The Quartermaster Review
In depth article on selection of World War II & Korean War Unknown Soldiers
Since Memorial Day, great interest has been expressed in the Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers. In the September-October 1963 issue, The Review began the history of the Tomb. The third and concluding section of this series will appear in a future issue of The Review.
On 30 May 1958 two symbolic Unknowns representing the unidentified dead of World War II and Korea were brought home to Arlington National Cemetery and entombed with solemn ceremonies near the Unknown Soldier of World War I. Secretary of Defense Charles E. Wilson had made the Army responsible for carrying out the program in conjunction with all of the other Armed Forces. The Quartermaster General, Major General A. T. McNamara, had been designated to act for the Chief of Staff as coordinator of the plans and operations at home and abroad.
Army records indicate that it was assumed as early as 1943 that the return of the Unknown Soldier represented a precedent under which a World War II Unknown also would be brought home. On 6 September 1945 a bill providing for the return to Arlington of a World War II Unknown was introduced in Congress by the Honorable Melvin Price of Illinois. The measure was favorably reported by the Military Affairs Committee without public bearings, was passed without debate, and was approved on 24 June 1946 as Public Law 429, 79th Congress. It directed the Secretary of War to return a World War II Unknown from overseas and to arrange for his burial with appropriate ceremonies near or beside the Unknown Soldier in Arlington.
After enactment of the basic law, the Army initiated two types of detailed plans, one of which provided for the ceremonial aspects of the project. The date set for the entombment was 30 May 1951, approximately six months before the expiration of the statutory authority for the final disposition of World War II dead. By that time the American Graves Registration Service would have searched for, recovered, identified, declared unidentifiable, or declared nonrecoverable most of the dead of World War II. Before 15 March 1951 five Candidates — Unknown were to be selected, each to represent a different wartime Theater of Operations. The five candidates were to be assembled at Independence Hall, Philadelphia. After a Medal-of-honor man had selected one of the candidates to be The World War II Unknown, the others were to be returned overseas. The remains of the unknown were to be brought to Washington to lie in state at the Capitol until the entombment was accomplished on Memorial Day. On 10 November 1950, after the outbreak of hostilities in Korea, President Truman approved the recommendation of the Secretary of Defense that the interment of the World War II Unknown be postponed until it appeared advisable to revive the matter. The Army rescinded all implementing directives on 15 February 1951.
In the same years after World War II plans were drawn for the tomb of the Unknown. The Army retained Lorimer Rich and Associates, the architectural firm which had planned the original tomb to prepare drawings of a second tomb for presentation to the Commission of Fine Arts. At its June meeting in 1949, the Commission considered models and sketches, and formally recommended that a second tomb like the first be constructed on the same axis. Early in 1950 Brigadier General Lewis H. Renfrow, Special Assistant to the Secretary of Defense, called several conferences to discuss the entombment plans. Informal opinions expressed to him by representatives of veterans organizations showed preference for one tomb. At a meeting held on 8 February 1950, he obtained verbal agreement from a group of veterans that a one-tomb scheme was preferable to a two-tomb scheme. By June of that year, just before the project became dormant, formal approval of one tomb had been given by the interested Secretaries, the Commission of Fine Arts, and the President.
All early discussions of the entombment of the World War II Unknown raised questions about the inscription to mark the burial. The existing text on the Tomb reads, “Here Rests in Honored Glory an American Soldier Known But to God.” It was first approved by the Secretary of War in 1925 as the epitaph on the individual crosses at the graves of the Unknowns in the World War I oversea cemeteries. Army files contain no documentary evidence showing how it was selected in the early 1930’s for inscription on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington. At the time when two tombs had official sanction, the approved inscription for the second sarcophagus was, “Here Rests in Honored Glory an American Serviceman Known But to God.” The words “World War I” and “World War II,” were to be placed on the two die blocks. After the Secretary of Defense approved the use of one tomb for both Unknowns, he authorized the following inscription on 31 May 1950 “Here Rest in Honored Glory Members of the American Armed Forces of the World Wars Known Only to God.” These words were to be substituted for the words now cut on the west end of the Tomb. In July 1950 Lieutenant Commander Roy H. Tabeling, one of the many individuals who felt that this plan left much to be desired, submitted a recommendation for an alteration of the projected inscription. His suggestion brought the whole matter to the attention of the recently appointed Secretary of Defense, General of the Army George C. Marshall. He then approved the wording, “Here Rest in Honored Glory American Heroes Known But to God.” Presidential sanction of this text was obtained on 9 January 1951, two months after the interment had been postponed.
