a memorial woven of poppies that bloom in Flanders fields.
Besides all the civil dignitaries Great Britain sent to pay homage went Earl Beatty, Admiral of the Fleet, Air Vice-Marshal Higgins, and others whose roles in the war in which this unknown soldier died were great.
The flowers were handled by his comrades of many British service armies, men who also fought in France or on the sea in the great struggle.
Dawn found a brilliant November sun bursting its way through the clouds and thrusting long, golden fingers through the windows high above the simple bier in the dim, silent chamber.
All through the night, five armed men stood motionless about the catafalque in the center of the great granite circle of the rotunda, watching with the dead comrade as they will watch until he is carried away to sleep out time in the quiet Virginia hills.
As the first line stepped within the hall, from the group beside the bier where the flowers were being set in place, male voices rose in blended harmonies that woke the echoes in the high-vaulted roof above, now flooded with sunlight. They sang the last verse of "America": Long may our land be bright, With freedom's holy light.
They sang with a peal of victory and no hint of sorrow. And the last notes died away down the long corridors to the right and left as the line that gave the great public its place in the ceremonies moved slowly on and out the western entrance.
About the casket, on its low base, those who passed by saw the five soldiers, still as though carved from bronze in their khaki trappings.
At the head, arms rigid at his sides, his head bent forward until the tan brim of his cap hid his eyes, stood the noncommissioned officer, the red of his chevrons coloring his sleeve.
At each corner, facing inward toward the center, stood a soldier, rifle butt grounded on the stone flagging, body rigidly erect, but also with head bent forward until cap brim was level with the point of his gleaming bayonet.
These soldiers moved not a muscle except at stated intervals when slight changes of position, made simultaneously, eased the physical strain.
By 10 o'clock, a steady stream of people—soldiers, men, women, and children, white and black—had begun a continuous march through the rotunda.
Secretary Weeks, Assistant Secretary Wainwright, and Gen. Harbord were present, waiting to receive foreign delegations. On each of which was the State's shield, Floral designs from every State completely circled the rotunda.
All delegations came in from the north entrance and stood by the ceremony's catafalque as the line continued to stream through.
The first delegation was a committee of the Federal Council of Churches of Christ in America, representing the United States' Protestant churches.
Within the fifteen minutes allotted to it, prayer was offered by Bishop McDowell of the Methodist Episcopal Church and a short eulogy of the dead delivered by Dr. William Adams Brown of Union Theological Seminary of New York.
As noon drew near, the number of those in line to pass by the bier increased in numbers, and while there were gaps in the line at times, the people moved through almost at the rate of 100 a minute.
At stated intervals, delegations approached the catafalque for a brief memorial service, each leaving a wreath. So numerous were the wreaths that guards picked them up and took them away, leaving room for others to come during the day and night.
Premier Briand, and the French delegation to the Armament Conference, carrying a huge bunch of pink chrysanthemums tied with France's tricolor, entered the rotunda at 11 o'clock. The Premier stood silently for a moment and then moved out with his party.
Many persons in the public line carried floral offerings of their own on which there seldom was a card. In nearly every instance, these voluntary offerings were held by a child, of all those filing through one door and out another, older adults, the grandparents of some soldier perhaps, were the most visibly affected, tears streaming down their cheeks as they turned around for a farewell look at the flower-covered coffin.
A three-foot bronze statue symbolizing the "Angel of Peace" was placed on the catafalque as the President of the Chinese Republic's gift. It was to be unveiled later in the day by the Chinese Minister.
Shortly after the American Red Cross, six army divisions and the army and navy union tributes were placed upon the bier. Two Hoboken war mothers approached, saluted, and added their wreath. However, the ordeal overtaxed one of them, who sobbingly gave way to her grief and had to be assisted out of the rotunda.
As the city schools let out, great crowds of children joined the mourning marchers. At regular intervals, the soldier's guard of honor changed, and negro troops took their turn.
A frail woman, aged and bent, stopped at the bier and dropped a handful of withered roses. As she turned away, she seized a soldier guard by the arm and tried to have him answer, but he remained motionless. Many of the women in the line were weeping as they left the rotunda.
As the afternoon drew on, the crowd increased, the line, five abreast, extending across the plaza to the east of the Capitol. From two directions, a multitude streamed, funnel-like, to find its place at the head.
Instead of being late, the ceremonies by various organizations that placed wreaths upon the coffin were run ahead of time. The rotunda was filled with flowers.
The line of march represented every class and every age. Many tragic scenes unfolded as men and women whose sons had not come back from the front halted at the bier. Led by a little girl, a blind man, responding to her signal, stopped there and, crossing himself, passed on.
River of Humanity Passes Historic Catafalque
A river of humanity, American men, women, and children, Americans by heritage, Americans by election, flowed all day and far into the night past the bier of the unknown soldier, under the great dome of the Capitol.
It flowed as the lifeblood of the nation itself—a slow but overwhelming torrent of humanity, gathered to attest the courage of America’s dead in France.
