Posts Tagged ‘The John F. Kennedy Eternal Flame’

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Field Marshall Sir John Dill Statue and Gravesite

During this week in 1944, British Field Marshal Sir John Dill passed away here in D.C. A memorial service was subsequently held for him in Washington National Cathedral, and the route of the cortege was lined by thousands of troops, following which he was interred in Arlington National Cemetery. Later that year he was posthumously awarded the American Distinguished Service Medal. He also received an unprecedented joint resolution of Congress expressing appreciation for his services. So on this lunchtime bike ride, I set out to visit his grave (MAP), and then learn more about the British general who was so well thought of during his time here in this country.

John Greer Dill was born on Christmas Day, 1881, in County Armagh, Ireland. Always destined for a career in the military, Dill attended the Methodist College Belfast, Cheltenham College and the Royal Military College at Sandhurst. At the age of 19, he was commissioned as a second lieutenant and sent to South Africa to serve in the Second Boer War. He then served in World War I. Dill was promoted to the office of director of military operations and intelligence of the British War Office in 1934 and knighted for service to the empire three years later, in 1937. He would then go on to also serve during World War II.

From May of 1940 to December of 1941 he was the Chief of the Imperial General Staff, the professional head of the British Army. He subsequently was to the United States by Prime Minister Winston Churchill, where he became Chief of the British Joint Staff Mission and then Senior British Representative on the Combined Chiefs of Staff. It was during this time that Dill developed a close personal friendship with George C. Marshall, the U.S. chief of staff, which resulted in the formation of the “special relationship” between the United Kingdom and the United States. This is evidenced by President Franklin D. Roosevelt description of Dill as “the most important figure in the remarkable accord which has been developed in the combined operations of our two countries.”

Upon Dill’s death, Marshall intervened to have Dill buried at Arlington National Cemetery.  Dill’s plot is marked by one of only two equestrian statues in the cemetery (the other being of Major General Philip Kearny). The Dill statue is located in a prominent spot most visitors to the cemetery pass by en route from the Visitors Center to Arlington House or the The John F. Kennedy Eternal Flame and grave site. There, he is interred alongside his “American friends and associates,” and to this day remains the only foreigner to be so honored.

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[Click on the thumbnails above to view the full size photos]

'Twas the Last Ride Before Christmas

‘Twas the Last Ride Before Christmas

I’m going to be taking some time off from work for the holidays, so this was my last D.C. bike ride for the year for this blog. I’m actually taking the next few weeks off because, as a Federal employee, if I do not use a specified amount of my accrued vacation time before the end of the year the government will take it away. But for this ride, I commuted to the office anyway. I then got on one of my bikes that I keep in the parking garage of the office building where I work, and spent the entire day just riding around the D.C. area to see and enjoy the Christmas decorations and holiday spirit, which can be found almost everywhere.  It was a great ride to end the year.

As I’ve stated previously in this blog, I am not a photographer. I’m just a guy that goes for bike rides on my lunch break at work, and takes a few snapshots of the places I go to and the things I see along the way. On this ride I took more photos than usual. My favorite photo (above) from this leisurely bike ride is the one of a Christmas tree and holiday wreath left at The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall, with the image of both my bike and The Washington Monument reflecting off the polished granite panels containing the names of the servicemen and women who were killed or classified as missing in action during the Vietnam War. The photo seems to portray at the same time both the joy of the season as well as the solemnity of the memorial.

Some of the other photos (below) which I’ve included with this blog post show several of the places which I have already visited this year and then wrote about in this blog, as well as some other places I intend to visit again and learn more about in the coming year.  You can click on the thumbnails for full-size photos.

