The Making of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial

by: Ellen C. Caldwell
for JSTOR Daily

In November of 1982, a processional of thousands of Vietnam veterans marched to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial for its dedication in Washington, D.C. Though now celebrated for its modern, minimal design and contemplative space, the memorial was the subject of heated debates prior to its opening.

Marita Sturken presents the story of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, exploring the deeper issues underlying the memorial’s controversy: How do we grieve as a nation? How do we memorialize a war “whose history is highly contested and still in the process of being made?” What shouldmemorials look like and by whom should they be made?

Administered under the Federal Government’s National Parks Services, the memorial was funded by a veterans group called The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund (VVMF). They opened a design competition for the memorial. VVMF “stipulated only two things for its design—that it contain the names of those who died or are missing in action and that it be apolitical and harmonious with the site.” Sturken notes that “[i]mplicit within these guidelines was also a desire that the memorial offer some kind of closure to the debates on the war.” However, when VVMF released the winning design, closure to the war did not immediately ensue…

Read the rest here at JSTOR Daily.

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