From early day until fifteen minutes before midnight, the great stream surged up the eastern front of the rotunda, four abreast, up the granite stairway, in through the massive doorway, to pass solemnly, reverently, by the casket and its five guards, motionless as the statues of Lincoln and Grant at the far entrance which looked down on the moving spectacle.
Out through the doorway, the stream passed, through the stately corridor and its marble stairway and down over the western front's expansive terraces to the city's homes below.
Each hour saw thousands make the slow journey of honor to the dead. Each hour saw new thousands pouring up the wide driveways that circle the great building to replenish the living stream.
The Capitol police estimated that from 90,000 to 96,000 people had filed through the rotunda.
That was the overshadowing element in the cycle of honors heaped upon this nameless soldier, this son of the people come home to claim the great reward his valiant heart had earned.
And it was his people, of every nook of the nation, that silently gave this reward, more precious than any jeweled or carven token that governments of the world will place above the still breast of the sleeper.
To one side of the crowd that rolled carelessly by the flag-draped casket, a second unending ceremonial of honors for the dead went on.
There great men, gathered in Washington to deal with great affairs, came humbly to place their wreaths and roses at the bier. There came comrades, limping from wounds that brought them down in France.
There came gray-haired veterans of old wars, moved to do honor to the young, stricken comrade of the last great struggle; there, in an ordered course, came the ambassadors and the ministers and the special envoys of governments around the world.
There were formal services here, always with the human river's shuffling footsteps beyond merging with the prayers and the chants and the spoken tributes to the dead.
Like those wounded boys from France, some stood awed and abashed at the solemn majesty that had come to this comrade. They placed their wreaths in wordless praise, their wounds and the eyes of that great, endless, living river beyond making them awkward, their crutches and canes tapping on the cold stones as they shuffled back into the obscurity they craved.
Came, too, black-gowned women, many bowed and grayed with age and sorrow, and all were wearing in pride the golden star that tells of a son who died over there.
They always brought with their dowers the great stars that bring to this unknown son of liberty a message from those comrades whose names stand above all others in the role of the nation’s servants—the wondrous scroll of those who, like him, died for the flag.
As the hours moved by, the chamber's vast reaches seemed all too small to house the growing mass of flowers. As each cluster was set in place, roses that blossomed in France or England, that bloomed in Canada or South Africa, poppies that thrust up their slender stems through blood-drenched Flanders fields, and flowers of every color and hue that blossom under American skies— the air grew heavy with the fragrance.
Soldier guards stepped out to move each tribute after it had been set, and the long, rounded sweep of granite wall was banked with wreaths and greens over its whole length, and every vantage point over the stone floor held its weight of beauty, its share of honor for the brave dead.
Night had fallen before the soldiers, and their comrade marines, who jointly shared the honor of guarding the resting place of the unknown dead, moved to check the stream of humanity that continued its measured flow. Another moment in his great hour of all eternity had ended for the Unknown, known to all the nation by his death.
The lights in the vaulted chamber dwindled and died to a dim glow, the great bronze doors swung shut, and, alone again with the tireless comrades who kept the last vigil with him, America’s Unknown from France was left to await the dawn and the coming of the procession in which the President and all the highest figures in American national life will walk humbly to carry him to the grave.
Nameless Hero’s Tomb Overlooks Washington
High on a wooded ridge beside the Potomac, America’s nameless hero will sleep bivouacked with the brave of many wars.
Everywhere about his simple tomb, over the swelling slopes or in the shaded canyons of Arlington National Cemetery, stand monuments and headstones on which are graven names that also are written imperishably in the pages of glory that make the nation’s history. There, too, are stones, amid the long rows, to mark other unknown dead of other wars, and the bulk of the monument above the single grave where rest the unknown of the war between the States, gathered from many battlefields.
But for the newcomer from France among this fellowship of valor, a special place of honor has been made. He will sleep in a narrow crypt, hewn out of the live stone that forms the terrace of the memorial amphitheater erected to consecrate the memory of men everywhere who died for the flag.
Above his casket, a massive block of stone, carved with the brief legend of a nation’s tribute to all those who sleep unknown in France, will be placed. On it also will go the long list of honors the country and the great powers of the world have lavished on the soldiers who gave their identity and their lives on French battlefields.
Above the great stone towers, the marble-pillared façade of the amphitheater crowned the ridge and looked down over a sweeping vista of quiet hills and peaceful countryside to the broad waters of the river.
Beyond stands Washington city in the haze of distance. Over it, dimly visible, looms the great figure of Freedom on the dome of the Capitol; farther down Washington Monument thrusts a slender gray finger to challenge the attention of the very sky to the deeds of peace and war it commemorates; closer still looms the square white bulk of Lincoln Memorial, at the river brim, sealing a people’s tribute to a martyred leader.
