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Remembering Vietnam My War Story - Bill Nelson
My War Story - Marsh Carter
My War Story - Nancy Sinatra
My War Story - Sen. Chuck Hagel
My War Story - Ron Nessen
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Please note: Much of the information was taken directly from Pegi Donovan's "Anything and Everything Handbook on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial... And More," copyrighted 1987, with additional updated information included.
When and how was the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. built?
It was dedicated on Nov. 13, 1982. The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund (VVMF), founded by Jan C. Scruggs, started the project in 1979, and work began at the site on March 26, 1982. In just three and a half years, Scruggs and many other veterans and supporters worked to convince Congress to give a three-acre plot of land on the prestigious National Mall for a memorial dedicated to honoring those service members who served in Vietnam. VVMF raised the necessary funds and also coordinated a celebration, "The National Salute to Vietnam Veterans Week," at the 1982 dedication.
Who paid for the Memorial?
VVMF raised $8.4 million entirely from private donations from more than 275,000 individuals, veterans and civic organizations, corporations, foundations, and unions. No federal funds were used.
What were the criteria for the design?
The competition guidelines designated that the memorial should be reflective and contemplative in character. It should be harmonious with its site and with its surroundings, particularly with the national monuments in and near the area. The design must provide for the inscription of the names of all American military personnel who died in Vietnam during the war, including the names of those who remained unaccounted for by the end of the war. And it could make no political statement about the war.
How was the design picked for the Memorial?
In October 1980, VVMF announced a national design competition open to any U.S. citizen, 18 years of age or above, with a March 31, 1981 deadline. A total of 1,421 design entries were submitted, and all designs were reviewed anonymously by a jury of eight internationally recognized artists and designers. On May 1, 1981, the jury selected entry #1026 unanimously as the one best meeting the spirit and formal requirements of the competition.
Who designed the winning entry?
Maya Lin, born in Athens, Ohio in 1959, designed The Wall as an undergraduate at Yale University for a funerary architecture class. She has since gone on to design many marvelous works of art which, like The Wall, are abstract and contemplative in nature. Lin has designed the Civil Rights Memorial in Montgomery, Ala., and the Wave Field at the University of Michigan. An Oscar-winning documentary entitled "Maya Lin: A Strong Clear Vision" was made about her in 1995.
What was Maya Lin's concept of the Memorial?
Quoting from the statement presented with Maya Lin's submission: "Walking through this park, the memorial appears as a rift in the earth. A long, polished, black stone wall, emerging from and receding on either side, growing out of the earth, extend and converge at a point below and ahead. Walking into this grassy site contained by the walls of the Memorial, we can barely make out the carved names upon the Memorial's walls. These names, seemingly infinite in number, convey the sense of overwhelming numbers, while unifying these individuals into a whole. The Memorial is composed not as an unchanging monument, but as a moving composition to be understood as we move into and out of it. The passage itself is gradual; the descent to the origin slow, but it is at the origin that the Memorial is to be fully understood. At the intersection of these walls, on the right side, is carved the date of the first death. It is followed by the names of those who died in the war, in chronological order. These names continue on this wall appearing to recede into the earth at the wall's end. The names resume on the left wall as the wall emerges from the earth, continuing back to the origin where the date of the last death is carved."
What elements, besides The Wall, make up the Vietnam Veterans Memorial?
A sculpture designed by Frederick Hart of three servicemen on patrol was dedicated on Veterans Day 1984. A flagpole that flies the American flag 24 hours a day was dedicated at the same time. At the base of the flagstaff are the seals of the five military services, 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." The Vietnam Women's Memorial Project dedicated a statue of three women, one of whom is tending to a wounded serviceman, on Veterans Day 1993. The Women's Memorial was designed by Glenna Goodacre.
How many names are on the Memorial?
At the dedication in 1982, there were 57,939 names inscribed on the Memorial. As of Memorial Day 2011, there are 58,272 names. These are names of military personnel who were wounded in Vietnam between 1957 and 1975 and ultimately died of their wounds. (1959 and 1975 are the years inscribed on The Wall. The first casualty on Panel 1 East, Line 1 dates from 1959. However, the name of a service member who died in 1957 was added after The Wall was dedicated.)
How were the names obtained?
The Department of Defense compiled a list of combat zone casualties according to Presidential Executive Order #11216, handed down by President Lyndon B. Johnson on April 24, 1965. It specified Vietnam, and adjacent coastal waters, as a combat zone. This zone was expanded to include Laos, Cambodia and Air Force bases in Thailand.
How are the names arranged?
