Riverside National Cemetery

Riverside National Cemetery (RNC) is a cemetery located in Riverside, California, dedicated to the interment of United States military personnel. The cemetery covers 1,250 acres (510 ha), making it the largest cemetery managed by the National Cemetery Administration. It has been the most active cemetery in the system since 2000, based on the number of interments.

Riverside National Cemetery
Riverside National Cemetery Entrance
CountryUnited States
Coordinates33°52′39″N 117°16′26″W[1]
Owned byDepartment of Veterans Affairs
Size921 acres (373 ha)
No. of graves228,000
(As of 2014)
WebsiteOfficial Site
Veterans Department Grave Locator
Find a GraveRiverside National Cemetery
The Political GraveyardRiverside National Cemetery


RNC was established in 1976 through the transfer of 740 acres (300 ha) from March Air Force Base, a section that during World War II was called Camp Haan.[2] The site was selected in 1976 to provide full burial options for Southern California veterans and their families by President Ford’s Commission for National Cemeteries and Monuments. An additional 181 acres (73 ha) was transferred by the U.S. Air Force in 2003.

With 15 Medal of Honor recipients in attendance and the Marine Corps’ greatest fighter ace Joe Foss as featured speaker, RNC was dedicated and opened for burials Veterans Day, November 11, 1978. RNC’s first burial was Army Staff Sgt. Ysmael Villegas, who was awarded the Medal of Honor for bravery at the cost of his own life at Villa Verde Trail on the island of Luzon in the Philippines, March 20, 1945. Following the war he was buried at Olivewood Cemetery in Riverside.[3] Prior to the opening of RNC, the Veterans Administration asked the Villegas family if he could be honored by re-burial in the new National Cemetery.

The dramatic, meandering landscape features a central boulevard with memorial circles, lakes, indigenous-styled committal shelters, and a memorial amphitheater.

Military funeral honors are provided for eligible veterans by military honor guards from each branch of service, by the California National Guard, and by several volunteer teams collectively known as the Memorial Honor Detail or MHD upon request of family members through their funeral home.

Monuments and Memorials

Riverside National Cemetery is home of the Medal of Honor Memorial, one of four sites in the United States recognized by the U.S. Congress as a National Medal of Honor Memorial Site. The Medal of Honor Memorial, whose walls feature the names of all medal recipients, is located at the third traffic circle in the cemetery. It was dedicated at a ceremony attended by 85 Medal of Honor recipients November 5, 1999.

The statue "Veterans Memorial", created by Colorado sculptor A. Thomas Schomberg, in commemoration of the veterans, their comrades, their personal and emotional sacrifices and to acknowledge those Americans who have lost loved ones in the service of their country. The statue consists of a 12-foot pedestal, on top of which lies the lifeless body of a soldier partially covered with a poncho that hides the face. The unidentified soldier whether a man or woman, private or officer, will forever remain in silent tribute to every American who has given his or her life in combat. The statue was donated to the Riverside National Cemetery by Thomas F. and Judy Kane and was dedicated May 28, 2000.

The Prisoner of War/Missing in Action Memorial was designated a National Memorial by the U.S. Congress on December 10, 2004[4] and dedicated September 16, 2005. A bronze statue, sculpted by Vietnam veteran Lewis Lee Millett, Jr. is the image of an American serviceman on his knees and bound by his captors. The statue is surrounded by black marble pillars, representing imprisonment.

Notable interments

Medal of Honor recipients

  • Staff Sergeant Ysmael R. Villegas (1921–1945), (World War II) U.S. Army, Company F, 127th Infantry, 32nd Infantry Division. Villa Verde Trail, Luzon, Philippine Islands, March 20, 1945 – Section 5, Site 1178.
  • Commander (then Pharmacist's Mate First Class) John H. Balch (1896–1980), (World War I), U.S. Navy, 6th Regiment, U.S. Marines. Vierzy & Somme-Py, France, July 19, 1918 and October 5, 1918 – Section 2, Site 1925.
  • Colonel (then Platoon Sergeant) Mitchell Paige (1918–2003), (World War II and Korea) U.S. Marine Corps, 1st Marine Division, Solomon Islands, October 26, 1942 – Section 20A, Site 533.
  • Colonel Lewis Millett (1920–2009), (WW II, Korea, Vietnam) U.S. Army, February 7, 1951 – Section 2, Site 1910.
  • 2d Lieutenant (then Staff Sergeant) Walter D. Ehlers (1921–2014), (World War II) U.S. Army, June 9-10, 1944 – Section 20A, Site 644.