Fold on the fold. The calm hills drop away from the terrace where the sleeper from France lies honored but unknown. At his feet, a sculptured marble balustrade sweeps out on either side, marking the sweeping, graceful curve of the footway that drops down to the grass-grown slopes where day by day, many a gallant comrade from France is finding his last resting place.
Down there, the new headstones gleam in countless variety. There is hardly an hour of any day when sorrowing relatives are not moving slowly among the fresh graves, giving loving care to flowers on the low mounds.
On the headstones are cut the names, the dates of birth and death of the dead, and names of French villages where they made their great sacrifice. Man by man, their record is written for all to know and honor.
But for the nameless one, asleep on the terrace above, there are no relatives. He lies alone in the mystery of death. Laden with honors beyond any of his fellows below, there is none to tell of the way of his life and his death, of whence he came or of what he was, save that he died in France at the nation’s call.
The American people are his next of kin. He alone may sleep there within the great monument to all the nation’s honored dead.
Everywhere about the amphitheater are monuments cut with names that touch memory to life, bringing echoes of the thunder of guns from old, far-off battle scenes.
There lies Sheridan; there lie Porter and Crook and Doubleday, and yonder lies Dewey. Over the gentle slope, row on row, march the headstones of hundreds of humble servers in the ranks like the sleeper up there on the terrace, or again, dimly seen through the trees, goes another long column of soldier headstones, graying with time.
But officers and men, generals, admirals, privates, or the last bluejacket to join the ship before the battle, they are all sleeping here in honored graves.
Gathered, they are from Mexico, from all the far plains where emigrant trains fought their way westward, from storied fields of the Civil War, from Cuba and the Philippines, from Haiti and France.
Just beyond the amphitheater rises the slender mast of the old Maine, brought from Havana to mark the resting place of her dead soldiers and sailors and marines. It is their last muster, and tor them all has been raised the great marble pile wherein France's unknown sleeper keeps his vigil.
The pure white outline of the structure unstained by time and the shifting winds that sweep unchecked through its stately colonnade or its vast, roofless gathering place, rises amid a setting that nature paints with new beauty as the seasons come and go.
It stands atop the ridge, footed among the evergreens and the native Virginia woods that set it off in changing shades in summer, deck it out with the myriad tints of autumn as the year wanes, and wrap it about with the delicate tracery of snow-laden, leafless branches in winter.
A double row of the grand marble pillars forms the colonnade march around the circle wherein the marble benches are set.
Facing the benches and its back to the terrace where the tomb stands is the sculptured hollow of the apse where the solemn rites for burial occur.
The structure has the lines of an ancient Greek temple, a fitting resting place for the honored, unknown soldier who is its only occupant.
Over the ridge beyond the amphitheater are seen the grass-grown ramparts of old Fort Myer with the dead clustering about them. Farther along, the old Lee mansion's pillared portico thrusts out through the crowding woods to look down over the vista of hill and river to Washington.
And just over the road stands the army post of Fort Myer, its garrison flag a fluttering glimpse of color over the quiet scene, the roar of its sunrise and sunset guns waking the echoes among the graves of the dead; the faint, far call of its bugles singing also for these sleeping warriors, resting in their last encampment.
Ceremonies at Capitol and March to Cemetery
Black Draped Gun Carriage Receiving Flag-Draped Casket of Unknown Soldier. GGA Image ID # 18062bdb5c
The National capital led the nation in doing homage to the unknown soldier from France.
It was little more than broad daylight before the tramp of marching men, the clatter of hoofs, and the grind of gun carriage wheels on the grand plaza before the Capitol told that the last parade for the dead was forming.
Up past the building's gray mass, under trees where only a yellowed leaf here and there lingered, the khaki tide of a funeral escort for a general of the army rolled to its place.
As the troops gathered for the march to the grave, the first, far vibration of the minute guns at Fort Myer over the river broke the morning silence.
Through the hours that followed, the distant, dull note of sorrow sounded in the measured interval, growing closer and closer, louder and louder as the procession wound its way up to Arlington.
The guns' knell marked the funeral train's course step by step and culminated in the three crashing salvos that signaled the last soldier's farewell.
From 8:30 a. m. until far past noon, the distant booming wrote the story of the minutes with but one halt, as the nation stood silent for two minutes just after midday in honor of the dead.
Up in the rotunda of the Capitol, resting on the catafalque where Lincoln, Garfield, Grant, and McKinley laid, the casket had stood amid heaping piles of flowers, with its silent guard of honor, a regular, a national guardsman, a sailor, and a marine, through the night at the four corners of the bier.
Then there began to gather a little group of fellow-soldiers, each wearing a hero’s decorations, to bear the casket to the waiting gun carriage.
They were led by Sergeant Samuel Woodfill, first mentioned in Pershing’s list of war heroes, and with him were Sergeants Harry Taylor of the cavalry, Thomas D. Saunders of the engineers, Louis Razga of the Coast Artillery, Tames W. Dali of the field guns, and the navy, Chief Torpedo Man Tames Delaney and Chief Water Tender Charles Lee O’Connor, and Sergeant Ernest A. Janson of the marines.
