Page images

spouse. This makes a grand total of 29,120 grave sites already taken within the present acreage.

The rate of burials per day, of course, fluctuates, but a recent survey indicates funerals are entering this cemetery at the rate of one every 15 minutes of each working day. A check during the month of February 1962 shows approximately seven out of every eight funerals accommodated by this facility were from outside the State of New Jersey, coming from Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania, New York, and some even as far away as Georgia. This influx has drastically reduced the chances of veteran residents of New Jersey of being interred in a national cemetery located in their own State. We are presently faced with the closing of this cemetery in the near future because no more room will be available.

This condition must also exist in other States and the fact there is such a widespread call for action indicates a lack of foresight on the part of those responsible for such facilities. There are 140 acres of land contiguous to the Beverly National Cemetery. This land can be had as the owners as well as the local authorities are willing to sell at a reasonable price which can be arranged by mutual consent. The “smoke screen" of opposition which has been raised in this particular matter is not for real if information recently given us is true. It will be many years, if ever, before the local governments will lose any ratables in quantities sufficient to cause concern. The tracts zoned for commercial use are not being considered at all in this acquisition.

Information reaching us indicates there are 85 national cemeteries in the United States and there are 21 soldiers' plots maintained by the Office of the Quartermaster, General, U.S. Army. At least 24 of the existing facilities have been closed, one in the State of New Jersey at Finns Point in Salem County. Many others are on the verge of closing despite the fact the rate of death among eligible veterans is increasing with World War One veterans dying at the rate of one every 4 minutes, 24 hours a day and 365 days a year. These are the figures of the U.S. Veterans' Administration and do not take into account the ones who die without veterans benefits being claimed on their behalf.

Having established a premise for the need and made available information as to the availability of additional acreage for Beverly National Cemetery, we now come to the core of this entire matter. You and I can talk land values, gravesites, availability, and access to and with urban as well as rural centers. We can discuss water tables, clay content, loss of ratables, zones of commercial tracts, and the hundred and one excuses with which we have been fed over the years in opposition to expansion of present cemeteries and establishing new ones. All of this, as the lawyers say, “is irrelevant, immaterial, and not brought out on direct,” when we consider the real reason veterans are being deprived of this one last tribute to their wartime services.

And here is the real reason: According to Webster Anderson, major general, USA, the Quartermaster General, a thorough review of the national cemetery program has recently been conducted within the executive branch of the Government. He points out national cemeteries came into being during the Civil War for the burial of soldiers who died in the service. He does not say how many were shoveled into mass graves, covered with dirt, no headstone to mark the last resting place of a man who gave his life that his country might live and whose grave is long forgotten even by his kinfolk, if they ever knew where it was located.

He goes on to stress after this eligibility had been widened to embrace all honorably discharged war veterans only 10 percent of those buried are persons who died on active duty in the Armed Forces. He is silent on others than war veterans who are eligible for interment in a national cemetery such as members of the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey and employees of the U.S. Public Health Service as well as certain Me bers of Congress and the U.S. Senate. He makes an overall statement about 40 million people being eligible or about one-fourth of our total population. He makes no mention of the fact this so-called one-fourth of the population made it possible for the other threefourths to live a normal life and not ground under the heel of a conqueror. How would that other three-fourths like living under the guns of the Soviet Union, for example?

He shed “crocodile tears” over the fact the "privilege” (as he calls it) of burial in a national cemetery is effectively available to only a small part of those who are legally entitled to such interment. But he does not present the obvious answer which is to place a national cemetery close to where these neglected veterans can have such interment available. His reference to the fact 87 percent of all burials occur in nine installations located close to large metropolitan areas merely points up the fact there are more veterans located in a thickly populated area and his statement adds nothing to the matter under discussion. He is merely spreading another "smokescreen” at which Government agencies are so adept.

He again gets out the crying towel in a typical bureaucratic gesture when he belittles a planned general expansion of the cemetery system or for piecemeal expansion of existing facilities by saying, “these approaches to the problem would be inherently discriminatory against a large number of veterans who would be living in areas not conveniently accessible to national cemeteries." Again he overlooks the fact his logic is leading to "inherent discrimination" against all war veterans by depriving them of any burial rights in a national cemetery and also the obvious answer again (as if he didn't know it) is to place a cemetery where it will serve the veterans. Such stupid explanations belong in the kindergarten, not in the counsels of full-grown men. He might just as well say, we will not let J. Edgar Hoover prosecute any more Federal criminals because it will be too far to take them to Leavenworth, Atlanta, or Danbury.

