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This Day In History: USS Olympia Sails For France To Bring Home The Unknown Soldier From World War I

September 30, 2016

This day in history, October 3, 1921, the USS Olympia sails for France to bring home the Unknown Soldier of World War I.

The bodies of many soldiers killed in World War I could not be identified. On Memorial Day, 1921, four unknowns were exhumed from four World War I American cemeteries in France. U.S. Army Sgt. Edward F. Younger, who was highly decorated for valor and received the Distinguished Service Medal inWorld War I, selected the Unknown Soldier of World War I from four identical caskets at the city hall in Chalons-sur-Marne, France, Oct. 24, 1921. Sgt. Younger selected the unknown by placing a spray of white roses on one of the caskets. He chose the third casket from the left. The unknown soldier that he chose was transported to the United States aboard the USS Olympia. Those remaining were interred in the Meuse Argonne Cemetery, France.

To honor those that were lost during World War I, the remains of one were brought to the U.S. Capitol to lie in state, and on Armistice Day 1921 they were ceremoniously buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

The tomb bears the inscription “Here rests in honored glory an American soldier known but to God.” Congress later directed that an “Unknown American” from subsequent wars — World War II, Korea and Vietnam — be honored as well. Due to the development of DNA technology, the unknown soldier from the Vietnam War was recently exhumed and identified. He was identified as Air Force 1st Lt. Michael Joseph Blassie, who was shot down near An Loc, Vietnam, in 1972.

There may never be another unknown soldier.