The names are in chronological order, according to the date of casualty (which is not necessarily the date of death, but rather the date from the point of injury which led to the death). As prescribed by Maya Lin, The Wall's designer, this arrangement allows those service members who died together to forever be linked.
How can you find a name, if the listing on The Wall is not alphabetical?
You must refer to a database, which gives the names in alphabetical order and includes the position of each on the Memorial. This can be in the form of a book, The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Directory of Names or one of various databases. The directory can be purchased by calling (202) 347-2054. You also may search VVMF's online database.
Are there any women's names on the Memorial?
The names of eight (8) women, all nurses (seven from the Army and one from the Air Force) are inscribed on The Wall.
Who determines how names are added to The Wall?
VVMF receives numerous requests each year from individuals who want to have particular names placed on the Memorial. And while VVMF finances the addition of names on The Wall, we do not determine whose names are to be inscribed. It is the Department of Defense that makes these difficult and often very technical decisions. Our organization does not have the authority to overrule those who adjudicate these matters. The policy is that only those persons who died of a combat injury suffered in Vietnam be added to the Memorial. If you need further explanation of the parameters for inclusion, please contact the relevant service branch. Please know that the Memorial stands to honor all who served in Vietnam, not just those whose individual names it bears.
How many Medal of Honor recipient's names are on The Wall?
The names of 151 Medal of Honor recipients are on The Wall.
How many chaplains are on The Wall?
There are 16 total clergy (seven Catholic, seven Protestant and two Jewish) listed on The Wall.
Are there any names of persons with foreign homes of record?
There are 120 persons who listed foreign countries as their home of record (this is not place of birth or actual residence necessarily, but sometimes place at which the person wanted to be discharged). The countries include: Australia, 1; Bahama Islands, 1; Bolivia, 1; Brazil, 1; Canada, 56; Columbia, 1; Costa Rica, 1; England, 3; France, 2; Germany, 7; Ireland, 17; Italy, 1; Jamaica, 2; Japan, 2; Mexico, 5; New Zealand, 2; Pacific Island, 1; Panama, 2; Peru, 1; Philippines, 27; Puerto Rico, 1; Switzerland, 1.
Are there names of people on the Memorial who are still alive?
Yes. 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. 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. His name has been removed from the Directory of Names; however, it cannot be removed from The Wall.
Which is the East Wall and which is the West Wall?
The wall reaching to the right as you look at the Memorial's names is the East Wall; the wall to the left is the West Wall. In Washington, D.C., the Memorial is positioned so that the East Wall reaches directly towards the Washington Monument, and the West Wall to the Lincoln Memorial.
How are the panels numbered?
There are 70 separate panels (plus a panel at each end without names) on each wall, totaling 140 panels of names. The list starts and ends at the vertex, or middle, of the Memorial. Beginning with the year 1959 inscribed at the top of the panel on Panel 1 East (1E), the listing goes out to the right, to the end of the East Wall, Panel 70 East (70E). It resumes at the end of the West Wall, Panel 70 West (70W), and continues to the right, to Panel 1 West (1W), with 1975 inscribed at the very bottom. Designer Maya Lin wanted the names to be arranged in an almost circular manner, having the first names reaching out and combing back to touch the last names of those killed.
How can I find a name on the Memorial?
Refer to the Directory of Names. The last entry of each line gives the position of the name on The Wall. For example, to find Panel 17 East, Line 22: go to the middle of the Memorial, Panel 1 East. Continue walking to the right for 17 panels. (Every panel has the panel number listed at the bottom.) Go to the top of Panel 17 East. (On every other panel, there are dots to the right of the names, for eastern panels, and to the left for western panels, indicating every 10th line.) Go down two dots, indicating 20 lines, and then count down two more lines. You will now be able to find the name from Panel 17 East, Line 22.
What do the symbols in front of the names mean?
Each name is preceded (on the West Wall) or followed (on the East Wall) by a symbol designating status. The diamond symbol denotes that the service member's death was confirmed; the cross symbol denotes the person was missing at the end of the war and remains missing and unaccounted for. The diamond symbol is superimposed over the cross when a service member's remains are returned or otherwise accounted for; and a circle — as a symbol of life — would be inscribed around the cross should a serviceman ever return alive. Since the names of those persons who are still alive were there from clerical error, it would not be historically accurate or true to the system of status designations for a circle to be inscribed there, as they were never truly missing in action. On the occasion that a person has been found to be alive, there is no way to "erase" the name from The Wall, but the name has been removed from the Directory of Names, which is why you may be able to find a name on The Wall which does not appear in the Directory.
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