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10/13/1981. The Commission of Fine Arts meeting at which real trouble begins.
minutes: [PDF]
transcript: [PDF]
statement by James Webb: "I believe the following modifications must be accomplished: 1. The American flag must be flown in a conspicuous place. . . . 2. In the absence of the artifacts of war, the monument itself must contain a strong inscription denoting the values for which our countrymen fought and died. . . . 3. The memorial should be either raised above ground, or the stone should be changed from black to white. . . . 4.The chronological listing of the names of those who gave their lives must be either modified or abandoned." [PDF]
statement by Tom Carhart: "I don't care about artistic perceptions, I don't care about the rationalizations that abound. One needs no artistic education to see this design for what it is, a black trench that scars the Mall. Black walls, the universal color of shame and sorrow and degradation. Hidden in a hole in the ground, with no means of access for those Vietnam veterans who are condemned to spend the rest of their days in a wheelchair. Perhaps that's an appropriate design for those who would spit on us still. But can America truly mean that we should feel honored by that black pit?" [PDF]
statement by Jan Scruggs: "In 1979, I had a dream, that regardless of the controversy and divisivness centered around Viet Nam, the American people could come together to build a memorial to honor the sacrifices of Vietnam vets. That dream is a reality today because we meet here to select the stone for building that memorial. My final key point is that there is a lot of unfinished business left for our country because of Vietnam. This memorial is a part of that unfinished business, but it remains for the country to absorb and resolve the many difficulties that remain from Vietnam." [PDF]
10/13/1981. "Facts About the Vietnam Memorial," by the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund.
"There have been a number of misunderstandings about the Vietnam Veterans Memorial design that deserve clarification." [PDF]
10/14/1981. The critics at bay.
"Commission Rejects Veteran's Protest, Reapproves Vietnam Memorial Design," by Jack Eisen [Metro Notes], Washington Post, 10/14/81, C3. "Carhart argued that Lin's design . . . chiefly reflected home-front opposition to the war and failed to recognize sacrifices by those who died in the conflict. . . . Jan C. Scruggs . . . defended the design and attributed Carhart's opposition to 'misplaced anger' about the war." [SFX]
10/15/1981. A design with pure intentions.
"Vietnam: In Memoriam," [Cleveland] Plain Dealer, 10/15/81: A28. "The intent can only be to honor the dead, who gave their country the ultimate gift, without unduly glorifying the conflict about which many Americans still have such painfully conflicting emotions. There is no dark, hidden motive, no conspiracy to humiliate. We simply cannot believe that [the veterans, the contributors, the architects, etc.] had anything but the purest of intentions." [SFX]
10/16/1981. Packing an unforgettable wallop.
"Vietnam War Memorial," letter by James J. Kilpatrick, National Review, 10/16/81, 1170. "You would prefer a piece of 'suitable sculpture,' on the model of memorials to Gettysburg or Appomatox. Bosh! Such memorials gather moss in every village square from Mobile to Manchester. Washington is full of suitable sculptures, and with perhaps half a dozen exceptions they are dreadful -- pedestrian examples of the stonecarver's skill. These 'suitable sculptures' arouse no emotion whatever. The proposed memorial, believe me, will pack an unforgettable wallop." [SFX]
10/24/1981. Carhart: "a black gash of shame and sorrow."
"Insulting Vietnam Vets," by Tom Carhart, New York Times, 10/24/81: 1: 23. "Although I have long awaited this moment, as it now approaches I feel only pain. I believe that the design selected for the memorial in an open competition is pointedly insulting to the sacrifices made for their country by all Vietnam veterans. By this will we be remembered: a black gash of shame and sorrow, hacked into the national visage that is the Mall. . . . The proposed design is defended on artistic grounds, but the issue is not one of art: if Americans allow that black trench to be dug, future generations will understand clearly what America thought of its Vietnam veterans. . . . Black walls, the universal color of sorrow and dishonor. Hidden in a hole, as if in shame. Is this really how America would memorialize our offering?" [SFX]
10/26/1981. "Reexamining the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Project," by Francis M. Watson.
