How to Use a Rifle for a Grave Marker During WWII

Written by jeanne donnelly
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The custom of using a rifle, boots, helmet and bayonet to mark a grave began during the Civil War. During the war, a soldier had to be buried where he lay, and it was up to his comrades to dig the grave. When a soldier died on the battlefield, the most convenient way to mark the grave was with the rifle and helmet. During World War II, this custom was used to mark the graves of fallen soldiers so the bodies could be recovered later. The rifle topped with the helmet has become known as the Battlefield Cross or Fallen Soldier's Cross.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy

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Things you need

  • Rifle
  • Boots
  • Helmet
  • Bayonet
  • Dog tags

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    Rife, Bayonet, Helmet and Boots

  1. 1

    Drive the rifle with the bayonet attached into the ground. This is seen as a symbol that the soldier went down fighting and willingly sacrificed his all for his country.

  2. 2

    Add the boots to the base of the rifle. Traditionally, boots were not added to the Battlefield Cross until later when they became a symbol of the soldier's final march.

  3. 3

    Place the helmet on top of the rifle. Doing this is thought of as the final goodbye.

  4. 4

    Wrap the dog tags around the rifle. This is considered optional. Dog tags are added to the Battlefield Cross so those coming to claim the body know who lies in the grave. This step is not always used when constructing the Battlefield Cross.

Tips and warnings

  • Prayers are often said as the helmet is put in place. Soldiers may leave other tokens of remembrance with the Battlefield Cross to remember their fallen comrade.
  • Leaving a working rifle behind on a battlefield during war is not always advisable.
  • After the battle, the bodies are located and shipped home for burial.

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