WHO FORMED THE IDEA OF THE VIETNAM VETERANS MEMORIAL?
The Vietnam Veterans Memorial was founded by Jan Scruggs, who served in Vietnam (in the 199th Light Infantry Brigade) from 1969-1970 as a infantry corporal. He wanted the memorial to acknowledge and recognize the service and sacrifice of all who served in Vietnam. The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund, Inc. (VVMF), a nonprofit charitable organization, was incorporated on April 27, 1979, by a group of Vietnam veterans (John Wheeler, Chairman of the Board for VVMF, served in Vietnam as a captain at U.S. Army headquarters from 1969-1970; Robert Doubek, VVMF project director, then executive director, served in Vietnam from 1968-1969 as an Air Force intelligence officer) in Washington, D.C. Jan Scruggs (President of VVMF) lobbied Congress for a two acre plot of land in the Constitution Gardens. Significant initial support came from U.S. Senators Charles McC. Mathias, Jr. (on November 8, 1979, Senator Mathias introduced legislation to authorize a site of national parkland for the Memorial) of Maryland and John W. Warner (Senator Warner launched the first significant financial contributions to the national fund raising campaign) of Virginia. On July 1, 1980, in the Rose Garden, President Jimmy Carter signed the legislation (P.L. 96-297) to provide a site in Constitution Gardens near the Lincoln Memorial. It was a three and half year task to build the memorial and to orchestrate a celebration to salute those who served in Vietnam.
WHAT IS THE OFFICIAL NAME OF THE MEMORIAL?
The official name of the Memorial is the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. It is sometimes referred to as VVM or "the Wall". The figures are called "The Three Servicemen". This is not a war Memorial but a Memorial to those who served in the war, both living and dead.
WHEN DID CONSTRUCTION BEGIN?
On March 11, 1982, the design and plans received final Federal approval, and work at the site was begun on March 16, 1982. Groundbreaking took place on March 26, 1982. The Gilbane Building Company acted as the general contractor, and the architectural firm of Cooper-Lecky Partnership supervised the construction. The Memorial (wall) was completed in late October and dedicated on November 13, 1982, climaxing a week- long salute to Vietnam veterans.
WHEN WAS THE MEMORIAL COMPLETED?
The walls and landscaping were completed by November 1, 1982. On November 11, 1984, all three units (the wall, the statue, and the flag) were combined. The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund, Inc. (VVMF) officially transferred control of the Memorial to the National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior and it became a national monument. The now completed Vietnam Veterans Memorial was accepted by the President of the United States on November 10, 1984
WHO PAID FOR THE MEMORIAL?
The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund, Inc. (VVMF) raised nearly $9,000,000 entirely through private contributions from corporations, foundations, unions, veterans and civic organizations and more than 275,000 individual Americans. No Federal funds were needed.
WHAT WERE THE CRITERIA REQUIRED FOR THE DESIGN?
There were four:
1. be reflective and contemplative in character;
2. harmonize with its surroundings;
3. contain the names of those who had died in the conflict or who were still missing;
4. make no political statement about the war.
HOW WAS THE WINNING DESIGN CHOSEN?
VVMF announced in October, 1980, that the Memorial's design would be selected through a national design competition open to any U.S. citizen 18 years of age or older. By December 29, 1980, 2,573 individuals and teams had applied for registration forms. By the deadline of March 31, 1981, 1,421 design entries had been submitted. All entries were judged anonymously by a jury of eight internationally recognized artists and designers, who had been selected by VVMF. The winning design was chosen on May 1, 1981. 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 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, finally 39. The jury selected Entry Number 1026 as it clearly met the spirit and formal requirements of the program. They felt its open nature would encourage access on all occasions, at all hours, without barriers, and yet free the visitors from the noise and traffic of the surrounding city.
WHO DID THE JUDGING OF THE DESIGN ENTRIES?
The judges included two landscape architects, two structural architects, an expert on urban development and landscape, and three sculptors. (Pietro Belluschi, architect; Grady Clay, author; Garrett Eckbo, landscape architect; Richard H. Hunt, sculptor; Constantino Nivola, sculptor; James Rosati, sculptor; Hideo Sasaki, landscape architect; and Harry Weese, architect).
WHAT WERE THE WINNING PRIZES?
Prizes totaling $50,000 were awarded to the winning designs. The designer of the winning entry also received a commission to assist the Architect of Record in developing the design for construction.
WHO DESIGNED THE (WALL) MEMORIAL?
