On November 13, 1982, three days after it opened to the public, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial was dedicated in Washington, D.C. The memorial, a V-shaped, polished stone wall with engravings of names of those killed, got off to a rocky start but later became one of the best-known memorials in the country. See if you can answer these trivia questions about the Vietnam Veterans Memorial...
Why Was There Opposition to the Design at First?
The design of the memorial, created by a 21-year-old student named Maya Lin, is a simple V-shaped granite wall. There are none of the heroic-seeming statues or other accompaniments that you see at other memorials, and at first, this seemed ridiculous to a vocal group of veterans. Criticism of the memorial was open and fairly common at first, but once the memorial actually opened, there was a big change in how it was perceived.
Now the memorial is so popular that several traveling versions have been created, which tour the country so that vets who can't travel to the real memorial can still see their friends' names and remember their service and sacrifice. It is interesting to note that the memorial almost didn't make it -- Congress considered stopping its construction -- due to the statue issue as well as the use of black granite, which seemed too sad to many people. After several members agreed to add an additional memorial with a statue and flag nearby, construction on the memorial continued.
Are Newly Identified Casualties Added to the Wall? Yes. If the service member's death meets certain requirements, the person's name can be added to the wall. The wall also contains the names of those missing in action, and if remains are identified, the discovery is noted. Each name has either a diamond or cross next to it, with the cross denoting missing in action; when remains are found and identified, the cross is changed to a diamond.
Why Do Some States Have Their Own Version? The traveling versions of the wall are not the only copies available. Many cities and states, such as Naperville, Illinois, and the state of California have their own mini-versions (and they are mini; they are not nearly as big as the actual memorial). These were created partly to give residents a chance to see the wall without going all the way to Washington D.C. and partly to honor those dead and missing service members who were from that area.
Why Were Many Names Left off of the Wall?
The memorial's list of names is extensive but not complete. In order to be on the wall, the death of the service member has to meet certain restrictions, such as occurring within a certain number of miles from Vietnam or taking place between certain dates. For example, deaths that occur years after exposure to Agent Orange might not be on the wall; others that took place during the war and due to military movements may not be there because the deaths did not occur in the actual war zone -- and it is difficult to add names like these.
One example of that last type is a group known as the "Lost 74," sailors who were killed when their Navy ship collided with an aircraft carrier just outside the war zone during naval exercises. These sailors had all been a part of the war effort, and had the collision taken place inside the war zone, their names would have been included. But they were not on the original memorial, and despite years of attempts to add them, including passing a bill in the House of Representatives, the Pentagon has declined to add them.