About the National Archives

Welcome Remarks for Tomb of the Unknown Soldier: A Century of Honor

Greetings from the National Archives’ flagship building in Washington, DC, which sits on the ancestral lands of the Nacotchtank peoples. I’m David Ferriero, Archivist of the United States, and it's my pleasure to welcome you to today's conversation with Philip Bigler about his book Tomb of the Unknown Soldier: A Century of Honor.

Before we begin, I’d like to tell you about two programs you can view later this month on our YouTube channel.

On Tuesday, November 16, at 1 p.m., Gayle Jessup White, a Black descendant of Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings’s family, will discuss her new book Reclamation, which explores her journey to understand her heritage. Historian Annette Gordon-Reed will join the author in conversation.

And on Friday, November 19, at 1 p.m, Michael Burlingame will tell us about his new book, The Black Man’s President, and discuss Abraham Lincoln’s personal connections with Black people over the course of his career.

* * *

In one week, we will mark the 100th anniversary of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery. With President Warren Harding presiding, the remains of an unknown fallen soldier of World War I—chosen to represent all those who died without being identified—were laid to rest on November 11, 1921.

Since then, “unknowns” from World War II and the Korean War have been interred to honor those who lost their lives in those wars but remain unidentified.

The records in the National Archives that relate to the Tomb remind us of the honor and dignity of the people who fought and died for our country and bring their stories to new generations

You will find records that detail the design and construction for the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and Memorial Amphitheater, and that chronicle the journey of the selection of the Unknown from a French cemetery to the United States. We have film footage and photographs of the cortège bringing the body to Arlington National Cemetery and the dedication ceremony there. And maps and architectural designs document the Tomb’s history and evolution over the past 100 years.

Last month, we dove into these records in two programs titled Here Rests in Honored Glory. These programs were recorded and can be viewed on the National Archives YouTube channel.

 In his book, Philip Bigler presents this history in a synthesized narrative and brings the story of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier to the present day.

* * *

Philip Bigler is the author of several books on history and teaching history.  A history teacher for over 30 years, he is known for his innovative methods, use of technology, and commitment to teaching. In 1998, he was selected as the National Teacher of the Year during a Rose Garden ceremony at the White House. From 1983 through 1985, he served as one of the official historians at Arlington National Cemetery. He has appeared on numerous television programs, including Late Night with David Letterman, Good Morning America, and Nightline.

Now let’s hear from Philip Bigler. Thank you for joining us today.