Excerpts from "the first rough draft of history" as reported in The Washington Post on this date in the 20th century.
The bodies of many soldiers killed in World War I could not be identified. To honor them, the remains of one were brought to the U.S. Capitol to lie in state, and on Armistice Day 1921 they were ceremoniously buried in Arlington National Cemetery. The tomb bears the inscription "Here rests in honored glory an American soldier known but to God." Congress later directed that an "Unknown American" from subsequent wars -- World War II, Korea and Vietnam -- be similarly honored. Because of the development of DNA technology, the unknown soldier from the Vietnam War was recently exhumed and identified. There may never be another unknown soldier. An excerpt from The Post of Nov. 12, 1921:
By George Rothwell Brown
Wrapped in the brooding silences of eternity in the nation's Valhalla, where the white marble temple to its war gods on the wooded hills of Arlington stands guard above the Capitol, the well-loved son of the republic sleeps at last shrouded in his immortality.
A hundred millions of people have called him "son," and given to him a name that for all time to come in every heart shall be a synonym for sacrifice and loyalty.
In honoring him with solemn rite and ritual the mighty country for which he gladly gave his life touched a new and loftier height of majesty and dignity, as though the very government itself took on resplendent luster from the simple nobility of its humble dead.
A vibrant note of hope and joy ran like the music of a silver bell through all of yesterday's solemn services in the beautiful amphitheater of valor on the arbored crest of the radiant autumnal slopes, where the heads of his own and many foreign states, and a great multitude of his fellow countrymen, gathered to restore to earth the splendid product it had borne. The grief that filled each breast and dimmed each eye, the sorrow that bowed each head in tribute to the nameless soldier who had died for his flag, unknown, unsung, 3,000 miles away from home, was tempered by a promise which was exalting and uplifting. Never before perhaps did hero have so wonderful a burial, so inspiring in its symbolism. Never had Americans found in such a symbolism such depths of spiritual meaning.
A tender beauty marked each passing moment of the day which saw the nation's final tribute to its unknown boy, home from the strife and hell of war, back in the arms of those who loved him dearly. The President of the United States walked through the silent streets of the hushed city, in the early morning haze, content to be a simple private citizen at the bier of the man who in his haunting mystery, typifies the spirit of America's dead.