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


Secretary of the Navy-Designate John T. McNaughton,
Sarah McNaughton, and Theodore McNaughton
Special Military Funeral
19-25 July 1967

Near noon on 19 July 1967, a Piedmont Airlines Boeing 727 and a private plane that was off its course collided and exploded over the Blue Ridge foothills in western North Carolina near Hendersonville, not far from the city of Asheville where the Piedmont plane had taken off only minutes before. All persons aboard both planes were killed. Among the passengers on the airliner were Secretary of the Navy-designate John T. McNaughton, his wife, Sarah, and the younger of his two sons, Theodore.

Mr. McNaughton was to have taken office as Secretary of the Navy on 1 Au­gust. At the time of his death he was Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs, a post he had held since 1964. As Department of Defense officials considered formal funeral honors for Mr. McNaughton, a question arose as to his exact official status at the time of his death. As Assistant Secretary of Defense, he was entitled, under existing policies, to an Armed Forces Full Honor Funeral. As Secretary of the Navy, he was entitled to the more elaborate ceremonies of a Special Military Funeral. The decision, based on the fact that the Senate had confirmed his appointment as Secretary of the Navy, was that Mr. McNaughton was entitled to the greater honor of a Special Military Funeral.

Secretary and Mrs. McNaughton were survived by their eighteen-year-old son, Alexander, their parents, and the Secretary's two brothers and his sister. In consultations between Department of Defense officials and the next of kin, it was tentatively decided that a funeral service for Secretary McNaughton, his wife, and his son would be held in Pekin, Illinois, where the Secretary's parents resided, and that burial would take place in Arlington National Cemetery. Mr. McNaughton was eligible for burial in a national cemetery by virtue of World War II service as a commissioned officer in the Navy. Mrs. McNaughton also had served during World War II as an ensign in the WAVES. The final decision, however, was that a funeral service for the three members of the McNaughton family would be held in Washington, D.C., at the Washington National Cathedral on 25 July, with burial in Arlington Cemetery.


The commandant of the Naval District Washington, Rear Adm. Elliott Loughlin, would automatically have become responsible for completing funeral arrangements, in accordance with the current policy that the responsibility fell to the service with which the deceased had been associated. But at the specific request of the Naval District, the Commanding General, Military District of Washington, Maj. Gen.Curtis J. Herrick, accepted the responsibility for arranging and co-ordinating the ceremonies.

According to the plan, a Navy transport plane was to bring the bodies of Secretary and Mrs. McNaughton and their son from North Carolina to Andrews Air Force Base on 24 July. From there, the bodies were to be taken to Gawler's funeral establishment in Washington, DC A joint service arrival ceremony, based on the current prescriptions for a Special Military Funeral published in 1965, was to be conducted at the airfield. But since the arrival and transfer of the bodies to the funeral home were considered primarily administrative moves, some of the usual procedures of an arrival ceremony, including the presence of a band, special honor guard, and honorary pallbearers, were to be eliminated.

The site control officer at the field was to be from the 3d Infantry. One officer and thirty-eight enlisted men of the Navy were to form a security cordon surrounding the ceremonial area, and the Navy was also to furnish three body bearer teams of six men each (plus two supernumeraries) and the petty officer in charge. A joint honor cordon, which would line the route from the parked aircraft to the three hearses from Gawler's, was to be commanded by a Navy officer and to include eight men each from the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, and Coast Guard. An Army color bearer and a guard each from the Marine Corps and the Air Force would make up the national color detail; the personal flag bearer would be a Navy man.

The plane bearing the bodies of Secretary McNaughton and his wife and son landed at Andrews field a few minutes after 1400 on 24 July. When the lift truck was brought up to lower the caskets from the plane, it was discovered that the platform would hold only two of the three caskets. The body bearer teams were consequently under considerable strain, being obliged to hold the first two caskets while the third was removed from the plane separately. The caskets were then carried in procession through the joint honor cordon to the hearses and taken to Gawler's funeral establishment, where they remained until the funeral service at the Washington National Cathedral on 25 July.

The service was held at 1300. During the morning of 25 July, troops that were to support or participate in the ceremony reported to the site control officer, who was from the 3d Infantry, at the cathedral. After briefing and rehearsal, all troops were in position by 1230. A security cordon of one officer, one noncommissioned officer, and thirty-five enlisted men from the 3d Infantry took post around the north transept entrance of the cathedral to keep the ceremonial area clear. A parking and traffic control detail of five officers, eleven noncommissioned officers,


Photo: Caskets are placed in hearses at Andrews Air Force Base.


and thirty-three enlisted men, also from the 3d Infantry, was on station, with a member of the cathedral police and two members of the Metropolitan Police assisting. A smaller detail of one officer, one noncommissioned officer, and five enlisted men from the 3d Infantry was on hand to control the movement of members of the press. One of the earliest to arrive at the cathedral was a detail of six men furnished by the Navy to handle all floral pieces.

