The Vietnam Veterans Memorial stands as a symbol of America’s honor and recognition of the men and women who served and sacrificed their lives in the Vietnam War. Inscribed on the black granite walls are the names of more than 58,000 men and women who gave their lives or remain missing. The Memorial is dedicated to honor the courage, sacrifice and devotion to duty and country of all who answered the call to serve during one of the most divisive wars in U.S. history.
The Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial Fund, Inc. is the nonprofit organization authorized by Congress in 1980 to fund and build the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. The organization sought a tangible symbol of recognition from the American people for those who served in the war. By separating the issue of individuals serving in the military during the Vietnam era and U.S. policy carried out there, VVMF began a process of national healing. The Memorial was dedication on Nov. 13, 1982 and attracts more than 5.6 million visitors each year.Search The Wall History of The Wall
In an effort to further preserve the legacy of those who sacrificed all in Vietnam, VVMF is committed to finding a photo to go with each of the more than 58,000 names on The Wall. The Wall of Faces allows family and friends to share memories, post pictures and connect with each other.Search The Wall
The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund wanted, above all, for the memorial to have a prominent site in a large, park-like area; thus, the western end of Constitution Gardens was requested as the site. Subsequently, VVMF set four major criteria for the design: (1) that it be reflective and contemplative in character, (2) that it harmonize 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.
Maya Lin conceived her design as creating a park within a park — a quiet protected place unto itself, yet harmonious with the overall plan of Constitution Gardens. To achieve this effect she chose polished black granite for the walls. Its mirror-like surface reflects the images of the surrounding trees, lawns and monuments. The Memorial’s walls point to the Washington Monument and Lincoln Memorial, thus bringing the Memorial into the historical context of our country. The names are inscribed in the chronological order of their dates of casualty, showing the war as a series of individual human sacrifices and giving each name a special place in history.
Watch this video about the design of The Wall and learn about the arrangement of names.
MEMORIAL DESIGN AND ARRANGEMENT OF NAMES
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 apex, 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 apex. The last casualties are listed on the bottom line of West Panel 1 above the date “1975.”
The inscription at the apex of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial reads:
(Top of The Wall) 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.
(Bottom of The Wall) 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. NOVEMBER 11, 1982
Each name is preceded (on the West Wall) or followed (on the East Wall) by a symbol designating status.
◆ The diamond symbol denotes that the service member’s death was confirmed.
+ Those whose names are designated by the cross symbol were in missing or prisoner status at the end of the war and remain missing and unaccounted for. In the event a serviceman’s remains are returned or he is otherwise accounted for, the diamond symbol is superimposed over the cross.
(+) If a man returns alive, a circle, as a symbol of life, will be inscribed around the cross. No such cases have occurred though some men have been found to be alive with their names on The Wall due to clerical errors. To put a circle around their names would not give a correct historical context to the symbols. These names are and have been removed from periodic revisions of the printed Directory of Names.
If you are interested in receiving a rubbing of a name on The Wall, please fill out our Name Rubbing Request Form. One of the incredible Wall volunteers will do the rubbing and send it to you at the address you list. This service is provided free of charge thanks to the many supporters of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund.
Request a Name Rubbing
Adding a Name to The Wall
ADDING A NAME TO THE WALL
The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund receives numerous requests each year from individuals who desire to have particular names placed on the Memorial. And while the Memorial Fund finances the name additions to The Wall, we do not determine whose names are to be inscribed. It is the Department of Defense that makes these difficult and often very technical decisions. Our organization does not have the authority to overrule those who adjudicate these matters.
According to current DoD guidelines, service members are eligible for inscription on The Wall if they have:
- died (no matter the cause) within the defined combat zone of Vietnam (varies based on dates)
- died while on a combat/combat support mission to/from the defined combat zone of Vietnam
- died within 120 days of wounds, physical injuries, or illnesses incurred or diagnosed in the defined combat zone of Vietnam.
Examples of deaths that do not fit the Department of Defense criteria include, but are not limited to:
- PTSD related illnesses / events
- Exposure to Agent Orange and similar chemicals
- Heart Attack
All of the above items do fit the criteria for inclusion in VVMF’s In Memory program. Each year we honor these fallen heroes and their families at the In Memory Day ceremony. Learn more about the In Memory Program.
For further explanation of the parameters for inclusion, please contact the relevant service branch below:
Headquarters U.S. Army Human Resources Command
Casualty and Mortuary Affairs Operations Center
1600 Spearhead Division Avenue, Dept. 450
Fort Knox, Kentucky 40121
Headquarters Air Force Personnel Center
Missing Persons Branch
550 C. Street West, Suite 14
Randolph AFB, TX 78150-4716
Headquarters U.S. Marine Corps
Manpower and Reserve Affairs, MRC
3280 Russell Road
Quantico, VA 22134-5103
Fax: 703-784-9823 or 703-784-4134
Navy Personnel Command
Casualty Assistance Branch (PERS-621P
5720 Integrity Drive
Millington, TN 38055-6210
Each wall of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial is 246 feet, 8 inches long. They meet at an angle of 125 degrees, 12 minutes, and point exactly to the northeast corners of the Washington Monument and Lincoln Memorial. The walls are supported along their entire length by 140 concrete pilings driven approximately 35 feet to bedrock.
At their vertex, the walls are 10 feet, 1.5 inches high.
The stone for the walls, safety curbs, and walkways is black granite quarried near Bangalore, India. All cutting and fabrication was done in Barre, Vermont.
