WASHINGTON – Army criminal investigators are investigating the discovery of 69 boxes of burial records from Arlington National Cemetery found abandoned in a commercial storage facility, the latest in a string of embarrassing revelations about operations at the U.S. military's most hallowed burial ground.
The records were found by the proprietor of the storage facility when the contents of the space were being auctioned after the occupant failed to pay his rental fees, Chris Grey, spokesman for the Army Criminal Investigation Command, said in an email. One box was kept by the Army CID for review, but the other 68 were returned to Arlington after they were found to contain duplicate copies of old records, Grey said.
The investigation was revealed Thursday at a House Veterans' Affairs Committee hearing on operations at the cemetery. Kathryn Condon, the cemetery's executive director, told the committee that Arlington officials contacted the Army CID as soon as they learned of the boxes' existence earlier this month from the owner of the facility. She said personally identifying details such as Social Security numbers were in the records, but there's a limited security risk because the individuals are deceased.
Last June, the Army's inspector general found more than 200 discrepancies between burial maps and grave sites, meaning the location of some people's remains were incorrectly recorded on some maps. Officials found cemetery operations were poorly managed and reliant on paper records to keep track of more than two dozen interments a day. The cemetery is where some 300,000 troops, spouses and U.S. dignitaries have been laid to rest since 1864.
Condon and other newly appointed officials have worked since last summer to unravel the problems, even opening some graves.