Tom Tudor presented a lecture on “Arlington and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier” on November 6, 2018 at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library in Ann Arbor, Michigan. For the past 25 years, Tudor has traveled to lecture on Arlington National Cemetery and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Tudor served as a sentinel and relief commander at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier from February 1969 to Memorial Day of 1970. He is the past President and Board Member of the Society of the Honor Guard – Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
Arlington National Cemetery is the resting place for over 400,000 U.S. Service Members and their next of kin, and the only cemetery that has veterans from every war the United States has fought, dating back to the American Revolution.
The presentation at the Library was full-capacity and a follow-up to the full-capacity presentation Tudor gave at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum in Grand Rapids, Michigan on November 14, 2017. Tudor’s presentation included numerous photos of Arlington National Cemetery, both historic and current, and photos of historic figures with ties to Arlington National Cemetery.
Tudor opened the lecture expressing gratitude for having the opportunity to serve as a sentinel and relief commander at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, which he described as a gift. Tudor gave details on the role performed by Tomb Guards of the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment, ‘walking the mat’, and even described the various components of the shoes worn by the Honor Guard. Tudor also recited the Sentinel’s Creed and the Honor Guard’s motto which is “Soldiers never die until they are forgotten. Tomb Guards never forget.”
Tudor chronicled several facts and historical events on Arlington National Cemetery including that the land was originally part of the estate of Mary Anna Custis Lee, wife of Confederate General Robert E. Lee and great-granddaughter of George Washington. Upon the start of the Civil War the Union Army took control of the property after the Lee family relocated south toward Richmond, VA. Following the Civil War Lee’s son, George Washington Custis Lee, legally won his family’s title claim of the property from the U.S. Government and then sold it back to the U.S. Government for fair market value in 1883.
Other historic facts about Arlington National Cemetery included: the first military burial took place on May 13, 1864, Pvt. William Henry Christian from Pennsylvania, in Section 27; Pvt. William B. Blatt was the first combat casualty burial in May 14, 1964; originally those buried on the property were either Unknown or their families could not afford to have them brought home in a proper casket; and that marble headstones were selected for use in all national cemeteries by the U.S. Congress in 1873 because Arlington’s headstones were originally painted wood that only lasted for up to five years.
In September 1866, General Montgomery C. Meigs, Quartermaster General of the U.S. Army during the Civil War was a principal architect of Arlington National Cemetery and buried over 2,000 remains of unknown Union (which more than likely also included Confederate) soldiers’ bones in Mary Anna Custis Lee’s rose garden, as a way to insult General Robert E. Lee for fighting for the Confederacy. In 1921, with President Warren G. Harding presiding and General John J. Pershing dropping soil into the grave, the World War I Soldier was interred in the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery.
In 1925, upon a World War I Veteran visiting the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and seeing a family eating a picnic on it, he visited the White House to which President Calvin Coolidge immediately ordered a civilian guard at the Tomb to begin the next day. On March 25, 1926 the U.S. Army began its posting as the Honor Guard of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, and the Army remains the only members to guard to the Tomb to this day. The U.S. Army began its posting of 24-hour guard on July 2, 1937. Interment of Korean and World War II Unknown Soldiers took place in 1958, and interment of Vietnam War Unknown Soldier was in 1984.
Tudor concluded the lecture answering questions from the audience.