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Creating the Vietnam

Veterans Memorial
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Creating the Vietnam
Veterans Memorial
The Inside Story
Robert W. Doubek

McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers


Jefferson, North Carolina
LIBRARY OF CONGRESS CATALOGUING-IN-PUBLICATION DATA
Doubek, Robert W.
Creating the Vietnam Veterans
Memorial : the inside story / Robert W. Doubek.
p. cm.
Includes index.

ISBN 978-0-7864-7909-2 (softcover : acid free paper)


ISBN 978-1-4766-1988-0 (ebook)

1. Vietnam Veterans Memorial (Washington, D.C.)—History. 2. Vietnam
War, 1961–1975—Monuments—Washington (D.C.) 3. Washington
(D.C.)—Buildings, structures, etc. I. Doubek, Robert W. II. Title.
F203.4.V54D67 2015 975.3—dc23 2015018322

BRITISH LIBRARY CATALOGUING DATA ARE AVAILABLE

© 2015 Robert W. Doubek. All rights reserved

No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form


or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying
or recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system,
without permission in writing from the publisher.

On the cover: the Vietnam Memorial at sunrise


(© 2015 Dreamstime); original blueprints from the Vietnam
Memorial (courtesy of Cooper-Lecky Partnership)

Printed in the United States of America

McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers


Box 611, Jefferson, North Carolina 28640
www.mcfarlandpub.com
To all those named on the Wall
“It is in keeping with the character of the Vietnam war that the
memorial it begat has been the center of an emotional debate
about esthetics and artistic renditions of war, patriotism and
heroics.”
—Caryle Murphy, “Reconciliation in Granite
And a 5-Day Salute to Vietnam Veterans,”
Washington Post, November 7, 1982

vi
Acknowledgments

I wish to thank the following for their assistance in lending and obtain-
ing photos and other materials: Tad Bennicoff of the Smithsonian Institution
Archives, Ellen Braaten of the Virginia Tech School of Architecture and
Design, Lia Braaten Hager of Procter & Gamble, Professor Edward J. Gal-
lagher of Lehigh University, Bryan Kasik of the University of Virginia School
of Law, Lynn Kennedy of Los Gatos, California, Brittany A. Laeger of the
Kennedy Center, William Lecky of the Lecky Design Studio, Joan Marcus of
Joan Marcus Photography, Martha Mattox of Mattox Photography, Margaret
Suchanick of Corbis Images, and Howard Trace of the American Legion
Library and Museum.
Furthermore I thank these personal friends for their comments and
feedback on various aspects of the text and the cover design: Daniel Arant,
Simon Barker-Benfield, Nora Campbell, Lee Cooke, Carla Corbin, James
Doubek, Dick Dowd, Thomas Glen, Thomas Grubb, Margee Herring, Bill
Jayne, Phil Kasik, Dianne Konz, Leo Konz, Bruce Lyons, Allen McCabe,
Suzonna Moore, Clifford Peterson, Arthur Purcell, Chris Schumann, Tom
Sedlacek, Shaun Sheehan, Cara Slaby, Diana Slaby, Edward Slaby, Ronald
Slaby, Chris Smith, Barbara Sovern, Patricia Stack, Kim Storey, Jan Thomson,
Jon Welsh, and Lillis Werder.
I specially recognize my lifelong friend Ronald Slaby for his creativity
and insight regarding the chapter titles and the overall tone of the narrative.
Finally, I thank my beloved spouse Christine Bedoret for enduring
months of my daily early risings and Saturday disappearances.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments vii
Preface 1
Abbreviations 3

1. “What about a memorial?” 5


2. The Man and the Idea 8
3. $144.50 12
4. The West Pointer and the Sculptor 16
5. Friends in High Places 20
6. New Recruits but Bunko Too 25
7. Two Acres 28
8. National Velvet 42
9. The Buck, the Millionaire, and Action on All Fronts 54
10. Crisis on the Hill, but Promise of a Rose Garden 71
11. Design Disputes 86
12. The Fundraising Maze 98
13. Not Afraid of Virginia Woolf 106
14. Burning Out 109
15. The Largest Architectural Design Competition Ever 114
16. “What the hell is that?” 126
17. Unveiling and Reaction 131
18. Who’s the Real Mother? 141
19. The Sacred Names and the Inscription 148
20. Our Opponents Take the Field 158
21. “A nasty five hours” 184
22. Prefixes 207
23. Moving Dirt and Molding Clay 211

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x Table of Contents

24. “Art war” 226


25. “A felt need in this country for healing” 243
26. Our Moment 256
27. The Truce Ends 272
28. The Diva Sings 279
29. Safe at Home, but No Applause 292
30. “Our Parthenon” 295

Postscripts 300
Index 303
Preface

November 13, 2014, marked the 32rd anniversary of the dedication of the Vietnam
Veterans Memorial on the Mall in Washington, D.C. In the three decades of its existence
the Memorial has become an American cultural icon—symbolizing the difficult period in
our history when Americans were in combat in Southeast Asia—the defining experience
of the Baby Boom generation. Rarely will the media refer to the Vietnam War without
showing images of the black granite wall inscribed with the names of the Americans who
died. This Memorial Wall has become one of the most heavily visited monuments in the
country.
I have written this book to set out for posterity the complete story of the Memorial’s
realization, including the struggle over the conflicting visions of its purpose and meaning.
Proposed visions ranged from justifying the war and rebuking the antiwar movement to
reconciling political differences and healing the nation. Over the years, I have heard many
myths and speculations about the origins of the Memorial, so I hope to set the record
straight. Moreover, a whole generation has been born and come of age for which the Viet-
nam War, its effect on the country, and the resulting significance of the Memorial are merely
history.
The book addresses political, artistic, financial, cultural, and deeply emotional factors
that influenced the Memorial’s creation. The dramatic story of how it came to be deals with
Washington politics; conflicts among dedicated, driven, and sometimes flawed individuals;
the intricacies of a national grassroots campaign; the challenges of conducting the largest
design competition in U.S. history; the heated controversy about the winning design and
its creator; the eternal debate over public art and its perception by the public; the meticulous
task of verifying 58,000 names and carving them into stone; and the nuances of how federal
government approval of the exceptional design was accomplished. Many of the figures
described in the book remained in the national spotlight over the ensuing three decades,
including Pat Buchanan, Chuck Hagel, Maya Lin, Judith Martin (“Miss Manners”), John
McCain, Ross Perot, Elizabeth Taylor, John Warner, and James Webb.
My perspective on the story derives from personal experience, as I was in charge of
building the Memorial. I co-founded the effort and participated in every major decision
and event. From the beginning of the process, I collected voluminous records, calendars,
photos, news clippings, and other materials that document the process. I supplemented my
collection with records archived in the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund Collection at
Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C., as well as with
those available on the website titled “The Vietnam Wall Controversy,” created by Professor
Edward J. Gallagher, Department of English, Lehigh University (www.lehigh.edu/~ejg1/

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2 Preface

vietnam/), for an online course. I am blessed and cursed with a sharp memory and recall
numerous conversations, statements, events, and anecdotes, especially since the Memorial
was an experience that changed my life forever. My recollections and personal notes sup-
plemented and provided context to the public records, which at the same time bolstered
my recollections.
In telling the story, I have attempted to strike a balance between the narrative flow
and the details that give it context, because, as we all have observed, a stream flowing
through boulders is more interesting than the stream or the boulders alone. I have endeav-
ored to present an accurate and balanced account of the events, and while I have definite
biases, I have attempted to make them clear, so that the difference between fact and opinion
is transparent. Finally, I have strived to indicate in the text the sources of all quotes.
It is my hope and expectation that this book will be of interest to a broad range of
readers, representing various segments of our society. These include the millions of family
members, loved ones, and others whose lives were touched by one or more of the 58,000
individuals named on the Wall, as well as the community of military veterans, especially
those who served in Vietnam. Other groups would include those interested in a uniquely
dramatic and American story that illuminates fundamental aspects of history, art, archi-
tecture, design, politics, cultural upheaval, and societal reconciliation.
Abbreviations

ABMC American Battle Monuments Commission


AIA American Institute of Architects
AMVETS American Veterans of World War II, Korea, and Vietnam
AP Associated Press
CFA U.S. Commission of Fine Arts
CM Construction Management
DAV Disabled American Veterans
DOD Department of Defense
DOI Department of the Interior
EDS Electronic Data Systems
HBS Harvard Business School
HUAC House Un-American Activities Committee
IPA Independent Petroleum Association of America
Legion The American Legion
NCMAC National Capital Memorial Advisory Committee
NCPC National Capital Planning Commission
NEA National Endowment for the Arts
NPS National Park Service
NSC National Sponsoring Committee
PAS Philanthropic Advisory Service
PFOD Presumed Finding of Death
PLP Partners for Livable Places
Post Washington Post
PSSP Photo Stencil Sandblasting Process
REMF Rear Echelon Mother Fucker
Times The New York Times
UPI United Press International
USO United Service Organizations
VA Veterans Administration
VFW Veterans of Foreign Wars
VVLP Vietnam Veterans Leadership Project
VVMF Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund

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1

“What about a memorial?”

That day, April 9, 1979, had been beautiful—clear and brilliant. As I walked from my
law office to the offices of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, I saw the blooming flowers and
smelled the newly turned soil in their beds. A perfect day for a bike ride, I thought, picturing
a brisk thirty-minute tour around the Reflecting Pool at the foot of the grand temple of the
Lincoln Memorial. Just north of the Reflecting Pool lay Constitution Gardens, where in a
pristine but deserted open glade another memorial would come to stand. Yet the creation
of that memorial would reflect divisions in American society eerily reminiscent of the
schism presided over by Lincoln more than a century before.
On that beautiful spring day I had no idea I was about to join an endeavor with effects
running deep and wide in the national culture. I had heard that some Vietnam veterans
were having trouble. I was heading to a meeting called for the purpose of generating pub-
licity for these veterans’ needs. I had no grand ideas in mind, just a vague sense that some-
how I wanted to be of help.
“What about a memorial?” the man said hesitantly.
About forty-five minutes had elapsed by then. In a nondescript meeting room under
the glare of fluorescent lights sat thirty or so veterans on folding chairs along the walls and
at tables grouped into a large rectangle. Mostly in their late twenties and early thirties,
some wore suits and ties and others shirts and slacks. One or two wore fatigue jackets.
The speaker had caught my attention early on. Lean, with an angular face, he wore
Levis and sat hunched over at the far end of the rectangle, keenly observing the proceedings.
I thought: “There’s a lone wolf, if I’ve ever seen one.”
For Memorial Day 1979, Congress had declared a “Vietnam Veterans Week.” But it
hadn’t provided funding, so the proclamation had about the same significance as “Drink
More Milk Week.” The purpose of the meeting was nevertheless to somehow utilize the
occasion to focus the public’s attention on the needs of those most affected by an unpopular
war. Meanwhile, a bill to provide concrete benefits, the Vietnam Veteran Act, languished
in Congress. Moreover, bickering between the House and Senate veterans’ affairs commit-
tees obstructed an appropriation for psychological services for Vietnam veterans requested
by President Carter.
I hadn’t encountered so many other Vietnam veterans since I separated from the Air
Force in July 1971 and started at Georgetown Law School the following month. Since that
time, I had perceived my status as a Vietnam veteran as irrelevant—if not a hindrance—
to my aspirations to succeed professionally and socially in the heady atmosphere of Wash-
ington. The dominant attitude among the young professional set avowed that anyone who
did military service—especially in Vietnam—had to be stupid.

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6 Creating the Vietnam Veterans Memorial

I had served in Da Nang in 1969, but I wasn’t sure I was welcome at the meeting.
Undoubtedly some had seen combat, and I hadn’t. Most appeared to be former enlisted
men in blue collar or government jobs. I had been an officer and was now a lawyer in a
private firm. A few years earlier I had met some veterans in a bar in Georgetown. I spent
some time talking with them, or so I thought. When the evening ended one let me know
that my intrusion hadn’t been appreciated. They had “shit their pants together” in combat
and had a bond that I couldn’t share.
As an Air Force intelligence officer, I had interrogated North Vietnamese prisoners of
war. My tour hadn’t been dangerous, but I was profoundly sobered by the experience of
war. People like me really did die, and whether your number was up was often just the luck
of the draw. In spite of my lack of credentials, I had come to the meeting in good faith to
volunteer my help.
I graduated from law school in 1974, a year before the fall of Saigon. As the 1970s wore
on, the newspapers began to report that many veterans were experiencing problems. Men
had trouble adjusting to civilian life; some couldn’t find work; others were burdened with
bad discharges. The wacky Vietnam vet played a key role as the stereotype victim-
perpetrator in every TV hostage drama. My lawyer job didn’t yield much fulfillment, and
I thought I might get some satisfaction from my legal skills if I volunteered to help other
veterans. I had heard about the meeting from another lawyer, Joe Zengerle, who happened
to be a West Point graduate.
The meeting organizer, lawyer Stuart Feldman, sat at the head of the table. Feldman
himself wasn’t a veteran and talked with a mild stutter. He was slight and balding, and his
speech and mannerisms reflected wealth and education. I recalled that he had once come
to Georgetown Law School and tried to organize the veterans there to lobby for better ben-
efits on Capitol Hill. For years he had been on a lonely crusade trying to elevate the Vietnam
veterans issue. In July 1978 Feldman had written an op-ed for the Washington Post titled
“Our Failure to Discuss Vietnam,” in which he summed up the veterans’ dilemma: “There
was probably as much heroism by American servicemen in Vietnam as in any previous
war. Yet the Vietnam veteran doesn’t know whether he is a hero, an honorable man for
serving his country, or a fool for not evading the draft.”
In the op-ed Feldman had called for a “President’s Week for Vietnam Veterans,” with
a presidential fireside address to open a nonpartisan discussion of Vietnam. He now was
a consultant for the mayors’ lobby, which no doubt was involved because of the social
service burden on the cities posed by the veterans. If an empty gesture like Vietnam Veterans
Week could at least be utilized to generate publicity for veterans’ needs, some lemonade
might be made from the lemon.
In his halting manner, Feldman reviewed the current situation concerning benefits
for Vietnam veterans, the proposed legislation, and his own past efforts. He invited sug-
gestions for events that might generate some publicity for the Week. Some solid ideas came
out, like wearing lapel ribbons, planting a tree, and involving churches. After hearing others
speak, I relaxed and joined in. Some in the room had been in combat, but no one impressed
me as a warrior. These were people who had simply done their duty, mostly followers rather
than leaders. Nonetheless, the contrast between the Vietnam experience, with its heat, dirt,
smells, and death, and this meeting—akin to planning for a high school prom—struck me
as ironic.
1. “What about a memorial?” 7

Suddenly the lone wolf, who hadn’t otherwise said a word, stood up and threw out his
idea: “What about a memorial?” In view of the discussion, he came totally out of left field.
“What do you mean?” someone said.
“I mean having a national memorial for Vietnam veterans.”
“Vietnam veterans don’t need a memorial. They need better benefits,” shot back Feld-
man with a tinge of scorn. A few others made similar remarks and some smirked, while
the man stood silently. No one spoke in support, and I felt sorry for him. The idea, though
out of place, didn’t deserve contempt.
After the man sat down, I kept looking at him and thinking about his idea. While
some Vietnam veterans truly needed more benefits, most didn’t. What all did need, however,
was some recognition and acknowledgment of their service in the war. I hadn’t faced combat
and hadn’t been injured, but many had. I’d met some of the best people in my life in Vietnam
and in the military in general. Many believed in President Kennedy’s exhortations to “do
for your country” and “bear any burden in defense of freedom.” I resented hearing all of
this idealism, heroism, and sacrifice dismissed with lightly veiled contempt by the yuppy
professional class of Washington. It especially galled me since my fellow denizens of the
legal profession so far had demonstrated no special claim on values like morality, courage,
and idealism.
With no more ideas forthcoming, the meeting ended. As the room emptied, I walked
around the table to the man, who stood alone, slouching. About five feet nine inches tall
at most, he was thin with drooping shoulders. His dark brown hair fell to cover most of
his ears and forehead. I introduced myself. He didn’t look at me, and gave me a limp hand-
shake. His name was Jan Scruggs.
“I think a memorial is a good idea,” I said.
“Well, what do I have to do to do it myself?” he replied, now turning to meet my gaze
and speaking with an accent that I’d heard on country radio stations. Coincidentally I
recently had prepared incorporation papers for a conservative national security advocacy
group. I also was applying for a state tax exemption for another conservative organization.
“What you need is a nonprofit corporation with a tax exemption under Section
501(c)(3) of the tax code. That way you have a corporate vehicle that can hire employees
and contract for services. People can contribute money and deduct it from their income
tax.” He asked how long it would it take to set it up.
“Sometimes you can get a certificate of incorporation in D.C. in a day or two. The tax
exemption has to go to the IRS, so that takes about two months or so. If you need any
advice, just give me a call.” I handed him my card.
2

The Man and the Idea

Scruggs called the next week. “I want to go ahead and set up the corporation, and I
want you to do the papers.” I hadn’t expected to hear from him, let alone have him as a
client, but he came to my office that afternoon. The firm had just moved to the top floor
of a building at 19th and L Streets, complete with thick carpet and crown and chair moldings
in the offices and corridors. I now had my own private office with a new executive desk
and my framed diplomas on the wall.
The ostentation made me uncomfortable. In high school football I learned that I was
only as good as my last tackle and each day had to re-earn my position on the starting
team. I had been with the firm less than a year, after having languished too long on the
legal staff of a government agency. I hadn’t yet made enough tackles to earn the luxurious
office. Yet I had to play the role and project an image of professionalism, competence, and
confidence. At least I looked the part. I was tall and relatively good-looking and wore three-
piece suits.
As in our first encounter, Scruggs wore Levis. Here he looked especially out of place,
and I was as wary of him as he seemed of me. I had never signed up a paying client before,
so I didn’t know all the protocols. I also felt intimidated in the presence of a former soldier
who had actually seen combat. Yet I did my best to play the role of knowledgeable and
experienced counsel, as much for his sake as for mine.
Scruggs, the youngest of four boys, had grown up in a poor family in Bowie, Maryland.
Of Scotch-Irish heritage, he had roots in Alabama. His father, a milkman, had died at a
young age, and the family could never afford to own a house but had followed some
interesting paths. Scruggs’s oldest brother now lived in Switzerland, as the European rep-
resentative for a major U.S. corporation. One of his middle brothers ran a mail-order com-
pany that sold theology degrees, and his mother was a cocktail waitress at a Las Vegas
casino.
Born in 1950, Scruggs had enlisted in the Army in August 1968, right out of high
school, with the goal of later attending college on the GI bill. Sent to Vietnam in April 1969,
he served as a rifleman and mortarman in the 199th Light Infantry Brigade. Wounded
within the first month, he spent two months in the hospital at Cam Ranh Bay. During his
tour, lasting to March 1970, he saw half the men in his company killed or wounded.
After his discharge, Scruggs earned a bachelor’s degree in sociology from American
University in 1975 and then a master’s in education at AU in December 1976. His thesis,
published in Military Medicine, had dealt with the psychosocial readjustment of Vietnam
veterans. It concluded that because the veterans of Vietnam did not return to a supportive
and affirming societal atmosphere, many had exceptional problems in readjusting.

