The Vietnam Wall ControversyHistory on Trial Main Page

AboutRound 1Round 2Round 3Round 4Round 5Resources

"FullText" links provide a connection to electronic or print copies provided by the Lehigh Libraries and other services, such as electronic abstracts and interlibrary loan requesting.

5/13/1981. H. Ross Perot, whose large financial contribution has been essential, tells Scruggs he will not come to the Memorial Day celebration because he would have to say he doesn't like the design. He feels the design is not for those who came home living.
5/16/1981. Positive and negative response.
"Inadequate Memorial," two letters to the editor, Washington Post, 05/16/81: A12. 1) "Thanks a lot, America. We have done it again. Now we are going to have a Vietnam Veterans Memorial that does not even identify where or in what war the men and women served and died. That's recognition?" 2) "There is a distrubing thought, however, that lingers in my mind about this memorial. It is my understanding that the designer intends to display only the names and dates of death of our deceased vets and to bury the memory of the Vietnam experience." [FullText]
"Of Heart & Mind; Vietnam War Memorial; The Serene Grace of The Vietnam Memorial," by Wolf Von Eckardt, Washington Post, 05/16/81: B1. "It seemed too much to expect that a worthy memorial design could emerge from the mess that was Vietnam. But it did. . . . Lin's design has been called 'minimal art,' whatever that means. There is nothing minimal about this concept. Nor is it abstract, in the sense of being apart from human experience. It is , rather, a direct evocation of an emotional experience, which, one way or another, is what art is all about. Being unconventional --as unconventional as Stonehenge or the Eiffel Tower -- the design may not instantly be grasped. . . . But once Lin's concept is experienced, it is hard to imagine any better solution to the problems a Vietnam Veterans Memorial poses." [FullText]
"Colonel Is Fired Over Article Criticizing Vietnam Memorial," by Charles McCollum, Washington Star, 05/16/81: A1. The article contained lines like "Vietnam was a bum war, fought by lifers in response to the call to serve and by draftees who didn't have the credentials or connections to avoid it . . . a legacy of that war is the collection of misfits who have discovered that being in Southeast Asia is a passable crutch for explaining their dysfunctional behavior." [FullText]
5/18/1981. The New York Times likes it.
"Remembering Vietnam," New York Times, 05/18/81: A18. "Nowadays, though, patriotism is a complicated matter. Ideas about heroism, or art, for that matter, are no longer what they were before Vietnam. And there is certainly no consensus yet about what cause might have been served by the Vietnam War. But perhaps that is why the V-shaped, black granite lines merging gently with the sloping earth make the winning design seem a lasting and appropriate image of dignity and sadness. It conveys the only point about the war on which people may agree: that those who died should be remembered." [FullText]
5/21/1981. More positive response.
"A Winning Design to Honor the Dead," two letters to the editor, Washington Star, 05/21/81. 1) "The jurors were unsure about how the public would accept this design. . . . The VVMF board grasped and embraced the idea of the design immediately. And so has the public." [Paul Spreiregen of the VVMF] 2) "The prideful city of London is filled with monuments to those who fell fighting in so many British mistakes. Was the Boer War, the war against the Zulu's or Gordon's heroic clash with the Mahdi at Khartoum any more just than our action in Vietnam? Is Vietnam any less a triumph? Let us all support our honored dead." [FullText]
5/23/1981. An unfortunate choice of memorial.
"Washington Diarist: Memorials," by Charles Krauthammer, New Republic, 05/23/81: 43. "This memorial says one thing: only the dead, nothing besides, remain. Its purpose is to impress upon the visitor the sheer human waste, the utter meaningless of it all. It is an unfortunate choice of memorial. Memorials are built to give context and, possibly, meaning to suffering that is otherwise incomprehensible. We do not memorialize bus accidents, which by nature are contextless, meaningless. To treat the Vietnam dead like the victims of some monstrous traffic accident is more than a disservice to history." [FullText]
6/1981. Department of Interior, National Capital Memorial Advisory Board Committee meets to consider the design of the memorial.
6/1981. The architects report.
"Vietnam Veterans Memorial Design Competition," Architectural Record, June 1981, 47. "the entire jury agreed that 'the designer has created an eloquent place where the simple meeting of earth, sky, and remembered names contains messages for all who will know this place.'" [FullText]
