Riverside National Cemetery
Riverside National Cemetery Entrance
|Owned by||Department of Veterans Affairs|
|Size||921 acres (373 ha)|
|Number of graves||185,957
(Through fiscal year 2008)
|Find a Grave||Veterans Department Grave Locator
Find a Grave
|The Political Graveyard||Political Graveyard|
Riverside National Cemetery (RNC) is a cemetery located in Riverside, California, dedicated to the interment of United States military personnel. The cemetery covers 921 acres (373 ha), making it the third-largest cemetery managed by the National Cemetery Administration. Since 2000 it has been the most active cemetery in the system, based on the number of interments.
RNC was established in 1976 through the transfer of 740 acres (300 ha) from March Air Force Base, a section that during World War II was called Camp William G. Haan. During WWII, Camp Haan was used as a training base for coast artillery and anti-aircraft and also housed a prisoner-of-war camp for captured Italian soldiers.
The site was selected in 1976 to provide full burial options for Southern California veterans and their families by President Ford’s Commission for National Cemeteries and Monuments. The cemetery was dedicated and opened for burials November 11, 1978. An additional 181 acres (73 ha) was transferred by the U.S. Air Force in 2003.
With 15 Medal of Honor recipients in attendance and the Marine Corps’ greatest fighter ace Joe Foss as featured speaker, RNC was dedicated and opened for burials Veterans Day, November 11, 1978. RNC’s first burial was Army Staff Sgt. Ysmael Villegas, who was awarded the Medal of Honor for bravery at the cost of his own life at Villa Verde Trail on the island of Luzon in the Philippines, March 20, 1945. He was originally buried on Luzon, but was later transferred to Olivewood Cemetery in his hometown of Riverside, Calif. Prior to the opening of RNC, the Veterans Administration asked the Villegas family if he could be moved again and be honored by burial in the new National Cemetery.
The dramatic, meandering landscape features a central boulevard with memorial circles, lakes, indigenous-styled committal shelters, and a memorial amphitheater.
Military funeral honors are provided for eligible veterans by military honor guards from each branch of service, by the California National Guard, and by several volunteer teams collectively known as the Memorial Honor Detail or MHD upon request of family members through their funeral home.
Monuments and memorials 
Riverside National Cemetery is home of the Medal of Honor Memorial, one of four sites in the United States recognized by the U.S. Congress as a National Medal of Honor Memorial Site. The Medal of Honor Memorial, whose walls feature the names of all medal recipients, is located at the third traffic circle in the cemetery. It was dedicated at a ceremony attended by 85 Medal of Honor recipients November 5, 1999.
The statue "Veterans Memorial", created by Colorado sculptor A. Thomas Schomberg, in commemoration of the veterans, their comrades, their personal and emotional sacrifices and to acknowledge those Americans who have lost loved ones in the service of their country. The statue consists of a 12-foot pedestal, on top of which lies the lifeless body of a soldier partially covered with a poncho that hides the face. The unidentified soldier whether a man or woman, private or officer, will forever remain in silent tribute to every American who has given his or her life in combat. The statue was donated to the Riverside National Cemetery by Thomas F. and Judy Kane and was dedicated May 28, 2000.
The Prisoner of War/Missing in Action Memorial was designated a National Memorial by the U.S. Congress and dedicated September 16, 2005. A bronze statue, sculpted by Vietnam veteran Lewis Lee Millett, Jr. is the image of an American serviceman on his knees and bound by his captors. The statue is surrounded by black marble pillars, representing imprisonment.
Notable interments 
Medal of Honor recipients 
- Staff Sergeant Ysmael R. Villegas, (World War II) U.S. Army, Company F, 127th Infantry, 32nd Infantry Division. Villa Verde Trail, Luzon, Philippine Islands, March 20, 1945 (Section 5, Grave 1178)
- Commander (then Pharmacist's Mate First Class) John H. Balch, (World War I), U.S. Navy, 6th Regiment, U.S. Marines. Vierzy & Somme-Py, France, July 19, 1918, and October 5, 1918 (Section 2, Grave 1925)
- Colonel (then Platoon Sergeant) Mitchell Paige, (World War II and Korea) U.S. Marine Corps, 1st Marine Division, Solomon Islands, October 26, 1942 (Section 20A, Grave 533)
- Colonel Lewis Millett, (WW II, Korea, Vietnam) U.S. Army, February 7, 1951 (Section 2, Grave 1910)
Tuskegee Airmen 
Several members of the legendary Tuskegee Airmen, America’s first aviators of African descent, who trained at Alabama’s Tuskegee University, are buried at Riverside National Cemetery.
