National Cemetery Administration
NCA History Program
Memorial Day History
“That Nation which respects and honors its dead, shall ever be respected and honored itself.”
– Brevet Lieut.-Col. Edmund B. Whitman, 1868 (late Capt. and AQM Vols.)
Memorial Day, a federal holiday held the last Monday in May, is the nation's foremost annual day to mourn and honor its deceased service men and women.
Originally called Decoration Day, it was formalized by a "Memorial Day Order" issued by Grand Army of the Republic Commander-in-Chief John A. Logan in 1868.
Decoration Day postcard. (NCA History Collection)
History and Development of the National Cemetery
NCA's solemn mission originates with the Civil War. Today it is responsible for 155 national cemeteries, 34 soldiers' lots and 121 VA grant-funded state, territory and tribal Veterans cemeteries in the United States and its territories, as well as the provision of headstones and other memorial benefits to qualified Veterans.
Dates of Establishment: National Cemeteries & NCA Burial Sites
A listing of VA National Cemeteries & NCA Burial Sites and their dates established.
Leadership: Directors & Under Secretaries for Memorial Affairs, 1973 to Present
Learn about the leaders who helped shape NCA.
History of Government-Furnished Headstones and Markers
The evolution of government headstones.
The story of NCA's Presidential Memorial Certificate
The VA PMC was intended to be given to a Vet's next of kin or friends. World War II Army Veteran Benjamin B. Belfer proposed the idea of a Presidential Memorial Certificate that VA could give to a Veteran's next of kin.
Landscapes of Honor & Sacrifice: The History of the National Cemeteries, 2003
A 30-minute video illustrating the rich history of the national cemeteries.
NCA History Blog
Featured Blog Post
George Ford – Veteran and National Cemetery Superintendent
By NCA History Program
In 1878 Maj. George William Ford, who served as a "Buffalo soldier" after the Civil War, also became one of the first Black Veterans appointed as superintendent of a national cemetery. During an impressive 52-year career he oversaw five national cemeteries in the Midwest and South.
Monuments & Notable Burials
NCA Historic Monuments Inventory
The number of monuments and objects that memorialize military service within NCA's national cemeteries, soldiers and government lots, and Confederate cemeteries has grown steadily since the first comprehensive inventory began in 2002. More than 1,300 memorial objects are currently documented. The oldest monuments predate the Civil War but every U.S. conflict has been recognized this way. Patriotic organizations formally donate an average of ten new monuments to NCA each year.
World War II Commemorative Series — America's World War II Burial Program
This National Cemetery Administration (NCA) publication is the first in a series on topics related to World War II, and it coincides with the 75th anniversary of the end of the war.
It tells the story of how service men and women who perished abroad were repatriated between 1947–1951 —about 20 percent to VA national cemeteries— as well as the essential features of these properties.
100 Years of Historic National Cemetery Burial Records
By 2012, NCA completely digitized its original burial system: hand-written ledgers from the 1860s to 1960s. Through a partnership with Ancestry.com, NCA's ledgers — along with others in the National Archives & Records Administration (NARA) collection — are available to Ancestry.com subscribers and free to visitors to NARA facilities.
Medal of Honor History
Unlike today, early U.S. military practice did not include awards and medals. The Civil War changed this. Americans fighting on both sides led government officials to recognize this bravery. President Abraham Lincoln signed a bill creating 200 "medals of honor" in late 1861. From this came the Medal of Honor, today the highest commendation for military service. The medal design, eligibility for it, and recognition on a recipients' grave marker have all evolved since the Civil War. Today, 390 Medal of Honor recipients are interred in VA cemeteries.