"By whatever mechanism, and through whoever's influence, the site chosen for the Vietnam memorial is that of the massive rallies against the war, the specifications for the design of the memorial were antiwar in nature, and the jury which made the selection of the winning design was weighted with men possessing antiwar sentiments, or actually involved with the movement -- including one with long-standing connections with the Communist Party which, of course, had its hands in the antiwar movement whenever and wherever it could. . . . The potential for an embarrassing outcome seems extremely high." [PDF]
10/28/1981. VVMF holds a press conference to announce the inscription.
11/4/1981. Draft letter to the editor from Scruggs responding to an article on Carhart.
"In your recent article . . . an important fact was omitted. Mr. Carhart was one of the unsuccessful entrants in the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund design competition. He withdrew from VVMF as a volunteer specifically to enter and never expressed objection to the composition of the jury prior to his decision." [PDF]
11/5/1981. Perot tells Scruggs that he has received many letters from veterans disliking the design, and he asks to be put in contact with Carhart.
11/8/1981. A neutral and soft-spoken monument.
"Memories That Shape Our Futures," by William Greider, Washington Post, 11/08/81: C1-2. "When one thinks of what might authentically capture the national feeling about Vietnam, there is no clear and obvious answer, none that would not restart the old arguments. Thus, the memorial committee rightly chose a neutral and soft-spoken monument, one which will give each visitor enormous freedom to ruminate on private memories. Only revisionist fools still insist that Vietnam was Gettysburg or the Ardennes; if the government built such a statue, it would be worse than amnesia." [SFX]
"Viet Vets: Doing It Ourselves," by William Vogt, Washington Post, 11/08/81, C1. "It is past time to educate the American public to the fact that we [veterans] made great personal sacrifices in good faith by serving in Vietnam, and that the tempering our ordeal imparted has not destroyed us, but left us stronger." [SFX]
11/9/1981. A design with dignified simplicity.
"Storm over a Viet Nam Memorial," by Wolf Von Eckardt, Time, 11/09/81, 103. "None of the runners-up, however sincerely conceived, deserves a place near the Lincoln Memorial. While there is nothing sacred about the Mall, the majesty of this green carpet demands dignified simplicity, if not nobility, of any newcomer. Lin's design meets that demand." [SFX]
11/10/1981. Commission of Fine Arts meeting at which the proposal was approved pending examination of the scale of the site. Discussion of technical details of the design.
Transcript: [PDF]
Minutes: [PDF]
11/11/1981. Veterans Day.
"How to Remember Vietnam," New York Times, 11/11/81: A30. "The impetus for a memorial springs not from contemporary pride but from later guilt about the men and women who served. Were they heroes or victims? . . . . The nation remains in deep conflict about the war. But with time, all Americans have joined at least in a sense of pain for those who died. A memorial that emphasizes the names without offering any conclusion about the war reflects the truth about how the nation remembers Vietnam. Critics of the memorial would like something more assertive -- a Vietnam version of marines raising the flag at Iwo Jima, perhaps. That would create a shallow monument to politics. The Vietnam dead deserve better." [SFX]
"Free the Veterans," Wall Street Journal, 11/11/81. "We do think it's important to bear in mind what the film [PBS's showing of Frank: A Vietnam Veteran on Veteran's Day] really is: a vicious stereotype of the Vietnam veteran and one, moreover, that has been carefully nurtured for more than a decade by an antiwar movement intent on nailing down the American defeat." [SFX]
"Finally, We Honor the Vietnam Dead," by James J. Kilpatrick, Washington Post, 11/11/81: A27. "The injustice suffered by Vietnam veterans can never be remedied. Those who served in Vietnam did not start the war; it was not their failure that led to the miserable ending. They lived up to the code: duty, honor, country. No belated apology will erase the contumely the survivors experienced. But at least we are now well along in providing deserved tribute to those who did not survive. . . . this will be the most moving war memorial ever erected." [SFX]
"Honoring Veterans of War, and Anti-War," letter to the editor, New York Times, 11/11/81: A30. "The memorial will not be the black hole that Mr. Carhart describes, but rather a subtle yet powerful statement honoring the memory of those who were lost and recognizing the sacrifices of all who served in a war in which there was neither victor nor vanquished." [SFX]
11/14/1981. Model of Simplicity.
