There's more buried at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier than the remains of four unidentified servicemen.
For the survivors and friends of more than 78,000 World War II servicemen whose remains were either never found or never identified, there lies, well, one of their own, symbolically at least, possibly in fact.
Among this week's Veterans Day- related programs is "The Unknown Soldier," a tribute to the tomb itself along with portraits of six men who qualify to be buried there. The program is narrated by Navy veteran Jason Robards.
"Practically no one knows very much about the tomb," said the program's executive producer Arnold Shapiro. "It's the most sacred monument in the country. Most people don't even realize there are four buried there, since it's called the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier."
Shapiro, a producer and history buff who created the television program "Return to Iwo Jima" -- as well as helping to organized a reunion of Iwo Jima vets -- has pulled together a history of the development of the Tomb as a national memorial and interspersed that story among the sketches of six World War II veterans whose remains were either never found or never identified. It makes for a blend of the alternately touching and the engagingly factual.
Five researchers spent five weeks identifying six veterans whose stories would fit Shapiro's format. The six represent four branches of the service -- Navy, Marines, Army and Army Air Corps; they come from both the European and Pacific theaters of war; they include a black Tuskegee Airman and a Japanese-American, and, of course, have surviving friends and relatives who can talk about who they were.
"Suddenly, 43 years after the war someone calls from a Hollywood production to say we want to profile your person as representing the 78,000," said Shapiro. "There was universal acceptance. They opened their homes and their scrapbooks to us."
The six profiled veterans: Billy Frazier, an Army sergeant from Rawson, Ohio; Frank Bryan Goettge, a Marine colonel from Canton, Ohio; Al Davis, a Tuskegee Airman captain from Omaha, Neb.; Wallace Kinder, an Army Air Corps sergeant from Williams, Ind.; Taro Tonai, an Army private from Maui, Hawaii, and John Wilburn Burden, a Navy chief petty officer from Elberton, Ga.
Shapiro, 44, has been heavily involved in producing the two World War II memorial programs since early 1983. He has in mind a third project, dealing with the prisoner-of-war experience. The work, especially the Iwo Jima production, took its toll at home, where he became a stranger to his wife, and in the office, where little else got attended to at Arnold Shapiro Productions.
The experience has enhanced Shapiro's regard for the men who fought wars and at the same time intensified his disdain of war itself.
"It's really made me appreciate the sacrifices that Americans before me made in World War II," he said. "You read about all that stuff and then talk to the people who did it and to relatives and friends. It's increased my abhorrence of war even more, if that's possible. I don't know if it (seems) reconcilable . . . that someone can pay tribute to soldiers and still hate war. But it is reconcilable . . .
"It brings home at a personal level how awful war is and the fact that the casualties don't end with the war. People carry their losses and pain the rest of their lives. They're never the same . . . The war is only over for those who had nothing to do with it."