Every soldier who has guarded the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier since the 1930s knows that Lorimer Rich and Thomas Hudson Jones were the two men chosen as the architect and the sculptor of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier – their names appear on the first step on either side of their work, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. We have admired the sculpture on the Tomb during the night time. We marvel at the detail of the three figures of Victory, Peace, and Valor as we wait for them to somehow come to life.

But what do we know of the man who literally had one chance to “get it right?”

Thomas Hudson Jones was born July 24, 1892 in Buffalo, New York. His father was an engraver by trade and encouraged his son to be a sculptor. He attended the Albright Art School in Buffalo, and at 19 he won the Rome Prize Fellowship for three years of study at the American Academy in Rome. The judges, however, decided that he was too young to go at the time.

For a time Jones worked in the studio of Daniel Chester French as French worked on the sculpture of the seated Lincoln for what would become the iconic figure in the Lincoln Memorial. Jones left French in 1917 and entered the US Army where he served in World War I. Following the war he took the fellowship in Rome.

He returned to the United States in 1922 to sculpt and teach at Columbia University in New York City. In 1934 he returned to Rome to serve as a Professor of Fine Arts at the academy. Jones designed the ornate 50-foot-high bronze doors for the New Library of Brooklyn. In Washington, D.C., he designed three reliefs of law givers for the House of Representatives chamber in the United States Capitol (1950) and the Statue of Christ in St. Matthews Church in Washington, D.C.

In 1929 the Fine Arts Commission selected Jones and Lorimer Rich from among 74 sculptors and architects to design the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. It turned out that the selection of Rich and Jones was the easy part. Delays in the selection of marble took nearly two years as the 50-ton die block was brought to Arlington…only to be rejected for a flaw. This started the process all over. In the meantime, the east side of the Memorial Amphitheater was renovated to open the view from the plaza all the way to the Potomac and Washington, DC. By December 1931 a replacement block had been delivered and work resumed. On the last day of 1931, the cap was placed over the crypt and sealed into place. It was now that Jones went to work sculpting the three central figures and the six inverted memorial wreaths – a commission he finished in a matter of weeks. On April 9, 1932 the completed monument was open to the public.

For Jones, it was this work that made him well known in government circles.

At the request of the Government, Jones left his McDougal Alley studio in Greenwich Village, New York in 1944 and started work for the Institute of Heraldry in Washington, DC where he stayed after the war ended. It was here that Jones went on to design well over 40 US military service medals including the World War II Victory Medal, Airman’s Medal, Women’s Army Corps Service Medal, Army of Occupation Medal, and the National Defense Service Medal.

Other works of note are the ornate 50-foot-high bronze doors for the New Library of Brooklyn. In Washington, D.C., he designed three reliefs of law givers for the House of Representatives chamber in the United States Capitol (1950) and the Statue of Christ in St. Matthews Church in Washington, D.C.

Thomas Hudson Jones died on November 4, 1969 in Hyannis, Massachusetts. By many accounts, the place of his burial is unknown; for the Tomb Guards, he will never be forgotten.

Kevin Welker

Poole, Robert M. On Hallowed Ground: The Story of Arlington National Cemetery. New York: Walker and Company, 2009.

United States Army Insignia Home Page


Thomas Hudson Jones — http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Hudson_Jones

Gold Star Mothers at the Tomb in 1930 with General John J. Pershing - courtesy Library of Congress

Gold Star Mothers at the Tomb in 1930 with General John J. Pershing

Lucky enough to have been one of the few who guarded the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier I can share a few thoughts about this very special day. My early memories of Memorial Day prior to time spent in the US Army’s 3rd Infantry Regiment were cluttered with barbeques and for the most part, school-free days of leisure. Back then, I had yet to fully grasp the importance of the day. Today, it is the most significant of days in the calendar year to me. I hesitate to use the term ‘holiday’, as Memorial Day is a time to reflect and pay tribute. My most special memory of this day occured while I was Sentinel at the Tomb of the Unknowns.

