Arlington Cemetery – Tomb of the Unknowns Jeopardy Question with some Surprising Answers (UPDATED Aug 10, 2015)

Arlington Cemetery Jeopardy Question:

There has been an email circulating for well over 13 years (I found a 2001 reference to this email in a brief Google search).  The email starts:

“On Jeopardy the other night (MD: !), the final question was: “How many steps does the guard take during his walk across the Tomb of the Unknowns?” All three contestants missed it! This is really an awesome sight to watch if you’ve never had the chance.”

Tomb of the Unknown Soldier - Arlington CemeteryThe email (read a full version here in PDF) goes on to give a prolonged and largely true answer. However, thanks to the good work at Snopes, I wanted to put out a cleaner and more accurate version out there.

Working through the Jeopardy archives, the only specific question and date I could find was in episode #4751 on April 11, 2005, which makes the initial email confusing since it would seem to ante-date the Jeopardy question:

“ARLINGTON’S TOMB OF UNKNOWNS: Sentinels at the tomb walk exactly this many steps at a time before they stop & turn”

In terms of my own discoveries, I wasn’t sure if the right name is Tomb of the Unknown Soldier or the Tomb of the Unknowns. It turns out that it is commonly known by both, but there is no official name.

Continue reading

Interview with Jan Thompson, filmmaker: “Never the Same, The Prisoner-of-War Experience”

Jan Thompson, Never the Same, Bataan Japan POW WWIIJan Thompson, Professor of Radio-Television at Southern Illinois University Carbondale, is the producer of a new feature-length documentary, “Never The Same: The Prisoner of War Experience,” which is going to premiere this Saturday (April 6) in Chicago, at the Gene Siskel Film Center.  The timing of the premiere is great, as April 9 is the anniversary of the Bataan Death March and National POW Recognition Day.  I am very excited about this film, as I have been long been personally involved in this part of the WWII Asia-Pacific history.

“Never The Same: The Prisoner of War Experience,”

From the Chicago Tribune article

Jan’s documentary features narration by Emmy Award-winning actress Loretta Swit (“Hot Lips” of MASH fame), and the voices of an all-star cast of actors including Alec Baldwin, Ed Asner, Jamie Farr, Mike Farrell, Robert Loggia, Kathleen Turner, Robert Wagner and Sam Waterston.  The film celebrates and commemorates “courageous men who used ingenuity, creativity and humor to survive one of the most notorious times in history,” said Thompson, whose late father was a POW after his capture on Corregidor (like my grandfather — see my Facebook page in his memory) in the spring of 1942.

You can sign up to the Minter Dialogue podcast here via iTunes.





Further resources for the Minter Dialogue Radio Show:

iTunes RSS Minter Dialogue Podcast - Branding Gets Personal

Meanwhile, you can find my other English-speaking interviews on the Minter Dialogue Radio Show on Buzzsprout or via iTunes. Please don’t be shying about rating this podcast on iTunes! And for the francophones reading this, if you want to get more podcasts, you can also find my radio show en français over at :, on Buzzsprout or in iTunes.

A Worthwhile visit in Kent: Ightham Mote

Great Hall at Ightham Mote, Kent EnglandIf you are driving around Kent, England, and are wondering which National Trust sites to visit, I recommend putting Ightham (pronounced item) Mote, Sevenoaks, high on your list.  This medieval moated manor house, dating from 1320, has a splendid history.  After a GBP10 million 15-year restoration, the site is in great nick.

Dog Kennel at Ightham Mote, Kent EnglandThe visitable sites of Ightham Mote include the magnificent Great Hall (photo left), the Crypt, and a fine Tudor Chapel with a hand-painted ceiling, replete with symbols of King Henry VIII and his first wife, Catherine of Aragon, and commissioned by the owner in the hopes that the King & Queen would come visit.  They never did, and despite Henry’s many other wives, the then owner did not repaint.  For those of you men who are frequenters of the doghouse, here is one for you:  a Grade I-listed dog kennel (right), situated in the picturesque courtyard, large enough to house a full adult. 

We did not try the restaurant on site, but it looked very nice.

