“Louise, we only have 1 day left in DC and. . . . . . . . . . . guess what we forgot to do?”

With one day left in the D.C. area prior to heading to our next adventure, we discovered we never did visit one of the most important sites in the D.C. area. . . . .Arlington National Cemetery! Read on . . . . .

Pretty big choice as we were running out of time!

Pretty big choice as we were running out of time!

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Louise and I were busy packing to leave Alexandria for our next adventure. . . and something occurred to me, we’ve missed seeing Arlington!

Nobel Prize winner Albert Schweitzer once said,

“Happiness is nothing more

than good health and a bad memory.”

According to Albert and his comment on memory, Louise and I are blessed with much happiness! Seriously, who could miss Arlington while living within 5 miles of the cemetery for 3 months? How could we forget this most sacred site in the United States?

. . . I immediately asked Louise to go online and see what time it closed. Answer: 7pm.  That gives us just enough time to see a few gravesites. Then we’re home free- “mission accomplished”- meaning “the Arlington check in the box” is complete. 

How shallow of me to think this way. “A couple of grave- sites??” I didn’t even consider watching the  changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier or visiting the Kennedy memorial. . . . .and the list goes on and on. We may not have time. . . . .

After cancelling our evening walk to Old Town Alexandria, we decided to zoom over to Arlington. We headed to Arlington and immediately hoofed it to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.  Along the way, we saw the grave below:

Abner Doubleday gravesite

Abner Doubleday gravesite

Halting from our rapid pace, I said, “Louise, you won’t believe this. . .here is the grave of Abner Doubleday, the inventor of the game of baseball!” I had no idea he had been in the military. Yes, upon checking Wikipedia, he was an accomplished Civil War General and also an inventor of several items, including the San Francisco cable car railway. 

While doing research on his military career, I discovered something that was earth shattering. . .it appears Doubleday probably did not invent the game of baseball (or the rules of baseball). I won’t elaborate, but check out the link at the end of this blog explaining this issue. Look at the picture above and below, see the baseballs? At least someone still thinks he invented the game!

Still some believers

Still some believers

While at the Cooperstown Baseball Hall of Fame museum a few days later, the subject of who actually invented the game of baseball seemed to be left up in the air. Here’s a quote that caught our attention. . .

“Did Abner Doubleday invent baseball or

did baseball invent Abner Doubleday?”

We report, you decide!

Below are pictures we took of at Cooperstown regarding Doubleday and this controversy. . .

General Doubleday, the inventor of baseball?

General Doubleday, the inventor of baseball?

First baseball?

First baseball?

Enough about baseball (for now!),

. . .let’s head to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier~

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After seeing the Doubleday tombstone, we proceeded to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. We picked up our pace so we’d have enough time to see the Kennedy gravesite before leaving Arlington at 7 pm.  When we arrived at the Tomb, we didn’t know what to expect.

It Was Humbling. . . .

You could hear a pin drop. There were a lot of visitors intensely watching. It was a beautiful evening and the backdrop of the Potomac and the adjoining gardens were inspiring. Below are some pictures:

One of the Guards

One of the Guards

 The guards were absolutely perfect. Their professional demeanor alone told me that they were hand-picked. . .the “best of the best.” In fact, they are the cream of the crop.

To become a guard, there is an extensive training program that includes a wide spectrum of training. For example, each guard must memorize, word for word, a 7 page history of Arlington. They also must know the exact locations of 300 gravesites of distinguished military personnel.

According to the official Arlington website, the guards are members of the “Old Guard”, serve as the President’s escort, and formal military ceremonial detail. The Old Guard is the oldest active-duty infantry unit in the Army, serving our nation since 1784 and participates in numerous ceremonial activities each year.

Be sure to check out the link at the end of this blog!

The tomb of the unknown

The tomb of the unknown

 Above is the tomb of the WWI unknown soldier. Note the three white squares in the tiles in the forefront. Those are where the WWII, Korea and Vietnam unknown soldiers are buried. Note: The Vietnam War soldier (an Air Force pilot), was exhumed May 14, 1998 after DNA analysis determined his identity.