Memorial Day at Arlington National Cemetery is the most busy day of the year (although rivaled by Veterans’ Day). For Tomb Guards, it is a jarring break from the ‘normal’ routine of 21 steps, heel clicks, and guard changes. Throughout the day, the guard’s walk is broken up with multiple wreath layings from various groups and individuals. The day is filled with regular irregulars all the way from the President (whose wreath laying is followed by a televised speech and ceremony in the Memorial Amphitheater directly behind the Tomb) to the Boy Scouts, and the bizarre “Order of the Cootie” (a veteran’s group with roots in World War I who can lay over 100 wreaths each year depending on the number of VFW posts participating).

However, one group, the American Gold Star Mothers (AGSM), remains etched in my mind and continues to stir deep feelings whenever I reflect on the meaning behind their organization. I’m not sure if they were more solemn than the other groups, but in my mind’s eye they are stoic and dignified. From my position in “The Box” where the guard stays during the ceremony I was able to observe many groups on those days. I noticed the muted cutting up that these folks take when present at the Tomb on a hot day. Sometimes they laugh quietly and speak amongst each other, usually in awkward awe at the seriousness at which we carry out our duty.

These Gold Star Mothers neither cracked a smile nor cried as they laid their wreaths at the base of the Tomb and lined up along the chains awaiting the bugler’s rendition of “Taps”. At this time, circa 2002, our country was staring down the beginning of Operation Iraqi Freedom less than a year later. The ranks of the Gold Star Mothers were populated with many women with white hair, mothers to children lost in the Vietnam War. They were emblazoned in pure white balanced by the mid-day marble the Tomb resides on. As “Taps” played, I did noticed a few tears and hugs of support, and when they filed away I found myself heavy with emotion.

Their presence on the plaza represented alot to me. I thought of my own mother, at home worried sick wondering if her son would end up in Iraq. I thought of those women on the plaza, decades removed from seeing their child. Their pain was palpable that day. Many times, soldiers like myself enlist without batting an eye thinking about the ramifications of service, much less how it makes our mother feel. We are invincible ministers of death, trained in the greatest military the Earth has ever seen. Dwelling on the reality of service doesn’t really fit in with the mentality of success or mindset of anyone in the armed forces.

Of course the Gold Star Mother’s understand. Their white uniforms stand out in stark contrast to traditional mourning color of black. From their website, they explain the rationale behind this color choice:
“The decision by AGSM to wear white, rather than black, was a strong statement of how the women wanted to be perceived as they participated in the organization’s business. Yes, they mourned their lost children, but white made a symbolic statement that went beyond mourning, a statement of peace, sacrifice, innocence and goodness. Those were the things that their children had been and had died for – wearing white celebrated their children’s contributions while the gold star acknowledged their sacrifice.”

Sadly, the last decade has seen their ranks have increased in number, bolstered with the young mothers of this generation’s war. These days, whenever I think of Memorial Day, I reflect on the Gold Star Mother’s of America and their continued memorialization of those cherished sons and daughters lost in our country’s wars.

by Benjamin Bell

Originally written in 2011 for The Daily Beast.

This is a guest post (repost) from the Verizon News Center corporate blog, written by Peter Casale.

Rex and Sentinel Brett Hyde

Rex and Sentinel Brett Hyde

The true meaning of Memorial Day goes much deeper than a three-day weekend. It’s a day of remembrance for the men and women who have died valiantly for our country. For Verizon employee, Rex Looney (right), honoring our men and women who have paid the ultimate sacrifice is part of his every day.

A military veteran with a law enforcement background, Rex is a former Military Police, Patrolman and Deputy County Sheriff. At Verizon, Rex works in Legal Compliance. He’s responsible for validating and responding to legal requests for subscriber records via a subpoena, search warrant or court orders. Rex is a protector by nature.