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2. The Man and the Idea 9

Scruggs had been featured in an article in the Post in January 1977 by William Greider,
“The Old, Unhealed Wounds of Vietnam—Conversations with Three Veterans.” Scruggs
called the forgetting of the veterans by America “obscene” and said that something needed
to be done: “A monument or a law or something.” Scruggs had followed up with his own
article in the Post in May 1977: “Forgotten Veterans of ‘That Peculiar War.’” He attributed
the lack of compassion for the veterans to the country’s lack of reconciliation over the war
and asserted that the responsibility to care for the veterans lay with the president and the
Congress. Yet, “[n]o efforts can provide compensation, of course, to the Americans who
made the ultimate sacrifice in Vietnam. For them, perhaps, a national monument is in
order to remind an ungrateful nation of what it has done to its sons.”
In 1977 Scruggs and a faculty colleague had testified before a Senate subcommittee on
their findings. In addition to funds for psychological counseling for Vietnam veterans,
Scruggs recommended that the government build a national memorial as a symbol to the
veterans that their country cared about them. Scruggs published another article in the Post
in August 1978, “Continuing Indifference to Vietnam Veterans,” deploring the lack of con-
gressional action to provide the needed services. He lamented his own naiveté: “For just
as I had allowed myself to become a pawn in an unneeded war, so had I deceived myself
into thinking that my own testimony to a Senate subcommittee last year … would lead to
the speedy creation of psychological services—services that should have been in place 10
years ago.”
The Deer Hunter—one of the first Vietnam War movies—came out in early 1979 and
had evoked a strong reaction in Scruggs. It rekindled his memories of the horror and sac-
rifice that he had seen and experienced, all the more poignant when contrasted by the
nation’s willing amnesia about the war. The government hadn’t acted on his recommenda-
tion to build a memorial for Vietnam veterans and wasn’t likely to do so. He resolved to
do it himself.
I also had had a strong emotional reaction to The Deerhunter, albeit for a different
reason. Experiencing the scene of the wedding in a Russian church in Pennsylvania, I
mourned the loss of community with my own Czech ethnic group, a result of my family’s
striving to achieve mainstream American prosperity and respectability. In view of my dis-
satisfaction with my life as a professional, I wondered whether it had been worth it. For
the rest of my life I’d be cursing the alarm clock every morning.
Scruggs, married with no children, lived in suburban Maryland. He had a civil service
job at the Department of Labor in downtown Washington: an Equal Employment Oppor-
tunity specialist in the Office of Investigation and Compliance. He sat at one of a dozen
small desks grouped in the center of an open room decorated with a hideously patterned
orange-red carpet. The workers moved with the languid pace of those serving time until
day’s end.
Sitting in front of my desk, he explained his vision, which he had discussed with Grei-
der a few days earlier. The purpose of the memorial would be to provide an acknowledgment
by American society of the service and sacrifice of Vietnam veterans. As a hoped-for
byproduct, which Greider had specifically suggested, the memorial could help reconcile
the country’s divisions over the war. Ideally, both the war’s supporters and its opponents—
in spite of their differences over policy—could agree that the veterans deserved recognition,
so the memorial wasn’t to make a political statement about the war itself. Another important
10 Creating the Vietnam Veterans Memorial

element, Scruggs added, was that the memorial would be built through private donations—
rather than the government—so that it would truly be an expression of the society. The
later point was especially important, because mistrust of the government was an attitude
widely shared by Vietnam veterans.
When he had finished I suggested, “It ought to be designed through some sort of com-
petition.” As a kid in suburban Chicago, I once had gone on a school field trip to see the
newspaper presses at the landmark Tribune Tower on Michigan Avenue. I had always
remembered that the design of the building came from a competition because some of the
unbuilt design entries were displayed in the lobby. It struck me that a competition would
be an appropriate method for a project with such a national scope. Scruggs was noncom-
mittal.
Scruggs had a final item on his agenda. A Dr. Victor Westphall, whose son was killed
in Vietnam, had built a Vietnam veterans chapel near Eagle Nest, New Mexico. Westphall
needed about $100,000 to complete the project and then $10,000 annually to operate it.
Scruggs wanted to help Westphall with financial support.
I had already researched the requirements for setting up a nonprofit corporation in
the District of Columbia. Scruggs had a few names for it in mind, and he didn’t want it to
be a membership organization. According to law, it needed three individuals to serve as
incorporators and the initial Board of Directors. Scruggs had a neighbor, also a veteran,
who was willing to participate.
“I’d like you to be the third one,” he said.
I hesitated. I didn’t know this man, and I didn’t even know whether my law firm had
a policy on the matter. I would get back to him on that, along with a quote for the fee to
preparing the articles of incorporation, the bylaws, and the application to the IRS for tax-
exempt status. I had made it clear in our phone conversation that I couldn’t work for free.
Washington was full of people with great ideas but no money, and I had no idea about
Scruggs’s abilities or commitment. I was under pressure to produce billable hours, and I
wouldn’t want to do a lot of free work only to have the donee then lose interest. He had to
be willing to put money where his mouth was.
On his part, perhaps due to my clothing and surroundings, Scruggs appeared to see
me in inflated terms. At our first meeting he inquired about my background, and I gave a
basic rundown on my degrees from the University of Illinois and Georgetown Law and my
Air Force service. At a later meeting, he hesitantly asked me what kind of car I was now
driving. He seemed disappointed to learn that it was a small Opel hatchback that I had
bought used.
My boss suggested a fee of $500. The firm would probably lose money on it, but might
have the organization as a long-term client. That amount would pay for about half my time.
The rest I would donate. The firm also didn’t have a problem with my serving on the Board.
I called Scruggs to tell him the cost and that I would also act as an incorporator. He agreed,
and I set to work.
Scruggs’s wife Becky came up with the name Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund. He
and his neighbor, Tom Mullings, came in the next week to sign the articles of incorporation
before a notary. Mullings, also a combat veteran, was pleasant and looked like an all–
American boy. Three months into his tour in 1968 he had been wounded and medevaced.
He and his wife ran a typesetting business out of their home, and he and Scruggs had met
2. The Man and the Idea 11

through their wives. “We both married Jewish girls,” he said. I asked him what he thought
the memorial should look like. “It should be an infantryman, maybe holding a gun.”
I also had them approve the minutes of a pro forma organizational meeting to adopt
the bylaws and elect officers. “It’s your idea,” I told to Scruggs, “so you’ll be president.” Since
Mullings was in business he would be treasurer, and as a lawyer, I’d be corporate secretary.
I received a Certificate of Incorporation on Friday, April 27, 1979. The Articles provided
that the corporation would remain in existence “until such time as a permanent public
monument to American veterans of the Vietnam War is erected in the Washington, D.C.,
area.”
I now was an officer and director of a shell corporation, and I felt a lot of ambivalence.
I liked the idea of a memorial, especially as envisioned by Scruggs. At the same time, as I
tried to think through the complex tasks and decisions needed to flesh out the shell, my
mental computer locked up. There would have to be fundraising, which in turn would
depend on the cost of the project, which depended on the design, which in turn tied in
with the location. What would be an appropriate design and who would design it? Getting
a site for the memorial in Washington would probably need the involvement of the federal
government. Then there had to be a whole support mechanism: offices, telephones, bank
accounts, and especially people. All of that would take money, which—along with my own
ignorance of business operations—brought me back to square one.
Then there was my own situation. In college I’d majored in political science and learned
to speak German and Russian, all worthless in the job market. Intelligence was a dead-end
career for Air Force officers, and I’d seen law school as my last chance to achieve any status
in life and support a family. But I’d wasted the important first years out of law school by
working for the federal government. Without a legal specialty it had been hard to get out
of the government, and I’d been lucky get this job. The jury was still out on whether I could
keep it. I had to account for every minute of my time, and there was constant pressure to
produce “billable hours.” I wanted to help with the memorial, but carving out the time was
tough.
Finally there was Scruggs himself. I had to respect his combat service and his gumption
in earning both undergraduate and master’s degrees. He wrote well and was obviously intel-
ligent, but he made me uncomfortable. Scruggs slouched and his handshake was limp. His
hair was unkempt, he smoked, and he spoke with a rural Maryland accent, all of which
made me cautious At the same time, he projected a cocky attitude, which I had a hard time
comprehending in view of his station in life. I wasn’t sure that I wanted to work with
Scruggs, let alone follow him. Yet I had agreed to be an officer and director of the corpo-
ration; he had a great idea; and I didn’t want to abandon him.
3

$144.50

After I pulled the Certificate of Incorporation, I filed the application with the IRS for
501(c)(3) tax-exempt status, stating that we planned to contribute 50 percent of the first
$100,000 in donations to the Westphall chapel. I received a positive response from the IRS
District Director dated June 12, 1979, and the organization now was fully legal. I was pre-
pared to sit down with Scruggs and Mullings as a volunteer, set priorities, and work out a
plan to move forward. Scruggs, however, never called the meeting. Instead he set out on
his own.
He rented a box at a post office near his office to provide a Washington address for
VVMF, and he and Mullings designed letterhead with an American flag in the upper left
corner. At the bottom was the motto: “Just as we were divided by the war, let us now be
united in acknowledging those who made the ultimate sacrifice and all who served in the
Vietnam Conflict.” He also drafted a press release to announce VVMF’s incorporation. It
was published on May 10 in Stars and Stripes, a local veterans’ newspaper.
Scruggs’s efforts focused initially on the Congress. He sent a letter requesting letters
of support to all the Senators as well as to the Vietnam veterans in the House. The letters
showed a lot of thought and perhaps a little exaggeration regarding progress in fundraising,
since we couldn’t have had more than $100 in the till:
The Vietnam War continues to have a profound impact not only upon veterans, but upon our
society as a whole. Thus far, everything associated with the Vietnam conflict has served only
to resurface the bitter divisions inherent to that war. We have provided a project which can be
supported by everyone regardless of their ideological stance on the war. The planned memorial
for Washington, D.C., will serve as a societal acknowledgment of the sacrifices made by Vietnam
veterans and as a symbol of national reconciliation after the war. We are soliciting only private
contributions to build this memorial in order that it will exemplify these purposes. In this
regard, it will enhance the historical value of the monument if no public funds are used in its
construction. Our contributions thus far have been from a wide cross-section of American
society.

Scruggs periodically let me know what he was doing, mainly making the rounds of
offices on the Hill. At one point he took two weeks off from his job without pay to do it. I
was skeptical about the benefit of his activity, since there was no plan that I knew of. I had
good reason to fear following anyone blindly. After all, the lack of defined objectives resulted
in the quagmire of Vietnam.
I also had had my own recent personal experience with wasted effort. In 1977 I bought
an old townhouse on Capitol Hill expecting to get in on the real estate boom. Without a
plan or goal I started knocking down walls and removing cabinets. I soon was in over my

12
3. $144.50 13

head, living amidst plaster dust in 100-degree heat. After nine months I luckily sold it and
got out whole. I was leery at this point of any enterprise without a blueprint. Nonetheless,
I still felt a little guilty about my passive role.
One day he called with urgency in his voice: “We gotta have a design in two weeks.”
“What do you mean?” I said.
“I’m talking to a senator’s office, and they won’t endorse it unless they see what it’s
gonna look like.”
“Jan, we can’t have a design in two weeks,” I said. “There’s no way. For one thing, we
don’t know where it’s going to go, so we can’t even think about a design. Also, we don’t have
any money.”
“But we have to.”
“Did the senator himself say that, or are you talking with a staff member?”
“A staff member.”
“How old is this guy?”
“Oh, about twenty-three.”
I rolled by eyes and ended the call: “Just tell ’im we can’t do it.”
“O.K., but a lot of people are asking the same question.”
By the middle of May he was calling a few times each week. The now familiar voice
another time said: “What about buckets?”
“What do you mean?”
“I was in 7–11 last night, and they had buckets on the counter where people could
drop their change to contribute to charity. We could have something like that.”
I hated constantly being the Grinch that squelched his every idea, but with each of
his proposals I could feel the quicksand under my feet. “Jan, who’s going to make the buck-
ets, who’s going to get them into the stores, who’s going to empty them, and how can we
be sure we get the money?”
“O.K., I guess. It just seemed like something we could do.”
I also learned that Scruggs wasn’t shy about expressing displeasure. One time I picked
up the receiver to hear him shout: “Who the hell is this guy Zengerle?” I told him that
Zengerle was the lawyer who had told me about the first meeting and was active in trying
to put together a Vietnam veterans’ advocacy organization.
“He’s one of these guys who thinks they can give you shit and not get any in return.
But I gave him some.”
Scruggs apparently had made some public assertion that VVMF was supported by the
Vietnam Veterans of America, which Zengerle had helped found. Zengerle—himself no
shrinking violet—had called Scruggs to set him straight, obviously without any diplomatic
niceties. Scruggs had responded in kind. Taking a longer view, the incident reflected birthing
pains of the emerging Vietnam veterans movement and the inevitable conflicts over its
goals and leadership.
In a more positive move, Scruggs had made contact with the office of Senator Pete
Domenici of New Mexico, who twice had unsuccessfully introduced legislation to have the
Westphall chapel incorporated into the National Park system as a “national memorial to
the Vietnam veteran.” On May 16, 1979, Domenici announced in the Congressional Record
his intention to reintroduce the legislation. He also lauded the newly created VVMF:
14 Creating the Vietnam Veterans Memorial

The fund is strictly a nonpartisan effort designed to get everyone’s support and interest. The
theme of the memorial planned for Washington, D.C., is the simple one of recognition of the
sacrifices made by Vietnam veterans and will make no political statement about the war.
Another major theme of the organization is one of national reconciliation of those who favored
or opposed the war through providing this project that both groups can support.

Memorial Day, one of the two natural media hooks for veterans issues, fell on Monday,
May 28. Scruggs announced a press conference for Friday, May 25, at the National Press
Club: “Plans to build a perpetual memorial to Vietnam War Veterans, and complete the
Vietnam Peace and Brotherhood Chapel.”
Since meeting Scruggs, I had continued to attend the meetings of Stuart Feldman’s ad
hoc committee. For two hours at lunchtime on Wednesday, May 23, I stood in Farragut
Square, right in the heart of Washington’s corporate and legal canyons. Wearing my three-
piece lawyer’s uniform, I tried to prevail upon passing attorneys, bureaucrats, and secretaries
to take and wear a red lapel ribbon, “in honor of Vietnam Veterans Week.” I wasn’t shy about
making the pitch. After all, I had organized School Spirit Week in high school. The response,
however, was underwhelming. Just about everyone hurried by without making eye contact.
Once in a while someone gave me a look that implied I was crazy. Obviously, to have an
impact on the Vietnam veterans issue, more leverage than lapel ribbons was needed.
At 10:45 a.m. on the 25th, I showed up on the top floor of the National Press Building,
located catty-corner from Garfinkel’s Department Store at 14th and F Streets. Although
still ambivalent, I now was publicly linking myself with the project. Scruggs had reserved
a small room that had a small speakers’ table with a podium and seats for about a dozen
reporters. A floor-to-ceiling photo mural of the U.S. Capitol, intended to impress the folks
back home, covered the wall behind the speakers. I sat down at the speaker’s table, beside
Senator Domenici, and hoped no one would question me. Lacking much more to provide
credibility, I wore a blue suit. Scruggs himself was uncharacteristically outfitted in a suit:
a three-piece cream-colored designer variety with a pale blue plaid pattern and lapels so
wide they touched his shoulder seams. With a peach colored shirt and light blue satin tie,
he looked like a refugee from a Tennessee Williams novel. Missing only was the Panama
hat. All three of us wore the red lapel ribbons for Vietnam Veterans Week.
A handful of reporters came, at least one from a wire service. Zengerle came to observe.
Scruggs led the way and covered the basic facts about VVMF’s incorporation. He estimated
needing to raise about $1,000,000, and said that the only problem he saw was “raising too
much money.” Domenici followed and expressed his wish to see Westphall’s chapel com-
pleted. Fortunately for me, few questions were asked. Although the wire service did put
out a story, Memorial Day 1979 passed without any great media hits for our project. Overall,
Vietnam Veterans Week had little effect.
In the weeks after the press conference, I kept my nose to the grindstone at work. My
days ended well into the evening hours and sometimes after midnight, but I’d be back at
it by 9:00 a.m. the following morning. I felt like I was in a psychic hell, as if working in a
factory but unable to go home at 4:30, watch TV, and forget about everything. Seeing no
light at the end of the tunnel, I sometimes stayed awake all night worrying about when the
axe might fall and what I then would do.
I didn’t hear too much from Scruggs that June, although when I did, I could sense his
irritation about my lack of initiative. Yet I was trying to keep my job and had little confidence
3. $144.50 15

that time spent supporting him would be well spent. His friend Mullings wasn’t doing any-
thing either, so by the end of June, I was getting ready to tell him to count me out.
July 4 was a Wednesday. I had no big plans other than my usual solitary bike ride on
the C&O Canal tow path along the Potomac River. Ever since high school, I counted on
physical exercise as my mainstay for relieving stress, and I felt relaxed as a sat down in
front of the TV. While in the Air Force, I had faithfully watched the CBS Evening News
every day. Eight years later I still tried to whenever I got home in time. This seldom hap-
pened, but because of the holiday, I could indulge. Taking holiday duty as anchor was the
laconic, measured Roger Mudd. He covered the usual Independence Day parade and picnic
stories and even some hard news. I lounged with a beer in hand. As the broadcast wound
to a close, Mudd leaned over to the camera and, in the most civilized of sardonic tones,
said: “Now, as a final note, an organization founded to build a national memorial to the
veterans of the Vietnam War has raised exactly $144.50.”
“Thanks, asshole, we needed that,” I said to myself. Rather than feeling humiliated, I
found myself wanting to have the last laugh on the high and mighty who so failed to show
basic compassion. But later experience taught that Mudd’s remark was a blessing in disguise,
since any publicity—seemingly good or bad at the time—could be valuable.
4

The West Pointer and


the Sculptor

Scruggs called the next Monday, July 9, 1979. Jack Wheeler, a Vietnam veteran who
had worked on the Vietnam memorial at West Point, wanted to help. The story had also
elicited a call from a Washington sculptor named Rick Hart, who wanted us to see his work.
Unlike Vietnam Veterans Week, the lemon this time had yielded lemonade.
An Associated Press reporter had obtained the details on VVMF’s financial status from
Scruggs. After the CBS broadcast, a reporter called me to discuss the underlying meaning of
VVMF’s piddling assets: “Could this be a reflection of how the American people feel about
the Vietnam War?” I tried to explain that the organization had existed only two months and
there simply hadn’t been enough time to get started, let alone make sweeping judgments. Yet,
I filed one judgment in the back of my mind: reporters loved to jump to conclusions.
John P. Wheeler III had read about the $144.50 in the local newspaper at Myrtle Beach,
South Carolina, where he was on vacation. We met with Wheeler at 7:00 p.m. on Tuesday,
July 10, at my office. Wheeler didn’t come off like a West Pointer, more like an English
teacher at an exclusive prep school. Standing just under five feet eight inches and slightly
stout, he had pleasant features and a sincere expression. He wore thick-rimmed glasses, a
dark suit, button-down shirt, and conservative tie—the idiom of the Ivy League. At age
thirty-four, he had thin, sand-colored hair that was already receding. His voice was soft,
his words thoughtful.
Wheeler descended from settlers who arrived in Massachusetts not long after the
Mayflower. His family had military roots going back to 1653 in England. Among his ances-
tors he counted Confederate General Joe Wheeler. Both Wheeler’s father and grandfather
went to West Point and were career Army. His father, a tank company commander, landed
at Normandy on D-Day and fought in the Battle of the Bulge.
Wheeler had attended a public high school in Hampton, Virginia, and could have
attended Yale, but chose to follow family tradition. At West Point he ranked high in aca-
demics, but was a fish out of water in the military culture. His class, 1966, had suffered
more casualties in Vietnam than any other. After a stint at a missile silo near New York
City, the Army sent him to Harvard Business School for an MBA, following another class-
mate named Arthur Mosley. In Vietnam in 1969 and 1970 he worked in logistics and supply
at Long Binh, the sprawling headquarters complex north of Saigon, where he and Mosley
teamed up to teach a class in business management.
In an unusual twist for military academy graduates, both Wheeler and Mosley had
received Article 15 reprimands in Vietnam, which effectively ended their military careers.