Gift Aid Admission Prices: (with Standard Admission prices in brackets): £10.40 (£9.40), child £5.20 (£4.70), family £26 (£23.50). Groups (£8.85).  
Winter weekends, 7 Nov–20 Dec: £5.50 (£5), child £2.75 (£2.50)

Contact information:
Mote Road, Ivy Hatch, Sevenoaks, Kent TN15 0NT
+44 1732 810 378

The Amazing Internet – Guest post by Victor Dial

The Amazing Internet – Guest post by my father, Victor Dial

I know it’s a cliché, but isn’t it amazing what you can find on the internet? Two recent occasions come to mind:

The first was when, some days ago, I happened on a web site concerning the family of my paternal grandmother, whose maiden name was Josephine Minter. We called Josephine “Jou-Jou” (probably Josephine was too difficult for young children to pronounce, or remember). Jou-Jou’s mother’s maiden name was Fannie Dodson Ramseur. Fannie came from a prominent North Carolinian family, and she married Joseph Minter, also from North Carolina. The Minter family web site ( laconically indicates that Joseph had originally intended to marry another lady, but that the bride-to-be had died on her wedding day. This must have been a terrible tragedy for Joseph, but was fortunate for me, because by marrying Fannie, he begot me, as well as many other distinguished descendants. Fannie had six children (one of whom was Jou-Jou, of course) and, while pregnant with a seventh, died tragically while trying to save her youngest daughter whose dress had accidentally caught fire. The daughter died that day, 14 March 1881, and the mother ten days later, aged 36.

Jou-Jou married my grandfather, Nathaniel Barksdale Dial, a man born and bred in Laurens, South Carolina. They produced four children (two boys and two girls), one of whom was my father (Nathaniel Minter Dial, called “Minter”), also born in Laurens.

In reading about Fannie (Ramseur) Minter, I saw that she had a brother named Stephen General Stephen Dodson RamseurDodson Ramseur (wikipedia writeup on SD Ramseur). Stephen was an early graduate of West Point (1860), and when the Civil War broke out in 1861, he promptly joined the Confederate Army as a Captain. Two years later, at age 25, he was appointed Brigadier General, and one year after that, Major General. In reading more about the history of my great-great uncle, I discovered that his closest aide was another North Carolinian, named William Ruffin Cox (wikipedia writeup/Secretary of the Senate), previously a lawyer by trade. When Ramseur was promoted to Major General, he handed over the troops under his command to Brigadier General Cox. When shortly thereafter the gallant Ramseur was killed in battle (in 1864), Cox again took over his command. Clearly, the destiny of these two men was tightly intertwined.

Why is this somewhat lengthy story of interest, you might well ask?

In 1928, my father (“Minter”) was accepted at the US Naval Academy at Annapolis. Southern gentlemen typically tended to stick together, and my father soon met most of his compatriots. One of them was a North Carolinian named William Ruffin Cox, who would become one of Minter’s life-long friends, and my beloved god-father. The two descendants of Minter’s great-uncle and of Ruffin’s grandfather were soon destined to become comrades in arms in a great war, once again.

The second occasion–as to why the internet is so amazing–came when I randomly checked to see whether the web was saying anything new about “Dial”. As usual, I found references to my grandfather, who served in the US Senate from 1919-1925. Then, I was amazed to stumble on a series of photographs of the Senator and the Senator’s children (example of one below), taken in May, 1922 in Washington DC by a photographer working for the National Photo Company, whose business it was to supply photographs to newspapers and magazines of the time. The entire collection of the National Photo Company was recently acquired by the Library of Congress (go to this link and type in DIAL), who then posted them on the ‘net for all to see.

Minter Dial Sr, Fannie Dodson, Dotty Dodson and Joe DialSo here I found a number of long-forgotten photographs of my two aunts (aged 15 and 13), my father (only 11, but looking a lot older), and my uncle (8), posing variously with bicycles, tennis rackets, speedboats, and cars. (For more, see here a ‘100 year old photo blog’ called; or Fannie getting ready for a debutante ball or on

Gstaad, August 4, 2008

Fall of Bataan April 9, 1942 Commemorated

Fall of Bataan April 9 1942Today marks the 66th anniversary of the Fall of Bataan, where on April 9, 1942, General Edward King surrendered the peninsula of Bataan in the Philippines along with approximately 76,000 soldiers (of which 11,796 American men) to the Japanese (who had 54,000 men commanded by General Homma). This defeat represents the largest ever surrender of American Army to a foreign country (see the PBS report). [NB: The day before April 8, marks the anniversary of the end of the Battle of Appomattox, where in 1865, over 28,000 Confederate soldiers under General Robert E Lee were captured by General Ulysses Grant].

Bataan was a shocking defeat for the US, even if it took the Japanese longer to conquer than they had originally expected. In the days following the Fall of Bataan, the 76,000+ soldiers were forced to make the infamous Bataan Death March which entailed–for the war weary and sickly prisoners–to march for six days straight, over 60 miles north in blistering heat with virtually no food or water. This PBS report includes some first hand accounts of what happened during the horrific march.

With the Fall of Bataan, the “Voice of Freedom” radio broadcasting out of Malinta Tunnel, on Corregidor, made the following announcement:

Bataan has fallen. The Philippine-American troops on this war-ravaged and bloodstained peninsula have laid down their arms. With heads bloody but unbowed, they have yielded to the superior force and numbers of the enemy. The world will long remember the epic struggle that Filipino and American soldiers put up in the jungle fastness and along the rugged coast of Bataan. They have stood up uncomplaining under the constant and grueling fire of the enemy for more than three months. Besieged on land and blockaded by sea, cut off from all sources of help in the Philippines and in America, the intrepid fighters have done all that human endurance could bear….

