Up to 65,000 Arlington Graves May Have Problems

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The final resting places of nearly 65,000 fallen service members may have problems. After a yearlong audit of the 260,000 grave sites at Arlington National Cemetery, an Army report to Congress Thursday said that almost a quarter of the sites may have discrepancies between headstones and the cemetery’s paperwork.

The review was ordered last year, after reports of more than 200 misplaced and misidentified graves at the military cemetery led to the firing of top Arlington officials.

Congress also asked the Government Accountability Office to look into whether management of the cemetery should be transferred from the Army to the Department of Veterans Affairs. Earlier this month, a report from the G.A.O. detailed reforms made at Arlington, and recommended that the Army retain control.

A century and a half of burying service members complicated the review and explains some of the discrepancies, according to the Army report.  Civil War-era logs have gone missing, burial procedures have changed, and some headstones have become illegible over the years.

The Washington Post reports that a number of grave sites from between the twenties and forties were found with two bodies interred, but only one name on the headstone.  It turned out, to officials’ relief, that the bodies were married couples.  At the time the custom was not to list spouses’ names to headstones.  The cemetery said it will replace those headstones or add markers at the foot of the graves with the wives’ information.

Some of the problems may be as minor as typos in the paperwork.