Facts about the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier


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HiWayMan
May 13, 2004, 03:35 PM
This is rather long, but everyone should give it a read.


Interesting facts about the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and the Sentinels of the Third United States Infantry Regiment "Old Guard". > > >
1. How many steps does the guard take during his walk across the tomb of the Unknowns and why? ... 21 steps. It alludes to the twenty-one-gun salute, which is the highest honor given any military or foreign dignitary. > > > >
2. How long does he hesitate after his about face to begin his return walk and why? .. 21 seconds for the same reason as answer number 1. > > > >
3. Why are his gloves wet? His gloves are moistened to prevent his losing his grip on the rifle. > > > >
4. Does he carry his rifle on the same shoulder all the time, and if not, why not? No, he carries the rifle on the shoulder away from the tomb. After his march across the path, he executes an about face, and moves the rifle to the outside shoulder. > > >
5. How often are the guards changed? Guards are changed every thirty minutes, twenty-four hours a day, 365 days a year. > > 6. What are the physical traits of the guard limited to? For a person to apply for guard duty at the tomb he must be between 5' 10" and 6' 2" tall and his waist size cannot exceed 30". > > > > Other requirements of the Guard: > > They must commit 2 years of life to guard the tomb, live in a barracks under the tomb, and cannot drink any alcohol on or off duty FOR THE REST OF THEIR LIVES. > > > > They cannot swear in public FOR THE REST OF THEIR LIVES and cannot disgrace the uniform {fighting} or the tomb in any way. > > > > After TWO YEARS, the guard is given a wreath pin that is worn on their lapel signifying they served as guard of the tomb. > > There are only 400 presently worn. > > The guard must obey these rules for the rest of their lives or give up the wreath pin. > > > > The shoes are specially made with very thick soles to keep the heat and cold from their feet. There are metal heel plates that extend to the top of the shoe in order to make the loud click as they come to a halt. > > > > There are no wrinkles, folds or lint on the uniform. Guards dress for duty in front of a full-length mirror. The first SIX MONTHS of duty a guard cannot talk to anyone, nor watch TV. All off duty time is spent studying the 175 notable people laid to rest in Arlington National Cemetery. A guard must memorize who they are and where they are interred. > > > > Among the notables are: President Taft, Joe E. Lewis {the boxer} and Medal of Honor winner Audie Murphy, {the most decorated soldier of WWII} of Hollywood fame. > > > > Every guard spends FIVE HOURS A DAY getting his uniforms ready for guard duty. > > > > The Sentinels Creed: > > "My dedication to this sacred duty is total and wholehearted. In the responsibility bestowed on me never will I falter. And with dignity and perseverance my standard will remain perfection. Through the years of diligence and praise and the discomfort of the elements, I will walk my tour in humble reverence to the best of my ability. It is he who commands the respect I protect. His bravery that made us so proud. Surrounded by well meaning crowds by day alone in the thoughtful peace of night, this soldier will in honored glory rest under my eternal vigilance." > > > > More Interesting facts about the Tomb of the Unknowns itself: > >The Vermont Marble Company of Danby, VT furnished the marble for the Tomb of the Unknowns. The marble is the finest and whitest of American marble, quarried from the Yule Marble Quarry located near Marble, Colorado and is called Yule Marble. The Marble for the Lincoln memorial and other famous buildings was also quarried there. > > > The Tomb consists of seven pieces of rectangular marble: > >Four pieces in sub base; weight B- 15 tons. >One piece in base or plinth; weight B- 16 tons. >One piece in die ; weight B- 36 tons. >One piece in cap; weight B- 12 tons. >Carved on the East side (the front of the Tomb, which faces Washington, D.C.) is a composite of three figures commemorative of the spirit of the Allies of World War I. > > >In the center of the panel stands Victory (female). > > >
On the right side, a male figure symbolizes Valor. > > > >
On the left side stands Peace, with her palm branch to reward the devotion and sacrifice that went with courage to make the cause of righteousness triumphant. > > > >
The north and south sides are divided into three panels by Doric pilasters. In each panel is an inverted wreath. > > > >
On the west, or rear, panel (facing the Amphitheater) is inscribed: HERE RESTS IN HONORED GLORY AN AMERICAN SOLDIER KNOWN BUT TO GOD. > > > > The first Tomb of the Unknown Soldier was a sub base and a base or plinth. It was slightly smaller than the present base. This was torn away when the present Tomb was started Aug. 27, 1931. The Tomb was completed and the area opened to the public 9:15 a.m. April 9, 1932, without any ceremony. Cost of the Tomb B- $48,000, Sculptor B- Thomas Hudson Jones Architect, B- Lorimer Rich Contractors, B- Hagerman & Harris, New York City. Inscription B- Author Unknown. > > > > Interesting Commentary. The Third Infantry Regiment at Fort Myer has the responsibility for providing ceremonial units and honor guards for state occasions, White House social functions, public celebrations and interments at Arlington National Cemetery and standing a very formal sentry watch at the Tomb of the Unknowns. The public is familiar with the precision of what is called "walking post" at the Tombs. There are roped off galleries where visitors can form to observe the troopers and their measured step and almost mechanically silent rifle shoulder changes. They are relieved every 30 minutes in a very formal drill that has to be seen to be believed. > > > > Some people think that when the Cemetery is closed to the public in the evening that this show stops. > > > > First, to the men who are dedicated to this work, it is no show. It is a "charge of honor. "The formality and precision continues uninterrupted all night. During the nighttime, the drill of relief and the measured step of the on duty sentry remain unchanged from the daylight hours. To these men, these special men, the continuity of this post is the key to the honor and respect shown to these honored dead, symbolic of all American unaccounted for American combat dead. The steady rhythmic step in rain, sleet, snow, hail, heat, cold, must be uninterrupted. Uninterrupted is the important part of the honor shown. > > > > Recently, while you were sleeping, the teeth of hurricane Isabel came through this area and tore hell out of everything. We had thousands of trees down, power outages, traffic signals out, roads filled with downed limbs and "gear adrift" debris. We had flooding and the place looked like it had been the impact area of an off shore bombardment. The Regimental Commander of the U.S. Third Infantry sent word to the nighttime Sentry Detail to secure the post and seek shelter from the high winds, to ensure their personal safety. THEY DISOBEYED THE ORDER! During winds that turned over vehicles and turned debris into projectiles, the measured step continued. One fellow said" I've got buddies getting shot at in Iraq who would kick my butt if word got to them that we let them down. I sure as hell have no intention of spending my Army career being known as the damned idiot who couldn't stand a little light breeze and shirked his duty." Then he said something i n response to a female reporters question regarding silly purposeless personal risk.... "I wouldn't expect you to understand. It's an enlisted man's thing." God bless the rascal... In a time in our nation's history when spin and total b.s. seem to have become the accepted coin-of-the-realm, there hearts beat - the enlisted hearts we all knew and were so damn proud to be a part of - that fully understand that devotion to duty is not a part time occupation. While we slept, we were represented by some damn fine men who fully understood their post orders and proudly went about their assigned responsibilities unseen, unrecognized and in the finest tradition of the American Enlisted Man. > > > > Folks, there's hope. The spirit that George S. Patton, Arliegh Burke and Jimmy Doolittle left us... survives. On the ABC evening news, it was reported recently that, because of the dangers from Hurricane Isabel approaching Washington DC, the military members assigned the duty of guarding the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier were given permission to suspend the assignment. They refused. "No way, Sir!" Soaked to the skin, marching in the pelting rain of a tropical storm, they said that guarding the Tomb was not just an assignment; it was the highest honor that can be afforded to a service person. The tomb has been patrolled continuously, 24/7, since 1930. Very, very proud of our soldiers in uniform.

