Arlington and War

The 30sq miles across the Potomac River donated by Virginia to the capital city was demanded back in 1846. In the nineteenth century the river formed the boundary with the South; the Confederate commander Robert E. Lee lived on the Arlington heights for many years. Even so, it’s still effectively part of Washington DC with easy access across four bridges.

Arlington National Cemetery is in many ways America’s pantheon. 600 landscaped acres makes it overwhelming with its sheer size and its dignity in keeping the markers and stones democratically similar in size and lack of adornment make it very emotive. Almost quarter of a million war dead and their dependents, and national heroes with military connections from boxer Joe Louis to the crew of the doomed space shuttle Challenger. John F Kennedy and his family (JFK’s grave is marked by an eternal flame), Oliver Wendell Holmes and Medgar Evers are all buried here.  The Vietnam crypt of the Tomb of the Unknown is now empty after his family discovered through DNA testing that it was Michael J Bassie, shot down in 1972, who was buried there. He was reburied in Missouri.  The Lockerbie memorial is controversial since it is felt by many that the burial of victims of a terrorist attack is inappropriate in a military cemetery.

Nearby is The Pentagon, the headquarters of the military establishment and one of the largest chunks of architecture in the world. It has  a total floor area of 6.5 million square feet with five 900-foot-long sites enclosing 17.5 miles of corridors. It was built in just 16 months during World War Two and could be the world’s biggest office space, with 25,000 workers. It oozes threat; in the 1967 March on the Pentagon, Abbie Hoffman and the Yippies tried to levitate the building and exorcise its ‘demons’.

It was hit on 9/11 by an airliner and tore a hole in the western flank in the building.A memorial was erected outside the building several years after the attack.

Destination – Washington DC