The Story of the Unknown Soldier

The Story of the Unknown Soldier

Armistice Day was observed all over the
United States by veteran's parades, public
services both religious and secular, with two
minutes of silence to honor the dead. In
1920, the British Unknown Soldier was buried
in Westminster Abbey, the burial place of
kings and queens; that same year a French
Unknown Soldier was interred at the Arc de
Triomphe in Paris, where a perpetual flame
burns. In 1921, the American Unknown
Soldier, symbolizing all the unknown dead,
was chosen in an unusual way. Six soldiers
of the American Army of Occupation in
Germany were selected from different sectors
to act as pallbearers. They met at
Chalons-sur-Marne, and were interviewed by
General Rogers. Next day, Sergeant Edward
F. Younger of the 59th Infantry was asked to
make a choice among four caskets, with
unidentified bodies disinterred from
American cemeteries at Bony, Belleau
Wood, Romagne, and Thiaucourt. When the
sergeant was ready to perform his solemn
duty, he received a bouquet of white roses,
with instructions to proceed into the City Hall
at Chalons, where the four caskets stood.
Sergeant Younger realized fully the grave
importance of his action; and after bowing
his head, he walked around the coffins three
times. On the fourth round, he seemed
involuntarily drawn to the second one.
Reverently, he laid the roses on it, saluted
and reported to his commanding officer that
he had accomplished his mission. The body
of the Unknown Soldier was brought home on
the cruiser, Olympia, reaching Washington,
D.C., on November 9, 1921. For three days
thousands of people passed by as the body
lay in state in the rotunda of the Capitol. For
this important Armistice Day in 1921,
President Harding requested that flags be
flown from sunrise to sunset at half mast, and
that all Americans pay silent tribute as the
casket was lowered into the tomb at 11 A.M.
on November 11, 1921. There were
elaborate ceremonies. High army, navy, and
other service personnel, along with
diplomats, who had followed the caisson to
Arlington, heard the President's address.
Many wreaths came from all over our country,
and from abroad, these were placed on the
plain white marble tomb, on which is these
words:
Here rests in honored glory An American
Soldier Known but to God.
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