An Army officer was in charge of a joint service detail of seventy-five officers and men (one officer, two noncommissioned officers, and twelve men from each service), who were to escort those attending the cathedral service to their seats. Escort officers also were present to assist and guide the honorary pallbearers during the ceremonies.

Persons invited to attend the service began to take their places in the cathedral about half an hour before the scheduled time. Members of the McNaughton family arrived at 1250, the honorary pallbearers, Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey and his party, and President Lyndon B. Johnson and his party in the next ten minutes. The arrival of the family and dignitaries, all at the north transept entrance and all at approximately the same time, caused some confusion, but with



Diagram 103: Standard formation, arrival ceremony, Washington, DC


Photo: Casket Are Taken Into Washington National Cathedral.


the help of the site control officer, who performed as an usher himself, all were seated without undue delay.

The arrival ceremony was based on procedures in the 1965 policy book, although no escort commander participated. (Diagram 103) The honorary pall­bearers, among whom was Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara, formed a cordon on the steps of the north transept entrance to the cathedral. A joint honor cordon of troops lined the remaining steps to the street. At the foot of the steps stood the clergy, national color detail, and personal flag bearer, and across the street, opposite the cathedral entrance, the U.S. Marine Band was in formation. Nearby were three joint service body bearer teams.

Ten minutes before the scheduled beginning of the service, hearses bearing the bodies of the three members of the McNaughton family, accompanied only by a police escort, arrived at the cathedral and halted in column along the side of the driveway leading to the north transept entrance. At the scheduled hour, they were driven to the north transept entrance and parked abreast. The US Marine Band sounded ruffles and flourishes, and as it began to play a hymn the three body bearer teams removed the three caskets from the hearses simultaneously. They


Photo: Funeral Service in the cathedral.


were then borne in procession through the honor cordon into the cathedral, the national color detail leading, the clergy, the caskets of Secretary McNaughton, Mrs. McNaughton, and Theodore McNaughton and the personal flag bearer following. Inside the cathedral entrance the caskets, those of the Secretary and Mrs. McNaughton draped with flags, that of their son undraped, were placed on movable biers and taken forward for the service.

Mr. Adam Yarmolinsky, who had been a deputy to Mr. McNaughton during his tenure as Assistant Secretary of Defense, opened the funeral service by delivering a eulogy. Religious services were then conducted by Canon William G. Work man of the Washington National Cathedral, Dr. Joseph A. Mason of the Grace Methodist Church (the McNaughton family church) in Pekin, Illinois, and the Right Reverend Paul Moore, Jr., suffragan bishop of Washington. Two hymns were sung during the service, one of them the Navy hymn, "Eternal Father, Strong to Save." These were led by the US Navy Band Sea Chanters. The service ended about 1345. The caskets were then taken from the cathedral in procession, and the motor cortege, without military escort, departed for Arlington National Cemetery. The departure ceremony followed established procedure, but


Diagram 104. Standard formation, departure ceremony, Washington National Cathedral.  Click on image to view larger scale diagram.

Diagram 104. Standard formation, departure ceremony, Washington National Cathedral.


without the participation of an escort commander or special honor guard. (Diagram 104)

According to plan, the cortege was to proceed to Memorial Gate of the cemetery. There, before a military escort drawn up on the green, the casket of Secretary McNaughton was to be transferred from the hearse to a caisson. After the transfer ceremony, the military escort was to lead the cortege into the cemetery to the gravesite in Section 5, northeast of the Custis-Lee Mansion.

In preparation for the casket transfer at the cemetery gate, all troops who were to participate in or support the ceremony were in position by 1330. The military escort included a Navy officer as commander, with a joint service staff of four, and five companies of troops, one each from the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air,Force, and Coast Guard. Each escort company had a commander, two other officers, and sixty-three enlisted men. The escort also included the US Navy Band. The entire formation was on line on the lawn at the gate, facing Memorial Drive over which the cortege would approach.

In front of and facing the escort, the caisson and caisson detail from the 3d Infantry were in the center of Memorial Drive. To the left front of the caisson a handler stood with a caparisoned horse that was to march in the cortege through the cemetery to the gravesite. To the right of the caisson stood a joint national color detail and a Navy enlisted man with the personal flag of Secretary McNaughton. Along the edge of Memorial Drive to the rear of the color bearers waited three body bearer teams, all from the Navy. (Diagram 105)

On the lawn across the street from the body bearer teams, an area cordoned by four enlisted men from the 3d Infantry had been reserved for members of the press. Other supporting troops included a 3d Infantry parking detail of one officer and four noncommissioned officers. These men were to guide the vehicles of the cortege to their positions for the casket transfer ceremony. Finally, one noncommissioned officer and twenty men from the 3d Infantry were posted as a security cordon to keep the ceremonial area clear.

