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:

Unknown Soldier lying in state – November 10, 1921

On November 10, 1921, the remains of the Unknown Soldier of World War I lain in state under the U.S. Capitol Rotunda. Starting at 8 AM, the Rotunda opened to allow the public to pay their respects before the State Funeral commenced the following day. Over 90,000 people passed by the Unknown’s casket, with so many still waiting in line at 11 PM, visitation hours were extended through midnight. The casket rested on the Lincoln catafalque, the support built for President Lincoln’s funeral, and is used for all of those are granted the honor of lying in state under the Rotunda.


The previous day, the USS Olympia docked at the Washington Navy Yard with the Unknown Soldier’s remains aboard. The Unknown Soldier was transported on a horse-drawn caisson by members of the 3rd Cavalry Regiment, based out of Fort Myer, VA, and conveyed to the Capitol. The procession route was “lined with sorrowing people standing bareheaded in silent tribute, regardless of the rain.”


On November 11, 1921, the third anniversary of the World War I armistice, the Unknown Soldier was laid to rest next to Arlington National Cemetery’s Memorial Amphitheater, just completed the previous year.


The Unknown Soldier’s remains were placed in the crypt atop two inches of French soil, brought back for the ceremony, amid wreaths and gifts bestowed by the Allied and even the Crow Nation, all to honor the Unknown Soldier.


Earlier this year, descendants of Thomas Cecil Scott, a clerk in the War Department’s Cemeterial Division, donated a history of the Unknown Soldier of World War I selection and State Funeral. The entire document can found here:

Selection of the Unknown Soldier – October 24, 1921


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.