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tv   The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier  CSPAN  November 10, 2018 4:00pm-5:01pm EST

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next on american history tv, military historian patrick o'donnell talks about his book story ofwn, the untold america's unknown soldier and world war i's most decorated heroes who brought him home. pay chronicles the combat stories of the eight men who were selected to escort the unknown soldiers remains. the national archives hosted this hour-long event. military records in the national archives document not only command decisions in the military operations, that also the actions of individuals. a number of the records justify the great sacrifice in combat. cemetery in arlington, virginia, is the resting place of more than 400 thousand people, including nearly 5000 unknown soldiers. 1921, a single unknown soldier was chosen to represent all of those who have died without
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being identified. the soldier of world war i was laid to rest with a solemn ceremony attended by the highest ranks of military leaders. film documents the progress of the soldiers remains from france to the u.s. and the newly built him of the unknown soldier. the ceremony at the u.s. capitol where they lay. general pershing stood as the soldier's father to fill the role of a relative. along the way from france to a resting place, eight men selected by general purging accompanying the body of the unknown. we are going to hear from patrick o'donnell and learn the story of those eight bearers and their heroism on the battlefield. patrick o'donnell is a best-selling and critically acclaimed military historian and an expert on elite units. he is the author of 11 books.
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he is the recipient of several national awards. he served as a combat historian in a marine rifle platoon during the battle of the lucia and speaks on espionage special operations. he has provided historical's -- consulting for dreamworks in a series band of brothers and documentaries produced by bbc, history channel, and fox news. to read you some snippets of reviews on his newest book from wall street journal, fluid prose, mr. o'donnell relates both the history of the unknown soldier and the story of america's part in world war i or the soldiers experience. from usa today, a gripping story by mr. o'donnell. one of the best military historians. few authors has -- have the same kind of enthusiasm that o'donnell brings.
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ladies and gentlemen, please welcome patrick o'donnell to the stage. [applause] >> it is an honor to be introduced by the archivist of the united states. i spent over two decades at the national archives researching 11 books from the american revolution to the unknowns. several of the stories about the navy body bearers were drawn from the research here at the national archives. i am honored by the individuals here today that came to support the unknowns, especially many former platoon guards. i would like to recognize paul, a former sergeant of the guards as well as richard. please stand. [applause] these are some of america's finest.
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thank you so much for your service. [applause] and them frank from amc os as society and at many of my other friends are here and my family. i really appreciate your support. i have written 11 books. it is not a cliche, the story finds main. -- main. washington's immortals, i was walking with a battalion commander in fallujah and we found a vested sign that said there are 200 56 continental soldiers buried in a mass grave in brooklyn somewhere. i wanted to know the back story. it is history in plain sight. the unknowns are no different. i was given the opportunity to be a guy in france for the fit remains and a warrior regiment. as we walked, the battleground,
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hallowed ground of the lowood, years ago,ned 100 where the marine corps and second division helped save paris. german drive.he we looked around the news and there is little talk about the battle of belleau wood. that is the reason why i wrote the unknown. , ais an unknown generation forgotten generation that changed the world. walking around the shell of belleau woods, there is still mustard gas. the land is scarred by world war i. i was joined, from the brothers i was with an fallujah and it was quite striking the two generations have met in one place. it was a situation where fallujah had nearly killed all of us, where the former ottoman empire, now iraq, was the result of that.
