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Group burials at Arlington


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Found this interesting, and poignant. I was researching Col. John Mendenhall was killed in a plane crash on New Guinea along with two other men. The bodies were recovered in 1950 and buried in one grave at Arlington. I have never seen a gravestone with three names on it. One assumes that after 6 years the parts were intermingled and pre-DNA, indistinguishable.

Looking into it further, I find the Arlington website tells about other group burials.

 "Hundreds of group burial markers can be found in Arlington National Cemetery. Importantly, a group burial differs from the gravesite of an unknown service member. In a group burial, remains have been identified, but due to the circumstances of death, individuals cannot be separately distinguished. In such cases, the Department of Defense directs that all remains be interred together, marked by a headstone with each person's name and other pertinent data."

 Rest in peace heroes.

 

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  • 3 months later...

Andrew, I have seen these group stones before, all which I have seen were from men killed in WW2.

 

The official practice for intermingled remains was to bury them in a National Cemetery which was equidistant, or as close as possible, to / for the families of the casualties. That way travel there and visits there were not more of a burden for one family over another. Or so I have understood it. 

 

As a result of that, I believe that the Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery in Missouri has what I recall reading was the most group burials of any of the National Cemeteries, given that it is close to the middle of America. So if casualties from an incident were from all over the US, Jefferson Barracks would have been the place they were interred. 

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  • 4 months later...

Speaking of Jefferson Barracks, the aircrew and paratroopers on board plane 66, the C-47 carrying the command group of E co, 506th PIR into Normandy, are interred in a common grave there. 

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Several years ago in the Mojave Desert we came upon a WW2 B-24 crash site that went nose straight down into the desert. A news paper report printed five days after the crash listed two men as missing. The mishap report listed ten dead ten recovered. I uncovered the remains of one guy with dog tags that accounted for 30% of a human from head to toe. We notified the coroners office and they took custody of the remains and conducted an investigation to confirm the remains were indeed from a plane crash and not some body dumped in the desert. The coroners office notified JPAC and they sent a team to conduct a full recovery. Long story short they recovered thousands of bone shards that were co mingled remains of the crew not recovered at the time of impact. Do to the nature of the impact and the post impact fire plus 70 years in the desert no DNA could be extracted. Remains were returned to NOK at the time of the crash so it was decided to intern all of the newly recovered remains in one casket with one head stone and ten names at Arlington. So these guys have two burial sites. One in their home towns and the other at Arlington.

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Section 60 in Arlington contains the group burials of air crashes and Army vehicles that were likely catastrophic kills in OIF/ OEF.  Those servicemen and women likely also have two graves; the group burials mostly containing those small, indistinguishable remains. 

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British General and Commander of Wingate's Chindits, Orde Wingate is buried in a mass grave at Arlington.

 

Wingate and the nine other crash victims were initially buried in a common grave close to the crash site near the village of Bishnupur in the present-day state of Manipur in India. The bodies were charred beyond recognition, hence individuals could not be identified under medical practices of the day, as identification from dental records was not possible.

Since five of the nine crash victims, including both pilots, were Americans, all nine bodies were exhumed in 1947 and reburied in Imphal, India and yet again exhumed in 1950 and flown to Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia for reburial. The exhumation was possible due to a three-way agreement among the governments of India, United Kingdom and the United States, and in accordance with the families' wishes.

 

Allan

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