In the grand rotunda, the honorary pallbearers also gathered to walk beside the gun carriage up Pennsylvania Avenue. At their head was Major General Harbord, executive assistant to General Pershing as chief-of-staff, himself a former enlisted man and glad to walk beside his honored comrade rather than ride at the head of the pageant.
With him were other major generals whose names bring memories of the war. Morton Edwards of New England's 26th Division; there was Shanks, who ruled at Hoboken while the army was going "over there"; there was Menoher, who led the 42nd to victory Pailey O'Ryan of New York's 27th, and Rickards of Pennsylvania.
For the navy walked Hugh Rodman, rear admiral and commander of the battle fleet that went over, Henry B. Wilson, former chief of the Atlantic Fleet, and Plunkett, for the marines was Major General Neville.
While he was still abroad, Originally General Pershing was named as grand marshal of the military ceremonies. He was to have ridden at the head of the funeral escort, but this program did not suit the American Expeditionary Forces' former commander.
He, too, walked behind the casket, going afoot from the Capitol to Arlington Cemetery and becoming chief mourner after President Harding and his party turned aside at the White House.
At the head of the parade rode Major General Bandholtz, commander of the District of Washington and grand marshal in Pershing’s place.
Behind President Harding and General Pershing, who were flanked by their aides, came Vice-President Coolidge and Admiral Coontz, Chief of Naval Operations; then Chief Justice Taft, walking in his place as former President of the United States and paired with Admiral Jones, commander of the Atlantic fleet.
There, too, were Lieutenant Generals Nelson A. Miles and S. B. M. Young, both former heads of the army, veterans of the Civil War and long retired but out again in uniform.
There was Major General Tasker H. Bliss, America’s representative on the Supreme Military Council in the days when the German host drove down toward Paris in its last great effort; there was Major General Bullard, who led Pershing’s First Army to victory; and there was Major General John A. Lejeune, commandant of the Marine Corps who shares with Harbord the honor of having commanded the famous 2nd Division in action in France.
When the moment came, the body bearers stepped forward, tenderly raised the casket, and as they moved out and down the Capitol steps, the officer pallbearers fell in. two by two, behind and the band began a solemn dirge. Outside, the escort stood in motionless ranks, rifles at present, sabers flashing in salute.
Flag-draped, and with a few flowers scattered over it, pallbearers lifted the casket to the black-draped gun carriage with its six gleaming horses and its artillery drivers rigid in the saddles.
A motion from Major General Bandholtz, commanding the escort, and a swing in the khaki column and Arlington's road lay ahead. The commander and his staff rode first, then the army band swung out, playing in quick time, for it was a long way to go.
Then came the composite regiment of foot troops, the regulars, the sailors and marines, and the National Guard, then the artillery and the cavalry and then the casket, riding high on its gun carriage on its last journey.
Behind the President and the high officials, and officers the Supreme Court members walked abreast, then the cabinet, five abreast, then the governors of the nearby states, then-Senator Cummins and behind him the Senate in a column, eight abreast, and in a similar column, the members of the House headed by Speaker Cillett and Representatives Mondell and Garrett as majority and minority leaders.
The roll of muffled drums marked the next division in which were first the Medal of Honor men. Then came comrades of the American Legion, rank on rank, then bowed veterans of other wars and a host of others marching to pay their honors to the dead.
Out into the broad avenue, the column moved and on over the road where the tramping hosts of Grant's victorious legions marked out a course long ago; where presidents have ridden their way into history or back into private life: where Pershing's crusaders of the First Division, led by their chief, wound up their great adventure a few short months before.
Memories of great days of the past were awakened as the pageant swung along. Who knows but that the unknown dead in France were there too?
Past the Treasury and on the line swung ahead, to halt only when the casket has passed the White House. There, President Harding and the cabinet and the Supreme Court and Senate and House members turned aside to go later by automobile to the amphitheater at Arlington. The stop was brief as they left the lines.
The procession moved on up the avenue, on through old Georgetown where Washington once had his office as a surveyor and mapped out great undertakings, on to the old bridge that spans the Potomac and opens the way to the Military Road leading up to the post of Fort Myer and Arlington National Cemetery on the high ridge above.
At the bridge, the band turned aside, and some of the escort's older officers fell out, leaving it to the hardy men of today's army to escort their dead comrade up the long hill to the roll only of muffled drums.
At the top, the line swung on across the old parade toward the Arlington gate. There the artillery and cavalry turned aside to stand at attention while the cemetery services were in progress. One battery of guns alone moved into the enclosure of the dead, lining up on the ridge crest for the last salute.
The Marine Band was waiting for the foot troops and the casket at the gate and marched in ahead. The march was slackened; the half step and the wail of a funeral dirge sounded as it moved in narrowed formation through the trees and clustering tombs and monuments and out over the open spaces about the amphitheater where thousands were gathered.