Reactivation and Enlargement of The Unknown Project
During the early 1950’s when all attention centered on Korea, it appeared that the Unknown Project might remain dormant indefinitely; however, in 1955 at the urgent request of the American Veterans of World War II (AMVETS), Secretary Wilson asked the Army to proceed with the program and to initiate whatever budgetary, architectural, and ceremonial-plans were still being formulated, Mr. Price introduced a bill under which an Unknown of the Korean conflict also would be returned to Arlington. A House Subcommittee amended the bill to provide that the burial of the Unknown from Korea should take place on Memorial Day 1958 in conjunction with the burial of the World War II Unknown. This amended bill was approved on 3 August 1956 as Public Law 975, 84th Congress.
Immediately after the Unknown Project was reactivated, Secretary of the Army Wilber M. Brueker approved the recommendation of The Quartermaster General that an advisory committee be formed to assist in planning the work. Included as voting members were representatives of the other Armed Forces and of four veteran organizations having Congressional Charters, the American Legion, the Veterans of Foreign Wars, the Disabled American Veterans, and the AMVETS. A new concept of the ceremonies developed by The Quartermaster General in the light of experience gained in the 1946-1951 period was concurred in by this group and approved by Secretary Wilson on 31 December 1956.
The plan provided that by mid-May 1958, two Candidates-Unknown would be selected with appropriate simple ceremonies from among all the World War II Unknowns buried overseas, one to represent the trans-Pacific phase of the conflict and the other to represent the trans-Atlantic phase. The Commanders in Chief of the Air Forces in the Pacific and the Army Forces in Europe would plan and execute the ceremonies. Appropriate naval commanders would assume custody of the candidates, transport them to a place of final selection, choose the World War II Unknown, make disposition of the unselected candidate, and deliver the selectee to the Commanding General, Military District of Washington. Also in mid-May the Army’s Pacific Commanders in Chief in Hawaii would select the Unknown of the Korean conflict and deliver this Unknown to the Navy for transportation to Washington. The Commanding General, Military District of Washington, would receive the Unknowns, arrange for them to lie in state in the Capitol, and provide a joint state funeral followed by interment in Arlington National Cemetery on Memorial Day.
Selection of the World War II Candidates-Unknown
Under the general plan outlined in the new directive, simple but impressive ceremonies for the selection of the Unknown to represent the trans-Pacific phase of World War II were conducted at Hickam Air Force Base at Honolulu on 16 May 1958. Prior to the final selection, detailed plans had been worked out so that the Unknown chosen would be representative of all the unidentified World War II dead interred in the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific at Honolulu, and in the Fort McKinley American Cemetery and Memorial, Republic of the Philippines. It is in these two locations that all the recovered Unknowns who lost their lives in the far-flung battles of the Pacific during World War II have been concentrated.
Under the immediate direction of the Project Officer Lieutenant Colonel John H. Klaas, Headquarters, Pacific Air Force, detailed plans for the selection ceremony were perfected well in advance of the occasion and were coordinated among all the military services on Oahu. The grassy mall at the base of the water tower at Hickam Air Force Base was chosen as the site of the ceremony. Near the base of the tower a canopy was erected, sufficiently large to shelter the six caskets of the Unknowns involved in the selection. Arrangements were made for honor and color guards to participate in the services; pallbearers from the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, and Air Force were designated; military drivers and police escorts for distinguished visitors were provided; parking facilities for all visitors, seats for official guests and bleachers for others who would attend the ceremony were set up; and a podium with loudspeaker facilities was built. As a precaution, in case of inclement weather, alternate arrangements were made for holding the ceremony in the Hickam Gymnasium.
