On a November night in 1948, an incident occurred involving the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, where sentinels stand guard to honor fallen soldiers. Private William O'Connor, stationed at the tomb, discharged his rifle into the air after believing he heard intruders and receiving no response to his challenge. The bullets inadvertently struck Mrs. Irene Coslett in a nearby apartment, causing injury to her left leg. Following the event, changes were implemented to ensure that real bullets were no longer used by the tomb guards during their vigil.
|November 28, 1948
|2 shots into the air
|Mrs. Irene Coslett
ARMY OFFICER’S WIFE SUES U.S. FOR WOUND FROM STRAY BULLET
In April of the following year, Mrs. Beulah Irene Coslett, whose life was disrupted by the unforeseen accident at the Tomb of the Unknowns, filed a lawsuit against the United States government for $100,000. The claim was based on the injuries sustained, which Mrs. Coslett stated led to the loss of use of her left foot. This legal action, taking place in Alexandria, Virginia, set a precedent as she was the first to sue the government and win a case concerning such a mishap. Further scrutiny of the rules of engagement for sentinels ensued to prevent future incidents.
| Legal Action | Filed in | Compensation Sought |
| Federal District Court | Alexandria, Virginia | $100,000 |
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the consequences for disturbing the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier?
Disturbing the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is seen as a serious offense. The consequences can include arrest and criminal charges. The area is constantly monitored to ensure the dignity and respect for the fallen are maintained.
Are the rifles used by the Tomb Guards at Arlington Cemetery loaded?
The rifles carried by Tomb Guards at Arlington Cemetery are ceremonial and are not loaded. The primary purpose of these rifles is to perform ceremonial duties and to symbolize vigilance and respect.
What is the historical significance of the discipline enforced by the Tomb Guards?
The historical significance of the discipline enforced by the Tomb Guards is a testament to the continuous honor and respect paid to those who have given their lives in service to the United States. This strict discipline reflects the high standards and traditions of military honors.
What qualifications are required to serve as a Guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier?
Qualifications for serving as a Guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier include passing rigorous physical and psychological examinations, an impeccable military record, and the ability to perform under pressure with extreme precision.
Is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier guarded at all times?
Yes, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is guarded 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, regardless of weather conditions, to honor the sacrifices of American service members.
How are the guards of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier compensated for their service?
Guards of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier are compensated in accordance with their rank and time in service, according to the standard pay rates for members of the U.S. military. Additionally, this prestigious assignment is an honor, often making a significant impact on their military careers.
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Michael Robert Patterson was born in Arlington and is the son of a former officer of the US Army. So it was no wonder that sooner or later his interests drew him to American history and especially to American military history. Many of his articles can be found on renowned portals like the New York Times, Washingtonpost or Wikipedia.
Reviewed by: Michael Howard