Monday, November 21, 2011

How New York Became ‘The Big Apple’


All cities eventually acquire nicknames. Chicago has been called “The Windy City,” but not because of persistent breeziness. The explanation is even more prosaic: Its citizens were regarded as overly talkative.
New Orleans has been dubbed  ”The Big Easy,” thanks to its relaxed lifestyle and its willingness to look the other way at the shenanigans of citizens and visitors..
San Francisco is “Baghdad by the Bay’ in recognition of its cosmopolitan population.
Less easy to fathom or trace is the origin of   "The Big Apple" as a nickname for New York. The first appearance in print of this curious term apparently was in 1909 by Edward S. Martin, a prolific poet and writer. In the introduction to The Wayfarer in New York, his modest little anthology of other writers’ impressions of the city, Martin wrote:
"Kansas is apt to see in New York a greedy city. . . . New York is merely one of the fruits of that great tree whose roots go down in the Mississippi Valley and whose branches spread from one ocean to the other. . . . It [Kansas] inclines to think that the big apple [New York] gets a disproportionate share of the national sap."
Martin, founder in 1883 of the satirical magazine Life and its first editor, was no stuffy literary bluenose. Casting a disapproving eye on the prohibition of alcohol after the First World War, he remarked nostalgically about spiritus frumenti: "Wisely used, it makes dinner parties livelier, public dinners more tolerable, wedding guests more blithe and life in general pleasanter."
Whether Martin's bookish and metaphorical use of 'big apple' reflected its usage in vernacular speech is unknown. Word maven and columnist William Safire considered it the initial use of the term, but the Random House Dictionary of American Slang calls the usage "metaphorical or perhaps proverbial, rather than a concrete example of the later slang term."

Horse Racing Connections
The next appearance of the term “Big Apple” was in 1921 in the pages of the New York Morning Telegraph, then the preeminent New York newspaper reporting on sports and entertainment. In a casual reference in the May 3, 1921, issue, turf reporter John J. Fitz Gerald, employing the parlance of followers of the "sport of kings," wrote:
 "J.P. Smith, with Tippety Witchet and others of the L.T. Bauer string, is scheduled to start for 'the big apple' tomorrow after a most prosperous Spring campaign at Bowie and Havre de Grace."
The phrase obviously had wide enough currency among racing fans to be understood by his readers.
Born in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., March 7, 1893, John J. Fitz Gerald never finished high school and joined the Morning Telegraph in 1912. He left in 1918 to buy horses, but was drafted shortly afterwards. Fitz Gerald rejoined the newspaper’s staff in 1919 following his discharge.
In his Morning Telegraph column dated Feb. 18, 1924, headed "Around the Big Apple," Fitz Gerald told this story:
 "The Big Apple. The dream of every lad that ever threw a leg over a thoroughbred and the goal of all horsemen. There's only one Big Apple. That's New York.
"Two dusky stable hands were leading a pair of thoroughbreds around the 'cooling rings' of adjoining stables at the Fair Grounds in New Orleans and engaging in desultory conversation.
“'Where y'all goin' from here?' queried one.
“'From here we're headed for the Big Apple,’ proudly replied the other.
"'Well, you'd better fatten up them skinners or all you'll get from the apple is the core,' was the quick rejoinder."
Fitz Gerald's reference to the "dusky" stable hands raises the possibility that the term has its roots in African-American culture. Support for this is found in the Chicago Defender, a nationally circulated African-American newspaper. “Ragtime” Billy Tucker, a vaudeville/ragtime performer and writer for the paper, used "big apple" to refer to New York in a non-horse-racing context on September 16, 1922:
“I trust your trip to 'the big apple' (New York) was a huge success and only wish that I had been able to make it with you.”
Tucker had earlier used "big apple" in a Defender story dated May 15, 1920, but referring to a different city, Los Angeles. That example may be the earliest known use of "big apple" to refer to any city. It is possible that Tucker simply understood "big apple" to be an appropriate nickname for any large city:
John J. Fitz Gerald became the turf editor of the Morning Telegraph in 1925, at 32 the youngest in that job. The following year, he felt obliged to explain the origin of the Big Apple term again, with a few slight variations. In the Morning Telegraph, Dec. 1, 1926, he told essentially the same story:
"So many people have asked the writer about the derivation of his phrase 'the big apple' that he is forced to make another explanation. A number of years back, when racing a few horses at the Fair Grounds with Jake Byer, he was watching a couple of stable hands cool out a pair of 'hots' in a circle outside the stable.
"A boy from the adjoining barn called over, 'Where you shipping after the meeting?' To this one of the lads replied. 'Why, we ain't no bull-ring stable, we's goin' to 'the big apple.'
"The reply was bright and snappy. 'Boy, I don't know what you're goin' to that apple with those hides for. All you'll get is the rind.'"
By 1927, Walter Winchell, a notorious borrower of words and phrases for his gossip column, picked up and unabashedly used the expression. A year later New York American columnist O.O. McIntyre used it in his column, "New York Day by Day."
In 1935, the Big Apple night club opened in Harlem at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue. A plaque on the building marks the spot. The expression was then common among Negro musicians. By 1937 a song and a dance style called the Big Apple were briefly popular.
In 1940, Fit Gerald quit the Morning Telegraph to do public relations for various racetracks, including the Garden State Racetrack and the Atlantic City Race Course in New Jersey as well as the Tropical Park Race Track in Miami, Florida. He was the editor of the Daily Sports Bulletin in his later years.