Swinging around to the west entrance to the amphitheater, the escort moved into line and, with rifles at present, stood as the casket was carried by the body bearers in through the high pillared colonnade to the right and around to space at the front where President Harding and members of the cabinet, Bishop Brent and many dignitaries awaited it.
The platform had been raised high, and the front was a mass of flowers as the casket bearers, followed by the officers as honorary pallbearers, moved slowly around the colonnade. On a unique stand, the narrow box was placed well to the front, and Secretary Weeks stepped forward as master of ceremonies briefly to introduce President Harding after the prayer.
As Bishop Brent concluded the invocation that opened the ceremony, the bells in Washington across the river rang the noon hour. The whole company in the amphitheater rose and stood in silence for two minutes as the entire nation stood by Presidential proclamation in reverence for the dead.
Then came the singing of “America,” rising in a mighty chorus. After that, President Harding moved forward to stand beside the casket and speak for the nation.
Far below him, out of sight under the stonework, men toiled with nerves strained to the breaking point that no word he said might be lost by the thousands gathered in New York, Chicago, and San Francisco about the electric sound transmitting devices. From the top of the amphitheater, the amplifiers caught up his words and threw them out to the multitude.
President Harding and Navy Secretary Denby Pin Congressional Medal of Honor on Casket. Underwood & Underwood. GGA Image ID # 180675fd47
After his address, President Harding pinned on the top of the casket the two most valued decorations in America, the Medal of Honor, bestowed by Act of Congress, and the Distinguished Service Cross, given by order of the Commander-in-Chief who pinned it in place.
From their positions in the marble boxes about the amphitheater, the great foreign leaders rose to pay similar honors, Marshal Foch, General Diaz, General Jacques, Admiral Beatty, so that the roll of highest honors to the brave might be complete.
There was more music then, music filled with the solemn uplift from which religious men and women have drawn comfort in all the years, and singers whose voices have made them known over the world came to add their share to the tribute.
Then came the solemn words of the Twenty-Third Psalm and the scripture lesson; then the body bearers stepped forward to lift the casket again and carry it out to the coffin on the amphitheater terrace with a vista of river and hill and the stately city stretching away below.
The last touch of the spirit of France awaited the dead here. Over the floor of the narrow crypt in which he will sleep forever, soil from France had been spread; earth from the country where his death blood was poured out on a stricken field that it might remain free soil. It was brought with the casket from France, and forever the nameless one of America who died for France and America will rest on French soil here in his home earth.
Final Requiem Salute to Unknown Soldier. GGA Image ID # 1806a7939b
Prayer and the burial service marked the last rites as the casket was placed, then the triple salvo of guns burst out, and before the echoes of the last blast died, the thin pure call of the bugle sounded “taps,” the soldiers’ requiem and Good Night. As the final long tone passed away, again the guns sounded, this time in the quick, throbbing pound of the National Salute of twenty-one guns, officers of all services standing at salute and troops at present as the cannon roared their last tribute.
The President and his party moved away to their motor cars, the band struck up a lively, quick step and stepped off across the hill and down toward a distant gate with the troops behind it; the crowds slowly broke up and drifted away.
America’s Unknown Soldier From France Was Home Forever; Home To Sleep
Services at Tomb As Heroic Dead Is Laid Away.
Laid to rest with all the honors a grateful nation could pay, France's unknown hero was bivouacked among the gallant dead in Arlington National Cemetery.
The army and navy's highest officers walked beside his coffin; none but the hands of gallant comrades of the great war laid hands upon it. President Harding walked behind his bier to do him homage; former President Wilson made his first public appearance in months; General Pershing turned aside an opportunity to ride and trudged beside the body to the last resting place. Representatives of foreign governments reverently laid their highest military decorations on his casket, and with soil from France where he fell unknown, he was laid away.
Minute guns at Fort Myer boomed their continuous tribute as the funeral procession passed from the Capitol to the great marble amphitheater in Arlington, where the ceremonies were opened with the playing of "The Star-Spangled Banner" by the Marine Band.
Under an autumn haze, gilded with shafts of light that broke down everywhere, the cortege swung into Pennsylvania Avenue, the nation’s way of victory. Ahead, the broad sweep of the avenue was banked solidly with people crowded closely for a glimpse of the procession, of the President, who walked behind the casket, and of all the famous men who trudged in the column to pay honor to the dead.
Major General Bandholtz riding at the fore, the gleam of bright metal showed on the breasts of the khaki-clad legion trooping behind him as the procession started.
By general order, every officer and man of the army and navy who took part wore to-day his medals and decorations conferred by a grateful people. There were no foreign decorations to be seen. The Distinguished Service Cross, the Distinguished Service Medal, the Victory Medal, and tokens that spoke of high deeds in older wars alone were in evidence.
The avenue was free of obstruction, from the great, gray bulk of the Capitol on its hill to the eastern end, to the Treasury's pillared front nearly a mile away.
