Eternal flame for JFK moved temporarily
April 30th, 2013
11:54 AM ET
10 years ago

Eternal flame for JFK moved temporarily

Washington (CNN) – The eternal flame dedicated to John F. Kennedy at Arlington National Cemetery has been moved to a temporary location, according to a release from the cemetery.

This is only the second time a temporary burner has been used at the gravesite. The first occurred when Kennedy was laid to rest, 49 years ago on November 25, 1963, when a temporary burner was used until 1967.

The flame will continue to be eternal – by burning on the temporary burner – while the permanent burner is "undergoing significant upgrades to make the flame system more modern, energy efficient and easier to maintain," the press release announces.

The upgrades include new gas lines and an energy-efficient gas management system, as well as a new burner.

Kennedy became the fourth president assassinated when he was shot and killed in Dallas, Texas on November 22, 1963. His state funeral took place three days later on November 25.

Before the funeral, first lady Jacqueline Kennedy instructed the cemetery to "mark the president's grave with an eternal flame similar to that of the French Unknown Soldier in Paris."

According to the cemetery, the Washington Gas Company was given one day to design a propane-fed torch that could be lit during Kennedy's funeral. During the state funeral, the first lady and Robert Kennedy, the president's brother and Attorney General, lit the temporary eternal flame.

After the funeral, a permanent burner was designed.

"The burner is a specially designed apparatus created by the Institute of Gas Technology of Chicago," the cemetery says on their website. "A constantly flashing electric spark near the tip of the nozzle relights the gas should the flame be extinguished by rain, wind or accident. The fuel is natural gas and is mixed with a controlled quantity of air to achieve the color and shape of the flame."

The upgrades to the burner are expected to take three weeks, at which time the flame will be relit.

Filed under: John F. Kennedy
soundoff (20 Responses)
  1. Pete

    Take care of Pres.Kennedys eternal torch,its all we've got left of a great man..Republican presidents couldn't even amount to a pimple on his presidencial ass and he was as most known well respected and loved internationally..Kennedy was one in a million, someone republicans always wished they had!!

    April 30, 2013 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  2. w l jones

    If the Teaparty thought they got an old fashion WHI.... last election wait untile they run aganst MISS ...THEY r EALLY GOING TO GET iT.........

    April 30, 2013 12:43 pm at 12:43 pm |
  3. gatecrasher1

    When will the hot dog and marshmallow vendor reopen?

    April 30, 2013 12:43 pm at 12:43 pm |
  4. Josh

    While I support and believe JFK was a great president, I don't understand all the fuss over the flame.

    Its NOT the original flame that was started by Jacquelin. It has gone out numerous times over the years, and thus why it has a "constantly flashing electric spark near the tip of the nozzle relights the gas...". So, big deal if the flame is out for 3 weeks due to repairs? After the 3 weeks, just have the electric spark do its thing and once again, relight the flame.

    April 30, 2013 12:44 pm at 12:44 pm |
  5. Fair is Fair


    Take care of Pres.Kennedys eternal torch,its all we've got left of a great man..Republican presidents couldn't even amount to a pimple on his presidencial ass and he was as most known well respected and loved internationally..Kennedy was one in a million, someone republicans always wished they had!!
    Poor Pete doesn't really know is history very well.....

    April 30, 2013 12:45 pm at 12:45 pm |
  6. Fred

    I agree with Pete.

    April 30, 2013 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  7. YeahRight

    Why on Earth are we spending taxpayer money on this?!?! This is a senseless waste of money and natural resources that pollutes the environment and contributes to man-made global climate change.

    April 30, 2013 01:03 pm at 1:03 pm |
  8. Mikeman

    gatecrasher1: That's funny. I always thought it would be a hoot to whip out some dogs and begin roasting them on that that flame. Sadly, if you did that though, you'd probably end up doing more time in a federal prison than the Boston bomber will by the time it's all said and done.

    April 30, 2013 01:05 pm at 1:05 pm |
  9. kit8

    Sounds more like an eternal lighter than an eternal flame. No telling how many times the "eternal flame" went out and was reignited by the eternal lighter.

    April 30, 2013 01:05 pm at 1:05 pm |
  10. Jeff

    Having seen this up close, it's a very moving tribute I must say...

    April 30, 2013 01:05 pm at 1:05 pm |
  11. Jimmy

    Pete you are a tool. so blinded by partisianship that you soil the very memory of a great American to take a swipe at those who may have a different political view than yours. What makes this country great is that both sides exist and debate. Both have had their ups and downs. When you act as you just have you show just how un-American you have become. You really should sit back and think about how one dimensional you have become. America is much more than that. Kennedy was a great American, a visionary, who also had human flaws just like everyone else. This is about respecting his memory and not trashing the opposition.