16
4. The West Pointer and the Sculptor 17

An Article 15 enabled an offender to accept a commander’s punishment and avoid court-


martial. In Vietnam and perhaps every other war, the practice of “scrounging” (expropri-
ating and trading through back channels) supplies and equipment was rampant. It kept the
war machine running, since the official system focused on supply, rather than demand.
Wheeler and Mosley, tired of walking around the big base, had perhaps taken the practice
too far and “scrounged” a Jeep. To cover their tracks they repainted the serial number. This
incident led to their reprimands.
After leaving the Army in the early 1970s, Wheeler considered becoming an Episco-
palian priest, and for a time lived at the seminary in Alexandria, Virginia. He decided
instead on Yale Law School, where he excelled and became an editor of the law journal. He
now had two infant children, and his wife Elisa, a pretty blonde woman from South Car-
olina, was herself finishing the Episcopalian seminary. After working in a private law firm,
he was now with the Securities Exchange Commission, one of the prestigious agencies for
federal government lawyers. He, along with Zengerle, Bobby Muller, and others, sat on the
Council of Vietnam Veterans, which worked to get for Vietnam veterans their just share
of jobs, education, health benefits, housing, and recognition and would start the Vietnam
Veterans of America organization.
On the latter note, Wheeler had authored an op-ed article in the Washington Star in
April 1978 titled “Never enough like him.” On the occasion of the tenth anniversary of the
death of his classmate Tommy Hayes, Wheeler wrote:
I think the war created a void into which Tom has been cast, with little or no acknowledgement
[sic] of honest service rendered.
One reason for this probably is that the American public, when it dwells on the war at all,
chooses to visit a large measure of the sins of the war on its military servants. But certainly
the onus of the policy decisions on Vietnam should not touch the young Americans who served
there.

The three of us talked for two hours, with Wheeler doing most of it. Scruggs and I
each reviewed our own versions of the background of the project. Scruggs talked about his
various initiatives in contacting congressmen, and I explained my frustration with trying
to figure out how to find a location, determine a design, raise funds, account for the money,
hire staff, etc. I also mentioned Zengerle, since Wheeler might know him. Wheeler in turn
related his experience as a leader in the effort to establish a Southeast Asia Memorial at
West Point. Rejecting traditional military statuary, they had chosen to landscape a peninsula
jutting into a reservoir, marking its meaning with just a simple plaque on a pedestal.
I sensed within Wheeler a tremendous depth of passion and conflict. “Vietnam almost
tore this country apart,” he said. “A memorial can help put it back together.” He seemed
tormented by guilt for having come through unscathed while so many of his classmates
had been killed or wounded. Obviously brilliant, he had many ideas about what could be
done, and easily dropped names of contacts in business, law firms, and the government.
Clearly, his West Point, Harvard, and Yale connections gave him access to influential people.
As I later learned, his personal relationships included Ambassador Elliott Richardson and
the Provost of Washington’s National Cathedral.
I also was to learn over the coming years that—despite his patrician background and
exceptional education—many demons tormented Wheeler. At times he was gentle, thought-
ful, considerate, and even spiritual; at other times paranoid, suspicious, vindictive, manip-
18 Creating the Vietnam Veterans Memorial

ulative, and prone to irrational rants and rages. Today’s popular parlance would describe
him as “bipolar.” He wasn’t succeeding in his ostensibly influential position with the SEC,
perhaps because his passion lay in so many different directions. He and his wife also had
another cross to bear. Their daughter had been born with an unformed trachea, and they
were frequently called to make emergency visits to hospitals both in Washington and Boston.
Yet, as they left my office at 9:00 p.m. I could not help but be impressed with Wheeler.
With West Point, Harvard, and Yale, he reflected an elite segment of society that I, from a
Chicago suburban ethnic neighborhood, had only read about. Moreover, unlike most chil-
dren of the elite, he had served in Vietnam. While neither Scruggs nor I knew anyone with
both the Vietnam and professional credentials to join the VVMF inner circle, Wheeler had
an impressive network of personal contacts. I began to feel some inkling of possibility. I
then went back and worked until 1:30 a.m.
Wheeler, after checking me out with Zengerle, called a day or two later: “This guy
Scruggs needs direction, and you need more horses. I know some guys who work out at the
gym at the Army-Navy Club. Six of them are lawyers and one is a stockbroker. All were in-
country [in Vietnam].” Wheeler reeled off all the names, with their firm affiliations. He sug-
gested that I recruit and organize them into a legal committee that could share the burdens
of working out the issues that faced the organization. Wheeler also knew someone who might
be willing to be treasurer: a CPA named Bob Frank. I decided to hold off on resigning.
Around the same time came a reminder that not everyone would be wishing us well.
The New York Times on July 11, 1979, published an op-ed by a Mark Pinsky, titled “Lessons
of a Bad War,” in which he minimized the sacrifice of the veterans by comparing it with
the suffering of the Vietnamese and by coloring it with the faults of U.S. policy:
[O]verdue sympathy and understanding are one thing; revisionist absolution and vindication
quite another. The latter is not so much premature as it is unjustified. Insolating the G.I.’s stoic
sense of duty and courage under fire, and excising it from the moral and political context of
the United States presence in Vietnam is a dubious business, even a decade later.
Tuesday, July 24, 1979, yielded a typically hot, humid, windless, and partly cloudy
Washington summer day. I exited the taxi at 12:30 p.m. in front of a nondescript warehouse
building in the northeast quadrant of Washington, near the Rhode Island Avenue Metro
station. I’d never had occasion to visit this neighborhood before; the street dead-ended
against the subway tracks leading up to Silver Spring, Maryland. Somewhere inside was
the studio of Frederick Hart, sculptor.
I’d looked forward to the visit. I welcomed any break in the tedium and drudgery of
my life as a lawyer, somewhat like the first September cold front after the summer dog
days. I would meet a real, live sculptor, someone who actually did it as a full-time occupa-
tion. At the same time, I found it a little hard to believe that such people actually existed.
My father had aspired to be a sculptor. After high school he had studied for a year at
Chicago’s Art Institute, where the great Czech-born Albín Polášek headed the department.
Reality soon set in, however, and my father went to scrape pans in his father’s bakery. When
I was little, the one work of art in the living room of our bungalow in Berwyn, Illinois, was
a miniature of Rodin’s The Thinker. And in our garage, staring out like a ghost of dreams
deferred, hung a plaster bust of a young woman that my father had sculpted.
A young man of median height and build, wearing loafers, khaki pants, and a blue
work shirt, opened the metal door and greeted me. “Rick Hart,” he said. I shook his hand
4. The West Pointer and the Sculptor 19

and saw Scruggs standing in a large open area. Walking through a passage, I felt transported.
In a few seconds I had vaulted from a seedy area of Washington to the city hall piazza in
Florence, Italy. I even imagined a string quartet playing a Mozart sonata.
Around the warehouse bay stood works of sculpture in various stages of completion.
They ranged from a full-sized figure of a saintly man to a smaller-sized nude, from the hips
up, of a beautiful young woman. I later learned that the model, Lindy, had become Hart’s
wife. Dominating the room, however, was a triangular relief in gray clay, with each side about
five feet long and the two upper sides curved to fit the top of a Gothic arch. The earth emerged
from clouds and fog at the center of the relief, and swirling around it floated mists and partial
nude human figures, both men and women, as if being created from nothingness. All the
women had beautiful bodies. So as not to appear as a complete philistine, I tried not to stare.
Hart welcomed us and offered coffee. Except for the surroundings and for the gray
and white smears of clay and plaster on his shoes and clothing, Hart looked and spoke like
he belonged in a crested blue blazer at a country club. His subdued nasal twang reminded
me of George Plimpton’s, except for the slight Southern accent. In fact, Hart had attended
preppy Georgetown University. His family came from South Carolina, but he had grown
up mainly in Washington, where his father worked for one of the administrations. Hart
once was expelled from a school for participating in a civil rights demonstration.
During his college years, Hart had again defied convention and followed his muse to
become a sculptor. He had both worked and lived in the unheated warehouse, in the winter
months sleeping with his two large dogs for warmth. Through some serendipity, Hart had
been invited by Roger Morigi, the master carver at the National Cathedral, to receive
instruction in stone carving. Before long, he was set free to carve a gargoyle. His big break
had come from winning the commission to sculpt the tympanum above the cathedral’s
west entrance, i.e., the triangular relief with the swirling bodies, titled The Creation. The
saintly man was Adam, also destined for the cathedral.
“I didn’t serve in the military,” said Hart, “but I always thought that the guys who served
in Vietnam got screwed. I was excited to hear about your project, because I’ve been doing a
lot of thinking about how I could create a memorial for them. I’d love to work with you.”
Wheeler had impressed me, but Hart blew me away. My teenage passion had been
racing sailboats in Wisconsin. If I had had the courage to follow my own muse, I would
have built boats rather than go to college. But I had never even considered a choice like
that. Hart had defied all the standard formulas, followed his dream, and succeeded. He
even had a beautiful wife. Nonetheless, I couldn’t provide any encouragement, let alone a
commitment. My professional work included formal procurements and competitive bid-
ding. For all I knew there could be someone just as talented as Hart working in a garret in
Wyoming. It wouldn’t be fair to give someone an inside track just because he got to us first.
“Unfortunately, Rick,” I said, “it’s really too early for us to know how we’re going to
go about getting a design, let alone make any commitments. We will definitely stay in con-
tact, however.”
Leaving the studio, we emerged back on the street. For a short while, we’d experienced
paradise, but now had been expelled. Scruggs had his car and dropped me off at a subway
station before returning to the Department of Labor. I went downtown. Each headed back
to his own purgatory.
5

Friends in High Places

Wheeler’s wheels were already in gear. He broached an idea that would have a major
effect on the project: “Get the Congress to specify the location so that we’re not at the
mercy of the bureaucrats.” Fear and loathing of the “bureaucrats” soon emerged as a Wheeler
leitmotiv. He had a simple explanation: “I know bureaucrats because I am one.” He conjured
up images of the bureaucrats shifting their Xerox machines into high gear when they wanted
to screw somebody, and he had no doubt but that they’d try to screw us. Yet he also offered
more practical advice, such as having a bank directly deposit all the contributions. Moreover,
he envisioned the organization’s Board of Directors as a big tent, to include veterans, parents
of the dead, and politicians, as well as representatives of both the peace movement and the
religious establishment.
Wheeler’s ideas impressed me, and I felt complimented that he deemed me to be a
peer. Also his fear of conspiratorial plots intrigued me. He seemed to know the dark secrets
of the world, and I would be let in on the game. Still, I couldn’t envision what role I could
play. As an employee of a law firm, I had to generate billable time even if the legal work
provided scant satisfaction. On the other hand, the memorial captured my fancy—possibly
more than any idea in my adulthood, so I felt conflicted. I had been with the firm just a
year, and I had hoped that by now I would have turned the corner and hit my stride.
Instead—especially in the last three months—it seemed I had just gotten closer to running
out of bounds. I had never expected work to be enjoyable and believed that success was
achieved by forcing yourself to do things you didn’t want to do. Thusly, because I was doing
things that I didn’t care about for people I didn’t like, I figured that success was just around
the corner.
I felt guilty taking personal calls at work—even for the memorial. In college I had
believed that as long as I didn’t achieve straight “A”s, every free moment—except for eating,
sleeping, and working out at the gym—should be spent in the library. I envisioned my mis-
sion in life as to be successful and a credit to my family. My grandparents had come to
America with but $50 each, and my parents—with only high school educations—had
achieved solid middle-class status and even socialized with doctors and lawyers. With all
the advantages that they never had, I was obligated to achieve something—even if I had
no idea what it should be. Perhaps to lessen my sense of obligation, I had chosen a public
university with its minimal cost to my parents and had financed law school completely on
my own. Finally, I wanted to have a family of my own, and desirable women desired suc-
cessful men. The specter of failure hung over my head like a sword. In my case it would
take the form of being forty, single, and working for the government.
At the end of July 1979, I finally called the Commission of Fine Arts. With the pressure

20
5. Friends in High Places 21

of work and my ambivalence toward Scruggs, I had been putting the call off. But with
Wheeler in the game, the memorial now seemed possible, and I needed to start pulling my
weight. Scruggs had the same positive view of Wheeler, and wrote that I’d done a “great
job.” I dismissed his praise.
The process of designing memorials and obtaining federal government approval posed
a big question mark. We couldn’t do anything without understanding it, and I imagined it
might be interesting, since I had grown up with some exposure to architecture. In 1953, my
parents built a house in Riverside, Illinois, a leafy suburban village steeped in architectural
history. Planned by Frederick Law Olmsted in 1871, it contained houses designed by Louis
Sullivan and Frank Lloyd Wright. In college I found fascinating the projects undertaken
by the architecture students, if not their all-night work sessions.
I phoned CFA Executive Secretary Charles Atherton, who—as I had expected—spoke
with an accent that to my ears sounded upper-crust. Atherton was forthright and helpful,
and the process was straightforward—a site on federal land took an act of Congress. A
body called the National Capital Memorial Advisory Committee met periodically to advise
Congress on which proposed memorials warranted federal land. It was best to obtain the
legislation before proposing a design. After the legislation, the agencies would approve a
specific design and site. By tradition, CFA usually had the final say on the design itself.
Yet Atherton’s closing comment resonated most, albeit negatively: “We’ve got sites for
military memorials across the river on Memorial Drive. We’ve already got the Sea Bees,
Admiral Byrd, and the Spanish-American War over there.” Intuitively I’d envisioned a Viet-
nam Veterans Memorial as a lot more important than one for Admiral Byrd, no matter
how cold it had been at the South Pole. Maybe Wheeler was right, I thought. Maybe the
bureaucrats indeed were out to screw us.
I next called a group in Philadelphia that was building a Washington memorial to the
First Division. This reinforced my sense of the size of the undertaking. Among the require-
ments were a professional environmental study and detailed plans for the design. A five-
inch-high stack of papers made up the building permit. The crucial step was an act of Con-
gress, and a day or two later Scruggs called. He had obtained a meeting with Senator Charles
Mathias of Maryland at 4 p.m. on Monday, July 30. Could I attend?
Tense and perspiring, I climbed out of a cab in front of the Russell Senate Office Build-
ing. The day was appropriately hot, humid, and sunny, and I faced an enormous task back
at my office. Moreover, I had never before met face to face with a senator, and I even had
to check beforehand whether Mathias was a Republican or a Democrat. I passed through
the metal detector, put on my suit coat, and preceded down the long, imposing marble cor-
ridor with its twenty-foot ceilings. Each footstep loudly echoed down the length of the
building, as I passed offices labeled with the names of senators, both famous and obscure.
The ride from downtown Washington had taken less than fifteen minutes, but Capitol Hill
was a different country, with a different language and culture. I passed a multitude of scur-
rying young men in dark suits and white shirts with faces locked in determined expressions.
There came an endless stream of pretty young women, who all could have been homecom-
ing queens somewhere or other. When I arrived, Scruggs was waiting in the reception area,
which bustled with visiting constituents and attentive staff members. We were ushered into
a large office with big windows looking west down Constitution Avenue. An aide closed
the door and it became quiet.
22 Creating the Vietnam Veterans Memorial

After a few nervous minutes passed in silence, the door opened and in strode Senator
Mathias, followed by a strikingly attractive young woman with long blonde hair. We stood
and shook hands. Mathias, handsome with sandy hair, still retained an air of prep school.
I had seen Monica Healy once before at a cocktail party in Georgetown, but had never met
her. The distinguished-looking Mathias spoke forcefully and got right to business: “I
opposed the Vietnam War, but I have always cared about the men who served in it. I think
that a memorial will go a long way toward healing the divisions which we still have over
that war. I am prepared to introduce whatever legislation you need to get the land for it.”
Scruggs and I both mumbled “Thank you, sirs,” but I couldn’t quite believe what I’d
heard. Who the hell were we? Mathias continued, “My office will work with you to develop
an appropriate bill and decide on the right time to introduce it. Monica here will be your
primary contact.” He then looked directly at me and said, “Since you’re a lawyer, I expect
you to make sure that all of the money is properly accounted for.”
“Yes, sir,” I said, looking him in the eye. Even if I was virtually clueless about setting
up a financial system, I couldn’t say anything else. If a U.S. Senator said that I was supposed
to know something, how could I argue?
We stood up, shook hands, and the senator left the room. Healy stayed behind to con-
fer. In spite—or because—of her attractiveness, Healy’s demeanor was totally determined
and professional, and she emerged as a key ally in the drive for the memorial. She asked
that we start work on a draft of a bill. The request highlighted a problem. The organization
had only an idea, a name, and a legal shell, but outsiders expected it to have resources and
capabilities. Where would these come from? Nonetheless, a U.S. Senator ready to sponsor
legislation portended a huge asset. By month’s end Wheeler had sent a list of candidates
for the legal committee, but I faced a crisis at work. I had started with the law firm in the
hope of rejuvenating my career after languishing in the government. Yet after a year I was
dying of terminal cynicism. A major client was a vendor of computers to the federal gov-
ernment, but I had no idea whether its computers were any better than the next guy’s.
Moreover, the company’s representative spouted crude and racist remarks.
Also, my values didn’t match. My boss, a year or two older than I, had a new BMW
that he personally moved to a new parking space each afternoon so that the garage atten-
dants wouldn’t mistreat it. I was happy with the 1974 Opel station wagon that I had bought
used. My boss talked reverently about a lawyer who once had billed 360 hours in a single
month and made partner in just four years. “Did he live?” I wanted to ask.
In the middle of July, our client was shut out of a government procurement and decided
to sue. For us this entailed filing a lengthy complaint in federal district court, along with
a motion for a temporary restraining order. Our “D-Day” was set for Monday, August 6,
and about ten days prior, my boss warned me that we were going to “clear the decks” during
the preceding week in order to prepare the papers. By a formal memo, he assigned me to
draft all of the documents.
I was confounded. I had virtually no litigation experience and had never drafted a
complaint except in law school. I wasn’t familiar with the facts of this case, which would
have to be dug out of a thick file. I also couldn’t understand why we would wait until only
one week ahead of the filing to meet with the client and start the work. To complicate my
life, I had to move into a new apartment on Saturday, August 4. With my lack of experience
and the short time frame, I didn’t see how I could do the assignment, but I also couldn’t
5. Friends in High Places 23

refuse it. I had read that law firms often subjected young lawyers to trials by fire, by waiting
until late on a Friday afternoon to assign a brief that was due the following Monday, so I
assumed that I was being subjected to my own manhood test. In law school I had once
gone two nights without sleep in order to complete a brief for the moot court competi-
tion—which I ended up winning. Perhaps with similar heroic effort, I might succeed this
time too. I grimly set about the task, carving out time only for the Mathias meeting, and
worked past midnight each night. With the pressure, I couldn’t think clearly, but had even
given up my daily workout—which usually cleared my mind—as a sacrifice to the gods of
success.
By 4:00 a.m. on Thursday morning, I knew that I had failed. I couldn’t do it. As I rode
home in a taxi through the empty streets, I pondered the grim realization that I now had
failed as a lawyer and would be held in contempt by those who were succeeding. At 9 a.m.
I gave my drafts to my boss along with the bad news. He ended up working that entire
night to get it done.
Our second meeting with Mathias, with Wheeler in attendance, came a week later.
Mathias was on the Senate floor in the Capitol Building, and we met with him in a reception
area just off the floor. It had a high ornate ceiling, enormous sash windows, and a dark
wood floor, with overstuffed leather sofas and chairs arranged throughout. We were to dis-
cuss potential sites for the memorial, so as an afterthought I had dropped an Exxon map
of Washington into my briefcase.
After a wait, Mathias left the floor and greeted us. He sunk down in an overstuffed
leather chair and crossed his legs. Wheeler and Scruggs had already made a trip across the
river to Memorial Drive, which ran between Arlington Cemetery and Memorial Bridge,
and confirmed my own rejection of that suggested site. Taking the Exxon map in hand,
Mathias swept his fingers across the greenbelt between the Lincoln Memorial and the Capi-
tol and said: “I think it ought to be on the Mall, because that’s where the antiwar demon-
strations took place. The Lincoln Memorial is a symbol of national reconciliation, and we
want this memorial to help reconcile the country. So the Mall would be an appropriate
place.”
He bent over the map, put his finger down and said: “What about right there?” I stood
up to look over his shoulder. He had pointed to a spot not quite on the Mall itself, but on
the Ellipse between the White House and the Washington Monument. Be that as it may,
Mathias was definitely thinking of a site with national impact, not just a sop for some losers.
Finally he said: “I think we need to discuss this with the National Park Service. Jack Fish,
the head of the Capital Region, is a friend of mine. I’ll ask Monica to set up a meeting for
us all.” We thanked him and he went back onto the floor.
After its filing on Monday, August 6, the lawsuit was scheduled for an early hearing
on a preliminary injunction. I already felt like a lame duck, but my only honorable course
was to do everything I could to support my boss, even if it was menial—like making copies.
For appearances’ sake, he included me in the meetings with the client. I said nothing and
felt like a drone. At the hearing my boss argued the case and won a complete victory when
the judge ruled that our client would get to submit its bid.
The following Tuesday, I passed my boss in the corridor and he said: “We’re going to
talk. How about 4:30?” I was fired. As severance, I would be kept on the payroll and could
stay in the office through the end of September and use the facilities to find a new job. They
24 Creating the Vietnam Veterans Memorial

would give me a good reference, and they would be happy if I finished the work on closing
the loan for the office building, the case on which I’d met Zengerle. It had been about the
only thing I had enjoyed, and I needed some achievement to put on my resume.
I now was up a creek with no paddle. I had left the Air Force because I had seen no
future there. I had invested three years and much money in law school to pull myself ahead
in the pack. A year or two out after graduation, my brother had come to recruit me to join
the family business, but I had turned him down to pursue the law. I had left the security
of a government job, desperate to find something that had meaning and satisfaction, but
now had fallen flat on my face. Rather than selling my old condo, I had borrowed $7,500
from my brother to keep it as an investment. I planned to pay him back from the additional
money that I expected to be making soon. I was thirty-five years old, an age when people
blossomed in their careers and started families. I had neither. I couldn’t go back and
ask my brother to accept me; I’d drive a truck before I’d go back to the government; and to
law firms I was damaged goods. I questioned whether my life ever would amount to any-
thing.
6