"Model of Simplicity; Another Look at the Vietnam Memorial," by Benjamin Forgey, Washington Post, 11/14/81, C1. Descriptions of other entrants. "Just how wrong are the naysayers and how amazingly right were the jurors can be seen in an exhibition of the winning design and its chief competitors that opened last week at the Octagon House. Organized by the American Institute of Architects Foundation." [SFX]
11/15/1981. Carhart continues attack.
"A Better Way to Honor Viet Vets," Tom Carhart, Washington Post, 11/15/81: C5. "The formal failing of this design is that it violates one of the critical criteria of the design competition -- that it must make no political statement. Even if this black gash is not a statement of dishonor and shame, it is clearly at least a statement of sorrow. . . . I am a combat Vietnam veteran with two Purple Hearts and I feel no sorrow. I regret the deaths of brothers in arms, but they died noble, principled deaths, and I salute them and honor them." [SFX]
11/16/1981. Letter from James Webb to Grady Clay, editor of Landscape Architecture Magazine.
"Understatement is not called for when we are dealing with the heroic and honorable loss of life, whether you believed in the cause or not. . . . Is there a reason that [the memorial] should be black and flagless?" [PDF]
11/20/1981. Letter to James Watt, Secretary of the Interior, by several members of the House of Representatives.
"The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund (VVMF) seems to have somewhat twisted things. . . . The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund sought and selected a design that would be built as a memorial to the dead. . . . How did such an obvious variation on the intentions of Congress occur? . . . Clearly, this is not what Congress intended when it authorized a memorial 'in honor and recognition of the men and women of the Armed Forces of the United States who served in the Vietnam war.' We are proud of their selfless sacrifice for America, and we must have a memorial that clearly shows that." [PDF]
11/22/1981. Individual lives/individual deaths.
"War Is a Very Private Agony," letter to the editor, New York Times, 11/22/81, 4: 24. "If we do not recognize war as personal involvement, we will forever continue to sacrifice and waste the youth and promise of tomorrow in the ignorant pursuit of past glories. If man is ever to know peace, we must always remember that all of mankind is made up of individual lives, which, when taken, are individual deaths." [SFX]
11/24/1981. A medley of views on the design.
"The Vietnam Memorial: 'Eloquent' or 'Repugnant,'" letters to the editor, Washington Post, 11/24/81, A16. 1) Scruggs: "In your recent article . . . an important fact was omitted. Mr. Carhart was one of the unsuccessful entrants in the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund design competition. He withdrew from VVMF as a volunteer specifically to enter and never expressed objection to the composition of the jury prior to his decision." 2) "As someone who spent 14 months in Vietnam, I find the proposed design for the memorial personally repugnant. To me, it represents the black gash that ripped our country apart in dissent and the black memories of what I saw over there waiting for me to close my eyes so they can come back to haunt me. . . . I will never go to see it." 3) "As one intended to memorialize Americans fallen or lost in Vietnam, I seriously question the honor the design is supposed to render." 4) "The cruelest joke yet. I prefer no memorial to what is proposed." [SFX]
11/24/1981. November 24 - December 2: Letters between James Webb and Jan Scruggs concerning Webb's resignation from the National Sponsoring Committee of the VVMF.
[PDF]
12/1981. A selection of letters from the general public received by the Commission of Fine Arts after their October and November meetings, for and against their decision.
[PDF]
12/1/1981. Letter from Grady Clay, editor of Landscape Architecture Magazine and chairman juror in the competition, to Interior Secretary James Watt.