On 15 April 1958 at nine o’clock a committee of Air Force officers proceeded to the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, located in a crater which is now known as the “Punchbowl” but which was originally called by Hawaiians, “Puowaina”, the “Hill of Sacrifice.” Numbers from the grave markers of six completely unidentifiable servicemen of World War II had been recorded on cards and sealed in unmarked envelopes. From these six envelopes. two were selected by drawing. Subsequently, the designated graves were opened and the caskets were taken to the Army Mortuary, Honolulu. There the remains were examined to assure the absence of any clues to identity and were prepared for the final selection ceremony. Similarly four Unknowns had been chosen at Fort McKinley and had arrived at Hickam Air Force Base on 29 April 1958 aboard a C-54 aircraft of the 1502d Air Transport Wing, Military Air Transport Service, Pacific Division. At the Army Mortuary the four Unknown servicemen from the Philippines and the two from Hawaii were placed in six identical caskets in readiness for the final selection of one to represent the World War II dead for the Pacific Area. All records pertaining to the Unknowns, both overseas and at home, were assembled and destroyed to prevent future speculation about the selected Candidate.
When the day of the final selection ceremony arrived, the solemnity and symbolical significance of the occasion were enhanced by an overcast sky, with clouds moving gently over Hickam and adjacent Pearl Harbor, the scenes of the first attack of World War II. After participating military personnel had taken their stations, invited guests and the public began to arrive shortly before eleven o’clock. Under a canopied area the six flag-draped identical caskets had been placed in a row flanked by the Honor and Color Guards from the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and Coast Guard. In the center of the lawn stood an empty bier, destined to receive the honored casket after the final selection. On the bier a white carnation lei (Hawaiian wreath) had been placed.
The 501st Air Force Band softly played hymns until eleven o’clock, when Brigadier General Kurt M. Landon, Commander, Pacific Air Force Base Command, stepped to the podium and greeted those assembled to pay honor to the unknown dead. Colonel Glenn T. Eagleston, of the 313th Air Division, a combat pilot with an impressive record in both World War II and the Korean conflict, had been designated by General Laurence S. Kuter, Commander in Chief, Pacific Air Forces to select the Candidate-Unknown from the Pacific area. All personnel were brought to attention. The audience rose as Colonel Eagleston lifted the lei from the empty bier, approached the six caskets under the canopy, and, after a few seconds hesitation, placed the lei on one of the caskets. Accompanied by a muted roll of drums, military pallbearers then carried the selected Unknown to the waiting bier. Pacific Air Force Staff Chaplain (Colonel) Howell G. Gum delivered a prayer of dedication, at the conclusion of which the National Anthem was played.
Major General Matthew K. Deichelmann, representing the Commander in Chief, Pacific Air Forces, gave a brief address; then custody of the trans-Pacific Candidate-Unknown was transferred to the Commander in Chief, Pacific Fleet, Admiral Herbert G. Hopwood.
Admiral Hopwood spoke a few simple words of acceptance: “On behalf of the Department of the Navy, I accept custody of this honored Unknown of World War II in the Pacific for transportation to the final ceremony at sea in the United States Ship CANBERRA.” Then six Navy pallbearers with an officer in charge approached the bier as all personal stood at attention. To the muffled roll of drums, the casket was carried to a waiting ambulance, which departed under military escort for the Army Mortuary. Pallbearers then entered the canopied area once again, carried the five remaining caskets to waiting ambulances, and escorted them to the Army Mortuary, pending reinterment in the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific. After the remains of the trans Pacific World War II Candidate-Unknown had been encased for shipping, they were taken to the Naval Air Station at Barber’s Point. There in the early hours of the day after the selection ceremony they departed by special flight for Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
Meanwhile, comparable plans for the selection of the trans-Atlantic World War II Candidate-Unknown were being drawn and implemented in Europe. Lieutenant Colonel Hilton Densley acted as Project Officer for the Army’s Commander in Chief in Europe to supervise the overall planning, but the responsibility for satisfactorily completing all of the preparations for the ceremony was delegated to Major General Edward J. O’Neill, Commander of the Army Communications Zone, and his Action Officer, Colonel Howard F. McManus. Their first task was to have a representative group of remains assembled from which the Candidate-Unknown would be selected and to arrange appropriate final selection ceremonies. To assure that all the unidentifiable dead of World War II buried in the American cemeteries in Europe and North Africa were properly represented, 13 principals and 13 alternates were designated by lot for disinterment. The 13 completely unidentifiable Unknowns, which were finally exhumed under the overall supervision of Brigadier General A. W. Beeman, Quartermaster, U.S. Army, Europe, were assembled in the mortuary in Frankfurt, Germany, there to be rearranged by successive teams of military personnel to assure their anonymity. With the destruction on 25 April 1958 of all pertinent documents, shipping instructions, and identification plates, one of the important phases of the preparatory work was completed.
