The Vietnam Memorial Wall, is actually two walls at two 246 feet 9 in length each of brilliant black granite-like gabbro rock. Brightly polished to a dark luster, the cemetery stone is etched with the names of American military who died during the Vietnam War. The deceased are permanently honored in panels of horizontal rows of typeface and spacing.
Debased below the natural elevation, with landscaped earth as a background, the two walls meet at a height of 10.1 feet and taper away to a height of 8 inches at their extremities. Symbolically, this is described as a “wound that is closed and healing.”
“These names, seemingly infinite in number, convey the sense of overwhelming numbers, while unifying these individuals into a whole.”
“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,” described designer Maya Lin of her original concept. “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.”
Dedicated on Veteran’s Day in 1984, “These names, seemingly infinite in number, convey the sense of overwhelming numbers, while unifying these individuals into a whole,” she wrote. “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,” Lin continued. “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.”
Following are interesting statistics and information about the “Wall.”
- No federal funds were used to build the memorial. Over $8.4 million of private donations from more than 275,000 275,000 individuals, veterans and civic organizations, corporations, foundations, and unions.
- Lin’s winning design was number 1026 out of 1,421 design entries submitted.
- Lin, born in Athens, Ohio in 1959, later 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.
- An estimated 5.6 million people visit The Wall annually.
- One wall points toward the Washington Monument, the other in the direction of the Lincoln Memorial. They meet 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.
- The wall lists 58,307 names, including 8 women as of May 2015. Approximately 1,200 of these are listed as missing (MIAs, POWs, and others).
- 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 57 years since the first casualty.
- 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.
One soldier, PFC Dan Bullock was 15 years old.
- 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 of the soldiers listed attended Thomas Edison High School in Philadelphia.
- 8 Women are on the Wall.