Vietnam Veterans Memorial
The Vietnam Veterans Memorial stands as a symbol of America's honor and recognition of the men and women who served
and sacrificed their lives in the Vietnam War. Inscribed on the black granite walls are the names of more than 58,000 men
and women who gave their lives or remain missing. Yet the Memorial itself is dedicated to honor the "courage, sacrifice and
devotion to duty and country" of all who answered the call to serve during the longest war.
The Vietnam Veteran's Memorial Fund, Inc. is the 501 (c)(3) nonprofit organization authorized
by Congress in 1980 to fund and build the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. Incorporated on April 27, 1979 by
a group of veterans led by Jan C. Scruggs, who was wounded and decorated for service in Vietnam, the organization sought a
tangible symbol of recognition from the American people for those who served in the war.
By separating the issue of individuals serving in the military during the Vietnam era and U.S.
policy carried out there, the Memorial Fund hoped to begin a process of national reconciliation. Two members of the U.S. Senate,
Charles Mathias (R-MD) and John Warner (R-VA), took the lead in Congress to enact legislation providing three acres in the
northwest corner of the National Mall as a site for the Memorial.
More than twenty-five years after its dedication, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial remains one of
the most visited memorials in the nation's capital with nearly 4 million visitors annually.
The inscription on Panel 1 East of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial reads:
IN HONOR OF THE MEN AND WOMEN OF THE ARMED FORCES OF THE UNITED STATES WHO SERVED
IN THE VIETNAM WAR. THE NAMES OF THOSE WHO GAVE THEIR LIVES AND OF THOSE WHO REMAIN MISSING ARE INSCRIBED IN THE ORDER THEY
WERE TAKEN FROM US.
The inscription on Panel 1 West of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial reads:
OUR NATION HONORS THE COURAGE, SACRIFICE, AND DEVOTION TO DUTY AND COUNTRY OF
ITS VIETNAM VETERANS. THIS MEMORIAL WAS BUILT WITH PRIVATE CONTRIBUTIONS FROM THE AMERICAN PEOPLE. NOVEMBER 11, 1982.
Each of the walls is 246-feet, 8-inches long. They meet at an angle of 125 degrees, 12 minutes,
pointing exactly to the northeast corners of the Washington Monument and Lincoln Memorial. The walls are supported along their
entire length by 140 concrete pilings driven approximately 35 feet to bedrock.
At their vertex, the walls are 10-feet and 1 1/2-inches in height. The stone for the
walls, safety curbs and walkways is black granite quarried near Bangalore, India. All cutting and fabrication was done in
Barre, Vermont. The variations in color and texture are a result of different finishing techniques, i.e., polishing, honing,
and flame treating.
The Memorial Wall, designed by Maya Ying Lin, is made up of two black granite walls 246 feet 9 inches (75 m) long. The walls are sunk into the ground, with
the earth behind them. At the highest tip (the apex where they meet), they are 10.1 feet (3 m) high, and they taper
to a height of eight inches (20 cm) at their extremities. Granite for the wall came from Bangalore, Karnataka, India, and was deliberately chosen because of its reflective quality. Stone cutting and fabrication
was done in Barre, Vermont. Stones were then shipped to Memphis, Tennessee where the names were etched. The etching was completed using a photoemulsion and sandblasting process developed at GlassCraft by their research and development division (now known as Glassical,
Inc.). The negatives used in the process are in storage at the Smithsonian Institution. When a visitor looks upon the wall, his or her reflection can be seen simultaneously with
the engraved names, which is meant to symbolically bring the past and present together. One wall points toward the Washington Monument, the other in the direction of the Lincoln Memorial, meeting at an angle of 125° 12′. Each wall has 72 panels, 70 listing names (numbered
1E through 70E and 70W through 1W) and 2 very small blank panels at the extremities. There is a pathway along the base of
the Wall, where visitors may walk, read the names, make a pencil rubbing of a particular name, or pray. Some people leave
sentimental items there for their deceased loved ones, and non-perishable items are stored at the Museum and Archaeological
Regional Storage Facility, with the exception of miniature American flags.
