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Neil Hanson: Unknown Soldiers: The Story of the Missing of the First World War

From the author of The Confident Hope of a Miracle ("Hanson writes with sweep, confidence, and great verve"-The Washington Post), an unflinching account of the reality of battle on the front lines of World War I, and of the monuments that are part of the war's sobering legacy.

Approximately three million soldiers killed in World War I were never identified. In tribute, each participating nation, beginning with Britain, laid one body to rest in a Tomb for the Unknown Soldier. At Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia, Whitehall in London, and the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, the grave became a symbol of all those lost without a trace.

Now Neil Hanson revisits the story of the missing dead of the Great War by focusing on three soldiers-English, German, and American-and tracing their battlefield experiences through their diaries and letters. Hanson describes how each man weathered the nearly unbearable conditions in the trenches and relates what little is known about their deaths: each died on the battlefields of the Somme, perhaps within gunshot range of the others, their bodies unrecovered. Hanson traces the initial idea for the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier to an unassuming English chaplain, and shows how it spread across Europe and the United States to become the time-honored way in which we mourn and honor all those who die in war.