Thursday, October 8, 2009

Maya Lin and the Vietnam Wall

The Memorial Wall, designed by Maya Lin, is made up of two black granite walls 246 feet 9 inches long. The walls are sunk into the ground, with the earth behind them. At the highest tip (the apex where they meet), they are 10.1 feet high, and they taper to a height of eight inches at their extremities. Inscribed on the walls with the Optima typeface are the names of servicemen who were either confirmed to be Killed in Action or remained classified as Missing in Action when the walls were constructed in 1982. They are listed in chronological order, starting at the apex on panel 1E in 1959. The typesetting of the original 58,159 names on the wall was performed by Datalantic in Atlanta, Georgia. In 2007, it was ranked tenth on the "List of America's Favorite Architecture" by the American Institute of Architects. Approximately 1,200 of these are listed as missing MIAs, POWs, and others, denoted with a cross; the confirmed dead are marked with a diamond. If the missing return alive, the cross is circumscribed by a circle if their death is confirmed, a diamond is superimposed over the cross. According to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund, "there is no definitive answer to exactly how many, but there could be as many as 38 names of personnel who survived, but through clerical errors, were added to the list of fatalities provided by the Department of Defense. Directories are located on nearby podiums so that visitors may locate specific names.


  1. I remember this wall and visiting it with my family. I even remember how powerful and sad it was being there. I recall seeing elderly people and families actually crying while touching a name or people leaving flowers or notes or American flags by a name. It was an extremely moving experience and one of my favorite monuments to visit in D.C. If you have yet to go there make sure to stop here.

  2. You will notice that the wall is black granite, as if it is associated with death. Another observation is that the Memorial goes underground and is difficult to spot from far away. You can spot the Lincoln Memorial, Washington Monument, WWII Memorial, and so on, but when you come to the Wall, it’s almost as if it’s tucked away, hidden, and forgotten. It’s a very moving experience, if any of you ever get the chance to go there.

  3. Is the cross for everyone? For instance I’m a Christian but a Muslim or Jewish solider would they still get a cross or a star or something?