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National Cemetery Administration


NCA History Program

General History

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.

Marietta National Cemetery in Georgia.

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.

Landscapes of Honor & Sacrifice: The History of the National Cemeteries, 2003
A 30-minute video illustrating the rich history of the national cemeteries.

Memorial Day History

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.

The modern proclamation calls on Americans "to observe Memorial Day by praying, according to their individual religious faith, for permanent peace."

» Memorial Day History

Decoration Day postcard, ca. 1910. (NCA History Collection)Decoration Day postcard, ca. 1910. (NCA History Collection)

NCA History Blog

NCA historians blog about current events, cemeteries, preservation projects, headstones and monuments, Memorial Day, notable persons and much more.

Featured Blog Post

Floor Plan of VA's Historic Indoor Columbarium
By Sara Amy Leach, Senior Historian, NCA

In the United States, cremation of the dead and interment of the ashes or cremains in above-ground structures known as columbaria grew increasingly popular in the 1920s. Cremation interments accounted for over 55 percent of all VA burials in 2021. In June 1941, Charles Ray Smith—aviation mechanic, Army Veteran, was the first interment at what is now the Los Angeles National Cemetery. Continue reading this blog post.

» NCA History Blog

1940s-era floor plan of VA's first and only indoor columbarium at Los Angeles National Cemetery. The diagram helped visitors locate the niche holding the cremated remains of their loved one. (NCA)1940s-era floor plan of VA's first and only indoor columbarium at Los Angeles National Cemetery. The diagram helped visitors locate the niche holding the cremated remains of their loved one. (NCA)

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.

» View more Monuments & Notable Burials

Vintage color view of monument (Soldier's Monument, Togus, Maine) decorated for Memorial Day, small US flags placed on ground.


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.

America's World War II Burial Program

» View more Outreach

NCA publication cover for America's World War II Burial Program

Historic Resources

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, NCA's ledgers — along with others in the National Archives & Records Administration (NARA) collection — are available to subscribers and free to visitors to NARA facilities.

NCA's Burial Ledgers

» View more Historic Resources

Partial image of NCA hand-written ledger

Special Emphasis

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.

» View more Special Emphasis

Photographs of early Army and Navy Medals of Honor and a Medal of Honor headstone