Details of the construction of the Tomb
of the Unknown Soldier
AFTER a period of over two years, the Tomb of the Unknown
Soldier is now in its final stage of completion, and is rapidly approaching the
form in which it will endure through the ages. Grand in its simplicity;
surmounting a massive flight of steps; backed by the Arlington Memorial
Amphitheater and overlooking the City of Washington in the distance, the new
Tomb is a fitting memorial to the Nation's Unknown Soldier.
The work was under the control of the Construction Division
of the Office of The Quartermaster General, Brig. Gen. Louis H. Bash in charge.
Actual supervision was performed by the Office of the Constructing
Quartermaster, Washington, D. C., with Captain John A. Gilman, Q. M. C., in
charge, assisted by 2nd Lt. Donald R. Neil, Q. M. C. Hegman-Harris Company,
Inc., of New York City, were the Contractors, Lorimer Rich of New York, the
Architect, William Hudson Jones, the Sculptor.
The contract for the work was let in December, 1929.
Immediately, steps were taken to obtain the three large pieces of marble
necessary, namely, the base, the die block, and the cap.
This task was given to the Vermont Marble Company, who commenced
quarrying operations at their quarries at Marble, Colorado, at an elevation of
10,000 feet. In all, twelve months were expended in quarrying the marble.
Three blocks for the base, each weighing eighteen tons,
were quarried before one was obtained which the Vermont Marble Company thought
acceptable. However, on arrival at Arlington, this last one was rejected, due to
imperfections. This necessitated going back to the quarries for another
block, and three additional pieces were quarried prior to obtaining the one
which now forms the base of the Tomb.
The main die block, weighing 55 tons in the rough, was the third one taken out before a perfect piece was obtained. This block is the largest piece of marble that has ever been shipped by rail.
The cap piece weighing 14 tons was quarried without
trouble, as the first piece was suitable for the work.
From Marble, Colorado, the marble was shipped to Rutland,
Vermont, where the Vermont Marble Company cut and dressed the stone to the
specified size and shape. It required six months to complete this work. The fine
carving was left undone, to be completed after the marble had been set over the
Tomb. Ten tons of marble were taken off the die block during the cutting and
dressing so that the finished stone now weighs 45 tons.
From Rutland, Vermont, the three blocks of marble were
shipped to Arlington National Cemetery, arriving at their destination in
September of 1931.
The work of setting the marble in place was begun
immediately. Mr. Deline,
Subcontractor for Hegeman-Harris Company, Inc., a man of nationwide renown as an
expert setter of large monumental work, was in direct charge of the setting. An
"A" frame, 30 feet high made of 12" x 12" timber, with a
winch and a pulley block of 4 sheaves, was constructed on the ground drawn up
into a vertical position, and then rolled into its final position alongside and
projecting over the Tomb. At the same time, the work of stripping the old marble and
concrete from the existing Tomb was carried on.
Setting the base was a comparatively simple job, as it was rolled right
over its position. Four Lewis holes
had been provided at the shop and by utilizing these, the stone was attached to
the hoisting cable by four turnbuckles, by means of which it was perfectly
leveled, prior to lowering it into its final position.
It was at this time, however, that the imperfections were
noted. The base was rejected and a new one ordered to replace the former.
Work was stopped for a period of three months while the new base was
being quarried, cut and dressed. In
December, 1931, the new base arrived, the rejected one removed, and the new one
set in place. Next came the die
block, weighing 45 tons. This was
rolled into a position directly behind the Tomb. It was then jacked and blocked
up about 18" above the top of the base, and rolled out over its final
position. Lewis holes had been provided, the turnbuckles were attached to the
stone and hoisting cable, and by means of the turnbuckles, the stone was
perfectly leveled in the same manner as the base block.
With everything in order the block was lowered, the "A" frame
supporting the load with ease.
Although not as massive as the die block, the setting of
the cap was more interesting from an engineering viewpoint, as no Lewis holes
could be cut in the top of the stone, it being the last one to be set.
This piece was rolled into a position behind the Tomb and jacked and
blocked up about 18 feet above the top of the die block, approximately 8 feet
off the ground. It was then rolled out over the Tomb.
In order to pick the cap up so as to take out the rollers,
and lower it into position, a device known as a differential hitch was used. Two
blocks of soft wood, each 12" x 12" x 2", at each corner were
held in place by a steel cable wrapped six times around the perimeter of the
cap. Two shackles were fastened to
the three upper strands on one side and two shackles to the three lower strands
on the other side. The turnbuckles were in turn fastened to the shackles. Thus
when the "A" frame took the weight, this cable was pulling against
itself, creating a pressure on the blocks of wood on the corners.
The friction between the wood and marble (an area of 8 square feet) held
the cap securely and allowed it to be lowered into position without mishap. Thus
the work of setting was completed on the last day of the year 1931.
All that remains to be done is the carving of the figures and wreaths on the main die block. This work is progressing now, and it is contemplated the Tomb will be completed about April 1, 1932.
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