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


Former Deputy Secretary of Defense Stephen T. Early
Combined Services Full Honor Funeral
11-14 August 1951

Stephen T. Early, former Deputy Secretary of Defense, died at George Washington University Hospital in Washington, D.C., on 11 August 1951. His death, at the age of sixty-one, followed a six-day illness caused by a heart ailment.

Robert A. Lovett, acting for George C. Marshall as Secretary of Defense, issued a formal memorandum announcing Mr. Early's death to the Secretaries of the Army, Navy, and Air Force on 13 August. At that time, Mr. Lovett directed that "every appropriate military honor be rendered" to Mr. Early. Under plans and policies placed in effect in late 1949, the "appropriate military honor" was a Combined Services Full Honor Funeral.

Responsibility for arranging Mr. Early's funeral rested with the Commanding General, Military District of Washington, Maj. Gen. Thomas W. Herren. General Herren, working closely with the Early family, arranged for a funeral service at the Washington National Cathedral at 1000 on 14 August. Since Mr. Early had served in the Army in World War I, burial was to take place in Arlington National Cemetery. A motorized cortege was to take Mr. Early's body from the cathedral to the Memorial Gate of Arlington National Cemetery, where, before the military escort formation, the casket was to be transferred to a caisson. The body was then to be escorted to the gravesite in Section 6, below the Memorial Amphitheater, for the final service.

After the former Deputy Secretary's death on 11 August, the body was taken to Gawler's funeral establishment where it remained until midmorning on the 14th, when it was taken by hearse to the Washington National Cathedral. Met by General Herren as escort commander, members of the clergy, the national color detail, the personal flag bearer, and a joint body bearer team of eight, the casket was taken in procession into the cathedral for the funeral service.

At 1000 Canon G. Gardiner Monks conducted the rites at the cathedral. Among those attending the service with the Early family was President Harry S. Truman. He was accompanied by Fleet Admiral William D. Leahy, who had been President Roosevelt's chief of staff during World War II, and who had been closely associated with Mr. Early when the latter had served as President Roosevelt's press secretary. Also in attendance were Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt, government


Photo: Honorary Pallbearers Follow the Casket to the Grave.


Photo: Cannon Monks Presents Flag to Mrs. Early at the Graveside.



officials, and hundreds of Mr. Early's friends. Present also were dignitaries whom the Early family had asked to serve as honorary pallbearers, among them Vice President Alben W. Barkley, Chief Justice Fred M. Vinson, Secretary of Defense George C. Marshall, Secretary of the Army Frank Pace, Jr., Secretary of the Air Force Thomas K. Finletter, Mr. Sam Rayburn, General of the Army Omar N. Bradley, and Mr. Bernard M. Baruch.

At the close of the funeral service, Mr. Early's casket was taken in procession out of the cathedral and placed in a hearse. The motorized cortege then formed and proceeded to Arlington National Cemetery.
The military escort previously had formed on the lawn at the cemetery's Memorial Gate, facing on line toward Memorial Drive over which the cortege would approach. On the left of the formation was the U.S. Army Band. To the band's right, in order of seniority of service, were four ninety-man companies, one each from the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, and Air Force. Waiting on Memorial Drive directly in front of the escort troops was the caisson, and nearby stood the national color detail, personal flag bearer, and joint body bearer team.

When the cortege arrived, the hearse stopped beside the caisson. In a brief ceremony, the escort units saluted as Mr. Early's casket was transferred from the hearse to the caisson. General Herren then led the way through the cemetery to the gravesite. Following the escort commander was the band, which played Chopin's "Funeral March" as the procession moved. Next came the four troop companies. Behind them were the national color detail, an Army chaplain, the caisson flanked by the body bearers, the personal flag bearer, members of the Early family, and other mourners. As the funeral procession moved to the grave, the 3d Infantry battery, from a position in the cemetery, fired a 19-gun salute, spacing the rounds so that the last was fired as the procession reached the grave.

The graveside service was conducted by the Army chaplain, assisted by the Reverend William Kepler, pastor of Northminster Presbyterian Church. Following the benediction, a second 19-gun salute was fired, a rifle squad delivered the traditional three volleys, and an Army bugler sounded taps. At the conclusion of the rites, Canon Monks presented the flag that had draped the casket of the former Deputy Secretary of Defense to Mrs. Early.

Previous Chapter        Next Chapter