Over the formal objections of Secretary of the Army John Marsh, the cremated remains of the man who laid siege to the Washington Monument last week were interred yesterday in Arlington National Cemetery.
Norman David Mayer, 66, an antinuclear activist killed by police gunfire Dec. 8 after he threatened to explode 1,000 pounds of dynamite at the base of the monument, was interred at the request of his family "without honors, service or attendance."
As a partially disabled World War II Navy veteran, Mayer qualified to have his ashes interred in the columbarium or vault at Arlington. Under the cemetery's complicated rules of eligibility, Mayer's body, had it not been cremated, would have been ineligible for burial because of space limitations at the prestigious burial ground.
Marsh, in a statement yesterday, said burial at the cemetery "is not only a privilege but an honor" and the "Army further feels that those who participate in acts inconsistent with such honor should not be accorded the privilege." Marsh added that "the Army has no choice under existing regulations but to accede to the family's request."
Aubrey Mayer, the dead man's brother, said Army officials called him yesterday to try to dissuade him from having his brother interred at Arlington.
Col. Jamie Walton, an Army spokesman, acknowledged yesterday that cemetery superintendent Ray Costanza "did call the brother to see if he would accept any option other than Arlington." When Aubrey Mayer insisted on Arlington, the spokesman said, cemetery officials proceeded with interment.
At his home in Los Alamitos, Calif., Mayer's brother said an Army official, who identified himself as "a deputy secretary of defense," said the government did not want Mayer buried at Arlington because "of what he did."
Aubrey Mayer, himself a retired career Army sergeant, said he told the official he saw no reason for his brother not to be buried at the cemetery. "As far as I'm concerned he was a disabled veteran and entitled to that privilege," he said.
Walton denied that any official other than the cemetery superintendent called Aubrey Mayer. He also said the Army did not pressure Mayer to have his brother buried elsewhere. "There was no dissuasion," Walton said.
The Army has tried before to prevent the burial at Arlington of veterans it deemed undeserving. In a highly publicized affair in the late 1960s, the Army objected to the burial of Robert Thompson, an Army veteran awarded a Distinguished Service Cross during World War II.
After the war Thompson became New York State chairman of the U.S. Communist Party and was convicted in federal court for advocating the violent overthrow the government.
After a three-year legal fight, Thompson was buried at Arlington in 1968 when a U.S. Court of Appeals decision ruled that the Army did not have the authority to prevent it.
Norman Mayer was cremated Wednesday, after his brother and nephew flew to Washington to identify the body and make funeral arrangements. Aubrey Mayer said yesterday he returned home on Thursday with the understanding that his brother's ashes would be interred at Arlington.
"I would never have left if this wasn't settled," he said.
Mayer was shot by U.S. Park Police after a 10-hour siege during which he made bogus claims of having dynamite and an accomplice. He was struck four times and died from a bullet that hit him in the left temple after he began to drive his van away from the monument.