Army releases names of Arlington burial authorizations

WASHINGTON, Nov. 21, 1997 — The Army today released the names of the 69 individuals buried at Arlington National Cemetery since January 1993, as a result of four authorizations granted by President Clinton, 58 by Secretary of the Army Togo D. West, Jr., and seven by Acting Secretaries.

The Army has refrained from releasing the names to the media out of concern for the privacy of the families of the individuals, but had previously provided access to all relevant information on the exceptions, including names, to the Congressional committees with oversight responsibilities. In a press conference Thursday, however, West said he fears allegations of favoritism associated with the exceptions “would take a term of honor – Arlington National Cemetery — and turn it into a term of suspicion. No one has done that [granted exceptions for political considerations] because everyone in the decision-making process is too proud of what we do for those who have served their country.” West apologized to the families of the individuals whose names were released. “I had hoped to spare them the pain of reopening this chapter of their lives,” West said. “Their loved ones served the nation with great distinction, whether in the military or in civilian service, and they should know the nation honors them still.” He said the Army was in the process of contacting the families to inform them the names would be released.

Since he took office in November, 1993, West has authorized burials in Arlington in special circumstances where exceptions were required. Of the 58 exceptions granted by West, 42 were for individuals buried in the same grave with an eligible family member; 13 were veterans and three were government officials who performed distinguished service. Each request for exception requires careful and individual consideration, but within a necessarily strict and short time period (hours). Each is initiated with the Superintendent and staff of Arlington National Cemetery and is thereafter reviewed by an Assistant Secretary and Army lawyers before a recommendation is made to the Secretary of the Army. In exercising his discretion as head of the agency responsible for Arlington National Cemetery, West authorized nine of the 58 burials after consideration of a recommendation from the cemetery staff to deny them. A description of the nine exceptions follows:

Warren D. Parks was a veteran of World War II whose family had a unique historical tie to Arlington National Cemetery. He was the descendent of three generations of slaves that served the Arlington House, the original plantation house still located at the cemetery, and who are buried at the cemetery. The last, his grandfather, received special permission from the Secretary of War and a historical marker is located at his grave site.

Marianne Long, the adult daughter of a U.S. Army corporal, was buried in the same grave site as her father. Her burial was based on the same humanitarian considerations as all family member burials.

Joseph L. Merton was a U.S. Army Air Corps veteran who flew 28 combat missions in World War II as a member of the Tuskegee Airmen,

Maj. Clarence T. Marsh, U.S. Air National Guard, was flying as part of an Army exercise over White Sands Missile Range when his plane crashed. According to reports of the incident, he remained with the plane as it crashed to prevent it from crashing into the approximately 100 soldiers on the ground, thus saving their lives at the expense of his own.

Robert Cade Oliver was a decorated veteran of World War II who was subsequently appointed by President Truman as an economic advisor for the development and implementation of the Marshall Plan.

Joseph C. Sciortino, a veteran of World War II, contracted malaria serving in the Pacific during the war. He was discharged with a disability rating initially less the 30 percent required for burial eligibility, but that thereafter fluctuated between 30 and ten percent.

Cmdr. Nancy E. Dyer, a Naval Reserve officer, was the victim of a tragic auto accident on her way to duty while on active duty for training.

Hart Mankin, a veteran of the U. S. Air Force, was a judge on the Court of Veterans Appeals at the time of his death and had previously served as the Navy General Counsel and authored the 26th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Roland W. Charles was a veteran of the U.S. Navy who continued in a career with NASA. He would normally have been buried in the same grave as his grandparents, but, because of the site's smaller than usual size, required burial in a separate site.

West disclosed that he met with representatives of national veterans' service organizations earlier today. He stated, “Heated words were expressed. To a person, each representative voiced deep concern over the uncertainty, distrust and outrage veterans are experiencing because of suggestions that the integrity of the authorization process has been compromised.” The information being provided here was provided to them without the names and they were informed the names would be released this afternoon. In the course of that meeting several suggestions were made that the Secretary is considering implementing in the near future.

Review procedures for considering families' petitions to ensure that the application and authorization processes are clearly communicated and understood.

Consider informing each family that seeks authorization that, if granted, their names will become public record.

Communicate each such authorization to the Congressional Oversight Committees at the time of the authorization.

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