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Return of Body of Unknown American Who Lost His Life during World War . . . , February 1, 1921

Some members of Congress suggested that the Unknown Soldier could be buried in the tomb at the U.S. Capitol that was originally meant for President George Washington. Congress ultimately agreed, however, that the remains should lie in state in the Capitol Rotunda before being laid to rest in a tomb at Arlington National Cemetery.

Publications of the U.S. Government, National Archives and Records Administration

He should not be taken from any particular battlefield, but should be so chosen that nobody would know his identification or the battlefield he comes from. He should represent in himself the North, the South, the East, and the West.

Representative Hamilton Fish of New York, Return of Body of Unknown American Who Lost His Life during World War . . . , February 1, 1921

Return of Body of Unknown American - Image 1

Honoring America’s Unknown Soldiers

After World War I, Congress wished to honor the more than 116,000 American soldiers who lost their lives in the war. Most were buried overseas, and hundreds remained unidentified or missing. Letters from the public begging for the return of loved ones’ remains and widespread news coverage of the French and British Unknown Soldier burials established after the war prompted Congress to pass a resolution in 1921 to develop an Unknown Soldier memorial in the United States.

I . . . had first-hand knowledge of the brave sacrifices made by American forces during the First World War, and I wanted America, as a beacon of freedom and democracy, to have her own memorial to honor the Unknown Soldier.

Representative Hamilton Fish of New York, Hamilton Fish: Memoir of an American Patriot, 1991