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Mr. KENNEDY. That is kind of a difficult question to answer, because, after all, that would be boiled down to a problem in each case by itself, each individual instance. If I were involved, it would not bother me a bit.
Mr. ASPINALL. Rather than place these limitations that the chairman of the subcommittee speaks about, would it not be better to let Arlington fill up under the present situation and then to provide for the annex, and then see what is going to happen?
Mr. KENNEDY. I think that suggestion is well taken, sir.
Mr. RUTHERFORD. I agree with my chairman that, in order to escape limitations on qualifications or eligibility, you have to close out Arlington proper now before one body was buried in the annex, because by doing so you would have to set up qualifications as to which is Arlington proper and which is annex. You could not escape the eligibility. You would have to absolutely close out Arlington completely, Arlington proper, before you start the Arlington annex.
Mr. KENNEDY. It is one of those intangibles, Mr. Chairman, that nobody can govern. We have these millions of veterans and, after all, you can only put so many in just so much space. All we are asking is—and I know you will do it without our even asking-give this thing reasonable consideration. That is all we are asking for. As I said before, not to be repetitious, we are not asking for the creation of a cemetery in each and every one of the 50 States.
Mr. RUTHERFORD. I was curious about Colonel Temple's statement saying that after World War II, when final disposition of 361,000 fatalities was to be arranged, the Army supported several measures that would have enlarged the national cemetery system. Then he goes on to state that all of this legislation failed of enactment.
I am wondering what the American Legion's position is, and if you could give some explanation as to why, at this particular time, when patriotism and emotionalism was rather high, at the conclusion of World War II, that this problem of national cemeteries was not attacked and solved to a large extent. I am curious, because of your organization's and other veterans organization's, and of the general public's acceptance of the fact that this was the ripest time in modern times we have had for such expansion program-I am wondering what happened?
Mr. KENNEDY, As I mentioned earlier, Mr. Chairman, back in 1945 and 1948, since that time that far back, we had asked for creation of a civilian cemetery commission, and we have had many, many bills before the Subcommittee on Lands. I want to compliment Mr. Aspinall. I think he is the only one ever able to get one of those bills out of there. I could not in 13 years.
Just as you say in your statement here, there are now, I think it is, 60 or 65 bills pending. We have tried, God knows, many, many times. I remember one time when Senator McFarland was the Senate majority leader, that he had a bill for his home State, and he came down at my request and testified for it, and we could not get it out of the committee even with his help.
Mr. Olson. I think you touched on that in the foreword to your committee print, Mr. Chairman, when you said that possibly the young veterans of World War II and their parents were not too
interested because death was so far away, and it would happen to someone else. It possibly may have had something to do with it in connection with World War I veterans, too, because it has only been in the past, say, 10 years the death rate has been accelerating tremendously. It is something like the national service life insurance program. The kids that came out of the service did not really appreciate its value because the terminal part of the insurance was so far ahead that they were not too much concerned about it.
Mr. RUTHERFORD. In other words, it is very similar to a freshman in Congress, as the old cliche goes, when he got here he did not think so much about seniority, but the longer he was here the more he liked it.
Mr. Olson. I suppose that is right.
Mr. RUTHERFORD. Mr. Kennedy, it has been stated that 50 miles is about the average, or should be, that will be used. What is your suggestion as to placing these cemeteries close to the populated centers? What is excessive?
Mr. KENNEDY. My idea, Mr. Chairman, and we have no resolution on this, but I am going to take the responsibility-I would like to see a recommendation made at the start that five new national cemeteries be created, one especially in the New England area. All of the northeast United States feeds into the cemetery on Long Island, and I understand the average burial rate there is something like 40 per day, 5-day week.
I would like to see one in the Northeast section, and another at whatever point in the West you gentlemen decide would be most practical, and another one in the South, another one in the middle of the country, and the Northern Central States.
I would also like to see, as a start, let us say, two or three other existing facilities enlarged at such point where the greatest need appears to be from the population in those respective parts of the country. That is just as a starter.
