The Unknown Soldier Memorial

By Patrick McSherry

The visitor will now find himself at the aft end of the OLYMPIA's Spar Deck. Spread out before him, on deck below, is the fantail. The aft turret can be plainly seen, with its roof being just slightly above the level of the Superstructure Deck itself. Interestingly, aft of the turret are the skylights that provided natural light into the officers’ stateroom and head area. The placement is interesting since the concussion of the eight-inch guns should have been enough to destroy the glass each time the guns were fired!

At this location there had been a plastic enclosure, but it has since been removed. Though this particular sight can no longer be viewed by the public, as it has been removed for proper conservation, we will leave this image on the virtual tour to allow visitors to understand this aspect of OLYMPIA's history

 Within the enclosure was a flag-draped sarcophagus. It was within this sarcophagus that the coffin bearing the body of the American Unknown Soldier of World War One was returned to the U.S. from France. The duty of bringing the body to the U.S. in 1921 was one of the OLYMPIA's last official acts. The body itself now lies in the Tomb of the Unknowns in Arlington National Cemetery.

The cruise during which the Unknon Soldier was returned to the United States was quite memorable. During the trip, OLYMPIA was subjected to a very severe storm, and there was some question if she would survive the trip to deliver the body. During the trip the sarcophagus could not be taken into the ship's interior since no hatch was wide enough to allow for its passage with it being kept level. As a result, even during the severe storm, it was lashed to the deck, under guard, at all times.
 

The flag draped sarcophagas just aft of the signal bridge. Beyond, the top of the aft turret can be seen, as well as one of the skylights.

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