|Vietnam Veterans Memorial|
IUCN category V (protected landscape/seascape)
Visitors at the wall in January 2005.
|Location||Washington, D.C., United States|
|Area||2 acres (0.81 ha)|
|Established||November 13, 1982|
|Visitors||3,799,968 (in 2006)|
|Governing body||National Park Service|
|NRHP reference #||01000285|
|Added to NRHP||November 13, 1982|
The Vietnam Veterans Memorial is a 2-acre (8,000 m²) U.S. national memorial in Washington, D.C. It honors service members of the U.S. armed forces who fought in the Vietnam War, service members who died in service in Vietnam/South East Asia, and those service members who were unaccounted for (missing in action, MIA) during the war.
Its construction and related issues have been the source of controversies, some of which have resulted in additions to the memorial complex. The memorial currently consists of three separate parts: the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall, completed first and the best-known part of the memorial; the Three Servicemen Memorial, and the Vietnam Women's Memorial.
The main part of the memorial, which was completed in 1982, is 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 3 million visitors each year. The Memorial Wall was designed by American architect Maya Lin. In 2007, it was ranked tenth on the "List of America's Favorite Architecture" by the American Institute of Architects. As a National Memorial, it is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The Memorial Wall is made up of two 246-foot-9-inch (75.21 m) long gabbro walls, etched with the names of the servicemen being honored in 144 panels of horizontal rows with regular typeface and spacing. The walls are sunken into the ground, with the earth behind them. At the highest tip (the apex where they meet), they are 10.1 feet (3.1 m) high, and they taper to a height of 8 inches (200 mm) at their extremities. Symbolically, this is described as a "wound that is closed and healing". The stone for the 144 panels was quarried in Bangalore, India.
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 two very small blank panels at the extremities. There is a pathway along the base of the Wall where visitors may walk.
The wall originally listed 57,939 names when it was dedicated in 1982; but other names have since been added and as of May 2017 there were 58,318 names, including eight women. The number of names on the wall is different than the official number of U.S. Vietnam War deaths, which is 58,220. The names inscribed are not a complete list of those who are eligible for inclusion as some were omitted at the request of their families.
Directories containing all of the names are located on nearby podiums at both ends of the monument where visitors may locate specific names.
The memorial has had some unforeseen maintenance issues. In 1984 cracks were detected in the marble and, as a result, two of the panels were temporarily removed in 1986 for study. More cracks were discovered in 2010. There are many theories about the cause of the cracks, and one often forwarded is that thermal cycling is to blame. In 1990, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund purchased several blank panels to use in case any were ever destroyed. They placed them in storage at Quantico Marine Base. Two of the blank panels were shattered by the 2011 Virginia earthquake.
On the memorial are the names of service members classified as "declared dead" (as the memorial contains names of individuals that died of circumstances other than KIA (Killed in Action), including murder, jeep accidents, drowning, heart attack, tiger attack, snake bites, etc.)  and the names of those whose status is unknown, which typically means "missing in action" (MIA). The names are inscribed in Optima typeface. Information about rank, unit, and decorations is not given.
Those who are declared dead are denoted by a diamond, and those who are status unknown are denoted with a cross. When the death of one who was previously missing is confirmed, a diamond is superimposed over the cross. If the missing were to return alive, which has never occurred to date, the cross is to be circumscribed by a circle.
The earliest date of eligibility for a name to be included on the memorial is November 1, 1955, which corresponds to President Eisenhower deploying the Military Assistance Advisory Group to train the Army of the Republic of Vietnam. The last date of eligibility is May 15, 1975, which corresponds to the final day of the Mayaguez incident . There are circumstances that allow for a name to be added to the memorial, but the death must be directly attributed to a wound received within the combat zone while on active duty. In such cases, the determination is made by the Department of Defense. In these cases, the name is added according to the date of injury--not the date of death. The names are listed in chronological order, starting at the apex on panel 1E in July 8, 1959, moving day by day to the end of the eastern wall at panel 70E, which ended 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. There are some deaths that predate July 8, 1959 including the death of Richard B. Fitzgibbon Jr. in 1956.
The names of 32 men were erroneously included in the memorial, and while those names remain on the wall, they have been removed from the databases and printed directories. The extra names resulted from a deliberate decision to err on the side of inclusiveness, with 38 questionable names being included. One person, whose name was added as late as 1992, had gone AWOL immediately upon his return to the United States after his second completed tour of duty. His survival only came to the attention of government authorities in 1996. These survivor names could be removed if the panel their name is on is replaced in the future.
A short distance away from the wall is another Vietnam memorial, a bronze statue named The Three Servicemen (sometimes called The Three Soldiers). The statue depicts three soldiers, purposefully identifiable as European American, African American, and Hispanic American. In their final arrangement, the statue and the Wall appear to interact with each other, with the soldiers looking on in solemn tribute at the names of their fallen comrades. The distance between the two allows them to interact while minimizing the effect of the addition on Lin's design.
