The Vietnam Wall ControversyHistory on Trial Main Page

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8/1980. Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund moves to a larger office.
8/10/1980. A veteran's voice.
"Cold, Stone Man," by Lewis W. Bruchey, Washington Post, 08/10/80, C4. Poem by medal-winning Vietnam veteran: "Who am I? / Child of war, / Vietnam hero, / Or American's whore? . . . Stare. / Save your judgement, / Your sorrow, / Your pity, / Your prayer. / For I am / A cold, stone man / Of Vietnam. Beware! Beware!" [SFX]
8/19/1980. Vietnam: a noble cause.
"Reagan Calls Arms Race Essential To Avoid a 'Surrender' or 'Defeat,'" by Howell Raines, New York Times, 08/19/80, A1. The speech contained "a strong tribute to Vietnam veterans who took part in what Mr. Reagan called 'a noble cause' . . . . 'Well, it's time we recognized that ours was, in truth, a noble cause. . . . We dishonored the memory of 50,000 young Americans who died in that cause when we give way to feelings of guilt as if we were doing something shameful.'" [SFX]
9/1980. Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund rejects design by sculptor Frederick Hart and decides instead to hold a competition.
9/2/1980. Another veteran's voice.
"Vietnam Veteran Grateful to Reagan," by Tom Carhart , New York Times, 09/02/80, A22. A major player in the upcoming controversy backs the description by presidential candidate Reagan of the Vietnam war as a noble cause: "Indeed, I believe that our Vietnam experience was a noble cause. I am proud that I served my country in its hour of distress, and if needed, I would serve again without the slightest hesitation. Perhaps it is just that freedom has a special sweetness for those who have laid their lives on the line for it; or perhaps I, too, am naive and simpleminded." [SFX]
10/12/1980. A third veteran's voice.
"Soldier's Home," by Gregory D. Foster, New York Times, 10/12/80, D21. "So long as we as a nation expect the ranks of our military to be filled by volunteers, yet through our neglect make them feel obscure, insignificant, and generally unwanted, then we shall have only oursleves to blame if war again confronts us and we find that we cannot depend on our military services." [SFX]
10/13/1980. Raising money.
"War in Memories," by Phil McCombs, Washington Post, 10/13/80, 8:9. "500 Washington glitterati, corporate moguls, members of the nation's warrior class and just plain Vietnam vets -- most with wives or girlfriends -- gathered in the big interior court of the old Pension Building downtown to dance and dine at $150 a ticket for the benefit of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund." Interesting quotes from the attendees and others. [SFX]
11/11/1980. The design competition.
"Design Competition For Vietnam Memorial," by Paul Richard, Washington Post, 11/11/80: B7. "This city full of monuments will soon have another, thanks largely to Jan Scruggs. Scruggs, 30, president of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund, yesterday announced a national design competition." [SFX]
11/11/1980. The design competition prospectus :
Design Competition Advisor and Jury Biographies: Paul Spreiregen is the advisor and jury members are Pietro Belluschi, Grady Clay, Garrett Eckbo, Richard H. Hunt, Constantine Nivola, James Rosati, Hideo Sasaki, and Harry Weese. [PDF]
Design Competition entry form: of special interest are the sections on "The Purpose and Philosophy of the Memorial" and "Recommended Reading." [PDF]
Design Competition Judging Criteria: "The jury was instructed by the VVMF to select a design that best fulfills the following [ten] requirements." [PDF]
12/1980. Dealing with guilt.
"Coming to Terms with Vietnam," by Peter Marin, Harpers, December 1980, 41-56. "The real issue, to put it bluntly, is guilt: how, as a nation and as individuals, we perceive our culpability and determine what it requires of us. We must concern ourselves with the discovery of fact, the location of responsibility, the discussion of causes, the acknowledgment of moral debt and how it might be repaid -- not in terms of who supposedly led us astray, but in terms of how each one of us may have contributed to the war or to its underlying causes. The 'horror' of war is really very easy to confront; it demands nothing of us save the capacity not to flinch. But guilt and responsibility, if one takes them seriously, are something else altogether. For they imply a debt, something to be done, changed lives -- and that is much harder on both individuals and a nation, for it implies a moral labor as strenuous and demanding as the war that preceded it." (Includes a survey of films and fiction) [SFX]
"A Veteran Writes," by Fred Reed, Harpers, December 1980, 44. "Somehow I don't like hearing pieties about the war from these sleek, wise people who never saw it. It offends propriety. . . . Once, after the GIs had left Saigon, I came out of a bar on Cach Mang and saw a veteran with a sign on his jacket: VIET NAM: IF YOU HAVEN'T BEEN THERE, SHUT THE FUCK UP. Maybe, just maybe, he had something." [SFX]