In support of the planned ceremonies a suspension-span white wooden canopy was erected at the Epinal American Cemetery and Memorial, France, the location selected for the the services. Appropriately draped with red, white and blue bunting and equipped with floodlights, the canopy provided a fitting and commodious shelter for the flag-draped casket during the final selection ceremony. A pavilion for distinguished guests was erected, catafalques for the 13 caskets were provided, a press stand was built, and rope cordons were erected for the protection of the burial areas. Officers and enlisted personnel to carry out the mission were billeted in the area with the necessary housing messing, transportation, medical, recreational, and servicing facilities provided. Sedans, helicopters and buses were provided to transport guests and troops to the ceremonies, and communications facilities of all types were established to connect the ceremonial site with supervising and servicing headquarters. By early May the stage was set for the selection rites, and the participating personnel had completely rehearsed the parts they would play in the solemn ceremonies.
“Citizens of every calling bred in the principles of the American democracy . . . defenders of challenged freedoms…champions of the rights of man.” Thus reads in part the inscription around the gleaming white memorial at Epinal. The cemetery is located in the Moselle River valley near the foothills of the Vosges Mountains. The large 48-acre tract is situated on a plateau 100 feet above the river and is a suitable-setting for the final resting place of 5,255 American war dead. In the center of the cemetery stands the white marble memorial containing the chapel and museum. Surrounding this is the cemetery’s Court of Honor containing the names of 424 missing servicemen together with the inscription:
“Here are recorded the names of American who gave their lives in the service of their country and who sleep in unknown graves. . . . This is their memorial-the whole earth their sepulchre.”
Early on 12 May 1958, beneath overcast skies, the 13 Unknowns were moved from the memorial and placed on catafalques beneath the white canopy at the north end of the cemetery’s Court of Honor. The caskets, draped with American flags, overlooked a long grassy Mall that terminated at a flagpole on which the National Colors flew at half-staff. Flanking the Mall on either side were the white crosses and Stars of David of the American military dead.
At ten o’clock final preparations for the selection ceremony began when a casket guard made up of Army, Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force personnel relieved Army personnel at the four corners of the canopy. Soon the 33d Army Band moved to the Mall near the steps leading to the canopy area. Next ten pallbearers-two from each of the Armed Services including the Coast Guard-marched through the Memorial, moved diagonally around the ends of the canopy, and took positions on each side of the steps to the Mall. Finally the 529th Military Police Company, constituting the honor guard, moved into position in the Court of Honor and prepared to receive the massed colors of the United States and its five Armed Forces.
At ten-thirty o’clock, with the band playing an accompaniment of sacred music, the Color Guard ascended the steps from the Court of Honor, and the Honor Guard came to attention to receive the colors; both groups then marched to positions beside the memorial. A few minutes later, Chaplains of the Army, Navy, and Air Force, representing the Protestant, Catholic, and Jewish Faiths, moved to the east of the casket canopy and faced the Mall area. With the band playing hymns, high ranking officers representing the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, and the Air Force, entered through the memorial and took seats in the guest stand on the Mall. They were joined there by other distinguished Color Guards then moved to the rear of the casket canopy, facing the Candidates-Unknown, and came to parade rest.
Promptly at eleven o’clock the ceremony began, with band music followed by the invocation. The Army Chaplain then announced the purpose of the ceremony and introduced General O’Neill; the officer designated to make the selection. The General moved briskly to a position near the bottom of the steps in front of the canopy-area, saluted the row of caskets, and bowed his head as the Chaplain offered a prayer of guidance. General O’Neill then ascended the steps diagonally and walked slowly past the 13 Unknowns, momentarily pausing in front of each casket. Next he descended the steps to his original position and faced the mall as his aide came forward with the selection wreath of red and white carnations in the form of a white star on a crimson field against an evergreen background. General O’Neill again ascended the steps, moving slowly to the fifth casket from the east. After standing the wreath in front of this casket, he stepped back, saluted, and returned to the visitors’ stand. By eight minutes after eleven, the trans-Atlantic Candidate-Unknown had been selected. The ceremony was concluded with “Taps,” the National Anthem, and the benediction.