New Recruits
but Bunko Too

Scruggs often had a magic touch. On one of his scattershot calls from his Labor Depart-
ment desk, he by mistake reached the Associated General Contractors, a trade association.
When she heard “Vietnam veterans,” the receptionist put him through to the director of
communications, a man named Bill Jayne, who had been wounded at the siege of Khe Sanh
in 1968.
Jayne, from upstate New York, had enlisted in the Marines in 1966, at age twenty. A
few months after arriving in Vietnam in early 1967, he gave up a safe job as a clerk/typist
and volunteered for a combat unit. Perhaps channeling Hemingway, he “wanted to get the
full experience of a Marine rifleman.” He did, and later earned a degree in English literature
from Berkeley.
Jayne, who had listened to Scruggs for no more than a minute before signing on as a
volunteer, spoke softly and thoughtfully and smoked a pipe. With his angular face, dark
hair, and glasses, to me he resembled an Irish novelist. Married with two small children,
he described his current employment as the proverbial life of quiet desperation. Yet, the
memorial struck in him the same vital chord that it did for me; he became a key player.
Before month’s end more strong recruits had joined the team. I sent Wheeler’s lawyer
friends a memo and set the first meeting for August 23. Wheeler compiled a list of tasks
and suggested that one guy should head up each and report to me. I added my own ideas
and made an outline of all foreseeable problems, including legislation, site selection, design,
construction, government licenses and permits, fundraising, corporate governance, finan-
cial management, and public relations.
Having been fired in the meantime before the meeting, I called Wheeler to tell him I
was leaving the firm. “It hasn’t worked. Maybe I should say something about it at the meet-
ing. I don’t want these guys to think I’m something I’m not.” Wheeler reassured me that it
wasn’t important to mention it. Then sensing my distress, he said: “Bob, your parachute
will open. You’re a good man. You’ll land on your feet.”
In addition to Scruggs, Wheeler, and me, seven men showed up for the first meeting
of the legal committee. Except for Scruggs, suits and white shirts surrounded the conference
table. I hadn’t met any of them before, but I soon sensed that I was among compatriots. In
the military, with all its dysfunction, I felt a sense of mission and higher purpose, and once
had expected to find that same sense in the law. But in the past eight years I had met few
lawyers whose values extended beyond career advancement. I could, however, admire the
men in the room. They had a maturity and perspective gained by serving in the military

25
26 Creating the Vietnam Veterans Memorial

when it was unpopular to do so. They had gone back to school after their service, and all
now were doing well. Their attendance at the meeting validated for me that the memorial
idea could resonate with the winners of my generation. They would help those who hadn’t
been so fortunate.
Four of the seven went on to make major contributions to the project. John Morrison,
a tall, lanky, dark-haired Virginian, had lost an eye in 1970 as an Army infantry officer
advising South Vietnamese forces in the Mekong Delta. He had earned a Bronze Star with
the “V” device. He reminded me of a good-looking Abraham Lincoln and practiced with
a downtown law firm.
George W. (Sandy) Mayo, Jr., a native of Savannah, Georgia, had served in the Army
as a courier officer based in Da Nang in 1971. He did law school at the University of Virginia
and was with Hogan and Hartson, a large and nationally prominent firm. Dark haired and
of medium height, Mayo had the quiet manner of a Southern gentleman.
Paul Haaga was tall, blond, and amiable, and also with a downtown firm. An Army
reserve officer, he had not served in Vietnam. The fourth man, Bob Frank, a CPA and an
Army reserve officer, had (with a partner) started an accounting firm in the Virginia suburbs
and was doing well. All four were married and either had children or children on the way.
I felt presumptuous chairing the meeting, but I had created the lengthy agenda and
knew the facts. It went well, and I felt validated that the project appeared to the best and
brightest as daunting as it did to me. We divided up responsibilities, and I was gratified by
their engagement. After my firing just nine days before, it was validation to be accepted as
a peer in the group.
Two other events with long-reaching effects took place in August 1979. Scruggs called
mid-month. “Guess what, I just got a call from the bunko squad of the D.C. police. The
White House turned us in to the cops.” It appeared that a Congressional office, having
received one of Scruggs’s letters asking for an endorsement, had called the veterans’ liaison
office at the White House. That office, not having heard of VVMF, had called bunko. I now
was convinced that Wheeler indeed was a genius; the bureaucrats really and truly were out
to screw us.
Scruggs had easily persuaded the investigating officer of our legitimacy, and I saw the
incident as funny. But Wheeler was incensed. While working in a private law firm in early
1977, he had been seconded to the Carter transition team to help with the inauguration.
He had organized one of the inaugural balls with a man named A.D. Frazier from Atlanta,
and a last-minute electrical fire with sparks flying had provided the two with an intense
bonding experience. Wheeler now called Frazier, and the next day we got a call from the
Veterans Administration, offering a meeting.
As a lame duck in the law firm, I now could do whatever I wanted with my time. The
project provided focus and kept me from thinking about the void I faced at the end of Sep-
tember. On August 22, 1979, Scruggs and I headed for VA headquarters, just across Lafayette
Park from the White House. We were received by a man named Michael Watson, a “con-
fidential assistant to the administrator.” He impressed me as earnest, and we provided a
data dump on the project. His subsequent memo recommended “VA involvement,” prima-
rily through its publications, and explained, “Jan Scruggs and Bob Doubek ask only that
the Veterans Administration acknowledge the existence of VVMF.”
Early the same afternoon, I shielded my eyes from the bright sun and tried to hear
6. New Recruits but Bunko Too 27

over the traffic noise at the busy intersection of 19th and M Streets. The sun’s reflected glare
off the white metal table on the veranda of Gusti’s Italian restaurant made clear vision all
but impossible, and I had to be careful not to knock over my soft drink. Scruggs, Wheeler,
Jayne, and I were meeting with a genuine celebrity. It was exciting, and with a paper napkin
I alternately shielded my eyes and mopped my wet forehead.
James Webb, a 1967 Naval Academy graduate, had been wounded and decorated as a
Marine officer in Vietnam, where he and Oliver North had earned competing reputations
for best platoon leader. After his hospitalization and discharge, he enrolled at Georgetown
Law, finishing in 1975, and then had joined a congressional staff. He achieved celebrity sta-
tus, however, in 1978 with the publication of his widely acclaimed first novel, Fields of Fire,
based both on his persona and his experience in Vietnam. When I had read a review of
the book, I was most amazed to learn that someone like Webb had been at Georgetown,
since self-sacrifice wasn’t a prevalent value there.
Webb had grown up on Air Force bases as the son of a pilot, and he was proud of his
roots in the Scots-Irish Appalachian culture, which had provided soldiers for every Amer-
ican war. Scruggs coincidentally shared this heritage. Webb counted Loretta Lynn as some
degree of cousin. His novel emphasized that its protagonist, who is killed in Vietnam, was
“born to fight,” like his ancestors in the Civil War. As a boy he hears the tales that his grand-
mother had heard as a girl—of the fields of fire in the Civil War. In contrast, in my own
middle-class suburb, I’d never met a mother who wanted to see her son go and fight. The
novel ends with a scene at Harvard University, where a returning Marine veteran rebukes
a group of antiwar demonstrators. (Webb published a book in 2005, titled Born Fighting:
How the Scots-Irish Shaped America.)
Jayne had previously met Webb and arranged the meeting. Webb, of medium height,
was dressed casually. Square-jawed with dark curly hair, he spoke deliberately and sparingly
in low tones, which lent a strong air of authority. He listened as we presented the idea of
a memorial. Webb asked a few questions and quoted from Gladstone to express his support:
“Show me the manner in which a nation cares for its dead and I will measure with math-
ematical exactness the tender mercies of its people, their respect for the laws of the land
and their loyalty to high ideals.” Webb, however, declined any involvement in the project
for the time being. He explained that he had a position at the Naval Academy as “writer in
residence,” but would be moving back to Washington later in the year.
As we shook hands and departed, I was so impressed with Webb that I would have
voted to put him in charge. I could not imagine that he would later take the field to block
the memorial from being built precisely because of how it honored the dead.
7

Two Acres

I pulled over to the curb in front of the neat Cape Cod, numbered 5303, one of many
similar houses on long, curving, and leafy Worthington Street in Chevy Chase, Maryland,
just over the D.C. line. It was nice upper-middle-class neighborhood, where the breeze
through the green of the lawns, trees, and shrubbery made a visitor feel cooler on a hot
September Saturday morning. Wheeler opened the door, and I could hear the banter of his
two twin toddlers from a back room. Seeing his polo shirt, Bermuda shorts, and loafers
over bare feet, I again was reminded that he belonged to the preppie set. Guys like me had
no problem dressing up, but we had a hard time dressing down without betraying our
middle-class origins. The bare hardwood floors made the house feel even cooler. We sat
down in the sparsely but tastefully furnished living room.
Scruggs arrived. We talked about the meetings in August. In my mind, we now had more
pieces and parts, but still no idea how it would come together into a functioning machine. At
one point, I said, “And we still have to figure out how to get a design.” That cued Scruggs.
“I’ve already decided,” he said loudly, glaring at me with a look of both triumph and
defiance.
“What do you mean, you’ve already decided?” I said with a tone of derision.
“It’s going to be a carillon with some sculpture, and Rick Hart is going to do the sculp-
ture.”
I learned later that Scruggs had been pitched by the local representative for a bell
foundry, who had sold him on making the memorial a carillon. Yet Washington’s two exist-
ing carillon memorials, the Netherlands Carillon and the Robert Taft Memorial, had long
since become ugly white elephants and were seldom played. For my part, I had had a con-
versation with an architect at the American Institute of Architects, who had some expertise
with monuments. The architect had asserted that a broad national competition would put
the design effort on a high professional plane, but that we couldn’t get serious about a
design without a site.
“How can you decide what it’s going to be without knowing where it’s going to be?” I
said.
“We’ve messed around with this too long already. We’ve got to get going and make
some decisions.”
“Bullshit,” I muttered.
“You think you’re the big expert on design and architecture,” he said.
I threw it back at him. “No, Jan, I don’t think I’m an expert on design. But neither are
you or anyone else we know. That’s why we’ve got to figure this out. It’s a national memorial.
It’s got to be done right.”

28
7. Two Acres 29

I didn’t yet know it, but Scruggs had already publicly announced his selection of Hart
as the designer. In an interview that went out over the United Press International wire serv-
ice on August 26, 1979, he said that Hart would have a model ready in September and that
“possibilities include an obelisk, a carillon and a sculpture, displaying the names of the
57,114 servicemen who died in Vietnam.” He also criticized the traditional veterans’ organ-
izations, the American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars, since they “could care
less” about the project. They hadn’t returned his phone calls.
“All right, you guys, knock it off,” said Wheeler. It was his house, so we did. Wheeler
himself—based upon his experience with the memorial at West Point—had been talking
about a landscaped design. Because we needed to have some way to answer the persistent
question of what it would look like, we accepted Wheeler’s proposal that as an interim
measure we endorse a “design concept” for the memorial, with the elements of a prominent
landscaped site, a carillon, and sculpture.
The meeting ended with a major realignment of forces. I proposed to Scruggs that we
elect Wheeler and Frank as directors and Frank as treasurer, while asking Mullings to
resign. Mullings was happy to do so, and I later prepared a set of minutes and other doc-
uments to make the meeting and the change official. I didn’t know it at the time, but I had
just facilitated a coup.

R
The next Tuesday in my law office, I was alternately enjoying my escape from the pres-
sure cooker and dreading the coming void of unemployment. “How the hell can we raise
a million bucks?” I thought. “How the hell do people raise money?” I had met one PR exec-
utive who said that we needed to get a “committee,” comprised of wealthy women who
would raise the money. He knew a woman who served on such committees and would call
her, but I never heard back from him. At any rate, it didn’t seem probable that a group of
rich matrons out there would be eager to take us to their bosoms. Whatever we did couldn’t
call for a lot of manpower, because we didn’t have any. One of our trips to look at sites had
taken us by the airport, and Scruggs mentioned that he had called USAir for a contribution:
“They’re going to give us some money.” I replied that we had to find a way to approach all
of the airlines for contributions.
It hit me that I periodically received letters asking for contributions to one cause or
another. That method possibly might work for us. At least it had the advantage of reaching
a lot of people without individual phone calls or visits. I pulled out the Yellow Pages and
looked under “Fund Raisers.” A lot of them were out in the suburbs, but one, the Oram
Group, had offices within walking distance of my office, right around the corner from
Gusti’s Restaurant. I reached Kay Lautman, the local vice president. She confirmed that
Oram did direct-mail fundraising and that the company president, Hank Goldstein, would
be in Washington the next day. We set a time, and I invited Scruggs. At the time I didn’t
know that the universe of direct-mail was inhabited by more than its fair share of sleazy
operators, but we by luck had hooked up with one of the oldest and most respected firms
in the business. Its founder, Henry Oram, was the pioneer of direct-mail fundraising.
Oram’s Washington offices were located in a townhouse on narrow Jefferson Place,
just off 19th Street. Goldstein was a slight and scholarly-looking man of about 50, and Laut-
man—slender, pretty, red-haired, and around 40—exuded energy and professionalism. We
30 Creating the Vietnam Veterans Memorial

were sitting in a former living room, and we had come to get the lowdown on direct-mail.
To my surprise, Goldstein started the meeting with his thoughts about Vietnam. As I learned
later, direct-mail firms—like law firms—specialized in certain areas and political philoso-
phies. Oram, as it turned out, represented moderate liberal causes, like environmental
groups.
“Some of us who opposed the war are now having second thoughts,” he said. “The
reeducation camps and the boat people have caused a lot of us to realize that we were naive
about what a communist victory would bring. Most of all, we feel bad about the treatment
that the veterans received.”
He was sincere, but I was less interested in feelings than in money. After a few minutes
they showed themselves as experts on all aspects of fundraising and nonprofit operations.
For direct mail, the basic task was to build a list of contributors to your cause, whom you
can solicit repeatedly, at least once a year. In order to build your own list, however, you
had to undertake “prospect” mailings, by renting lists from other charities. The art was in
choosing the lists whose donors were likely to support your cause. The prospect mailings
often yielded no net revenue at all, but over time—as an organization built up a substantial
contributor base—direct-mail would provide a good return at a responsible percentage of
cost.
At that time, 1979, bulk nonprofit postage was $.031 per letter, and names cost about
$.035 each to rent for a one-time use. Additional costs included design, copywriting, mate-
rials, printing, and a facility to fold, insert, seal, and mail the letters. The unit costs decreased
with increased volume. A company like Oram received a flat fee, which usually covered
design and copywriting, along with managing list acquisition and the subcontracts for
printing and the other services. It was considered unethical for a fundraising company to
be compensated by taking a percentage of the revenue.
The total cost of mailing one million pieces would come to about $.18 per letter, a total
of $180,000. A respectable return on a prospect mailing might be 1.0 percent, or 10,000
gifts. The average gift would therefore have to be $18 just for the mailing to break even.
Once it had built its own list, however, a charity could expect returns of 4 percent or more
on each “renewal” mailing, so that each dollar raised from the “donor file” would cost only
25 cents or less. The Better Business Bureau and other watchdog organizations stipulated
that charities were supposed to keep their total fundraising costs down to around 30 percent
of their revenue.
According to Goldstein and Lautman, a major problem with direct-mail was that about
forty of the states were now requiring charities to register before mailing to their residents
or else face fines or other penalties. They recommended, however, that we wait until a given
state came after us, because most wouldn’t assess penalties if you then registered promptly.
They emphasized that fundraising was the lifeblood of a charity, and that the organization
and operations had to be designed with fundraising in mind. There would have to be an
office and some staff. Public relations was needed to support the fundraising. (The Adver-
tising Council each year did free ads for charities, but you had to apply years in advance.)
And finally, the Board of Directors was key. It should include social leaders, celebrities,
and corporate leaders.
Lautman and Goldstein expressed strong interest in working with us. The way to get
started was to mail about 200,000 pieces as a test, and to obtain the names in blocks of
7. Two Acres 31

5,000 each from a number of charities representing a wide variety of causes and political
points of view. If the mailing produced a respectable return, then larger blocks of names
could be obtained from the most successful lists for a full 1,000,000-piece prospect mailing.
We shook hands; they would send a proposal.

R
The young woman behind the reception desk in the Senate office was a knockout:
pretty, blonde, blue-eyed, slender, and smiling. Even nice. Yet, I was on business, and a
million guys probably hit on her every day. Besides, I was soon to be unemployed. Above
us on the wall hung a photograph of a young man in a Marine Corps uniform. He stood
next to an airplane. Surrounding it were other photos, along with certificates, plaques, and
awards, all bearing either the name or image of John Warner, who had been in office a mere
eight months but had caused a major stir in Washington. He had married actress Elizabeth
Taylor.
The reception area became crowded. In addition to Wheeler, Frank, and Scruggs, I
saw Jayne, Mayo, Haaga, Morrison, and one or two others from the legal committee. Scruggs
had pulled out another plum—a meeting with the junior senator from Virginia. Shortly,
we were met by an aide, Bill Kling, and ushered into a windowed office with a large desk,
behind which sat a handsome man with a shock of gray hair and wearing an expensive-
looking suit. The senator stood and shook hands in turn with his visitors, who then filled
the chairs facing his desk.
“Well, gentlemen, tell me about your project.” With his rich low voice and Virginia
accent, Warner sounded like a senator right out of the movies. He sat back, crossed his
legs, cupped his hands and lowered his head to listen. Scruggs gave a brief summary, and
Warner next asked each of us to introduce ourselves. When Mayo mentioned his law firm
Hogan and Hartson, Warner lit up. “Hogan & Hartson. That’s my old firm.” I made it a
point to drop the name of one of the partners in my law firm, a Republican activist. I
omitted the detail that I’d been canned, but Kling knew the partner, so we now had two
points on the scoreboard.
“I believe in what you’re doing,” said Warner. He held up his right hand and dangled
it from his wrist. “This is the hand that signed the orders that sent thousands of young
men to Vietnam when I was Undersecretary and Secretary of the Navy. I have always won-
dered what the fate of each was.”
“Gentlemen,” Warner went on, “I feel that I myself am a Vietnam veteran. I want to
help you. I want you to consider me to be a private in your army, standing in the last rank.
I will help you raise the seed money to start the fundraising campaign.”
Around me I could feel a rush of excitement in my peers. Warner could not have said
anything better.
“How much money will you need to get started?”
I opened my briefcase and pulled out my notes, relieved to have an answer: “Well, sir,
we just met yesterday with a direct-mail fundraising firm, and it will cost us about $20,000
to do a test mailing.” Warner frowned. He had obviously expected a higher amount, but
being Czech I was frugal by nature.
“I’ll tell you what,” Warner continued, “I’ll raise your first year’s budget. We’ll do a
dinner. Bill Kling here will work on it with you. This memorial is long overdue.”
32 Creating the Vietnam Veterans Memorial

Before we departed, Warner asked for copies of our incorporation and tax-exempt
papers, and I scored a third point by producing a set out of my briefcase. In the hallway I
congratulated Scruggs on getting the meeting.
“I’ve been intimidating this guy for weeks,” he said, meaning Kling. Scruggs showed
me the letter he had sent to Warner a month earlier: “I’m asking you to donate the tax
deductible five thousand dollars we need to begin producing fund raising materials…. If
you can’t afford this big of a donation, perhaps you could give us a no interest loan for a
year,” it said. He closed with: “I don’t mean to rush you, but we need an answer soon. You
have a great opportunity to help Vietnam veterans and the Gold Star Mothers. We need
your help. How about it?”