Death and Belated Recognition
Shortly after his 70th birthday, John Joseph Fitz Gerald died on March 17, 1963, in the seedy midtown Hotel Bryant at 54th Streetand Broadway. Ironically, his death happened during the crippling 114-day New York City newspaper strike. The Morning Telegraph, which was not hit by the strike, was the only paper to print his obituary.
In 1971, "The Big Apple" was officially promoted as a nickname for New York City by Charles Gillett, 55, president of the City's Convention and Visitors Bureau. It was a welcome replacement for Mayor John V. Lindsay’s ill-timed appellation (“I still think it’s a fun city.”) conferred at the start of the 1966 New York City transit strike.
Not until Rudolph Giuliani’s first term as mayor did John J. Fitz Gerald receive indirect recognition for his part in the coinage of the term Big Apple. On May 3, 1997, the 76th anniversary of the expression's first use in print by Fitz Gerald, a sign reading “Big Apple Corner” was added to a lamppost at the southwest corner of 54th Street and Broadway, near site of the hotel in which he lived for many years.
The event received little advance publicity, and it rained so heavily during the ceremony only one person witnessed the unveiling. He was a Fitz Gerald enthusiast named Barry Popik, a New York City parking violations judge. Popik had been the driving force in a long campaign to get the city to recognize Fitz Gerald as the first to record the use of this colorful idiom by a pair of black stable hands in New Orleans.