With the rendition of appropriate honors, the Candidate-Unknown was carried through the memorial, the aisle of honor, and color guards to the funeral cortege. The band continued to play as the spectators dispersed -and the cortege moved out to the Toul-Rosiere Airbase. Along the seventy-mile route, many spectators observed the procession-some out of curiosity, others to pay homage to the symbol of thousands of Americans who made the supreme sacrifice.
In the early afternoon the funeral cortege arrived at the Airbase amid a driving rainstorm. There the Army escort officer transferred custody of the remains to the Air Force escort officer with an exchange of salutes. Meanwhile, the pallbearers dismounted, removed the casket from the hearse, and carried the Unknown and the selection wreath aboard the aircraft, a C-130 carrier of the 322d Air Division. The doors of the plane were quickly closed, the engines were started, the plane taxied to a take-off position, and the Candidate-Unknown was airborne, all within an hour of the arrival of the cortege.
Three hours later the aircraft arrived at the U.S. Naval Air Facility at Capadichino, near Naples, Italy. A Marine Corps detail was posted immediately on the aircraft to guard the casket until the formal transfer ceremony the following morning.
At eight thirty o’clock on 13 May the C-130 taxied to the Air Facility’s loading ramp, where pallbearers and a composite honor guard representing all the Services proceeded to the rear of the aircraft. There the Commander, Fleet Air, Eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean, accepted custody of the Candidate-Unknown from the Air Force. As the honor guard and escort officers presented arms, the casket was carried from the aircraft and placed in a Navy ambulance. A six vehicle funeral procession, escorted by Italian motorcycle police, departed from the Air Facility and soon arrived at Mole Angioino in the inner port of the Naples Harbor, where one of the newest destroyers of the Navy, the USS BLANDY, had been moored for almost a week.
Ceremonial areas had been set aside on the pier and amidships, and the ship’s crew manned the rails. Near the gangway the Operations Officer of the BLANDY accepted custody of the Candidate-Unknown in behalf of the ship’s Captain. The Joint Service pallbearers then passed the casket to eight of the destroyer’s crewmen, who carried it aboard the ship and placed it and the selection wreath in the ceremonial area of the ship’s main deck. Four other crewmen immediately took positions around the casket. Just before noon the BLANDY departed from Naples, destined for a rendezvous with the cruiser CANBERRA off the Virginia Capes, in late May. During transit, a continuous guard of honor was maintained, with each member of the crew being given an opportunity to stand this watch as a mark of respect to the Unknown.
Final Selection of The Unknown of the Korean Conflict
At about the time the Candidates-Unknown to represent the world-wide scope of World War II were being selected at Honolulu and Epinal, a third and related ceremony was being conducted by the Army in Hawaii to choose the symbolic Unknown to represent the unidentified dead of the Korean conflict.
The National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific was an appropriate setting for the ceremony since all of the Unknowns of the Korean conflict had been assembled and buried there. From the grassy oval plot opposite the flagpole and the entrance, the entire cemetery was in view, lush and green, with the blue-green water of the Pacific Ocean and famous Diamond Head Crater as a backdrop. It was an inspiring ceremony amid beautiful surroundings.
Months of planning also preceded the execution of this ceremony. Responsibility for the selection of the Unknown of the Korean conflict was assigned by Department of Defense Directive to the Commander in Chief, United States Army, Pacific. Preparation of the plans, as well as the implementation and support thereof, was delegated to the Commanding General, United States Army, Hawaii/25th Infantry Division, for whom Captain Ralph H. Lamar acted as Project Officer. All of the Armed Forces participated in the ceremony, with the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Coast Guard and Air Force each furnishing pallbearers, color guards, caskets guards, and a member of the exhumation group.