In 2005, the avid photographer began taking pictures at The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier located on the hallowed grounds of Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia. The memorial is dedicated to the unidentified soldiers who were killed in war and is guarded continuously 24/7 by specially trained men, of the 3rd United States Infantry Regiment known as The Old Guard.

One day, after taking several photos of the ceremonial Changing of the Guard, Rex knocked on the door of the Tomb Guard Quarters and donated the images. After a few more times, they showed their appreciation for his contributions by granting him unescorted access to specific areas not open to the public. Now, Rex has become “the unofficial official” photographer of the Tomb Guard. Over the years, Rex has captured countless images of the Tomb Guards. He’s become an Honorary “Line Six” Life Member of the Society of the Honor Guard Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Line Six refers to the sixth line of the Sentinel’s Creed – “My standard will remain perfection.”

Rex has access to many intimate moments in the life of Tomb Guards.

Rex has access to many intimate moments in the life of Tomb Guards.

And perfection is exactly what Rex captures in his photos. The Tomb Guards say, “Soldiers never die until they are forgotten. Tomb Guard never forget.” While Rex may not be a Tomb Guard, he’s an American and a veteran and he doesn’t plan on forgetting. This Memorial Day take a minute to participate in a National Moment of Remembrance at 3 p.m. Think about those who have made the ultimate sacrifice – especially those that are unknown to man.

Verizon Foundation’s Matching Gift Program

Through the Volunteer Incentive Program, employees who log a minimum of 50 volunteer hours can earn a $750 grant for the nonprofit where they donate their service. Thanks to Rex’s volunteer work, the money was sent to a fund named in honor of SSG Adam L. Dickmyer, a Tomb Guard and personal friend of Rex who was killed in Afghanistan in 2010.

Rex’s work with the Tomb Guards and other interests is proudly on display on Flickr. View here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/rexographer

Charles Whittlesey was not one to acknowledge the accolades of others. He was a humble man but remained loyal to those with whom he served. His service in the First World War was the thing of legend and perseverance against insurmountable odds that still inspires today.

Whittlesey bw

Whittlesey was born January 20, 1884 in Florence, Wisconsin to Frank and Annie Whittlesey – the eldest of four boys. The family moved to Pittsfield, Massachusetts sometime near the turn of the century when Frank received a position with General Electric.

Whittlesey graduated from Pittsfield High School and entered Williams College where he was a member of the Delta Psi fraternity. After graduating from Williams, Whittlesey attended Harvard Law School where he graduated in 1908. He then went to New York City to practice law with a private firm and then in 1911 he entered practice with his friend and classmate, J. Bayard Pruyun.

A month after the United States had entered the First World War in 1917, Whittlesey took a leave of absence from his law firm to join the Army. He shipped to France as a captain in the Army’s 77th Division, known as the “Metropolitan Division” since it was made up of mostly men from New York City – most of which were from the Lower East side and mostly the sons of immigrants. By September of 1917 Whittlesey was commissioned a major.

On October 2, 1918, Whittlesey and his command of 554 soldiers were ordered to move against a heavily fortified German position when the 77th Division was ordered into the Meuse-Argonne region as part of a massive American attack. Because the units on their flanks failed to make headway, Whittlesey’s troops were cut off from their supply lines, pinned down by German fire. The ensuing days were perilous for Whittlesey and his men as they were without food or water. Every movement was observed by German snipers and efforts to retrieve water from a nearby stream were halted because so many men were killed in the effort. For four days Whittlesey and his men resisted not only the German sniper attacks, but also German soldiers armed with grenades, trench mortars, and flame throwers. It was at this time that Whittlesey and his men became known as the “Lost Battalion.”

Because of their position, Whittlesey’s lines of communication were soon cut. Any contact with units in the rear would have to be made by homing pigeons. When an artillery unit received inaccurate coordinates, Whittlesey and his men found themselves victims of “friendly fire.” A hurriedly scratched message by Whittlesey found its way to the battery commander that read in part, “Our artillery is dropping a barrage directly on us. For heaven’s sake stop it.”

