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Unknown Soldier’s Tomb with Sentry, Arlington National Cemetery, photograph by A. S. Blom, ca. 1932

The Unknown Soldier was laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery on November 11, 1921. Unknown soldiers from World War II and the Korean War were entombed in 1958 and from the Vietnam War in 1984 (the latter’s remains were exhumed, identified, and returned to family in 1998). An honor guard has guarded the tomb 24 hours a day since 1937.

Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

Unknown Soldier’s Tomb with Sentry, Arlington National Cemetery

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