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Aftermath USA

America's Unknown Soldier comes home

A Book you'll never forget
Johnny got his gun from AmazonJohnny Got his Gun by Dalton Trumbo. The harrowing story of another Unknown Warrior of WW1. Ron Kovic, author of Born on the Fourth of July calls it "the most revolutionary, searing document against war and injustice ever written."

A year after the British honoured their own Unknown Warrior at Westminster Abbey, America paid its own tribute to an unknown victim of the Great War. On Memorial Day, 1921, four unidentifiable  bodies were exhumed from four American cemeteries in France. U.S. Army sergeant Edward F. Younger, who had been wounded in combat, and had been awarded the Distinguished Service Medal selected the America's Unknown Soldier from four identical caskets at the city hall in Chalons-sur-Marne on 24 October 1921. 

The chosen unknown soldier was brought to the United States aboard the USS Olympia. Those remaining were reburied in the Meuse Argonne cemetery.

Thousands filed past to pay homage while the Unknown Soldier lay in state in the Capitol Rotunda. On Armistice Day, 1921 President Harding officiated at the burial ceremonies at the Memorial Amphitheatre at Arlington National Cemetery.

Before the simple black coffin was lowered, a layer of earth brought from France was placed in the grave.

Associated Press reporter Kirk Larue Simpson won a Pulitzer Prize in 1922 for his reports during the ceremonies surrounding the arrival and burial of the Unknown Soldier. This is an extract from his report on 11 November 1921.

Under the wide and starry skies of his own homeland, America's unknown dead from France sleeps tonight, a soldier home from the wars.

Alone, he lies in the narrow cell of stone that guards his body; but his soul has entered into the spirit that is America.

Wherever liberty is held close in men's hearts, the honor and the glory and the pledge of high endeavor poured out over this nameless one of fame will be told and sung by Americans for all time. . . . 

The Tomb of the Unknowns
The Tomb of the Unknowns
 in Arlington Cemetery


The full text of all the Associated Press reports about the homecoming of America's Unknown Soldier in Word [doc] and Adobe Acrobat [pdf] format is now available for downloading as a zip file


Now read Aftermath USA:
 America's Armistice Day 1918

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Aftermath - when the boys came home

Tuesday 20 December 2005