R
After Mathias’s admonition, I was on the spot to address accounting, especially before
Frank signed on. Wheeler knew something about a “lock box,” by which donations are sent
to a post office box. A bank opens all the mail, copies and deposits the checks, and sends
everything else along to the charity. It was a good way to be like Caesar’s wife, above sus-
picion. “Get somebody to donate it,” he said, and I dutifully started calling banks. The exer-
cise yielded two good lessons.
First I found that the effort needed to have a service donated could be out of proportion
to the value. It was better to get a cash donation, and even if you had to pay market price
for a service, at least there was a choice. Secondly, I learned about the word “get,” especially
prevalent in nonprofit organizations. I was often to hear the phrase “all you need to do is
get X, Y, or Z,” which had the effect of absolving the speaker from responsibility, but in
practical terms was equivalent to advising someone to win the lottery.
Up until mid–September, Scruggs had received the mail and deposited the checks by
himself, and about $4,000 had come in small contributions as a result of the wire service
stories. I worked out a contract with Riggs Bank for a slightly reduced fee, and we opened
the lock box. I drove to the bank with Scruggs to sign the forms. He happened to open his
trunk, and I saw dozens of checks scattered around. He hadn’t gotten around to depositing
them yet, and some were months old. But at least he hadn’t deposited them to his own
account.

R
The next week—mid–September—Wheeler, Scruggs, and I were back in the Senate
ante room with Mathias and Jack Fish, the Director of the National Capitol Region of the
Park Service. Fish, around fifty and in good shape, came off as both dignified and very
competent. Like Mathias he looked preppie in his blue shirt and blazer. Dedicated people
like him made the bureaucracy function, in spite of all its faults. Yet Fish nonetheless was
a bureaucrat, which was all Wheeler needed. Shortly into the meeting, as Wheeler was
expounding on the need for the memorial, he suddenly pointed at Fish and asked, “How
many Vietnam veterans have you hired?”
Fish was taken aback but replied calmly, “I’ve just hired some to be trained as land-
scapers.” Wheeler sat back with a look of triumph, even if he himself hardly fit the mold
of a deprived Vietnam veteran. I was horrified. Fish represented the powers-that-be. Our
organization was nothing but a bunch of guys with an idea. We needed some strength and
7. Two Acres 33

muscle before we started picking fights. Fish fortunately let it roll off his back. He remained
nonplussed.
Mathias, taking over, explained his vision of a site on the Mall, but Fish’s job was to
defend his turf—literally and figuratively. “We normally don’t recommend that the legis-
lation specify a site for a memorial,” he said. “It’s better to let the agencies and commissions
who know this stuff work that out.”
“But we want to make sure we get a good site,” said Wheeler.
With no resolution in sight, Fish made a suggestion: “Why don’t you present your
proposal to the NCMAC? It meets every month. We’ll put you on the agenda for October.
Also, let me put you in contact with my people who handle this. I’ll have John Parsons call
you.” We were about to enter the labyrinth of bureaucratic approval of a work of public art.

R
Oram’s proposal arrived. They would write and design a complete direct-mail package
for testing, select the lists, supervise the printers, and set up a system for recording and
reporting. Moreover, they would help both to recruit a “name” signer and to organize a
“Sponsoring Committee”—famous individuals who would allow their names to be listed
on our letterhead. The test mailing would be either 50,000 or 100,000 pieces, and Oram’s
fee would be a flat $5,000, added to the direct costs of either $8,900 or $15,800. A break-
even result or even slightly less would be a success, and Oram would then hope to work
with us on larger volumes. For the test, Oram proposed seven conservative lists and three
liberal lists. Kay Lautman closed: “We think it can be done. And the only way to find out
is to send the best possible appeal to the best possible lists and test it.” The proposal, com-
prehensive and thoughtful, clearly meant we had been taken seriously.

R
“Two acres,” said Wheeler emphatically, pounding his fist on the heavy conference
table. “We need two acres for the memorial.”
“Yes,” I thought, “two acres.” Offhand, I had no idea of the dimensions of two acres,
and it would be months before I got out a calculator. But Wheeler said the words with such
passion that I couldn’t help but be swept along. For all I knew, he had some formula for
determining these things. But, for the time being, two acres sounded like a nice chunk of
land, one that a Vietnam Veterans Memorial deserved. No one objected.
The meeting had convened at 6 p.m. on Thursday, September 27, at the Army-Navy
Club on Farragut Square, where the admiral’s statue maintained a lonely vigil on a high
pedestal above the glance of passers-by. The club evoked a sense of history and tradition.
Portraits of past presidents that lined the corridors, along with a broad, carpeted staircase,
provided a sharp contrast to Washington’s sterile government office buildings. Wheeler,
Scruggs, Frank, Morrison, Mayo, Haaga, Jayne, and I sat around the table. It technically
was a meeting of the Board of Directors, but everyone had been invited. A self-selected
group like a baseball team in a pickup game, the distinctions mattered little.
As corporate secretary I had prepared a set of minutes of the last meeting, and as an
afterthought I put together an agenda for this one. That made me the chairman, and I took
no one’s presence for granted. The lawyer at the first meeting who had volunteered to look
into fundraising had since resigned. “I don’t know anything about it, and for a lawyer there’s
34 Creating the Vietnam Veterans Memorial

nothing worse than incompetence,” he had said. More than one person had realized that
the skills and knowledge needed for the project were not necessarily pedestrian.
I recounted the meetings with Warner and Fish. When I got to the Oram proposal,
Haaga spoke up. “My wife knows something about direct-mail. She works in marketing.
Would you like me to ask her if she could help us?” I handed over a copy.
I also reported on a call I had received from Frederick Hart the previous week with a
design proposal. For the memorial Hart envisioned a pavilion in the style of a Vietnamese
pagoda located in Constitution Gardens, at the far end of the Mall. For its interior he would
create two works of sculpture: a realistic depiction of two soldiers and an abstract form of
Plexiglas with internal images. Hart wanted an informal commitment from us so that he
could proceed. No one reacted one way or another. I personally couldn’t envision a structure
of such distinct Oriental design fitting in with the classical buildings up and down the
national Mall. We tabled the matter.
It was obviously premature to even think about specific designs. A lot of basics still
had to be addressed, and Mayo presented a legal memo regarding the constraints on lob-
bying. Jayne in turn presented a draft of an informational pamphlet for general distribution,
and Frank had prepared a basic budget. Wheeler then took the floor to discuss our pres-
entation to the NCMAC on October 24.
He saw it as essential to predetermine as many points as possible and get them wrapped
into the legislation, so that the discretion of the approving federal agencies and commissions
would be limited as much as possible. With his “two acres” declaration he had in effect
drawn the battle lines against the enemy bureaucrats in the war for the memorial. He passed
out a document titled “Concept for the National Vietnam War Memorial,” which listed
eight design elements, to present to the NCMAC and perhaps to get into the legislation.
These, he wrote, would be the touchpoints for the creative work of the artists:
1. Good taste.
2. Artistic unity throughout the memorial and its components.
3. A “landscaped” overall solution, with emphasis on the horizontal, not the vertical.
4. Trees and a spacious garden setting, inviting and hospitable to the passer-by.
5. Size suitable to this approach, about two acres or more.
6. A carillon (either one unit, or in electronically linked, small, separate parts distributed
over the site—in order to avoid unintended visual disruption).
7. Names displayed of all 57,000 American war dead.
8. A sculptural statement, probably a single sculpture, placed and sized so as not to dis-
rupt (but certainly to enhance) the overall garden effect.
Reading Wheeler’s points, I could quickly discern that the first five had come from his
experience with the West Point memorial, while the remaining three were Scruggs’s ideas. No
one said much, but I could sense a general acceptance in the group of a landscaped solution.
I personally saw a lot of advantages. From a practical point of view, such a memorial could be
extensive in size with only a fraction of the costs of a structure. Philosophically, a quiet place
apart to honor those who served and those who died was appealing. The rancor over the war
continued to deprive its veterans of the recognition they deserved. A place for contemplation
would focus thoughts of a visitor on more universal values like service and sacrifice.
We agreed to meet again every two weeks.
7. Two Acres 35

R
Early in October, Scruggs and I went back up to the Hill to meet with Kling and
Warner, who proposed to request contributions for the memorial from defense contractors.
Warner served on the Armed Services Committee, so it was a natural for him. At our next
Board meeting in mid–October we debated. Would our accepting defense industry money
have a negative effect on the organization and the memorial? It possibly would, but the
consensus was that our need for the money outweighed the risks and we should accept
Warner’s offer.
At this meeting we had a woman at the table for the first time. Heather Sturt Haaga
had commanded my attention even before she spoke. Her professional dress, blonde hair,
and high cheekbones made me think of Meryl Streep, who likewise descended from a Dutch
family in New Jersey. A 1972 graduate of Vassar College, Haaga worked as the district direc-
tor for resident marketing for the telephone company, where she supervised a substantial
staff. Earlier she had been with J. Walter Thompson, an advertising firm in New York. She
liked the Oram direct mail proposal, but would solicit others in order to do a comparative
evaluation. By our next meeting, just ten days later, Haaga had already received a number
of other proposals for direct mail and had obtained the phone company’s permission to
utilize her staff to process response letters.
We had another reason for excitement. We had learned that Parade magazine would
have a story on the Westphall chapel in its issue for Sunday, November 4, and VVMF’s
name and the address would be included. With the tremendous circulation of Parade, we
had no doubt that thousands would rally to our cause. Heather Haaga had already drafted
two form letters, one to thank contributors and one to respond to inquiries. The Board
therefore authorized its first expenditure: $430 to print 5,000 of each letter and 10,000
envelopes.
A lot of other things were moving as well. The VFW was sending a $2,500 contribution.
Dean Phillips, a Vietnam combat veteran and lawyer who was a special assistant to Veterans
Administrator Max Cleland, had called Wheeler and wanted to know how the VA could
help. Jayne had finished the mock-up of the pamphlet and had found a printer to print
10,000 copies for free. These would be ready in time for Veterans Day, when Mathias would
introduce the legislation. At the same meeting I presented my draft of a joint resolution
for the Congress to authorize VVMF to construct a memorial on public land, which I had
submitted to Mathias’s office. And in a week, on October 24, we would present our design
concept to the NCMAC, the first hurdle in the approval process. The NCMAC’s role was
to decide whether or not an event or individual merited memorialization on federal land.

R
“No,” said the Army colonel. “The American Battle Monuments Commission opposes
a Vietnam veterans memorial. America didn’t win the war, and our regulations require a
successful outcome in order to be honored. For example, on our monuments in France,
the names of the units that weren’t actually on the line aren’t listed.”
My mouth fell open. Colonel Frederick Badger was the only man at the table in uni-
form. The rest were civil servants, from agencies like the National Park Service, the CFA,
the Architect of the Capitol, and the General Services Administration. We were sitting in
36 Creating the Vietnam Veterans Memorial

an NPS building in East Potomac Park, with Fort McNair, a military post, right across the
channel. “The Army is against us?” I thought.
A man wearing a dark suit and bow tie held up his hand. Elliot Carroll represented
the Architect of the Capitol. With his horn-rimmed glasses and Ivy League accent, he
looked to have been minted at Princeton or some such place. If I expected anyone sitting
on the NCMAC to be opposing the Vietnam veterans memorial, it would be someone like
him. Instead, it was the career Army man. “Come on, Colonel Badger, with all due respect
to your regulations,” Carroll said, “it was the longest war in our country’s history and we
did lose 57,000 men. A memorial is appropriate.” Others, including CFA’s Atherton, chimed
in to support Carroll, and I began to relax for the first time since entering the room, yet
the armpits of my suit coat had long since been soaked. NCMAC’s agenda that day had
three matters: an authorization for a U.S. Navy Memorial, the memorial to the fifty-six
signers of the Declaration of Independence, and the General George G. Meade Memorial.
Because we weren’t formally on the agenda, I had spoken first.
John Parsons, the director of land use planning for the NPS National Capital Region,
chaired the meeting. A few days before, at Fish’s suggestion, Scruggs and I had met with
Parsons to discuss our testimony. A landscape architect by profession and about my age,
Parsons had the same prep-school look that pervaded the federal design crowd. Matter-
of-fact in his advice, he warned that pre-selection of a specific site would be hard to get
through the Congress, although we might get by with specifying a larger area like Consti-
tution Gardens. Parsons appeared to breathe a sigh of relief when we mentioned “landscape
solution.”
“When we first heard about this,” he said, “we were worried. For all we knew, you guys
might want to stick a helicopter on a pole.”
Using Wheeler’s script, I presented our purposes and the eight design elements, and
the members of NCMAC, with the exception of Colonel Badger, gave informal approval
of a Vietnam Veterans Memorial on federal land in Washington.

R
The phone at my condo rang on Friday morning, October 26, 1979 My unit looked
east over the alley that ran behind 26th Street, just north of Pennsylvania Avenue; on this
fall day the sun reflected brightly off the yellow and red leaves on the trees and the pavement.
I’d been at home for ten days now. Because I had some key tasks to finish, the firm had
extended my separation to October 15, but now I had no place to go. According to the
books, looking for a job was to be treated like a job in itself, so I’d been disciplining myself
to get up early, get dressed, and be sitting at my desk by 9:00 a.m. I had had a resume and
some letterhead printed, and rented an IBM Selectric III—with which I could erase mis-
takes—in order to make my letters look professional. I hated being at home on a work day.
It reminded me of being sick in bed as a kid, while everyone else was outside playing.
It was Jim Webb on the phone. What an honor, I thought, but then he spoke: “Bob,
I’ve got something to tell you,” he said. “Your bill was introduced in the House yesterday.”
I choked and thought, “Oh, shit.” I didn’t know what to say, and finally blurted out:
“Well, Jim, that might be a problem.”
I hadn’t heard anything from Webb since our meeting at Gusti’s in mid–August, but
had thought of him a week or two earlier. Remembering that he would be coming back to
7. Two Acres 37

D.C. in the fall, I had reached him at his local number. I had eagerly reviewed the happen-
ings with the memorial. Webb wasn’t an effusive person, so I couldn’t tell whether he was
interested or not. Finally I got to the fact that Mathias would introduce legislation in the
Senate on Veterans Day.
“Who’ve you got working with you in the House?” asked Webb.
I hemmed and hawed, embarrassed to say that not only had we no one but we hadn’t
even discussed it, given the tentative state of the organization. “Well, we haven’t identified
anyone yet,” I said. “We want to get it introduced in the Senate and then worry about the
House.”
“That might not be a good idea,” he said. “I know the people on House Veterans Affairs
pretty well. It’s a pretty collegial and nonpartisan committee, but they really see veterans’
affairs as their turf. If something happens with veterans that they don’t know about, they
might just oppose it out of principle. Shoot me a draft of the bill, and I’ll run it by them,”
he said. I had put one in the mail.
I laid out the problem to him, all the while trying to contain my distress. We’d worked
with Mathias and his staff for almost three months, and Mathias was doing us a favor. Vet-
erans Day was one of the semiannual hooks for publicity about veterans, and we had timed
the introduction of the legislation for early November. Mathias had planned a “Dear Col-
league” letter to get as many senators possible to co-sponsor the bill with him. What would
Mathias and his staff say when they found out that they’d been preempted? Moreover, the
draft I had sent to Webb wasn’t the final. There were still some major outstanding decisions
on the wording about a site.
“Well, I’m not trying to mess anyone’s water,” Webb said.
I kept thinking back to the prior week’s conversation, trying to decide whether I had
screwed up. I was certain that he had said “run it by them,” and we hadn’t discussed any
action. If we had done so, I couldn’t imagine that I would have put an unfinished draft into
the mail. On the other hand, I was dealing with Jim Webb, of whom I stood in awe. Was
it possible that he had been careless, or had even done it deliberately? Right now what had
happened mattered less than containing the damage. I told Webb that I would discuss it
with my colleagues and get back to him.
I called Wheeler and Scruggs, and both were as incredulous as I. I felt embarrassed.
No matter how certain I was about my talk with Webb, the screw up had happened under
my purview. I tried to control my voice to avoid sounding either like I was accusing Webb
or making excuses for myself. By midafternoon, the situation had taken an even worse
turn. The bill had been introduced by John Paul Hammerschmidt of Arkansas, the ranking
Republican on the Committee. Scruggs had called Hammerschmidt’s office and raised holy
hell over the phone. I never asked whether he had actually gotten to Hammerschmidt him-
self. I didn’t care to know.
The situation was sticky. How Vietnam veterans would relate to the traditional veterans’
establishment was still an open question. Would the newest veterans be embraced or
rejected as trouble? For the matter at hand, Hammerschmidt himself was probably acting
in good faith, in reliance on Webb’s advice. He now stood to be embarrassed, and Scruggs
had added insult to injury. Alienating a key member of Congress could contribute to even
more of a negative perception of Vietnam veterans. We needed to find a way to let Ham-
merschmidt know that we appreciated his help but that he needed to hold off for a while.
38 Creating the Vietnam Veterans Memorial

For all we knew, Webb may have made an honest mistake. It would also be better to keep
him on our side if we could. Wheeler finally connected with Webb, who then arranged a
meeting with the congressman for the following Tuesday. Webb assured Wheeler that he
would help get us through the problem, but with one condition regarding Scruggs: “Keep
that man away from this office.”
Like the Senate, the House of Representatives had a room in the Capitol reserved for
impromptu meetings. While the Senate room featured overstuffed leather sofas and chairs,
the House room—perhaps to reflect its more populist nature—contained light-hued wooden
card tables and chairs. It reminded me of the day room in an old folks’ home, absent only
the blue-haired ladies playing canasta.
Wheeler and I took a table near the door; shortly Webb walked in with an unassuming-
looking middle-aged man of medium height and slender build. We shook hands and they
joined us. Hammerschmidt looked annoyed, and Webb came off as sheepish—clearly not
his usual demeanor. I started by nervously thanking Hammerschmidt for his support. Our
best card was the fact that Mathias and Hammerschmidt were both Republicans, so I gave
a straight explanation of the work and preparation that we were doing with Mathias. Ham-
merschmidt had hardly batted an eyelash. I had no idea what to expect.
Finally, he talked: “I highly respect Senator Mathias and I consider him to be a friend.
I will do whatever is necessary to cooperate with him on his introduction of this bill. I
won’t do anything further with my bill without coordinating with him.”
“Thank God,” I thought, feeling my stomach muscles relax, “there are some decent
people in this place after all.”

R
Soon after the NCMAC hearing I received a call from Joe Brown, the director of the
Washington office of EDAW, one of the foremost landscape architecture firms in the country.
EDAW had designed the Memorial to the 56 Signers of the Declaration of Independence,
and Brown had heard my presentation at the NCMAC. The Signers Memorial, a landscape
design located on the island in the pond in the middle of Constitution Gardens—to the
east of where we hoped to build the Vietnam Veterans Memorial—consisted of a grouping
of stone plaques inscribed with the signatures of those who had pledged their lives and
sacred honor in founding the new country.
A few days later Wheeler and I met Brown there, and he explained the design. Brown
looked about 30, and like Scruggs, came from a working-class family in semi-rural Prince
Georges County, Maryland. Yet, with a master’s degree from the Harvard Graduate School
of Design, he projected the preppy tone of the federal design establishment. To conclude,
he stated his readiness to work up some concept sketches for the memorial. Just as I had
done with Rick Hart, I demurred, saying that we hadn’t yet decided how we would go about
choosing a design, let alone choose one.