Mr. RUTHERFORD. Primarily you suggest regional, in effect, cemeteries?
Mr. KENNEDY. Yes.
Mr. KENNEDY. As far as the 50 miles is concerned, I do not know. I feel the family, especially these days when so many have automobiles, if they do not think more of their dead that they are not going to go more than 50 miles, I think there is something wrong with them.
Mr. RUTHERFORD. The gentleman from Colorado.
Mr. ASPINALL. Mr. Chairman, I wish to commend Mr. Kennedy and Colonel Olson for the presentation they have made. I think they have furnished us with very effective thinking of some of the veterans.
Of course, Miles, I personally have a great deal of difficulty in becoming too enthused about burial in a national cemetery. I suppose I am one of the majority, as far as this is concerned, although I do appreciate the wishes of the minority, nevertheless to me it is a problem of trying to provide equities when you know that you cannot provide them uniformly, and yet you want to take care of certain members of the Armed Forces who have the right to expect such benefits at least for their loved ones.
Is the desire of a veteran to be buried in a national cemetery, or the desire of his survivors that he be buried in a national cemetery, due to the fact that it is well kept and in a rather beautiful surrounding? Is that what prompts them, more than it is to be buried with their comrades?
Mr. KENNEDY. It is sort of a spirit of comradeship that grows up among men who served together in the armed services. I think that is one thing. I have heard several of them say that leads them to request they be buried in the national cemetery. Of course, most of the Jewish people like to have their men interred in a Jewish cemetery, and on down the line.
Mr. ASPINALL. So do the Catholics, the members of the Roman Catholic Church. They do not care too much for national cemeteries because they cannot hallow the ground in accordance with the precepts of the church, as far as that is concerned. I do not happen to belong to either one of those groups, and yet, if I were to have my choice, I think that I would rather be buried in the little cemetery near where I live where the American Legion people have taken some interest in it, and they have their own plot of ground and they take care of it in their own way.
Mr. KENNEDY. I agree with you a hundred percent, and that is my personal situation.
In answer to the other question, Mr. Aspinall, a lot of men feel it is a certain honor and sort of a distinction, I think, to be buried in a national cemetery. And I think for our purposes here it is probably a good thing that certain religious faiths want to have their men or their families buried in cemeteries of their own particular faith, which cuts down on the number of requirements in the future here. Lord knows there is going to be enough of them to worry about in addition.
Mr. ASPINALL. You were in the room yesterday when one of the Members of Congress made the statement that he thought an individual entering upon military service looked forward to this as one of the benefits that helped prompt his military service. Do you think there is very much value to that position?
Mr. KENNEDY. That is one of those intangibles, not to be discourteous, Mr. Aspinall, that is pretty hard to measure. I think that is something that would be up to the individual concerned, and I do not even see how it would be possible to gather statistics along that line. And I say that with all due respect.
Mr. ASPINALL. You have been representing the veterans for a long, long time, and I have been in two of the conflicts; had three boys in the last one. I will be honest with you-I never heard a veteran make that statement.
Mr. KENNEDY. I have heard very, very few. I want to compliment you on your own service.
Mr. ÅSPINALL. Thank you.
Mr. ASPINALL. How much money would be available if we took $50 from the $250 benefit and made it available to purchase land for use for national cemeteries!
Mr. KENNEDY. I do not know offhand. Certainly that is information that would have to be obtained from the House Veterans Affairs Committee.
First off, you have what, 22,500,000, I think, living, and you have to find out how many express a desired to be interred in a national cemetery, the number of dependents, the number of those that are married, and so on.
Maybe our friend, Mr. Baring, could help you on that. Personally I could not without getting such information. I think that would be the proper place to seek it.
Mr. ASPINALL. I think that is all.
Mr. WHARTON. Mr. Chairman, I would like to go into a subject here which might at first be considered not germane, and that is, as you know, Commander, I have two Presidential
my district, one of course, of Franklin D. Roosevelt, which is very adequately maintained, and the home and library, with national assistance. And then we have the Martin Van Buren grave, of course an older cemetery.