    April 30, 2013 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
  12. DB

    I remember the PA come on in Junior High School telling us the President was shot. I remember the next three days of national and world morning for President Kennedy. After half a century we still do not know the real reasons or who killed him. Sure we had the short version of the Warren Report but do we really know what happened. There are those of us that believe what the Government feeds us, but are we really told the truth. Did you know that the real report is sealed under Executive Seal until all of Lyndon Johnsons Grand Childrens, grand children have expired? Read a book called "A Texan looks at Lyndon". He wanted to be President and he was going to be dumped on the Kennedy second run because he was a vulgar person and embarrassed the Kennedy Family. Form your own opinions and then ask yourself, do our leaders tell us the truth. As far as Kennedy goes, check history and see how close he took us to being Nuked in a war. Look at his broken promises to the Cubans to wanted to take back their country, look at all of what he did, not just the popular myths and beliefs. He was a man, not a god. As far as Lyndon goes, the man was a self serving egotistical power hungry POC that should never have been in office in the first place. The flame is a symbol of a broken President in a different time that people not alive then, do not understand today. That First Lady had class and poise, knew her bounds and did not discriminate against any race, person, or group.

    April 30, 2013 01:26 pm at 1:26 pm |
  13. MJW

    Fair is Fair is correct. Pete does not know his history well enough to be qualified to quote from it's annals. JFK was a great leader, but was more conservative than many know.

    April 30, 2013 01:29 pm at 1:29 pm |
  14. Tim C.

    I agree with Pete. Right on man! The bar's kind of sunk quite low in the last 50 years – on a # of levels, not to mention presidents.

    April 30, 2013 01:31 pm at 1:31 pm |
  15. longtooth

    JFK's assassination was one of the saddest days of my life. One by one, leaders who inspired courage, optimism, and the fight for freedom and dignity for all citizens were cut down in their prime. You know the list. The Dark Age of cynicism and greed began, and continues.

    April 30, 2013 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  16. LR

    In reply to all the haters who are slamming Republican Presidents and how they will never measure up to JFK. Well actually, there aren't any Democrat Presidents who can measure up either. Certainly not, Carter or Clinton or Obama. Oh and btw, Kennedy was a womanizer...that's a fact! We could use that to compare him to Clinton, I suppose:)

    I remember the day JFK was shot and it was a dark day for all Americans, regardless of political leanings.

    April 30, 2013 01:56 pm at 1:56 pm |
  17. bdgfn

    JFK was a great man. Flawed, to be sure, but great. At the time, an eternal flame seemed to be an excellent idea. However, I think it's time to revisit the issue. For one thing, natural gas does not have a limitless supply. We also know now that, however slightly, it is working to pollute the atmosphere. Let us remember the man, but let's do so in a better way.

    April 30, 2013 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  18. Joe the plumber

    JFK would be a Republican by todays standards

    April 30, 2013 02:03 pm at 2:03 pm |
  19. scarf

    A couple of weeks ago I hired some locals to trim brush at my house in the Sierras. They burned a HUGE pile of brush, which was still burning when I got home from work. Before I went to bed, I hosed down the embers for 5-10 minutes. The next morning, I could see that it was still smoldering. I hosed it down again for about 15 minutes, stirred it, and hosed it down for another 5 minutes. That evening when I came home, it was still smoldering, so I hosed it down, stirred it, and hosed it down again for about 15 minutes. That seemed to do the trick until the fifth day after the intial fire, when I saw a small tongue of flame flickering in the center of the ashes. I hosed it down again for about 10 minutes. At that point, with the federal government still discussing ways to cut spending and implement the sequester, I suggested to my wife that we suggest that JFK's grave be moved to our yard, since we already had an eternal flame burning and could save the governement the cost of the natural gas. She was not amused.

    April 30, 2013 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
  20. Willowspring

    The election of President Kennedy was the first one in which I voted. I voted for Kennedy and I was shocked beyond belief when he was assassinated. I think he really wanted to do good for our country, but some of his ideas resulted in his assassination. However his father "bought" his presidency and history has brought to light many of his personal failings as well as some of his policy errors, (for example, the bay of pigs). He and Jackie were a truly elegant couple, but they were both flawed human beings like all the rest of us. They just had the money to cover everything up. The eternal flame was a fitting tribute and should burn in perpetuity. If there is a point in our recent history that to me was pivotal, it was the Kennedy assassination.

    April 30, 2013 02:37 pm at 2:37 pm |