The Last Salute: Civil and Military Funeral, 1921-1969


Former Secretary of State
John Foster Dulles
Official Funeral
24-27 May 1959

After a long illness, former Secretary of State John Foster Dulles died at Walter Reed General Hospital just before 0800 on 24 May 1959. President Dwight D. Eisenhower received the word at his farm near Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Returning to Washington, the President on the afternoon of the 24th directed that Mr. Dulles be given an Official Funeral with full military honors.

Before leaving Gettysburg, President Eisenhower ordered that the flags at the White House and all other government buildings in the United States, except the Capitol, and the flags at American embassies, legations, and consulates abroad be flown at half-staff' until the burial service for Mr. Dulles had been held. Customarily the flag over the Capitol is lowered only at the death of a President, Vice President, or member of Congress. But at the prompting of Congressman William H. Ayres, Republican of Ohio, who was an ardent admirer of Mr. Dulles, the Congressional leadership-Vice President Richard M. Nixon, Senate Majority Leader Lyndon B. Johnson, and Speaker of the House Sam Rayburn - instructed the Capitol Architect, J. George Stewart, to fly the Capitol flag at half-staff for Mr. Dulles. Many foreign embassies including that of the Soviet Union voluntarily lowered their flags also.

The funeral for Mr. Dulles was the first one conducted after policies and general plans for the Official Funeral had been issued late in 1949 and published with revisions in 1958. (The funeral held for James V. Forrestal early in 1949 resembled the Official Funeral.) The ceremonies of the Official Funeral were only slightly less elaborate than those of the State Funeral; the main difference was that the Official Funeral did not include a period of lying in state in the rotunda of the Capitol.

Chief responsibility for arranging the funeral rested with the Department of State and Headquarters, Military District of Washington. As prescribed in the existing funeral policies, the Department of State was responsible for coordinating all funeral arrangements since it was the department of which Mr. Dulles had been a member. The Commanding General, Military District of Washington, as


the representative of the Secretary of the Army, who in turn represented the Secretary of Defense, was in charge of arranging all armed forces participation in the ceremonies. President Eisenhower also instructed Brig. Gen. Andrew J. Goodpaster, White House Staff Secretary, to see that the wishes of Mrs. Dulles were followed implicitly.

According to the plans developed, Mr. Dulles's body was to lie at the Dulles residence in Washington from noon on 25 May until noon on the 26th, when it was to be moved to the Washington National Cathedral. There the body was to lie in the Bethlehem Chapel until noon on 27 May, and the funeral service was to be held in the nave of the cathedral at 1400 on the 27th. Mr. Dulles himself was a Presbyterian and had been an elder of the National Presbyterian Church in Washington. The cathedral, a Protestant Episcopal Church, was selected for the funeral service because of its large seating capacity of 2,800. The Reverend Roswell P. Barnes of New York, secretary of the World Council of Churches and long-time friend of Mr. Dulles, was to lead the clergymen officiating at the service. To assist him were the Reverend Paul A. Wolfe of the Brick Presbyterian Church, which was Mr. Dulles's church when he was in New York, and the Reverend Edward L. R. Elson of the National Presbyterian Church in Washington. Burial was to take place in Arlington National Cemetery, by virtue of Mr. Dulles's service as a commissioned officer on the War Trade Board during World War I. The gravesite, selected by Mrs. Dulles, was in Section 21, not far south­west of the Memorial Amphitheater.

Mr. Dulles's body was taken from Walter Reed General Hospital to the Dulles residence at noon on 25 May by morticians from Gawler's Funeral Home. At 1100 on the following day, the casket was moved by hearse to the Washington National Cathedral. Six military body bearers (two Army, one Marine Corps, one Navy, one Air Force, and one Coast Guard) handled the casket. In addition, the small motorized cortege moving to the cathedral included the mortician, the clergy, and members of the Dulles family. Mrs. Dulles herself remained at home. The cortege halted on the drive at the south entrance to the cathedral. An honor cordon representing all services including the Coast Guard flanked the driveway curb and the walkway to the entrance. Inside this cordon was a second cordon of friends and associates of the former Secretary whom Mrs. Dulles had selected to act as honorary pallbearers:

Thomas E. Dewey Edward H. Green
C. Douglas Dillon Charles C. Glover
George M. Humphrey Robert F. Hart, Jr.
Jean Monnet C. D. Jackson Joseph
Herbert C. Hoover, Jr. E. Johnson
John D. Rockefeller 3d George Murnane
Admiral Arthur W. Radford Herman Phleger
General Walter B. Smith Dean Rusk


General C. Stanton Babcock Eustace Seligman
Pemberton Berman Henry P. Van Dusen
Arthur H. Dean Morris Hadley
Harold Dodds  

Near the double cordon stood a national color detail and the verger of the cathedral. Inside the Bethlehem Chapel waited some eighty members of the diplomatic corps headed by Mr. Wiley Buchanan, the Chief of Protocol of the Department of State. Also at hand was a joint honor guard, the first relief of which would take post around the casket as soon as it was brought into the chapel.