R
Our whole group met again at the Army-Navy Club on November 1, in high spirits.
In just three days, millions of people would read the Parade magazine piece and learn about
what we were doing. Undoubtedly thousands would send donations. In seven days there
would be a bill in the Senate hopper to authorize our organization to utilize some of the
7. Two Acres 39

most precious and valuable land on the face of the earth. Earlier in the week, Mathias had
sent out a “Dear Colleague” letter inviting other senators to co-sponsor with him. Not bad
for a bunch of people in their late twenties and early thirties, or for an outfit that had existed
only six months.
Moreover, two new faces appeared, both tall men who exuded intelligence and com-
petence. Arthur C. Mosley, Jr., Wheeler’s West Point classmate, had ranked 13th out of the
579 graduates in 1966. He got a Harvard MBA in 1968, after which the Army sent him to
Ranger school. He served in a noncombatant role at Long Binh in Vietnam from 1968 to
1969, where he and Wheeler had come to grief over the Jeep. Now, in business with another
West Point graduate, he was developing and leasing warehouses around Washington. In
personality and style, Mosley and Wheeler were almost exact opposites. In contrast to
Wheeler’s hyperactivity and passion, Mosley had a languid and relaxed manner and spoke
slowly and with a deep Florida accent. He owned a house in Chevy Chase, Maryland, and
had a pretty wife.
Robert M. Kimmitt wore civilian clothes, but was an active-duty Army major from
the West Point class of 1969. Having earned a law degree in 1977 by attending Georgetown
in the evening, he was serving as staff counsel to the National Security Council, with an
office in the Old Executive Office Building, next to the White House. For sixteen months
ending in August 1971, he served as an artillery officer with an airborne unit in Vietnam.
He left with three Bronze Stars, a Purple Heart, and an Air Medal. Strongly built and square-
jawed, Kimmitt spoke with a deep voice. His family was from Montana, and he reminded
me of John Wayne. A devout Catholic, he was married and going on his third or fourth
child. With all his credentials and achievements, he could have been a character in a novel.
Moreover, he brought to the table an extremely valuable family connection. His father,
Stanley Kimmitt, a retired Army colonel, was currently the secretary of the United States
Senate.
As usual, I prepared an agenda and chaired the meeting. In the presence of such strong
personalities, it resembled herding cats. Alternately feeling like a wise moderator or a scold-
ing teacher, I tried to drive the discussion to some conclusions and bases for action. Scruggs
proposed recruiting even more people, but the consensus was that as long as we didn’t
know what we were doing, more was worse.
Jayne would send his pamphlet to the printer the next day, and he and Scruggs were
working with Monica Healy on Mathias’s press conference. Heather Haaga had completed
her evaluation and recommended that we accept Oram’s proposal. All well and good, but
we didn’t have the $20,000, and we hadn’t heard anything definite from Warner’s office on
his fundraising dinner, other than that the dinner had turned into a lunch. Most importantly
for me, I obtained the group’s authorization to prepare the final version of the legislation
for Mathias. The key issue was how far we could push the point of specifying a site for the
memorial.
As I had quickly learned after our initial meeting with Mathias in July, staff members
on Capitol Hill expected the legwork to be done by the primary beneficiary of the legislation,
in this case, us. Somebody had to do the work, so whenever Healy called, I responded lest
the organization appear incompetent. Wheeler earlier had prepared a draft of a bill, and I
had obtained some other examples from the CFA and melded it all together. The relatively
simple bill authorized VVMF to erect a memorial on federal land; it provided for federal
40 Creating the Vietnam Veterans Memorial

approval of the plans, but prohibited using federal funds; it required construction to start
within five years; and it made the Interior Department responsible for maintenance.
After meeting with Parsons, I was certain that a bill designating a specific site would
never survive the public hearings. But perhaps by reaching for something more general,
we could still ensure prominence and guarantee that we wouldn’t get stuck across the river.
So for the site provision I wrote: “a parcel of land of not less than two acres in the area
known as Constitution Gardens in West Potomac Park.” I bounced the draft bill off Wheeler,
who homed in on the approvals section, i.e., the bureaucrats. Normally, these bills made
the plans subject to the joint approval of three agencies: the Interior Department, the
National Capital Planning Commission, and the CFA. Wheeler, however, insisted that only
the CFA should be needed to approve, albeit “in consultation” with the other two.
Of all the space in West Potomac Park and the Mall, Constitution Gardens emerged
as the right location. Mathias had noted the symbolism of the Lincoln Memorial for rec-
onciliation. When Wheeler had pitched the concept of two acres, the choices further nar-
rowed. Until his reach for the brass ring, my own thinking had been much more modest.
Many cars entered Washington down Constitution Avenue, so I envisioned the memorial
on a gentle slope adjacent to the avenue. It would be a “drive-by” experience. That way,
we’d only be taking a slice off the end of Constitution Gardens, and not dominating the
whole thing. Hence, the first draft of the legislation, the version that I had sent to Webb
and that had been introduced in the House, called for the site to be “immediately adjacent
to Constitution Avenue.”
Specifying Constitution Gardens was bound to raise the hackles of the parks, planning,
and fine arts establishment in Washington. The area encompassed 56 acres, bounded by
Constitution Avenue on the north, the Reflecting Pool to the south, 17th Street to the east,
and Henry Bacon Drive—leading to the Lincoln Memorial—on the west. During World
War I the U.S. Navy built a complex of wooden buildings there as temporary office space.
The “tempo” buildings, however, had remained until 1970, when President Nixon summarily
ordered them torn down. Nixon, impressed by the Tivoli Gardens amusement park in
Copenhagen, had proposed to build a “Tivoli” on that site, which horrified the design
establishment.
The establishment saw Constitution Gardens, on the pattern of an English formal gar-
den, with its curving walkways, open glades and gentle slopes, as a triumph of urban plan-
ning. Regardless of our assertions of a “landscape solution,” a Vietnam Veterans Memorial
could conceivably take any form, from a huge statue like the U.S. Marine Corps War Memo-
rial, to a grand temple like the Lincoln Memorial, or even a “helicopter on a pole” (as
Parsons so delicately had put it), all clashing spectacularly with the Gardens’ quiet simplicity.
I sent the completed draft of the bill off to both Healy and Parsons on November 2.
Healy called early the next week: “Bob, we’ve got to have some remarks for the Senator
to insert in the Congressional Record when he introduces the bill. I had asked Jan to come
up with something, but what he wrote has the wrong tone. It’s too strident. Could you come
up with something for us? I’ll need it by tomorrow.” In between drafting the remarks, I
pulled out my camera, took a quick ride down to the Mall, paid my ten cents, and rode the
elevator to the cramped visitors’ deck at the top of the Washington Monument. I steadied
the telephoto lens and took the first aerial photo of the site of the future memorial on a
clear sunny day.
7. Two Acres 41

The press conference in the Senate hearing room proceeded simply and appropriately.
Contrasting with the chilly day outside, the room was warm and bright, and I had a sense
of witnessing history. A few reporters and one or two TV film cameras showed up. Mathias,
Hammerschmidt, Warner, and Scruggs spoke. Warner held up my photo showing the Lin-
coln Memorial, the Reflecting Pool, and the entirety of Constitutions Gardens. Mathias’s
statement was my draft:
A location on the Mall is symbolically appropriate. We can all recall when the Mall was the
battleground of opinion and dissent regarding America’s role in Vietnam. Its proximity to the
Lincoln Memorial is also fitting, for not since the Civil War had this nation suffered wounds
and divisions as those endured over Vietnam….
By contributing to this project, Americans, irrespective of their views regarding U.S. policy
in Vietnam, may acknowledge the sacrifice of those who served there. For Vietnam Veterans,
the Memorial will stand as testimony that the American people care about them and respect
their service and sacrifice.

At 6:00 p.m. about a dozen of us gathered at my condo, focused on a 14" black and
white TV screen. It was a modest reception to celebrate the introduction of the legisla-
tion—some wine and beer, cheese and crackers—on my own nickel. But since I lived down-
town, everyone could come right from his or her office. We had held the press conference
in the morning to increase the chances of making the evening news. Now we eagerly gath-
ered around the small altar to receive a blessing from the gods of the media. The news
opened, and the announcer, a black woman, stared gravely as an image of the Washington
Monument appeared behind her. She spoke, “Today the Washington Monument was taken
over by a group of Vietnam veterans against the war, who have barricaded themselves in
the observation deck as a protest against the government’s inattention to their needs.” Alas,
so much for the positive image of Vietnam veterans.
8

National Velvet

The Office of Employment Services was on K Street, not far from the Greyhound bus
station, and seventeen blocks due east of the Army-Navy Club. Its painted block walls, missing
floor tiles, and burned-out fluorescent bulbs presented quite a different image. About two
dozen people, mainly blacks dressed for blue-collar work, sat silently on folding metal chairs,
looking vacantly ahead. No one read anything or seemed to be in a hurry. Others, who hadn’t
yet checked in, stood in two queues, separated by a chain hanging from three or four metal
stanchions, behind a line drawn on the floor with duct tape, six feet back from the counter.
Periodically, a stout and officious middle-aged black woman emerged from the warren of
movable partitions behind the counter and loudly called a name. One of my compatriots
would then slowly uncross his legs, lift himself to full height, and disappear into the maze
with the woman. A few seats to my left sat a black girl in her late teens. A row ahead sat a
young black man. He turned to her and said: “What are you doing here?”
“The same thing that you’re doing here. I got fired,” she said. Then, looking at me, she
continued, “Just like some of these big professional people, but they probably weren’t very
good, anyway.”
I felt proud that a U.S. Senator had used my draft bill and remarks as his own, but I
nonetheless was unemployed. I mailed my resume to dozens of law firms, but—five years
out of law school with no great track record—I couldn’t expect much response. I began to
consider that there might be some other way to make a living, something so I wouldn’t
have to say “shit” when the alarm rang in the morning. I might never get married, but I
wouldn’t throw myself out a window either. I took a battery of aptitude tests at George
Washington University and engaged a consultant to rewrite my resume on a “functional”
rather than experience basis.
I had also met with one of the “executive outplacement” companies that advertised
on the front page of the Post’s Sunday employment section. One charged a nonrefundable
$2,500 fee up front, and they played coach while you did the work to find a job—no guar-
antees, of course. The vultures tended to circle around the wounded. Getting to the bottom
of my resume, the interviewer turned up his nose and said: “What the heck is the Vietnam
Veterans Memorial Fund?”
I explained it.
“That’ll never get anywhere,” he said.
I hadn’t liked the guy even before, so I threw a rhetorical question, “Were you in Viet-
nam?”
“Oh, no. I was with Sam Brown. I was with Sam Brown on the Vietnam Moratorium,”
he said, as if serving in the war and opposing it were mutually exclusive.

42
8. National Velvet 43

A cousin of Wheeler’s had a successful career as an executive with one of Washington’s


thousands of trade associations, which represented every interest group from football play-
ers to funeral directors. I answered an ad for a lawyer placed by the Door and Hardware
Institute, which represented folks who made hinges and such, and in early November was
called for an interview. The executive director, polished, professional, and enthusiastic
about his work, spoke with respect about both his staff and members. The job wouldn’t be
strictly legal, but would also entail travel to find new members, along with some lobbying
and general management. In a second interview I used all of the right techniques, like cup-
ping my hands to show interest and making eye contact. A few days after the Mathias press
conference, I was offered the job, starting December 1, 1979. I negotiated the salary and
ended up with $29,500, which exceeded what I’d been making in the law firm. I asked for
a few days to think it over.
The man who formerly held the position described it as “a very good job.” It paid more
money than I’d been making, and I would only have been unemployed for six weeks, hardly
enough for anyone to notice. Moreover, I wouldn’t have to suffer the humiliation of report-
ing weekly for my unemployment check. It made sense to accept it. Within the allotted
time, therefore, I did. The executive director was effusively happy, and I tried to be.
Late that evening I called Ron Slaby, whom I’d known since the 4th grade, and related
the news. He hesitated and then finally said, “It’s great, but I really wish I could hear more
enthusiasm in your voice. You don’t sound very excited about it.”
I pondered half of the night. Could I really do this? I had no inherent interest in hard-
ware manufacture or in association management. But I had already accepted. To then reject
it a day later would be dishonorable. It would mark me as unstable. On the other hand,
was this why my grandparents had come to America? Was this why I had studied twelve
hours a day in college and learned to speak German and Russian? Why I had served my
country in Vietnam? Why I had put myself through—and endured—law school? To sell
doors and hardware? Perhaps it would be more dishonorable to ignore my own ambivalence.
Before I fell asleep I knew the first thing I had to do in the morning.
With a diplomatic and understanding voice, the executive director asked whether I
just needed some more time to think it over. I didn’t. I apologized, thanked him, said good-
bye, and again faced uncertainty and anxiety. I had done this once before. Soon after I
arrived in Vietnam, the Air Force selected me to go to grad school on the government’s
dime for a master’s degree in Russian. As payback I would have to serve an additional three
years for each year in school. I initially saw it as an honor and accepted, but at the eleventh
hour, with just two months left in Vietnam—disillusioned with both the war and the mil-
itary—I decided to give it up and leave the Air Force. That, of course, had happened ten
years earlier when I had a lot more options in life.

R
The verdict dribbled in. By our meeting on the 15th, we’d received a total of $540 since
November 1, some 30 contributions, of which $205 was designated to go to the Westphall
chapel. That left 9,970 preprinted letters that would go to waste, despite the millions of
people who saw the article about Westphall in Parade. Moreover, that wasn’t the only pub-
licity. Scruggs had written an excellent piece titled “We Were Young. We Have Died. Remem-
ber Us,” which appeared in the opinion section of Post on Sunday, November 11. He wrote:
44 Creating the Vietnam Veterans Memorial

Upon returning from the war, I, like many others, found that being a Vietnam veteran was a
dubious distinction. The true tale of the Vietnam amputee being told “It serves you right” after
returning to college illustrates the psychological quagmire that the youngest-ever corps of U.S.
veterans endured upon returning home. To many it was, and still is, an embarrassment to
admit having served in Vietnam.
The media’s portrayal of Viet vets has amounted to a collective character assassination as
we became typecast as violence-prone psychological basket cases. The treatment and indiffer-
ence we received is far from compensated for by a little media splash during Vietnam Veterans
Week.
Wheeler, in turn, had published a piece on the op-ed page of the Post on Monday,
called “Vietnam Vets: Tomorrow’s Leaders.” He advanced the thesis that Vietnam veterans,
because of the interruption in their educations, would only in the 1980s emerge as leaders
in their various callings—but then demonstrating a unique attribute: “Even with full
allowance for the mixture of events and motives that bring a man to war, there remains a
valid thread of personal sacrifice that ties the Vietnam veterans together. The battlefield,
for most men, nurtured the recognition that sacrifice is part of any strong community.”
The dud of the Washington Monument takeover notwithstanding, we did get some
local TV coverage the following Monday, and the UPI wire carried a story. Well and good,
but raising money obviously required a lot more than just publicity, and we still hadn’t
heard from Warner.
The screw-up with Webb and the introduction of the bill in the House had pointed
up a glaring problem with the organization: it was just a clutch with no one in charge. No
one was responsible for anything, and Mosley had approached me after the prior meeting.
“With a bill going into Congress, this is getting serious. We can’t keep running this like a
committee; there has to be a plan and some procedures.” I asked him to bring it up to the
group. He volunteered to head a committee to develop an organizational chart, schedule,
and management plan. I agreed that with the coming work on both fundraising and legis-
lation, some kind of office and maybe a part-time secretary were needed.

R
It had already been dark for hours when I parked on Mosley’s street in Chevy Chase
on Monday evening, November 19. Although just a few minutes from the Washington
boundary, the neighborhood’s wood frame houses and streets without curbs made it feel
like a rural village. Mosley, Wheeler, Frank, and I gathered around the dark table in the
dining room. The light reflected off the polished wood floor and the wide wooden trim
around the windows, giving the room a rich golden glow. Mosley posed the key question:
what did the organization need to do? We ended up with six functions: public relations,
financial management, fundraising, legislation, site selection, and design/construction. His
next question was how we would run it.
“I think we should hire a secretary and have an executive committee of three to be
management,” I said.
“No,” shot back Wheeler, “we need an executive director. Nonprofits are run by exec-
utive directors. That’s the way we should run this one. Let’s do it right.”
“Well, who are we going to get?” asked Mosley.
“We need a lawyer. He should be a veteran. Somebody who was in-country in Vietnam.
He doesn’t need to have been in combat, but in-country.”
8. National Velvet 45

It dawned on me that Wheeler was talking about me; I was being offered the job. “This
is interesting, Jack,” I said nervously. I felt sheepish, like the honoree at a surprise party.
“We’ve got $6,000 in the bank,” Frank said. “We don’t have the money to pay an exec-
utive director.”
Since the first meeting of the legal committee, I’d become ever more fascinated by the
notion of taking an idea out of the air and pulling together all of the threads and pieces to
transform the idea into a physical reality. Rick Hart had depicted this in his sculpture for
the tympanum at the Cathedral, where human forms emerge from the mists. Of course,
we weren’t God. I knew that somewhere along the line the organization had to take a crucial
first step—a leap of faith—to change from a committee of volunteers to a functioning oper-
ation, with an office of its own—akin to a kid’s first ride on a two-wheeler. Now the leap
stared me in the face.
After a lot of discussion came the idea that I would become temporary executive direc-
tor for three months, working on a half-time basis. The salary level—in view of my pro-
fessional qualifications—would be $30,000, which for half time would pay me $1,250 per
month. I’d also get $56 per month for a health plan. It worked from my point of view. The
money slightly exceeded the unemployment dole, and I could end that humiliation. I would
have half my time to continue my job search, but most importantly I would derive energy
from having some defined tasks. There was no guarantee, of course, that the whole venture
would succeed. Frank finally relented on spending the money after a final exasperated plea
from Wheeler: “He’s willing to do it half time for three months!”
I also saw hiring me as a win for the organization, a way for me to continue dedicating
time to the project. Only because I was unemployed had I had the time for drafting and
negotiating the legislation, and a lot more of the same was coming up. A direct-mail test
also would take a great deal of staff work, which would be difficult for volunteers. I was also
concerned about our public image. My mother had sent a nice check, for $100, and Scruggs
in turn had sent her a mottled Xerox copy of the form thank-you letter, signed with a green
felt-tip marker. Across the top, he had printed—in the same green ink and misspelling my
name—“Do you know Bob Doubeck?” She was horrified, and I wondered how many other
donors had had the same reaction. I had concluded that Scruggs was often reckless, and
that for his vision to be realized, Scruggs would have to be protected from himself.
The next challenge was to deliver the message on the new structure to the whole group,
and especially to Scruggs. A regular meeting was set for the 29th, so we called a special
meeting for Tuesday, the 26th, right after Thanksgiving, for just the four of us, plus Scruggs.

R
The narrow valley of Wissahickon Creek exuded tranquility in the early afternoon of
a sunny and mild Thanksgiving Day. The wooded banks spilling down to the water were
mostly gray, but as we crossed the bridge I saw flecks of yellow color from dry leaves that
still hung on. We had passed through downtown Philadelphia only a few minutes before.
My school-bus-yellow Opel wagon looked odd but ran well. To my right sat my girl-
friend Susan. Like me she was 35, had never been married, and came from Illinois. A year
earlier I had left my previous girlfriend of two years for her. The fact that Susan was an
architect had immediately pricked my interest, because most Washington professional
women, either lawyers or bureaucrats, did little that was creative.
46 Creating the Vietnam Veterans Memorial

The previous girlfriend had been quite upset, even though she had been frustrated by
my junky cars and lack of ambition. Three years older than I, she had a classy image and
had never been married. We had cared about each other. I had helped with her home
improvements and had enjoyed spending weekends at the beach house she shared, as well
as taking ski and sailing trips with friends. She ran in a circle of affluent singles, mostly
now in their late thirties and early forties, who had socialized together for years. Although
an outsider, I enjoyed the social scene, but sometimes resented it. I frequently thought
about Vietnam, which for them had never happened. They had partied right through it.
She and I had enjoyed a secure relationship, but she wasn’t interested in children. I couldn’t
imagine spending the rest of my life as an attendant, escorting her on endless parties and
weekend trips.
Susan and I hadn’t spoken much on the way to Philadelphia. Without a job and facing
an uncertain future, I felt empty enough to be knocked over by a feather. We also faced
winter and the darkest days of the year. For Susan, the trip was too little and too late. She
had needed a vacation since late spring. We had planned to get away for a week or two in
the summer, but without a job I couldn’t consider it. She recently had told me that she’d
soon be moving out of Washington. She was buying a condominium as a tax shelter, and
it made more sense to be near her office. We were having Thanksgiving with friends of
hers, landscape architects, and then going on to see more of her old friends in New Haven
and Providence.
Her friends were intellectual, artistic, affluent, and Eastern, and none of them found
me interesting. I was a one-dimensional and unemployed Midwestern lawyer, who hap-
pened to be Susan’s driver, albeit with bedroom privileges. Their discussion of past expe-
riences and mutual friends reinforced my sense that my life had fewer anchors than the
leaves blowing across the highway. Monday, as Susan and I ate dinner at Sholl’s Cafeteria
on K Street, I was glad to be home. I wouldn’t be able to solve my problems by escaping,
so the sooner I faced them, the better. She had let me know her friends’ opinion—I was
not the man for her.