Each name is preceded (on the west wall) or followed (on the east wall) by a symbol designating status. The diamond symbol denotes that the service member’s death was confirmed. The “plus” symbol denotes missing in action. In the event an individual’s remains are returned, the diamond symbol is superimposed over the plus.
As of May 2017, there are 58,318 names on The Wall.
The original 57,939 names were grit-blasted in Memphis, Tenn., using industrial equipment and stencils produced through a photographic process.
Since 1982, 376 names have been added to The Wall (as of 12/31/2016) by craftsmen using the same photo-generated stencils. The letters are 0.53 inches high and are inscribed to a depth of approximately 0.015 inches.
The names were provided by the Department of Defense, which compiled a list of combat zone casualties according to Presidential Executive Order #11216, handed down by President Lyndon B. Johnson on April 24, 1965. It specified Vietnam and adjacent coastal waters as a combat zone. This zone was expanded to include Laos, Cambodia, and Air Force bases in Thailand.
The names of eight women, all nurses, are inscribed on The Wall. Seven are from the U.S. Army; one is from the Air Force.
Medal of Honor recipients
The names of 160 Medal of Honor recipients are on The Wall.
However, one of those recipients earned his Medal of Honor during World War II, but died while serving in Vietnam. Michael Blassie was awarded the Medal of Honor when he was interred in the Tomb of the Unknown at Arlington National Cemetery. The Medal was rescinded when his remains were identified, and he is not counted with the 160.
There are 16 clergy members listed on The Wall: seven Catholic, seven Protestant, and two Jewish.
People from other countries
There are 120 individuals on The Wall who listed foreign countries as their home of record. The countries include: Australia, Bahamas, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Costa Rica, England, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, Pacific Island, Panama, Peru, Philippines, Puerto Rico, and Switzerland.
Each wall contains 74 separate panels, including four each end without names, for a total of 140 panels of names. The list starts and ends at the vertex of the walls. Beginning with the year 1959 inscribed at the top of the panel on Panel 1 East (1E), the listing goes out to the right, to the end of the east wall, Panel 70 East (70E). It resumes at the end of the west wall, Panel 70 West (70W), and continues to the right, to Panel 1 West (1W), with 1975 inscribed at the very bottom.
The Vietnam Veterans Memorial was paid for by donations from more than 275,000 individuals, veterans and civic organizations, corporations, foundations, and unions. No federal funds were used.
THE THREE SERVICEMEN
In January 1982, the decision was made to add a flagstaff and sculpture on the Memorial site in order to provide a realistic depiction of three Vietnam servicemen and a symbol of their courage and devotion to their country. In July 1982, VVMF selected Washington, D.C. sculptor Frederick Hart to design the sculpture of the servicemen to be placed at the site. The Three Servicemen Statue is a slightly larger-than-life depiction of three infantrymen cast in bronze. The men—one white, one black, and one intended to represent all other ethnic groups in the country—are all in uniform, carrying weapons. On Oct. 13, 1982, the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts unanimously accepted the proposed sculpture and flagstaff.
Construction at the site was completed in late October 1982, and the Memorial was dedicated on Nov. 13, 1982. The Three Servicemen statue and flagstaff was added in 1984. That same year, the Memorial was given as a “gift” to the American people during a ceremony with President Ronald Reagan.
Today, the 12-foot-by-8-foot flag flies from a 60-foot pole, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, in honor of the men and women who served in Vietnam. The flagstaff, donated by The American Legion, features an inscription and the seals of the five branches of military service at its base: Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Marine Corps, and Navy.
Watch this video to learn more about the Three Servicemen Statue.
VIETNAM WOMEN’S MEMORIAL STATUE
There are eight women, all nurses, whose names appear on The Wall. Of the 265,000 women who served during Vietnam, nearly 10,000 military women served in-country during the conflict. Barred from combat, these women served in health care, communications, intelligence, and administrative positions. Civilian women served as foreign correspondents for news agencies, worked for organizations such as the American Red Cross and the USO, or served in other government agencies, such as USAID or at the embassy.
In late 1983, Diane Carlson Evans, a nurse who served in the Army in Vietnam, conceived of the idea to add a statue to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial site to honor the women who served. She incorporated the Vietnam Women’s Memorial Project (VWMP) in 1984. In 2002, the group changed its name to the Vietnam Women’s Memorial Foundation (VWMF).
The memorial was established not only to honor those women who served, but also for the families who lost loved ones in the war, so they would know about the women who provided comfort, care, and a human touch for those who were suffering and dying.
The 2,000 pound, 6-foot 8-inch sculpture portrays three women, one of whom is caring for a wounded male soldier. In the surrounding site, eight yellowwood trees were planted to symbolize the eight women whose names are on The Wall. The Vietnam Women’s Memorial was dedicated on November 11, 1993.
IN MEMORY PLAQUE
Years after the war had ended, it became clear that the toll it had taken on those who had served had not ended. Many began to suffer premature deaths related to their service. Some contracted serious illnesses brought on by exposure to Agent Orange. Others endured the consequences of post-traumatic stress disorder.
On November 10, 2004, a plaque was dedicated at the northeast corner of the Three Servicemen Statue plaza, with a ceremony sponsored by the Vietnam Veterans of America. The plaque is a carved piece of black granite measuring 24 inches by 36 inches. The inscription reads “In memory of the men and women who served in the Vietnam War and later died as a result of their service. We honor and remember their sacrifice.”
Since 1999, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund has held an In Memory Day ceremony each year to honor all those who died as a result of the war. This yearly ceremony recognizes new honorees and all whose names are on the In Memory Honor Roll.