On October 6, an effort was made to resupply Whittlesey’s battalion. Because of incorrect coordinates very few supplies reached the trapped men. It was at this time that the Germans contacted Whittlesey requesting his surrender. A blindfolded American prisoner made his way into Whittlesey’s lines with the German message. Whittlesey and Captain George McMurtry, his second-in-command, refused to acknowledge the request and pulled in the white panels used to signal Allied aircraft for fear of being seen as flags of surrender.

When more air reconnaissance missions were conducted, the men were located and eventually rescued on October 7, 1918. Of the original 554 soldiers involved in the advance, 107 had been killed, 63 were missing, and 190 were wounded. Only 194 were able to walk out unhurt.

Soon after the rescue of the Lost Battalion, Major Whittlesey was promoted to lieutenant colonel. He was relieved from further duty on October 29th and returned to the United States a war hero. On December 5th he was honorably discharged and the next day received word that he was to be awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor (his subordinates Captain McMurtry and Captain Holderman also were awarded the Medal of Honor).

Following his discharge, Whittlesey returned to his law practice, but found himself in constant demand for speeches, parades, and honorary degrees. A modest and sensitive man, Whittlesey was uncomfortable with the attention he received and shared very little detail as possible about his time with his men in the Argonne. His public speaking was limited to praising the enlisted men with whom he served, the common soldier who received little to no recognition for their uncommon bravery. So dedicated was he to his men of the Lost Battalion that Whittlesey left his sick bed to attend the funeral of a private who served under him. His last work as the Chairman of the Red Cross Roll Call in New York City was all based on the suffering of the wounded. He attended nearly two to three funerals a week, visited the wounded in the hospitals, and comforted the families of the dead. In perhaps his final act of gratitude to the fallen of the Great War, on November 11, 1921, Whittlesey attended the internment of the Unknown Soldier from World War I, along with several fellow Medal of Honor recipients.

Later that month on November 24th, Whittlesey booked passage from New York to Havana aboard the USS Toloa, a steamship owned by the United Fruit Company. On November 26th, the first night out from New York, Whittlesey dined with the captain and then retired for the evening around 11:15pm; it was noted that he was in high spirits.

Whittlesey was never seen again.

He was reported missing the next morning. It is presumed that he committed suicide by jumping overboard, although no one had seen him jump and his body was never recovered. His friends and family had no idea of his travel plans and were shocked when they received the news of his disappearance and that letters had been prepared to those close to him. None of the letters hinted to the reasons for his suicide and the recipients never made the letters public. His will, which was drawn up prior to his voyage, left his property to his mother. To his friend George McMurtry, Whittlesey left the original copy of the German surrender request.

Several theories existed at the time as to what had pushed Whittlesey to such depths of depression: deaths of soldiers that remained a constant reminder of the war, feelings of guilt over not surrendering to the Germans and prolonging the suffering of his men, or his inability to adjust to the life of a hero. Whatever the exact reason may have been, it is clear that his death was indirectly related to the unhappiness which occurred after his experiences in the War.

by Kevin Welker


New York Times: Col. Whittelsey, of the ‘Lost Battalion’ Vanishes From Ship, November 29, 1921
New York Times: Sought Whittlesey half day in midsea; Search Will Make Fruit Liner Toloa Late Reaching Havana, November 30, 1921

JFK 11 11 63  2

The assassination of President John F. Kennedy will forever be a pivotal event in the lives of those that were old enough to comprehend the events of that tragic day. Like the attack on Pearl Harbor was for an earlier generation and the attacks of 9/11 to the current generation, everyone knew where they were when they received the news that President Kennedy had been killed. The Tomb Guards were certainly no exception.