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it was that meeting of generations that made me wonder. and then i found out that ernest hansen made a charge in a place called hill 142. as we walked up to hill 142 -- this is the high ground near belleau wood. this is the high ground. the marines on june 6, 1918 charged across a wheat field under heavy machine-gun fire. they charged in civil war formation because they were ordered to by the french. it was a bloodbath. many of these men dropped from machine-gun bullets are they -- and they kept charging and making their way towards hill 142. unbelievably, they were able to take out a position held by a battalion of germans. they seized the hill. against all enemies took it, but
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within 20 minutes they knew what was coming next, german counterattack. and janssen and george hamilton and the 49th company, this book is a band of brothers on the 49th company, the story of the unknown soldier, braced for the counterattack. janssen saw in the distance nearly one dozen making their -- one dozen helmets making their way up to his position, setting up several maxim machine guns. he knew if they were able to set those up, they would sweep the hill and take it. he let out a cry and charged forward and stopped the attack and potentially saved the hill. he disrupted the entire attack. for his actions he was the first medal of honor recipient from the marine corps, but he was also pershing's body bearer. when i found that out, i wanted to know who the other men were. it was at that point the unknowns found me. i spent years uncovering their
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story which is untold. it is untold within multiple untold stories. it is hidden in plain sight. the tomb itself has an incredible history, but it is history in plain sight. it is the back story behind the tomb. who were the people selected to bring back the remains? how the unknown was selected, all of these stories are woven into a single story, a narrative history that is very cinematic that brings you to world war i through the eyes of the men, the most decorated and listed -- enlisted men of the war, who saw some of the toughest action. in nearly every major battle, but general pershing, when he selected his eight pallbearers, he chose the army, marine corps and navy and within that individuals from the combat specializations, engineers for
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instance. these are not guys that build things. they blew things up. in the case of thomas saunders, a body bearer, a native american, given some of the most difficult assignments in the war, had to breach the wire with only a pair of wire cutters and breached the wire, making a hole to allow the rest to go through. you have the calvary. there were mounted troops in france. one of the great stories is body bearer harry taylor who was practically born in the saddle, a cowboy, that was raised in wyoming. taylor fought with the first cavalry at the beginning of his career. was involved in numerous conflicts, finding himself in france training men, the wild west division, who makes an epic charge, a suicide charge in the argonne.
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one of america's bloodiest battles. there is also the infantry, samuel woodfill, one of the most decorated doughboys. there is the heavy guns. this is a forgotten aspect of world war i. there were rail guns in france and heavy artillery and one of the pallbearers is represented there. the field artillery, forgotten branch. these are men that in most cases french 75's, pieces that moved with the infantry. in some cases they were in combat with the infantry as they moved up and provided close artillery support as the infantry advanced. this is the story that is in the unknowns. it is -- general pershing was trying to be very comprehensive and fair in the way that he told the story of world war i through
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the eyes of these men. and then of course there is the extraordinary story of the tomb itself and how it was, how the unknown was selected. a follow a chicagoan, a doughboy named edward younger through the entire war. he was part of the second infantry division, and elite unit in the american expeditionary forces, that fought through the greatest battles. younger is there. he is a doughboy, a regular front, a sergeant that fights from battle to battle. he is wounded twice severely, then i will get into the story of how he is selected. it is extraordinary. then there is the story of how all these men and individuals come together. here in washington, dc, first on november 9, 1921, then they bring the most extraordinary
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individual, the unknown soldier, to his final resting place in arlington, virginia. let me go back in time and talk about these body bearers because this book is about the stories. it is about extraordinary stories. it is about extraordinary individuals that in many cases did the impossible. what you will see in this book is individuals that had to overcome extreme hardship, talking about gas persistently, all the time as they fought, bodies that were covered with lice and mites as they fought through combat because they were not able to change their uniforms. they also had to battle and fight the greatest army in the world at the time, the german army. let me go back in time to 1917
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when america was unprepared. america went from an army of 220,000 regulars to an army of over 4 million strong at the end of the war. it is an extraordinary story of growth in a time of great need. we mobilized. one part of the story is a forgotten story. that is the story of the navy, the american navy in world war i. in march 1917, president wilson had a real threat on his hands. german u-boats were sinking american shipping at an alarming rate even before we entered world war i. there was a decision made to bring naval guards onboard merchant ships, to arm them with