"Unmonumental Vietnam Memorial, " AIA Journal, June 1981, 17. "Next year, a dark, receding object, a 'statement of quiet reverence' honoring those who died in the Vietnam War, is to be placed near the Lincoln Memorial." [FullText]
6/1/1981. What's in a name?
"Remembering What?" Wall Street Journal, 06/01/81: 26. "There will be not one mention on it of the word 'Vietnam' itself or the reasons for which over 50,000 Americans died there. . . . But why such reluctance to carve in the name 'Vietnam' itself? Are we still unwilling to own that we sent men and women there to serve a national purpose? . . . . it robs the dead of a good measure of their dignity and allows us to slide into the most dishonorable kind of forgetfulness. This is not an acceptable trade. One more name, and a couple of words of appreciation from the country, belong on the Vietnam monument." [FullText]
"Bringing the Vietnam Vets Home," by Lance Morrow, Time, 06/01/81, 45. "A new attitude seems to be developing in both Viet Nam veterans and the nation at large. Americans seem more disposed than at any time in the 13 years since the Tet offensive to admit that the Viet Nam veterans have borne too much of the moral burden for a war that went all wrong." [FullText]
6/5/1981. "The Vietnam Veterans Memorial: A Description of the Design Concept," by the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund:
6/28/1981. Inane design.
"Clouds of Doubt Engulf Viet Nam War Memorial," by Paul Gapp, Chicago Tribune, 06/28/81: G12. "Photos of the memorial in scale-model form were published in the news media recently, but they cannot capture the inanity of the design. Eventually, however, the public will comprehend. When they do, I don't think they'll stand for it. . . . we are to memorialize 57,692 war casualties with something resembling an erosion control project." [FullText]
6/29/1981. Who is this Lin person?
"A Yale Senior, A Vietnam Memorial and a Few Ironies," by B. Drummond Ayres Jr., New York Times, 06/29/81: B5. "When the contest officials made their decision earlier this spring, they did not know that Miss Lin was not a trained architect. . . . The officials found too, that the Vietnam war was not one of the big issues in her life. She was too young for that." [FullText]
6/30/1981. Scruggs explains.
"Remembering Vietnam Veterans," by Jan C. Scruggs, Wall Street Journal, 06/30/81: 31. The design "will have to go through a development and refinement process," and the memorial will be identified with Vietnam, will be handicap accessible, and will receive no government money. [FullText]
7/7/1981. The Commission of Fine Arts meets to consider the memorial design:
minutes: Scruggs, Doubek, Lin, Spreiregen participate in the meeting. There's a negative comment by Scott Brewer (see below). [PDF]
transcript: [PDF]
7/7/1981. Statement by Vietnam veteran Scott Brewer at the CFA meeting.
"The Minimalist design accomplishes little. I find it to be abstract, anonymous, inconspicuous and meaningless, and is so unfulfilling as a lasting memorial that no memorial would be a better alternative." [PDF]
7/13/1981. Major story on the veterans.
"The Forgotten Warriors," Time, 07/13/81, 20. "In the summer of 1981 the war in Viet Nam is re-emerging as an item of profoundly unfinished moral and psychological business. It is not so much a nasty secret as a subject that Americans tacitly agreed not to discuss for a time." [FullText]
7/20/1981. Letter from CFA chairman J. Carter Brown indicating the committee approved the proposed memorial.
"The Commission recognizes that this is only a conceptual design, and that there are a number of questions . . . which must be studied in much greater detail. . . .We strongly recommend, however, that the essential simplicity of the current design be kept as the overriding guideline in developing solutions to these possible problems." [PDF]
7/23/1981. The memorial as open grave.
"None But the Dead?" letter to the editor, Washington Star, 07/23/81. "This memorial, more than anything else, is an open grave for the collective conscience of a guilty nation. The dead should certainly be memorialized, but to again ignore those who still live makes this open grave an open wound as well." [FullText]
8/1981. Images from the competition.
"An Extraordinary Competition," by Allen Freeman, AIA Journal, August 1981: 47-53. "On these pages we show the winner and a sampler of other entries." [FullText]
8/6/1981. The National Capital Planning Commission approves the proposed memorial.
9/18/1981. The design as Orwellian glop.
"Stop That Monument," National Review, 09/18/81: 1064. "Our objection to this Orwellian glop does not issue from any philistine objection to new conceptions in art. It is based upon the clear political message of this design. The design says that the Vietnam War should be memorialized in black, not in the white marble of Washington. The mode of listing the names makes them individual deaths, not deaths in a cause; they might as well have been traffic accidents." [FullText]