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Monday, November 14, 2011

Those Were the Days, 5: Stagecoach and Tavern Days in Westchester


What was it like to be a traveler on Westchester’s Albany Post Road when the Stagecoach Era began? Join me now on a hypothetical jaunt up this early highway.
The 1790 federal Census showed 33,131 persons to be living in the country’s largest city, New York--almost all at the southern tip of Manhattan Island below the present Houston Street. Philadelphia, formerly the most populous city, was second with 28,522 residents and Boston, a distant third, with 18,320.
Westchester, which then included what would become the borough of the Bronx in 1898, totaled 23,978 residents, mostly in the northern part of the county.
Taverns were important to stagecoach traffic. Coaches brought mail and passengers for pickup or delivery at each hamlet or village up and down the line. Certain taverns maintained stables where changes of teams of stagecoach horses were made.
Our story begins in 1723, when the route was laid out for an inland road to link New York City and Albany. Initially, post riders carried the mail in saddlebags. Long-distance stagecoach service began in 1786.
The Albany Post Road heading out of New York City threaded its way north through the sparsely settled farm country of Manhattan until it reached the King's Bridge at the northern tip of the island. The last stop in Manhattan was at a tavern originally built by Jacobus Dyckman in 1759 and sold to Caleb Hyatt about 14 years later.
On the rainy Thursday of October 13, 1789, George Washington, the nation’s first president, stopped at King’s Bridge. He recorded in his diary that he and his party dined there “in a tavern kept by one Hyatt.”
Once past Sputum Duyvil Creek, travelers would be in Westchester. Stagecoach stops in Yonkers included a tavern at the corner of Main Streetand Nepperhan Avenue called Hunt's Tavern after the proprietor, David Hunt. A new tavern built by Jacob Stout replaced it. Successively called the Indian Queen Inn, the Eagle Hotel, the Nappeckamack House, and the Stage House, it was moved in 1851 to another location to make way for the Getty House.
A Yonkers competitor, Bashford's Tavern, stood some distance from the post road, near the wharf on the Hudson at the mouth of the Nepperhan (Saw Mill) River. So popular was its proprietor, John Bashford, stage coach drivers made a detour to reach his establishment.
In Hastings, the Dyckman homestead on Broadway near the Yonkers border was known for a time as Brown's Tavern. The only documented basis for this claim is that in 1716 Evert Brown obtained a license to operate a tavern. There is no evidence that his license was ever renewed. Brown died in 1767; no mention of a tavern is made in his rather detailed will. The house still stands as a private residence.
Peter Post had a house and tavern at the Five Corners in Hastings. The tavern keeper overheard information about British troop movements and passed it to Patriot officers. On Sept. 30, 1778, Continental dragoons under Maj. Henry Lee ambushed and killed 23 Hessians in the skirmish called the Battle of Edgar's Lane. A state marker commemorates the event. The building was demolished in the mid-20th century.
In Irvington on Route 9 at West Clinton Avenue is the Jan Harmse house, built about 1693 as a tenant farmhouse on the Philipsburg Manor. Sometime before the Revolution, this modest stone dwelling was leased and converted to use as a tavern by Jonathan Odell.
 In 1785, the Commissioners of Forfeitures, charged with disposing of Loyalist properties seized during the Revolution, sold it to Odell, who continued it as a tavern until his death in 1818. After a succession of owners, it later became an estate gatehouse.
Also in Irvington, close to the Tarrytown line and adjoining the grounds of "Sunnyside," Washington Irving's home, was the old homestead of the Acker family, a noted tavern and stage stop after the Revolution.
In Tarrytown, at the northwest corner of Main Street and Broadway, stood an old tavern and stage stop owned by Edward Couenhoven, “famous throughout the Provinces for its entertainment” (i.e., hospitality). George Washington was a frequent guest at Couenhoven’s tavern during the war.
With their staffs, he and Gov. George Clinton stopped there on November 19, 1783, on their way to witness the British evacuation of New York City. They rode down through Yonkers to Harlem, where they waited at a tavern for word of the final British departure.
Couenhoven’s tavern later was operated by Martin Smith and his son Jacob. After it provided pens along the Broadway above Central Avenue and as far west as Washington Street, it became popular with cattle drovers on their way to city markets.
While stopping there, Freeman Hunt, founder of Hunt's Merchants Magazine, was berated by the proprietor for returning late to the hotel--at 9 p.m. To add insult to injury, the staff neglected to call him for breakfast in the morning. Hunt checked out immediately.
He took revenge by publishing a letter describing the incident in the magazine American Traveler and later in his 1837 book, Letters about the Hudson River and Its Vicinity.
Hunt added that few travelers stopped at Smith's Tavern "without having some difficulty with the ignorant booby who pretends to keep a hotel. Indeed, many travelers go four or five miles out of the way to avoid stopping at this house."
Years later, when the building was torn down a secret tube was found that led from the fireplace in the public room to an upper chamber "through which it is conceivable that more than one stratagem of casual enemy guests became known to American leaders.”
Also in Tarrytown, on the east side of Broadway north of Main Street and near the imposing Second Reformed Church, was a stone house built around 1712 by Abraham Martlingh that served as a tavern during the Revolution. According to legend, a cannon ball fired from a British vessel in the Hudson passed through a ground floor front window and exited out the door at the back.
In Ossining on Revolutionary Road (then part of the Albany Post Road) at the entrance to the locally designated Sparta Historic Architectural and Design District is the so-called Jug Tavern, originally believed to have been built about 1760 as a tenant farmhouse on the Philipsburg Manor. Peter Davids, whose family had lived in the house before the Revolution, purchased it from the Commissioners of Forfeitures in 1786. In 1795, his son David applied for a license to sell liquor.
By 1814 the building had been sold to Nathaniel and Annis Garrison and became known as the Garrison House. He died about 1843 at age 76, and Mrs. Garrison continued to occupy the building until her death in 1869. After that the house fell into disrepair.
In 1986, the chance discovery of a brief news item in an old Ossining newspaper revealed the surprising information that the original Davids-Garrison house had been demolished in 1884. Michael Geisler, the new owner of the property, built a house there sometime around 1890, perhaps using some of the beams and material from the original house. Now owned by the Town of Ossining, the Jug Tavern is no longer considered to be the oldest building in Ossining.
Also in Ossining (then called Sing Sing), Ward's Tavern was located on Main Street near the town pump on what was later called Pleasant Square. Operated by Major Moses Ward, it was continued in operation as a tavern by his widow, Nancy, after his death. It became a store in 1845. Holmes's Tavern, at the corner of Church Street and Highland Avenue, later was known as the Union Hotel. A state marker commemorates its site. Whenever the legislature was in session in Albany, as many as four stages, each drawn by a four-horse team, would stop here on a single day.
Stage passengers are reported to have been served a meal of chicken potpie, doughnuts and applesauce. One of the Union Hotel's proprietors was Enoch Crosby, Jr., son of the man on whom James Fennimore Cooper modeled the hero of his Revolutionary War novel, The Spy.
Napoleon III, a nephew of Napoleon Bonaparte, was among the distinguished guests who stopped at the Union Hotel. The pretender to the French throne had been exiled to America in 1836 and lived in Bedford. He dined at the Union Hotel on several occasions after a trip by stage from Bedford to Sing Sing to take a boat for New York.
Napoleon also visited the infamous prison established to quarry the dolomitic limestone known as "Sing Sing marble." Harsh discipline, the lockstep, the rock pile and the lash were routine in the prison.
Writing in J. Thomas Scharf's 1886 History of Westchester County, Ossining's Dr. George Jackson Fisher mentions that Simeon M. Tompkins, then a proprietor of the Union Hotel, told him of many conversations he had with his famous guest. Unfortunately, Dr. Fisher did not record these exchanges for posterity.
Other Sing Sing taverns dating from early in the 19th century included Col. Joseph Hunt's American Hotel, later known as the Weskora Hotel, and the St. Cloud, built by Alexander Graham and also known as the Ossining House. Both served as stage stops at one time.
The stage stop in Croton-on-Hudson was the Old Post Road Inn, formerly the McCord residence, located at the junction of the roads to Albany and to Yorktown. A two-story wooden building with a long porch across the front at the second floor, it was operated by novelist Jane Burr during Croton’s bohemian period in the early 20th century.
A Guggenheim heiress and fighter for woman’s suffrage, she renamed it the Drowsy Saint Inn. Its rough stone foundation can still be seen on the north side of Old Post Road North, across from the Holy Name of Mary Church.
Among the first houses erected in Peekskill was a tavern known as the Birdsall House. Popular with American and French officers during the Revolution, according to legend, Washington and Rochambeau often stopped there. It remained a tavern until the 1880s.
Until 1912, near the Upper Manor House in nearby Van Cortlandtville, stood the Gardner Holman house, a tavern for many years and a regular breakfast stop for carriages on the way to New York. Built about 1750 by John Taylor, it was known first as Taylor's Tavern and later as Dusenbury's Tavern.
Captured British spy Major John André and his guards breakfasted there on September 25, 1780. André was being taken to Gen. George Washington at the Beverly Robinson House that stood on what is now Route 9D, south of Garrison.
We now conclude our journey over the Albany Post Road through Westchester. Its northern boundary reaches the Hudson at about Anthony’s Nose. North of this east-west line was Duchess County. Putnam County was a latecomer and would not be created until 1812.

