TIME has published an interactive map to help readers understand and explore the jumbled, confusing, and sometimes-contradictory burial paperwork that lurks behind the scandal at Arlington National Cemetery.
Some background facts on understanding the scandal at Arlington:
- Paperwork is the problem. While most cemeteries of similar size computerized burial records years ago, Arlington still tries to keep track of 30 burials a day and the identities of remains in hundreds of thousands of existing graves with a blizzard of paper burial records and paper cemetery maps.
- TIME’s satellite map portrays one “section” of the cemetery, section 64, a typical active section of the cemetery. A section typically contains around 5,000 graves. There are 70 sections at the cemetery total.
- The confusing paperwork shown here provides examples of the problems with documents related to graves in section 64, but not all the issues in the section.
- Samples of paperwork from across the cemetery shows the same kinds of discrepancies range across the cemetery.
- While similar paperwork discrepancies have been linked to real burial errors at Arlington, these particular errors do not necessarily mean that headstones and remains do not match in these cases. We don’t have a shovel.
It has been nearly one year since the Army admitted to problems at Arlington, and the Army still has not described to the public the kinds of problems that are common at Arlington, or provided military families with any idea how widespread those problems might be. The Army has also failed to publicly articulate the plans for fixing each kind of error, or announced the kinds of circumstances when the Army will alert families of potential problems. Contacted by TIME about a paperwork discrepancy involving the grave of Navy Lt. Commander James Hitchcock, his widow, Betty Hitchcock exclaimed, “I had no idea I should be concerned.”
In this vacuum, TIME has endeavored to explore these issues, first in an article, and now with this interactive map.