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What are United States National Cemeteries?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 17, 2024
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United States National Cemeteries are cemeteries maintained by the United States government. These cemeteries are viewed as sites with cultural and historic importance, and many continue to be active burial grounds. Most of these cemeteries are designated for use by veterans of the armed forces and their spouses and close family members. 139 cemeteries in the United States are recognized as National Cemeteries, and there are also a number of State Cemeteries which are handled by the various states.

123 of the United States National Cemeteries are maintained by the National Cemetery Administration, a branch of the Department of Veterans Affairs. These cemeteries are designated for military burial, and they can be found all over the United States. Two National Cemeteries are maintained by the Army. The remaining 14 are under the care of the National Parks Service, and they are no longer active burial sites. The National Parks Service oversees historic cemeteries such as burial grounds for Civil War veterans and early colonists of the United States, with some burials in Parks-administered sites as recent as the 1970s.

The most famous National Cemetery is probably Arlington National Cemetery, located in Virginia. Some other notables include Custer National Cemetery in Montana, Golden Gate National Cemetery in California, and the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Hawaii. The National Cemetery Administration maintains an extensive list of those interred in United States National Cemeteries, for people who wish to search for relatives and ancestors.

Burial in a United States National Cemetery is reserved for people who have distinguished themselves in service to the United States. All military veterans are eligible for burial, with the costs of the burial being paid by the government, and United States National Cemeteries are also open to deceased Presidents and members of certain government agencies. People who have been dishonorably discharged are not eligible, and likewise with people convicted of subversive behavior or treason.

In addition to the 139 National Cemeteries in the United States, the United States government also maintains 24 cemeteries overseas. These sites contain the graves of American military dead who were not shipped back to the United States, and they are managed by the American Battle Monuments Commission. Most of these cemeteries contain American soldiers who fought in World Wars One and Two. After the 1940s, the United States military went to great effort to repatriate all American remains to the United States.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a America Explained researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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