Tomb of the Unknown, Rome, Italy
Tombs of Unknown Soldiers are exist around the world. Tombs of the Unknown refers to graves in which the unidentifiable remains of a soldier are interred. Such tombs can be found in many nations and are usually high-profile national monuments. Throughout history, many soldiers have died in wars without their remains being identified. Following the First World War, a movement arose to commemorate these soldiers with a single tomb, containing the body of one such unidentified soldier.
The idea was first conceived by Walt Whitman during his first hand experience in the Civil War, where he reflects in Specimen Days on "the Bravest Soldier crumbles in mother earth, unburied and unknown." In 1916 by Reverend David Railton, who, while serving in the British Army as a chaplain on the Western Front, had seen a grave marked by a rough cross, which bore the pencil-written legend 'An Unknown British Soldier'. He proposed that a similar grave should exist in Britain as a national monument. The idea received the support of the Dean of Westminster and later from King George V, responding to a wave of public support. At the same time, there was a similar undertaking in France, where the idea was debated and agreed upon in Parliament.
Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, Parliament Hill, Ottawa, Canada
The United Kingdom and France unveiled their monuments on Armistice Day, 1920. In Britain, the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior was created at Westminster Abbey, while in France La tombe du soldat inconnu was placed in the Arc de Triomphe.
The idea of a symbolic Tomb of the Unknown Soldier spread rapidly to other countries. In 1921, the following year, such tombs were unveiled in the United States, Portugal and Italy. Since then, many other nations have followed the practice and installed their own tombs.
In the United States, further tombs have subsequently been created in order to represent different wars seen as key in its history. In Ukraine, a second tomb was unveiled to commemorate The Unknown Sailor. The United States Army has 9 unknown Medal of Honor recipients. The tombs typically contain the remains of a dead soldier who is unidentified (or "known but to God" as the stone is sometimes inscribed) and thought to be impossible ever to identify, so that he might serve as a symbol for all of the unknown dead wherever they fell.
Unknown Soldier Identified
On Memorial Day (which honors U.S. service people who died in action) in 1958, two more unidentified American war dead, one from World War II and the other from the Korean War, were buried next the unknown soldier of World War I.
A law was passed in 1973 providing interment of an unknown American from the Vietnam War, but because of the improved technology to identify the dead, it was not until 1984 that an unidentified soldier was buried in the tomb.
In 1998, however, the Vietnam soldier was identified through DNA tests as Michael Blassie, a 24-year-old Air Force pilot who was shot down in May of 1972 near the Cambodian border. His body was disinterred and reburied by his family in St. Louis, Missouri.