Like every president since Warren Harding, the President of the United States lays a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier on Memorial Day and Veteran’s Day at least once during their administration. Veteran’s Day 1963 was no different. President Kennedy arrived at the cemetery along with his young three year-old son John, Jr. Of course Kennedy was surrounded by the normal entourage of high-ranking military officials as he made his way up the walkway and through a cordon of state and territorial flags enroute to the Tomb. Once he was positioned on the plaza, President Kennedy received the wreath from SFC Allen Eldredge as it was placed between the crypts of the World War II and Korean War Unknowns. After the playing of Taps, Kennedy made his way to the Memorial Amphitheater to deliver his Veteran’s Day address. Once the ceremonies were completed, the rest of day was business as usual for SSG Morris Moore and the rest of 3rd Relief, although it was very busy given that it was a day to honor all Veterans.


Even in an age before instant information news traveled quickly concerning the events in Dallas. November 22nd began at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier as it had for years before as SGT Davenport and the members of 2nd Relief reported for duty early in the morning. The morning passed without incident when news arrived shortly after 1pm that Kennedy had been assassinated. The log book for that day records the events:

Tus kennedy

Richard Azzaro was walking the mat at the time the news reached the quarters. According to Azzaro, “I was driven to my knees when I heard that he had been killed.  I was coming off the mat and I was confronted with the news as I came through the door to the guard quarters.” As a young man of 18 years of age, Azzaro was filled with grief. Shortly after the news had sunk in, Azzaro walked into the catacombs under the Memorial Amphitheater and sobbed. “He was my hero…and I did not want anyone to see me that way.  We were walking short and I had to pull myself together.”

Word of Kennedy’s assassination struck at the heart and soul of many Americans. Kennedy epitomized the “passing of the torch” from the World War II generation to this younger, more vibrant generation of young Americans. Azzaro said that Kennedy’s inaugural message proposed a challenge to his generation to place their country before themselves, and “to virtually all of us, those words throbbed in our heads, and was our compass.”

Azzaro found himself back on the mat on Monday, November 25th, the day of Kennedy’s funeral, and he was walking the mat when the procession entered Arlington. He recalls that “there were no visitors on the plaza.  I was alone as I carried out my duties as a Sentinel…I began to again feel the emotions rise up and I had to make a very real effort to maintain the steady execution of my walk and my manual of arms. ” He remembers hearing the flyovers as tributes were paid to the fallen commander in chief. He recalls especially that “the flyovers of the bombers and Air Force One were incredible. Everything shook and vibrated.  It shook me down to my core and it took everything that I had within me and every bit of training to keep from falling apart. I was approaching the South end of the mat when they finished their fly-by. After finishing my facing movements, 21 second count, and manual of arms, from right to left, and just as my right hand positioned on my right leg, Air Force One came in, right over the burial site.  It was so low, that I saw its entire run through the trees on the North end of the plaza and stairs.”

After his walk was finished, Azzaro exited the plaza after the guard change and made his way down to the quarters. “I proceeded off the plaza and down into the guard quarters where everyone on duty was watching the burial service on our TV.  I arrived downstairs just as the Guns began their salute and I thought how odd and unique it was to see the Guns on TV, hear them through the door of the guard quarters, and also feel the ground underneath shake.”

746px Honor Guard prepares to fold flag over JFK casket 25 November 1963

For many of us of this generation, the events of that day are found in grainy, black and white photographs or even in wobbly movie clips. When we see these, we do not feel the emotion of those that lived through it. To Richard Azzaro, it was all too real. “It has been 50 years since that day and as I look back, with a more perfect understanding of that moment and what the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier means to the American people.”

by Kevin Welker

Special thanks to Richard Azzaro for sharing his memories

Image Attributions:
JFK Library
Tomb of the Unknown Soldier via Brett Hyde

On this Veterans Day [1], the Society of the Honor Guard, Tomb of the Unknown Soldier salutes the men and women who selflessly served in the United States of America (U.S.) Armed Forces [2] to protect freedom.

Each year on Veterans Day, the President participates in a wreath laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier as part of the Veteran’s Day National Ceremony. This national ceremony is held in Arlington National Cemetery to show gratitude to and honor those who served in the U.S. Armed Forces.

