Massachusetts National Cemetery is located in Barnstable County on Cape Cod, approximately 65 miles southeast of Boston and adjacent to the Otis Air Force Base.
On June 18, 1973, Congress passed the National Cemetery Act which transferred 82 of the Army's national cemeteries to the Veteran's Administration (VA). The following year, the VA's National Cemetery System adopted the regional cemetery concept plan in which one large national cemetery would be built within each of the 10 standard federal regions, as established by the General Services Administration. A policy was also established that new cemeteries would only be created on land already owned by the federal government.
Twenty five years had passed since the government last acquired land for construction of a new national cemetery and that was in 1949 for the Willamette National Cemetery, in Oregon. No new national cemetery had been built in the New England region in nearly forty years, since 1936, when the Long Island National Cemetery opened.
During the mid-1970s, when the National Cemetery System was looking to expand, it determined that the largest veteran population in the northeast was centered in the Boston area. A search soon commenced to find a suitable site for a national cemetery, nearby. The difficult task of locating land which would be available to the government at no cost eventually led to the identification of a 749-acre tract on the 22,000-acre Otis Air Force Base as the most likely site. The base occupied land that was leased to the Department of Defense (DOD). A portion of this lease was terminated and the title for 749.29 acres was transferred to the VA\'s National Cemetery System in 1976. The Otis tract became the first parcel of land acquired by the National Cemetery System for the specific purpose of building a new national cemetery since 1949.
The Massachusetts National Cemetery was dedicated on October 11, 1980 and became the third new national cemetery to open in nearly 30 years. Calverton, New York, and Riverside, California, were the first and second, respectively. The site was officially named the Veterans Administration National Cemetery of Bourne, Mass., but over time the lengthy appellation changed in practice, if not in fact, to simply, Massachusetts National Cemetery.
Massachusetts National Cemetery has a memorial trail where, as of June 2013, 50 memorials placed in memory of veterans from World War I to the modern era.