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Ala Dan
May 13, 2004, 03:57 PM
Very well done, Sir! Its truly a remarkable experience
that I hope everyone gets to share by visiting the
Tomb Of Unknowns in Arlington, VA. One thing that
was omitted, when a changing of the guard takes
place; NO TALKING by the public is allowed!

I must say, it would be quite an honor to be one
of the chosen sentinels who got the priviledge to
honor these brave soul's.

Respectfully,
Ala Dan
U.S. Army 18th Surgical Hospital 1965-1967

Carlos Cabeza
May 13, 2004, 04:42 PM
Great post Sir ! I had the privilege of visiting Arlington National Cemetery a few years ago. At the time it was pouring rain but I was not going to give up my opportunity to visit. I was simply in awe of the honor guard and how the rain did not affect him in any way, very fluid and almost mechanical movement. I wept as I witnessed the level of commitment it must require to be at that post. The one funny thing I can say about the whole thing is that I had approached the tomb of the unknowns from a less than traveled route and found myself very close to the honor guard, within a few feet, in the pouring rain. So it was only he and I out there until I noticed an officer looking at me sternly and motioning for me to "GET THE HELL OVER HERE, NOW!". that's when I realized I was inside the roped off area. Fortunately, I must have looked pretty dumb and wet, and only got the lecture. He chuckled and wished me well on my vacation journeys. I got some really good photo's though ! ;)

TimRB
May 13, 2004, 04:57 PM
"One thing that was omitted, when a changing of the guard takes place; NO TALKING by the public is allowed!"

