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Information for the Subcommittee on National Parks, House Committee on
Interior and Insular Affairs, in connection with hearings on national cemeteries
NOTE.-In the last column “N” means a new national cemetery is recommended; “E” means an expansion of the present cemetery is recommended.
Mr. KENNEDY. Gentlemen, I know that all of you were here yesterday morning and you heard Colonel Temple when he spoke on behalf of the Quartermaster Division of the Army, and there is no use of repeating his words, and I do not write shorthand. But in my opinion he let the cat out of the bag when he said in words, or substance, that they had nothing to suggest but, as the individual cemeteries become filled, to close them out.
I am very happy that the colonel was honest. I have no personal feeling against the colonel or any of the other officers in that division, but there is something wrong someplace, gentlemen, in the higher echelons. I am glad he said what he did, not for the sake of having these cemeteries closed out—I do not mean it that way at all—but I am glad he said what he did so you gentlemen can find out just what the veterans' organizations have been up against in dealing with the gentlemen in the Quartermaster Corps, not only this year, but many, many years, 13 years from my personal experience.
I know I spoke to Mr. Saylor about this, and he told me yesterday I could make reference to it just to give you another illustration, gentlemen, of the attitude of the Pentagon.
Back in 1956 the Legion was supporting a bill, which at that time was S. 2512, and the caption of it is, "To Amend the Act of August 27, 1954, so as To Provide for the Erection of Appropriate Markers in National Cemeteries in Honor of Certain Members of the Armed Forces Who Died or Were Killed While Serving With Such Forces.”
The object behind that was---we got hundreds of letters from fathers and mothers of boys killed, mostly in the Navy or the Air Corps, or killed in action where artillery shells covered them up—to have a little marker somewhat like you see in the suburban communities and towns where they have a small marker, not much bigger than the size of the nameplate you have on your desk, erected on something that would hold them in a national
cemetery. They would be screwed on, whether it be marble or cement or made of wood, or whatnot. The man's name would only appear there once; he could not have it placed in two different national cemeteries. And a little place where people could walk around and see their son or friend, or whatnot—his name on there.
You know, after I testified, a colonel from the Pentagon followed me, and they objected to it just like yesterday. What was their objection? That it occupied too much space. Now, mind you, the whole thing would not take space much more than half the size of this room.
These were unrecoverable bodies, gentlemen, where they were lost mostly at sea and never recovered. Their families felt, according to hundreds of letters we got, they were at least entitled to have the boys' names, or the husbands' names, or the sons' names, on at least one little nameplate.
That later became Public Law 651 of the 84th Congress, approved July 3, 1956.
Every time we ask for anything in the way of a veteran burial or cemeteries, we are opposed a hundred percent by the Pentagon. And, of course, the Bureau of the Budget always come in and opposes, as you gentlemen who have served and are now serving on the Veterans Affairs Committee, know well, much better than I do, any appropriations at all. The devil with the veteran. As long as they are through with them, they just do not care what happens to them.
Some time ago, gentlemen, we testified before the Subcommittee on Lands and also before a Senate committee, requesting that the sole authority over national cemeteries be taken away from the Quartermaster General's office. We have had for a number of years resolutions calling for the creation of what we would like to call a commission, which
will be made up of such members as you gentlemen of Congress see fit, and such Government agencies. We would have no objection
to one man going on there from the Quartermaster General's office on behalf of the Army, but we do strenuously object to any more, because they are just going to be against you people right down the line, just as they have been against us right down the line.
Again I want the record to show I am not referring to any individual officer of the Pentagon or any other branch of the armed services, because personally I think they do a fine job, but they, of course, have to carry out the orders issued to them by their superiors.
Back in May 21, 1945, hearings were held on a bill then known as S. 524. That was in the Senate. At that time in case the counsel wishes me to give him the copy, it is the only one I have, but I will be happy to leave it with you, Mr. Witmer.
They made reference on page 6 of this report to the fact that “the establishment of these cemeteries”—this hearing had been on the creation of new cemeteries—"the establishment of these cemeteries is an immediate need in each State and territory."
The bill at that time was S. 524, and my predecessor, Mr. John Thomas Taylor, testified on that on October 15, 1945, at which time he expressed our reasons for the creation of such a commission.
Then there were other bills along that same line during the intervening years, and we have had several resolutions, which I am not going to put in the record because I do not think it is necessary, where we have asked for the establishment of what we would like to call a civilian cemetery commission.
But you gentlemen are members of the full committee, and there is no need of my going into any further detail because you are most familiar with it.
There was also a report made by then Congressman Engle, of California, in connection with hearings on H.R. 7059, also having to do with the creating of a national cemetery commission. That was in the 84th Congress, Report No. S. 2458.
I just bring these points out, gentlemen, not to clutter up the record, but to show you our interest in this matter has been a continuing one.
Mr. Chairman, some of our States, as always seems to happen, are delinquent, and I do not know when you are going to officially terminate these hearings. Could I have your permission, sir, to send up two or three of the others, or just a few others that may come in today or tomorrow? I have three down at the office now we are having stenciled. That is, letters from the States somewhat like those contained in exhibit A now.
Mr. RUTHERFORD. I understand. The record will remain open and the supplementary copies to your exhibit will be received by the Chair.
Mr. KENNEDY. Is there any particular date on that, Mr. Chairman?