Distinguished Service Cross recipient

  • Adelbert Waldron (1933–1995). U.S. Army Vietnam War sniper, credited with the highest number of confirmed kills in the war with 109. A two-time recipient of the Distinguished Service Cross in 1969 – Section AB, Row B, Site 37.

General officers

  • John Groff (1890–1990). Brigadier General, USMC, and centenarian; recipient of the Navy Cross and Distinguished Service Cross – Section 8, Site 1261.
  • Alexander Kreiser (1901–1993). Brigadier General, USMC – Section 13A, Site 451
  • Chesley G. Peterson (1920–1990). Major General, USAF – Section 20B, Site 44.
  • George Kenneth Muellner (1943-2019). Lieutenant General, USAF - Section 54A, Site 1532 [5]

Tuskegee Airmen

Several members of the legendary Tuskegee Airmen, America’s first aviators of African descent, who trained at Alabama’s Tuskegee University and flew for the United States Army Air Force, are buried at Riverside National Cemetery.

  • 1st Lt. John L. Hamilton, USAAF (1919–1982) – Section 6, Site 270.
  • 1st Lt. Kenneth R. Hawkins, USAAF (1918–2003) – Section 57A, Site 2204.
  • Major Charles F. Jamerson, USAF (1917–1996) – Section 56A, Site 668.
  • Master Sergeant Charles William Ledbetter, USAF (1922–2003) served during World War II, Korea and Vietnam Wars – Section 26, Site 1426.
  • 1st Lt. Perry Willis Lindsey, USAF (1922–2004) served during World War II and Korean War – Section 63A, Site 768.
  • Chief Warrant Officer John Allen Pulliams Jr., USAF (1919–2002) served during World War II, Korean and Vietnam Wars – Section 47, Site 1603.
  • Captain Hackley E. Woodford, M.D., US Army (1914–2005) served during World War II – Section 49A, Site 1149.