- Dr. Hackley E. Woodford, M.D., a Tuskegee Airmen flight surgeon who served during World War II, is buried at Section 49A Site 1149.
- Pilot Perry Willis Lindsey, who served during World War II and the Korean War, is buried at Section 63A Site 768.
- John Allen Pulliams Jr., served during World War II and went on to serve 30 years in the U.S. Air Force. He retired as a Chief Warrant Officer and is buried at Section 47 Site 1603.
- Pilot Charles F. Jamerson is buried at Section 56A Site 668. Major Jamerson retired from the U.S. Air Force in 1977 after more than 32 years of service.
- Pilot Kenneth R. Hawkins is buried in Section 57A Site 2204.
- USAAF WWII 1st LT. and Pilot John L. Hamilton is buried at Section 6 Site 270.
- Charles William Ledbetter, who served during World War II and Korea, retiring after 30 years as an Air Force Master Sergeant, is buried at Section 26 Site 1426.
- John Agar (1921–2002). Actor, once married to Shirley Temple. He starred mostly in Westerns and war movies, including “Fort Apache,” “The Sands of Iwo Jima” and “She Wore a Yellow Ribbon” with John Wayne. Section 55A Site 18.
- Robert Edward Badham (1929–2005). Lt. j.g., U.S. Navy. U.S. Congressman from California. Served in California assembly, 1963–1976; U.S. House of Representatives 1977–1989. Section 16 Site 914A.
- George Baker, Tech Sgt., U.S. Army, World War II. Cartoonist. Baker was a former Disney cartoonist who created the comic strip and comic book character "Sad Sack,” during World War II. Section 8 Site 3254.
- Aaron Bank, Colonel, U.S. Army. Founder of the Army’s elite Green Berets. During World War II Bank was assigned to the Office of Strategic Services within the Army’s Special Operations branch. After the war he stayed with the Army, and convinced them to create a permanent Special Forces unit. In 2002, President George W. Bush bestowed Bank with a commendation for creating the techniques used to defeat the Taliban in Afghanistan. He died in 2004 at the age of 101. Section 17 Site 421.
- Melissa Rose Barnes, Yeoman First Class (YN1), U.S. Navy. Killed during the terrorist attack on the Pentagon, Sept. 11, 2001. Section 56B Site 123.
- Thomas Ross Bond Sr. (1926–2005). Actor and TV Producer/Director. Best known as “Butch” in “Our Gang” or “Little Rascals” movie shorts during the 1930s. U.S. Navy, WW II. Section 49B Site 3840.
- Clyde Jeffrey (1918–2006). Athlete. One of the all-time greats in track & field, Jeffrey set multiple collegiate and world records during his brief career. Jeffrey set world record in 150-yard dash in 1938 (13.8 seconds); anchored the Stanford University team that set the world record in mile relay in 1940 (3:10.5), tied the world record in 100-yard dash (9.4, 1940), and tied Jesse Owens’ world record in the 100-meter dash in 1939 (10.2 wind-aided). Section BB (Van Buren Ave. Columbarium) Row E Site 212
- Will “Dub” Jones (1928–2000). Musician. In 1957, Jones joined the musical group The Coasters, replacing bass vocalist Bobby Nunn. The band's many recordings during Jones’ tenure include “Yakety Yak,” “Charlie Brown,” and “Poison Ivy.” Jones sang the familiar deep-voiced line “Don't talk back” in the 1958 No. 1 hit “Yakety Yak” and the line “Why's everybody always picking on me?” in the 1959 tune “Charlie Brown,” which reached No. 2 on the U.S. pop charts. Section 50 Site 4458.
- Lillian Kinkela Keil, Captain, U.S. Air Force. Air Force Flight Nurse Pioneer. She flew on 425 combat missions and took part in 11 major campaigns that included the D-Day invasion and Battle of the Bulge in World War II and the Battle of Chosin Reservoir during the Korea War. One of the most decorated women in American military history, she was awarded 19 medals, including a European Theater medal with four battle stars, a Korean service medal with seven battle stars, four air medals and a Presidential Citation from the Republic of Korea. Section 20A Site 1235.
- Frank John Lubin (1910–1999). Olympic Athlete. He was the captain of the U.S. Olympic Basketball team that won the first gold medal in the sport in 1936. He later introduced the sport to the country of Lithuania, where he is considered the father of Lithuanian basketball. Section 50 Site 5241.
- Hubie Kerns (1920-1999), actor and stuntsman.