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Friday, November 04, 2011

Veterans Day: More Wars, More Unknowns


Among the 136,516 Americans who died in the 19 months that America participated in the First World War, the next-of-kin of 101,143 dead servicemen chose to have their remains returned to the United States for burial.
The next-of-kin of 30,921 war dead elected to have their remains buried in Europe.
Remains that could not be identified were also buried in Europe. The names of the missing in action were memorialized on plaques in military cemeteries.
Last week’s article, “Armistice Day and the Unknown Soldier,” described how one unidentified body was chosen for burial in Arlington National Cemetery in 1921. That story continues here.
Bearing the Unknown Soldier’s casket under constant guard, the cruiser Olympia departed from the French port of Le Havre on October 25th for the journey home. The venerable ship had served as Admiral Dewey’s flagship at the battle of Manila Bay during the Spanish-American War. On November 9th, she steamed up the Potomac to a dock at the Washington Navy Yard, after a trans-Atlantic voyage of 15 days.
As the casket was carried down the gangplank on that dark and rainy afternoon, the ship's band played the national anthem. Waiting to escort the Unknown Soldier to the Capitol were Gen. John J. “Black Jack” Pershing and other military and civilian dignitaries.
The flag-covered casket was placed on a black horse-drawn caisson. Playing the hymn "Onward Christian Soldiers,” the 3rd Cavalry band led the cortege from the Navy Yard. Two squadrons of cavalry and the officials in their automobiles followed the caisson to the Capitol, where the casket was placed at the center of the Rotunda.
 The catafalque holding the casket was the same stand that had borne the remains of assassinated Presidents Lincoln, Garfield and McKinley. The body lay in state overnight under a guard of honor composed of selected enlisted men of the Army, Navy and Marine Corps standing with heads bowed and rifles reversed.
The bronze doors of the Rotunda--a gift from France in the early days of the Republic--were unlocked at eight o'clock the next morning. An endless stream of mourners entered four abreast and passed before the casket to honor the Unknown Soldier. When the doors were closed at midnight, it was estimated that 90,000 persons had filed past the casket. For them, many of whom had lost someone in the war, the Unknown Soldier symbolized the 4,452 unidentified dead or missing in action in the conflict that had ended three years before.