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typically five inch guns and give the merchant ship a crew of about 15 naval personnel. they are naval guards during one -- and one of those was james delaney. james delaney was a tough irishman from boston, massachusetts. his body was inked with the ships he served on, serving since 18. his life was the navy, and he was given command of a naval gun crew on the uss -- the ss campana, merchant ship. their journey in the summer was -- in the summer of 1917 was going well until mid-summer and they were making their way back to the united states, and all of a sudden a torpedo nearly hit the ship. it was then quickly followed by artillery fire. the men manned their guns and began to respond. u-boat 61 was crewed by an expert, lieutenant captain
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d command -- dickman who had sunk 40 ships, and no his prey -- now his prey was the campana. they manned their guns and started to fire, but victor, the captain of the u-boat, was quite knowledgeable on these affairs and had sunk many ships. he stayed out of range of the campana's guns but it in suit a -- but what ensued was a cat and mouse chase for hours. both sides fired their guns as the ship tried to flee the battle space. eventually u-boat 61 surrounds are able to hit the side of the campana, one near the engine compartment. james delaney's men were firing so many rounds their eardrums began to bleed. and ran out of ammunition
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several of the u-boat shells struck the campana. captain oliver, a new yorker on the campana decides to strike his colors and surrender his vessel. the u-boat moves in closely here they go by the actual rowboats, the crew and james delaney are in, nearly wiped them out as they go so close to it. now they have a boarding party that goes aboard the campana. they set several charges, but before they do that, they raid the food locker on board the campana, as life on a submarine was harsh. they only had canned goods or whatever they could bring on board once the journey began. the journey was also dirty and filthy. the engines on the u-boat 61 let off a lot of grease, and there was inside the boat something
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called u-boat sweat, literally condensation inside the boat. it would get on the men's clothes, their coffee, food, everything. remarkably, the first thing they did was when they went on board was look for soap. they went for the soap and tried to clean themselves and got the food, and they also look for -- looked for anything of intelligent value and detonated the ship and sank it. at that point, the men, including james delaney, were brought on board. six were brought on board u-boat 61. the captain is a remarkable figure. he speaks perfect english and he begins to question james delaney. here is a meeting of two men. they both, they become i would not say -- there is a friendship formed, but there is a mutual respect that is formed including respect with the crews because the men, james delaney's crew and his men endure what the men
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of the u-boat endure. if you have ever seen the movie das boot, it is a world war ii version of a u-boat undersea. this is a world war i das boot. the men of the u-boat 61 are deft charged. they have to endure what is known as a q boat, the allies have, disguised as a merchant ship but is designed, as in of the u-boats surface, to reveal hidden guns and attack the u-boat. they go through a minefield. it is an extraordinary story. i will not tell the entire story, but i will tell you at the end of the voyage, both crews lined up for a photo. what james delaney did not know and the other americans that day
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was u-boat 61's crew were all walking dead man because within a matter of weeks or months, they would never be seen again. this is the powerful story that is inside the unknown that took me years to unearth, including here. some of these stories were found here in the national archives as i unearthed them. another incredible story is the story of the 49th company of the marine corps. the helmet to me is the 49th -- not the 49th. it is the 205, the second battalion, fifth marines. their story really begins at belleau wood which happened 100 years ago to this day. i mentioned the epic charge on june 6 where the men -- this was
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world war i d-day that no one has heard about unless you are in the marine corps or a world war i buff. this is where the marine corps advanced over several fields under heavy machine-gun fire. what happened before that was extraordinary. at the end of may, early june, the germans had launched a major offensive geared at rome -- sorry, paris. they were breaking through the french lines. literally the french army was melting away. the archives talk about how it was like water on a hot iron. it was evaporating. the french army was evaporating. men from the 49th company and 25, the second division were all being trucked as quickly as possible along with the third division of the u.s. army into the vortex of battle to hold the line at all costs. these were the only reserve
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units at the time. they were, in many cases, super divisions. the u.s. divisions were twice the size of a french division and sometimes more, larger, much more larger than a german division. they were rushed to the front. as they were in their trucks or camions, they saw french civilians passing them by an french, french members of the army, throwing down weapons saying the war is over. these men pushed forward into the front, and it was here that lloyd williams from 25, the men set up behind parts of the french army near belleau wood. the decision was made by colonel preston brown, chief of staff for the second division, the french wanted to immediately commit the marine corps and army
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piecemeal, thrust them into the line. he insisted they be able to dig in behind the french in shallow foxholes and wait. this potentially helped save the war because the marines and army were ready. as the german army advance over the wheatfields, the french were fleeing. according to the marine corps' lore and other documents, lloyd williams was confronted with this dilemma, and he said retreat, hell, we just got here. they dug in and they began to fire with their rifles, accurate rifle fire. most marines were marksmen. they were able to take down the germans as they advance. they stopped them and on june 6, the allies go on the attack. the french order them to push forward.