And now comes the crowning insult of them all. Here we quote Mr. Anderson: “The enormous cost which would result from furnishing burial facilities for even a fraction of the more than 40 million presently eligible individuals would be prohibitive.” And we are given to understand he dictated this with a perfectly straight face. Did he read the headlines in today's newspapers? In order to bring pressure on the Government of Laos for a quick settlement of that country's troubles the U.S. Government is withholding the monthly check of $4 million payment to them.” Does Mr. Anderson know how many grave sites for war veterans could be purchased for $4 million? Does Mr. Anderson know how many grave sites for war veterans could be purchased by the other billions of dollars which the Congress of the United States has given under the guise of "foreign aid”? Does Mr. Anderson know how many grave sites for veterans could be purchased for every $34,000 it takes to shoot an imperfect Nike-Zeus missile which must be destroyed by the range officer?

Please, Mr. Anderson, spare use the hyprocrisy of your grief over the expenditure of money. Look to your own Army installations where if the congressional probes are to be believed, you waste enough to bury a good many of those 40 million eligibles.

And then he winds up this touching dissertation with the real reason which lies back of all his verbosity; to wit: "interested committees of Congress have been informed that, for the reasons summarized above, any expansion of the national cemetery system, with the exception of Arlington, would not be in accord with the program of the President.” Now why has Arlington been made the exception ? Because it is the showplace of the Nation for soldier burials? Where the generals, admirals, and other VIP's rest amid big burial plots and mausoleums while the common soldier occupies "row upon row where the poppies blow," with just 6 feet of ground to cover his carcass. And, oh yes, this is where we show the world how we honor our soldier dead with 24-hour guard of smart young Army men in the Tomb Guard of the Unknowns. But how about those other guys who are dying in holes and corners around the country? According to Mr. Anderson, the "cost would be prohibitive" (and no prying eyes to see the shabby treatment either) and it would not be in accord with the program of the President.

But enough of this sophistry, cant, and hypocrisy. The gentlemen of the Congress to whom you will report have it within their power to alter this cynical attitude of the Quartermaster General. You can set up a committee to supervise and conduct the national cemetery system program in all honesty and fairness. You can appropriate the money necessary to set up a national cemetery in every State if that is found necessary and you can cut through this fog of obstruction which has been set up by a few people who have not even been able to give a good, realistic excuse for their opposition. Can it be, gentlemen, the cemetery associations of the United States have their eyes on the veteran cadavers in the same manner as the American Medical Association begrudges a veteran a spoonful of Veterans' Administration medicine?

When the services of that man, who today or tomorrow may call upon his Government for an honorable, decent, and dignified burial, when his services were required by that same Government to keep it alive, there was no question at all as to how much to spend for rifles, clothing, and all the munitions of war. No one questioned how much? No one said, “we can't afford to fight this war.” Certainly we are not going to pinch pennies where a decent burial is to be had for an honorably discharged war veteran. Or are we?

Gentlemen, we ask you in all fairness and in the name of common decency to make available for every eligible veteran a dignified passing out of this world. That is all.

Mr. RUTHERFORD. Are there others who wish to express themselves under the category of veterans organizations?

I might say for the record at this time that the group just retiring from the room appeared as the department senior vice commander, the department adjutant, and the service officer of the Department of New Jersey of the Veterans of Foreign Wars.

I think it is reasonable for any person to realize that after the Veterans of Foreign Wars as a national organization has spoken, then to have 50 departments come up to "amen” their statements would rather take up the time and would not solve the problem but would keep this committee from our duties of attacking the problem with which they appear to be concerned.

The next witness will be Mr. Ray Brennan, executive secretary, American Cemetery Association, the National Association of Cemeteries, the Southern Cemetery Association, and the Western Cemetery Alliance, accompanied by Lee McNitt, Rose Hills Memorial Park, Whittier, Calif.




Mr. BRENNAN. Mr. Chairman and members of the subcommittee, we have a statement on behalf of the cemeteries which is before which is concurred in by the National Catholic Cemetery Conference and by the National Municipal Cemetery Conference. We would like to proceed with this statement at this time.

Mr. RUTHERFORD. You are stating that you are speaking for the associations that I just mentioned, in addition to the ones you orally expressed. Would you repeat those ?

Mr. BRENNAN. The names are the American Cemetery Association, the National Association of Cemeteries, the Southern Cemetery Association, the Western Cemetery Alliance. It is concurred in by the National Catholic Cemetery Conference, and also by the National Municipal Cemetery Conference.

Mr. RUTHERFORD. Without objection, you may proceed, Mr. Brennan.

Mr. BRENNAN. Mr. Chairman and members of the Subcommittee on National Parks, pursuant to permission granted by your committee, this statement regarding the policy to be pursued by the Congress in regard to national cemeteries is respectfully made by the American Cemetery Association, the National Association of Cemeteries, the Southern Cemetery Association, and the Western Cemetery Alliance, which associations are composed of cemeteries, public, fraternal, private, and religious, throughout the United States of America. This statement is concurred in by Vernon J. Birkhimer, chairman, National Municipal Cemeteries Conference, and by the Right Reverend Monsignor Edward V. Wade, National Catholic Cemetery Conference.

