Thursday, August 3, 2017

10 interesting facts about the Vietnam Veterans Memorial

The Vietnam Veterans Memorial is a highly visited memorial on the National Mall. Conceived in the late 1970s by Jan Scruggs, a service member who was in Vietnam from 1969-70, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial was designed as a healing place. Scruggs, who had been an infantry corporal, founded the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund, Inc. (VVMF), to bring the idea to fruition.

The memorial was designed and built in the early 1980s. Since that time, millions of people have come to visit and remember those who served during this war. The memorial receives about 5.6 million a year.  

10 interesting facts about the Vietnam Veterans Memorial

1. VVMF (incorporated in April 1979 by a group of Vietnam veterans) lobbied and received legislation, signed by President Jimmy Carter, to have the memorial built. No federal funds were used to build the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. The organization raised approximately $9 million through private contributions from businesses, foundations, veterans and other groups, along with 275,000 individual Americans. Three acres were designated for the memorial.

2. The memorial’s design was determined by a nationwide competition. There were stipulations each architect had to follow which included a) must contain the names of every American who died in Vietnam or remained MIA, b) not contain a political statement about the war c) be contemplative in nature and fit within the surrounding areas of the National Mall. More than 1,400 designs were submitted and the winning proposal was created by a Yale architecture student named Maya Ying Lin. It was judged anonymously by a panel of eight artists and designers.

3. The Vietnam Veterans Memorial took three and one-half years to build and was dedicated on Veterans Day in 1982. At this time, control of the memorial was transferred to the National Park Service (NPS).

4. The memorial’s “v-shaped” walls are each 246.75 feet long and are constructed of black granite which comes from Bangalore, India. Each panel is 40 inches in width. The smallest panel has one name and the largest, 137. The Wall starts off narrow and widens as you walk through the Memorial, then narrows off again as you reach the other side. 

5. The names of more than 58,000 U.S. soldiers who were killed during the Vietnam War are inscribed on the 70 panels. They are listed in chronological order by the date of casualty. According to the National Parks Service, the names “begin and end at the origin point, or center, of the memorial where the two walls meet. Having the names begin and end at the center is meant to form a circle – a completion to the war.”

6. The Three Servicemen Statue (unveiled on Veterans Day, 1984) was designed by Washington sculptor Frederic Hart. The statue was cast in bronze by Joel Meisner and Company Foundry.

7. The Vietnam Women’s Memorial Statue (unveiled on Veterans Day, 1993) was designed by Glenna Goodacre, a sculptor from New Mexico. This statue represents the heroism of women who served in the war. 

Photo taken September 2017

8. The Memory Plaque (unveiled Veterans Day, 2004) was added to recognize those soldiers who died due to illnesses and other conditions that were attributed to service during the Vietnam War but whose names were ineligible to be inscribed on the Memorial Wall itself.

9. Many names have been added to the Wall since the Memorial was dedicated. When the Wall was first built, there were 57,939 inscribed names. As of May 2017, the total has risen to 58,318.

10. Every day many people leave photos, flowers and notes at the memorial. Other items left at the base of the panels are military medals, dog tags, and other mementos. These items are gathered each day and taken to a storage facility, located in Maryland. Some of these artifacts are placed on view at traveling exhibits.

In the beginning, the memorial was controversial but today you don’t see too much evidence of that when visiting. For me, I always am overwhelmed when I see all the names listed, it’s very powerful and emotional. According to, the controversy settled down when the additional monuments were added.

This year, 2017, commemorates the 35th anniversary of the Wall.

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