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eral maintenance, but you would have local control. And if the cemetery was desired by a minority, I think it would be pretty well expressive that Federal land, whether it was to be made available, had to be a pretty popularly supported project. This would bring back the control.

And I say this: With this new impetus, I think you would have a little bit more respect by the local population and by the local people taking a little bit more pride once that was established, because it takes a lot of effort.

As you well know, in the American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars, or any other organization, once you cease to have projects, you have a dead post. When you keep them busy—I used to be department commander of the VFW, and when a post building or a post home was paid out, I was always pretty sick about it, because I always liked to see them with a little bit of debt hanging overhead. Then it was a working post. Here is a new project, and here is a new project.

I would say that my experience has been that once they make this land available through contributions, or by talking someone into giving the land, it is acceptable, the Federal Government takes over the maintenance and such as that, you are going to have some post members out there on Memorial Day and other days relieving some of the cost of maintenance from the Federal Government. You will have some boys out there with picks and shovels, because it becomes not only a national cemetery, but a matter of local pride, and I think as a result it will be a field of honor rather than just another place to bury a veteran.

So I think it has many possibilities. I would like to see it developed a little bit more. It may not be practical. But, in searching, there are many possible solutions.

Frankly, the inequity of this thing stares us in the face at all times. This might be another attack on that angle, because if it is inequitable to a certain area, they can solve it to a degree, at least have an effort to try to solve, rather than the five or the three or the two or the one.

I think there ought to be some consideration given to Mr. Kennedy's suggestion here on the benefit reduction to go into the maintenance of this thing. Of course, Mr. Aspinall, I think, figured a while ago $164,000,000 in 1961 that the Veterans Administration paid out_$164,000,000 that applied to veterans; not dependents, but vet

We have got a growing, growing problem. Of course, this is a part of our Nation, this is a part of our culture that we hold on to such things as a gravesite, where with other people it is a passing fancy sort of thing. But to us this is part of our culture. I do not want to dispose of it—the honor and respect for the dead in their last resting place.

Do other members of the subcommittee have statements or questions?

Thank you, Mr. Kennedy, for your very fine contribution.

Mr. KENNEDY. Thank you, gentlemen. We appreciate the courtesies.


(Pursuant to later order of the committee, the following statements are included at this point:) Memorandum from: Martin B. McKneally, past national commander. To:The assistant national adjutant, the American Legion. Subject: National cemetery policy, congressional hearings on. Date: March 2, 1962.

As a past national commander and a member of the natio executive committee of the American Legion, I received from you a memorandum under the date of January 24, 1962. In this memorandum you request assistance in the preparation of testimony to be presented to a subcommittee of the Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs of the House of Representatives. This subcommittee, under the chairmanship of the Honorable J. T. Rutherford, of Texas, is to hold hearings from March 5 to 9, 1962, on the subject of a national policy for national cemeteries.

I am pleased to respond to your request because I deem this matter to be of more than passing interest to members of the American Legion. While the opinions expressed are my own, they are firmly based upon a year of experience as national commander during which I conferred with members of the American Legion in every State. I am convinced that the views which I express are shared by the vast majority of the members of the American Legion.

I have found that in every instance when I have inquired of Legionnaires concerning their individual preference in regard to the manner in which they desired to be cared for after death they expressed a preference for interment in a cemetery of their community among their family and friends. I note that those who advocate an expanded system of national cemeteries as a solution to the problem of veteran burials invariably do so on behalf of someone else, never for themselves.

I am sure that at the meeting of the national executive committee of the American Legion in Indianapolis, October 25 and 26, 1961, that a number of resolutions favoring the expansion of certain national cemeteries were adopted. These resolutions had been previously considered and recommended by the Graves Registration and Memorial Committee and the Internal Affairs Commission of The American Legion. I believe this procedure to have been unfortunate. The Internal Affairs Commission has as its major responsibility the functioning of the administrative structure of The American Legion. It does not concern itself with the vast field of veterans' rights and benefits of which burials are a part. This area of Legion activity is entrusted to the supervision of the National Rehabilitation Commission. This commission has at its disposal active working Legionnaires in every State in addition to an extensive professional staff. The Internal Affairs Commission lacks both of these resources. A proper consideration of the subject of veteran burial rights should have involved recommendations from the Rehabilitation Commission.

