American Icons: The Vietnam Veterans Memorial

May 31, 2018
The Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, DC.

The Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, DC.

Credit:

Vietnam War Memorial (Washington DC) by Shubert Ciencia/CC BY 2.0

American Icons: The Vietnam Veterans Memorial

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May 31, 2018

This is the monument that changed how America remembers war.

How do you build a monument to a war that was more tragic than triumphant? Maya Lin was practically a kid when she got the commission to design the Vietnam Veterans Memorial on the National Mall. “The veterans were asking me, ‘What do you think people are going to do when they first come here?’” she remembers. “And I wanted to say, ‘They’re going to cry.’"

Her minimalistic granite wall was derided by one vet as a “black gash of shame.” But inscribed with the name of every fallen soldier, it became a sacred place for veterans and their families, and it influenced later designs like the National September 11 Memorial. We’ll visit a replica of the wall that travels to veterans’ parades around the country, and hear from former Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel about how this singular work of architecture has influenced how we think about war.  

American Icons: The Vietnam Veterans Memorial

Credit:

Studio 360

Bonus Track: Kurt Andersen's full interview with Maya Lin

Hear Kurt's full interview with Lin about what it was like to stir up a national controversy at such a young age, and how her artistic career has evolved in the three decades since the memorial was created.

Kurt Andersen's full interview with Maya Lin Thursday, May 31, 2018

 
Bonus Track: Angela Matthews remembers Joseph Sintoni

Angela Matthews reads the letter she left at The Wall for her high school sweetheart, Joseph Sintoni. It was featured in Laura Palmer's book "Schrapnel From the Heart."

Angela Matthews remembers Joseph Sintoni Thursday, May 31, 2018

Bonus Track: Viet Nguyen on Vietnamese memorials

Nguyen fled Vietnam with his family after the fall of Saigon, eventually settling in Pennsylvania in 1975. He has been visiting Vietnam almost every year since 2002, and explains how the war is remembered there.

Viet Nguyen on Vietnamese memorials Thursday, May 31, 2018

Images from the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and the Memorial Resource Center

A watercolor from Maya Lin’s entry to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial 1981 design competition.

Credit:

Library of Congress

The 1982 Veterans Day dedication of The Wall

Credit:

Courtesy of Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund

The view from the top of the wall, looking toward the Lincoln Memorial (undated).

Credit:

Library of Congress

The Three Servicemen statue in 2011.

Credit:

Dan Arant. Courtesy of Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund 

Kurt Andersen and journalist Laura Palmer visit the memorial in 2012.

Credit:

Eric Molinsky

Aseneth Blackwell remembers her husband, veteran Frederick D. Blackwell, at her visit to The Wall on Memorial Day 2012.

Credit:

Eric Molinsky

Offerings left on Memorial Day in 2006.

Credit:

Library of Congress (Carol M. Highsmith)

Duery Felton (left), the curator of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Collection, is interviewed by Kurt in 2012.

Credit:

Eric Molinsky

The peace poncho, which Kurt mentions, sits on a table near a bag of bullets and a pack of Lucky Strikes.

Credit:

Eric Molinsky

Sharon Denitto helps visitors to the Moving Wall locate names of loved ones.

Credit:

Courtesy of Sharon Denitto

(Originally aired October 4, 2013)

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