Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Honored by FDR, JFK and Ronald Reagan: A Statesman’s Heartless Burial

Earlier, I had explained late Admiral Rickover's scholarly connection to the cruiser USS Maine, and his nuclear program connection to Maine's submarine namesake, SSBN-741. The mast of the cruiser Maine has been displayed in Arlington National Cemetery since its mysterious, 1898 sinking.

When a Polish patriot (and American benefactor) died in 1941, President Roosevelt wanted him buried in Arlington National Cemetery, but was advised by his Secretary of War that only U.S. citizens may be buried there. Roosevelt directed the burial in a crypt beneath the Maine's Mast Memorial, where it had rested unmarked until President Kennedy learned about it through the Washington Post.

JFK ordered a marker placed at the crypt's entrance to acknowledge the patriot, statesman, composer, first president of the Republic of Poland, and its Prime Minister, I. J. Paderewski.

In June 27, 1992, after Lech Walesa became president of Poland and the country became robust, Ronald Reagan followed up on his own promise to return Paderweski to his native land.

Paderewski (1860-1941), who had been awarded the American Legion’s Distinguished Service Medal (1926), had wanted his heart to remain in America, and that wish which had first been honored in Brooklyn, was reconsecrated at a Pennsylvania cemetery in 1986, where it remains today.

The Heart of a Patriot (American Legion Magazine, December 2005) details some rather amazing accounts of Paderewski’s life in America from his great musical and humanitarian successes to befriending future presidents Hoover and Wilson.

Was Paderewski the only foreign national ever buried at Arlington? Certainly not; America has honored other deserving souls, here and here.


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