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it is janssens company, the 49th company which i followed through the entire war is advancing through the wheatfield. the first objective is hill 142. they seize the hill against all odds. many of these men are killed as they cross the wheatfield. they take the hill, janssen survives. he is badly wounded but survives. he is able to disrupt the attack. these men fight. the 49th company fights through the entire war. they are in the major battles the aef fights in. it takes about three weeks to clear belleau wood. what happens is a newspaper report of what happened with the chicago tribune is in the field as they advance on the sick. -- stick. he is shot through the eye, but before he goes, he writes his report. the censors -- it is forbidden
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to provide any unit designation of who is in the field. the censors believe lloyd williams is killed. he is shot through the eye, badly wounded. he is actually alive, but they believe he is dead. they go ahead and say let the report go through, which identifies the marine corps. all of a sudden the papers all read the marine corps helped save france, and paris. the army as well, but it creates a sensation. it goes viral. what happens is belleau wood, instead of just a local attack, takes on nation significance. the germans see the papers, and they rush their best units into belleau wood to try to crush the marine corps. over the course of three weeks, there is very heavy fighting and casualties, but ultimately the marine corps and the army
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prevail at belleau wood. and the 49th company continues to advance. and they fight, you know, in a place that is a turning point in world war i, where the allies go on the counterattack or counteroffensive. they are able to turn the tide of battle. and the germans, the war is changing, changing nature of the war. the 49th fight through another battle as san miguel where the americans go on a true offensive to take down the germans. several of the body bearers are involved. one of my favorite stories is a forgotten battle the marine corps fought in. it was one of their bloodiest, even in some cases more bloody than june 6. it was a place called blanc mont ridge, where the french want to take the seven -- second
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division to somehow sees and -- an impregnable fortress. here -- it is called that because the face of the mountain is white. white mountain. it shows, but white mountain was deceptive in the sense it was ringed with machine guns as, artillery -- nests, machine positions. for over three and a half years, they had tried to take this, and nothing worked. there were bodies all over the place. there was an attack only days earlier. the french army failed to take it. they called in the second division as well as the 49th company and marine corps. 1/5 is what they were a part of. here was also another member of this book, edward younger, the chicagoan. many of these converge on blanc
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mont, the field artillery, combat engineers. their stories always converge as they attack this seemingly impregnable position. they have to go across a mile of open ground. the bodies of the french are littering the area. they literally go by one of the positions which was shaped in a phalanx or arrow. it is all dead frenchmen. at the tip of the phalanx is a frenchmen with a beard. -- has his eyes wide open with his bayonet pointed at the germans in horror. they passed them and continue to attack. it is a remarkable story. they seize blanc mont on the first day and go over the ridge the next day and continue to fight in a position known as the box. it was a natural kill zone the germans had created, and men of the 49th company were stuck in
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this position and were shelled mercilessly with high explosives, machine gun bolts, gas. they were in this position as they tried to attack the german line. it is an extraordinary story of heroism and courage when an many -- in many cases they are outnumbered and they hold and eventually the position is consolidated. one of my body bearers, the native american, thomas saunders, is pushed into the line as a scout. he scouts into the early position, to penetrate the wire again. these are just some of the stories that are in the book. and i think saunders is an extraordinary story. he receives the french croit de guerre in the attack at blanc
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mont ridge. he had to go against a very fixed position that the germans have at the end of the field. native americans were unfortunately subjected to many of the stereotypes in world war ii era they were looked at as amazing warriors. in that sense they were given some of the most difficult combat assignments and saunders wasn't an exception. he was given the assignment of scout in this position at blanc mont ridge but also a wire cutter, breaching a hole in the wire to allow the rest of the infantry to go through. going back a month at san miguel, he was told to breach the wire there across no man's land.
