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Remembering Vietnam My War Story - Bill Nelson
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A key element to the design of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial is the names of the men and women who died while serving with the U.S. armed forces in the Vietnam War. There are more than 58,000 names inscribed on the black granite Memorial.
The list of names begins at the vertex of the walls below the year of the first casualty and continues to the end of the east wall. It resumes at the tip of the west wall, ending at the vertex, above the year of the last death. With the meeting of the beginning and ending, a major epoch in American history is signified.
Each of the walls is composed of 70 separate inscribed panels. The largest panels have 137 lines of names; the shortest have one line. There is an average of five names per line. Each panel is numbered from "1" to "70" at the base, with West Panel 1 and East Panel 1 meeting at the vertex, leading out to East or West Panel 70.
The names of the first casualties appear on the top of East Panel 1 below the date "1959." The chronological listing by casualty date of the names proceeds left to right, line by line, down each panel, and then to the top line of the panel to its right, as though the panels were pages in a book, until East Panel 70, whereupon the sequence of names begins on West Panel 70, proceeding to West Panel 1 at the vertex. The last casualties are listed on the bottom line of West Panel 1 above the date "1975."
The original 57,939 names and inscriptions were gritblasted in Memphis, Tennessee, by Binswanger Glasscraft using industrial equipment and stencils produced through a photographic process. The names were arranged chronologically by date of casualty and typeset in Atlanta, Georgia, by Datalantic from a computer tape of the Vietnam casualty list provided by the Department of Defense. Typesetting was done using a digitized version of Optima, a typeface designed by Bruno Zapf.
Names added since 1982 were inscribed on The Wall by Great Panes Glassworks in Denver, Colorado, and since 2007 by Engrave Write, also in Denver, using the same photo-generated stencils as before. Portable grit-blasting equipment is used with aluminum oxide grit. The letters are .53 inches high and inscribed to an approximate depth of .015 inches.
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