Even the trees that spread a relieving band of green and grateful shade along the way under summer suns stood with branches almost stripped of leaves; only here and there a clustering mass of yellow or autumn bronze hid the view from the windows, crowded with faces, that looked down on the broad way.
Former President Wilson, riding in a carriage with Mrs. Wilson, joined the procession as it swung around the Capitol's north end. As he turned into Pennsylvania Avenue, the crowds along the way cheered him.
A fringe of boy scouts, armed with white staffs and also police, stood close along the ropes that held back the quiet crowds as the funeral train moved along at shorter step than the army knows, because of the older men who defied infirmities of age to walk behind the nation's nameless one of fame.
There were little cheering and no waving of flags but the great hush of respect for the dead. First came a row of motorcycle police, then the mounted officers, then Major-General Bandholtz and his staff, horses dancing a little in the cool air and under the restraint of the harness.
Then a great army band, the solemn strains of a funeral dirge, its cadences marked by the thud of muffled drums.
Next moved the soldier and sailor escort, a platoon of infantry with fixed bayonets gleaming, behind them the war colored carts of horse-drawn machine guns.
They moved in the square block formation, and behind these, in the same solid blocks, came the sailors, white-hatted and with long streamers of crepe drooping from their colors.
Then came the clergy, headed by Bishop Brent, former Senior Chaplain of the A. E. F., who later was to commit the body to the tomb. Chaplain Lazaron of the Reserve and Chaplains Frasier of the Navy and Axton of the Army was with him.
Immediately behind them rolled the flag-draped coffin borne on the caisson, with the honorary pallbearers, all Admirals, and Generals, marching outside the column beside it and the eight distinguished living heroes selected as body bearers walking on the inside of the column. Hats came off in the crowds as the solemn moment passed.
Six black horses with drivers rigid in the saddle drew the funeral car on the gun limber. The simple flag-wrapped casket rode high, with only a handful of the flowers and tokens that had been lavished to deck it. Among them lay the withered cluster of French blossoms that had come with him all the journey home.
Immediately following the Unknown Hero’s body walked President Harding and Gen. Pershing side by side, with their aides at a short distance. Admiral Coontz, Vice-President Coolidge, Admiral Jones, commanding the Atlantic Fleet, and Chief Justice Taft came next.
The President and the man who led the American armies overseas walked almost alone. The President was clad in black mourning dress with a silk hat and marched step for step with Gen. Pershing, who wore his many war decorations only the Victory Medal that every comrade of the war may wear.
According to the program, former President Wilson was to have come next in the line but having arrived late at the start; he took a place further back.
The Supreme Court followed and then Lieut. Generals Young and Miles, former commanders of the army. Then came the Cabinet, marching in two lines. Governors of some States followed, and then Major General Lejeune, commander of the Marine corps, and Senator Cummins, President pro tempore of the Senate. Then came members of the Senate marching in column of eights. Speaker Gillett and members of the House of Representatives came next.
Holders of the Medal of Honor marched eight abreast. Then came one hundred thirty-two representatives of all who served in the World War, coming not more than three from a State. War veteran societies followed.
It was 9:15 when the head of the procession reached the White House. When the caisson had passed, President Harding turned out of his place in the line and, after passing through the executive officers, went to the front of the White House grounds to review the remainder of the line as it passed on its way to Arlington. The President later took a motor car for the amphitheater.
While the President was reviewing the procession, there came a moment’s delay, and he stepped into the street and shook hands with the Medal of Honor Men.
When former President Wilson passed in his carriage, Mr. Harding saluted him by taking off his hat, and the former President returned the salute.
The crowd cheered. The reverent silence all along the line had only been broken by handclapping, and some cheers as the former President passed by. After passing the White House, Mr. Wilson’s carriage turned out of the procession and drove him home.
It was Mr. Wilson’s first public appearance since March 4, when he rode tip Pennsylvania Avenue with President Harding. The comment was heard in the crowd that the former President, long a sick man, looked better than many folks expected.
Although many of the notables followed President Harding’s lead and turned out of the White House procession, Gen. Pershing with Secretary Weeks and Secretary Denby, however, continued on the long march to Arlington.
While the remainder of the procession was winding its way to Arlington, the great amphitheater was filling with the guests invited to the ceremony. The body was to arrive there, according to the program, at 11:15.
After winding its way between the long lines of a reverent multitude in the Capitol streets, the funeral procession toiled up the long hill leading to Arlington, arriving at the main gates a little after 11 o’clock.
The invited guests had begun to assemble long before within the amphitheater's white marble walls overlooking the still flowing Potomac and the Capitol itself nestling in the blue haze of a Fall day.
The guests, including great chieftains of the war, were seated in the boxes and on the long rows of marble benches, and thousands were standing. Thousands more stood outside or anywhere merely to be near.
The first strains of Chopin’s “Funeral March” heralded the coming of the Unknown to his great honors.
Far out among the trees toward the fort, the dull dun color of moving troops showed, and, marching half-step to the throbbing, the muffled beat of the drums, the Marine Band swung slowly out to circle the great colonnade to the entrance where the surplice choir waited.