No loud talking is allowed at any time. I saw a guard chastise a crowd there once. He stopped marching, turned to face the crowd, and reminded them that quiet and respectful behavior is required near the tomb.

Tim

Standing Wolf
May 13, 2004, 07:26 PM
HERE RESTS IN HONORED GLORY AN AMERICAN SOLDIER KNOWN BUT TO GOD.

Oh, gosh! I sincerely hope the A.C.L.U. doesn't find out the word "God" is on federal property!

Hugo
May 13, 2004, 07:52 PM
This got me thinking a bit. Since it's D.C and has a bit of a crime problem to put it lightly. Have the Honor Guards ever had to deal with thugs or crooks attacking some tourist or selling drugs or something nearby? I seriously doubt most crooks would be dumb enough to do things near Arlington cemetery but you never know. I also seriously doubt homeless people have tried to camp there but do they have to ask them to get lost or go to a shelter? Also do they carry a few rounds for their rifles, just in case a very, very, very stupid terrorist tries to start something at the tomb or nearby? I have no idea if there is a police station or something nearby either. I have to visit D.C. soon, never been and must see the Smithsonian and everything else too.

thefitzvh
May 13, 2004, 08:48 PM
Great post, but some inaccuracies...

I was at the Old Guard for a while. Tomb guards were in the next building (differrent company) and I used to live in their building too (drill team)

Quite a few of them were friends of mine.

Anyways, the thing about drinking is false. It may be what people are TOLD, but its false. WAY false. It also doesn't take 2 years to get the badge, but it is HIGHLY selective.

The drill does continue through the night, and the "trainees" do it in the full blues. But the badgeholders mostly do it in BDUs, although they do wear their "steels" (name we gave the shoes... i still got mine :D) so they can practice.

One of the guys who refused the order was a buddy of mine named Kline... been meaning to fly out there and see some guys.

Anyways, the old guard has on occasion had to deal with DC riff raff. Another of our missions is civil disturbance stuff in DC. I used to get grief for being in the "Sissy" part of the army, but let me tell you: Duty in the Old Guard is NO JOKE. Rough stuff, lotsa work, and physically demanding when you've been standing on the white house lawn at parade rest for 2 hours waiting on a dignitary who forgot to tell someone that his flight was going to be late.

It's good duty, though. I don't think I would have gotten my ROTC scholarship if I hadn't been there. Also, those soldiers showed their true colors doing body recovery at the pentagon, as well as part of the combined joint task force in africa right now. Bravo company, I believe.

Cheers,

gbourne
May 13, 2004, 08:56 PM
Something tells me the guards are armed. I believe they have one clip. And by the way didnt a guard thwart a rape or robbery sometime in the past. Dont forget the pallbearers: They have to be able to lift like 300# just to qualify for the duty. Once while positioning a casket over a grave the story goes a soldier fell in the hole. Witnesses said the casket never dropped an inch. It was like the man was never holding the casket. There has always been opertunities in the Old Guard for soldiers that want to contribute: but be advised: If you dont have what it takes you will end up changing flags on the graves at Arlington instead of performing these most sacred duties!!

thefitzvh
May 13, 2004, 08:59 PM
guards arent armed... and EVERYONE does the flag details on memorial day. It's considered VERY honorable to do so.

Don't know where people get their legends about the old guard.


James

Baba Louie
May 13, 2004, 09:00 PM
I Thank You thefitzvh. Just for being you and being a part of something almost sacred.
My grandparents lived in Silver Springs MD when I was a kid as they both worked for Uncle Sam. We'd usually visit once a year in the spring. Visiting Alrington was always a part of my fathers vacation. I always went with him. We always, always made it to the Tomb of the Unknowns, later added JFK's gravesite to the ritual.
Dad always ended up with blurry eyes. I never knew why. I really never knew. We were last there in 67 when my grandparents retired (sorta) out here in Las Vegas. Dad's been back several times since then. I've gotta do that someday.

A few links I've collected on the Tomb of the Unknowns

http://www.mdw.army.mil/OLDGUARD/PAO/500th_tomb_guard_identification_.htm

http://www.arlingtoncemetery.net/heather-johnsen.htm

http://www.tombguard.org/

http://www.touproject.org/aboutthetomb.htm

http://www.arlingtoncemetery.net/tombofun.htm

http://data2.itc.nps.gov/parks/arho/ppMaps/NAMAmap1%2Epdf


All that on Robert E Lee's family plantation. I read that the first Union soldiers were buried there originally to discredit him. I'd bet he was honored.