Inscribed on the walls with the Optima typeface are the names of servicemen who were either confirmed to be KIA (Killed in Action) or remained
classified as MIA (Missing in Action) when the walls were constructed in 1982. They are listed in chronological order, starting
at the apex on panel 1E in 1959 (although it was later discovered that the first casualties were military advisers who were
killed by artillery fire in 1957), moving day by day to the end of the eastern wall at panel 70E, which ends on May 25, 1968,
starting again at panel 70W at the end of the western wall which completes the list for May 25, 1968, and returning to the
apex at panel 1W in 1975. Symbolically, this is described as a "wound that is closed and healing." Information about rank,
unit, and decorations are not given. The wall listed 58,159 names when it was completed in 1993; as of May 2007 there are
58,256 names, including 8 women. Approximately 1,200 of these are listed as missing (MIAs, POWs, and others), denoted with a cross; the confirmed dead are marked with a diamond. If the missing
return alive, the cross is circumscribed by a circle (although this has never occurred as of March 2009; if their death is confirmed,
a diamond is superimposed over the cross. According to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund, "there is no definitive answer
to exactly how many, but there could be as many as 38 names of personnel who survived, but through clerical errors, were added
to the list of fatalities provided by the Department of Defense. Directories are located on nearby podiums so that visitors
may locate specific names.
The Three Servicemen
The Three Servicemen statue is the result of the controversy surrounding Maya Ying Lin's design
of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Some veterans and their political supporters felt that The Wall was "a black gash of shame"
or a "giant tombstone." It was too abstract a design for others who wanted a more heroic, life-like depiction of a soldier.
To meet these concerns, it was decided that a traditional statue would be added as an integral part of the
Vietnam Veterans Memorial. The late Frederick Hart, who had won third place in the original competition, was selected to create
a suitable work of representational sculpture to be added to the Memorial site. The statue was unveiled in 1984, two years
after The Wall's completion.
Comprised of three men carrying infantry weapons, the statue grouping has been called both The Three Soldiers
and The Three Servicemen. The men are wearing Vietnam War era uniforms and could be from any branch of the U.S. military
at that time. Interpretations of the work vary widely. Some say the troops have the "thousand yard stare" of combat soldiers.
Others say the troops are on patrol and begin looking for their own names as they come upon the Memorial.
Hart's goal was to create a sculpture which was a moving evocation of the experience and service of the Vietnam
veteran. He described it as follows:
||"The portrayal of the figures is consistent with history. They wear the uniform and carry
the equipment of war; they are young. The contrast between the innocence of their youth and the weapons of war underscores
the poignancy of their sacrifice. There is about them the physical contact and sense of unity that bespeaks the bonds of love
and sacrifice that is the nature of men at war. And yet they are each alone. Their strength and their vulnerability are both
evident. Their true heroism lies in these bonds of loyalty in the face of their aloneness and their vulnerability."|
The lead soldier was modeled after a 21-year-old Marine who was stationed in the Washington, D.C. area in
1983. The soldier carrying the machine gun on his shoulder was modeled after a Cuban-American, and the African-American is
a composite of several young men who the sculptor used as models.
The bronze sculpture was placed in a grove of trees near the west entrance to The Wall. Despite the earlier
controversy, the statue today fittingly complements The Wall.
Nearby, a flag is flown 24 hours a day. At the base of the flag staff are the seals of the five branches
of military service, with the following inscription:
THIS FLAG REPRESENTS THE SERVICE RENDERED TO OUR COUNTRY BY THE VETERANS OF THE VIETNAM WAR. THE FLAG AFFIRMS
THE PRINCIPLES OF FREEDOM FOR WHICH THEY FOUGHT AND THEIR PRIDE IN HAVING SERVED UNDER DIFFICULT CIRCUMSTANCES.
Also part of the memorial is the Vietnam Women's memorial. It is located a short distance south of the Wall, north of
the Reflecting Pool. It was designed by Glenna Goodacre and dedicated on November 11, 1993, to the women of the United States who served in the Vietnam
War, most of whom were nurses. The woman looking up is named Hope, the woman praying is named Faith, and the woman tending
to a wounded soldier is named Charity.