When members of the cortege had left their automobiles, the body bearers removed the casket from the hearse and a small procession formed to escort the body into the chapel, the national color detail leading the way. Dr. Barnes and the cathedral verger preceded the casket and behind it came the honorary pall­bearers and members of the Dulles family.

Moving through the honor cordon and a cathedral corridor, the body bearers placed the casket on a velvet-covered bier in the center of the chapel. Floral tributes had been arranged earlier and a square of velvet rope surrounded the closed casket. The first relief of the guard of honor took post inside the rope, one sentinel at each corner of the bier, the officer in charge at the head of the casket. The Dulles family, honorary pallbearers, and members of the diplomatic corps gathered outside the rope. In this setting, Dr. Barnes read from Psalms and offered a prayer.

At the conclusion of this simple ceremony, about 1230, members of the public were allowed to enter the chapel, which remained open through the night and until 1100 on 27 May while thousands of people came to pay their respects.

On the 27th, in preparation for the funeral service at 1400, troops supplied by the Military District of Washington reported at the cathedral at 1000 to complete arrangements for controlling automobile traffic and parking. At noon twenty seven ushers and twenty guides arrived to prepare for handling the movement and seating of persons attending the service. All were of the grades of major or lieutenant colonel, or the equivalent. The ushers represented all the uniformed services (nine Army, three Marine Corps, six Navy, six Air Force, and three Coast Guard), while the guides were Army officers. In charge of both ushers and guides was an officer from the Military District of Washington.

Troops to cordon off the ceremonial area around the entrance to the cathedral reported at 1230. An officer and six men of a floral detail also arrived to handle the transfer of flowers within the cathedral and from the cathedral to Arlington National Cemetery. About 1300 the body bearers, who again represented all the armed forces, arrived and Mr. Dulles's casket was borne from the Bethlehem Chapel to the nave of the cathedral. At the same time the national colors were posted in the main chapel and the guard of honor took post around the casket.


Shortly afterward invited guests and the first members of the official funeral party, including members of the cabinet, justices of the Supreme Court, members of Congress, and state and territorial governors, arrived. About 1345 distinguished foreign dignitaries, the honorary pallbearers, and a special honor guard were ushered into the cathedral. Among the foreign dignitaries were Chancellor Konrad Adenauer and Mme. Chiang Kaishek; the foreign ministers of Great Britain, France, West Germany, Turkey, Italy, the Netherlands, and the Soviet Union; and the Secretary General of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, Paul-Henry Spaak. The special honor guard included the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Army Chief of Staff and Vice Chief of Staff, the Chief of Naval Operations and the Vice Chief of Naval Operations, the Chief of Staff and Vice Chief of Staff of the Air Force, the Commandant and Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps, and the Commandant and Assistant Commandant of the Coast Guard. Over the next fifteen minutes, Vice President Nixon and his party, President Eisenhower and his party, and Mrs. Dulles and her family were ushered to their seats. Upon the arrival of Mrs. Dulles, the guard of honor around the casket retired, and the funeral service was begun.

At the opening of the service a hymn, "O God, Our Help in Ages Past," was sung by a choir of thirty boys marching down the aisle from the north transept of the cathedral. Dr. Wolfe, Dr. Elson, and Dr. Barnes in turn offered prayers and read from the Old and New Testaments. As Mrs. Dulles had requested, no eulogies were delivered.

At the conclusion of the service, about 1430, the honorary pallbearers left the cathedral to form a cordon outside the entrance. When they were in position, the procession formed, the color detail leading. The clergy preceded the casket, which was followed by the personal flag bearer, the Dulles family, President Eisenhower and his party, Vice President Nixon and his party, the mortician, and the rest of the official funeral party. Members of the procession moved directly to vehicles for the journey to Arlington National Cemetery.

After the body bearers placed the casket in the hearse, they stood fast with the national color detail while the cortege formed and departed for the cemetery. The body bearers, the color detail, and the floral detail, escorted by police, then moved by a separate route to arrive at the cemetery ahead of the procession.

Except for the escort commander, Col. Milton S. Glatterer, the deputy commander of the Military District of Washington, the military escort did not participate in the move from the cathedral to the Memorial Gate of the cemetery. The following order of march was observed: police escort, escort commander, special honor guard, mortician, clergy, hearse, Dulles family, President Eisenhower, Vice President Nixon, honorary pallbearers, other dignitaries, police escort. The motorized cortege moved to Memorial Gate via Woodley Road, 34th Street, Massachusetts Avenue, Rock Creek Parkway, Memorial Bridge, and Memorial Drive. (Diagram 31) It took twenty-five minutes to reach the gate.


Diagram 31. Route of march, Washington National Cathedral to Arlington National Cemetery.  Click on image to view larger scale of diagram.

Diagram 31. Route of march, Washington National Cathedral to Arlington National Cemetery.