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i can't imagine this, going across no man's land alone with maybe a partner, one man, and they were given the wire cutters to cut a hole, this forlorn hope to breach a hole in the wire. they make it through the wire, and they are the closest, they advance further than any other allied troops. they keep pushing forward, and they were able -- it is quite extraordinary. they make it to a german headquarters position in a castle, deep behind german lines. they are able to capture 63 german soldiers single handedly through their efforts. these are the stories that are in the unknowns. i will talk about one more story in the book, and that is the story of charles lee o'connor who is also with the navy. charles lee o'connor is given
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one of the lowliest jobs, a water tender on the uss mount vernon. the mount vernon is a captured german jet vessel. in world war i, we had very little american shipping. it was diminished. it was almost at civil war levels in some cases. there was a great need for shipping. we needed to take the american troops and army over to france. there was a race to quickly build ships, but another thing that is curious that isn't really documented in many places is there were a number of german vessels that tried to find safe harbor in the united states at the beginning of the war. they knew the united states was a neutral nation. they were afraid of france and
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england's navies as they crossed the atlantic, so they tried to find safe harbor in the united states. one of those was the ss crown prince cassell. it was a german vessel that was nearly the size of the titanic. it was an ocean liner, but the german vessel also had a hidden secret. it was carrying millions of dollars of gold bullion from germany. they captured -- the ship goes into bar harbor, maine, and it is seized by the government. the crew and passengers are interned. for a year the ship languishes, and it is too tempting of a target. the ship is seized along with all the gold. the ship is renamed the uss mount vernon, a navy ship, troop transport. charles lee o'connor is assigned to the ship. the ship makes multiple voyages across the atlantic. in september 1918, they are
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making the fifth or sixth across -- voyage across the atlantic carrying troops from the american expeditionary force that are wounded. they are carrying a congressman, but they are also carrying the plague. is running rampant across the decks of the uss mount vernon. things look good in the sense they have somewhat contained the virus, even though many of the crew members are falling victim to it. the voyage looks good on the way back. they have never had hostile and -- hostile activity until this point, then that morning, there is a rainbow. to the experienced mariners of the mount vernon, it is an ominous sign. literally, sure enough, an hour later, a torpedo slams into the side of the mount vernon, rupturing a massive hole in the boiler where charles lee o'connor is tending the boilers. he is shoveling coal.
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his body -- mountain of a man, massive, big, built, shoveling coal every day in this hot furnace like hellish environment of the mount vernon. thousands, tens of thousands of gallons of water are rushing in to the compartment. his body is nearly burned alive by the boiler, the cinders coming out. the hot coals coming out of the boiler. he is being hit by massive amounts of water. he has got to make a split-second decision. there are men inside the compartment. there is a water tight door that needs to be closed. does he save his life, does he save the men in the compartment, or does he save his ship? that is the dilemma i will leave you with. [laughter] o'donnell: you will have to read
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the book. but these men all come together. they come together on the field of battle and in some cases the final night of the war four of these body bearers come together. they also come together november 9, 1921, to bring back the remains of the unknown soldier. the unknown soldier in world war i and our unknown soldier is not our own concept. france and england were the first. and in 1921 they established tombs of the unknown soldiers to honor all that had fallen. it was an opportunity to recognize all that had fallen. it was an opportunity to provide closure for those nations and the sacrifices they had made. we did not have one in the united states. there was a hope all 2200 americans unidentified or unknown could be identified.
