Riverside National Cemetery

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Riverside National Cemetery
Image: 300 pixels
Riverside National Cemetery Entrance
Details
Established 1976
Location Riverside, California
Country United States
Coordinates 33°52′39″N 117°16′26″W / 33.87750°N 117.27389°W / 33.87750; -117.27389Coordinates: 33°52′39″N 117°16′26″W / 33.87750°N 117.27389°W / 33.87750; -117.27389[1]
Type Public
Owned by Department of Veterans Affairs
Size 921 acres (373 ha)
Number of graves 228,000
(As of 2014)
Website Official Site
Veterans Department Grave Locator
Find a Grave Riverside National Cemetery
The Political Graveyard Riverside National Cemetery

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.

History[edit]

Riverside National Cemetery View

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 Haan.[2] 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. An additional 181 acres (73 ha) was transferred by the U.S. Air Force in 2003.

Riverside National Cemetery Graves

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. Following the war he was buried at Olivewood Cemetery in Riverside.[3] Prior to the opening of RNC, the Veterans Administration asked the Villegas family if he could be honored by re-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[edit]

Riverside National Cemetery Medal of Honor Memorial
Riverside National Cemetery POW MIA Memorial
Riverside National Cemetery Medal of Honor Memorial
The Veterans Memorial at the Riverside National Cemetery

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[edit]

Medal of Honor recipients[edit]

  • 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, Site 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, Site 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, Site 533.
  • Colonel Lewis Millett, (WW II, Korea, Vietnam) U.S. Army, February 7, 1951 – Section 2, Site 1910.
  • 2d Lieutenant (then Staff Sergeant) Walter D. Ehlers, (World War II) U.S. Army, June 9, 1944 – June 10, 1944 – Section 20A, Site 644.

Distinguished Service Cross recipients[edit]

  • Adelbert Waldron (1933–1995). U.S. Army sniper who served in the Vietnam War and was credited with the highest number of confirmed kills in U.S. history with 109. A two-time recipient of the Distinguished Service Cross for separate actions in 1969 – Section AB, Row B, Site 37.

General officers[edit]

  • John Groff (1890–1990). United States Marine Corps Brigadier General and centenarian; recipient of the Navy Cross and Distinguished Service Cross – Section 8, Site 1261.
  • Chesley G. Peterson (1920–1990). United States Air Force Major General – Section 20B, Site 44.

Tuskegee Airmen[edit]

Plaque honoring the Order of Daedalians at the Riverside National Cemetery, with March Joint Air Reserve Base in background

Several members of the legendary Tuskegee Airmen, America’s first aviators of African descent, who trained at Alabama’s Tuskegee University and flew for the United States Army Air Force, are buried at Riverside National Cemetery.[citation needed]

  • 1st Lt. John L. Hamilton, USAAF (1919–1982) – Section 6, Site 270.
  • 1st Lt. Kenneth R. Hawkins, USAAF (1918–2003) – Section 57A, Site 2204.
  • Major Charles F. Jamerson, USAF (1917–1996) – Section 56A, Site 668.
  • Master Sergeant Charles William Ledbetter, USAF (1922–2003) served during World War II, Korea and Vietnam Wars – Section 26, Site 1426.
  • 1st Lt. Perry Willis Lindsey, USAF (1922–2004) served during World War II and Korean War – Section 63A, Site 768.
  • Chief Warrant Officer John Allen Pulliams Jr., USAF (1919–2002) served during World War II, Korean and Vietnam Wars – Section 47, Site 1603.
  • Captain Hackley E. Woodford, M.D., US Army (1914–2005) served during World War II – Section 49A, Site 1149.

Others[edit]

Riverside National Cemetery Flag
Riverside National Cemetery Riverbed

References[edit]

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]