On the green at the gate, the military escort was on line facing the approaching cortege. The U.S. Army Band was at the right of the formation. To the left of the band, in order, stood a company-size contingent each from the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, and Coast Guard. To the left of these troops was a composite company of servicewomen and, finally, a group composed of representatives of seven national veterans' organizations chartered by Congress. The caisson and body bearers were waiting in the street opposite the center of the escort formation for the casket transfer ceremony.

When the cortege reached the gate, guides directed each section to its proper position for the transfer ceremony. The special honor guard, leading the procession, formed three cars abreast on the left side of Memorial Drive. The car carrying the clergy joined this formation. The hearse was at first guided to a position on Schley Drive to the rear of the caisson. The cars bearing the Dulles family formed on the right side of the road, the one carrying Mrs. Dulles in front by itself, the others behind, three abreast. To the rear of the family cars were those of the Presidential and Vice Presidential parties, three abreast, and behind these, also three abreast, were the automobiles of the honorary pallbearers. The rest of the cortege was in column, two cars abreast, on the right side of Memorial Drive. (Diagram 32)

When all cars were in position, the hearse moved forward and halted at the left and a few feet ahead of the caisson. The body bearers and personal flag bearer then moved into position behind the hearse. The military escort presented arms and held the salute while the Army Band played ruffles and flourishes, a slow march, and then a hymn. As the hymn was begun, the body bearers removed the casket from the hearse and carried it to the caisson. The hearse left the area. After the casket was secured on the caisson, the band ceased playing and the military escort ordered arms, completing the transfer ceremony.

The procession then moved toward the gravesite, starting south on Roosevelt Drive. Behind the escort commander, the military units marched in column in the same order in which they had formed in line on the green at Memorial Gate. The cortege followed much the same arrangement as in the movement from the cathedral. The following order of march was observed: escort commander, US Army Band, Army contingent (89), Marine Corps contingent (89), Navy contingent (89), Air Force contingent (89), Coast Guard contingent (89), servicewomen contingent (102), veterans' group, special honor guard, national colors, mortician, clergy, caisson, personal colors, Dulles family, President Eisenhower, Vice President Nixon, honorary pallbearers, other mourners. The procession reached the gravesite via Roosevelt, Wilson, Farragut, McPherson, and Lawton Drives. The cortege halted on Lawton Drive, which was just north of the gravesite. The military escort continued past the site, then turned back on Porter Drive to reach its assigned position just south of the grave. (Diagram 33) Upon reaching this


Diagram 32. Formation for casket transfer ceremony (schematic).  Click on image to view larger scale of diagram.

Diagram 32. Formation for casket transfer ceremony (schematic).


Diagram 33. Route of march, Memorial Gate to gravesite.  Click on image to view larger scale of diagram.

Diagram 33. Route of march, Memorial Gate to gravesite.

position, the escort units halted facing the gravesite; the Army Band played a hymn while other members of the procession, on Lawton Drive, left their cars. The grave chosen by Mrs. Dulles was on the brow of a shaded hill. On one side the floral detail had arranged over a hundred floral tributes. On the north side, a canopy had been erected to provide shelter from the sun for the Dulles family and the highest government officials; the temperature was-in the eighties. From the grave, a carpeted aisle reached to Lawton Drive, and the caisson had been halted beside it.

The honorary pallbearers, among the first to dismount, took position on either side of the aisle. At the same time, the special honor guard was guided to its graveside position. (Diagram 34) The remaining mourners stayed on the road­way after leaving their automobiles.

When the members of the Dulles family, last to dismount, were out of their cars, the military escort presented arms and held its salute throughout the procession to the grave. The band sounded ruffles and flourishes and played a march, then began a hymn. As the hymn was played the body bearers removed the casket from the caisson. Preceded by the national colors and the clergy, and followed by the personal flag; the casket was borne between the cordon of honorary pallbearers. When it had passed, the pallbearers fell in behind and moved to their grave­side position. The body bearers placed the casket on the lowering device. At that


Diagram 34. Formation at the graveside.  Click on image to view larger scale of diagram.

Diagram 34. Formation at the graveside.


Photo: Procession moves through the cemetery.


Photo: Last rites at the graveside.


time, the band stopped playing the hymn and the escort unit ordered arms. The body bearers then raised the flag that had draped the casket and held it over the casket throughout the graveside service.

Under the direction of the superintendent of Arlington National Cemetery, Mr. John C. Metzler, the Dulles family and the President and Vice President and their parties were escorted to seats under the canopy at the graveside. All other mourners then were guided to a position behind the seated group. When everyone had found his place, Dr. Elson read the Twenty-third Psalm. Dr. Barnes then continued the service. At its conclusion, the military escort presented arms while the battery of the 3d Infantry, from a distant position in the cemetery, fired a 19­gun salute. At the end of the cannon salute, a rifle squad from the 3d Infantry fired three volleys, and a bugler sounded taps. In the traditional manner the body bearers then folded the flag they had held over the casket and handed it to the cemetery superintendent. Mr. Metzler, in turn, gave it to a clergyman who presented it to Mrs. Dulles, thus concluding the funeral rites for former Secretary of State John Foster Dulles.


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