The reason I mention this especially is with the thought in mind that our Presidents are also Commanders in Chief of the Armed Forces. And last year a group of schoolchildren, I believe, brought up the question of the maintenance of the Van Buren grave. I looked into it, visited the grave site later, and I found, while in an older cemetery, it was apparently adequately maintained.
This brought up the question as to whether, in connection with this hearing—and I would like to have your reaction on it, if I mightwhether we might in some way not put a provision into any proposed legislation empowering the Secretary. No one seems to feel they have the authority to do, and that is to provide for some appropriate maintenance. I do not think it would be used in certain of the cases, but I find there is no present provision for maintenance of Presidents' graves. What would be your reaction?
Mr. KENNEDY. We would have no objection to that, Mr. Wharton.
Mr. BARING. Mr. Chairman, I want to compliment the gentleman, too, on his most comprehensive report this morning.
I looked it up in the committee pamphlets here and I note that California has two national cemeteries. One is south of San Diego. Is that correct?
Mr. KENNEDY. I believe so. Whatever the report says there. I personally do not know just where they are.
Mr. BARING. I was wondering. Do you know, Mr. Olson?
Mr. KENNEDY. Their location was brought out yesterday by one of the witnesses.
Admiral Hoyt. One is out near Point Loma.
Mr. BARING. I also note in your presentation here this morning you do recommend one for Nevada. I do have a bill in for a Nevada National Cemetery, and I notice you do recommend that.
Mr. KENNEDY. Yes, our department, the State of Nevada Legion requests one. Yes, sir. That is not my personal recommendation.
Mr. BARING. It is not?
Mr. KENNEDY. No. As I said in my earlier statement, Mr. Baring, I have reported them exactly as we received replies from the respective State officers of the American Legion.
My personal recommendation, in answer to Mr. Rutherford's question, was the establishment of five new ones at such places as you gentlemen see fit, and enlargement of the present existing ones. I am not prejudiced against Nevada. I do not want my remarks to be construed that way. I appreciate the fact you have a bill in.
Mr. BARING. Mr. Chairman, and gentlemen of the committee I want to point out that California has 2 million veterans, the State of Nevada, much less in population, has some 36,000 veterans. We are some 500 miles away from San Diego and San Bruno where the two national cemeteries are located in California.
I would also like to point out, for the benefit of the committee, that the Government owns about 87 percent of the State of Nevada public lands. So the question of purchase price of the land would be a very small item. I know we could acquire adequate acreage and suitable acreage, still at a very small price, from the Government in view of the fact that the Government owns so much of our land.
I appreciate you brought this out in your report, that you did recommend Nevada get a national cemetery.
Mr. KENNEDY. Thank you, Mr. Baring.
Dr. DURNO. Mr. Chairman, I want to compliment you, Mr. Kennedy, on your presentation, also. I want to compliment you also on the fact you are presenting a postive proposal to the subcommittee, in contrast to the agencies of Government which did not have much to propose except to eliminate all of this.
Mr. KENNEDY. Thank you, Dr. Durno.
Dr. DURNO. Referring to your positive thought of cutting $50 off of the burial benefits, if there are 22,500,000 veteráns, and if 12 percent of those veterans are going to seek burial in a national cemetery, that would mean that some time in the future we are going to have to provide gravesites for, I think, 3,700,000 veterans that we are going to have to bury.
Mr. KENNEDY. Yes.
Dr. DURNO. If we maintain the present schedule. If you multiply that by 50, you would come up with $185 million which would be available, which would be necessary in the purchase and preparation of the gravesites in the national cemeteries.
It would seem to me that certainly the Federal Government is go ing to have to provide gravesites for some of these 3,700,000, no matter what is done by this committee or by the Congress.
Mr. KENNEDY. Yes, sir.
Dr. DURNO. Because there will be many of these people who do not have loved ones or dependents, and they will be passing away either in veterans homes or hospitals in increasing numbers as the years go by.
So if you took $50 for each of those 3,700,000, you would get $185 million which, I think, would provide pretty much what you are indicating as being necessary in the way of regional cemteries.