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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 122 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.

Marietta National Cemetery in Georgia.Marietta National Cemetery in Georgia.

Lincoln's Gettysburg Address in the National Cemeteries
The affiliation among President Abraham Lincoln, his Gettysburg Address, and the national cemeteries is relevant today. The speech Lincoln gave at the dedication of the Soldiers' National Cemetery in Pennsylvania on November 19, 1863, is iconic.

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 Presidential Memorial Certificate was intended to be given to a Veteran'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.

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)
Decoration Day postcard. (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

The Veterans Legacy Memorial
By James LaPaglia, APR, CX Fellow
NCA Digital Services Officer

The Veterans Legacy Memorial invites you to explore the site, pay your respects to the Veterans who served our country, contribute to their legacy if possible, and, in doing so, leave your own mark on one of VA History's 100 Objects.

Main page of the Veterans Legacy Memorial, VA's interactive web site. Users can search for and add content to the memorial pages of more than 4.8 million Veterans interred in VA's cemetery system. (NCA)Main page of the Veterans Legacy Memorial, VA's interactive web site. Users can search for and add content to the memorial pages of nearly 10 million Veterans interred in VA's cemetery system. (NCA)

Monuments & Notable Burials

NCA manages approximately 1,400 historic memorial monuments and the gravesites of thousands of notable burials such as recipients of the Medal of Honor and veterans who are recognized as significant at different periods of American history.

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.

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


NCA develops publications, teaching tools, and other educational products — including projects generated by student interns — to promote its cemeteries and the individuals buried in them who illustrate significant transitions in American history.

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

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

Historic Resources

NCA produces written and graphic documentation of its cemeteries and their built features, as well as the preservation of historic objects such as burial ledgers that provide essential information about the origins of the national cemetery system.

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.

National Cemetery Burial Ledgers

Partial image of NCA hand-written ledgerPartial image of NCA hand-written ledger.

Special Emphasis

Various stories associated with commemorative events or timely activities include the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, 75th anniversary of Pearl Harbor, and enemy POWs buried in NCA cemeteries.

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.

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