The Memorial (wall) was designed by an undergraduate at Yale University, Maya Ying Lin, born in Athens, Ohio in 1959. Her parents fled from China in 1949 when Mao-Tse-tung took control of China, and she is a native-born American citizen. She acted as a consultant with the architectural firm of Cooper- Lecky Partnership on the construction of the Memorial.
WHAT WAS MAYA YING LIN'S CONCEPT OF THE MEMORIAL?
She wanted to create a park within a park - a quiet protected place onto itself, yet harmonious with the overall plan of Constitution Gardens. The walls have a mirror-like surface (polished black granite) reflecting the images of the surrounding trees, lawns, monuments, and visitors. The walls seem to stretch into the distance, directing us towards the Washington Monument, in the east, and the Lincoln Memorial, to the west, thus bring the Vietnam Veterans Memorial into a historical context.
DOES MAYA YING LIN'S NAME APPEAR ANYWHERE ON THE MEMORIAL?
Yes, it does, along with the names of the officers of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund, architects, etc., on a panel at the apex of the curb along the top of the Memorial.
WHO DESIGNED THE SCULPTURE?
In July 1982, VVMF selected Washington sculptor Frederic Hart, born in 1943, Atlanta, Georgia. He was the highest ranking sculptor in the design competition. His sculpture depicts "Three Servicemen" (also referred to as "Three Fighting Men" or "Three Infantrymen"). Mr. Hart's slightly larger than life-size sculpture was cast in bronze by Joel Meisner and Company Foundry during the summer of 1984. A process called 'patina' produced a rich variety of subtle color variations. The figures are young, wear uniforms, and carry the equipment of war. The statues show the men as "emerging out of the woods, looking vulnerable and alone". They look directly towards the apex of the wall, located approximately 150 feet away. The figures were unveiled on November 8, 1984. Mr. Hart received $330,000 for his work.
IS THERE A FLAGPOLE?
Yes. On October 13, 1982, the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts approved the addition of the flag staff and recommended that it be grouped together with the sculpture to enhance the entrance to the memorial site. The American flag (which is 12' x 18') flies from a 60' pole. The flag flies 24 hrs. 7 days a week in honor of the men and women listed on the wall. The pole cost $18,000 excluding base. VVMF paid for the flagpole from contributions it received from the American Legion. At the base of the staff are the seals of the five military services: Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Marine Corps and Navy with the following inscription going around in full circle: 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. On special occasions a POW/MIA flag is flown on the same staff underneath the stars and stripes of the United States flag. Those occasions are Memorial Day, Veteran's Day and POW/MIA Recognition Day.
HOW MANY NAMES ARE ON THE MEMORIAL?
With the addition of four names added in 2005 the total is now 58,249 names listed on the Memorial. Approximately 1200 of these are listed as missing (MIA's, POW's, and others).
THE FIRST NAME ADDED TO THE WALL.
Although 1959 is marked as the beginning of the war on Panel 1, East wall, a Captain (Army) Harry C. Cramer was killed 21 October 1957 during a training action. He is listed on line 78, panel 1, East wall, which was added approximately a year after the Memorial was dedicated.
HOW WERE THE NAMES OBTAINED?
During and after the Vietnam war, the Department of Defense compiled a list of combat zone casualties according to criteria in a 1965 Presidential Executive Order. The Executive Order specified Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, and coastal areas as a combat zone. If the Department of Defense, acting in accordance with these directives, considered an individual to be a Vietnam conflict fatality or to be missing, his/her name would be included. The VVMF verified the Department of Defense list, where possible, by cross-checking it against the casualty data provided by the individual service branches. Each name was then verified by the National Personnel Records Center, National Archives and Records Service, in St. Louis, Missouri. After computer processing, the names were checked manually for errors.
HOW MANY NAMES HAVE BEEN ADDED SINCE THE MEMORIAL WAS DEDICATED?
Six groups of names have been added since the Memorial was dedicated. In group 1 (1983) there were 68 names added, group 2(1984) 15 names, group 3 (1986) 110 names, group 4 (2001) six names, group 5 (2002) three names, group 6 (2003) six names, group 7 (2004) ten names.
The bulk of the names in the first group of 68 were Marines killed when their R&R flight crashed in Hong Kong. (This exception to the criteria was ordered by President Ronald Reagan.)
Those in the group of 110 were added when the geographic criteria were enlarged to include people killed (95 servicemen) outside the war zone while on or in support of direct combat missions and 15 servicemen who had subsequently died of wounds received in Vietnam.
The latest four names added in 2005, brought the number of names on the black granite Wall to 58,249.
ARE THERE ANY CIVILIANS LISTED ON THE WALL?
