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The nation’s most prestigious military cemetery, Arlington National Cemetery is also one of the oldest national cemeteries in the U.S. More than 310,000 people, including military casualties and veterans from every single U.S. war - from the American Revolution through U.S. interventions in Afghanistan and Iraq - are buried at Arlington. The cemetery is also the final resting place of many notable civilian, historical, literary and minority figures. Former U.S. president John F. Kennedy, whose iconic Arlington funeral and monument dramatically increased interest in the cemetery, is also interred there.

Among those buried at Arlington are:
·        62 foreign nationals from eleven countries, including 3 World War II prisoners of war
·        3,800 former slaves who lived on the Arlington estate, including James Parks, who was born on the property and dug the first graves
·        482 members of the Confederate army
·        President William Howard Taft
·        President John F. Kennedy and his brother, Attorney General and Senator Robert Kennedy
·        Audie Murphy, the most decorated American soldier of World War II
·        Admiral Hyman Rickover, the longest-serving active duty military officer in U.S. history (63 years)
·        14 of the 34 servicemen killed on the Navy intelligence ship USS Liberty when it was attacked by the Israeli military during the 1967 Six-Day War
·        One of the 23 service members killed during the 1989 invasion of Panama
·        9 explorers, including Robert Peary, Matthew Henson and Richard Byrd
·        16 astronauts, including 9 who flew space missions
·        4 chief justices of the Supreme Court including Earl Warren and William Rehnquist
·        Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.
·        Thurgood Marshall, the first African-American member of the Supreme Court
·        Detective novelist Dashiell Hammett. The author of The Maltese Falcon and The Thin Man served in both world wars and was imprisoned as a Communist sympathizer in 1951.
·        Big band leader Glenn Miller
·        Polish pianist, composer and statesman Ignacy Paderewski
·        Actress Constance Bennett, best known for her role opposite Cary Grant in Topper
·        Civil rights leader Medgar Evers, who was shot to death in Mississippi in 1963
·        Boxer Joe Louis, who successfully defended his world title more times than any heavyweight in history
·        2 rabbis

The Estate

The Arlington mansion was originally intended as a monument to George Washington, commissioned by Washington’s adopted grandson, George Washington Parke Custis. General Robert E. Lee, who married Custis’ daughter, became executor of the estate in 1857 - although, contrary to popular belief, Lee never owned the property. Lee, who had been named a major general for the Virginia military forces in April 1861, lived with his wife at Arlington until the same year, when Virginia joined the Confederacy and seceded from the Union. The Lees were forced to abandon the estate as federal troops took up positions around Arlington, which was confiscated by the federal government when Mrs. Lee failed to pay property taxes.
In 1863, the federal government dedicated part of the property to a model community for freed slaves, Freedman’s Village, where more than 1,000 slaves were given land to live and farm during and after the Civil War.
Arlington National Cemetery was established by Brig. Gen. Montgomery C. Meigs, who appropriated the estate in 1864 for use as a military cemetery, designed to render the house uninhabitable should the Lee family attempt to reclaim it. One of the first monuments erected under Meigs was a burial vault for 1,800 Bull Run casualties.
After Lee’s death in 1870, his son claimed the property had been seized illegally. In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court stated the property had been confiscated without due process and it was returned in 1882. Congress purchased the property from Lee the following year and turned it into a military reservation. Freedman’s village was removed, but the grave sites remained.
What it Does  

Out of 114 national cemeteries, Arlington is one of only two administered under jurisdiction of the Department of the Army - which is responsible for “operation, maintenance and improvement.” All the rest are under the jurisdiction of the Department of Veteran Affairs.

The cemetery performs more than 20 funeral services each day. A popular Capital attraction, it also receives about four million visitors each year. Since the burial of President John F. Kennedy at Arlington in 1963, interest in Arlington has increased dramatically. Before the Kennedy assassination, the cemetery only received about 1 million visitors a year, and in the six months following, received a reported 9 million visitors. By 1968 the Kennedy shrine was receiving an estimated 7 million visitors per year. Interest in burials also skyrocketed - 400% after Kennedy’s burial (source: Slate, as reported by the Washington Post).
Funerals: Rate and expected exhaustion of facilities
According to the official budget statement above (Testimony of Metzler), in FY 2005, there were 4,005 internments and 2,563 inurnments, with similar estimated numbers for FY06 and FY07. Only about 11% of Iraq War casualties have been interred at Arlington. In light of the anticipated exhaustion of resources, the cemetery is planning an expansion (See “Expansion” in Reforms section).
Arlington National Cemetery
Gravesite Capacity as of September 30, 2005
Gravesite Capacity - Developed Areas
Total Gravesites Used
Gravesites Currently Available
Available Capacity Exhausted
Gravesite Capacity -
Total Gravesite Capacity
Total Capacity Exhausted
Eligibility for Burial
As late as 1967, any soldier with honorable discharge was eligible burial at Arlington. Due to increasing popularity and limited space, the government began to apply strict eligibility requirements for burial. Currently, interment space is reserved for those who die on active duty, who have 20 years of service or earned certain military decorations - as well as their spouses and dependents.
Eligibility for Inurnment in the Columbarium (Cremation)
Any honorably discharged veteran is eligible for inurnment in the Columbarium.
Also see Debate section for eligibility issues.
Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
In 1864, two unknown Union soldiers - the first of nearly 5,000 unknowns - were interred in Arlington. In 1934, the official Tomb of the Unknowns (a.k.a. Tomb of the Unknown Soldier) monument was erected. It houses the remains of three Unknown Soldiers, from WWI, WWII and the Korean War (an Unknown Soldier of Vietnam, interred in 1984, was disinterred in 1998, identified by his family, and reburied near their home. The crypt that contained his remains at the ToU remains empty). Since 1948, the Tomb has been guarded by the U.S. Army.
Arlington Yields to Science: No More 'Unknowns' Likely (by Steven Lee Myers, New York Times)
Memorial Amphitheater
The Arlington Memorial Amphitheater was the vision of Judge Ivory G. Kimball, whose campaign resulted in Congress authorizing its construction in 1913. Around 5,000 visitors attend each of three major annual memorial services, sponsored by the U.S. Army Military District of Washington - on Easter, Memorial Day and Veterans Day. Additionally, many military organizations conduct annual memorial services in the amphitheater.
Where Does the Money Go  