"All the foregoing, Mr. Secretary, we offer to you as evidence of our dedication to the task of choosing a great memorial from the entries in this extraordinary and historic competition. Sir, we know the risks. In all competitions, few can be chosen, and many are the losers. Not all who lose can do so with grace. Not all winning designs can please everyone. But great art will survive. Having given this competition the best of our professional judgment, we urge you, Sir, to do all you can to ensure the completion of this unique tribute of memorial art. Those who served and those who died in Vietnam deserve nothing less than the best." [PDF]
12/4/1981. Let's do it.
"Personalities," by Stephanie Zaharoudis and Lois Romano, Washington Post, 12/04/81, D3. Scruggs reports that "This is the time to get rolling and get the thing done." [SFX]
12/7/1981. Critics of the proposed memorial hold a press conference.
12/7/1981. "The Vietnam Memorial," by disabled Vietnam veteran Milton R. Copulos of the Heritage Foundation.
"Perhaps the most unfortunate aspect of the selection is that rather than fulfilling the goal that 'the memorial will begin a healing process, a reconciliation of the grievous divisions wrought by the war,' it has added yet another element of controversy to one of the most controversial episodes in our history." [PDF]
12/8/1981.
"Veterans Fault Vietnam War Memorial Plans," by Norman Hannah, Washington Post, 12/08/81, A11. [SFX]
12/11/1981. Perot tells Scruggs to stop plans for the memorial because of the controversy and offers to fund a new competition. Scruggs tells him he will try to reach a compromise on the design.
12/11/1981. The memorial as an open book.
"Open Book Memorial," by Norman Hannah, National Review, 12/11/81, 1476. "The memorial is clearly an 'open book' in which Americans can not only honor their dead but see the Vietnam War in the stream of our history." [SFX]
12/14/1981. "Process for Selecting Design for National Vietnam Veterans Memorial," by Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund.
Probably put together because of criticism of the process: "This memorandum provides information regarding the process by which the design for the national Vietnam Veterans Memorial was selected. . . . This memorandum details how and why we chose the competition method, how we chose the jury, and how the competition was conducted." [PDF]
12/14/1981. VVMF internal memo indicating Tom Carhart is claiming that a possible Communist selected the design.
[PDF]
12/14/1981. Veteran voices on the war.
"What Vietnam Did to Us: A Combat Unit Relives the War and the Decade Since," Newsweek, 12/14/81, 46-49. "We were the unwilling working for the unqualified to do the unnecessary for the ungrateful . . . . This is about as truthful as you can get." [SFX]
12/15/1981. Associated Press story that Perot wants a Gallup poll on the design.
12/18/1981. Memorial as mockery.
"Reassessing the Vietnam Veterans Memorial," by James H. Webb, Jr., Wall Street Journal, 12/18/81, 22. "At what point does a piece of architecture cease being a memorial to service and instead become a mockery of that service, a wailing wall for future anti-draft and anti-nuclear demonstrators? And, most importantly, how did this travesty, this unwinnable paradox, come about?" [SFX]
12/21/1981. "Publicity and Support for Memorial since Announcement of Design," by Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund.
[PDF]
12/22/1981. Veterans of Foreign Wars presents big check to VVMF, with football star and wounded Vietnam war veteran Rocky Bleier as the presenter.
12/26/1981. An Insulting Memorial.
"An Insulting Memorial," by Patrick Buchanan, Chicago Tribune, 12/26/81, N1. "Unless there is some form of national protest, this final national outrage will be perpetrated against the memory of the Vietnam veteran. . . . That trench would be a permanent political statement endorsing the view of the American Left: that the Vietnam veterans fought and died in a worthless cause. . . . The most persuasive voices that could be raised would surely be those of the veterans themselves, rising in angry protest against this last, final exploitation of their fallen comrades." [SFX]
"Veterans Say Vietnam Visit Finally Ends War for Them," Washington Post, 12/26/81, A20. Four vets return to Vietnam: "We went in peace and we met in peace, and I think for me and for all of us, the war is really over." [SFX]
12/27/1981. The money's coming in.