Near 1430, as the cortege approached Memorial Gate, the cars were halted in a double column a short distance below the ceremonial area. Those carrying the clergy and honorary pallbearers were then signaled forward and were brought to a stop just after they turned north off Memorial Drive onto Schley Drive. The clergy and honorary pallbearers then dismounted and were guided to their positions for the transfer ceremony.

The three hearses and the cars carrying the family were next signaled for­ward. The hearse bearing the casket of Secretary McNaughton was halted to the right and even with the caisson; the other two hearses drew up abreast immediately behind the caisson. Immediately behind them the cars of the family were arranged in a single column. The family remained in the cars while the casket transfer ceremony took place. (Diagram 106)

After the hearses and family vehicles had been brought forward, the three


Diagram 105. Formation at Memorial Gate for the casket transfer ceremony.  Click on image to view larger scale diagram.

Diagram 105. Formation at Memorial Gate for the casket transfer ceremony.


Diagram 106. Casket transfer ceremony, arrival of cortege.  Click on image to view larger scale diagram.

Diagram 106. Casket transfer ceremony, arrival of cortege.


Photo: Military Escort Renders Honor as casket of John McNaughton is transferred to caisson at Memorial Gate.

MILITARY ESCORT RENDERS HONORS as casket of John McNaughton is transferred
to caisson at Memorial Gate, above.
Military escort marches through cemetery, below.

Photo: Military escort marches through cemetery.


Diagram 107. Formation at Memorial Gate after the casket transfer ceremony.  Click on image to view larger scale diagram.

Diagram 107. Formation at Memorial Gate after the casket transfer ceremony.

body bearer teams took position. One team moved to the rear of the hearse bearing the casket of Secretary McNaughton. Those assigned to carry the other two caskets took a position flanking the hearse, three men on either side. The US Navy Band sounded ruffles and flourishes and the escort troop units presented arms. The band then played a hymn.

While the hymn was played, the body bearers transferred, Secretary McNaughton's casket from the hearse to the caisson. After the hearse was driven


away from the ceremonial area, the body bearers took positions flanking the caisson, three men on each side. The escort units then ordered arms, the clergy and honorary pallbearers returned to their cars on Schley Drive, and the escort commander and his staff moved off the green to a position on Schley Drive to lead the procession into the cemetery. Mr. John C. Metzler, cemetery superintendent, meanwhile had arrived to guide the procession to the gravesite. (Diagram 107)

Since the gravesite in Section 5 was very near the grave of President John F. Kennedy, troops from the 3d Infantry formed a cordon between the two sites to separate persons attending the McNaughton rites from those visiting the Kennedy grave. Additional troops from the 3d Infantry, who brought the number assigned to security duty to one officer and fifty-four men, cordoned a larger perimeter around the McNaughton gravesite to keep the ceremonial area clear. The 3d Infantry also supplied one officer and nineteen men to control traffic along the route of the procession to the gravesite.

As the procession marched via Schley, Sherman, and Sheridan Drives, the 3d Infantry battery, from its distant position in the cemetery, fired a 17-gun salute, spacing the rounds so that the last was fired close to the time that the procession reached the gravesite. (Diagram 108) When they were near the gravesite, the Navy Band and one platoon of each of the escort companies broke off from the formation and moved to their assigned positions at the graveside. The remainder

Diagram 108. Route of march, Memorial Gate to gravesite.   Click on image to view larger scale diagram.

Diagram 108. Route of march, Memorial Gate to gravesite.


Photo: Navy Body Bearers Carry Casker Of John McNaughton To Grave.


of the escort units, not scheduled to participate in the graveside ceremony, continued to march, moving out of the ceremonial area to dismissal points.

When the cortege reached the gravesite, the caisson and two hearses were halted near a cocomat runner leading to the graves. The national color team moved to a position between the caisson and the gravesite and the honorary pallbearers, after they had left their cars, were escorted forward to form a cordon along the cocomat runner. The remainder of the funeral party assembled behind the caisson and the two hearses.

At signals from the cemetery superintendent and the site control officer, the escort units at the grave presented arms and the Navy Band sounded ruffles and flourishes. The band then began a hymn and the body bearers removed the caskets from the caisson and the hearses. The three caskets were taken in procession through the cordon of honorary pallbearers to the graves. As the procession passed, the honorary pallbearers fell in behind and were guided to their graveside position by the site control officer. The cemetery superintendent and his assistants then led the next of kin and other members of the funeral party to their positions. (Diagram 109)

At the conclusion of the graveside service, the battery delivered a second 17­gun salute, firing the rounds at five-second intervals. After the last round was fired the benediction was pronounced. A firing squad then delivered three volleys and a Navy bugler sounded taps, thus concluding the final rites for John T. McNaughton, who would have been the fifty-ninth Secretary of the Navy, and for his wife and son.


Diagram 109. Formation at the graveside (schematic ).  Click on image to view larger scale diagram.

Diagram 109. Formation at the graveside (schematic ).


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Last updated 25 May 2005