Memorial Day 2011: Flashback to 1958 Medal of Honor recipient Homer L. Wise, Eisenhower and the Tomb of the Unknowns

Monday, May 30, 2011

Today we celebrate Memorial Day.  Fifty-three years ago today, on May 30, 1958, President Eisenhower presided over the dedication of the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington Cemetery.

The New York Times reported:
"Two unknown American Servicemen one of World War II and one of the Korean War, were borne to their final resting places today at Arlington National Cemetery. Here on the grassy plaza, overlooking the Potomac Valley, uniformed pall bearers of all the military services laid the two bronze coffins beside the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier of World War I."
One of the seven pallbearers was Sgt. Homer L. Wise. Above is a rare photograph taken on that memorable day of the seven pallbearers all Medal of Honor recipients.

Tomb of the Unknowns

On August 3, 1956, President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed a bill to select and pay tribute to the Unknowns of World War II and the Korean War. The selection ceremonies and the interment of these Unknowns took place in 1958. The World War II Unknown was selected from remains exhumed from cemeteries in Europe, Africa, Hawaii, and the Philippines.

Two Unknowns from World War II, one from the European Theater and one from the Pacific Theater, were placed in identical caskets and taken aboard the USS Canberra, a guided-missile cruiser resting off the Virginia Capes. Navy Hospital Corpsman 1st Class William R. Charette, then the U.S. Navy's only active-duty Medal of Honor recipient, selected the World War II Unknown. The remaining casket received a solemn burial at sea.

Four unknown Americans who died in the Korean War were disinterred from the National Cemetery of the Pacific in Hawaii. Army Master Sergeant Ned Lyle made the final selection.

Both caskets arrived in Washington on May 28, 1958, where they lay in the Capitol Rotunda until the morning of May 30, when they were carried on caissons to Arlington National Cemetery. President Eisenhower awarded each the Medal of Honor, and the Unknowns of World War II and the Korean War were interred in the plaza beside their World War I comrade.

Please visit our new website: The Homer L. Wise Memorial Committee and consider making a donation to help us honor this humble and extraordinary hero.
Let no neglect, no ravages of time, testify to the present or to the coming generations that we have forgotten as a people the cost of a free and undivided republic.’ May 5, 1868, Gen. John A. Logan of the Grand Army of the Republic declared the first Decoration Day to be held on May 30, 1868

Thank you for your support,

The Homer L. Wise Memorial Committee

Photo caption : Body bearers Tomb of the Unknowns 1958 (From left to right) Homer L. Wise, Stamford, CT,  World War II,  William J. Crawford, Pueblo, CO,  World War II, Jerry K. Crump, Forest City, NC, Korean War, Paul B. Huff, Cleveland, TN, World War II, Ronald E. Rosser, Crooksville, OH, Korean War,  Donald E. Rudolph, Minneapolis, MN, World War II and Ernest R. Kouma, Dwight, NB, Korean War.

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