The adversary, in the pride of his power and triumph, will credit our troops with nothing less than the courage and fortitude that his own troops have shown in battle. Our men have fought a brave and bitterly contested struggle. All the world will testify to the most superhuman endurance with which they stood up until the last in the face of overwhelming odds. But the decision had to come. Men fighting under the banner of unshakable faith are made of something more that flesh, but they are not made of impervious steel. The flesh must yield at last, endurance melts away, and the end of the battle must come. Bataan has fallen, but the spirit that made it stand–a beacon to all the liberty-loving peoples of the world–cannot fall!

The Philippines now mark the anniversary of the Fall of Bataan (see here for a good writeup on last year’s 65th celebration). In its honour, there are a number of ceremonies and Monday was a national holiday (to allow for a three day weekend). If ever you go to the Philippines, I would encourage you to make the trek over to Corregidor and Bataan to visit the sites. While the tour of Corregidor is more structured (and probably more captivating), on Bataan, you can retrace the Death March route–there are posts along the side of the road to mark each mile.

Anyone else gone to visit these war sites and would like to comment?

A few books, written by survivors if you feel motivated to read on:
Ghost of Bataan by Abie Abraham; Back to Bataan by Alf Larson; My Hitch in Hell by Lester Tenney (best of the three cited).

King Tutankhamun’s Tomb discovered November 26 1922

Okay, I admit that, since a newspaper is transportable, I will often read it a day or three later. Proof, this morning I discovered that King Tutankhamun‘s tomb was discovered “on this day in history” the 26th November 1922 by Howard Carter. My having been one of the first members of the public ever to visit and see the actual mummy in its tomb at the Valley of the Kings (photo right dated 1922; see Egypt post), I feel a particular nostalgia for celebrating the November 26th! So, it was 85 years and 3 days ago. Sorry, but what’s three days when you are three thousand years old (exactly 3330 years ago).

See Alistair Boddy-Evans story of the Carter discovery on Africa History.

A comprehensive “on this day” from the History Channel. Meanwhile, two other dates to remember in African history for Nov 26th while we’re on the topic:

1967, 26 November
Soviet military bases are closed by Egyptian government.

1992, 26 November
President Frederik de Klerk announces that full multi-racial elections will be held in April 1994.

In conclusion, thank goodness for newspapers… while the Internet is my #1 source for news, there’s still a need to read something on the metro (tube/subway/train!). I will spare you what happened in history on November 29, but if you are desperate, here is the History Channel’s version.

WWII Hellship Memorial – Philippines

This is a photo of the Hellship Memorial that has just been inaugurated in Olongapo Bay, Philippines, in honor of the many thousands of victims of the infamous Hellships. My grandfather, Lt N Minter Dial, after whom I was named, died on one such ship, the unmarked Oryoku Maru, on Dec 15, 1944. Anyone thinking of going to visit the Philippines, there are many interesting historical sites to see, specifically concerning the WWII. Highly recommend visiting Corregidor and Bataan (scene of the Death March, note that this wikipedia article is currently being disputed for its lack of neutrality). And, for the courageous, go to the west side of the Bataan peninsula and you will find this memorial pictured above! If you are interested, there are several sites dedicated to this story, including the ADBC, scrap book.

And, I’d especially invite a look at the Google Earth shot of the sinking of the Oryoku.

Russia’s History Revision

There is surely a lot that can be said about American history books, so right off the cuff, I want to suggest that ‘our’ kitchen may not be clean. However, when you combine Putin’s call for greater patriotism and national pride, the recent psychiatric ‘hospitalization’ of the outspoken journalist Larissa Arap, along with the apparent and accelerating revision of modern day Russian history books, it does not make me breathe easily about Russia. The Figaro’s headlining article, 2 August 2007, entitled “Moscou réhabilite l’ère soviétique” is either an example of European media playing the role of scare monger (to help justify an increase French military budgets?) or is just plain scary. That there are positive things to say about Russia’s role, under Stalin, against the Germans in the WWII, there is no doubt. But, anything suggesting that Stalin himself be rehabilitated is an outrage. The inside article on page 2 refers to the banning of Professor Doloutski’s history books which refer to the liberal politician Iavlinski or worse yet the “shameful war with the Chechnya”. While I can understand the need to be proud, the need for freedom of press and intellectual criticism is vital — a lesson the US must heed as well. It would seem that the liberals and intellectuals in Russia are sending clear warning signals.

