3 Replies Latest reply on May 11, 2017 3:46 PM by Research Services at the National Archives

    Is there a record of the men who served as pallbearers for the Unknown Soldier of the First World War?

    Ernie Ball

      I am researching the Unknown Soldier of the First World War for a story. I have found the names of a couple of the pallbearers, but not all of them. I was wondering if there is a list of these men--from the original six (including Sgt. Younger) to those honorary pallbearers who accompanied the body to its final resting place? Any help would be greatly appreciated.

        • Re: Is there a record of the men who served as pallbearers for the Unknown Soldier of the First World War?
          Jonathan Deiss

          Newspapers may be your best choice.

           

          Although, you may want to try the AGO Decimal Classified correspondence in RG407.  Perhaps an archivsist from military records at A2 can chime in with an entry and perhaps the decimal classification number for burials or ceremonies..?

           

          It also appears that the Secretary of War asked that Medal of Honor recipients attend the ceremony (ref in RG24, entry 93, box 49 (card 12 of Medals of Honor index set); refer to RG24, Genl Correspodnce (entry 88), file number 1474-473.

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          • Re: Is there a record of the men who served as pallbearers for the Unknown Soldier of the First World War?
            Research Services at the National Archives

            Mr. Ball,

             

            As you bring up in your original request, there were at least two separate groups of pallbearers for the remains of the World War I Unknown on its journey from France to its eventual resting place in Arlington National Cemetery during the Armistice Day ceremony on November 11, 1921. The original six were present with the four unknowns at the city hall in Châlons-sur-Marne, France where “Sgt. Edward F. Younger of Headquarters Company, 2d Battalion, 50th Infantry, American Forces in Germany” was chosen to make the selection of eventual unknown. The other five are identified by the official military source only as “Army noncommissioned officers from American units in Germany,” but are unnamed.

             

            The same is true of the 20 individuals who served either as body bearers or as honorary pallbearers in the ceremonies at the U.S. Capitol and at Arlington.  The eight body bearers are identified by the military source only as “five... Army noncommissioned officers, two… Navy petty officers, and one… Marine Corps noncommissioned officer,” while the twelve honorary pallbearers were specified as “nine general officers and three flag officers, all of whom had served in World War I,”

             

            Another source identifies three of the honorary pallbearers specifically as Alvin C. York, Samuel Woodfill, and Major Charles Whittlesey, who are likely the three flag officers referenced in the official military source.  They were selected by American Expeditionary Forces Commander General John J. Pershing as praise for their exploits on the battlefield.

             

            These sources contain good information and background on the ceremonial context of burying the World War I Unknown, but the official military practice appears to have been to omit their names from the record in order to maintain their anonymity as soldiers.  There are numerous NARA records on the processes for selecting and interring the World War II and Korean War Unknowns, but records are sparser for the World War I Unknown.  Your best bet here may likely be a film from RG 111, “Records of the Office of the Chief Signal Officer,” called The Unknown Soldier of the World War (NAID: 24641; Local Identifier: 111-H-1137) which contains good contextual information in the digitized textual resources and complete film of the two ceremonies.  To learn more about it, you can get in touch with the Motion Picture Branch at Archives II in College Park, Maryland by email at mopix@nara.gov or call them at 301-837-3520.  More information on the services they offer can be found here.


            Thank you for submitting your question to the History Hub.  Best of luck on your search!

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