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


Former Secretary of War Robert P. Patterson
Combined Services Full Honor Funeral
22-25 January 1952

On 22 January 1952 an American Airlines plane crashed at Elizabeth, New Jersey, as it approached a landing through fog and rain; six persons on the ground and all aboard the aircraft were killed. Among the plane's passengers was Robert P. Patterson, former Secretary of War. He was sixty years old.

By current regulations the former Secretary of War would receive a Combined Services Full Honor Funeral. Maj. Gen. Thomas W. Herren, commander of the Military District of Washington, was responsible for making the funeral arrangements in consultation with the Secretary's widow, Margaret Winchester Patterson. Ceremonies were to take place in both New York City and Washington, D.C.; General Herren was in charge of the Washington ceremonies and the coordination of procedures for the entire funeral. Responsibility for conducting the ceremonies in New York City rested with the Commanding General, First U.S. Army, Lt. Gen. Willis D. Crittenberger.

By virtue of his Army service in World War I, during which he received the Distinguished Service Cross, Mr. Patterson was to be buried in Arlington National Cemetery. The gravesite selected was in Section 30, near the graves of William Howard Taft, James V. Forrestal, and Admiral Forrest P. Sherman.

Mr. Patterson's body was brought to New York City from New Jersey shortly before noon on 24 January and placed in the Clark Room of the 7th Regiment Armory, where it was to lie until 2300. Massed behind the casket were four national colors, the personal flag of the Secretary of War, and the colors and standards of the parent units of two honor guards who took post at the casket. One of the guards was a member of the 306th Infantry, 77th Infantry Division (an Army Reserve unit), with which Mr. Patterson had served in France during World War I. The other was from the Army National Guard 107th Regiment. In 1916 Mr. Patterson had served with the 7th Regiment, later redesignated the 107th, on the Mexican border. All honor guards were furnished by the 107th and 306th Regiments and each two-man relief stood a half-hour watch. The honor guard members from the 306th were in battle dress, those from the 107th in dress gray uniforms specially designed for their regiment.

Beginning at noon on the 24th the armory was opened to the public for eleven


hours while a steady procession of friends, associates, and admirers of Mr. Patterson filed by the bier to pay their last respects. Mrs. Patterson, her son, and her three daughters visited the Clark Room in the early afternoon. During the night of the 24th, Mr. Patterson's body was taken by train to Washington and placed in the Washington National Cathedral to await the funeral service at 1500 on the 25th.

Retired Maj. Gen. Luther D. Miller, canon of the cathedral and former Army Chief of Chaplains, conducted the midafternoon funeral service. He was assisted by the Reverend Lockett Ballard, rector of St. Phillip's Church in Garrison, New York, and minister of the Patterson family, and by the Right Reverend Angus Dun, Protestant Episcopal bishop of Washington. Hymns were played before and after the service by the US Air Force Band.

Among those attending the service with the Patterson family were President Harry S. Truman and his family. Also present was a large group of dignitaries invited by the Patterson family to participate as honorary pallbearers. Those asked included:

Secretary of State Dean G. Acheson Thomas B. McCabe
Maj. Gen. Julius Ochs Adler General of the Army George C. Marshall
Montgomery B. Angell Henry Morgenthau, Jr.
Warren R. Austin William L. Marbury
Bernard M. Baruch Admiral Ben Moreell
Chuncey Belknap Basil O'Connor
General of the Army Omar N. Bradley Floyd H. Odium
Dr. Ralph J. Bunche Frederick H. Osborn
General Lucius D. Clay Howard C. Petersen
Bradley Dewey Samuel Pruyn
General J. Lawton Collins Sam Rayburn
Dr. James B. Conant John Duff Reed
Robert Cutler Kenneth C. Royall
General James H. Doolittle Elihu Root, Jr.
Ferdinand Eberstadt Coolidge Sherman
Peter Finucane General Brehon B. Somervell
Edward S. Greenbaum Herbert Bayard Swope
Former Judge Augustus N. Hand Dr. Dwight Sawyer
Former Judge Learned Hand Dr. Charles Sawyer
George L. Harrison Maj. Gen. Maxwell D. Taylor
Col. Donald R. Hyde John W. Waters
Maj. Gen. John E. Hull Thomas J. Watson
Judge John C. Knox Vanderbilt Webb
Robert A. Lovett Raymond Wilkins
M. J. Madigan Boykin C. Wright
W. G. Maguire  

Following the simple Episcopal service led by Canon Miller, Mr. Patterson's


Photo: Casket is Transferred to the Caisson at Memorial Gate.


casket was taken in procession from the cathedral and placed in a hearse. A motorized cortege escorted by two armored cars then proceeded to the Memorial Gate of Arlington National Cemetery.

A military escort meanwhile had formed on line on the green at the gate. The units included the US Army Band; Company A, 3d Infantry; the Navy Ceremonial Guard; the Marine Corps Ceremonial Company; and the 1100th Ceremonial Detachment from Bolling Air Force Base. On Memorial Drive directly in front of the military escort was the caisson, to which the casket would be transferred immediately after the cortege reached the Memorial Gate. Also on hand were a national color detail, a personal flag bearer, and a joint team of body bearers from three of the armed services: the Army, Navy, and Air Force.

When the cortege reached the Memorial Gate, the military escort presented arms and the Army Band played as the body bearers transferred the casket from the hearse to the horse-drawn caisson. Following the transfer, General Herren, as escort commander, led the way into the cemetery, entering on Roosevelt Drive. Behind him were the band, escort troop units, national color detail, Canon Miller, the caisson flanked by the body bearers, the personal flag bearer, the honorary pallbearers, the Patterson family, and other mourners, in that order. As the procession moved, the 3d Infantry battery, in position in the cemetery, fired a 19-gun


salute, spacing the rounds so that the last one was fired as the procession arrived at the gravesite.

Canon Miller read the service at the grave. When he had finished, the battery from the 3d Infantry fired a second 19-gun salute. A rifle squad then delivered three volleys and an Army bugler sounded taps. The body bearers folded the flag that had draped Mr. Patterson's casket and handed it to Canon Miller, who then gave it to the Patterson family minister, the Reverend Lockett Ballard, who presented the flag to Mrs. Patterson.


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