  • Robert Karvelas (1921–1991). Actor – Section 42, Site 1258.
  • Lillian Kinkella Keil (1916–2005). Captain, U.S. Air Force. Flight Nurse pioneer. She flew on 425 combat missions and took part in 11 major campaigns during World War II and the Korea War – Section 20A, Site 1235.
  • Dick Knight (1929–1991). Professional golfer – Section 43, Site 574.
  • Frank John Lubin (1910–1999). Olympic Athlete. Captain of the gold medal winning 1936 Summer Olympics basketball team. Later introduced the sport to Lithuania, where he is considered the father of Lithuanian basketball – Section 50, Site 5241.
  • Tyler MacDuff (1925–2007). U.S. Navy, WWII. Film and television actor in film and television – Section 62D, Site 90[8]
  • Raymond McKee (1892–1983). Actor, buried with his wife, actress Marguerite Courtot – Section 12A, Site 1766.
  • Patsy Montana (1908–1996). American country music singer – Section AC, Row F, Site 29.
  • Joe Morris, Sr. (1926–2011). World War II United States Marine Corps veteran and Navajo code talker – Section 52A, Site 2818.
  • Sydney Omarr (1926–2003). Astrologer – Section 57A, Site 1904.
  • Earl Palmer (1924–2008). Rock & roll and rhythm & blues drummer – Section 61, Site 2256.
  • Jim Pash (1948–2005). Musician and recording artist – Section 49B, Site 4891.
  • Thelma Pressman (1921–2010). Food writer – Section 49A, Site 1080.
  • Jeff Richards (1924–1989). Minor league baseball player and actor – Section 41, Site 1775.
  • Les Richter (1930–2010). American football player and president of the Riverside International Raceway – Section 62C, Site 345.
  • Ned Romero (1926–2017). Actor; World War II United States Army corporal – Section CG, Row E, Site 74.
  • Ross Russell (1909–2000). Jazz producer and author, founder of Dial Records – Section 56C, Site 399.
  • Bert Shepard (1920–2008). USAAF pilot who was shot down, suffered an amputated leg, and then pitched and coached with the Washington Senators – Section BC, Row D, Site 377.
  • Curtis Howe Springer (1896–1985). Radio evangelist and self-proclaimed medicine man – Section 14, Site 497.
  • Woodrow "Woody" Strode (1914–1994). Professional football player and title role actor in the 1960 John Ford movie Sergeant Rutledge – Section 46, Site 283.
  • Felice Taylor (1944–2017). 1960s soul and pop singer.[9]
  • Nathaniel Taylor (1938–2019). Actor – Section 59G, Site 939.
  • Paul Toth (1935–1999). Major League Baseball pitcher – Section 41, Site 954.
  • Ed Townsend (1929–2003). Songwriter – Section BA, Row C, Site 213.
  • Lorenzo Tucker (1907–1986). Stage and screen actor, known as the "Black Valentino" – Section 19, Site 2661.
  • Aurel Toma (1911–1980). Romanian boxing champion – Section 2, Site 1433.
  • William "Bill" Walker (1896–1992). Film and television actor. Buried with wife, actress Peggy Cartwright – Section 32, Site 631.
  • Jerry Wallace (1927–2008). American country and pop singer – Section 61, Site 13.
  • Michael Waltman (1946–2011). Film and television actor. Vietnam War veteran and Purple Heart recipient – Section 52A, Site 758[10]
  • Noble Willingham, (1931–2004). Television and film actor – Section BA, Row C, Site 124.
  • Michael Winkelman (1946–1999). Actor. U.S. Navy veteran, Vietnam – Section 50, Site 4304.[11]
  • Ellsworth Wisecarver (1929–2005). Known as the "Woo Woo Kid" – Section BB, Row B, Site 80.
  • Skip Young (1930–1993). Actor. U.S. Navy veteran, Navy – Section 13A, Site 332.
  • Benny Zientara (1918–1985). Major League Baseball infielder – Section 20A, Site 2009.


  1. U.S. Geological Survey Geographic Names Information System: Riverside National Cemetery
  2. See: U.S. Geological Survey Geographic Names Information System: Camp Haan (historical). Named after General William George Haan, Camp Haan was used as a WWII training base for coast artillery and anti-aircraft and also housed a prisoner-of-war camp. See: Riverside Public Library: Sharon Anthony Camp Haan Papers
  3. "Riverside National Cemetery: "Veterans Day Marks Cemetery's 35th Anniversary". October 25, 2013" (PDF). Veteranservices.co.riverside.ca.us. Retrieved 25 August 2018.
  4. "Public Law 108–454". US House of Representatives.
  5. National Cemetery Administration
  6. "Ex-Marine Lena Basilone dies". Long Beach Press-Telegram. June 16, 1999.
  7. "Department of Veterans Affairs, National Cemetery Administration, Nationwide Gravesite Locator". April 17, 2019.
  8. "Tyler MacDuff, April 22, 2008". Listsearches.rootsweb.com. Retrieved January 9, 2010.
  9. Riverside National Cemetery at Find a Grave
  10. "Michael Waltman, Active Actor, Vietnam Veteran". Palisadian-Post. 2011-05-13. Retrieved 2011-05-14.
  11. Michael L. Winkelman at Find a Grave

Further reading

  • Churchill, Marlowe J.; Rosema, Carrie (photographer) (2010). The Riverside National Cemetery Story: A Field of Warriors. Virginia Beach, Virginia: The Donning Company. p. 112. ISBN 978-1-57864-588-6. LCCN 2009037803. OCLC 437115705. LCC F869.R6 C48 2010
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