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Vietnam Wall

The Vietanam WallThe Memorial Wall, designed by Maya Lin, is made up of two gabbro walls 246 feet 9 inches (75 m) 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 (20 cm) at their extremities. Stone for the wall came from Bangalore, Karnataka, India, and was deliberately chosen because of its reflective quality. The Lincoln memorial can be seen in the distance. 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. 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.

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 58,191 names when it was completed in 1993; as of June 2010, there are 58,267 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 (although this has never occurred as of March 2009; 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.

Beginning and ending timeline for those listed on the wall

  • November 1, 1955 – Dwight D. Eisenhower deploys Military Assistance Advisory Group to train the South Vietnamese military units and secret police. However, the U.S. Department of Defense does not recognize such date since the men were supposedly only training the Vietnamese. The officially recognized date is the formation of the Military Assistance Command Viet-Nam, better known as MACV. This marks the official beginning of American involvement in the war as recognized by the memorial.

  • June 8, 1956 – The first official death in Vietnam is U.S. Air Force Technical Sergeant Richard B. Fitzgibbon, Jr. of Stoneham, MA who was killed by another U.S. airman.

  • July 8, 1959 – Charles Ovnand and Dale R. Buis are killed by guerrillas at Bien Hoa while watching the film The Tattered Dress. They are listed 1 and 2 at the wall's dedication. Ovnand's name is spelled on the memorial as "Ovnard," due to conflicting military records of his surname.

  • April 30, 1975 – Fall of Saigon. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs uses May 7, 1975 as the official end date for the Vietnam era as defined by Title 38 U.S. Code Section 101.

  • May 15, 1975 – 18 Marines are killed on the last day of a rescue operation known as the Mayagüez incident with troops from the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia. They are the last servicemen listed on the timeline



The Vietnam Veterans Memorial is a national memorial in Washington, D.C. It honors U.S. 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) during the War.

The unconventionality of the selected design was very controversial, especially among veterans. Many publicly 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.

Once the design was realized, the overwhelming majority of the design's critics came to appreciate the simple beauty and emotional power of the wall, and such controversy quickly evaporated. In the words of Scruggs, "It has become something of a shrine.

Interesting  Stats and Update

There are 58,267 names now listed on that polished black wall, including those added in 2010.

The names are arranged in the order in which they were taken from us by date and within each date the names are alphabetized. It is hard to believe it is 36 years since the last casualties.

Beginning at the apex 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 a date in 1975. Thus the war's beginning and end meet. The war is complete, coming full circle, yet broken by the earth that bounds the angle's open side and contained within the earth itself. 

There are 58,267 names now listed on that polished black wall, including those added in 2010.  The names are arranged in the order in which they were taken from us by date and within each date the names are alphabetized.  It is hard to believe it is 36 years since the last casualties.

Beginning at the apex 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 a date in 1975.  Thus the war's beginning and end meet.  The war is complete, coming full circle, yet broken by the earth that bounds the angle's open side and contained within the earth itself.

The first known casualty was Richard B. Fitzgibbon, of North Weymouth, Mass.  Listed by the U.S. Department of Defense as having been killed on June 8, 1956.  His name is listed on the Wall with that of his son, Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Richard B. Fitzgibbon III, who was killed on Sept. 7, 1965.

There are three sets of fathers and sons on the Wall.

39,996 on the Wall were just 22 or younger.

8,283 were just 19 years old.

The largest age group, 33,103 were 18 years old.

12 soldiers on the Wall were 17 years old.

5 soldiers on the Wall were 16 years old.

One soldier, PFC Dan Bullock was 15 years old.

997 soldiers were killed on their first day in Vietnam.

1,448 soldiers were killed on their last day in Vietnam.

31 sets of brothers are on the Wall.

Thirty one sets of parents lost two of their sons.

54 soldiers once attended Thomas Edison High School in Philadelphia.  Why so many from one school?

8 Women are on the Wall ~ Nursing the wounded.

244 soldiers were awarded the Medal of Honor during the Vietnam War;  153 of them are on the Wall.

Beallsville, Ohio, with a population of 475, lost 6 of her sons.

West Virginia had the highest casualty rate per capita in the nation.  There are 711 West Virginians on the Wall.

The Marines of Morenci:  They led some of the scrappiest high school football and basketball teams that the little Arizona copper town of Morenci (pop. 5,058) had ever known and cheered.  They enjoyed roaring beer busts.  In quieter moments, they rode horses along the Coronado Trail, stalked deer in the Apache National Forest.  And in the patriotic camaraderie typical of Morenci's mining families, the nine graduates of Morenci High enlisted as a group in the Marine Corps.  Their service began on Independence Day, 1966.  Only 3 returned home.

