"The State of The World" Number 6
Complete Index Of All Issues
The Tomb Of The Unknown Soldier
Humanity has fought great wars for thousands of years. The First World War (1914-1918) in Europe became specifically known as "The Great War" because it was the first to use machinery (e.g. newly-invented tanks and aircraft) on a large scale. Its technology was crude by today's standards, but the death toll was indeed horrendous - military losses exceeded 10 million dead, 20 million wounded and 8 million missing in action. As in any war, even bodies that were found very often could not be identified.
While the war was still ongoing, Britain and France each established a formal memorial to their unidentified soldiers. In Britain, the "Tomb of the Unknown Warrior" was created at Westminster Abbey in London, while in France "La tombe du soldat inconnu" was placed in the Arc de Triomphe in Paris.
A few years later, by 1921, three more nations established similar monuments: In the U.S., the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery; in Portugal, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Monastery of the Battle in Batalha; in Italy, the Tomb of the Milite Ignoto in the Altare della Patria.
In the years since then, over 100 nations all around the world have established a national "Tomb of the Unknown" - not only from the First World War, but for the many wars fought before and since.
The good news is that modern forensic science has reached the point that most fallen soldiers can be identified through DNA - perhaps even some of the "Unknowns" in the tombs all around the world may have their identities restored to them some day.
Unfortunately, science seems as far away as ever for finding an end of war itself.