Vietnam Veterans Memorial

Audio Available:

OVERVIEW: About this audio-described brochure

This two sided brochure describes the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. As you look at the front of the brochure, you will see a simple, full page photo of a black granite wall inscribed with columns of names. Taped across one column of names is a vivid red geranium bloom.

A quotation in large type above the names reads:

"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."

This section of polished black granite wall in the photo shows only one of the 140 panels inscribed with the names of over 58,000 American men and women who died in the conflict between 1957 and 1975.

The reverse side of the memorial brochure uses white type on a black background matching the black granite color of the Wall with titles in red.

The text is divided into four equal sections with four different themes. The first section is titled "The Healing Begins," the second section, "Names Become The Memorial," the third, "The Faces of Honor," and last, "Establishing The Memorial."

The brochure text begins with a large print statement in all capital letters:

"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."

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IMAGE AND TEXT: The Healing Begins

The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund, Inc., a nonprofit charitable organization formed to establish the memorial, was the idea of Jan Scruggs, a former infantry corporal during the Vietnam War. It was incorporated on April 27, 1979, by a group of Vietnam veterans in Washington, DC. The founders wanted Vietnam veterans to have a tangible symbol of recognition from American society. They realized early on that whatever design would ultimately result, four essential criteria had to be met:

1. that it be reflective and contemplative in character;
2. that it harmonizes with its surroundings, especially the neighboring national memorials;
3. that it contain the names of all who died or remain missing; and
4. that it make no political statement about the war.

By separating the issue of those who served in Vietnam from that of U.S. policy in the war, the group hoped to begin the important process of national reconciliation.

To veterans and their loved ones, the healing process often involves leaving mementos at the Wall ( photo to the left).

A photo to the left of this paragraph shows a collection of mementos left beside the Wall. The picture contains a uniform, medals (purple heart and a bronze star for valor), patches representing the U.S. flag and two different combat units, a set of fatigues and dog tags, photos of loved ones, and letters written to the memory of the fallen and those Missing in Action by families, friends, and fellow soldiers.

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IMAGE AND TEXT: Names become the memorial

DESCRIBING: A small, vertical photograph. 

DESCRIPTION:

A color photo of one side of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial taken from above the other side. The top of the black granite wall is horizontal across the middle of the image. There are over thirty vertical panels visible. There is a sense of engraved text in tight horizontal lines filling the space of each panel but it the names are not legible from this distance. The panels get longer from left to right. A walkway next to the wall slopes downward from left to right indicating that the memorial is sunken below the photographer's position. The wall is set into a grassy hill with an abundance of lush, green trees filling the background on a sunny day with the appearance of a road and moving cars beyond the trees. Five park visitors dressed in shorts and t shirts examine the wall. There is a post and chain fence along the walkway opposite the wall, about hip height to the figures standing on the path. Beyond the fence to the left of the photo is a grassy area. In the foreground of the photo, the thin edge at the top of the second side of the memorial is visible, indicating that the photographer is standing on the top of the grassy hill above that side. This side is diagonal across the lower right corner of the photo. The vertex of the memorial where the two panels meet is not visible in the photo but would be located to the right. 

CREDIT: NPS

RELATED TEXT:

Maya Ying Lin conceived her design as creating a park within a park—a quiet protected place unto itself, yet harmonious with the site. To achieve this effect she chose polished black granite for the walls. Their mirrorlike surfaces reflect the surrounding trees, lawns, monuments, and the people looking for names. The memorial’s walls point to the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial. The 58,267 names are inscribed in chronological order of the date of casualty, showing the war as a series of individual human sacrifices and giving each name a special place in history. Lin said, “The names would become the memorial.” The names begin at the vertex of the walls below the date of the first casualty and continue to the end of the east wall. They resume at the tip of the west wall, ending at the vertex above the date of the last death (west wall shown at right). With the meeting of the beginning and ending, a major epoch in American history is denoted. Each name is preceded on the west wall or followed on the east wall by one of two symbols: a diamond or a cross. The diamond denotes that the individual has been declared deceased. The 780 persons whose names are designated by a cross were either missing or prisoners at the end of the war and remain missing and unaccounted for. If a person returns alive, a circle, as a symbol of life, is inscribed around the cross. In the event an individual’s remains are returned or are otherwise accounted for, the diamond is superimposed over the cross. Some Facts About the Memorial The walls are 246.75 feet long, and the angle at the vertex is 125°12’. There are 140 pilings; the average depth to bedrock is 35 feet. The height of the walls at the vertex is 10.1 feet. The granite comes from Bangalore, India; it was cut and fabricated at Barre, Vt. The names were grit blasted in Memphis, Tenn. The height of individual letters is 0.53 inch and the depth, 0.038 inch.

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IMAGES AND TEXT: The faces of honor

IMAGE 1 of 2: Front-facing soldiers

DESCRIBING: A small cut-out photograph.

