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Army: 211 graves mishandled at Arlington

June 10, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
An Army investigation has discovered that at least 211 remains at Arlington National Cemetery have been misidentified or misplaced, in a scandal marring the reputation of the nation's pre-eminent burial ground for its honored dead since the Civil War.Poor record keeping and management are blamed for the possible mix-up.

Army Secretary John McHugh announced Thursday that the cemetery's two civilian leaders would be forced to step aside, and he appointed a new chief to conduct a more thorough investigation to examine the graves and sort out the mix-up.

"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," McHugh told a Pentagon news conference.

Arlington National Cemetery is considered among the nation's most hallowed burial sites, with more than 300,000 people buried there with military honors. An average of 30 funerals are conducted there every day.

Among those buried at the cemetery are troops killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well service members from past conflicts dating back to the Civil War.

Famous presidents and their spouses, including members of the Kennedy family, also have been buried there. The cemetery, located across the Potomac River from Washington in northern Virginia, attracts more than 4 million visitors annually.

Led by the service's inspector general, Lt. Gen. Steven Whitcomb, the investigation found lax management of the cemetery, where employees relied on paper records to manage the dozens of burials each week and maintain the thousands of existing gravesites.

"We found nothing that was intentional, criminal intent or intended sloppiness that caused this. ... But of all the things in the world, we see this as a zero defect operation," he told reporters Thursday.

Family members with questions are urged to call the cemetery at 703-607-8000.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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