One of the most hallowed burial grounds in this country became a little less hallowed earlier this month — Willis Cato, a notorious racist, neo-Nazi and anti-Semite was interned in Arlington National Cemetery, four months after his death at 89.
Because he served in the U.S. Army in World War II, earning a Purple Heart in the Philippines, Cato qualified to be buried in the main military cemetery of the United States. He was an outspoken critic of Israel and “Zionist” supporters in this country, and was founder of the now-defunct anti-Semitic Liberty Lobby organization and of the Holocaust revisionist Institute for Historical Review, and publisher of English language editions of Adolf Hitler’s “Mein Kampf.” Cato was also a supporter of efforts to oppose civil rights legislation and to “repatriate” blacks “back to Africa.”
An open admirer of The Third Reich, Cato was quoted as saying, “Hitler’s defeat was the defeat of Europe. And of America.”
The Anti-Defamation League called Cato “one of the most influential anti-Semitic propagandists of the past 50 years.”
Cato’s burial in Arlington (the reason for his delayed interment is unclear) calls into question the eligibility requirements of the venerated site where some 400,000 men and women (among them, some 2,000 Jews) who fell in their nation’s service are buried.
Todd Blodgett, who had spied on Cato for the FBI, said Cato wanted to be buried in Arlington National Cemetery as a last act of contempt for the U.S., according to the Huffington Post, which last week revealed the burial details.
“An absolute outrage,” said Rabbi Marvin Hier, dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center. He said the Center is investigating whether it is possible to have Cato’s remains buried somewhere else.
Any soldier wounded or killed in uniform for the U.S., with an honorable discharge, can be buried in the cemetery. The cemetery does “not determine burial eligibility based on political views,” the cemetery, which did not respond to a request for comment by this newspaper, said in a statement. “However, we do prohibit interment or memorialization of persons committing Federal or State capital crimes.”
John Raughter, a spokesman for the American Legion, said that while the veterans’ organization would not oppose Cato’s interment in Arlington because it “does not vet the views of those laid to rest” there, “you can rest assured that The American Legion believes that the Holocaust happened — many of our WWII members personally liberated the camps.”
U.S. history offers a precedent of another member of the American military whose life was a betrayal of the principles on which this country was founded — Benedict Arnold is buried in London.