Tomb Remains Threatened

Posted on: September 20th, 2007 by National Trust for Historic Preservation 5 Comments

Truman at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. (Harry S. Truman Library & Museum)The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier remains at serious risk and, unfortunately, the Army is rushing to finalize its agreement to replace the historic monument by September 30th.

On September 13th, however, we understand that staff to the Senate Armed Services Committee met with Mary Oehrlein, a preservation expert and author of the Cemetery’s 1990 study of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier monument.

Ms. Oehrlein told congressional staffers:

  • “Although there is separation in the stone along the naturally occurring fault lines of the stone … i.e. the cracks ... the monument is in no danger of falling apart and poses no danger to the public or cemetery personnel. A very significant external force, similar to an earthquake, would be required to cause the stone to slide apart.”
  • “The existing monument can easily be repaired, as was done 17 years ago, using conventional conservation methods to re-grout the cracks. Once repaired, the fault lines would be virtually invisible from the public viewing areas.”
  • “There is no way to stop the deterioration of the surface of the existing stone or any newly quarried and carved piece of stone, unless it is placed out of the weather in a controlled environment.”
  • “The idea that a new piece of stone can be quarried that will not contain faults is unrealistic. The chance of quarrying three flawless pieces of stone is zero. It really is a question of how quickly the faults will appear when the replacement stone is quarried, carved or as the stone weathers.”

Contributed by Robert Nieweg, director of the National Trust for Historic Preservation's Southern Field Office.

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National Trust for Historic Preservation

The National Trust for Historic Preservation, a privately funded non-profit organization, works to save America's historic places.


5 Responses

  1. Arleta Roy

    September 24, 2007

    The Liberty Bell has a crack in it also. Are we going to replace it too? I visited the Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers earlier this year and didn’t even notice the crack. We honor the soldiers, not the monument itself. The monument has history and the cracks would only give it character. If it’s not going to fall apart leave it where it is after patching the crack to keep water from getting in, freezing and expanding.

  2. Donna Talley

    September 24, 2007

    The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier should be REPAIRED, not Replaced. It is a part of our history and honors those who died to keep our country free. Donna Talley, member of The Daughters of the American Revolution

  3. Sheryl Rueter

    September 28, 2007

    I recieved the call to save the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier briefly after visiting Arlington over Labor Day weekend. I was with my husband a retired Chief Petty Officer in the Navy Reserve. My husband has also worked in the field of preservation and waterproofing for 30 years and had read of the possibility of a replacement. His exact words where the same thing will happen. If the Tomb was a headstone would it be replaced? This monument to our fallen heros has been viewed and guarded for so long, why does our society think new is always the answer. I say preserve what is there so that our children can honor the fallen as we have.

  4. lynn todd

    October 22, 2007

    Ive have a pow braclet for chief master sargant Samual Adams date of capture 10/31/1965 that I have had since I was 12 yrs old. I treasure it as he was exacuted and never returned from veit nam. Ive made my own memorial for him. The web site is The mz stands for military zone nasty. Its heros like hiim that theese memorials were made for and shame on anyone who thinks they can just replace something old that millions of people have visited and prayed over. Please take the time to visit my website as it is in honor of all our military. thanks and God Bless the USA
    lynn todd

  5. Tracey Boks

    December 3, 2007

    Please,do not replace this monument with a replica. Leave the monument as it is right now. It can be repaired .New is not always better.It is part of our history.Too many of our nations buildings and monuments have been lost to be replaced with parking lots or whatever that city feels it needs at the time.It is too late to get back what was lost. Only then when it is too late we realize how important that structure, building,or monument was to the history it represents. The monument honors all of the men and women who gave their lives so we may have all of the freedoms we do today. Bless the USA and Thank God for everything we have.