Just before 11:15, the caisson rolled up to the west entrance, and the body-bearers removed the flag-draped coffin.
The solemn chords of a hymn joined the deep notes of the band. The choir sang “The Son of God Goes Forth to War,” the telephone amplifiers caught up the notes and threw them out over the land to the thousands standing as far away as San Francisco.
Preceded by the choir and the clergy, the coffin was borne through the west entrance around the right colonnade to the apse and was placed on the catafalque.
The great audience rose and stood uncovered as it passed in, followed by General Pershing and the distinguished officers of the army and navy as mourners.
On its simple base, a hundred yards from where it will lie for all eternity, the casket of America's Unknown rested as though supported by a mountain of blossoms of every color and kind from nations all over the world.
Marshal Foch and his staff came in with all his war medals across his breast. General Jacques, the Belgian chief, also came, and the two strolled about the marble colonnade behind their boxes exchanging greetings. General Diaz of Italy joined them. Together, the three moved with the Japanese Mission to the place where the body lay.
In full British diplomatic uniform, Ambassador Geddes brought flower offerings for the dead from England's King, with a guard of British officers.
Chief Plenty Coos of the Crow Indians, attired in full war regalia, feathered bonnet, furs, and skins of variegated colors, was seated on the platform, joining the distinguished military leaders Europe.
Thus, the first Americans' uniform took its place with those of its Allied Powers in the last war. A group of Indian braves appeared in the audience, tiptoeing in their beaded moccasins down the aisle to their seats.
Premier Briand of France was among the last to arrive. As former President Taft took his seat, Admiral Beatty appeared, surrounded by his officers.
Precisely on time, at 11:50, President and Mrs. Harding came in and took their places.
Almost immediately, the Marine Band began to play “The Star-Spangled Banner,” the silver notes echoing down over the river valley and up into the arches of the wooded hills. After the anthem, Chaplain Axton pronounced the invocation as follows:
"Almighty God, our gracious Father: in simple faith and trust, we seek Thy blessing. Help us fittingly to honor our unknown soldiers who gave their all in laying sure foundations of international commonwealth. Help us to keep clear the obligation we have toward all worthy soldiers, living and dead, that their sacrifices and their valor fade not from our memory. Temper our sorrow, we pray Thee, through the assurance, which came from the sweetest lips that ever uttered words, 'Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted.' Be Thou our comforter."
"Facing the events of the morrow, when from the workbench of the world there will be taken an unusual task, we ask Thou wilt accord exceptional judgment, foresight and tactfulness of approach to those who seek to bring about a better understanding among men and nations, to the end that discord, which provokes war, may disappear and that there may be world tranquility."
"Hear us, O Lord, as now, in obedience to the call of our President, there sounds throughout the land the national Angelus calling to prayer, and we stand with bowed heads and reverent hearts in silent thanks for valor and valorous lives and in supplication for divine mercy and blessing upon our beloved country: 'And upon the nations of the earth: and to Thee, Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace, shall be ascribed all glory and honor forever. Amen."
As the chaplain concluded the invocation, the sudden, clear note of the army trumpet call “Attention” marked noon and the Nationwide two-minute pause. The whole company stood bowed in silence.
There was absolute silence, a hush as if the world had stopped. The opening notes of “America” signaled the ending of the two minute periods, and the great chorus was caught up and swept over the hills, the thousands outside joining in the mighty hymn of love of country.
As the last great note died away, Secretary Weeks stepped to his place beside the bier for his brief speech as master of ceremonies. He said:
“We are gathered, not to mourn the passing of a great General or other conspicuous person, but an unknown soldier of the Republic, who fought to sustain a great cause for which he gave his life. Whether he came from the North, the South, the East, or the West, we do not know. Neither do we know his name, his lineage, or any other fact relating to his life or death, but we do know that he was a typical American who responded to his country’s call and that he now sleeps with the heroes.”
"We, who are gathered here in such numbers, are simply representative of all the people of the United States, who are here in spirit and whose sentiments have been more deeply stirred by this event than any in the life of our country. These sentiments can only be adequately expressed by one citizen—the President of the United States."
Soon afterward, President Harding began delivering his address—a tribute in the American people's name to the man who slept beneath the flag.
As Mr. Harding spoke, the sun drove through the haze and splashed the whole great gathering with gold light, as though it also would lay its life-giving hand in commendation on the humble, faithful servant at rest.
There was unbroken silence as the President spoke. Every tone of his voice showed the emotion he felt as he read slowly and distinctly so that the electric appliances might catch his words and sent winging across the nation to gatherings listening beside the far Pacific, at San Francisco. Another multitude drew together in mourning in New York.
As the President concluded, a clear blue sky spread above the white bowl, turned up from the green hills below, as though it also offered a tribute of emotion and high feeling to the mystery beyond, into which the lonely sleeper had gone forever. It was as though all the solemn words and chords were lifted up to Him above.