We are of the firm conviction that the Congress should adopt a policy leading to the eventual closing of those remaining operating national cemeteries and provide for their perpetual care, under existing policies, through the National Park Service, for the following



We are of the firm conviction that the country owes its gratitude to the men and women who have fought for it. Responsible veterans' organizations have consistently taken the position before various legislative branches of the Government, that the veteran is not asking for something for nothing.

However, there is by no means unanimity of belief amongst veterans' organizations regarding the establishment of national cemeteries.

Witness testimony of Past National Commander of the American Legion, Warren Atherton, in a previous congressional hearing on the subject of national cemeteries, when he said:

In my opinion, the national cemeteries will rob more than half of the families of veterans, and veterans, of the thing most precious to them. It is my opinion, that if you take a veteran's body farther than the next community (and a survey of all cemeteries indicates that the average distance is 15 miles), you cut him off from all personal touch with his friends and with his town. Let me very briefly tell you about a little ceremony at the town of Tuolumne, in the Mother Lode in California. It is a community of about 1,500. There is a cemetery on top of one of the hills. I went there on Memorial Day with a post of a veterans' organization and, I would judge, most of the community. They went from grave to grave, called the name of the individual that had gone to school with them, had gone to service with them, who was known for his particular accomplishments in that town. Scores of friends left flowers on each grave. The roll was called. A personal character of observance and ceremony took place that meant a very great deal to the families of those who had gone.

And I am sure that could those who had gone have heard, it would have been very gratify. ing and consoling to them.

In a great national cemetery the observance is very different. Selected persons appear at the center of a cemetery, where each man buried is just a number among 50,000 or 100,000 graves. Perhaps the memorial words reach his grave via the loudspeaker if the wind is blowing in the right direction, but there is no personal touch whatsoever, and there can be no personal touch whatsoever if you take a man beyond his next town, because the people of Shreveport, gentlemen, or my hometown, do not go, on those days of observance, to the cemetery in that next town. I do not go to Lodi, 12 miles away, or to Tracy, 20 miles away. So, if you move the man's body beyond the next town, you have cut him off from that personal contact which experience shows is a far greater factor in his thinking and in his desire than the thought of honor, of being buried in a cemetery which is designated as a national cemetery. I am sure from my experience over those 27 years that that is absolutely true.


A national policy should no longer be based on an accident of history.

The national cemetery was born on the battlefields of the Civil War where thousands of unidentified dead were buried where they fell.


[ocr errors]

Expanded in 1870 into a system of Government cemeteries for the burial of all veterans of all wars and expanded more recently for the burial in addition of surviving spouses and certain dependent relatives and members of active components of the Armed Forces, it has now become wholly obsolete, for there are eligible for those benefits according to testimony of the Department of the Army, before the Congress, some 23 million veterans and another 18 million dependents over 40 million people, almost 25 percent of the population of the United States, and the total of eligibles continues to expand at an accelerated rate under cold war conditions of the unpredictable future.

THE OBLIGATION TODAY The Congress has before it many urgent requests for relief of the veteran. Paramount amongst these are, of course, programs for the hospitalization and rehabilitation of the service-connected disabled, the aged and infirm veteran. These requests and renewal of the national service life insurance are the prime concern of veterans organizations in 1962.

If, in addition, the Congress is to provide adequately for the burial of large groups of veterans, dependents, and eligibles without discrimination and without perpetuating present inequities, it is necessary for the Congress to provide at once a system of national cemeteries in every State and locality within the Union, at, according to the Department of the Army, a distance of not more than 50 miles from the homes of the veteran population to be served. Actually, however, this would necessitate the location of a system akin to our location of post offices throughout the country. Obviously, it is not within the financial ability of the present Congress or those which shall succeed it in the foreseeable future to accomplish such a purpose.

If, on the other hand, the Congress were to utilize the vast and perpetually continuing expenditure for the establishment and perpetual maintenance of such a chain of Government cemeteries for annual, nonrecurring expenditures implementing the present system of death benefits, the obligation could be met.

Legislation, pursuant to the specific mandate of the National Department of the American Legion, has been introduced in the Congress over the years for the specific purpose of meeting the obligation in this manner and to provide for burial space in a local, hometown cemetery of the veteran's own choosing. Such legislation provides for the equitable and just care of all veterans, and not the mere 10 percent or less who would be served by Government cemeteries.

Adoption by the Congress of a policy increasing the burial allowance for the specific purpose of providing such burial space ($75, H.R. 290, by Mrs. Kee, 85th Cong.) or earmarking such a sum for such purpose under the existing allowance, would serve not only all veterans, it would serve the veteran's interest in his local church, fraternity, and patriotic organization where the veteran has his major interest, in the community where he is located, rears his family, and passes on. The veteran, naturally, has a desire to be recognized in that community orbit in death as in life.

So, too, would the veteran's survivors be recognized. Cemeteries are as much a provision of hallowed ground for the living as they

« PreviousContinue »