On March 4, 1921, the United States Congress approved the burial of an unidentified American serviceman from World War I in the plaza of the new Arlington Memorial Amphitheater. The following photos and text tell the fascinating and humbling story of how they brought him back.  

On Memorial Day, 1921, four unknowns were exhumed from four World War I American cemeteries in France. U.S. Army Sgt. Edward F. Younger, who was wounded in combat, highly decorated for valor and received the Distinguished Service Medal in “The Great War, the war to end all wars,” selected the Unknown Soldier of World War I from four identical caskets at the city hall in Chalons-sur-Marne, France, Oct. 24, 1921. Sgt. Younger selected the unknown by placing a spray of white roses on one of the caskets. He chose the third casket from the left. The chosen unknown soldier was transported to the United States aboard the USS Olympia. This photo shows the Unknown being brought on to the Olympia. 

Casket of the Unknown Soldier of World War I in its transporting case on the end of the super structure of USS Olympia, 25 October 1921 prior to being laid in formal honor on the front of the ship. 


Transported across the Atlantic in the U.S.S. Olympia, the body arrived at the Navy Yard in Washington DC on November 9, 1921.  General Pershing and other dignitaries received the body in an  elaborate disembarkation ceremony.  The coffin lay on an upper deck under a tent of flags. 


Sterio card photograph showing the casket being removed from USS Olympia (C 6) at the Washington Navy Yard, D.C., after being brought back from France, circa 9 November 1921. At extreme right are (l-r): Secretary of the Navy Edwin Denby; General J.J. Pershing, and Admiral R.E. Coontz. 


The World War I Unknown lay in state in the Capitol Rotunda from his arrival in the United States until Armistice Day, 1921


On Armistice Day, the military began a magnificent procession from the Capitol to Arlington Cemetery.  These photos capture the elaborate and respectful ceremony and the thousands of people who came out to show their support. 


The procession begins.


People lined the streets for miles despite the cold, rainy conditions. 


President Warren G. Harding  speaks to the attendees.


After a long ceremony, the men begin the formal internment. 


And finally, the soldier was laid to rest in from tor a crowd of thousands.  A large marble slab was lain over the tomb and it was inscribed with the following.  






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