Pre-selection activities began in early May, when members of the exhumation group assembled at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific to witness disinterment of four Unknowns of the Korean conflict. Designation of the remains to be disinterred was made by Colonel Austin Miller, the Army staff officer who coordinated all aspects of the program. He chose from a classified listing of a number of unidentifiable remains compiled by The Quartermaster General. At nine o’clock the remains of four Unknowns were exhumed and the caskets were draped with flags. Under escort by the Hawaii Armed Services Police, the remains were transported to the Army’s mortuary at Kapalama Basin, to be inspected and recasketed. Since no clues to identity were found with any of the remains it was not necessary to exhume alternate remains which had been earmarked for such an eventuality. The four Unknowns were then wrapped in new burial sheets and blankets and placed in four new identical caskets. Each member of the exhumation group witnessed these activities.
To assure further that the Unknowns would always remain unidentifiable the exhumation group gathered together all local records concerning the cases and executed a certificate of destruction immediately following the recasketing. In addition, a classified list of the four Candidates-Unknown was furnished to The Quartermaster General, so that all related records in his office could be destroyed. The three Unknowns who subsequently were not selected to represent the Korean conflict were reburied in the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in June.
As soon as the Unknowns were recasketed for the selection ceremony, they were placed in a special room at the mortuary, and a Military Police guard was placed on constant duty there. With one exception, no one was allowed to enter the room unless accompanied and observed by the guard. On the afternoon of 14 May 1958, the day before the selection ceremony, Colonel Miller entered the room alone for the purpose of rearranging the caskets.
The selection ceremony was scheduled for eleven o’clock on 15 May 1958. Early that morning the four caskets were placed in hearses for transportation to the cemetery. The procession, under escort by the Armed Services Police, entered the cemetery at precisely nine o’clock. Pallbearers, who lined both sides of the road, took positions beside the hearses to march from the entrance along the center mall to the oval where the ceremony would be held. The honor guards were in platoon formation ahead of the field hearse, and led. the procession to the oval.
Half an hour before the services, the combined Army band marched into position across from the oval and to the left of the audience. The band played several medleys of patriotic and sacred music as the invited guests and the public assembled. The rest of the formation for the ceremony then marched into position. The honor troops were positioned, two platoons at each end of the oval and at right angles to it. The color guards and color bearers formed a line inside the oval at the rear. The four caskets were displayed at the front center of the oval on beautiful biers approximately two feet high which brought the bottoms of the caskets even with the top of the low hedge surrounding the oval. Pallbearers were seated inside the oval at each end.
The official party consisted of local political leaders, the Commanders of the Armed Forces in the Pacific, the enlisted man to select the Unknown of the Korean conflict, and a member of each patriotic organization desiring to be represented. The official party assembled in a group and entered the oval at eleven o’clock. Seating for them was in the center of the oval in two groups, with a dividing aisle for the movement of the caskets. After they had taken their places, the ceremony began with the invocation by Chaplain (Colonel) F. B. Henry. A brief address by Lieutenant General Robert M. Cannon followed. After his remarks, General Cannon introduced Master Sergeant Ned Lyle and asked that he select one of the unknowns to be the Unknown of the Korean conflict.
Sergeant Lyle, holder of the Distinguished Service Cross for heroic action in Korea, took the wreath of blue and white carnations representing the Korean Service Ribbon and stood for approximately one minute facing the four caskets, deliberating and looking at each one. He then walked smartly to the end casket at his left and there placed the wreath. After taking one step backward, he rendered the hand salute. The formation was brought to “Present Arms” and the band played the National Anthem. Following the selection, General Cannon gave custody of the Unknown to Admiral Hopwood, for transportation by the Navy to the United States. The benediction concluded the official ceremony inside the oval, but everyone remained in place while the Unknown was moved to the flagpole to lie in repose until that afternoon.
After the benediction, the ceremonial personnel moved quickly into escort formation, with the band leading four honor platoons, five sets of colors, the Chaplain, four hearses flanked by pallbearers, the Staff Quartermaster, and members of the exhumation group. The hearses carrying the three unknowns not selected did not stop at the flagpole, but moved out of the cemetery. After the Navy accepted custody of the remains, Navy pallbearers carried the Unknown of the Korean conflict to a bier at the foot of the flagpole, where honor guards had previously been posted. At the conclusion of this ceremony, the military formation departed at quick time.