The Vietnam Women's Memorial is a memorial dedicated to the women of the United States who served in the Vietnam War, most of whom were nurses. It serves as a reminder of the importance of women in the conflict. It depicts three uniformed women with a wounded soldier. It is part of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, and is located on National Mall in Washington, D.C., a short distance south of The Wall, north of the Reflecting Pool.
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 by 2 feet (0.91 by 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.
Visitors to the Wall will take a piece of paper and place it over a name on the wall and rub wax crayon or graphite pencil over it as a memento of their loved ones. This is called "rubbing".
Visitors to the memorial began leaving sentimental items at the memorial at its opening. One story claims that this practice began during construction, when a Vietnam veteran threw the Purple Heart his brother received posthumously into the concrete of the memorial's foundation. Several thousand items are left at the memorial each year. The largest item left at the memorial was a sliding glass storm door with a full-size replica "tiger cage". The door was painted with a scene in Vietnam and the names of U.S. POWs and MIAs from the conflict. Other items left include a Harley-Davidson motorcycle with the license plate HERO, a plain brown teddy bear which was dressed by other unconnected visitors, a 6' abstract sculpture titled "After the Holocaust", and an experimental W. R. Case "jungle survival knife" of which only 144 were made.
On April 27, 1979, four years after the Fall of Saigon, The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund, Inc. (VVMF), was incorporated as a non-profit organization to establish a memorial to veterans of the Vietnam War. Much of the impetus behind the formation of the fund came from a wounded Vietnam veteran, Jan Scruggs, who was inspired by the film The Deer Hunter, with support from fellow Vietnam veterans such as retired Navy chaplain Arnold Resnicoff. Eventually, $8.4 million was raised by private donations.
A year later, a site near the Lincoln Memorial was chosen and authorized by Congress on the site of a demolished World War I Munitions Building. Congress announced that the winner of a design competition will design the park. By the end of the year 2,573 registered for the design competition with a prize of $20,000. On March 30, 1981, 1,421 designs were submitted. The designs were displayed at an airport hangar at Andrews Air Force Base for the selection committee, in rows covering more than 35,000 square feet (3,300 m2) of floor space. Each entry was identified by number only, to preserve the anonymity of their authors. All entries were examined by each juror; the entries were narrowed down to 232, then 39. Finally, the jury selected entry number 1026, designed by Maya Lin.
The selected design was very controversial, in particular its unconventional design, its black color and its lack of ornamentation. Some public officials voiced their displeasure, calling the wall "a black gash of shame." Two prominent early supporters of the project, H. Ross Perot and James Webb, withdrew their support once they saw the design. Said Webb, "I never in my wildest dreams imagined such a nihilistic slab of stone." James Watt, Secretary of the Interior under President Ronald Reagan, initially refused to issue a building permit for the memorial due to the public outcry about the design. Since its early years, criticism of the Memorial's design faded. In the words of Scruggs, "It has become something of a shrine."
Negative reactions to Maya Lin's design created a controversy; a compromise was reached by commissioning Frederick Hart (who had placed third in the original design competition) to produce a bronze figurative sculpture in the heroic tradition. Opponents of Lin's design had hoped to place this sculpture of three soldiers at the apex of the wall's two sides. Lin objected strenuously to this, arguing that this would make the soldiers the focal point of the memorial, and her wall a mere backdrop. A compromise was reached, and the sculpture was placed off to one side to minimize the impact of the addition on Lin's design. On October 13, 1982, the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts approved the erection of a flagpole to be grouped with sculptures.
On March 11, 1982, the revised design was formally approved, and on March 26, 1982, ground was formally broken. Stone for the wall came from Bangalore, Karnataka, India. It was chosen because of its reflective quality and also because of opposition to Swedish and Canadian stone, as those countries were destinations for draft evaders. Stone cutting and fabrication was done in Barre, Vermont. The typesetting of the original 57,939 names on the wall was performed by Datalantic in Atlanta, Georgia. Stones were then shipped to Memphis, Tennessee where the names were etched. The etching was completed using a photoemulsion and sandblasting process. The negatives used in the process are in storage at the Smithsonian Institution.
The memorial was dedicated on November 13, 1982, after a march to its site by thousands of Vietnam War veterans. About two years later the Three Soldiers statue was dedicated.
Since 1982, over 400 names have been added to the memorial, but not necessarily in chronological order. Some were men who died in Vietnam but were left off the list due to clerical errors. Others died after 1982, and their deaths were determined by the Department of Defense to be the direct result of their Vietnam service. For those who died during the war, their name is placed in a position that relates to their date of death. For those who died after the war, their name is placed in a position that relates to the date of their injury. Because space is usually not available in the exact right place, names are places as close to their correct chronological position as possible, but usually not in the exact spot. The order could be corrected as panels are replaced.
Furthermore, over 100 names have been identified as misspelled. In some cases, the correction could be done in place. In others, the name had to be chiseled again elsewhere, moving them out of chronological order. Others have remained in place, with the misspelling, at the request of their family.