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the army blissfully believed that was possible. it was not until 1920 that an editor from a very popular women's magazine, marie maloney, who was the editor of the delineater, suggested we need an unknown soldier, representing all those who have fallen from the american revolution to world war i to provide closure. it is about who we are as americans. she was able to convince the war department but also she created a movement. the new york times picked up on the story, the ap, and a young congressman named hamilton fish from new york city, who was a white officer in what was known as the harlem hell fighters, a segregated unit that fought
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-- segregated african and brazilian unit that fought bravely and heroically in france, fish decided it was time to recognize his men and all of those who had fallen in world war i and spearheaded a campaign to get through the tomb of the unknown soldier. got through the funding and the bill. president wilson signed it. year goes by, it is 1921. the four major cemeteries in france which contain unknown soldiers, the remains are removed from each of the cemeteries. at belleau wood, at san miguel, where saunders and all the others fought, at the meuse-argonne, the somme, the four remains are removed, they are checked to make sure there are no dogtags, letters, diaries, anything to identify these individuals. then at that point that registration people burned the tickets that revealed where
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these individuals were actually removed from, so it is impossible to identify who these individuals are. the four remains are brought back to another place in france where a french honor guard greets them along with other dignitaries. they are placed in city hall. they are flag draped, and there is a procession. the next day, the unknown will be selected. the plan is initially to have a general officer from the united states make the selection, the last second though, the french say, we use the regular grunt, a man that just had been through the trenches, that had been through this hell. there were six men escorting the body that night, including
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edward younger from chicago. each of these men had revealed their records of service during the war, and that night edward younger was selected to choose the unknown soldier. he woke up that morning and had this awesome responsibility on his shoulders. the man that had been through the ninth infantry near voe, near belleau wood the attack, the final day of the war where they crossed the river, this doughboy that had seen it all was given a bouquet of white roses. chopin's funeral dirge was playing in the background. the floor of the room was littered with white petals, and edward f. younger slowly walked into the room and nervously wasn't sure who to select. he made a quick prayer.
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i found the original notes and typewritten account at the national archives and personnel records center, which reveals exactly what he felt and how he felt as he walked nervously in between the caskets. he looked at the flag and said, that was sublime. his hand, his hand was guided towards one casket. it was an almost immovable action. he was guided there. he felt the man in the casket was somebody he went over the top with, knew that man. at that point the selection was made. the body was moved to le havre, france, where the great ship, the uss olympia, was waiting.
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the men brought the casket on board the uss olympia, and the olympia made the voyage across the ocean, the atlantic, to the washington navy yard, right here at the pier. the pier is still here. on november 9, the eight body bearers assembled and removed the casket. the photo on top is this exact moment i am describing. the casket was greeted by the body bearers, general pershing, president harding, and other dignitaries. it was brought to the rotunda where it lay in state. then on november 11, the same day the war to end all wars ended, november 11, the body was removed by the body bearers, placed on the same caisson that
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carried president lincoln, and they made the journey on foot to arlington national cemetery. here in this procession was a remarkable procession. all of the medal of honor recipients from world war i were there. the men, many of the civil war veterans that had received the medal of honor were present and walking in procession. president harding was there, wilson was there, general pershing, who was supposed to be on a white horse, decides to walk as a common mourner behind the casket. the men bring the casket to arlington. and here, this is meant to bring groups in the united states together. history is meant to heal. the great stakeholders in the country, the naacp, the ar, the
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various members of government and even the french, all common. -- come. they present their finest honors, their greatest metals. the medal of honor is presented to the unknown. words are said. the body is brought to arlington cemetery and is lowered into the ground and one of the final people to speak is an american indian, a chief. it is meant to heal. the entire moment, a man that had fought the u.s. government. thomas saunders, whose father had fought and grandfather had fought the united states government who now served, were laying to rest in our greatest memorial, the unknown. dirt was shoveled from france into the open hole, and the body was laid to rest. this is our greatest war memorial.
