Preservationists Win Temporary Reprieve for Historic Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery

Posted on: January 30th, 2008 by National Trust for Historic Preservation 15 Comments

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:

  1. Describe the Army and Department of Veterans Affairs’ current plan to replace and dispose of the 1932 Tomb Monument;
  2. Assess the feasibility and advisability of repairing the Tomb Monument;
  3. Describe the current efforts (if any) to maintain and preserve the Tomb Monument;
  4. Explain why no attempt has been made since 1989 to repair the Tomb Monument;
  5. Provide a comprehensive comparison (for the first time) of the cost of replacing versus the cost of repairing the Tomb Monument; and,
  6. 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

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

National Trust for Historic Preservation

National Trust for Historic Preservation

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

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15 Responses

  1. Robert Donohue

    March 20, 2008

    As a Vietnam Era Veteran of the U.S. Navy, a Member of the National Trust, the National Main Street Center and an avowed historic preservationist in general, I am so thankful for the efforts by Dick Moe on behalf of The National Trust for Historic Preservation, Congress, other agencies and all who have spoken out in favor of saving the original Tomb of The Unknown Soldier. For at least a hundred reasons it is so important to repair, rather than replace, the original monument. It evokes all of the purpose and reverance for those it represents, as well as being a tangible reminder, historic in its own right, to all of those who have witnessed it in the past. We must preserve this link to our history and remain ever vigilant and relentless in our efforts to save this monument. I do hope the U. S. Army will consider all factual information in its decision. Thank You.

  2. Charles D> Murphy, Jr

    March 20, 2008

    The army should stop it’s willful neglect of properties of historical signifance and begin maintence of properties instead of replacment at a much higher cost which is it’s usual manner.

  3. Mrs. Flora Goldman

    March 20, 2008

    You want to build houses and stores over our battlefields, you tear down ouur historic houses and destroy those areas. Now you want to replace our Tomb of the Unknowns. What heriltage are you leaving for our children and grandchildren. Restore the monument. It has meaning and is our respect for those who sacriced. Do not replace the irreplaceable.

  4. maurene owen

    March 20, 2008

    I have been a member of the National Trust for a long time—as well as a professional member of the American Society of Interior Designers—–also, my husband is retired Air Force and a Vietnam vet——–What have they been thinking?——This monument should have long ago been repaired——-not ever to be replaced——–just consider its importance—it represents those that died for our freedom—-even though it is a small tribute—–it is, indeed, a tribute! Repair, patch, preserve whatever is necessary, but don’t replace———-and don’t ever let it or any other national monument get in a bad state of repair again!
    Thanks for all you do to preserve our heritage.
    Maurene Owen—-South Carolina

  5. R. Edwards

    March 21, 2008

    Tradition and History matters…people can make things happen……..

  6. LTC Thomas R. Vantre (Ret)

    March 21, 2008

    Do NOT replace or destroy our heritage, preserve it!

  7. John McAuliffe WW-II Vet

    March 21, 2008

    Reminds me of Barbara Frietchie….

    “Shoot if you must, this old gray head, But, spare your country’s flag she said”…..
    “Who touches a hair of yon gray head Dies like a dog ! March on”
    he said…….

  8. Albert loew

    March 21, 2008

    I too would like to add my name to those that want to repair not replace
    the tomb of the unknown soldier.I want to thank all of you that supports Sen, Webb and others that work to make this their mission.
    Albert Loew,Capt. MC USN Retired.

  9. Shirley Ricker Theis

    March 21, 2008

    My father was killed in the Battle of the Bulge, leaving a 7 year old daughter and a 1 year old son to be cared for by his wife, my mother.
    By the grace of God, his body was found and buried in Belgium. I cherish the cross that marks his grave. Had his body not been found, he’s memory would be marked by the inspiring monument at the Tomb of the Unknowns. To replace either of those markers would be the most disgusting and hurtful thing our government could do to the families of American heros. FOR SHAME!

  10. George Ciampa

    March 21, 2008

    As a World War II veteran of five campaigns in Europe, participating with the 607th Graves Registration Company that initiated cemeteries in France, Belgium and Germany, I say that tearing down the original Tomb of the Unknown Soldier would be like tearing down the crosses and Stars of David in our cemeteries abroad in favor of something else. Maintenance is the key word. Not replacing.

  11. Ralph Bozorth

    March 24, 2008

    Let’s spend the money to maintain a most hallowed and revered shrine, “The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier” instead of spending billions of dollars in Iraq, for which we have received nothing except casualties.

  12. Maria Krause

    March 25, 2008

    What IDIOT could possibly think a “replica” could ever be an acceptable alternative to repairing this soulful tribute to those who truly gave “the last full measure.” Money is not the compelling factor here. Honor and respect for those who died to establish the freedoms we now enjoy is the underlying issue. Lest we forget, in the words of George Santayana:
    those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it. A substitute Tomb of the Unknown Soldier will be only that – an sad imitation with no true representation of our national history.

  13. Susan Seay

    April 2, 2008

    Upon a visit to Washington D.C. in 2003, My Mother and I had the opprotunity to visit the Tomb of the Unknown Soilder. The solitude and the magnificense of the Tomb brought tears to our eyes in remembrance to our relatives that have fallen in wars our Nation have faced to protect our freedom. To destroy this moment would be a disgrace to all fallen heros and living veterans in times past and times present. Please consider these consequences. Preserve the Tomb, preserve our history.

  14. Bruce Brooks

    August 27, 2008

    So what if the marble is replaced? It is a piece of marble people, not the tomb itself. How is a repaired monument (a process which must be repeated for as long as the time and winter come to DC) any more historically accurate than an identical piece of marble that is solid and whole?

    They weren’t talking about plastic painted to look like marble – – -geez!

    OR … we could just wait a few more years and the cracks will be designated as a historically significant and preservationist will whine to preserve the cracks themselves.

  15. J D Keating

    October 24, 2009

    The repair contract for the Tomb has been awarded:

    https://www.fbo.gov/index?s=opportunity&mode=form&tab=core&id=de8ac12ff9ba4d8986397a1c39d802b4&_cview=0