The original winning entry of the Women's Memorial design contest was deemed unsuitable. Glenna Goodacre's entry received
an honorable mention in the contest and she was asked to submit a modified maquette (design model). Goodacre's original design for the Women's Memorial statue included a standing
figure of a nurse holding a Vietnamese baby, which although not intended as such, was deemed a political statement, and it
was asked that this be removed. She replaced them with a figure of a kneeling woman holding an empty helmet.
In Memory Memorial
A memorial plaque, authorized by Pub.L. 106-214, was dedicated on November 10, 2004, at the northeast corner of the plaza surrounding the Three
Soldiers statue to honor veterans who died after the war as a direct result of injuries suffered in Vietnam, but who fall
outside Department of Defense guidelines. The plaque is a carved block of black granite, 3 feet (0.91 m) by 2 feet
(0.61 m), inscribed "In memory of the men and women who served in the Vietnam War and later died as a result of their
service. We honor and remember their sacrifice."
Ruth Coder Fitzgerald, founder of The Vietnam War In Memory Memorial Plaque Project, worked for years and struggled against
opposition to have the In Memory Memorial Plaque completed. The organization was disbanded, but their web site is maintained by the Vietnam War Project
at Texas Tech University.
Mini memorial to Harry Edward Stephens (December 1967) at The Moving
Vietnam veteran John Devitt of Stockton, California, attended the 1982 dedication ceremonies of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.
Recognizing what he saw as the healing nature of the Wall, he vowed to make a transportable version of the Wall, a "Traveling
Wall" so those who were not able to travel to Washington, D.C. would be able to see and touch the names of friends or loved
ones in their own home town.
Using personal finances, John founded Vietnam Combat Veterans, Ltd. With the help of friends, the half-size replica of
the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, named The Moving Wall, was built and first put on display to the public in Tyler, Texas, in 1984.
The Moving Wall visits hundreds of small towns and cities throughout the U.S., staying five or six days at
each site. Local arrangements for each visit are made months in advance by veterans organizations and other civic groups.
Thousands of people all over the US volunteered their time and money to help honor the fallen.
Desire for a hometown visit of The Moving Wall was so high the waiting list became long. In 1987, Vietnam Combat Veterans
built a second structure of The Moving Wall. A third structure was added in 1989. In 2001, one of the structures was retired
due to wear.
By 2006, there had been more than 1000 hometown visits of The Moving Wall. The count of people who visited The Moving
Wall at each display ranges from 5,000 to more than 50,000; the total estimate of visitors is in the tens of millions.
As the wall moves from town to town on interstates, it is often escorted by state troopers and up to thousands of local citizens on motorcycles. Many of these are Patriot Guard Riders, who consider escorting The Moving Wall to be a "special mission", which is coordinated on
their website. As it passes towns, even when it is not planning a stop in those towns, local veterans organizations sometimes
plan for local citizens to gather by the highway and across overpasses to wave flags and salute the Wall
The Wall That Heals
The Wall That Heals is a traveling half-scale replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial started in 1996 by the Vietnam Veterans Memorial
Fund. It also features a Traveling Museum and Information Center.
On Veterans Day 1996, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund unveiled a half-scale replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial
in Washington, D.C., designed to travel to communities throughout the United States.
"Bringing The Wall Home" to communities throughout our country allows the souls enshrined on the Memorial to
exist, once more, among family and friends in the peace and comfort of familiar surroundings. The traveling exhibit, known
as The Wall That Heals, allows the many thousands of veterans who have been unable to cope with the prospect of "facing
The Wall" to find the strength and courage to do so within their own communities, thus allowing the healing process to begin.
The Wall That Heals also features a Traveling Museum and Information Center providing a comprehensive educational
component to enrich and complete visitors' experiences. The Museum chronicles the Vietnam War era and the unique healing power
of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, while the Information Center serves as a venue for people to learn about friends and loved
ones lost in the war.
Since its dedication, The Wall That Heals has visited more than 300 cities and towns throughout the nation,
spreading the Memorial's healing legacy to millions. In addition to its U.S. tour stops, the exhibition made its first-ever
international journey in April 1999 to the Four Provinces of Ireland to honor the Irish-born casualties of the Vietnam War
and the Irish-Americans who served. It has also traveled to Canada.