The Last Salute: Civil and Military Funeral, 1921-1969

Bibliographical Note

These studies were written primarily from official records kept by the agencies of the Department of Defense involved in conducting funeral ceremonies. Documents providing background information included appropriate sections of United States Code, Title 24: Hospitals, Asylums, and Cemeteries; Army Regulations 600-25, Salutes, Honors, and Visits of Courtesy; and Army Regulations 600-30, Personnel: Honors to Persons. Further information of a general nature was obtained from War Department Pamphlet 21-39, Conduct of a Military Funeral, published in September 1947 and rescinded in 1960. Copies of these publications are in General Reference Branch, Office of the Chief of Military History, Department of the Army.

Of fundamental importance were contingency plans and official statements of policy which defined the types of funerals to be conducted, specified the civil and military officials entitled to each type, assigned responsibility for making funeral arrangements, and described in text and diagram the composition and procedure of the ceremonies. Letter, ANWGT 293, Headquarters, Military District of Washington, 17 June 1952, subject: Military Funerals, provided a summary of policies and plans that were placed in effect in 1949 and remained in force until 1958. Succeeding plans and policies were published in a document entitled State, Official, and Special Military Funeral Policies and Plans, prepared for the Department of Defense by Headquarters, Military District of Washington, in September 1958. Revisions of these plans and policies, which were still in force in 1970, were set out in Department of the Army Pamphlet 1-1 (also OPNAV­INST 5360.1, AFM 143-2, and CG-390), State, Official, and Special Military Funerals, published jointly by the Departments of the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Treasury in December 1965. Copies of these documents are in Headquarters, Military District of Washington.

Of special significance in the preparation of these studies were plans developed for the funerals of certain individuals. Some of these plans, such as the one for the funeral of General of the Armies John J. Pershing, were drawn up long before the individuals died, and consequently were developed in considerable detail. Other individual plans, such as that for President John F. Kennedy, were prepared in a short time and in an atmosphere of crisis, and therefore were less fully or formally written.

In most cases, a basic individual funeral plan was prepared by the military agency assigned the responsibility for arranging and coordinating the ceremony; component plans were prepared by the military units scheduled to participate in


or support the ceremony. Typical of basic individual plans were those developed by Headquarters, Military District of Washington; Headquarters, Potomac River Naval Command; and Headquarters Command, U.S. Air Force. Typical of component plans were those prepared by the 3d Infantry. Copies of the individual plans consulted were obtained from various agencies, including the National Archives in Washington; National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis, Missouri; Office of the Chief of Support Services, Department of the Army; Bureau of Naval Personnel, Department of the Navy; Headquarters, Military District of Washington; Headquarters Command, US Air Force; and Headquarters, 1st Battalion, 3d Infantry.

After action reports prepared by the commands and staff agencies responsible for arranging and conducting the funeral ceremonies were basic sources for many of the studies. These reports varied in quality and content. The best of them included a narrative, supporting documents, and statements of problems encountered. As a rule, copies of after action reports are retained by the agencies that hold copies of the individual funeral plans.

The National Archives provided other pertinent information. Most useful were the file, Honors in Funeral Ceremonies, 1929-1931, which included material on the State Funeral for William Howard Taft, and the Mail and Records Branch File, Office of the Secretary of Defense, Volume I, March 1948 through June 1949, which contained information on the ceremony for former Secretary of Defense James V. Forrestal.

Considerable use was made of newspaper reports of the various funeral ceremonies. The New York Times, the Washington Post, and the Evening Star were most frequently consulted. Some clippings from local newspapers were available. Notable were accounts of the ceremony for Senator Styles Bridges printed in New Hampshire papers, which were provided by the Office of the Sergeant at Arms, US Senate. Other newspaper accounts used came from the Biography and Miscellaneous files in the General Reference Branch, Office of the Chief of Military History.

Periodicals and published works provided little information. Useful for background material was John Vincent Hinkel, Arlington: Monument to Heroes (New Jersey : Prentice-Hall, 1965). The November 1968 issue of Esquire contained an article that was helpful on the ceremony for Senator Robert F. Kennedy. William Manchester, Death of a President (New York: Harper, 1967), included a detailed account of the funeral of John F. Kennedy.


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Last updated 26 May 2005