Arlington Cemetery’s buried secrets

Arlington admits it can't identify grave-site remains -- while new evidence casts doubt on Army investigation

Topics: Arlington National Cemetery Investigation,

Arlington Cemetery's buried secretsThis is block of empty grass is grave 449 in section 68 at Arlington National Cemetery. Officials have known for 6 years about unknown remains there.

Salon has uncovered further evidence of grave offenses at Arlington National Cemetery. It is now clear that the cemetery, which is managed by the U.S. Army and calls itself “our nation’s most sacred shrine,” lost track of the identity of remains buried in a grave, and covered up the disturbing discovery for six years. New information also casts doubt on Army statements about when the Army learned of criminal misconduct by a top cemetery official.

Last week Salon reported allegations by former and current employees that headstones and graves do not match in some cases. The article noted internal cemetery documents over the past several years that revealed “information listed on grave cards and burial records were not consistent with the information on the actual headstone.” It documented an expensive, 10-year-old effort to computerize operations at Arlington — a feat cemeteries of similar size and age have achieved relatively quickly and cheaply.

Arlington admitted to the paperwork problems but insisted the confusion stopped at the grave’s edge. When asked — “Has the cemetery ever dug a grave only to find there is already someone there, though the grave is unmarked?” — cemetery spokeswoman Kaitlin Horst responded, “We are not aware of any situation like that.”

But Salon has discovered evidence to the contrary. In 2003, Arlington workers dug into the ground at Grave 449 in Section 68 — the cemetery had paperwork that said the grave was empty — to bury somebody who had recently died. They came across remains already interred in that grave. There was no headstone. Soon after the discovery, workers filled out a grave card (obtained by Salon), generally used to note information about each burial site, with an urgent note to colleagues: “do not DO NOT USE!!! CASKET IN GRAVE REMAINS UNKNOWN.”

Since Arlington does not know the identity of the remains in Grave 449, there is no way of knowing when the burial occurred. Arlington tends to bury service members who pass away at around the same time in the each section. The graves in Section 68 are generally from the late 1980s through 2008, suggesting the original burial occurred in that era.

In response to a query about Grave 449, Arlington admitted the error. “The identity of the remains in Grave 449 in Section 68 is unknown at this time,” Horst admitted. “Arlington National Cemetery officials have known about this situation since 2003, when in the process of preparing for a burial, a casket was discovered in Grave 449 in Section 68,” she added. “At that time, a review of records took place to locate the corresponding documents. The files could not be matched and as a result, the card you have described was filed. Following your inquiry this morning, a search for corresponding records in the paper files was conducted and again, proved inconclusive.”

This discovery, Horst suggested, had an upside: It “reemphasized” the importance of the project to computerize its records. She noted that grave site 449 is the only example of this kind of screw-up. “At this time, cemetery officials are not aware of any other instances and welcome information to the contrary that suggest any further discrepancies,” she said. She did not identify the cemetery official who was the source of the previous misinformation, or the new claim that 449 is an anomaly.

Further evidence of Arlington’s malfeasance comes in a new response from the Army’s Criminal Investigation Command. Salon reported that Arlington Deputy Superintendent Thurmond Higginbotham was involved in the unauthorized hacking of an employee’s government computer. A July 2008 internal Army memo to Lt. Gen. David Huntoon, director of the Army staff, warned of possible e-mail hacking at Arlington.

Salon asked the Army what, if anything, Huntoon did about the allegations. Army spokesman Gary Tallman responded in a statement and suggested that Huntoon alerted the Criminal Investigation Command when he got the memo in July. “The Army viewed the allegations associated with the Cemetery very seriously, as we do any such allegation,” Tallman wrote. “Allegations of a criminal nature were referred to, and investigated by, CID.”

When recently contacted, a CID official said he heard nothing from Huntoon in July. Agents only heard about the possible unauthorized computer access when Gina Gray, a former public affairs officer at Arlington, alerted investigators in October 2008 that her Army e-mail account had been hacked. CID started its investigation the next day.

“CID became aware of the allegations involving her email account in Oct. 08 and immediately opened an investigation after receiving a sworn statement from the complainant,” Chris Grey, CID’s chief of public affairs, wrote in a statement to Salon. “According to our investigative records, evidence of someone using the complainant’s email account were not known by CID or the complainant until early Oct 08. We are unaware of any previous reports of allegations of criminal misconduct that would have fallen within the investigative responsibility of CID,” he wrote. “Any such report would have been examined to determine if there is credible information of a crime, that the crime is within the investigative purview of CID, and that CID has the authority to investigate.”

Paul Rieckhoff, executive director of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, expressed shock about Arlington’s chaos. He was distressed to hear about the unknown remains in Grave 449, and about the fact that many personal mementos — letters, photographs and artifacts — placed on graves in Section 60, the final resting place of 600 troops killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, have ended up in the trash. “We expect the Armed Services Committee to look into this and that hearings would be appropriate,” Rieckhoff said. “Our members are outraged. People are very, very concerned. We expect a response from the Army on this.”