The National Rehabilitation Commission has concerned itself for several years with an aspect of the problem of veteran burials. This commission originated, sponsored, and secured the passage by Congress of legislation in the area of burial allowances for veterans which increased such allowances from $150 to $250. The National Rehabilitation Commission at its meeting just concluded in Washington, D.C., on March 2 once again unanimously recommended an increased burial allowance by resolution as follows:


“Whereas the Administrator of Veterans Affairs is presently authorized to pay a sum, not exceeding $250, 'to cover the burial and funeral expenses' of certain deceased veterans; and

"Whereas although the express language of the law established an intention on the part of the Congress to provide payment for burial as well as funeral expenses, the amount authorized is exhausted in virtually all cases in payment of funeral costs; and,

“Whereas certain necessary expenses are encountered by survivors of deceased veterans in the acquisition, the opening and closing, and the complete servicing of burial sites; and

“Whereas if the survivors of deceased veterans are unable to defray the expenses incident to the acquisition, the opening and closing, and the complete servicing of burial sites, veterans are sometimes placed in.graves not in keeping with the intention of Congress, the wish of the American people, the specific programs of The American Legion, or the dignity and honor owed the remains of defenders of the Nation: Now, therefore, be it

Resolved, by the National Rehabilitation Commission, meeting in Washington, D.C., February 26-March 2, 1962, That the National Rehabilitation Commission approves and requests that the necessary steps be taken by The American Legion to sponsor and support legislation to provide an additional $100 to be earmarked for the acquisition, the opening and closing, and the complete servicing of burial sites."

The recommendations of the National Rehabilitation Commission offer a just, humane and practical solution to the problem of providing proper burial for those who have served our country. It is a solution which will be fair to all veterans, not just those who reside in the vicinity of national cemeteries.

The members of the American Legion almost without exception are committed to deep personal religious convictions. These convictions include the manner in which they wish to be interred. We must not, in a mistaken concern for our veterans, needlessly expand a system which in some instances does violence to these convictions. We must not be so eager to assist the veteran in his financial need that we lose sight of the more compelling realities to which he is committed. No one is totally indifferent to the manner in which he is interred. I am certain that veterans are not alone in this. I am sure that the Members of the Congress who will consider this matter if they were to be queried would, although eligible for burial in Government cemeteries, express a preference to be laid to rest among their family and friends in the community they have served.

I know that you have labored energetically to secure and compile the information upon which the testimony of the American Legion to the Congress will be based. That approximately one-half only of our State organizations have re sponded is indicative of a lack of general support for national cemeteries as a solution to veteran burials. I hope that the testimony of the American Legion will reflect the recommendations of the National Rehabilitation Commission in regard to burial allowances. This, I believe, would be in keeping with the interest of our organization, the preference of veterans, the capabilities of the Government and the greatest good for all of our people.



March 6, 1962. Hon. J. T. RUTHERFORD, Chairman, Subcommittee on National Parks, House Office Building, Washington, D.C.

DEAR MR. RUTHERFORD : Due to the fact I was in Washington all last week at the national rehabilitation conference of The American Legion it is impossible for me to return there for the hearings on national cemeteries, hence, this letter.

You are aware, I know, that both the New Albany National Cemetery, New Albany, Ind., and Zachary Taylor National Cemetery, Louisville, Ky., are completely filled and we in this section of the Middle West have no national cemetery available.

The cost of enlarging either or both of the two cemeteries mentioned above would be great.

However, the U.S. Government already has a site in this locality which could be turned into a national cemetery at relatively little cost.

The Government owns the land which was formerly occupied by part of the Indiana Arsenal located between Jeffersonville and Charlestown, Ind., which would be an ideal site for a national cemetery. It is on a high bank of the Ohio River, a beautiful site; it is easily accessible from any part of the Middle West, being on State Roads 62 and 3.

It could in addition be made a memorial to George Rogers Clark, who opened up this territory for the United States, by naming it George Rogers Clark National Cemetery,

As the service officer of this post for 36 years I know the great need of such a cemetery in this locality.

It will be appreciated if you would read this letter at the hearing and if later there is further hearing I may be able to attend. Thank you for your consideration and with kindest personal regards, I am, Sincerely,


Service Officer.


THE AMERICAN LEGION Mr. Chairman and members of the committee, I appreciate the opportunity to submit a statement regarding the national cemetery space for the interment of deceased veterans, particularly in Oklahoma.

At the present time, there is only one national cemetery in the State of Oklahoma, located at Fort Gibson, some 12 miles from the City of Muskogee, Okla., in the eastern part of the State.

It is most inconvenient for veterans living in the western part of the State to be interred at Fort Gibson because of the great distance they must travel for interment. Therefore, the argument of the Department of Oklahoma has been that a national cemetery in the western side of the State, which would be Fort Reno, would solve many of our widows' problems at time of interment because of the cost of transportation to the national cemetery at Fort Gibson by those deceased veterans residing in the western part of the State. As an example, a veteran living in the Panhandle of Oklahoma, upon death and desiring burial in the national cemetery, would travel approximately 500 miles for burial. I might point out here that Fort Reno used to be an old military installation and the land is still owned by the Government and is now just a museum site located some 2 miles from the town of El Reno, Okla.

