Army Finds Mismarked Graves At Arlington Cemetery

The Army has identified at least 200 cases at Arlington National Cemetery where graves were misidentified or where there was poor record-keeping. Management problems at Arlington have been a subject of an internal investigation for months.

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A new Army investigation has raised questions about whose remains are buried in hundreds of gravesites at Arlington National Cemetery. The cemetery's two top managers have been disciplined after a probe found sloppy recordkeeping and an unhealthy organizational climate. The secretary of the Army has ordered the creation of a new advisory board to prevent similar mistakes in the future.

NPR's Scott Horsley reports.

SCOTT HORSLEY: The Army launched an investigation of Arlington after the online magazine Salon reported instances in which cremated remains were mistakenly left in a dirt landfill, and an unidentified body was found in a grave thought to be empty.

A seven-month review by the Army inspector general's office uncovered 211 cases of gravesites that weren't properly documented or where records and gravesites don't match. Two of those cases were in a section of the cemetery used to bury war dead from Iraq and Afghanistan.

Army Secretary John McHugh called the findings deeply troubling.

Secretary JOHN McHUGH (United States Army): There's simply no excuse, and on behalf of the United States Army, on behalf of myself, I deeply apologize to the families of the honored fallen resting in that hallowed ground who may now question the care afforded to their loved ones.

HORSLEY: McHugh said dysfunctional management was partly to blame, reprimanding Arlington's superintendent and putting his deputy on administrative leave. Inspector General Steven Whitcomb said Arlington also suffers from an antiquated paper recordkeeping system, inadequate for a cemetery handling up to 30 funerals each day.

Inspector General STEVEN WHITCOMB (United States Army): Clearly we found nothing that was intentional, criminally intent or intended sloppiness that caused this, but as the secretary pointed out, this is a zero-defect operation.

HORSLEY: McHugh appointed a new manager to oversee Army cemeteries, and an official from the Veterans Administration will temporarily take over at Arlington.

Scott Horsley, NPR News, Washington.

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