Written by Dann G. Druen

  1. Veterans Day is an official United States holiday honoring armed service veterans.  ↩

  2. The United States of America Armed Forces is comprised of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard.  ↩

9 11

Today is the 12th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. As our nation commemorates this day, the Society of the Honor Guard, Tomb of the Unknown Soldier remembers the innocent individuals who lost their lives, and honors the sacrifices made by the men and women of the Armed Forces protecting our freedom. Tomb Guards never forget.

May the lives remembered, the deeds recognized, and the spirit reawakened be eternal beacons, which reaffirm respect for life, strengthen our resolve to preserve freedom, and inspire an end to hatred, ignorance and intolerance.[1]

Please take time today to remember by visiting the following tributes:

9/11 Tribute Center
9/11 Memorial

And make a pledge to do a good deed today, and every 9/11 forward, at I Will.

by Dann G. Druen

  1. Excerpt from the mission statement of the National September 11 Memorial & Museum in New York city.  ↩

Almost a year ago, we told you about The Unknowns, a documentary film project by Ethan Morse. Since then the principle filming has been completed. The director, Neal Schrodetzki and Ethan have met with several major cable networks regarding distribution, but so far they have not found a perfect fit. Now they are moving forward to edit, record voiceovers and score the feature length 90-minute documentary.

From Ethan:

the stress of working full-time and pushing things forward has been a struggle, but our dedication to this sacred duty is total and whole-hearted. In the responsibility bestowed on us never will we falter! That is how the Sentinels Creed starts.

This preview is a great example of the work they have done so far:

The Society eagerly awaits the final product and will continue to support our brother Ethan in this endeavor.

by Benjamin Bell

On behalf of the Society of the Honor Guard, Tomb of the Unknown Soldier (SHGTUS), I am proud to announce the recipients of the 2013 SHGTUS education scholarships. The scholarships are a core component of our programs, and represent the essence of who we are as an organization.

We want to thank the many deserving applicants, and we regret that we could only select one per scholarship. The three recipients were selected by the SHGTUS Education Committee using an internal scoring process. This year’s recipients are:

Charlotte Tatum – Neale Cosby Scholarship

The recipient of the Neale Cosby Scholarship is Charlotte Tatum. She was sponsored by her proud father, and former Tomb Guard and current SHGTUS Member Edward Tatum.

Charlotte resides in Elizabethtown, North Carolina, and is a graduate of the University of North Carolina, earning a Bachelor of Arts in Communications. She is currently enrolled at East Carolina University in the Master’s of Communication Sciences and Disorders program. Here in an excerpt from her essay:

The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier means unconditional selflessness because these soldiers, as well as countless others, were willing to sacrifice their lives and remain in obscurity so that we can live free. I know that America is the greatest nation in the world, because of the life I have been able to lead. I have been able to attend school, vote, practice my religion without persecution, and love who I want. In other nations, I might not be able to enjoy the same freedoms because of my sex and age. I completely understand that the freedom I enjoy is due to the selflessness of those serving in our armed forces.

The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier symbolizes hope. The Tomb has served as a grave stone for the families of unidentified fallen soldiers, since they had no grave to visit to remember their loved one. The Tomb gives these families hope, because they are able to see that there are others who care about their warrior’s sacrifice, and that makes their sacrifice worthwhile. I also believe that the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier has come to serve as a beacon of hope for this nation. In the past fifteen years alone, this country has faced major tragedies. I think that the people of our country find hope in the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier because it reminds them that throughout our history, there have been, and there still are, brave men and women willing to fight for our freedom. It reminds us that even though we might not all be from the same geographical area, or speak the same dialect, or practice the same religion, we are all Americans, and there are Americans who are willing to lay their lives down for their fellow countryman.

Benjamin Bell – Adam Dickmyer Memorial Scholarship

The recipient of the Adam Dickmyer Memorial Scholarship is Benjamin Bell. He is a former Tomb Guard, and current Board Member and Chair of the SHGTUS Tomb Guard Assistance Committee.

