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 honor of selecting the Unknown Soldier was given to SGT 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 his valor. Younger was one of six soldiers assigned to be pallbearers for the ceremony, but upon learning that the French used an enlisted soldier for their Unknown Soldier selection process, the task fell to Younger. 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. Younger was instructed to lay a spray of white roses on the remains to be honored 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 trip to Washington, DC.
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.
William R. Spates, Jr. was born on September 8, 1939. He attended Mackin High School in Washington, DC, and graduated in 1957. He entered the Army in June 1957 and completed basic training at Fort Gordon, Georgia. He then received airborne training at Fort Campbell, Kentucky and was later assigned to Worms, Germany in August 1959. While serving in Germany, Sergeant Spates completed the non-commissioned officers course at the NCO Academy and was subsequently awarded the Good Conduct Medal for exemplary behavior, efficiency and fidelity in active military service.
Upon his return to the United States in September 1963, he was assigned to 1st Battalion (Reinf), 3rd Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) as a Chief Radio Operator. In 1964, due to his outstanding conduct, he was transferred to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier as a Relief Commander. His responsible and continuous service as a Relief Commander earned him Guard, Tomb of the Unknown Soldier Identification Badge and he was further awarded (for professionalism) his second Good Conduct Medal.
In May 1965 he was initially assigned to Pleiku, Republic of Vietnam and later served as an advisor to the 23rd Vietnamese Ranger Battalion. Staff Sergeant Spates was killed in action on October 25, 1965. He was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star for valor and meritorious service to his country. He was laid to rest in Arlington National Cemetery with full military honors by Honor Guard Company on November 2, 1965.