No, the Memorial is dedicated to the 2.7 million men and women in the U.S. military who served in the designated war zone.
HOW ARE THE NAMES ARRANGED ON THE WALL?
They are in chronological order, according to the date of casualty within each day, the names are alphabetized. For the dead, the date of casualty is the date they were wounded (received in combat) or injured (received in an accident); for the missing, the date they were reported to be missing. The list starts and ends at the vertex (apex), beginning at the date 1959 (with first two names listed from the date of July 8, 1959) and the inscription (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.) on panel 1E and going out to the end of the East wall, appearing to recede into the earth (numbered 70E - May 25, 1968), then resuming at the end of the West wall, as the wall emerges from the earth (numbered 70W - continuing May 25, 1968) and ending with the date of 1975 and its inscription (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) at the bottom of 1W (last 18 names listed are from May 15, 1975). Thus the war's beginning and end meet; the war's complete, coming full circle, yet broken by the earth that bounds the angle's open side and contained within the earth itself. Although 1959 is marked as the beginning on Panel 1, East wall, a Captain (Army) Harry C. Cramer was killed 21 October 1957 during a training action. He is listed on line 78, panel 1, East wall, which was added approximately a year after the Memorial was dedicated.
CRITERIA FOR NAMES ON THE WALL
Early in the effort to establish the Vietnam Veterans Memorial it was determined by the veterans that the memorial would contain the permanent inscription of the names of all who died or who remain missing in the war. The inscription of the names was the sole mandatory criterion set by the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund (VVMF) for designs entered in the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Design Competition. The list of names came from casualty lists compiled by the Department of Defense (DOD).
DOD casualty lists were compiled during and after the Vietnam War according to criteria set in Executive Order No. 11216, signed by President Johnson on April 24, 1965, designating Vietnam and adjacent coastal waters, within specified geographical coordinates, as a combat zone. As hostilities spread, the combat zone was expanded to include additional areas such as Laos and Cambodia in or over which U.S. forces operated. DOD Instruction 7730.22, "Reports of U.S. Casualties In Combat Areas," January 20, 1967, and March 20, 1973, provided that the casualties to be reported were all those occurring within the designated combat areas and those deaths occurring anywhere as the result or aftermath of an initial casualty occurring in a combat area.
In February 1981, DOD supplied the VVMF with a computer database representing the casualty list which included those known dead or missing in action. The list included casualties from battle or hostile causes and those from accidental causes. After a lengthy process of cross checking the lists and working with each branch of the military, the VVMF used its discretion in adding some names that had been overlooked, but which still met the criteria.
The VVMF recognized that names might be added to the memorial after it was constructed and was gratified that DOD set up a mechanism to review individual cases of deaths some months or years after being wounded in Vietnam.
Names are added when it has been determined that a service member has died directly from combat-related wounds. Cancer victims of Agent Orange, and post traumatic stress suicides do not fit the criteria for inclusion upon the Memorial. Some have calculated that it would take another two or more entire Walls to include all the names in those two categories alone.
In addition, status changes occur when remains of missing-in-action (MIA) servicemen are identified, an ongoing process conducted by DOD. The VVMF works in conjunction with DOD to determine name additions and status changes and with the National Park Service which operates and maintains the Memorial. The cost of additional inscriptions is paid by the VVMF which has always been funded exclusively by private supporters.
WHAT ARE THE DATES ON THE WALL?
The first casualty names inscribed were Dale R. Buis and Chester R. Ovnard (this name was a misspelling, it should have read Ovnand) were military advisors, killed on July 8th, 1959 in Bienhoa, while watching a movie in the mess tent. The light had been turned on to change the movie reel and that is when snipers opened fire. The name of the movie was "The Tattered Dress", starring Jeanne Crain. Although 1959 is marked as the beginning on Panel 1, East wall, a Captain (Army) Harry C. Cramer was killed 21 October 1957 during a training action. He is listed on line 78, panel 1, East wall, which was added approximately a year after the Memorial was dedicated. 1975 was the year that the last 18 casualties (Daniel A. Benedett, Lynn Blessing, Walter Boyd, Gregory S. Copenhaver, Andres Garcia, Bernard Gause, Jr., Gary L. Hall, Joseph N. Hargrove, James J. Jacques, Ashton N. Loney, Ronald J. Manning, Danny G. Marshall, James R. Maxwell, Richard W. Rivenburgh, Elwood E. Rumbaugh, Antonio Ramos Sandovall, Kelton R. Turner, Richard Vande Geer) occurred on May 15th during the recapture of the freighter MAYAGUEZ and its crew.
