Tomb of the Unknown Soldier (USA)

A British mate of mine living in the States sent me this. I found it fascinating reading. I wonder how on earth they manage to find volunteers to fill this post? Dedication in the extreme.

I wonder if we (The UK) would be able to attract a regular supply of volunteers to perform such a duty?

I remember seeing a film, Gardens of Stone featuring James Caan in 1987. It gave an insight into the life of an Honour Guard.

Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

1. How many steps does the guard take during his walk across the tomb of the Unknowns and why?

21 steps. It alludes to the twenty-one gun salute, which is the highest honour given any military or foreign dignitary.

2. How long does he hesitate after his about face to begin his return walk and why?

21 seconds for the same reason as answer number 1

3. Why are his gloves wet?

His gloves are moistened to prevent his losing his grip on the rifle.

4. Does he carry his rifle on the same shoulder all the time and if not, why not?

He carries the rifle on the shoulder away from the tomb.
After his march across the path, he executes an about face
and moves the rifle to the outside shoulder.

5. How often are the guards changed?

Guards are changed every thirty minutes, twenty-four hours a day, 365 days a year.

6. What are the physical traits of the guard limited to?

For a person to apply for guard duty at the tomb, he must be between 5' 10" and 6' 2" tall and his waist size cannot exceed 30." Other requirements of the Guard: They must commit 2 years of life to guard the tomb, live in a barracks under the tomb, and cannot drink any alcohol on or off duty for the rest of their lives. They cannot swear in public for the rest of their lives and cannot disgrace the uniform {fighting} or the tomb in any way. After two years, the guard is given a wreath pin that is worn on their lapel signifying they served as guard of the tomb. There are only 400 presently worn. The guard must obey these rules for the rest of their lives or give up the wreath pin.

The shoes are specially made with very thick soles to keep the heat and cold from their feet. There are metal heel plates that extend to the top of the shoe in order to make the loud click as they come to a halt. There are no wrinkles, folds or lint on the uniform. Guards dress for duty in front of a full-length mirror.

The first six months of duty a guard cannot talk to anyone, nor watch TV. All off duty time is spent studying the 175 notable people laid to rest in Arlington National Cemetery. A guard must memorize who they are and where they are interred. Among the notables are: President Taft, Joe E. Lewis {the boxer} and Medal of Honour winner Audie Murphy, {the most decorated soldier of WWII} of Hollywood fame.

Every guard spends five hours a day getting his uniforms ready for guard duty.

In 2003 as Hurricane Isabelle was approaching Washington, DC, our US Senate/House took 2 days off with anticipation of the storm. On the ABC evening news, it was reported that because of the dangers from the hurricane, the military members assigned the duty of guarding the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier were given permission to suspend the assignment. They respectfully declined the offer, "No way, Sir!" Soaked to the skin, marching in the pelting rain of a tropical storm, they said that guarding the Tomb was not just an assignment, it was the highest honour that can be afforded to a serviceperson.

The tomb has been patrolled continuously, 24/7, since 1930.
I've seen these guys in the summer here when it is blisteringly hot and murderously humid. and it is amazing that they can carry out their duties in such conditions.
as for us Brits doing it is only recently that British dead have been brought home as far as i'm aware. Tradionally British Soldier are buried on the field in which they fall
I've seen this lot do their stuff. The footfall has left footprints on the walkawy, so you can see exactly where they tread.

Its scarily automaton-like.
I do admire the Americans for the respect they accord their fallen service personal. My original post was about The Sentinels of the Tomb of the Unknowns. I found the following link very informative:-

The Commonwealth Graves Commission have performed wonderful work since the end of WW 1 in according the greatest respect for our own fallen in cemeteries all over the world. If you haven’t visited this site, it is well worth a look. The statistics are staggering:-

The Menin Gate Memorial which has held the Ceremony of the playing of The last Post almost continuously since 1927 (it was banned by the Germans during WW2 and continued the very evening they left in 1945) is well worth a visit as well:-

Least we forget.

Similar threads

Latest Threads