Mark Benjamin is a national correspondent for Salon based in Washington, D.C. Read his other articles here.

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 14
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Adam, "Pilot"

    One of our first exposures to uncomfortable “Girls” sex comes early, in the pilot episode, when Hannah and Adam “get feisty” (a phrase Hannah hates) on the couch. The pair is about to go at it doggy-style when Adam nearly inserts his penis in “the wrong hole,” and after Hannah corrects him, she awkwardly explains her lack of desire to have anal sex in too many words. “Hey, let’s play the quiet game,” Adam says, thrusting. And so the romance begins.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Marnie and Elijah, "It's About Time"

    In an act of “betrayal” that messes up each of their relationships with Hannah, Marnie and Elijah open Season 2 with some more couch sex, which is almost unbearable to watch. Elijah, who is trying to explore the “hetero side” of his bisexuality, can’t maintain his erection, and the entire affair ends in very uncomfortable silence.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Marnie and Charlie, "Vagina Panic"

    Poor Charlie. While he and Marnie have their fair share of uncomfortable sex over the course of their relationship, one of the saddest moments (aside from Marnie breaking up with him during intercourse) is when Marnie encourages him to penetrate her from behind so she doesn’t have to look at him. “This feels so good,” Charlie says. “We have to go slow.” Poor sucker.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Shoshanna and camp friend Matt, "Hannah's Diary"

    We’d be remiss not to mention Shoshanna’s effort to lose her virginity to an old camp friend, who tells her how “weird” it is that he “loves to eat pussy” moments before she admits she’s never “done it” before. At least it paves the way for the uncomfortable sex we later get to watch her have with Ray?

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Adam, "Hard Being Easy"

    On the heels of trying (unsuccessfully) to determine the status of her early relationship with Adam, Hannah walks by her future boyfriend’s bedroom to find him masturbating alone, in one of the strangest scenes of the first season. As Adam jerks off and refuses to let Hannah participate beyond telling him how much she likes watching, we see some serious (and odd) character development ... which ends with Hannah taking a hundred-dollar bill from Adam’s wallet, for cab fare and pizza (as well as her services).

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Marnie and Booth Jonathan, "Bad Friend"

    Oh, Booth Jonathan -- the little man who “knows how to do things.” After he turns Marnie on enough to make her masturbate in the bathroom at the gallery where she works, Booth finally seals the deal in a mortifying and nearly painful to watch sex scene that tells us pretty much everything we need to know about how much Marnie is willing to fake it.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Tad and Loreen, "The Return"

    The only sex scene in the series not to feature one of the main characters, Hannah’s parents’ showertime anniversary celebration is easily one of the most cringe-worthy moments of the show’s first season. Even Hannah’s mother, Loreen, observes how embarrassing the situation is, which ends with her husband, Tad, slipping out of the shower and falling naked and unconscious on the bathroom floor.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and the pharmacist, "The Return"

    Tad and Loreen aren’t the only ones to get some during Hannah’s first season trip home to Michigan. The show’s protagonist finds herself in bed with a former high school classmate, who doesn’t exactly enjoy it when Hannah puts one of her fingers near his anus. “I’m tight like a baby, right?” Hannah asks at one point. Time to press pause.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Adam, "Role-Play"

    While it’s not quite a full-on, all-out sex scene, Hannah and Adam’s attempt at role play in Season 3 is certainly an intimate encounter to behold (or not). Hannah dons a blond wig and gets a little too into her role, giving a melodramatic performance that ends with a passerby punching Adam in the face. So there’s that.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Shoshanna and Ray, "Together"

    As Shoshanna and Ray near the end of their relationship, we can see their sexual chemistry getting worse and worse. It’s no more evident than when Ray is penetrating a clothed and visibly horrified Shoshanna from behind, who ends the encounter by asking if her partner will just “get out of me.”

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Frank, "Video Games"

    Hannah, Jessa’s 19-year-old stepbrother, a graveyard and too much chatting. Need we say more about how uncomfortable this sex is to watch?

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Marnie and Desi, "Iowa"

    Who gets her butt motorboated? Is this a real thing? Aside from the questionable logistics and reality of Marnie and Desi’s analingus scene, there’s also the awkward moment when Marnie confuses her partner’s declaration of love for licking her butthole with love for her. Oh, Marnie.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Adam, "Vagina Panic"

    There is too much in this scene to dissect: fantasies of an 11-year-old girl with a Cabbage Patch lunchbox, excessive references to that little girl as a “slut” and Adam ripping off a condom to ejaculate on Hannah’s chest. No wonder it ends with Hannah saying she almost came.

  • Recent Slide Shows



Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>