“Which of these brave young men dying in the rice paddies of Vietnam might have written a symphony? Which of them might have written a beautiful poem or might have cured cancer? Which of them might have played in the World Series or given us the gift of laughter from a stage, or help build a bridge or a university? Which of them might have taught a small child to read? It is our responsibility to let those men live.”—Robert F. Kennedy
The Vietnam War was a Cold War-era military conflict that took place in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia from November 1, 1955 to the fall of Saigon on April 30, 1975.
The U.S. government viewed American involvement in the war as a way to prevent a communist takeover of South Vietnam. This was part of their wider strategy of containment, which aimed to stop the spread of communism. The North Vietnamese government and the Viet Cong were fighting to reunify Vietnam under communist rule. They viewed the conflict as a colonial war, fought initially against France, then against America as France was backed by the U.S., and later against South Vietnam, which it regarded as a U.S. puppet state.
The war exacted a huge human cost in terms of fatalities. Estimates of the number of Vietnamese service members and civilians killed vary from 800,000 to 3.1 million. Some 200,000–300,000 Cambodians, 20,000–200,000 Laotians, and 58,220 U.S. service members died in the conflict. Their names are embedded in a large black national memorial in Washington, D.C. It honors U.S. service members of the U.S. armed forces who fought in the Vietnam War, service members who died in service in Vietnam/South East Asia, and those service members who were unaccounted for (Missing In Action) during the War.
Stone for the wall came from Bangalore, Karnataka, India, and was deliberately chosen because of its reflective quality. Stone cutting and fabrication was done in Barre, Vermont. Stones were then shipped to Memphis, Tennessee where the names were etched.
The Vietnam war started during the administration of Dwight D. Eisenhower and continued during the administrations of John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, Richard M. Nixon, and Gerald Ford. It was a long, bitter, unpopular, costly, and deadly war. Let us not forget the men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice during this irrational and worthless confrontation on both sides of the conflict.
The fifty-eight thousand names etched on the wall are a reminder of the terrible cost of war. Good Day.