"Fund at Halfway Point For Vietnam Memorial," New York Times, 12/27/81, 1: 51. $7 million is the total goal. [SFX]
12/30/1981. Representative Henry Hyde begins his "Christmas offensive," sending a letter to the president and fellow Congress members.
"We feel this design makes a political statement of shame and dishonor, rather than an expression of our national pride at the courage, patriotism and nobility of all who served. A new jury ought to be appointed, less intent on perpetuating national humiliation no matter how artistically expressed. We who voted for enabling legislation . . . feel betrayed. . . . We share the view that this alleged memorial is a 'black ditch that does not recognize or honor those who served' and fervently hope you and Secretary Watt will intercede to prevent this depressing and unedifying memorial from representing our Nation's public statement about men and women who deserve far better from us." [PDF]
1/3/1982. Much more on who Lin is.
"Maya Lin and The Great Call Of China; The Fascinating Heritage of the Student Who Designed the Vietnam Memorial," by Phil McCombs, Washington Post, 01/03/82: F1. Perhaps the most in-depth essay so far on Lin the person. [SFX]
1/4/1982. Secretary of the Interior Watts puts the memorial project on hold.
1/7/1982. Representative DeNardis circulates a "Dear Colleague" letter rebutting Hyde's.
"Congress has no business meddling in subjective judgments about the design of a memorial we are not financing. Our concern should be with the matter of orderly procedures, correctly followed. . . . There is an odor of mischief in this last minute attempt to discredit the Vietnam veterans design selection process." [PDF]
1/11/1982. Senators Symms, Helms, and others write to Watt.
"We are writing to request that you withhold your final review and approval of the design for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. . . . Many Vietnam era veterans object strongly to the memorial as now conceived. We believe that no memorial should be built that is offensive to those who served in Vietnam." [PDF]
1/12/1982. Representative Hyde and others write to President Reagan.
Same as December 30: [PDF]
1/13/1982. Watt delays.
"Watt Raises Obstacle On Vietnam Memorial," New York Times, 01/13/82: A12. "Mr. Watt told the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund . . . that the design must be resubmitted to him because of modifications made since he gave preliminary approval in June." [SFX]
"War Memorial Faces Hurdle at Interior," Washington Post, 01/13/82, A21. "Watt's action comes amid a clamor of criticism to the design -- much of it from conservatives -- saying that the design reflects the dissension over the war at home rather than the bravery of the soldiers in the field." [SFX]
1/14/1982. Scruggs explains and defends.
"In Defense of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial," by Jan C. Scruggs, Wall Street Journal, 01/14/82. Response to Webb of 12/18: "The design isn't anti-war or pro-war. It is a great work of art, chosen by a jury of leading architects in the largest design competition ever held in America. The choice was then approved by a group of Vietnam veterans who helped to organize the fund I head. Jim Webb asks why there was no veteran on the jury, having himself declined to serve on it. The answer is that we didn't have to take the design proposed by the jury. We -- veterans all -- agreed it was the best." [SFX]
1/15/1982. A divisive memorial.
"Viet Memorial Opens Old Wounds," by Phyllis Schlafly, Buffalo Evening News, 01/15/82: 21. "If there is one thing we don't need, it's a piece of granite to reopen old wounds. If the design of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial invites divisiveness instead of healing, it should not be built." [SFX]
1/27/1982. Senator Warner hosts a reconciliation gathering out of which comes the compromise to add a flag and statue.
1/28/1982. The White House representative's memo reporting on the Warner meeting: "Summary of Compromises on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Design."
"Based on this agreement, there is no reason to hold up the plan to break ground by March 1." [PDF]
1/30/1982. Minimally acceptable compromise.
"Flag, Hero Added; Stark Vietnam Veterans Memorial to Be Modified," by Mike Feinsilber, Philadelphia Inquirer, 01/30/82. Report on the compromise: "To end such dissension, leaders of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund agreed to the design changes . . . and the critics were somewhat mollified. One called the changes 'minimally acceptable.'" [SFX]