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Unknown Soldier

Of World War I





One of the imposing landmarks in Rome is the Monument to Victor Emanuel, II, built between 1885 and 1911 and dedicated to the memory of King Victor Emanuel, II of Savoia who achieved the unification of Italy in 1870 with Rome as its capital.  Visitors climbing a broad flight of steps soon notice an imposing statue flanked by a two-man honor guard and highlighted by an eternal flame, kindled in memory of the Unknown Italian Soldier of World War I.

World War I veterans in Italy petitioned their government for the creation of a Tomb of the Unknown Soldier even as the French and British were interring their own.  Though the Tomb itself, designed by renown sculptor Alberto Sparapani was not completed until 1924, other Allied Nations from the First World War were already supporting the process.  The United States Congress approved awarding of the Medal of Honor to the Unknown Italian soldier on October 12, 1921, six months after approving the award to the Unknowns of Great Britain and France, and one month before the United States dedicated its own Tomb of the Unknown.  

The unidentified soldier laid to rest at the monument in Rome was selected by the mother of an Italian soldier who never returned home, and was counted among the thousands of missing.  Her own son was most probably interred somewhere in an unmarked or unidentified grave, perhaps even in a mass grave.  Italy's Tomb of the Unknown therefore became a fitting memorial to her own lost son.

Italy's monument provides the centerpiece as one approaches the Monument to King Victor Emanuel, II and the two-man honor guard is visible almost as quickly as one begins climbing the steps.  The Tomb itself is often called "The Alter of the Nation".  The honor guard is changed throughout the day in an impressive ceremony, similar in design and purpose to the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown American in Arlington National Cemetery.


The President of the United States
in the name of The Congress
takes pleasure in presenting the
Medal of Honor to

The Unknown Soldier of Italy
World War I

By virtue of a joint resolution of Congress, approved 12 October 1921, the Medal of Honor, emblem of highest ideals and virtues, is bestowed in the name of Congress of the United States of America upon the unknown, unidentified Italian soldier to be buried in the National Monument to Victor Emanuel II, in Rome

Whereas the Congress has authorized the bestowal of the Congressional Medal of Honor upon the unknown, unidentified British and French soldiers buried in Westminster Abbey, London, England, and the Arc de Triomphe, Paris, France, respectively, who fought beside our soldiers in the recent war; and

Whereas, animated by the same spirit of friendship toward the soldiers of Italy who also fought as comrades of the American soldiers during the World War, we desire to add whatever we can to the imperishable glory won by their deeds and to participate in paying tribute to their unknown dead:  Now, therefore, be it:

Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That the President of the United States be, and he is hereby, authorized to bestow, with appropriate ceremonies, military and civil, the Congressional Medal of Honor upon the unknown, unidentified Italian soldier to be buried in the National Monument to Victor Emanuel II, in Rome, Italy. 

(A.G. 220.523)
War Department General Orders, No. 52
1 December 1922



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American Unknown Soldiers at Arlington Cemetery
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Unknown no More

The Foreign Unknown Soldiers of World War I







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