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this is who we are as americans. it is also about a forgotten generation. the world war i generation that changed and remade the world, and that is why i wrote the unknowns. thank you very much. [applause] patrick: i will be happy to take your questions. [applause] >> if you have questions, please go to the microphones. >> very good talk, thank you. am i correct in saying that the supposedly unknown soldier from vietnam was subsequently identified, right, in the 1990's through dna testing? is there any chance that could happen with the supposedly unknown soldier from world war
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i? patrick: the unknown from vietnam was identified. at the family's behest. they felt strongly that individual was their son, and dna analysis was performed, and he was re-interned with full military honors and identified. i think it is unlikely that there is, you know, proper dna in the database to identify the world war i, there is possible contamination, degradation, a lot of issues. the biggest thing is, this is a national symbol. it is who we are as americans. it is why we fight. it represents who we are. i don't think -- i think that is why it is. >> thank you. patrick: yes. >> congratulations on your book's success and for saving this important part of our
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military history. my question does not pertain strictly to the unknowns but does your book make any mention of the legendary fighting 69th infantry regiment were receiving that medal of honor -- he would go on to lead the officers' strategic services, predecessor to the cia? patrick: it does. it includesitle is "some of the greatest heroes brought them home" but it also includes the greatest heroes of the war. this includes sergeant york, whittles be, and the fighting 69th. they fight in his area where, in the meuse-argonne, this is america's largest battle and one of its most bloody. if you picture the opening scene of saving private ryan, that is what they had to go through.
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they were fixed positions, they were bunkered, machine guns, barbed wire and across it, colonel donovan, many of these other extraordinary individuals had to cross the field. they are taken out in many cases. it is very tragic. donovan is shot in the leg. the book chronicles his experience there. what is extraordinary and interesting is this experience changes his life. instead of frontal assaults, he feels there is a better way that will cost less lives. in world war ii general donovan's first the coordinator of information, which is the precursor, predecessor of the oss, which is a predecessor which most people don't realize. it is a predecessor to most of america's special operations forces. this is born in the trenches by
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general donovan. what motivated him comes from his experience in world war i. if you look at the u.s. army special operations forces, the green berets, their direct heritage comes from the operational groups and the others in world war ii. many of these are donovan's ideas himself. the oss maritime unit is the navy seals. i wrote a book called the first seals which chronicles their extraordinary story where a medical student from the university of pennsylvania who tinkers in the summer with old gas masks and bicycle pumps develops the first operational rebreather for the united states. the navy seals are born in a pool at a hotel a few blocks away from here which was a large indoor pool. they test the rebreather.
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a dentist from hollywood, hmg woolly, who is a screenwriter for paramount but also a commando and liaison officer with the british government. they come together, and eclectic group that developed the first seals. it is extraordinary. taylor survives a german concentration camp after he parachutes behind the lines. the story of the oss is a story hidden in the national archives. i spent 20 years digging through literally cubic miles of records, some that had never been seen since the war to reveal these extraordinary stories. >> can you talk about the tradition of the silent guard?
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what -- was that done simultaneously when the soldier was rested, or what is the background? patrick: after world war i, there was not a tomb guard. it was basically the tomb was there, people could picnic there and vandalized it. in the 1930's there was a tomb guard. i think it is better if i let one of the people that are some of the finest americans sort of answer that story. richard, would you take that on? >> [indiscernible] >> when it started, was a -- was it a tradition from europe? it was mentioned about french and british had unknown soldiers? >> [indiscernible] is american, that the idea of an
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unknown as patrick has mentioned started with france, britain, and then the united states. other countries followed as well, but the tomb guard as you see it is strictly an american tradition, and it is united states army. it begins just as patrick mentioned. at first there was no need for any protection, but as time went on, people began to treat it as a place to visit and then picnic and even sit on it. it was one gentleman, a navy officer, witnessed it, literally went over to the white house. back then you could go visit the president. [laughter] he said a few things to him which started the guarding process, first civilian guard and then the united army is chosen to take over the military honor guard. >> what year was that? >> 1937? >> 1936.
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>> i have the former sergeant of the guard -- [laughter] >> the first civilian guard was 1925, military 1927, started 24 hours. patrick: it is important to recognize this is a 24 hours a day, seven days a week activity in any weather situation. can you sort of describe the things you endured that even a beast -- [laughter] >> this gets into what it is like to be a member of the honor guard tomb of the unknown soldier. i was there from 1963 to 1965. you have intensive training, and that is intense in many different levels, mental, emotional, physical. but then they prepare you for
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what you will experience, what they think you will experience while you are on the match. it is what happens to you out there that really starts to shape you finally as what we refer to as tomb guards. examples would be, as patrick reminds me, i had an occasion walking in the summer, hours, as i was beginning to cross the matt, i was stung by a bee on my ear. as i mentioned to patrick, i have never experienced pain like that then or ever since. my head literally exploded with pain but because of the kind of training that you have, and you have a very profound understanding of who you are and what you are therefore, you don't break. we take great pride in the fact we never break, and we never quit.