The warming sun rained down its rays on those gathered to do honor to the dead. Its beams struck in beneath the pillars of the colonnade to paint the white arches with dark, gold-toned shadows over the heads of the great men standing there in tribute.
There was a dramatic moment as the President concluded, when, touching on the coming conference in Washington, he said it should be the beginning of a better civilization, a more lasting peace, and then ended his address with a recitation of the Lord’s Prayer in which thousands joined, their firm, earnest tones rolling up the pledge of faith to the sunlight above.
After the prayer, a quartet of singers from the Metropolitan Opera House of New York sang “The Supreme Sacrifice.”
Oh, valiant hearts, who to your glory come,
Through dust of conflict and through battle flame.
Tranquil you lie, your knightly virtue proved,
Your memory hallowed in the land you loved.
The voices chanted, and those other brave hearts asleep all about on the slopes of Arlington must have heard and felt it was for them also that America made this day her own and theirs.
Major Fenton of the General Staff then stepped forward and handed to Secretary Weeks the velvet-lined boxes containing the Nation’s highest token of valor. Secretary Weeks took the Congressional Medal of Honor and the Distinguished Service Cross from their cases and handed them to President Harding. The President leaned over the casket and pinned both in place side by side at the head.
Then Lieut. General Baron Jacques of Belgium stepped forward. He paused beside the casket, then clutching the Belgian Croix de Guerre on his breast, tore it from the cloth of his tunic to pin it on the flag-draped casket. The Belgian Chief stepped back, and his hand shot to his cap brim in salute.
The Victoria Cross, Britain’s most prized war decoration, never before placed on a man's breast, not a British subject, was next bestowed. Earl Beatty, Admiral of the Fleet, set it on the flag and saluted as he stepped back.
Then General, the Earl of Cavan, representing the King of England in person, spoke briefly of the services this humble soldier had rendered not only to America but to the world there in France.
Marshal Foch of France, with every show of feeling, placed above the quiet breast the Medaille Militaire and the Croix de Guerre. He cited this dead soldier for valor, speaking in French, saluted and turned away to let General Diaz bring forward and pin in place Italy’s Gold Medal for bravery.
The Rumanian Virtutea Militaea was added to the gleaming row on the casket by Prince Bibesco, Rumanian Minister; the Czecho-Slovak War Cross by Dr. Stepaner, Minister here, and the Virtuti Militari by Prince Lubomirski, Polish Minister. Cuba also bestowed her gift upon the soldier dead.
After that part of the ceremony, the quartet sang: “Oh, God, Our Help in Ages Past,” and Chaplain Lazaron read a psalm. Then there was a soprano solo, “I Know That My Redeemer Liveth,” and Chaplain Frazier read the Scripture Lesson.
Accompanied by the band and led by the quartet, the great audience lifted its voice in “Nearer, My God to Thee,” the deathbed hymn of the martyred McKinley.
Sarcophagus of the Unknown Soldier -- A View from Above. GGA Image ID # 1806e0ce58
That completed the ceremonies for that part, and the coffin was next borne from the apse and opt to the sarcophagus, preceded by the clergy and followed by the pallbearers, the President and Mrs. Harding, Vice-President and Mrs. Coolidge, the senior foreign delegates to the Arms Conference, Secretary Hughes, Secretary Weeks, Secretary Denby, the foreign officers who had left decorations, General Pershing and the others who had been seated in the apse in the amphitheater.
Meanwhile, the band played in measured tones “Our Honored Dead.”
The ceremony of committing- the Unknown Hero to the stone crypt with earth from France's soil then followed, conducted by Bishop Brent. As the body was committed to the tomb, the solemn ceremony's last moment was at hand.
At a slow half step to the band's dirge-like music, the casket was carried out to the molded stonework surrounding the resting place. The' band played "Lead, Kindly Light" as the pallbearers laid the coffin on the silver railing over the crypt. Generals and admirals of the Unknown Soldier's guard stood bareheaded.
Out over the rolling slope below, thousands more also stood in reverence.
Bishop Brent stepped to the casket to read the burial service, and the wreaths and flowers were brought forward.
As the casket was placed, the body-bearers gave place to the high officers, headed by Major General Harbord and Admiral Rodman, who lowered it tenderly into the crypt.
War mothers placed the last wreaths. Mrs. R. Emmitt Digney laid in place the token of American mothers whose sons died in the war. For British mothers, Mrs. Julia McCudden placed the treasured English flowers she brought all the way to lay at the bier.
Then the Indian Chief, Plenty Coos, in the splendor of his tribal costume, laid his coup stick and the war bonnet from his head on the tomb.
A crashing salvo of artillery roared. Three rolling, thundering blasts sounded while the long lines of troops stood at “present arms.” Then “taps,” the soldier’s requiem, sounded, to be followed by a quick booming of twenty-one guns, the National salute.
America’s Unknown Hero was at rest in his majestic shrine among the quiet hills. He lies unknown but not unhonored nor unsung.