Mr. RUTHERFORD. We would like to close out the record, if at all possible, at the conclusion of this week.
Mr. KENNEDY. That is fine. Thank you, sir. That is ample time. Thank you, sir.
Wherefore, in view of the foregoing, we of the American Legion respectfully submit that there is an urgent need for (1), the enlargement of such existing national cemeteries as the subcommittee may see fit to recommend, and (2), the establishment of such new national cemeteries as the subcommittee may recommend after due deliberation.
Appreciating as we do the fact that the members of the subcommittee have the best interests of our qualified veterans at heart, we of the American Legion will gladly do anything we can to support your recommendations.
We will go right down the line without any exception, because I know that nothing bad can come out of this committee, because you have only one direction to go, and that is forward to improve it.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and gentlemen of the committee.
Mr. RUTHERFORD. Thank you, Mr. Kennedy, for your statement as well as your exhibits here and other pertinent information that you have expressed on this committee's rather difficult problem. In
your statement here, on page 8, you refer to the distances traveled by some of the survivors to Arlington National Cemetery to visit the graves of their loved ones. That does not necessarily point up the unavailability of cemeteries more close to them, because it is very apparent from the record that for Helena, Mont., there are closer national cemeteries, as well as New York, and also in the Pennsylvania area, possibly.
But it does point up, which I think we all recognize and admit, the popularity and acceptance of Arlington National Cemetery as a very desirable place for both the veteran himself, expressing his desire prior to his death, as well as the survivor. That arrives at a question that I feel by necessity we must face.
I think you were in the room yesterday, and I think you can anticipate the question, which is this:
Recognizing that at some time we cannot take the easy way out, and that is a purchase of more land for Arlington National Cemetery, there comes a time when Arlington National Cemetery, by necessity, because of the lack of space, will eventually be closed regardless of what other effort we might make. As we pointed out yesterday to Mr. Hughes, as well as to Colonel Temple, if their view is victorious, that we close down the other national cemeteries as they are filled, then the Arlington National Cemetery will have the stress and strain on that particular facility enhanced, because, as is pointed out in your report here, even though we might expand our other national cemeteries, Arlington National Cemetery will still be the most popular and the most desirable for our honored dead to rest.
Therefore, we will reach that point sometime, and not in the toofar-distant future, where we cannot expand Arlington any more.
Do you recognize the fact, as distasteful and undesirable it is, both personally and
as a veteran, that we must consider the possibilities of some restrictive eligibility at this particular national cemetery?
Mr. KENNEDY. Yes, sir. As to that Helena situation, I might say there, Mr. Chairman, this husband and wife originally came from Helena, Mont. I know them personally. In fact, they are cousins of miné. At the time of his death they resided out just over the Maryland line, and he was employed as a trial commissioner by the
Court of Claims. Later on, after his death, the widow sold the house here and moved back to Helena, but she still does come here.
As far as Arlington is concerned, it so happens I live near there, and I understand, from reading the papers last October or November, or it might have been December, that the one hundred thousandth body had just been interred there. I have seen Arlington grow and there is only one direction they can go now, and that is down across the street, after they have taken down the tempo buildings between the street and the Pentagon. If they are going to keep that open I think I could truthfully say for our people that some considerable restrictions are going to have to be imposed, even though the bodies might not be buried side by side, but interred one on top of the other.
What those restrictions are, I do not know, and I regret I am not in a position to tell you. But I will tell you we will go right down the line on whatever comes out of this committee.
Mr. RUTHERFORD. I do not think anyone wants to volunteer to even suggest the first eligibility restriction, because, regardless of how small that step might be, you are going to step on a lot of sensitive toes. But I do feel this: I feel that veterans organizations, particularly the American Legion or the Veterans of Foreign Wars, the two major national veterans' organizations, should give us the benefit of their thoughts and their advice and their counsel on this extremely sensitive issue, because I think by necessity we must arrive at this. Not at this time, certainly not. No one would suggest such a step.
Mr. KENNEDY. I know, Mr. Chairman, you and the other gentlemen have in mind, just as do our members, that this is a most ticklish problem, and after all, you have got the old adage that you are confronted with about all being equal in death.
Mr. RUTHERFORD. When you start restricting it, it is a very difficult job, and certainly it should not be by rank or by—as the chairman stated yesterday, and I know my good friend G. Ward Moody, who is my old bandmaster in high school and has been adjutant in the American Legion in Texas a good number of years—that it was rather a matter of chance than their own personal initiative in many cases, as far as heroes.
Mr. ASPINALL. Mr. Chairman, may I ask a question in connection with that?
With the knowledge that the space in Arlington itself is limited and will continue to be limited, what would you have to say about an annex to Arlington located some 20 miles from Arlington in an appropriate place where land is cheaper and is not so much in demand? What would you have to say to that?
Mr. KENNEDY. I would say, Mr. Aspinall, that such a suggestion would be worthy of a good deal of consideration. After all, the people have just got to be made to realize the space just is not there as far as Arlington is concerned.
Speaking individually, Mr. Chairman-I have no resolution, but speaking individually, Mr. Aspinall, I would go along with such a suggestion.
Mr. ASPINALL. Do you think that the desire to be buried at Arlington would remain more or less constant even though the annex was removed 20 miles from the old Lee estate?