GLOCKT
May 14, 2004, 12:48 AM
Very good thread.
I 2nd what thefitzvh says,theres a difference between Old Guard and New Guard.Precedence,and presence.
I was stationed at Fort Ord,from 83-84 7th Inf Div. 1st/32inf Btn.
While there several exguard past thru this installation.
I proudly severd with 1 particular soldier Sgt.Reemer.He dwelled from Kansas.Was a 11Bravo and was a class A soldier.
Fort Ord was his 2nd duty station after rotating thru D.C and Camp Lejeume.
He could out drink the rest of our squad and when the words started to fly he would cuss like a Drill Sargent not a Drill Instructor (I'm Old school)
1 of the smartest individuals I've ever met and was lucky to meet such a individual.He fit the mold to be a Honor Guard!

444
May 14, 2004, 12:58 AM
I got the E-Mail that listed the stuff in the original post. I thought some of it was a little over the top but I wasn't all together sure.
I once got to visit Arlington Cemetary (I have been there a number of times but one visit in particular) and go "behind the scenes". We got to go inside the barracks of the tomb guards. It was in February and it was bitter cold. There was a changing of the guard while we were there. The guy that just got off duty came in, sat down and began cleaning his gear. No hot shower, no coffee; strictly business. We were talking to a couple of the guys there and one of them mentioned that he didn't drive in the district because he was afraid he would get a traffic ticket and disgrace the tomb.
So, not a whole lot would have surprised me.

PATH
May 14, 2004, 01:05 AM
When I was there as a young man I dropped a few. It is a pilgrimage I think every American needs to make. One cannot explain the feeling. You have to go and experience it.

BluesBear
May 14, 2004, 08:28 AM
More information on this most honorable tour of duty is available here >> http://www.thehighroad.org/showthread.php?s=&threadid=12635

XLMiguel
May 14, 2004, 08:55 PM
Great thread. I second Path's recommendation. If you were ever in umiform, watching the Old Guard at The Tomb is the embodiment of "Duty, Honor, Country", it will make your heart soar.

SMLE
May 15, 2004, 01:25 AM
Here is another anecdote about the Guards at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

http://www.snopes.com/military/isabel.htm

Here Rests In Honored Glory An American Soldier Known But To God.

So reads the inscription etched into the white granite tomb that marks the resting place of America's official unknown soldiers. The Tomb of the Unknowns remains one of the United States' most revered sites, a permanent reminder of this country's commitment to honor those who died fighting for its

freedom. Last week, that commitment was upheld in a way some people might not have even noticed or even thought about.

When practically every government employee in Washington was beating a hasty retreat to avoid the aftereffects of Hurricane Isabel, a small group of men decided their commitment to duty, honor and country was more important than personal safety or comfort.

Tomb Guard Sentinels, the elite soldiers of the 3rd U.S. Infantry regiment chosen to act as guards at the Tomb, opted to sustain their constant vigil at the Tomb of the Unknowns rather than flee the oncoming bad weather. To them it was a matter of honoring their personal and professional obligations to the men and women who served before them and who serve now - and obviously do not have the luxury of serving their country only when skies are blue and the sun shines down upon them.

Although the Tomb of the Unknowns is watched over by Tomb Guards 24 hours a day, 365 days a year regardless of weather conditions, to have soldiers so duty-bound as to ignore their own personal well-being is an example of real patriotism and a real reminder of the sacrifices made to secure the principles of liberty.

It gets "dusty" in the room when ever I read this.

Captain Bligh
May 15, 2004, 08:32 AM
I think every American should visit Arlington and the Tomb. I was moved beyond words during my trip there, seeing the sacrifice and the honor given to those who sacrificed for this country.

Sometimes I awake in the middle of a cold winter's night and have the thought that while I am warm and comfortable in my bed as the wind howls outside, someone is standing guard at the tomb. The thought makes me appreciate so much what they do and what it represents.

RJ

Ashendale
May 15, 2004, 09:24 AM
" I think every American should visit Arlington and the Tomb." In addition, it would probably do some good for everyone to live in or at least visit another country for a tad bit to see just how wonderful it is to live here and why it is that everyone wants to emigrate to America.

Ian

OH25shooter
May 15, 2004, 11:11 PM
Unless one visits the tomb, mere words cannot describe the feeling. I'm proud to have served this country, USAF 1968-72.

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