In order, these photos show: (1) Giant wreathes hanging at the front of Union Station in D.C., one of the busiest train stations in the country. You can get a sense of the size of the wreathes by comparing them to the size of the people standing beneath them. (2) Toy soldiers standing guard at the entrance to the Old Ebbit Grill on 15th Street, D.C.’s oldest bar and restaurant. (3) Holiday wreathes on the old Sun Trust Building on 15th Street, across the street from the U.S. Treasury Department Building. (4) Holiday garlands, wreathes and bows adorning the entrance to The Historic Willard Hotel. (5) The D.C. Fire Department’s Truck No. 3 Fire Station on 13th Street in northwest D.C., which is decorated and lit up with Christmas lights. (6) The Vietnam Women’s Memorial is one of the memorials where wreathes are laid by Wreathes Across America, the group that supplies the Christmas wreathes at Arlington National Cemetery. (7) The Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery, with a tomb guard in the foreground “walking the mat.” The wreathes in front of the sarcophagus and graves are also part of the tribute at the cemetery by Wreathes Across America. (8) Some of the more than 230,000 wreathes at Arlington National Cemetery which adorn the rows of white marble headstones. (9) Wreathes were also placed by Wreathes Across America at gravesites at The John F. Kennedy Eternal Flame. (10) The Woodrow Wilson House, the home of the only President to remain in D.C. after leaving office, is also decorated for the holidays. (11) One of the several outdoor holiday markets that spring up throughout the city in the time leading up to Christmas. This one is The Downtown Holiday Market, which is currently in its 11th year.  (12)  If you’re fortunate, you can also happen upon live musiccal performances.  This one was taking place on the sidewalk in front of the Smithsonian American Art Museum and the National Portrait Gallery between 7th and 9th Streets in the city’s Chinatown neighborhood.  (13) The Krispy Kreme doughnut shop across from The Fountain at DuPont Circle is an excellent place to stop for an early morning snack when riding around the city to see the holiday decorations, especially when the “Hot Now” neon light is lit up.  And even they decorated for the season. (14) An outdoor craft show and flea market on Capitol Hill. (15) A Christmas tree stand at Eastern Market selling fresh-cut Christmas trees. (16) The White House gates included decorative bows for the holidays. (17) The National Christmas Tree on the Ellipse at President’s Park just south of the White House. (18) The Capitol Christmas Tree on the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol Building grounds. (19) Festively decorated Christmas trees, like this one, could be seen in the windows of stores and office buildings on almost every block.  (20) And the final photo is of a bike-themed ornament that I saw on the Capitol Christmas Tree, which seemed too relevant to not be included in this blog post.

I’d like to take this opportunity to wish all of you reading this, whether you are here in D.C. and anywhere else around the world, a very Merry Christmas and a happy and healthy New Year.

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The John F. Kennedy Eternal Flame

There are a number of  gravesites of famous people in the D.C. area, but perhaps none more iconic than that of President John F. Kennedy.  President Kennedy, the 35th president of the United States, was assassinated at the age of 46 during a trip to Dallas, Texas, in 1963.  He was buried at Arlington National Cemetery, which is located in Virginia (MAP), directly across the Potomac River from the Lincoln Memorial.  It has now been over 50 years since President Kennedy was killed, and on a recent bike ride I visited his gravesite and memorial.

The John F. Kennedy Eternal Flame is a Presidential memorial at the gravesite of President Kennedy.  The eternal flame was lighted by Mrs. Kennedy during her husband’s funeral, and burns from the center of a five-foot circular flat-granite stone at the head of the grave.  The fuel is natural gas and is mixed with a controlled quantity of air to achieve the color and shape of the flame.  The burner is a specially designed apparatus, containing a constantly flashing electric spark near the tip of the nozzle that relights the gas should the flame be extinguished by rain, wind or accident.

However, the eternal flame has been extinguished a couple of times by accident.  On December 10, 1963, a group of Catholic schoolchildren were sprinkling the flame with holy water when the cap came off the bottle and water poured onto the flame, putting it out. A cemetery official quickly relit the flame by hand.  Also, in August of 1967, an exceptionally heavy rain extinguished the flame.  A nearby electrical transformer flooded as well, depriving the spark igniter of power and preventing the flame from being relit.  After the rain ended, a cemetery official relit the flame by hand.

On May 23, 1994, Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis was buried next to President Kennedy. The gravesite was completed with the addition of her grave marker on October 6, 1994.  Two deceased Kennedy children were also reburied with their parents at the gravesite in Arlington, Patrick Bouvier Kennedy from Brookline – who had predeceased President Kennedy by 15 weeks – and an unnamed stillborn daughter from Newport, Rhode Island.

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