He resides in Tampa, Florida, and is a graduate of the University of South Florida, earning a Bachelor of Science degree in Nursing. He is currently enrolled at the University of North Florida in the Nursing Anesthetist program. On receiving the award, he said:

This scholarship is a living tribute to Adam Dickmyer. While I did not know Adam personally, our shared experience as Tomb Guards gives us a bond of brotherhood. I am currently pursuing a graduate degree in nursing anesthesia and will strive to be a visible role model and honor his memory as the recipient of the 2013 scholarship that carries his name. On behalf of myself and my family thank you for the opportunity to honor his sacrifice.

Kathleen Compton – SHGTUS Freedom Scholarship

The recipient of the SHGTUS Freedom Scholarship is Kathleen Compton. She was sponsored by her husband, and former Tomb Guard and current SHGTUS Member Brian Compton.

She resides in Tacoma, Washington, and is a manager in the Global Supply Chain department of REI. She is enrolled at the University of Washington at Tacoma in the Business Management and Leadership certificate program. Here is an excerpt from her essay:

When I first met my husband Brian Compton, he was a sentinel and badge holder at the Tomb. At first I didn’t know what that meant, having only experienced the Tomb as a visitor. But through our friendship, I got a unique look behind the scenes, which helped me understand the dedication to keeping the memories of the Unknowns alive and to keeping traditions in place. I saw and learned about the work to get uniforms perfect and up to standards, the “new man”/ badge holder relationship, the interactions with the public, and the strict adherence to the military pageantry and processes. I not only learned about the Tomb, but I learned more about Arlington Cemetery as a whole… Although the US military is a huge operation, this relatively small group of people has a shared set of memories and experiences that are very unique and special, and I was very honored to get a glimpse of that from the inside.

Please visit our website to learn more about the SHGTUS and the education scholarships.

Written by Dann G. Druen

Late in the evening of June 5, 1944, small groups of young Americans from the All American and Screaming Eagle airborne divisions began boarding C47 aircraft for a short flight from airbases in England to lead the invasion over Adolf Hitler’s Atlantic Wall in France.

Captain Frank Lewis Lillyman, commander of the Pathfinder Detachment of the 101st Airborne Division, had been training young paratroopers the art of jumping behind enemy lines to set up lights, smoke, radar, and luminous panels with the intent of guiding in planes and gliders to their appropriate drop/landing zones. These tactics and techniques were refined after the parachute insertions during Operation Husky in Sicily.


I had the unique opportunity to talk to Mrs. Jane Lillyman in 1994 prior to the 50th Anniversary of D-Day. As the unofficial historian for the 101st Pathfinder Company, I wanted to try and get to know the American who lead the invasion over Hitler’s Atlantic Wall and begin to break his hold on Europe. Mrs. Lillyman regaled me with tales of her husband filling his canteens with something other than water prior to the jump, capturing a German soldier in his bed clothes, and liberating a bottle of champagne on that historic morning. Captain Lillyman, who would be wounded fighting in the hedgerows and who was later awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, always jumped with a cigar in his mouth.

On June 4, 1994 I was able to fulfill the dream of jumping into Normandy after a rough landing on Amfreville drop zone in France, and taking part in the anniversary of Operation Overlord. I was able to meet some of those young Americans paratroopers, now not so young in years but still young in spirit, and was honored to stand with them and listen to their harrowing tales. Most people remember D-Day as the vivid images the allies fighting their way off the beach, actually called Operation Neptune, but few remember that at 00:15AM scores of young men fell from the sky to help liberate people they didn’t know effectively jumping over the wall that Hitler built.

They were the greatest generation of Americans and men that I wish to emulate.

COL Frank L. Lillyman, who died in 1971, is buried in Arlington National Cemetery in Section 53 with his wife Jane.

By Gavin McIlvenna

Photo Attribution: Trigger Time Forum