WHAT ARE THE STATISTICS OF THE MEMORIAL?
Each of the walls is 246.75 feet long, composed of 70 separate inscribed granite panels, plus 4 at the end without names; the panels themselves are 40 inches in width; the largest panels have 137 lines of names, while the shortest have one; there are five names on each line, although with new additions of names, some lines now have six; the walls are supported by 140 concrete pilings driven approximately 35 feet (some are at 20 feet) to bedrock; at the vertex the walls are 10.1 feet in height.
WHAT ARE THE NUMBERS AT THE BOTTOM OF THE PANELS?
The numbers identify each panel when trying to locate a name. The numbers start out from the center (apex) with number "1" along each wall and end with the numbers "70" at the end of each wall.
WHICH WALL IS EAST, WHICH WEST?
The wall pointing to the Washington Monument is the East wall while the West wall points to the Lincoln Memorial. There are "E's" and "W's" by the panel numbers.
WHAT ARE THE DOTS?
These 1170 dots are used to help find a name and come in handy when one is looking for a name on a large panel. Each dot marks ten lines. The dots are located on the even-numbered panels. The system works except for Panel 1E. The inconsistency is caused by the inscription at the top of the panel. The line indicator work was done by Harold Vogel of Wood and Stone, Incorporated.
WHAT ARE THE SYMBOLS BY THE NAMES?
The diamonds and pluses (crosses) indicate whether a person is confirmed dead (those who died in accidents are included) or missing/whereabouts unknown. The diamond indicates a person's death was confirmed. The pluses (crosses) indicate that a person remains missing and unaccounted for and in no way are meant to be a religious symbol. A plus (cross) symbol can be easily turned into a diamond if a person is declared dead (such as the return of their remains). A circle (as a symbol of life) will be inscribed around the plus if the person comes back alive. As of this time, no circle appears on the wall. On the West wall the symbols precede the names, while on the East wall they follow the names.
WHAT KIND OF STONE IS THIS?
It is black granite from Bangalore, India, one of only three places in the world (the other countries are Sweden and South Africa) that you could get this amount of black granite in large sizes. Rogan Granite Industries was responsible for obtaining the stone. It is used for the walls, safety curbs and walkways. The lettering is light gray in color, the natural color of the abraded stone, which contrasts sharply with the polished black surface, making it extremely legible.
WHERE WAS THE STONE CUT?
All cutting and fabrication were done in Barre, Vermont. The variations in color and texture between the panels and the curbs and walkways are a result of different finishing techniques, i.e. polishing, honing and flame treating.
HOW WERE THE NAMES CARVED?
The names were NOT carved by hand, but by a computerized typesetting process (by Datalantic, Incorporated, Atlanta, Georgia) called photo stencil gritblasting, developed by Larry Century, specifically for the Memorial, in Memphis, Tennessee.
HOW WAS THE PROCESS DONE?
The process is of a digitized typeface called Optima. It involves a film negative at one-third in size from which an enlargement is made, a film positive (a stencil) at full size. The next step is coating the granite, which has been polished, with a photo sensitive emulsion, and the image is then transferred from the enlargement to the stone in a process very similar to silkscreening. When this step has been completed, the stone within the area of the letters is exposed and the remaining surface is protected by the emulsion. The size of the letters is .53 inches, and they are approximately .015 inches in depth. Inscribing of the names was done by Binswanger Glasscraft Products. The inscribing of the additional names (April and May 1986) was done by Great Panes Glasswork, Incorporated (based in Denver, Colorado) with a coordinated effort by Cooper-Lecky Architects.
WITH WHOM CAN I GET IN TOUCH WITH IF I HAVE ANY QUESTIONS ABOUT THE MEMORIAL, OR TO GET A COPY OF THE VIETNAM VETERANS MEMORIAL BROCHURE?
IF I CAN'T VISIT THE VIETNAM VETERANS MEMORIAL, WHOM CAN I CONTACT TO HAVE A WALL RUBBING/TRACING OF A NAME DONE?
Write to the following:
Mail Operations/Vietnam Veterans Memorial
National Park Service
National Capitol Parks-Central
900 Ohio Drive, S.W.
Washington, D.C. 20242
WHERE CAN I OBTAIN FURTHER INFORMATION ON SPECIAL EVENTS AT THE MEMORIAL?
You can obtain further information on special events by writing or calling:
Public Affairs Office
National Park Service / National Capital Parks Region
1100 Ohio Drive, S.W.
Washington, D.C. 20242 (202) 426-6700