R
A few hours later the five of us sat around Mosley’s dining room table to discuss a
management plan. I stared at a piece of paper containing seven horizontal lines on which
Mosley had laid out the starting and completion dates—from the beginning of 1980 to the
end of 1982—of all of the essential tasks in the project, from fundraising to construction.
On a second sheet, an organization chart, he had eight blocks connected by lines. The top
block was labeled “President/Board of Directors,” and the one below it “Executive Director.”
A third sheet, a pro forma budget, called for total expenditures of $2,000,000 over the three
years for the various expenses, with $1,300,000 for construction itself in 1982. Having never
seen planning documents like these before, I felt like I had found a map in what had been
a trackless forest.
After reviewing the documents, Mosley focused on the key element, the position of exec-
utive director, to be compensated in relation to “ability, experience, and workload.” Wheeler
reviewed the reasons why creating the position served VVMF’s best interests: the complexity
of the upcoming tasks and the need for immediate attention to them. Mosley’s plan was
accepted, and we turned to the hard task: selecting someone to be executive director.
8. National Velvet 47

“I’ll do it for a hundred fifty a week,” said Scruggs nonchalantly.


“What a minute, Jan, we need to go over the skills that the job needs,” Wheeler
answered. He listed what he considered important attributes: professional, task oriented,
knowledgeable about the issues, etc. I’d been quiet, but we had to get this out on the table,
so I threw out that I was ready and willing to do it. Mosley, Wheeler, and Frank chimed in
with general approval, but Scruggs’s face fell.
“Hey, what’s going on here?” he blurted. “I started this. This was my idea. And now
everybody’s talking about Bob Doubek. If anybody should be getting a job, it should be
me.”
“But that’s not why you did it, is it, Jan?” came back Mosley. “There’s a lot of work
coming up that has to get done, and Bob can also help you manage your time. Besides, he’s
taking it on a temporary basis. We don’t even know yet if we’re going to get the money to
go ahead.”
The plan was adopted. Scruggs quieted down, but didn’t seem convinced. Wheeler,
concerned about how we would present the decision to the group as a whole, spent a good
deal of time discussing how to make it a show of solidarity. Because I would be compensated,
I would be required to resign as a director. Before we broke up at 11:30 p.m. I proposed that
Scruggs and I go for a beer and discuss how we would work together. He followed me in
his own car to downtown Bethesda, but nothing was open. So we went our separate ways.

R
The Thursday meeting yielded general upbeat acceptance of Mosley’s management
plan and my selection as executive director, beginning December 1. I liked Mosley’s descrip-
tion of the job as the “key worker bee” that would make sure the goals were met. He empha-
sized that the volunteers would now be divvied up into six different task groups, which
would recommend action to the executive director and carry out his directives. I would
try to select the task group directors in the next two weeks and was authorized to look for
office space.
As the best news of the evening, Warner had set the fundraising event for Thursday,
December 20. Although it had again changed—this time into a breakfast—it really would
happen. Heather Haaga had completed negotiations on terms with Oram for a 200,000-
piece direct-mail test, to go out in February, which—if successful—would be followed by
a one-million-piece appeal at Memorial Day in May. The contract required a $1,000 retainer,
which would take a good chunk of the organization’s equity of $5,763. Yet, on the faith that
Warner’s efforts would yield success, we voted to proceed.
Come the next Monday morning, I went to work on VVMF matters. I called about
the ads for offices listed in the Sunday Post. I met with Lautman to start the contract nego-
tiations. On Tuesday, Scruggs, Mayo, Jayne, and I went to have lunch with Veterans Admin-
istrator Max Cleland, who had lost both legs and an arm in a grenade accident. Amiable
and positive, he gave us VA souvenirs. Friday, I met with Kling to discuss getting a turnout
for the breakfast. We would both send invitation letters and follow up by phone. The next
week I spoke at the monthly luncheon of the local American Legion post at VA headquar-
ters, signed the Oram contract, and met with Frank to discuss our financial procedures.
He himself would function as the financial task group.
Heather Haaga agreed to head up fundraising, and Jayne took public relations. Mor-
48 Creating the Vietnam Veterans Memorial

Jan Scruggs, William Jayne, Robert Doubek, and George Mayo (standing, left to right) meeting
with Administrator of Veterans Affairs Max Cleland, December 4, 1979 (Veterans Administration).

rison had lobbying experience, so he’d head up legislation. Kimmitt was willing to accept
site selection, but believed his real contribution would be with legislation, so I assumed
that portfolio myself. Mosley was the obvious choice for design and construction, but when
I called he hesitated and asked me to come and see him.
Mosley’s office was located in the upscale residential neighborhood of Wesley Heights,
just down New Mexico Avenue from American University. The building’s tenants primarily
were doctors, so women with children in strollers and elderly people with walkers patrolled
the lobby. Mosley had a set of blueprints spread out before him and was on the phone.
After he finished his call we walked down the hall to the deli. He bought me a cup of coffee
and we found a table.
“Bob, you’ve asked me to head up design and construction, which is something I can
do, but I really have much more basic problems with this whole thing.”
“What do you mean?” I said.
“Who are we to be doing this? What right do we have to build this memorial?”
I was taken aback, but I had also considered—and answered—the same question for
myself.
8. National Velvet 49

“Art, who aren’t we to be doing this? There’s a ball bouncing loose on the field. If we don’t
pick it up and run with it, somebody else will—somebody who may be less well-motivated
and qualified than we are. If you’re a lineman on a football team and you see a fumble, do you
ask yourself whether you’re supposed to run with it, or do you pick it up and go?”
“You need to know,” he went on, “I was a dissenter over there, and I received an Article
15. That is just about unheard of for a West Point graduate. Actually the only reason I went
to West Point is that I knew I could get a good education there. I wasn’t all that interested
in the military stuff.”
I began to fear that he would opt out completely. “Look, Art, I don’t think this is about
our own individual military records. I didn’t become an Air Force intelligence officer
because I wanted to lead troops up a hill. For better or for worse, we seem to have pushed
some of the right buttons and have found some people who can make this work. We’ve got
an opportunity to do something that can have a profoundly positive effect on the coun-
try—that will be better than anything that people can imagine coming from a bunch of
Vietnam veterans.”
Silent for an instant, he tilted his chair back slightly and smiled: “O.K., Bob, you can
count me in, but I just wanted to clear the air and let you know where I was coming from.”

R
We sent about 35 invitations, and a week before the event I started calling those who
hadn’t responded. It was a blue-chip list of the American defense industry: U.S. Steel, Ten-
neco, Boeing, Fairchild, Grumman, Lockhead, Bendix, etc. The invitees by and large were
vice-presidents who headed up the Washington lobbying offices, primarily men from the
World War II generation. Of those I reached personally, some were gruff, some pleasant,
and some even apologetic, but by the preceding day 13 said that they would attend.
A note from Wheeler had come the prior week. As usual, he was thinking far ahead
of the power curve—how to get to Secretary of Interior Cecil Andrus before the bureaucrats
at the NPS, who opposed the site-specific provisions in our bill. He also wanted to pass out
copies of his recent Post op-ed at Warner’s breakfast. But his primary purpose was to forward
the resume of Dr. M. Colyer Crum, a professor of investment management at Harvard
Business School. Crum had taught there since 1962 and had affiliations ranging from the
National Council of Churches to General Electric. Yet, the crucial fact for us was that
Crum’s younger brother had been killed in Vietnam. Wheeler recommended I call Crum,
who could advise on the right pitch to corporate executives.
After I got home from Mosley’s I phoned Crum, who was pleasant. I introduced myself,
told him about the project, especially the breakfast the next morning, and finally shut up.
“You can’t go through with that breakfast,” he responded. “You need to cancel it. You
can’t accept funds from the defense industry. They made millions off the Vietnam War. It’s
blood money.”
I sighed deeply. “Well, sir, canceling it at this point would be very difficult, but I appre-
ciate your concern and advice. I’ll discuss it with Jack and our other colleagues, and I’ll let
you know how we come out.”
A few quick calls to Scruggs, Wheeler, Frank, and others brought about a consensus:
If the money was green, we should take it. The important thing was what we did with it,
not where it came from.
50 Creating the Vietnam Veterans Memorial

R
The rear entrance to the Dumbarton Oaks estate faces the northeast corner of 32nd
and S Streets in Georgetown. With brick sidewalks, tall shade trees, and large homes dating
from early in the century, the area is Georgetown at its finest. The 1944 Dumbarton con-
ferences led to the founding of the United Nations, but I had never visited the estate or its
sixteen acres of formal gardens. Just a few hundred yards east of busy Wisconsin Avenue,
it seemed like a place where time had stood still and Eleanor Roosevelt might emerge from
the doorway at any time.
Warner’s house, at 3240 S Street, NW, stood across and slightly down the street from
the Dumbarton entrance. It faced another huge mansion, behind which the beautiful open
grass fields of Jelleff playground teemed on weekends with children playing soccer and
baseball. At 7:30 a.m. parking here was easy, especially since the entire block had only four
houses on it.
“Wow,” I thought as I got out of my car. The front of Warner’s two-story house, built
close to the sidewalk as if in Europe, extended at least 90 feet. An eight-foot brick wall
joined the façade, extending another 120 feet along S Street, and surrounded the large
garden to the rear. As I rang the doorbell, I laughed to myself about what was on my mind.
Soon we would learn the answer to the question in chief: Would we get to meet Elizabeth
Taylor? I was fairly certain that we wouldn’t, as I assumed that she stayed at Warner’s estate
in Middleburg, Virginia. I couldn’t imagine how someone so famous could have any privacy
living in Washington. Political celebrities in D.C. were a dime a dozen, but Hollywood stars
stopped traffic and turned heads.
The corollary to this important issue was: What do you say to Elizabeth Taylor if you
do get to meet her? She was, after all, one of the richest, most famous, and most glamorous
human beings who ever had walked the face of the earth. While an object of male desire,
she also enjoyed a lot of respect and esteem from women, including my mother and my
architect girlfriend. Most importantly, she was the spouse of a man who was more important
to our project than anyone.
For two weeks, I had pondered the question long and hard. I’d come up with an accept-
able answer only by reformulating the question: What don’t you say to Elizabeth Taylor?
That was, “I loved you in National Velvet.” It seemed to me that to compliment a mature
star on her first well-known role perhaps overemphasized her age.
The door opened and a middle-aged black woman in a maid’s uniform cheerfully
greeted me and pointed down the hall to my left, which extended the length of the façade.
The early morning light streamed through the windows. At its end I turned right into a
large drawing room, furnished with couches and chairs grouped into several seating areas.
Across the entire rear wall of the room stretched windows looking into the formal garden,
interrupted only by a pair of French doors in the center. On the tables at both ends of the
room I examined the photo mementos of the couple’s life together. One beautiful photo,
clearly taken on their wedding day, showed Warner and Taylor standing in an open field,
holding hands and gazing into one another’s eyes as the sun set. They both looked genuinely
happy.
Kling interrupted my reverie. “This is the schedule. People will get here around 8:00
a.m. We’ll mingle a little and have everyone get breakfast buffet style. It’s set up on the
8. National Velvet 51

dining room table in next room. At 8:30 the Senator will do a pitch for you guys, so that
everybody can leave by about 8:45 and be in their offices by 9:00.”
I wandered back to the dining room, where Warner himself was helping the cook—
also in uniform—arrange the table. She brought in platters of scrambled eggs and bacon.
“Doubek,” he said, motioning to the smiling woman, “I was just going to serve Danish, but
my boss here let me know that all these grown men needed a real breakfast.”
The room soon filled up with men in conservative suits, including Senator Mathias.
With Monica Healy the only woman, it was an equal standoff between two generations of
veterans. Thirteen of us had served in or during Vietnam. The thirteen corporate reps, by
and large, were old enough to be our fathers. Many were retired military officers who had
served in World War II, Korea, and Vietnam. I started the breakfast line in order to get
mine out of the way. By 8:20 the conversation in the room had quieted as men sitting
throughout the room focused on eating while balancing plates and coffee cups on their
knees. I sat on the divan under the garden windows.
Suddenly to my left the kitchen door flew open and Warner stepped through deci-
sively.
“Gentlemen, the chef,” he announced, and behind him through the door followed Tay-
lor. She wore a pink robe, buttoned in front from her neck to below her knees. The robe’s
collar was tied around her neck by a white cord, which had a fluffy white ball at each end.
On her feet she wore pink slippers which had fluffy white balls—matching those on her
collar—at the toes.
“Officers, ’ttench hut,” rang the order in my mind—the same one that I had always
heard when brass entered a room. Clearly I wasn’t the only one who heard it. The entire
room now stood at attention. Those of us from the divan formed a fairly straight rank, and
looking to my left I could see each man holding out his plate at belt level, as if presenting
arms with scrambled eggs. Taylor, meanwhile, was proceeding down our row and greeting
each individual personally. I now became nervous. I pictured her as a general reviewing
troops, and soon it would be my turn.
Suddenly, I was gazing into her purple-tinged blue eyes, surrounded by a wreath of
raven hair. She had gained some weight, but her face could still launch a thousand ships.
I proffered my hand, introduced myself, and felt her firm handshake. She smiled, and for
an instant it appeared that I had passed the test. Then, suddenly she said, “What’s that?”
and pointed to my lapel.
I wore a white metal disk, about five-eights of an inch in diameter, on which the profile
of George Washington was printed in purple to simulate the Purple Heart medal. It was
clamped on with a metal flap that folded over. These were cheap. The Red Cross had given
out this type of button when I was a kid. As it turned out, basketball coach Red Auerbach
had a brother named Zang, who had a trophy store on F Street in Washington near Scruggs’s
office. Scruggs had bought a bunch of these, which Heather Haaga referred to as the “purple
passion pin.” I didn’t like them, but for the time being, they were all we had.
“Oh yes, Mrs. Warner, these are our Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund lapel pins.”
“May I have one?”
“Oh yes, of course,” I said, bending my head down and tucking in my arms in order
to undo the clamp. Finally, I held it between thumb and forefinger and faced a dilemma.
The only place that it could possibly be attached to her clothing was the cord around her
52 Creating the Vietnam Veterans Memorial

neck. The white fluffy balls flared out, resting dangerously close to her breasts. It went
through my mind that these were two of the most renowned ones in the world, especially
after the movie Cleopatra. To clamp the disk around a slack cord would take a lot of dex-
terity, which wasn’t my strong suit. I could easily slip. Did I dare to actually put my hands
mere inches from those magnificent orbs? I didn’t. I held the pin out until she finally realized
my dilemma and reached, took it, and herself pinned it on the cord. As she moved on, I
thought to myself: “No guts, no glory.”
With her rounds completed, Taylor disappeared from the room and eating resumed.
At half past the hour, Warner strode to the empty spot before the French doors and the
room became silent. The sun lighted the bare branches in the garden behind him. With
force and passion he spoke about the war and the need for the memorial. After a few
minutes Taylor reappeared, walked to him, and sat down on the divan to his left. With
arms crossed across her chest and elbows on her knees, she gazed up at Warner in fond
admiration. “This guy must have done something right,” I thought.
His simple, direct message was that the memorial had his full support and we needed
help to start the fundraising. He would consider it a personal favor if they did so. Having
thanked them for coming, he as a final gesture pulled out his own check for $1,000 and
handed it to Scruggs. All stood and Warner crossed the room in order to see everyone off.
The room began to empty out, but my job was to wait and sort out loose ends.
After a few minutes I stood by myself in the middle of the room drinking coffee. The
maids bustled around removing plates and cups, and a few groups of people were still talk-
ing. All of a sudden I heard Scruggs’s voice from my right: “Yup, that National Velvet, that
was one heck of a movie. Yes, sir.” I looked over and saw him standing with Taylor. I gagged
and put my cup down. Another decision loomed. Could I really just stand here and allow
the unspeakable to be spoken? I couldn’t. Without knowing what to say, I nonetheless
marched over and joined them.
“Yes, Mrs. Warner, even I re…,” I said, before suddenly realizing that if I said I “remem-
bered” seeing the movie when I was a kid, it would doubly emphasize her age. Yet, God
smiled on me.
“…cently saw a movie called The Black Stallion, and the reviewers say that not since
National Velvet has any film so well shown the relationship between a child and a horse,”
I continued.
“Oh, I’ll have to see it,” said Taylor pleasantly. I smiled and stood guard until she
moved off.
Finally, at just about 9:00 a.m., I was in the foyer talking with Kling. Warner had told
him that several of the reps had already said that they would do something for us. Warner
appeared, looking to be in quite a hurry as he buttoned the coat of his double-breasted suit
and briefly searched for his briefcase. Finally, with the retrieved briefcase in his right hand,
he grasped the doorknob in his left and was poised to burst forth into the world for another
day in the Senate. Just then, Taylor gracefully sauntered down the hallway and motioned
him back with her index finger.
“Not so fast,” she said.
“Oh, of course, dear, I’m sorry,” said Warner, putting down his briefcase and walking
over to kiss his spouse goodbye. This done, he was allowed to leave.
The scene had moved me. My only regret was that the entire country could not have
8. National Velvet 53

witnessed it. Mr. and Mrs. America out in the heartlands, as they strived through the daily
routines of their ordinary lives, would be strengthened in their resolve and have their faith
renewed could they only see that even the rich, famous, and powerful stop for a kiss good-
bye.
I shook hands with Kling, and said goodbye to Taylor, which I capped off with a cheery:
“Merry Christmas.” Seconds later, I stopped on the sidewalk and slapped my forehead. “Oh
my God,” I thought, “she’s Jewish, isn’t she?”
9

The Buck, the Millionaire, and


Action on All Fronts

For 1979, VVMF had received just over $9,300 in contributions: $5,800 from individ-
uals in response to the July 4 news story, $2,500 from the Veterans of Foreign Wars, and
the $1,000 from Senator Warner. On January 2, 1980, I opened the first office, a single
interior room—barely large enough for a desk—to sublet from a consulting firm. It had
two advantages: a location on Connecticut Avenue—a prestige address—and rent of only
$350 per month. Also a real person, not a recording machine, answered the phone.
That morning I labeled six manila file folders: Finance and Accounting, Site Selection,
Legislation, Design and Construction, Fund Raising, and Public Relations. My job now
was to fill them. First, I had to transform what had been a loosely defined committee into
an organization—with divisions of responsibility, controls over spending, and a single
source of authority. I ended the practice of holding general meetings and scheduled separate
ones for the Board and for the advisors. If Wheeler, Scruggs, and Frank were going to be
the sole members of the Board, they would have to take full responsibility for its decisions.
Likewise, I wanted the advisors to deal with the Board through me, but this was problem-
atical because some personal relationships in the group anteceded the organization.
I also realized that the buck would stop with me. The volunteers all had at least two
priorities before VVMF: their jobs and their families. I didn’t have a family, and VVMF
was now my job. It would show up on my resume for the rest of my career, so I needed to
create something worthy. The limits of relying on volunteers to get things done were evident.
Congressional staffs requested press kits and other materials and expected VVMF to be
able to respond like any other organization. I couldn’t expect a volunteer to ignore his or
her boss and meet my deadline. Consequently, I saw the volunteer task forces as an interim
measure, until we could afford to hire full time staff and contractors to do the work. Yet I
had no clear picture of the best mix of staff, contractors, consultants, and volunteers.

