I’m happy to report that, on January 29th, President Bush signed into law a temporary reprieve for the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, which federal officials want to replace with a replica because of repairable cosmetic imperfections.
Thanks to the advocacy of 4,000 National Trust for Historic Preservation members and friends who asked Congress and the Army to repair rather than replace the authentic Tomb, Senators Daniel Akaka and Jim Webb successfully amended the Defense Authorization Bill to include a measure that will delay hasty action, mandate a new meaningful study, and require a report to Congress.
The historic monument is not safe, but now preservationists have a real opportunity to reverse the Army’s decision.
The Defense Authorization Bill requires the Secretary of the Army and the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to report to Congress within 180 days to:
- Describe the Army and Department of Veterans Affairs’ current plan to replace and dispose of the 1932 Tomb Monument;
- Assess the feasibility and advisability of repairing the Tomb Monument;
- Describe the current efforts (if any) to maintain and preserve the Tomb Monument;
- Explain why no attempt has been made since 1989 to repair the Tomb Monument;
- Provide a comprehensive comparison (for the first time) of the cost of replacing versus the cost of repairing the Tomb Monument; and,
- Assess the structural integrity of the Tomb Monument.
Since April 2007, when we learned of the plan to replace the monument, the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s president Richard Moe has lobbied key members of Congress as well as the Army and Department of Veterans Affairs.
We’re also very pleased that the Arlington County government, Arlington Heritage Alliance, APVA – Preservation Virginia, American Institute for Conservation, Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, and Virginia Department of Historic Resources each support repairing the cracks in the 1932 marble monument – rather than replacing the authentic monument.
-- Rob Nieweg
Robert Nieweg is the director of the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s Southern Field Office