The Long History of How We Care for Our Dead

Bringing them home is a fairly modern idea
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted May 31, 2010 12:32 PM CDT
The Long History of How We Care for Our Dead
Two soldiers in the Korean War mourn their fallen brother as a military chaplain reads the last rites over his grave.   (Getty Images)

In the Seminole Indian Wars of the early 1800s, only those families who could afford the cost of sending their dead relatives' remains home would receive them; the rest were buried where they took their last breath. Today, some 5,000 fallen soldiers have been flown home from Iraq and Afghanistan. In a lengthy look at the changes in how we care for the war dead, the Wall Street Journal reports that bringing our troops home is a fairly modern idea.

Through the late 1800s, little effort was even made to identify the remains of dead troops; that didn't begin until the Civil War, during which Congress created a network of national cemeteries and attempted to collect and rebury the remains of the more than 300,000 dead Union soldiers there. The Spanish American War of 1898 marked the first time soldiers killed overseas were brought home. During the two world wars, families could choose to leave the relatives buried abroad or have them sent back to the US, a process that took years. Ultimately, 171,000 of the some 280,000 identified World War II dead came home.
(More war dead stories.)

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