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we are there 24 hours a day, seven days a week. having said all that, there is two things i would like to say. this is nothing compared to what our men and women experience in combat. as tough as it gets out there and challenging, and the second thing and most profound thing is it is not about us. we are representatives of the american people. what is going on out there and what this is really all about is the sacred duty of the american people to never ever forget those who have served and sacrificed. we will never forsake those who were out there yet and we have not downed them. -- found them. this is what it is about. it is what defines us. defines us as americans because what we really are projecting is the question of why.
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what is it that connects us to those who serve today and those who serve in the american revolution? lincoln talked about it as his electric cord speech. it is the principles that define our founding documents. that connects us. that is what is going on out there. we appreciate the recognition for our service. we are proud of it. there is no mistaking that, but we are humbled by the trust. [applause] patrick: beautiful. i want to say, i met richard two weeks ago. i met him on a radio show. it was on npr. he came up to me and said i would like to shake your hand. been wanting to shake your hand for two years. i am what, really? "i read your book, washington's immortals." i was blown away, then he said, "i traveled by an old house
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every day, and that old house contained one of washington's greatest immortals, watkins. watkins was a statuesque, 6'2" in height, member of the maryland line that fought in every major battle of the american revolution and fought in the american event in brooklyn where there is still a mass grave." he noticed the name of the home in the book. it was a footnote almost. he did not realize it, but that was the house he had been passing every day for years. he went to the house. he went near the house, covered in brambles and bushes. there was his grave that had been hidden in plain sight. history in plain sight for all these years.
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he organized an eagle troop and others, and on memorial day we went home and we talked, we spent time with watkins. we honored his grave and the eagle scouts erected a flagpole. that is what this book, the unknowns and washington's immortals is all about. it is about who we are as americans and recognizing history in plain sight. it is about the back story behind history we passed every day. i will take the next question. >> i enjoyed immensely learning all about the tomb of the unknown. someone else had about the same question i did. you mentioned four unknowns. this gentleman picked one. what happened, where are the other three? patrick: they have been reburied. they are marked as unknown soldiers that were part of that ceremony. they are in france.
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they are all in the same place in france, and their graves are next to each other. yeah. i have not visited their graves, but they are still there. >> thank you. patrick: thank you. we have one more? we are out of time? thank you very much -- [applause] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit] >> join c-span sunday, veterans day, live at 4:30 a.m. eastern or the 100 university -- university -- anniversary of the end of world war young -- one.
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at 7:30 a.m., washington journal is life. american history tv is on c-span3 for a special call and program about what was hoped to be the war to end all wars. universitylenola professor and a georgetown history professor to join us. of president trump and a at over one ceremonies in paris. at 11:00, the wreath-laying ceremony at the tomb of the unknowns at arlington national cemetery. continuesay coverage at 5:00 with the liberty awards honoring george w. bush and historysh on american tv on c-span3 at 9:00 a.m., historians narrate the 1921 silent film documenting the journey of a world where one surge -- soldiers remains from france to arlington national cemetery.
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we visit the american cemetery in northeastern france, the final resting place for over read 8:00 :00 p.m. eastern, the reader of president trump at the world war i ceremonies in paris. sunday, veterans day, on c-span and american history tv on c-span3. announcer: on november 11, 1921, an estimated 100,000 people gathered at arlington cemetery in virginia for a ceremony honoring the unknown soldier of world war i. the u.s. army signal corps created a silent film documenting the journey of the soldier's remains from france to the capitol rotunda and its procession to arlington through the streets of washington, d.c. up next, we will show you the entire 23-minute silent film with narration provided by two world war i historians. host: welcome to reel america on american history tv. -2


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