Prior to the opening of the cemetery for the recently deceased, the remains of soldiers from locations around the Pacific Theater—including Wake Island and Japanese POW camps—were transported to Hawaii for final interment. The first interment was made Jan. 4, 1949. The cemetery opened to the public on July 19, 1949, with services for five war dead: an unknown serviceman, two Marines, an Army lieutenant and one civilian—noted war correspondent Ernie Pyle. Initially, the graves at National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific were marked with white wooden crosses and Stars of David—like the American cemeteries abroad—in preparation for the dedication ceremony on the fourth anniversary of V-J Day. Eventually, over 13,000 soldiers and sailors who died during World War II would be laid to rest in the Punchbowl.
Cemetery section is provided for each image. Information on the markers varies. Some may contain only a number of initials; others may include facts such as name, birth date, death date, age, rank, and state of origin.
The United States created the first National Cemeteries for its soldiers during the Civil War. These cemeteries filled two needs: one was a desire to honor the sacrifice made by Union dead with a dignified and proper burial place; the other was dealing with the unprecedented (and unexpected) loss of life during the Civil War.
The first 14 National Cemeteries were established in 1862, with more to follow. Many of the early cemeteries were located on or near battlefields, hospitals, POW camps, and other sites where large numbers of men had died and, out of necessity, already been buried. Others were established at post cemeteries and National Homes for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers.
While initially National Cemeteries were only for Union dead, eligibility was expanded over time. Still, it wasn't until 1901 that a Confederate section was established in Arlington and 264 former Confederate soldiers were reinterred there. Today, more than 3 million Americans have been laid to rest in U.S. national cemeteries.