What’s Really in the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier Will Blow Your Mind

Categories: Culture

So, what’s really inside the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier?

The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, sometimes referred to as the Tomb of the Unknowns, is more than just meets the eye. For example, if you have ever visited, I am sure that you have noticed that there are six wreaths — they stand for the six major campaigns of World War I, the Arlington National Cemetery website reports.

There are soldiers from four wars currently commemorated in the Tomb of the Unknown soldier: the First World War, the Second World War, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War. However, there are only three bodies resting at the tomb.

Advertisement - story continues below

The reason for all of it is to honor our anonymous heroes.

Even the choosing of the unknowns is a solemn occasion. When the first unknown was chosen to be buried in 1921, the bodies of four unknowns were exhumed from four World War I cemeteries in France.

Sgt. Edward F. Younger, recipient of the Distinguished Service Cross among other decorations, was given the singular honor of choosing which of the four unknown soldiers would rest at the now-legendary tomb. He did so by laying a spray of white roses on one of four identical caskets.

Advertisement - story continues below

That casket was buried in Armistice Day (now Veterans’ Day), 1921.

Today I Found Out’s Matt Blitz even claims that there was a rose buried with the unknown, although the Arlington National Cemetery website makes no mention if it.

Blitz also reports that the casket was placed upon a thin layer of French soil.

The Second World War unknown was chosen by another stellar serviceman, Navy Hospitalman 1st Class William R. Charette, the Navy’s only active-duty Medal of Honor recipient at the time. He was given the choice between two caskets, one from the European Theater and one from the Pacific Theater, both placed in identical caskets.

Advertisement - story continues below

Army Master Sgt. Ned Lyle made the final selection from four unknowns from the Korean War, and both the unknown from the Second World War and the unknown from the Korean War were buried on May 30, 1958, after both being awarded the Medal of Honor by then-president Dwight Eisenhower, according to the Arlington National Cemetery website.

The unknown from the Vietnam War was selected by Medal of Honor recipient U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Maj. Allan Jay Kellogg Jr. and was laid to rest on May 28, 1984. He was also given the Medal of Honor by former President Ronald Reagan.

But then something strange happened.

In 1998, science had progressed enough that the identity of the Vietnam unknown could be discovered. He was exhumed on May 14, 1998. Thanks to mitochondrial DNA testing, it was discovered that the body belonged to 1st Lt. Michael Joseph Blassie, a member of the United States Air Force who was shot down in 1972.

Of course, with the Vietnam unknown now being known, there arose a question — what to do to honor Vietnam veterans at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier?

It was decided that the crypt that contained the remains of Blassie will remain vacant.

The crypt cover has been replaced with one that reads: “Honoring and Keeping Faith with America’s Missing Servicemen, 1958-1975.”

The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is one of the most striking monuments we have in the United States in tribute to those who have fought for our country. Its history is rich, and for those who have yet to visit it, I strongly urge you to go.

It’s so much more than just a tomb.

What do you think about this story? Please share this on Facebook and Twitter and let us know!