As a Tomb Guard you are asked many different questions by the public, but the one that we hear the most is: "When did you join the Marines?"
The United States Army was given the honor of guarding the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in 1926, as the Army is the oldest of the military services. Prior to 1926, there were no military guards posted at the Tomb. In fact, after the internment of the Unknown Soldier in 1921, the Tomb remained unguarded until November 17, 1925 when a civilian guard would be present during the day. The military posted its first guard on March 25, 1926.
The Army has been the only military service to guard the Unknown Soldiers.
In the short time since the first internment, there have been very few units that have guarded the Unknown Soldiers. Due to the restructuring of the Army prior to our involvement in World War II, the clear lines of units have been lost. With the help of the Old Guard Museum, National Infantry Association and the Military Police Regimental Association, here is what has been uncovered:
Washington Provisional Brigade (MDW)
The units assigned to the Washington area, fell under the control of the Washington Provision Brigade (precursor to the Military District of Washington (MDW) as we know it today). These units were assigned to the Tomb, on a rotating duty. This duty lasted anywhere from 15 days to 90 days.
3rd Battalion, 12th Infantry Regiment - Fort Washington, Maryland
March 1926 - 1941
The 12th Infantry helped build the South Post of Fort Myer. With the start of World War II, the 12th Infantry was assigned to the 4th Infantry Division, and a cadre of soldiers formed the 703rd Military Police Battalion.
16th Infantry Brigade, 8th Infantry Division - Fort Humphreys and Fort Meade
March 1926 - July 1942
On April 22, 1926 the Assistant Army Chief of Staff issued orders to Commanding General (MDW) to select squads for Tomb Guards from Ft. Myer, Ft. Washington and Ft. Humphreys.
Video from National Archives with an 8th Infantry Division Sentinel on post: HERE
These units would provide them on a rotational basis:
16th Brigade, 8th Infantry Division
3rd Battalion, 12th Infantry Regiment
2nd Squadron, 3rd Calvary Regiment
3rd Cavalry Regiment - Fort Myer, Virginia
March 1926 - February 1942
A visitor could tell when the 3rd Cavalry had the duty at the Tomb, as they wore spurs on their boots. In 1932, Major George S. Patton becomes XO of 3rd Calvary, and in 1939 as the Regimental he issues General Order No. 36, providing the standard operating procedures for the Sentinel's assigned to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
The 3rd Cavalry was later re-designated as the 3d Cavalry Group (Mechanized) and assigned to the XX Corps, which was part of George Patton's famous Third U.S. Army.
13th Engineer Battalion - Fort Belvoir, Virginia
1926 - 1940
703rd Military Police Battalion - Arlington Cantonment, Virginia
The 703rd Military Police Battalion, was formed after the 12th Infantry Regiment was transferred to combat duty. The cadre that formed the Military Police Battalion came from the older veterans of World War I, and the newest recruits and draftees.... still learning their weapons.
Ceremonial Detachment, Washington Provisional Brigade
July 1942 - April 6,1948
1st Battalion, 3d U.S. Infantry (The Old Guard)
April 6, 1948 - Present
The Old Guard is the oldest Infantry unit in the Army, dating back to June of 1784. It was given the name "The Old Guard of the Army" by General Winfield Scott after a bayonet charge on the Mexican citadel Chapultepec in 1847.
A Company (Ceremonial Company)
1948 - 1957
Mortar Battery (Honor Guard)
1957 - 1963
E Company (Honor Guard)
1963 - 1999
1999 - Present
Support the Society
The Society of the Honor Guard, Tomb of the Unknown Soldier (SHGTUS) is able to provide our programs, events, assistance, scholarships, and services due to the generosity of its members, organizations, and individuals. SHGTUS does not receive institutional funding. Note: The Society of the Honor Guard, Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is a 501(c)(3) organization, so your contributions may be fully tax deductible.
Did you know?
Is it true after two years, the guard is given a wreath pin that is worn on their lapel signifying they served as Guard of the Tomb, that there are only 600 presently worn, and that the Guard must obey these rules for the rest of their lives or give up the wreath pin?
The Tomb Guard Identification Badge (TGIB) is awarded after the Sentinel passes a series of tests. The TGIB is permanently awarded after a Sentinel has served nine months as a Sentinel at the Tomb. Over 600 have been awarded since its creation in the late 1950's (on average 10 per year). And while the TGIB can be revoked, the offense must be such that it discredits the Tomb of the Unknowns. Revocation is at the 3rd Infantry Regimental Commander’s discretion and can occur while active duty or even when the Sentinel is a civilian. The TGIB is a full size award, worn on the right pocket of the uniform jacket, not a lapel pin.