|Vietnam Veterans Memorial
|IUCN Category V (Protected Landscape/Seascape)|
|Location:||Washington, D.C., United States|
|Area:||2.00 acres (8,100 m²)|
|Established:||November 13, 1982|
|Visitation:||3,799,968 (in 2005)|
|Governing body:||National Park Service|
The Vietnam Veterans Memorial is a national war memorial in Washington, D.C. honoring members of the U.S. armed forces who fought in the Vietnam War and who died in service or are still unaccounted. The memorial was inspired by the 1971 establishment of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial State Park in Angel Fire, New Mexico, which was begun by the grief-stricken parents of Marine First Lieutenant David Westphall, who was among thirteen men in his unit killed in an ambush in Vietnam in 1968.
The main part of the memorial, which was completed in 1982, is located in Constitution Gardens adjacent to the National Mall, just northeast of the Lincoln Memorial. The memorial is maintained by the U.S. National Park Service, and receives around three million visitors each year. It was designed by U.S. architect Maya Lin.
The memorial consists of two low, black granite walls that meet to form a wide V shape. Engraved on the mirror-like surface are the names of the more than 58,000 U.S. dead and missing-in-action who served in the Vietnam War, listed by date of casualty. Initially protests arose around the memorial's non-traditional design, prompting the creation of a statue depicting three servicemen standing at the entrance to the site, overlooking the Wall. This was followed a decade later with a statue memorializing the women who served.
Since its dedication in 1982, the once-controversial Wall has become one of Washington, D.C.'s most visited tourist attractions. In 2007, the memorial was ranked tenth on the "List of America's Favorite Architecture" by the American Institute of Architects.
The Vietnam Conflict was a highly unpopular war, and returning soldiers received little welcome or acknowledgment of their services. While the Memorial honors those who did not return, it also offers an opportunity for healing of the wounds of a turbulent and confusing time in America's history.
The first major memorial to honor veterans of the Vietnam War was created in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains on the Enchanted Circle of northeastern New Mexico. It is the only state park dedicated exclusively to veterans of the Vietnam War. The memorial was begun by Victor and Jeanne Westphall, the grief-stricken parents of Marine First Lieutenant David Westphall, who was among thirteen young men in his unit killed in an ambush in 1968 in Vietnam. The Westphalls used their son’s insurance policies to begin construction of the Peace and Brotherhood Chapel, which is surrounded by white stone in a pyramid shape. The David Westphall Veterans Foundation has since supported the operation of the memorial, which was opened without charge to the public in 1971. At the time of its construction, the site received national media attention and helped to inspire the establishment of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., completed in 1982. In 1987, the United States Congress recognized Angel Fire as a memorial of national significance. The park hosts thousands of annual visitors, many moved emotionally by the sacrifice of the Vietnam veterans.
The Memorial Wall, designed by Maya Ying Lin, is made up of two black granite walls 246 feet 9 inches (75 meters) 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 (20cm) 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; at the beginning of 2009, there were 58,260 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; 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.
A short distance away from the wall is another Vietnam memorial, a bronze statue named The Three Soldiers. The grouping consists of three young men, armed and dressed appropriately for the Vietnam War era, purposely identifiable as Caucasian, African American, and Hispanic. It was designed to complement the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, by adding a more traditional component. The statue, unveiled on Veterans Day, 1984, was designed by Frederick Hart, who placed third in the original design competition. The statue and the Wall appear to interact with each other, with the soldiers looking on in solemn tribute at the names of their dead comrades. The distance between the two allows them to interact while minimizing the impact of the addition on Lin's design.
Approximately 11,000 American military women were stationed in Vietnam during the war. It is estimated that the total number of women who served throughout the world in a variety of occupations was 265,000. Close to ninety percent of those in Vietnam were nurses in the Army, Navy, and Air Force. Thousands of women served in Japan, Guam, the Philippines, Hawaii, and other stateside hospitals caring for the wounded and dying who had been stabilized and flown out of the war zone. Some were stationed aboard hospital ships stationed off the coast of South Vietnam. Others served as physicians, physical therapists, personnel in the Medical Service Corps, air traffic controllers, communications specialists, intelligence officers, and clerks. Nearly all of them volunteered. By 1967, nearly all military nurses who volunteered to go to Vietnam did so shortly after graduation, the youngest group of medical personnel ever to serve in war time.
To honor those women, the Vietnam Women's memorial statue was added to the memorial site eleven years after the erection of the main memorial. It is located a short distance south of the Wall, north of the Reflecting Pool. It depicts three uniformed women with a wounded soldier. 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 memorial was designed by Glenna Goodacre and dedicated on November 11, 1993.
A memorial plaque 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 Vietnam War was one of the longest and most controversial wars in United States history. A stated goal of the memorial fund was to avoid commentary on the war itself, serving solely as a memorial to those who served. Nevertheless, a large number of controversies have surrounded the memorial.
As depicted in a documentary about Maya Lin (Maya Lin: A Strong Clear Vision), reactions to the chosen memorial design were intensely mixed. At the time of the contest, Lin was a young student at Yale University. The wall was designed as a class project for a funerary design class.
The original winning entry of the Women's Memorial design contest was deemed unsuitable. Glenda Goodacre's entry received an honorable mention in the contest and she was asked to submit a modified 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.
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 United States, 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.
By 2006, there had been more than 1,000 hometown visits of The Moving Wall. The count of people who visited at each display ranges from 5,000 to more than 50,000; the total estimate of visitors is in the tens of millions.
All links retrieved January 20, 2016.
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