The Buddies of Midvale:  LeRoy Tafoya, Jimmy Martinez, Tom Gonzales were all boyhood friends and lived on three consecutive streets in Midvale, Utah on Fifth, Sixth and Seventh avenues.  They lived only a few yards apart.  They played ball at the adjacent sandlot ball field.  And they all went to Vietnam.  In a span of 16 dark days in late 1967, all three would be killed.  LeRoy was killed on Wednesday, Nov. 22, the fourth anniversary of John F. Kennedy's assassination.  Jimmy died less than 24 hours later on Thanksgiving Day.  Tom was shot dead assaulting the enemy on Dec. 7, Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day.

The most casualty deaths for a single day was on January 31, 1968 ~ 245 deaths.

The most casualty deaths for a single month was May 1968 - 2,415 casualties were incurred.

Most Americans who read this will only see the numbers that the Vietnam War created.  To those of us who survived the war, and to the families of those who did not, we see the faces, we feel the pain that these numbers created.  We are, until we too pass away, haunted with these numbers, because they were our friends, fathers, husbands, wives, sons and daughters.  There are no noble wars, just noble warriors.

The Three Soldiers

This well-known sculpture by U.S. artist and sculptor Frederick Hart portrays three young U.S. fighting men, completely dressed and outfitted in uniforms and equipment used by U.S. infantrymen in the Vietnam War. While the military attire is meant to be symbolic and general in nature, the personal combat equipment displayed is actually quite specific in representing the figures as serving in either the U.S. Army, or U.S. Marine Corps.

Of the three fighting men, the lead figure (in the middle) represents a Marine, as he wears a Type M-1955 body armor vest, which was worn exclusively by Marines in Vietnam. He is armed only with a Colt M1911A1 .45 caliber automatic pistol, which is carried in a Government Issue (GI) leather holster, on the right hip. The holster is attached to an M-1956 GI pistol belt, and a small GI pistol magazine pouch is carried on the belt's left front. The M-1911A1 .45 caliber pistol was used by Marine enlisted, NCO, and officer ranks, so its depiction is consistent with a Marine of any rank. The Marine wears no shirt, and his body armor vest serves as his only upper-body clothing. His other attire consists of tropical combat trousers and tropical ("jungle") combat boots; he wears no headgear. Like his comrades, he carries a GI 1-quart canteen retained in its cover, with two attached to his pistol belt, and situated at the right rear hip.

The statue, unveiled on Veterans Day, 1984, was designed by Frederick Hart, who placed third in the original memorial design competition.

The man on the right displays combat equipment consistent with a U.S. Army Soldier, chiefly a Type M69 body armor vest, which was the primary armor vest used mainly by U.S. Army personnel in Vietnam, from about 1967 on. He also has a GI towel draped over his neck and shoulders, which served to absorb sweat and cushioned heavy loads, a common practice of many Soldiers in Vietnam. In his left hand he carries an M16A1 rifle, the main battle rifle for both Soldiers and Marines, from about 1966 on. His uniform consists of the tropical combat uniform (jacket and trousers) and jungle boots. In his right hand, he holds an M1 steel helmet with a camouflage cover, secured with an elastic headband (which itself retains a small bottle of GI insect repellent). He also wears an M-1956 GI pistol belt over his uniform jacket, which retains a standard issue GI 1-quart canteen and cover, situated at the left rear hip.

The man on the left is less specific in gear and uniform, but he appears to be a U.S. Army Soldier, as he wears a Tropical ("Boonie") Hat, which was widely worn by Army combat personnel in Vietnam, and to a much lesser extent by Marines. His uniform consists of the tropical combat jacket and trousers, and jungle boots. This man wears no body armor, and is armed with an M60 machine gun, and he carries two belts of 7.62mm ammunition draped and criss-crossed over his torso. He is also wearing an M17 Protective (Gas) Mask carrier on his left hip, although U.S. troops infrequently wore or used gas masks in Vietnam. (They were used primarily when tear gas (CS) was employed in combat, such as by tunnel rats, and by troops engaged in urban/city combat, such as the Marines in Hue City in January and February, 1968). Under his uniform jacket, he also wears a GI pistol belt with two GI 1-quart canteens with covers, situated at the right rear hip.

The statue's three men are purposely identifiable as Caucasian (the lead man), African American (man on right), and Hispanic (man on left). These three figures were based on three actual young men models, of which two (the Caucasian, and the African-American) were active-duty Marines at the time.

The Three Soldiers statue was designed to supplement the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, by adding a more traditional component such as a statue that depicted warriors from that respective war.