Approximately 1,200 people witnessed the ceremony. Numerous organizations and individuals laid wreaths and rendered honors as the Unknown lay in state. Many individual servicemen stood beside the casket for a moment of recollection, then saluted, and turned away. In the late afternoon the casket was placed in a hearse and returned to the mortuary, where it was guarded carefully until delivery to the Navy was made the following afternoon.
Final Selection of the World War II Unknown and the Delivery of the Unknowns to Washington
To the Navy was given the responsibility of transporting into American waters the Unknown of the Korean conflict and the Candidates-Unknown representing the world wide aspects of World War II; of selecting one of the two Candidates-Unknown to be the Unknown of World War II; of arranging for the final disposition of the unselected candidate; and finally of bringing the two unidentified heroes to the Nation’s Capital for ceremonial reception and final interment in Arlington National Cemetery. With its versatility of facilities, the Navy was able to accommodate the methods of transportation to the requirements of time, distance, and circumstances. The Chief of Naval Operations made the Commanders-in-Chief of the Pacific and Atlantic Fleets, Admiral Hopwood and Admiral Jerauld Wright, responsible for carrying out the Navy’s part in the ceremonies for the Unknowns. Acting for these Commanders as Project Officers were Lieutenant Geoge P. Dyer, Jr., USN, in Hawaii, and Lieutenant Commander James L. Rothermel, USN, at Norfolk, Virginia. A ceremonial Task Group, commanded by Rear Admiral Lewi S. Parks, USN, and composed of the guided missile cruisers, USS BOSTON and USS CANBERRA and the destroyer USS BLANDY, was formed in the Atlantic area. Lieutenant Colonel Frederick S. Aldridge, USMC, acted as Project Officer for planning the ceremonial functions of this Task Force.
After the Army transferred custody of the Unknown of the Korean conflict to the Commander-in-Chief, Pacific Fleet, in Honolulu, and the Air Force similarly delivered the Candidate-Unknown to represent the trans-Pacific phase of World War II, the two Unknowns were taken to the Naval Air Station at Barber’s Point, not too far distant from historic Pearl Harbor. Thence they departed by Navy Air Transport on May seventeenth for Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where, on May twenty-third, they were taken aboard the USS BOSTON, the world’s first cornbatant guided-missile ship. Two terms of pallbearers, each composed of six Navy enlisted men and one Marine noncommissioned officer, escorted the Unknowns to compartments in the forward missile area,, where a continuous honor guard of one Marine and one Naval sentry maintained a round-the-clock vigil.
In the early hours of the morning of May twenty-sixth, the rendezvous between the BLANDY and the BOSTON was carried out on schedule, and soon the BLANDY had transferred her hero-dead by highline to join the other Unknowns aboard the BOSTON. As the casket reached a mid-point between the two ships, suitable honors were rendered by both ships. The cruiser, now carrying the remains of all three Unknowns and escorted by the BLANDY, headed toward another morning rendezvous off the Virginia Capes with the USS CANBERRA. Sister ship of the BOSTON, the CANBERRA was the second vessel to be converted to a guided-missile cruiser after having played an important role in the Pacific during World War II as a conventional cruiser.
The ceremonial ship, flying the flag of Admiral Wright, had sailed in the early hours of the morning from Norfolk headed for the open sea. Aboard were a large number of newsmen, other civilian guests, senior military dignitaries, and representatives of patriotic and veteran organizations. Near the Virginia Capes in an area where ships were torpedoed during World War II, the CANBERRA, with rain pelting her decks and the the Coast Guard Cutter INGHAM in close attendance, rendezvoused with the BOSTON and BLANDY to form the Ceremonial Task Group. With highlines rigged, the two cruisers, steaming at ten knots and riding a hundred feet apart, began the transfer of the Unknowns. On the decks of both ships the white-uniformed crew stood at attention.
