The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is Arlington National Cemetery's most iconic memorial. For nearly 100 years, it has stood at the heart of the cemetery, serving as a site for reflection on service, valor and sacrifice. The Tomb sarcophagus stands above the grave of an Unknown Soldier from World War I, buried when the Tomb was dedicated on November 11, 1921. Two additional crypts, for Unknowns from World War II and the Korean War, were added in 1958. The Unknowns represent all unidentified service members who gave their lives for the United States.

Use the materials in this module to explore the Tomb’s history and meanings, as well as the stories of individuals involved with its creation.

Walking Tour: Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

Visit the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and the gravesites of individuals related to the Tomb's history.
On November 11, 1921, an unknown American soldier who died in World War I was laid to rest at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. On this walking tour, you will visit the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and the gravesites of several individuals who took part in the Unknown’s 1921 burial ceremony. You will also explore other sites in the cemetery that invite reflection on the sacrifices of those who gave not only their lives, but also their names and identities in the service of the United States.
  • Length: 2 miles
  • Starting point: Section 5 (.3 miles from Welcome Center)

Lesson Plan: Who's Buried at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier?

Primary sources enable students to consider who might be buried at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and why he is buried there.
Optional materials discussing Memorial Day and Veterans Day, along with their connections to the Tomb, are also included. Students will use the information they learn to reflect upon what the Tomb and/or holiday means to American society and to them. Resources include PowerPoint presentations and student reflection worksheets. 
  • One class period, 45-60 minutes total

Lesson Plan: The Unknown Soldier and National Community

Students explore efforts to define and unite the American national community by reading and discussing primary source documents related to the dedication of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in 1921.
Students will be asked to cite evidence from the documents as well as to reflect on their own experiences. Resources include a PowerPoint slide deck, primary source excerpts and discussion questions.
  • Two class periods, 50-70 minutes total