At this time, I have not been able to determine the number of grave sites available at the Fort Gibson National Cemetery. However, I am sure that there are sufficient grave sites for the next 5 or 6 years, especially since the Government has now changed the order for the widow to be buried on top of the veteran where widow desires to be buried in a national cemetery with her husband.

We regret that the policy has been changed because we feel that space should be made available by the U.S. Government for the veteran and his wife to be buried side by side in national cemeteries, when desired by the widow or the deceased veteran, whichever is first to be buried.

In reviewing the average cost of burial in the Department of Oklahoma, which includes undertaker services, et cetera, we find that the average cost is in the $600 range, and the average cost of a private cemetery lot is $90 per space. Therefore, the cost of lots for a deceased veteran and his wife would be approxi. mately $180.

In some instances the burial allowance from the Veterans' Administration combined with social security death benefits are adequate to bury veterans in private cemeteries but in most cases the amount of funds is not adequate for private cemetery burial. It all depends upon the amount of social security the veteran is receiving at time of his death.

This office considers a national cemetery as an honored ground for veterans who served honorably during wartime to be interred. I do not consider it to be a Government benefit but an honor to the veteran who so gallantly served his country in time of war.

There is a valid objection to the burial of eligible family members in one grave on the basis that there should be ample space on military reservations and national cemeteries for the veteran and wife to be buried side by side. The widow should receive the same consideration as the veteran husband, because it was her husband who fought for your freedom and who served honorably, and it was her sacrifices in most instances during wartime that helped our country to be victorious in battle.

I do believe that Congress should create a top-level policy board whose functions would be to determine the need and recommendations for expansion or new cemeteries rather than the continued piecemeal efforts in Congress which have been nonproductive for more than a decade.

In behalf of the Department of Oklahoma, I would like to express my appreciation to the members of this committee for the efforts that are being made to try and eliminate some of the problems connected with our national cemeteries at the present time.

WHITEMAN RUNs Him Post No. 116,

Lodge Grass, Mont., March 2, 1962.
Representative J. T. RUTHERFORD,
Chairman, Subcommittee on National Parks,
House Office Building, Washington, D.O.

DEAR CHAIRMAN AND COMMITTEE MEMBERS : The members of Whiteman Runs Him Post No. 116, American Legion, have been advised that your committee is holding hearings concerning our national cemeteries.

We are very much in favor of expanding the burial space of our national ceme teries in such places where it can be done at a minimum cost.

One such place we have in mind is the Custer Battlefield National Monument, located in Big Horn County, at Crow Agency, Montana.

This area has almost unlimited space for expansion, but due to the laws governing the Custer Battlefield National Monument, only the area within the fence has been set aside as a burial place. We would like to see this place considered for expansion.

If we can be of any help to the committee in making a judgment on this problem, please contact us and we will do all we can to help the committee. Respectfully submitted,

ROBERT K. LIX, Post Adjutant. Mr. RUTHERFORD. I understand the first witness is now in the room, Mr. Frank T. Pedonti, supervisor, Veterans' Graves Registration, Boston, Massachusetts.

Do you have a statement?
Mr. PEDONTI. Yes, sir.

Mr. RUTHERFORD. If you will come to the witness stand, you may proceed. STATEMENT OF FRANK T. PEDONTI, SUPERVISOR, VETERANS'


Mr. PEDONTI. Mr. Chairman, Members of this honorable committee. My name is Frank T. Pedonti, supervisor, Veterans' Graves for the City of Boston for the past 17 years. May I take this opportunity to thank you for the privilege of appearing

before you today. The mayor of Boston, Hon. John F. Collins, and its citizens are particularly appreciative of the time and effort you have expended in attempting to solve the delicate problem of paying adequate respect to those of our honored dead who made the supreme sacrifice.

I shall not burden you with any statistics which amply demonstrate the need of a national cemetery centrally located in New England.

We know from the number of bills filed and the very fact that these hearings are being held that this year your committee will report out a bill favorable to our cause.

We have every confidence not only in your committee, Mr. Chairman, but also in our great Speaker John W. McCormack, and Members of your House that our honored dead of Massachusetts and the Nation will find a resting place in hallowed ground amidst the people that they served so well.

Thank you.

Mr. RUTHERFORD. Thank you, sir. Does this conclude your statement?

Mr. PEDONTI. Unless there are any questions you gentlemen would like to ask me. I shall be very happy to answer them to the best of my ability.

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