The Figaro article suggests that Putin is trying to increase his legitimacy by invoking a positive picture of the USSR Communist era. In light of the many changes happening in geo-politics, Putin’s actions speak of a move away from the West. To what extent the West continues to let Putin act freely will surely have a major influence on the outcome of the Middle Eastern imbroglio.

For posterity’s sake

If you have ever thought of leaving some current day objects in a time capsule for discovery in the future, chances are that you underestimated nature. The story of this 1957 time capsule — including a car and various everyday items of the time — show that even 50 years is a long time. Oklahoma Time Capsule. Of course, when one sees remains of 100+ year old boats recovered from the seabed — two wonderful relatively recent examples of which are the Vasa in Stockholm and the CSS Hunley submarine in Charleston — one does have more hope. But, plan for extra sediment as that seems to be best antidote against time. As for us mere mortals, don’t forget to try a mud bath or, for the more rambunctious, play the super muddy “Swamp” Football. [You’ll have to wait another year to sign up for the UK championships]

Lecture at Yale: “Containment: Rebuilding a Strategy against Global Terror”

I managed to make it to a couple of lectures during my 20th Reunion Weekend at Yale. The standout lecture was from Professor Ian Shapiro, Sterling Professor of Political Science and Henry R. Luce Director of the Whitney and Betty MacMillan Center for International and Area Studies at Yale. The title of the lecture is also the title of his recent book, available at Amazon (among other places). The general gist of his 45 minute speech, delivered I might add with precision and wit, was to propose a revised version of George Kennan’s Containment Strategy in the Global fight against Terrorism. There were several parts to his lecture that struck me.

– As in Kennan’s strategy, it is important to win the hearts and minds of countries such as Iraq, Afghanistan & Iran by demonstrating the success of democratic capitalism. The most important country to “seduce” is Iran. And it is true, the media has generally helped to distort the image that the West has of Iran – obscuring the beautiful land & music, exceptional fruit, enormous history & culture…not to mention the increasing population of women activists and a more enlightened youth. Since President Ahmadinejad‘s party lost ground in the last local elections, hopefully, this is a harbinger of things to come for Iran to move to a more secular, more democratic, more liberal state. While we should positively figure out how to win the hearts & souls of the local population, I note that the Iranian diaspora seems to be doing a better job of the reverse (winning our [or at least my] heart & soul). I have frequently received disarmingly beautiful slide shows of Iran via emails. Iranians in their country need to know that we are also good people and be able to see beyond the politics just as we Westerners must look beyond President Ahmadinejad. There is much work to be done on this count: maybe we should create an online community of West meets {middle] East to share virtual home-made apple pie?

– As Kennan said about Communism not being sustainable because it could not create viable economic prosperity, the same is true of Islamic fundamentalism (long term). No argument there if you consider that the oil supply will eventually run out and/or conversely the price of oil will finally oblige the West (and East) to find alternative (and hopefully) less polluting sources.

-Shapiro’s two adjustments to the Kennan Containment strategy are (1) to fight the war on terrorism only via international legitimacy (recognize the imprimatur of the United Nations, ironically an institution to which Kennan was opposed); and (2) to create international regional alliances of a NATO-like character. Specifically, Shapiro would like to see a Syria/Iran alliance crafted around common interests (getting rid of the Taleban, territorial integrity of Iraq and keeping the peace [there has been no attack by Iran since the 18th century]).

-Shapiro refers to the need to create a strategic opening AND containment between US, Iraq and Iran, much like we saw in the Cold War between US/China/Russia.

-Shapiro talked about the current situation in Libya as being proof of the success of containment: recognition of involvement in and compensation to the Lockerbie victims, giving up of the Libyan nuclear program, curbing terrorism, etc. And, for my understanding, that does seem to be a victory. The picture (to the right of Blair with Gaddafi) tells a thousand words and shows who “won” and might have felt “vanquished”. This meeting took place in the Sahara Desert on May 31, 2007 – potentially a win that Blair would like to own in his legacy.

The best quote of Shapiro’s lecture: “The Bush Doctrine is the Monroe Doctrine on crack.” The Bush Doctrine establishes that nowhere is off limits in this war on Terror. We are no longer operating in spheres of influence. What is scariest of the Bush Doctrine is the acceptance that the war on Terrorism is an infinite war as no armistice will ever be reachable, since there is no representative able to sign the “other side’s” peace agreement.

And, while Shapiro was critical of President GW Bush (Doctrine) as well as the Democrats (no well articulated alternative policy), in the end of the day, whomever is the next US President will need to find and construct a new path and avoid giving a greater “common cause” behind which to rally Islamic Fundamentalists across the region. And it is hard not to want to find a way to render the war finite.

Finally, I cite this TigerHawk blog for widening the discussion with our brethren from Princeton.