History: Special Emphasis - National Cemetery Administration
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History: Special Emphasis

America in World War I: 1917-1919

Gravesite of John Hunter Wickersham, WWI Veteran, Medal of Honor recipient. (Photo courtesy of the American Battle Monuments Commission).

World War I introduced major changes to government-provided headstones, including size and inscribed features, as well as provisions for foreign-national POWs interred in national cemeteries.

Read "World War I Veterans and Their Federal Burial Benefits" by NCA Senior Historian Sara Amy Leach, from the AGS Quarterly - Bulletin of the Association for Gravestone Studies, Winter 2017 (Vol. 41, No. 4), provided with permission from the Association for Gravestone Studies.


75 Years Ago: Remembering Pearl Harbor & World War II Veterans

Left: Burial section at NMCP, today. Right: Flag draped caskets for interment at NMCP in 1949.

December 7, 2016, marks the 75th anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, an event that brought the United States into World War II. In less than two hours, the American death toll topped 2,400, with 1,178 injured. National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific (NMCP) Hawaii, developed to bury Pacific Theater dead, opened in January 1949 with the interment of an unknown serviceman who died in the attack on Pearl Harbor. NMPC is the final resting place for many Pearl Harbor casualties, and by December of that year NMCP contained more than 13,000 World War II dead. Temporary wooden grave markers were replaced with granite flat markers in 1951. At NMCP, Pearl Harbor losses are commemorated by a memorial flagpole and seven monuments.

The Pearl Harbor Survivors Association, a congressionally-charted veteran service organization formed in 1958, has donated more than 20 monuments to NCA cemeteries nationwide. In 2015 the Department of Defense (DOD) escalated its efforts to identify 1,061 individuals who died at Pearl Harbor and other maritime losses, and who were buried as "unknowns" at NMCP. Using DNA technology and other scientific techniques, as of this anniversary, DOD has disinterred 388 remains from NMCP and verified more than 50 identities.

Learn about some World War II veterans and their service relating to Pearl Harbor.

Learn about NMCP from the National Register of Historic Places nomination (revised 2014).

Learn more about DOD “unknown” disinterments at NMCP.


Recognizing Vietnam War Service

Vietnam Veterans of America plaque at Calverton National Cemetery

In recognition of the Vietnam War, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has designated March 29, 2016, as the day to express gratitude to this generation of Americans who have "borne the battle," and acknowledge those now interred in its national cemeteries. VA National Cemeteries contain twenty-seven monuments, and the graves of thirty-eight Medal of Honor recipients from the Vietnam era.

Learn more about Vietnam War memorialization.


Lift Off: Military Service in Aviation History & Space Exploration

NASA rocket.

NCA owes its origins to the Civil War, as does the Signal Corps, U.S. Army. Airborne communication of military information started with “air telegraphy,” balloons, and Zeppelins before World War I. In the twentieth century, servicemembers piloting fixed-wing aircraft, helicopters, and supersonic jets ushered in the U.S. space program. We dedicate Cape Canaveral National Cemetery on November 20, 2015, in recognition of these men and women.

Learn more about notable aviators interred in VA national cemeteries.


NCA Civil War Sesquicentennial Commemoration (2011-2015)

New Albany National Cemetery.

To commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, NCA is proud to conduct special presentations at VA Headquarters and activities at its historic cemeteries. Programs recognize national cemetery origins as a consequence of the Civil War (1861-1865).

Timeline - NCA and the Civil War
View a historical timeline
of the Civil War and National Cemeteries.

Medal of Honor HistoryPhotographs of early Army and Navy Medals of Honor and a Medal of Honor headstone.
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. Learn more about these honored dead and the commemoration.

Civil War 150th Commemorative SeriesImage of Abraham Lincoln.
Starting in fall 2012, with plans to continue through mid-2015, NCA is marking the sesquicentennial with occasional commemorative programs. These educational lectures and programs share with VA employees and guests new scholarship on themes relevant to the oldest national cemeteries, and projects demonstrating NCA’s stewardship of associated historic resources. Program topics relate to the agency’s origin with the Civil War, and touch on the diverse cultural and military service represented across the burial system. See a list of past programs.



NOTE: Page may contain links that will take you away from the Department of Veterans Affairs website.