The Women's Memorial was designed by Glenna Goodacre for the women of the United States who served in the Vietnam War. 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. On November 11, 1993, the Vietnam Women's Memorial was dedicated. There is a smaller replica of that memorial at Vietnam Veterans Memorial State Park in Angel Fire, New Mexico.
On November 10, 2000, a memorial plaque, authorized by Pub.L. 106-214, honoring veterans who died after the war as a direct result of injuries suffered in Vietnam, but who fall outside Department of Defense guidelines was dedicated. 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.
In 2003, after some years of lobbying, the National Park Service and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund won permission from Congress to build The Education Center at The Wall. This 37,000-square-foot (3,400 m2), two-story museum, located belowground just west of the Maya Lin-designed memorial, highlights the history of the Vietnam War and the multiple design competitions and artworks which make up the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Vietnam Women's Memorial, and the Memorial Plaque. The center will also provide biographical details on and photographs of many of the 58,000 names listed on the Wall as well as the more than 6,600 servicemembers killed since 2001 fighting the War on Terror. The $115-million museum will be jointly operated by the Park Service and the Fund. Groundbreaking for the project occurred in November 2012, with the center expected to open in 2020.
Items left at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial are collected by National Park Service employees and transferred to the NPS Museum Resource Center, which catalogs and stores all items except perishable organic matter (such as fresh flowers) and unaltered U.S. flags. The flags are redistributed through various channels.
From 1992 to 2003, selected items from the collection were placed on exhibit at the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of American History as "Personal Legacy: The Healing of a Nation" including the Medal of Honor of Charles Liteky, who renounced it in 1986 by placing the medal at the memorial in an envelope addressed to then-President Ronald Reagan.
There are several transportable replicas of the Vietnam Veteran's Memorial created so those who are not able to travel to Washington, D.C., would be able to simulate an experience of visiting the Wall.
Located at 200 S. 9th Ave in Pensacola, FL the first permanent replica of the National Vietnam Memorial was unveiled on October 24, 1992. Now known as "Wall South," the half-size replica bears the names of all Americans killed or missing in Southeast Asia and is updated each Mother's Day. It is the centerpiece of Veterans Memorial Park Pensacola, a five-and-one-half acre site overlooking Pensacola Bay, which also includes a World War I Memorial, a World War II Memorial, a Korean War Memorial, a Revolutionary War Memorial and a running series of plaques to honor local warriors who have fallen in the Global War on Terror. There is also a Purple Heart Memorial, a Marine Corps Aviation Bell Tower and a monument to the submarine lifeguards who rescued Navy pilots in World War II. A Global War on Terror Memorial is planned to be completed in 2017 and will include an artifact from the World Trade Center as a component of the sculpture.
Located in Fox Park in Wildwood, New Jersey, The Wildwoods Vietnam Memorial Wall was unveiled and dedicated on May 29, 2010. The memorial wall is an almost half-size granite replica of the National Vietnam Memorial, and the only permanent memorial north of the nation's capital.
Located 401 East Ninth Street in Winfield, Kansas. Plans for the Vietnam War Memorial in Winfield began in 1987 when friends who had gathered for a class reunion wanted to find a way to honor their fallen classmates. The project quickly grew from honoring only Cowley County servicemen to representing all 777 servicemen and nurses from Kansas who lost their lives or are missing in action from the Vietnam War. The memorial is a replica of the Vietnam War memorial in Washington D.C. It was also created as a tribute to servicemen and nurses who served in any world war.
Located at Freedom Park in South Sioux City, Nebraska exists a half-scale replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial wall that duplicates the original design in Washington, DC. Dedicated in 2014, the 250 foot wall is constructed with black granite mined from the same quarry in India as the original memorial wall and bears the names of the 58,000 US servicemen who lost their lives in the Vietnam War.
The first US memorial to an ongoing war, the Northwood Gratitude and Honor Memorial in Irvine, California, is modeled on the Vietnam Veterans memorial in that it includes a chronological list of the dead engraved in dark granite. As the memorialized wars (in Iraq and Afghanistan) have not concluded, the Northwood Gratitude and Honor Memorial will be updated yearly. It has space for about 8000 names, of which 5,714 were engraved as of the Dedication of the Memorial on November 14, 2010.
There have been hundreds of incidents of vandalism at the memorial wall. Some of the most notable cases are
A number of dignitaries spoke at a ceremony marking the tenth anniversary of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial on a rainy day in Washington, DC. The keynote speakers, former Lebanese hostage Terry Anderson and Vice President-elect Al Gore, Jr., honored the Vietnam veterans living and dead for their service to their country. Sen. Gore also pledged to investigate every POW and MIA from the Vietnam War, and also improve the veterans health care system. Following the speeches, Sen. Gore and Mr. Scruggs placed a wreath at the base of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, and a lone bugle player played 'Taps'.