Fired for Allowing Media to Attend Funerals

The Bush administration has consistently followed a policy of not allowing the media to show the coffins of soldiers killed in action or to allow coverage of funerals even when the families of deceased soldiers requested media access to help honor their fallen loved ones. When Gina Gray took charge as public affairs director at Arlington National Cemetery, she began granting the families’ request for coverage. When she spoke about the subject to The Washington Post, the Army first demoted her and then fired her.
Putting Her Foot Down and Getting the Boot (by Dana Milbank, Washington Post)
There is a waiver system for exceptions to Arlington’s strict eligibility requirements, granted by the president, Army Secretary or high-ranking Army officials. The Reagan administration granted 53 exceptions in eight years, the Bush administration 34 in four years. But when increased waivers began to mirror the rising demand for plots under the Clinton administration, the Republican witch hunt found a new target. In the late 1990s, Republican Congressional leaders and veteran’s groups leveled dramatic accusations at the Clinton government for allegedly giving away the highly coveted burial plots in exchange for campaign contributions. In response, Army Secretary Togo D. West, Jr. released the names of the 69 people in question, who were given special permission to be buried at Arlington on Clinton’s watch. According to Federal Election Commission records, only one of these, M Larry Lawrence, had made an outstanding contribution to any political party, Republican or Democrat. Ambassador to Switzerland at the time of his death in 1996, Lawrence was granted an exception to the cemetery’s strict entrance requirements (later disinterred and moved). The release of names, previously avoided in the interest of privacy, quelled rising Republican fury, which included an outraged Speaker Newt Gingrich lambasting Clinton in the press. West himself granted exceptions to nine people for whom the cemetery superintendent had recommended denial.
Cohen Intervened on Army Burial (by John Solomon, Associated Press)
Eligibility Restrictions on Criminals
In a move to preclude the possibility of Oklahoma City bomber (and veteran) Timothy McVeigh being buried at Arlington, Congress passed a law in 1997 prohibiting those convicted of capital crimes from being buried in a national cemetery. When a convicted murderer - whose service in the Vietnam war, honorable discharge, and eligibility for parole at the time of his death made him eligible for Arlington burial - was interred at Arlington in 2005, many raised concerns that the 1997 legislation was not strict enough. Some veterans groups opposed tighter restrictions, concerned that they would disqualify, for example, veterans who commit crimes due to post-traumatic stress syndrome.
No Peace in Life at Arlington Cemetery (by Sean Paige, Insight on the News)


House Passes Changes to Arlington Cemetery Eligibility (by Kelley Beaucar Vlahos, Fox News)
Arlington National Cemetery Burial Eligibility Act
H.R. 4940 (Bill | Summary)
Codifies criteria for burial at Arlington National Cemetery, expanding access for members of the Guard and selected reserves.
Passed the House July 22, 2002; Referred to the Senate
Reforming Burial Rules at Arlington National Cemetery
H.R. 3423
(Bill | Summary)
Reforms Army regulations governing eligibility for in-ground burials of Guardsmen and reservists at Arlington National Cemetery.
Passed the House December 20, 2001; Referred to the Senate
Suggested Reforms  


In 2002, responding to an increasing concern that WWII veteran deaths would peak late in the decade and fill the cemetery to capacity by 2025, the Department of the Interior and the Army set aside 26 acres to make room for more graves and a new columbarium.
The plans for expansion have met opposition from environmental and historical groups, who take issue with the anticipated destruction of a nearby forest—as well as “prehistoric archeological resources” in the surrounding area.
New Land Expands Arlington Cemetery's Burial Space (by Sgt. 1st Class Kathleen T. Rhem, American Forces Press Service)
Congressional Oversight  
Former Directors  

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Table of Contents

Founded: 1864
Annual Budget: $26.8 million (FY 2008)
Employees: 100 + federal employees; additional contractors

Arlington National Cemetery
Metzler, John "Jack"
Previous Superintendent
John C. Metzler, Jr. (known as “Jack”) was a second-generation superintendent of Arlington. Metzler moved to the cemetery in 1951 when his father, John C. Metzler, became superintendant, living on the grounds from age four until he joined the Army in the late sixties. After returning from Vietnam, Metzler served as superintendent of several national cemeteries before being appointed Arlington superintendent in 1991. Metzler most notably presided over the burial of Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis in 1994, and his father presided over that of her husband JFK. Metzler also served on the Department of Defense Qualifications Review Board (U.S. Army) from 2001-2002. He served as superintendent from January 1991 until July 2, 2010.