The Vietnam Wall ControversyHistory on Trial Main Page

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1/21/1981. Iran hostages freed -- an occasion for celebration that, at the same time, highlights what was not done for Vietnam veterans.
2/1981. Jan Scruggs begins working fulltime for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund.
2/1/1981. Vietnam v. Iran.
"Vietnam Veterans Parade in Shadow of 52 Hostages," by Iver Peterson, New York Times, 02/01/81, A22. "Several hundred veterans of the Vietnam War marched today in counterpoint to the heroic reception of the former American hostages, expressing the wounded feelings of many Vietnam veterans around the country and offering themselves the parade they said nobody gave them when they came home from war." [SFX]
2/12/1981. A report on the design competition.
"An Unpopular War, A Lasting Memorial; A Memorial to Those Who Died in Vietnam," by Paul Hodge, Washington Post, 02/12/81: DC1. "An outpouring of interest in designing the memorial has produced one of the largest design competitions ever. . . . More than 2,500 artists and architects across the country have paid $20 each to enter the contest, whose rules stipulate that the design be nonpolitical and not detract from the impact of the Lincoln Memorial." [SFX]
3/31/1981. The design competition deadline.
4/21/1981. H. Ross Perot agrees to fund the $160,000 for the competition and states that he does not want to see a "flower power" memorial.
4/26/1981. National Day of Recognition for Veterans of the Vietnam Era.
4/27/1981. Judging entries in the competition begins and continues through May 1.
4/27/1981. Raising money.
A Tardy Tribute to the Veterans of a Divisive War," by Mike Seger, Washington Post, 04/27/81: C3. "Kim Splain and Junior Wyatt, stepping lightly in the brilliant sun of a cool spring day, their Army-surplus canteens swinging from drab green knapsacks on their backs, rounded the Lincoln Memorial on their way to the Constitution Gardens. They had come 818 miles in six weeks. . . . Their walk was a stunt for publicity, but they felt it was a good cause. . . . They hope to raise $7 million for a memorial to Vietnam veterans." [SFX]
5/1/1981. Maya Lin is chosen the winner of a design competition with over 1400 entrants.
5/4/1981. Scruggs informs Perot of the winning design and gets a negative reaction.
5/4/1981. Letter from VVMF advisor Paul Spreiregen answering questions about not having a veteran on the jury.
"The reason . . . was that there was no one -- or two or even three -- Vietnam veterans whose individual experience would be representative of the total experience of the veterans, of their families, of those who the war affected slightly, or of those who were affected very much. . . . All of the jurors have been affected by war. Some of them have been in combat. They know what war is. . . . The final factor was that the VVMF wanted Vietnam veterans to be involved in the competition as competitors rather than jurors." [PDF]
5/6/1981. Maya Lin's winning proposal statement:
The essay Lin submitted as part of her application. "Brought to a sharp awareness of such a loss, it is up to each individual to resolve or come to terms with this loss. For death is in the end a personal and private matter and the area contained within this memorial is a quiet place, meant for personal reflection and private reckoning." [PDF]
5/6/1981. News conference announcing winner.
"Student Wins War Memorial Contest," New York Times, 05/07/81: A20. "A Yale University architecture student has won the competition to design a national memorial to Vietnam War veterans. . . . The design of Maya Ying Lin, a 21-year-old woman from Athens, Ohio, was picked over those submitted by 1,420 others, many of them noted architects, sculptors and landscape architects." [SFX]
"Epitaph for Vietnam; Monument to the Forgotten; Memorial Design Is Selected," by Henry Allen, Washington Post, 05/07/81: F1. "For the dead whom few wanted to remember after a war few could forget, a woman who was 4 years old when the first bodies came home has designed a national memorial to be built on the Mall. . . . 'I liked my idea but I knew it was never going to be chosen -- it was too different, too strange,' said Lin. . . . 'These names, seemingly infinite in number, convey the sense of overwhelming numbers, while unifying those individuals into a whole.'" [SFX]
6/5/1981. The VVMF mobilizes for fund-raising and construction.
"The Vietnam Veterans Memorial: A Description of the Design Concept," by the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund: "The sole purpose of the VVMF is the creation of a suitable memorial to those who served and died in the Vietnam war. The memorial is to recognize them and honor their memory. The memorial is not to be a political expression, neither supporting nor challenging the national actions regarding the Vietnam war. The memorial is envisioned, however, as a gesture towards reconciliation, an attempt to put the war in historic perspective by honoring those who upheld a tradition of national service. This is a most difficult task, one without exact historical precedent." [PDF]