Selection of the Unknown Soldier – October 24, 1921

95 Years Ago Today

On October 24, 1921, the Unknown Soldier of World War I was selected in Chalons-sur-Marne, France, about 90 miles east of Paris. The remains of four soldiers killed in World War I were exhumed from four American cemeteries in France (Romagne, Thiacourt, Belleau, and Bony) and brought to Chalons.

The honor of selecting the Unknown Soldier fell to Sergeant Edward Younger, a veteran of World War I. Younger had been wounded twice in World War I and was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for valor. Younger was one of six soldiers assigned to be pallbearers for the ceremony, but after learning the French selected an enlisted soldier for their Unknown Soldier selection process, the task went to Younger. Younger was instructed to lay a spray of white roses on the remains that would be interred at Arlington National Cemetery.

The selected remains were transported to Le Havre the next day. At Le Havre, the honor guard placed the remains aboard the USS Olympia for the ocean voyage to Washington, D.C.

Younger died in 1944 and was interred in Arlington National Cemetery (Section 18; Grave 1918-B). The USS Olympia is currently docked in Philadelphia, PA at the Independence Seaport Museum, where fundraising is underway for a restoration of the ship that first entered service in 1892.

For a full narrative of the events around the selection of the Unknown Soldier see the War Department Report on the Selection and Burial of the Unknown American Soldier:

Remember the Maine! – February 15, 1898

On February 15, 1898, the U.S.S. Maine was docked in Havana Bay, Cuba. It was to be an American presence during the Cuban War for Independence. Later that night, an explosion rocked the ship, killing 266 members of the crew. The explosion, still not solved to this day, launched the United States into the War with Spain. Many believed the Spanish were behind the the explosion. It resulted in a declaration of war against Spain on April 25.

The War with Spain sent American troops to the Spanish territories of Cuba, Philippines, Guam and Puerto Rico. Soldiers of the Old Guard departed Ft. Snelling, MN by train and arrived in Mobile, AL en route to Cuba by Army transport ships. In July 1898, the Regiment played a significant part in the Santiago Campaign, enduring tropical heat in woolen uniforms while storming a fortified blockhouse at El Caney that controlled a part of the city’s water supply. It was followed by three days of more or less continuous shelling in trenches before the city until a ceasefire was signed. The war lasted August 1898, when a peace agreement was signed.

Several years later, Congress made arrangements to raise the Maine and inter the remaining dead at Arlington National Cemetery. The memorial, which serves as the final resting place for 165 members of the crew, incorporated the main mast of the Maine. In 1915, President Woodrow Wilson was on hand to dedicate the U.S.S. Maine Mast and Memorial. Currently, the mast and memorial is being restored to its 1915 appearance.