The Eternal Flame is a memorial marker near the grave of the former president. Designed by Kennedy family friend John Carl Warnecke, the permanent grave site replaced the transitory grave and flame utilized during the November 25, 1963 funeral of President Kennedy. The new marker was consecrated on March 15, 1967 and opened to the general public.
After the assassination on November 22, 1963, there was widespread public speculation that President Kennedy would be interred in Brookline, Massachusetts near the grave of his infant son. In March 1963, Mr. Warnecke and President Kennedy visited the cemetery. At that time, the President mentioned that he liked the peaceful setting. Defense Secretary Robert McNamara recommended that First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy consider Arlington National Cemetery. The First Lady agreed and requested that the grave be marked by an eternal flame. It’s believed that she was inspired by a similar flame located at the Arc de Triomphe in Paris that honors those interred in France’s Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
The flame is located at the top of the burial plot. The grounds have a flagstone pattern of reddish-gold, rough-hewn fieldstones that were quarried on Cape Cod. The plot is surrounded by a plaza of white Vermont marble and is accessed by approaches made of Maine granite. More than 50,000 people visit the grave site and flame each day.