DESCRIPTION:

The cut out photo shows the Three Servicemen bronze statue of three young men looking off to the left with concerned expressions. Their clothing is tinted khaki. They each wear loose rumpled pants tucked into tall, laced boots. The figure in the center stands slightly in front of the other two. His arms are straight and held slightly away from his body with fingers spread. He wears a sleeveless vest with the front zipper open and no shirt underneath. The vest has two bulging square pockets with top flaps. Below the vest is a utility belt at the waist.   His brow is slightly furrowed, his lips pursed and open. His straight hair and facial features suggest he is white. To the left, the young man wears a floppy fishing style hat that covers his hair and a loose field jacket with sleeves rolled up above his elbows. He holds a large machine gun across his shoulders behind his neck with his right hand bent at the elbow. Across his body and around his waist is a bullet bandolier. He has a canteen on his right hip. His brow is also furrowed with lips closed. His facial features do not reveal his race. The young man on the right is Black. He wears a loose belted shirt with a dog tag visible in the center of his chest. There is a cloth draped around his neck. In his left hand he holds a military rifle. His expression is more serene that the other two, with uncreased brow and relaxed mouth. His hair is a short Afro cut above his ears The men appear to be unified, tense, and uncertain as they stare into the distance.

CREDIT: F.E. Hart and VVMF


IMAGE 2 of 2: Side-facing soldiers

DESCRIBING: A small, cut-out photograph. 

DESCRIPTION:

A cut out photo of the Vietnam Women's Memorial bronze statue. Three female figures in various positions are surrounded by sandbags. In the center, a woman standing in profile wearing a field jacket, loose pants tucked into high laced combat boots, and a brimmed hat with curly hair below it gazes upward to the left. Her expression is one of concern with lips parted, appearing to search the sky for something. Her left arm is slightly bent with wrist flexed and fingers spread. Her right arm rests on the kneeling figure behind her to the right. The kneeling figure is shown from the back with her hair up in a bun. Her face is not visible. Her crooked right arm cradles the head of a figure who appears male and whose body is unseen. He has a cloth over his eyes. A third woman between and slightly in front of the other two kneels on the ground looking down at a helmet she holds in her left hand. Her right hand rests on her right knee. She wears a floppy hat which covers her hair. Her face in profile is calm with a reflective expression.

CREDIT: Robert Shafer 

RELATED TEXT:

Sculptor Frederick Hart’s goal was to create a moving evocation of the experience and service of the Vietnam veteran. He has described it: “They wear it on their uniform and carry the equipment of war; they are young. The contrast between the innocence of their youth and the weapons of war underscores the poignancy of their sacrifice. There is about them the physical contact and sense of unity that bespeaks the bonds of love and sacrifice that is the nature of men at war. . . . Their strength and their vulnerability are both evident.” The flag flies from a 60-foot staff. The base contains emblems of the five services. The In Memory plaque, dedicated in 2004, is located within the northeast corner of the Three Servicemen Statue. The plaque honors the men and women who served in Vietnam and later died from causes related to the war; they are remembered for their sacrifice. Dedicated on November 11, 1993, as part of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, the Vietnam Women’s Memorial honors the women of the U.S. Armed Forces who took part in the war. The statue was sculpted by Glenna Goodacre and depicts three women coming to the aid of a fallen soldier. It recalls the courage and sacrifice of all women who served. Planted around the memorial are eight yellowwood trees—a living tribute to the eight servicewomen killed in action while in Vietnam.

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TEXT: Establishing the memorial

On July 1,1980, Congress authorized a site in Constitution Gardens near the Lincoln Memorial for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, providing the prominent, park-like setting that the organizers had hoped to find. That fall it was a - nounced that the memorial’s design would be selected through a national competition open to any U.S. citizen 18 years of age or older. The 1,421 design entries submitted were judged anonymously by a jury of eight internationally recognized artists and designers. On May 1, 1981, the jury presented its unanimous selection for first prize. The winning design was the work of Maya Ying Lin of Athens, Ohio, a 21 year-old student at Yale University. The following January it was determined that a flagstaff and figurative sculpture depicting fighting men in Vietnam would be added to the memorial site. Washington, D.C. sculptor Frederick Hart was selected to design the sculpture of the servicemen. On March 11, 1982, the memorial’s design and plans received final approval, and ground was formally broken on March 26. Construction of the walls was completed in late October, and the memorial was dedicated November 13, 1982. The life-size sculpture was installed in the fall of 1984. On November 11 (Veterans Day) of that year, President Ronald Reagan accepted the completed memorial on behalf of the nation. The 7 million dollar cost of establishing the memorial was raised entirely through contributions from corporations, foundations, unions, veterans’ groups, civic organizations, and over 275,000 individual Americans. The completed memorial has achieved all that Lin and Hart hoped it would—and more. Loved ones take rubbings of the names. Every day family members and friends leave mementos and tokens of remembrance, making them as much of a legacy of the Vietnam years as the memorial itself.

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OVERVIEW: Accessibility

The Vietnam Veterans Memorial is wheelchair accessible, although portions of the walkway are composed of small tiles which can be difficult to navigate. The walkway becomes slick when wet. Visitors are welcome to touch the panels of the memorial and feel the name inscriptions.


National Mall and Memorial Parks provides braille brochures of each of the memorials free of charge to onsite visitors. If possible, please feel free to email us or call 2 0 2 4 2 6 6 8 4 1 to provide advance notice of your visit.

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