Last Salute: Civil and Military Funeral, 1921-1969
Former Army Chief of Staff
General Charles P. Summerall
Combined Services Full Honor Funeral
14-17 May 1955
General Charles P. Summerall, former Chief of Staff of the Army, died
at Walter Reed General Hospital in Washington, D.C., on 14 May 1955
at the age of eighty-eight.
In Department of the Army General Order 33 announcing General Summerall's
death, General Matthew B. Ridgway, Army Chief of Staff, instructed Maj.
Gen. John H. Stokes, Jr., Commanding General, Military District of Washington,
to render appropriate funeral honors. In the same order, General Ridgway
directed that the national flag at all installations under the control
of the department be lowered to half-staff until sunset on the day of
General Summerall's burial.
General Stokes supervised arrangements for a Combined Services Full
Honor Funeral, the ceremony authorized for a former Chief of Staff,
to take place on 17 May. The funeral service was to be held in the chapel
at Fort Myer, and burial was to take place in Arlington National Cemetery
following a full procession from the chapel to the gravesite. The gravesite
selected was in Section 30, near the graves of William Howard Taft,
James V. Forrestal, Admiral Forrest P. Sherman, General Hoyt S. Vandenberg,
and General Peyton C. March.
The funeral service was held at 1430 on the 17th. Before that hour,
the band and troop units that would later form the escort in the procession
to the grave took position outside the Fort Myer Chapel entrance as
an honor guard. In the formation were the U.S. Army Band and a company
each of Army, Marine Corps, Navy, and Air Force troops. Also included
were ten cadets from the military academy in Charleston, South Carolina,
The Citadel, some of whom acted as a color guard. General Summerall,
after his retirement from the Army in 1931, had served for twenty-two
years as president of The Citadel.
When the hearse bearing the casket arrived at the chapel, the honor
guard troop presented arms as the band sounded four ruffles and flourishes
and played the "General's March." The casket was then lifted
from the hearse and borne into
the chapel by the body bearers from the 3d Infantry, while the band
played "Lead Kindly Light."
Former Army Chief of Chaplains Luther D. Miller, canon of the Washington
National Cathedral, conducted the funeral service. With General Summerall's
son, Col. Charles P. Summerall, Jr., were General of the Army George
C. Mar shall, General Ridgway, and General Mark W. Clark, who had succeeded
General Summerall as president of The Citadel.
At the conclusion of the service, General Summerall's casket was taken
out of the chapel in procession. As the body bearers with the casket
reached the chapel doorway, the honor guard presented arms and the band
again sounded ruffles and flourishes and played the "General's
March." While the band played "Nearer My God to Thee,"
the casket was borne to the caisson that had been drawn up in front
of the chapel and the procession formed.
General Stokes, as escort commander, led the way into the cemetery through
the gate adjoining the chapel grounds. The Army Band followed, playing
Chopin's "Funeral March." Behind the band marched the escort
units in a column of companies. Next, in order, were the national color
detail, Canon Miller, the caisson flanked by the body bearers, a personal
flag bearer, a groom leading a caparisoned horse, the next of kin, and
other mourners. As the procession moved, the 3d Infantry battery, from
a position in the cemetery, fired a 17-gun salute in slow cadence, timed
so that the last round was fired as the procession reached the grave.
After the band, escort troops, and mourners were in position for the
graveside rites, the band sounded ruffles and flourishes, played the
"General's March," and then began the hymn "Safe in the
Arms of Jesus." While the hymn was played, the body bearers, preceded
by Canon Miller, carried the casket to the grave. Canon Miller then
read the burial service. Following the benediction, the battery fired
a second 17-gun salute, this time spacing the rounds at five-second
intervals. A firing squad then delivered three volleys, and a bugler
sounded taps to conclude the final rites for General Summerall.