The final selection ceremony began promptly at noon. One by one the three teams of pallbearers, their steps in time to the measured cadence of Chopin’s “Funeral March,” carried the remains of the three Unknowns up the ramp from the missile-handling compartment to the rain-swept ceremonial area on the after-lower-missile deck. Each team of pallbearers was guarded by a Marine, his rifle and bayonet carried at “port arms” as he led the procession past the officers in the ship’s company and their guests standing silent on the missile deck. With the sky-pointed Terrier missiles as backdrops, the caskets were placed in a row on shallow biers-the World War II Candidates-Unknown to the right and left of the Unknown of the Korean conflict. Behind them, color guards holding the American flag and the flags of each of the Services strained to keep their colors erect against the wind. On either side of the CANBERRA rode the attending ships, the white-painted INGHAM rolling gently at starboard and the gray BLANDY to port.
As a hush fell over the ship, Rear Admiral Lewis S. Parks, Commander of the Ceremonial Task Group, paid brief tribute to the Unknowns; Lieutenant Commander Ross H. Trower, the ship’s Chaplain, read the Invocation; and then Admiral Parks introduced Hospitalman First Class William R. Charette, the Navy’s only active enlisted holder of the Medal of Honor, for the climax of the ceremony. To the soft roll of drums, Charette marched briskly to the foot of the caskets, picked up the selection wreath of carnation–a white star in a red field–faced the caskets, saluted, and returned to the head of the biers. For a short time he stood silent, looking first to the left and then to the right; after first moving to the left, he turned, walked to the casket on his right, placed the wreath carefully at the head, stepped back, paused for a moment, and saluted; he then returned to his original seat at the heads of the caskets.
After the “Sea Chanters,” a choral group from the Navy Band, softly sang the first stanza of the Navy Hymn, the band intoned the strains of the funeral march, and the caskets were slowly carried back to their compartments. Here the selected Unknown of World War II was placed in the final ceremonial casket market with an engraved plate and, with the Unknown of the Korean conflict, was prepared for return to the BLANDY. The World War II Unknown not selected by Charette was readied for burial at sea. The solemn selection ceremony had been completed in twenty minutes.
At one o’clock the BLANDY came alongside the CANBERRA for the last transfer of caskets at sea. The two Unknowns who were to be buried in Arlington were expertly highlined aboard the destroyer. Escorted by the INGHAM, the BLANDY was released to proceed up the Potomac to Washington.
The CANBERRA, with all her guests still abroad, next headed for deeper water. At about two o’clock, following the shrill whistle of the boatswain’s pipe, the order “Bury the dead,” was passed over the loudspeaker. As the ship stopped in her course, the wind died and the sea calmed. While the national ensign was being lowered to half-mast, the band played a dirge, the ship’s company massed in formation, and guests were assembled.
The remains of the unselected Candidate-Unknown were removed from the casket, wrapped in the traditional white sailcloth shroud, and draped with the American flag. Reverently they were carried by six Navy pallbearers. from the lower compartment to a small mahogany platform on the starboard side of the ship. Here the ship’s company, sailors in white dress uniforms, officers in dress whites with ceremonial swords, and Marines in their scarlet and blue, were assembled on deck. Officiating were four military chaplains representing the Protestant, Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and Jewish faiths. Before the hushed assemblage the four chaplains each prayed in turn.
With the ship rolling easily on the ocean swells under the somber sky, the final words of committal were spoken by Captain J. Floyd Dreith, USN, Chaplain of the Atlantic Fleet; then, as the entire company saluted, the command, “Commit,” was given. The bearers tilted the mahogany sliding board, the weighted canvas shroud slid into the choppy waves, and the remains of the Unknown Hero settled into 113 feet of water. After the benediction, the eight-man Marine Honor Guard fired three volleys, the last sad notes of Taps were sounded by a Navy bugler, and the national ensign was hoisted to full mast; the CANBERRA turned toward port, arriving back at Norfolk in the late afternoon. The burial was made thirty-three miles east of the Cape Henry Light.
After anchoring overnight off Piney Point, Maryland, the BLANDY and INGHAM proceeded up the Potomac on the morning of May twenty seventh. As they moved past Mount Vernon and the tomb of General George Washington, the ship’s crew manned the rail, according to tradition. A bell tolled, the ensign was lowered, and Taps were sounded over the Potomac as the sailors stood at attention.
Shortly after noon the destroyer and the cutter arrived at the Naval Gun Factory to await the ceremonies planned for the following morning; then for the first time since the Unknowns had made the supreme sacrifice they would touch the soil of the homeland which they had helped to keep free.