The Wreath

The Wreath

We showed up just in time for the changing of the guard and the wreath laying ceremony. I had trouble downloading my video into this blog, so below is a link if you are interested. 

Notes: 

-At the 5 second point you can skip the advertisement

-It’s a 10+ minute video but basically ends just after the 8 minute point.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MgoZWQ1opDE\

~~~

After seeing the Unknown Soldier ceremony we proceeded to the John F. Kennedy gravesite. Other Kennedy family members are also buried at or near his gravesite. The visit to this site was the perfect way to complete our Arlington visit .

The Eternal Flame Apparently, Jackie Kennedy made the request for the flame only a few days before the burial ceremony in November of 1963. The Army Corps of Engineers immediately responded with a plan to create what became a temporary solution.  By purchasing and installing a propane powered “Tiki Torch” from the Washington Gas and Light Company, they created a-

“Temporary – Eternal Flame”

. . . . . .now there’s an oxymoron!

This solution worked until the permanent site was established years later.   GO ARMY!

Check the Eternal Flame link at the bottom of this blog for the story!

 Wrap Up: Let’s travel back in time to 1921 to the port of Le Havre, France.  World War One, the “War to End all Wars,” ended only three years prior. 

Le Havre, the second major port in France, played a key role during the war as a disembarkment point for British Expeditionary Force troops.  

In October of 1921 it played another key role because on the 25th you would have seen a U.S. Navy cruiser,  the aging U.S.S. OLYMPIA (C-6) docked there, waiting to take on special cargo. . . . . . .the American Unknown Soldier. 

Prior to 1921 several allied nations had already established their own Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and through a lot of personal effort by certain key individuals and subsequent Congressional action, it was now the United State’s turn. There is an interesting story of how the soldier was chosen, and how any paper trail that could have eventually led to the discovery of his name was destroyed (see the link at the end of this blog for details).

~~~

. . .And on the 25th of October, after receiving the unknown soldier, the OLYMPIA, conducting it’s last real mission prior to being decommissioned in 1922, slowly left it’s berth for the U.S. amid much ceremony, including a 17 gun salute.

~~~

What ever happened to the OLYMPIA?

Fast forward back to the Arlington visitor center after the changing of the guard ceremony. Louise and I were looking at historical photographs and we discovered that the OLYMPIA was the ship that brought the unknown soldier back to the U.S.

Something immediately clicked as to our itinerary. . .”Louise, guess what, when we are in Pennsylvania next week we’ll be visiting the U.S.S. OLYMPIA as it is now a floating museum in Philadelphia! What a coincidence!!!!”

USS OLYMPIA (C-6)

USS OLYMPIA (C-6)

And by a pure stroke of luck, the next week we were able to tour the OLYMPIA! The oldest remaining U.S. metal warship, OLYMPIA has a much heralded history, especially in the Spanish American war. While snooping around the crew quarters, we stumbled into this. . .

IMG_1373

Unfortunately, the ship is in a state of rapid deterioration and they are trying to find a new entity to take ownership and conduct a major restoration. Do any readers out there have $10M extra dollars?. . .be sure to read about the ship in the link at the bottom of this blog!

The Unknown Soldier left Le Havre on OLYMPIA's stern

The Unknown Soldier left Le Havre on OLYMPIA’s stern

Farewell U.S.S. OLYMPIA. We hope you get your facelift 🙂

Cheers, Smitty and Louise

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Links:

1.  Arlington National Cemetery

http://www.arlingtoncemetery.mil/

2. Abner Doubleday

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abner_Doubleday

3. Changing of the Guard (go to the link below and click “visitor,  information exploring cemetery”

http://www.arlingtoncemetery.mil/

4. Kennedy Eternal Flame

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_F._Kennedy_Eternal_Flame

5.  Background on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

http://www.qmfound.com/tomb_of_the_unknown_soldier.htm

6.  USS OLYMPIA (C-6)

http://www.phillyseaport.org/olympia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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