The Competition for the Memorial Design

The VVMF retained Revisionist guidelines for the designs of the memorial. Political, military or personal views were not allowed. As Scruggs claimed, the guidelines provided the memorial’s design to “transcend those issues.”  The memorial was hoped to be a place wherein a shared history of the Vietnam War could be achieved.

In essence, the guidelines were simple, if not “wildly ambitious.” The design was to “Be reflective and contemplative in character … Harmonize with its surroundings ...provide for the inscription of the names of all American military personnel who died in Vietnam during the war, including the names of those who remained unaccounted for by the end of the war .. and make no political statement of the war.” Altogether, “[i]t will provide a symbol of acknowledgment of the courage, sacrifice, and devotion to duty of those who were among the nation’s finest youth.” It had to display the names of the 58,318 Americans who died in Vietnam, of which would later be added the names of the POWS/MIAS. Ultimately, as Scruggs suggested, the design of the Vietnam Memorial was to provide a “healing process” and to work as a “reconciliation of the grievous divisions wrought by the war.” The purpose of the Memorial was to repair a nation broken by the conflict in Vietnam.

    A national design competition was opened in October 1980, with a deadline in March 1981. Any US citizen, 18 years and older, was allowed to enter the competition. The design proposals were submitted by blind entry, evaluated anonymously by eight designers and architect leaders. The number of proposals amounted to 1,421, of which entry #1026 was selected as winner.