- Tyler MacDuff (1925–2007). U.S. Navy, Pacific Theater, including Philippine Islands, 1944–1945; star of film and television westerns and dramas.
- John D. McKeel, Jr., Staff Sgt., U.S. Marine Corps. One of the 52 Americans held hostage by Iran from 1979 to 1981. Shot to death while trying to help a woman who was being robbed. Section 43 Site 1528.
- Patrick Henry McMahon, Motor Machinist Mate First Class (MOMM1), U.S. Navy. During World War II, McMahon was rescued near the Solomon Islands from the wreckage of patrol boat PT-109 by LTJG John F. Kennedy. The boat had been rammed by a Japanese destroyer on August 2, 1943. Badly injured and burned, McMahon was towed for several miles to safety by the future U.S. president. Section 43 Site 1411.
- Woodrow "Woody" Strode, Section 46, Grave 283. Woody Strode starred as 1st Sergeant Braxton Rutledge, a Buffalo soldier, in the 1960 John Ford movie "Sergeant Rutledge.” He starred in over 80 domestic and foreign films in a career that spanned nearly 55 years, including "Spartacus" and "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance." Strode was also one of the first four black players to integrate professional football in 1946 when he played for the Cleveland Rams.
- James F. Van Pelt Jr. (1918–1994). Air Force officer. As a 27-year-old Army Air Corps captain, he was the navigator aboard the B-29 “Bockscar” which dropped an atomic bomb on Nagasaki, the second atomic bomb used against Japan in World War II. He retired from the Air Force as colonel, serving from 1939 to 1965. Section 43, Site 1113.
- Adelbert Waldron (1933–1995). U.S. Army sniper serving during the Vietnam War is credited with the highest number of confirmed kills for any service member in U.S. history with 109. One of the few two-time recipients of the Distinguished Service Cross, the Army’s second highest award for valor, for separate actions in 1969. Columbarium A (shelter F), Court B, Row B, Site 37.
- Michael Waltman (1946–2011). Film and television actor. Vietnam War veteran and Purple Heart recipient.
- Noble Willingham, (1931–2004). Actor. He starred as C.D. Parker in the TV show "Walker Texas Ranger". Also appeared in many Hollywood movies including "Chinatown" (1974). "Good Morning, Vietnam" (1987); and “City Slickers" (1991). Section BA Row C Site 124 (Columbarium)
- Michael Winkelman (1946–1999). Actor. He starred as Little Luke McCoy on ABC's situation comedy, The Real McCoys (1957–1962). U.S. Navy, Vietnam. Plot 50, 0, 4304)
- Skip Young (1930–1993). Actor. He starred as Wally Plumstead on the ABC sitcom The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet (1956–1966). U.S. Navy, Korea. Section 13A, Grave 332.
- Jared M. Landaker, 1st Lt. Member of the crew of a CH-46 Sea Knight of the famed HMM-364 Purple Foxes who died with six others in a crash in Iraq in Feb. 2007, and who was picked out for special remembrance in a report of a Memorial Day, 2009, roll call of all 148,000 veterans then interred at the cemetery. Section 49B, number 3438.
- More than seventy soldiers, Marines, and sailors who have been killed while serving in Iraq and Afghanistan since Sept. 11, 2001, are buried at Riverside National Cemetery. This number is surpassed only by Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia, where more than five hundred service personnel killed in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars are laid to rest.
- Gordon Hahn (1919–2001). California politician
- Jacob Ortega (1937-2011). LASPD Assistant Chief and former U.S. Army Specialist
- USGS Geographic Names Information Service (GNIS)
- "Tyler MacDuff, April 22, 2008". listsearches.rootsweb.com. Retrieved January 9, 2010.
- "Michael Waltman, Active Actor, Vietnam Veteran". Palisadian-Post. 2011-05-13. Retrieved 2011-05-14.
- "Michael L. Winkelman". findagrave.com. Retrieved August 20, 2011.
- Associated Press "Memorial Day Roll Call Honors 148, 000 Veterans", via The New York Times, 5/23/09. Retrieved 5/23/09.
- Lance Cpl. Thomas J. Griffith, 2nd Marine Logistics Group, "'Purple Foxes’ remember brethren" 2/11/2007. Retrieved 5/23/09.
Further reading 
- Churchill, Marlowe J.; Rosema, Carrie (photographer) (2010). The Riverside National Cemetery Story: A Field of Warriors. Virginia Beach, Virginia: The Donning Company. p. 112. ISBN 978-1-57864-588-6. OCLC 437115705. LCC F869.R6 C48 2010 LCCN 2009-37803