Replace Tomb of the Unknown Soldier?





Preservationists in northern Virginia are organizing to protest a plan to replace the marble-cracked Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. The Arlington Heritage Alliance insists the old monument can be saved.

In an email to HNN the group argues:

It's hard to believe, but officials at Arlington National Cemetery plan to replace the original Tomb of the Unknown Soldier with a new replica solely because of easily reparable cosmetic imperfections. This 1932 monument is nationally significant and eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places. I hope you will consider reporting on and/or blog-posting about this.

The 48-ton marble block has two nonstructural cracks which pose no threat to visitors or the historic structure. Surprisingly, federal bureaucrats want the replica carved from new stone that experts agree will likely again crack along its grain just as marble does naturally when exposed to the elements. Repair and proper care of the Tomb (re-grouting the cracks and using only gentle cleaning methods instead of high-pressure power-washing) is possible and is the preferred method for fixing the existing cracks, as other marble monuments such as the Lincoln Memorial were repaired.

Our group, the Arlington Heritage Alliance, is working closely with the National Trust for Historic Preservation on this issue. As part of our advocacy, we have sent letters to the Virginia Congressional delegation and to the Virginia State Historic Preservation Officer to advocate against replacement of the Tomb and to enlist the help of our politicians.

A decision to determine the fate of the Tomb Monument is expected by September 30th. We're asking concerned citizens to contact their elected representatives and ask them and the Senate Committee on Armed Services to explore alternatives to replacing the memorial; and to contact John Metzler, superintendent of Arlington National Cemetery and ask him to repair rather than replace the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.



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Rob Nieweg - 9/22/2007

Senator Daniel Akaka and Senator Jim Webb have submitted Senate Amendment 2995 to the Defense Authorization Bill, which may provide a welcome reprieve for the historic Tomb of the Unknowns.

For more information, visit www.nationaltrust.org

If it is enacted, Senate Amendment 2995 would stop the rush to discard the authentic monument and, instead, require a thorough re-consideration of repairing the monument’s cosmetic cracks. Here is the full text of the Akaka-Webb amendment:

SEC. 1044. REPORT ON PLANS TO REPLACE THE MONUMENT AT THE TOMB OF THE UNKNOWNS AT ARLINGTON NATIONAL CEMETERY, VIRGINIA.

(a) Report Required.–Not later than 180 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Secretary of the Army and the Secretary of Veterans Affairs shall jointly submit to Congress a report setting forth the following:

(1) The current plans of the Secretaries with respect to –

(A) replacing the monument at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery, Virginia; and

(B) disposing of the current monument at the Tomb of the Unknowns, if it were removed and replaced.

(2) An assessment of the feasibility and advisability of repairing the monument at the Tomb of the Unknowns rather than replacing it.

(3) A description of the current efforts of the Secretaries to maintain and preserve the monument at the Tomb of the Unknowns.

(4) An explanation of why no attempt has been made since 1989 to repair the monument at the Tomb of the Unknowns.

(5) A comprehensive estimate of the cost of replacement of the monument at the Tomb of the Unknowns and the cost of repairing such monument.

(6) An assessment of the structural integrity of the monument at the Tomb of the Unknowns.

(b) Limitation on Action.–The Secretary of the Army and the Secretary of Veterans Affairs may not take any action to replace the monument at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery, Virginia, until 180 days after the date of the receipt by Congress of the report required by subsection (a).

(c) Exception.–The limitation in subsection (b) shall not prevent the Secretary of the Army or the Secretary of Veterans Affairs from repairing the current monument at the Tomb of the Unknowns or from acquiring any blocks of marble for uses related to such monument, subject to the availability of appropriations for that purposes.

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