To Arlington

At 8:30 on the morning of November 11th, the flag-draped casket was taken from the Capitol and again placed on a black caisson for the journey through the streets of Washington to the Memorial Amphitheater in Arlington National Cemetery.
In the cortege walking behind the caisson were President Warren G. Harding, Vice-President Calvin Coolidge, ex-President and newly appointed Chief Justice of the Supreme Court William Howard Taft,  associate justices, members of the diplomatic corps, Medal of Honor recipients, members of Congress, and various generals and admirals. Bringing up the rear were representatives of 44 patriotic, fraternal and welfare organizations.
A field artillery battery near the Washington Monument began firing "minute guns" at one-minute intervals. Their booming salvos would reverberate throughout Washington until the conclusion of the funeral ceremony at Arlington. At the White House, the President, the other politicians and the judiciary left the procession and traveled by automobile to Arlington.
At the Amphitheater, the casket was placed on a black-draped catafalque. The President and Mrs. Harding arrived at 11:55 a.m., and the ceremonies began with the playing of the national anthem by the Marine Corps band. The audience sang "America," after which President Harding, slightly flustered by his late arrival, delivered an address paying tribute to the Unknown Soldier and pleading for an end to war.
The President then conferred upon the Unknown Soldier the Congressional Medal of Honor and the Distinguished Service Cross. Representatives of foreign governments in turn awarded the Unknown Soldier the highest military decorations of their nations. These included Belgium, Britain, France, Italy, Poland, Czechoslovakia and Romania. Congressman Fish, who had introduced the legislation to memorialize the unknown American dead, laid a wreath at the tomb. Among others who paid tribute was Crow Indian Chief Plenty Coups. Representing Native Americans, he placed his war bonnet and coup stick at the tomb.
The bottom of the crypt had been covered with a layer of French soil from the American cemetery at Suresnes. As the casket was lowered into the crypt, the saluting battery fired three salvos. A bugler then sounded Taps, and the artillery battery fired 21 guns to salute the Unknown Soldier.

Belated Recognition of Armistice Day

The awful carnage of World War I ended with an armistice on November 11, 1918. Yet Congress did not get around to recognizing that event as Armistice Day until June 4, 1926, when it passed a resolution asking the President to issue a formal proclamation calling upon people to display the flag and observe November 11th with appropriate ceremonies.
By then, 27 states were already observing the date as a legal holiday. Congress also was slow in making it a federal holiday. That did not happen until May 13, 1938. On June 4, 1954--after the Second World War and the Korean War--Congress amended the 1938 legislation and substituted Veterans Day for Armistice Day.
In 1968, a Uniform Holiday bill was signed on June 28, giving federal employees a three-day weekend by celebrating four national holidays on Mondays: Washington's Birthday, Memorial Day, Veterans Day and Columbus Day.
The idea was that extended weekends would encourage travel and recreational activities. The hope was that it would stimulate industry and commerce. It achieved none of these goals and only diverted attention from the significance of the holiday. Many states refused to accept this unwelcome change and continued to celebrate the four holidays on their original dates.
The first Veterans Day under the new law was observed on Monday, October 25, 1971, with much confusion and dissatisfaction. Many patriotic and veterans organizations were unhappy with the change. However, it would take five years before their discontent had an effect. On September 20, 1975, President Gerald R. Ford signed a new law returning Veterans Day to November 11th--to become effective the following year. Veterans Day has been celebrated on November 11th ever since.

The Tomb Through the Years

During the tomb's early years after 1921, only a civilian watchman protected the site. In 1926, a formal military guard was established--but only during daylight hours when the cemetery was open to the public. The original intention was for the simple white marble sarcophagus to be the base for an appropriate monument. It was not until July 3, 1926, that Congress authorized the completion of the tomb.
A competition was held among architects. Seventy-four designs were submitted anonymously, with the names of each architect in a sealed envelope. Five were chosen as finalists and one was selected. The successful design turned out to be that of architect Lorimer Rich. It called for a tomb measuring 11 feet in height, 8 feet in width and almost 14 feet in length.
Constructed of glaring white marble, the tomb weighs 79 tons. It is sometimes described as being made of Vermont marble. The stone actually came from the Yule quarry in Marble, Colorado, and was shipped to Vermont, where sculptor Thomas Hudson Jones carved the designs and figures on the tomb components before they were shipped to Virginia. The severity of the design was relieved by Doric pilasters in low relief at the corners and carved motifs along the sides.
Jones completed his work on December 31, 1931. On the front are three figures representing Peace, Valor and Victory. Six inverted mourning wreaths on the sides mark the six major campaigns of the war in which American troops participated. The simple sentiment, "HERE RESTS IN HONORED GLORY AN AMERICAN SOLDIER KNOWN BUT TO GOD" also appears. This replicates the words carved on the gravestones of all unknown dead in American military cemeteries in Europe.
The first 24-hour military guard began in 1937 and continues to this day. The "spit-and-polish" 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) assumed responsibility for guarding the tomb in 1948. The first female sentinel appeared at the tomb on March 25, 1996.

More Unknowns
After the Second World War, planning began for the interment of a second Unknown Soldier. This tomb, an identical copy of the original, was to be located on the mall area of the cemetery in 1951. Unfortunately, the Korean War interfered with these plans, and selection of an unknown serviceman from World War II was deferred.
Following the ceasefire in Korea in 1953, Congress authorized the honoring of two unknown dead--one from World War II and one from the Korean War. President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed the enabling legislation on August 3, 1956.
The remains of 8,526 World War II dead had been buried as unidentifiable. Adhering to the precedent established after the First World War, one body was selected from 13 unidentified bodies exhumed from military cemeteries in the European Theater of World War II. A second body was selected from among six bodies from cemeteries in the Pacific Theater. From these two bodies one unknown World War II serviceman was selected.
Similarly, the remains of 848 Korean War dead had been buried as unidentifiable. One body was selected from among four unidentified dead exhumed from military cemeteries.
In ceremonies held on May 30, 1958, the World War II and Korean War Unknown Soldiers were interred in separate crypts on the plaza near the original 1921 interment.
Following the end of the Vietnam War in 1973, Congress authorized the interment of an unknown serviceman from that conflict. A new crypt was to be constructed between the graves of the World War II and Korean War Unknowns. However, plans for a burial were suspended because sophisticated identification techniques were resulting in the identification of almost all remains returned from Vietnam.
It was not until 1984 that one body was certified as unidentifiable. These remains arrived in Washington on May 25 and lay in state in the Capitol for three days. On May 28, 1984, the remains were borne by horse-drawn caisson to Arlington National Cemetery. President Ronald Reagan presented the Medal of Honor to this unknown Vietnam War serviceman.

An Unexpected Reversal
Paradoxically, further advances in DNA testing led to the disinterment of the Vietnam War Unknown four years later in a solemn ceremony on May 14, 1988. Forensic tests confirmed the remains to be those of Air Force 1st Lt. Michael Joseph Blassie, an Air Force Academy graduate shot down near An Loc, Vietnam, in 1972. At the request of his family, Lieutenant Blassie's remains were transferred to the Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery in Missouri.
A decision was made for the crypt of the Vietnam Unknown to remain empty as a reminder of all those who were missing in action or whose bodies were never recovered. The cover on the Vietnam War crypt was rededicated September 17, 1999.
A black granite wall in Washington bears incised in its smooth surface the names of the 58,272 who sacrificed their lives in that conflict. It includes the names of some 1,200 missing in action whose bodies have never been recovered or were prisoners of war.


Since the end of the Second World War, we have endured a series of undeclared wars with uncertain aims. Today we find ourselves engaged in a nebulous and unending “global war on terrorism” against a shadowy, tenacious enemy.
Billions of dollars that could have been invested in this country's rapidly deteriorating infrastructure have been wasted, with little to show in return.
Thousands of service members have been killed or wounded in Somalia, Iraq and Afghanistan.
In our continuing time of travail, we can all resolve that these sacrifices shall not have been in vain. We must take steps to end the parade of unidentified dead or missing in action from wars in which we have no national interest.


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