R
The bottom line was money. On the faith of Warner’s promise to help us raise our first
year’s budget, we had entered into the contract with Oram in December for a 200,000-piece
test mailing. The test would use 40 different lists of 5,000 names each, covering the spectrum
of causes and political positions; we’d see who’d respond. The entire mailing would cost
about $42,000, but fortunately most of the contractors and suppliers could be paid after the
contributions had come in. The only two that we had to pay up front were the U.S. Post
Office—to the tune of $6,200—and Oram itself, to which we owed $2,500 by January 20.

54
9. The Buck, the Millionaire, and Action on All Fronts 55

As volunteers on her fundraising committee, Heather Haaga had recruited, along with
her spouse Paul, a number of the bright young people on her staff. She held regular meet-
ings, complete with agendas and minutes, and issued detailed reports. By mid–December
she had created a near-term fundraising plan, and by the end of the month, working with
Kay Lautman of Oram, she presented drafts of the new logo, the letterhead, the direct-mail
package, and the appeal letter, along with a list of prospect members of the National Spon-
soring Committee.
The direct-mail materials looked good, but we didn’t have the money to pay the Post
Office and Oram, and I had no idea how to get it. But on January 15, 1980, Bill Kling from
Warner’s office called: “Grumman Aerospace is going to give you $10,000 tomorrow.”
Because of Grumman’s gift we were able to do our mailing, so it might have been the most
important one we ever received. Soon thereafter came gifts of $2,500 from the Harris Cor-
poration and $1,000 from Magnavox.
Because the organization’s name still lacked recognition, Oram recommended we enlist
some prominent individuals to put their names on our letterhead, a National Sponsoring
Committee. With the theme of national reconciliation, we set out to touch all bases—liberal
and conservative, black and white, antiwar and pro-war. The potential recruits included
General William Westmoreland and Senator George McGovern. The first confirmed mem-
ber was Webb, who wanted to be identified solely as the author of Fields of Fire. For potential
signatories on the letter, Bob Hope seemed ideal. His annual shows to entertain the troops
in the war zone were legend, and he carried little or no political baggage from the war. Bill
Jayne had once met him and drafted a letter.
For the appeal itself, Kay Lautman poignantly laid out our case in a two-page letter,
which read in part:
This memorial will not bring back the dead. It will not heal the wounded. It will not erase the
scars of war suffered by many thousands.
But the knowledge that the people of this Nation—liberals and conservatives, hawks and
doves—wish to honor those who served in Vietnam, will help restore the self-esteem of thou-
sands of returned veterans. Similarly, the inscription on the memorial of the name of every
serviceman who gave his life—a special tribute—will bring long overdue honor to the families
of those who did not return.
Perhaps most important of all, this memorial will be a symbol of our Nation’s determination
to heal the divisions and differences generated by Vietnam, and to restore the unity that existed
prior to the war.
The letter declared a goal of $2.5 million for fundraising, and suggested a $20 donation to
“sponsor the name of one Vietnam war veteran who gave his life.” The package included a
brochure modeled after Jayne’s draft. Lautman earlier had sent me a draft of the brochure
with the prominent heading: “Their turn on the Mall.” I perceived this as confrontational
and suggested substituting Lincoln’s words, “For him who shall have borne the battle,”
which is the VA motto. She had taken the quote from Hammerschmidt’s remarks for the
introduction of the Senate bill, which Webb had written. Like Webb, many veterans had
perceived the antiwar movement as against them, rather than the war.
Oram proposed a logo created by a small commercial art firm—a flame protruding
from the base of a lamp. The base was formed by the words “Vietnam Veterans Memorial
Fund’’ stacked in a column. I worked with the firm to make the protrusion look like a flame
rather than a banana.
56 Creating the Vietnam Veterans Memorial

January 31 was the deadline to set type for the direct-mail package, and responses to
our invitations for the National Sponsoring Committee lagged. Most importantly, no blacks
had signed on. I reached columnist Carl Rowan at home. We received his acceptance a few
days later, and Willie Stargell of the Pittsburgh Pirates also got back to us by the deadline.
Late one afternoon I called Electronic Data Systems in Dallas and asked to speak with
Mr. Perot. Expecting to be shunted to an aide, I instead heard the unmistakable raspy voice
of H. Ross himself. I explained about VVMF and the NSC.
“You guys aren’t a bunch of kooky Vietnam veterans, are you?” he responded.
I explained that most of us had advanced degrees and responsible jobs. Perot then
related how a few years earlier he had proposed to the White House that he fund a memorial
to Vietnam veterans in Washington. He envisioned a white temple, à la the Lincoln Memo-
rial, somewhere on the Mall. Yet the White House veterans affairs advisor never got back
to him. He added that his company went out of its way to hire Vietnam veterans. Well and
good, but I had business: could we list his name on our letterhead? He declined. “I want
to know what it’s going to look like before I sign on. But when I get on board, I’ll get on
in a big way.” I thanked him for speaking with me.
At the Board meeting that evening, I reported on my conversation and Scruggs asked
for Perot’s phone number. The next day he talked Perot into a $10,000 contribution. This
brought our assets up to $25,000, but it also began a relationship with Perot that we ulti-
mately came to regret.
Oram mailed 188,903 letters beginning on February 21, and the first donation came
on February 27. Within weeks, the test looked to be a clear success, with revenues ($45,500)
actually exceeding expenses ($39,000)—unusual for a test. It also revealed that support for
the idea of a Vietnam Veterans Memorial came from mainstream Americans—the same
people who supported the Boy Scouts, the Red Cross, and the American Cancer Society.
Based on the results, Haaga recommended mailing 1,000,000 letters for a Memorial Day
appeal.
The returns from the test mailing brought a new question, about stewarding our assets.
Frank immediately wanted to create an account reserved for “operational” purposes like
design and construction. He was concerned about diverting funds from operational to sup-
port activities like PR and fundraising. But after a hot discussion we concluded that the
sooner we raised the funds, the lower the overhead would be. This meant that for a time,
all the revenue from fundraising was reinvested into more fundraising. It also necessitated
some hyperbole with our public utterances.
We based our pitch for a $20 contribution on the cost of inscribing one name on the
memorial. Anecdotally, I received the impression that many donors really did believe that
their personal $20 bill would be set aside and eventually handed directly to a guy with a
chisel. Many also seemed to think that charities somehow existed in the clouds without
having to pay rent or pay their employees.
The test returns were encouraging, but at the Board meeting on March 27, Frank deliv-
ered sobering news: we had $35,644.23 in assets, not enough to pay the $31,000 in postage
for the Memorial Day mailing, the Oram fees, and the other ongoing expenses. We needed
some money.
A few days later a new guy showed up at the meeting of the task group directors. Tom
Carhart, a classmate of Wheeler’s and Mosley’s at West Point, had been seriously injured
9. The Buck, the Millionaire, and Action on All Fronts 57

in an auto accident in his senior year, delaying his graduation. He had received two Purple
Hearts in Vietnam, serving as an infantry platoon leader with the 101st Airborne Division
and as an advisor to the South Vietnamese. He had taught French at West Point, and after
leaving the Army received a law degree at the University of Michigan. Recently married
for the second time, he had come to Washington from Massachusetts. His wife had a high
level job at one of the big consulting firms, and he had found a legal job with a federal
agency.
No sooner had I explained the serious cash flow problem than Carhart said, “My wife’s
uncle is a vice-president of a bank here.” A few days later, he and I were sitting in the office
of the president of First American Bank, Charles Daniels, who—as fate had it—graduated
from West Point. I explained our mission and predicament, and virtually on the spot Daniels
offered to provide up to a $45,000 loan to get us through the cash flow problem. At the
meeting on April 24, the Board approved the mailing and the loan. We ended up taking
$30,000 at 1.5 percent above the prime rate.
At that meeting Wheeler also fumed about the lack of a corporate fundraising cam-
paign, “What the heck is Heather doing?” He thought that we should find friends and
friends of friends in all the major corporations who would ensure that our letters got to
the right people. This tied in with his notion that Vietnam veterans were destined to be
the leaders of our generation. I saw the idea as akin to tilting at windmills. Most veterans
were still in their mid–30s and hadn’t yet penetrated the nation’s boardrooms. More impor-
tantly, we were but a few people, with only a short reach into corporate America. Seeing
the idea as a management nightmare, I countered that we needed a chairman for a corporate
campaign, and without the legislation in hand we lacked credibility. Wheeler nonetheless
demanded an immediate test, so I agreed to obtain a list of the top 100 corporations in the
country and circulate it to determine whether anyone had any contacts.
After the test mailing, we began receiving notices from state regulators with lengthy
application forms, wanting to know everything about us. While I attended to filling these
out, I retired the metal fold-over “purple passion” lapel pins. I ordered plastic pins in the
shape of our new flame logo. Our campaign was rolling. In late April, Dallas Cowboys
quarterback and Vietnam veteran Roger Staubach joined the NSC.

The Design
Mosley in early January kicked off the design effort by meeting with Ed Able, the exec-
utive director of the American Society of Landscape Architects. Able served with Wheeler
on the vestry of an Episcopalian church, and had a firm opinion: “Don’t do a design com-
petition.” He explained that the main problem was the lack of interaction between the
designer and the client before the design was final. Hence, any modifications to the winning
design by the client could cause legal problems. Able recommended an “invited competi-
tion,” whereby we’d invite five or six firms to each create a design concept and we’d pick
from these. I wasn’t happy to hear Able’s view, as even deciding on the six firms seemed
daunting. I hoped for other opinions, but Mosley seemed to be persuaded by Able. I held
my tongue. Mosley headed the design effort, but more importantly Wheeler respected him
highly. A frontal assault on the issue would be suicide, so I bided my time; a final decision
58 Creating the Vietnam Veterans Memorial

wasn’t needed for months. Interestingly, Perot shared Able’s opinion about a competition.
In one of his calls with Scruggs, he suggested paying the five best architecture firms in the
country each to produce a design—not a bad idea for a big corporation in need of a new
facility. For our purposes, however, who would decide on the five best?
The process of selecting the design loomed as a potential nightmare. The increasing
national publicity about the memorial kindled more and more pitches from genuine and
would-be sculptors, architects, sundry designers, and veterans, all offering to design the
memorial for us. All were eager to reveal the one true pathway before we went astray: “I
needed to get to you before those [figurativist, modernist, brutalist, realist, abstractionist,
elitist, etc.] SOBs get to you and mess up your brains.”
My law firm’s clients bid on government contracts, so I knew the procedures for formal
procurements. For the design, we needed a process to manage and filter all the proposals,
so that our role would be that of trustees and we wouldn’t be directly in the line of fire. We
could never sift through the different concepts and ideas without some sort of arm’s-length
procedure. Moreover, fairness mattered. Just as every kid in America can aspire to be pres-
ident, I thought every designer should have a chance to do a national monument.
Kay Lautman knew Michael Pittas, who directed the design arts program at the
National Endowment for the Arts, and in late January I met with Pittas’s deputy Charles
Zucker. NEA could make grants up to $30,000 for design competitions, and the next appli-
cation deadline came on June 30; smaller amounts were available on an urgent basis. I fol-
lowed up with a letter asking for a $5,000 grant for a site feasibility study. I meanwhile
learned that the American Institute of Architects had established its own competitions
advisory service.
Mosley in early February drafted a thoughtful memo on criteria for selecting a designer.
They included competence of the designer, equal opportunity, and the opportunity for cre-
ative input. He saw three alternate selection methods: sole source selection, design com-
petition, and modified design competition—as per Able’s recommendation. Assuming we
would follow the design concept that we set before the NCMAC, he foresaw that the chosen
designer would then assist VVMF in picking a sculptor.
I had to convince Mosley, so I brought him to a second meeting with Zucker, to discuss
a grant. At the time $25,000 seemed like a fortune, and Mosley accepted the idea. The
NEA’s guidebook for competitions called for retaining a professional adviser, usually a pro-
fessional architect, to oversee the entire process. Zucker provided several recommendations,
and Mosley—with his usual initiative—started setting up interviews. Coincident with
Mosley’s memo had come a letter from the bell company representative proposing a carillon
with 50 cast bronze bells, each named for a state in the union, with the bells to be housed
in a tower. I filed the letter.

R
A cautionary tale about competitions appeared in Texas Monthly magazine for March
1980. “The Egg War” related the story of a design competition in Austin, Texas, to create
a memorial to the 98 Travis County men killed in Vietnam. The winning design looked
like a crate of eggs. Webb had sent the article to Wheeler with a note: “I hope ours doesn’t
turn out like this.” The article described a classic standoff between retired military officers
and artsy types. The military men had envisioned something traditional, like a granite
9. The Buck, the Millionaire, and Action on All Fronts 59

obelisk with a plaque, but an arts group, with a notion of a massive abstract sculpture that
would put Austin on the arts map, had persuaded the military men to accept their help in
running a competition.
To judge the competition, the group selected the director of an art museum in Miami,
who came with the attitude that public art was always controversial, so the public would
just have to be “educated.” The winner out of 41 entries, a University of Texas art professor
from Thailand, envisioned a 1,300-square-foot metal grid, holding 98 concrete eggs weigh-
ing four tons. After Lady Bird Johnson awarded the prize money, the military group rejected
the sculpture by a vote of 30 to 1. A furor ensued in the local press, with the Florida judge
asserting, “This is not the military’s field of expertise.” He had previously stated that it was
more important to get great art than a fitting memorial. In the end the military men decided
on a granite monument, and the arts group resolved to build the egg crate somewhere else
and not as a war memorial. To conclude, the article quoted a mother who lost her son, “To
polarize one group against another honors neither the living nor the dead…. If a memorial
is to be erected, let it be done with a unity of purpose and dignity.”

R
Also mind-boggling was a meeting that Scruggs and I had in late March with stone
carver Harold Vogel. Vogel had worked on the National Cathedral and the U.S. Capitol
Building and had done all the lettering on the walls of the Kennedy Center and at the LBJ
Memorial Grove. On the subject of inscribing 58,000 names, Vogel explained how the
major challenge with lettering involved “kerning and spacing.” For example, the space
between a “W” and an “A” could not be the same as the space between two “A”s. Two “I”s
could not occupy the same space as two “O”s. Vogel estimated that inscribing 58,000 names
into stone by hand would take every available carver in the world three years and cost
$10,000,000. Clearly some sort of stencil and sandblast process was needed, but then the
problem was making the stencil. Vogel thought that he had a solution. He would create a
rubber stencil for each letter, with thin fingers sticking out the sides. The interlocking
fingers would set the correct spaces between the successive letters. It was a creative idea,
but the chances for error in doing this with 58,000 names were huge.
The Board at the end of March approved Mosley’s February recommendation for a
limited competition, but by then his thinking—to my liking—tended toward a full-blown
open competition.

The Site
The Mathias bill called for a two-acre site in Constitution Gardens. This provision,
the guts of the bill, would be a tough sell. The NCMAC on January 4 had issued a favorable
recommendation on the concept of a memorial, but it also recommended removing the
specificity for the location. I didn’t think that simply saying we wanted it could overcome
the stances of the NCMAC and the NPS. We needed some objective criteria, so I approached
EDAW’s Joe Brown. Brown proposed a feasibility study of alternative sites for our design
concept, for a fee of $5,000 on an eight-week schedule. But at the meeting on January 4
the Board wouldn’t approve it, citing the cost and the need. I negotiated extended payment
60 Creating the Vietnam Veterans Memorial

terms from Brown, and I again pushed for the study at the meeting on January 31, noting
that Morrison, Mosley, Kimmit, Able, and Zucker all recommended that we do it. I argued
that the site was the most important aspect of the project, that we needed professional sup-
port, that EDAW was well known to the establishment and would provide us with credibility,
and that we didn’t have time for alternate bids.
I signed the EDAW contract on February 4. EDAW’s proposal emphasized that a sig-
nificant result of the study would be to “provide a concise but very professional report with
a ‘distinguished and formal image’ from cover to cover.” It candidly added: “This, in fact,
may be the most significant purpose for this effort so that you begin to insure a perception
of your organization as able to produce distinguished and ‘first class’ results. Clearly the
Federal Government will only give the use of a site on the Mall (or any significant site in
the core) to a private organization which demonstrates its willingness and ability to create
the highest quality result….”
Also early in February, the NPS director cleared a memo to the DOI recommending
enactment of S.J. Res. 119 if it be amended as per the NCMAC’s position on a specific site.
He also recommended that the design and plans be subject to the approval of all three bod-
ies, i.e., the Secretary of the Interior, the CFA, and the NCPC. We clearly would need all
the ammunition we could get to prevail on the site. An article in the Post on February 14
confirmed my thinking: “Planning Snags Delay Action on New Memorials.” The article
reported that bills for both a “Vietnam War memorial” and a memorial to the signers of
the Declaration of Independence were raising concerns in the design establishment, pri-
marily because of the site-specific provisions. Specifically NCPC Chair David Childs had
expressed concern that “in bypassing the normal planning process, Congress may be setting
a precedent that will make planning chaotic.” I applied to the NEA on February 20 for an
emergency grant to fund the EDAW study.

The Legislation
In December, John Morrison laid out what we had to do to bolster passage of the bill.
As a 501(c)(3) organization, we technically couldn’t “lobby,” but as the primary beneficiary
of the legislation, we could provide information and support its primary sponsors. We
didn’t expect the bill to be controversial, but it had to be passed by both the House and the
Senate. In each it would be assigned to a committee and then to a subcommittee of that
committee. For each committee and subcommittee there was a chairman from the majority
party, the Democrats, and a ranking minority member from the Republicans. In each house,
these six people were key to getting things done. It was also useful to recruit additional
sponsors to the legislation. While the number of sponsors did not count for passage of the
legislation, it was a good indication of the outcome of the vote, as a member would not
generally turn around and vote against what he or she had sponsored. Already in May 1979
Scruggs had received letters of support from a dozen senators.
In January, Morrison met with Tom Williams, on the Democratic staff of the Senate
Subcommittee on Parks, Recreation, and Renewable Resources, and with Tony Bevinetto,
on the Republican staff. Both expressed support. Bill Kling and Monica Healy recommended
holding hearings on the legislation—especially for their symbolic significance for the con-
9. The Buck, the Millionaire, and Action on All Fronts 61

cept of reconciliation. Healy had coordinated with Hammerschmidt’s office for him to rein-
troduce the Senate version of the bill in the House and circulate a “Dear Colleague” letter
to bring in co-sponsors.
To make sure that the Hill knew about the new player in town, I sent a letter to the
535 senators and congressmen to announce that VVMF had opened its offices “for the
duration of the memorial project.” A few days later Morrison and I went to meet Congress-
man Lucien Nedzi of Michigan, the chairman of the House Subcommittee on Libraries in
Memorials, which would have jurisdiction in the House. He did not foresee any problems
and likewise proposed holding a hearing. Nedzi’s key staffer, our contact point, would be
Cynthia Szady, a smart young woman, who like Nedzi was Polish from Detroit. By some
strange coincidence, Carhart had been appointed to West Point by Nedzi.
Because of the “bunko” incident, we now had a key ally inside the VA, Vietnam veteran
Dean K. Phillips, the agency’s liaison with veterans’ organizations. Phillips was tall, hand-
some, and extroverted to the point of knocking your head back. From Ohio, the son of a
doctor, and of Greek descent, he had given up a law school student deferment to enlist in
the Army out of loyalty to his high school buddies who were getting drafted. As a private
first class with the 101st Airborne Division in 1968, he had earned two Silver Stars, two
Bronze Stars, and a Purple Heart. A general had once called him “the best leader out here.”
One day Phillips called from an airport pay phone with an urgent message: we had
better meet with a Mack Fleming, the chief counsel of the House Veterans Affairs Com-
mittee. Fleming apparently had problems with us or the project. Morrison and I went up
and found Fleming in the committee offices in one of the cavernous House office buildings.
As soon as we sat down in front of his big desk, the purpose became clear. Fleming, speaking
in a thick South Carolina accent, proceeded to chew us out. He didn’t like our plan to build
the memorial without government funding, but our real crime was that the chief sponsors
in both the Senate and the House were Republicans. “If you guys wanted to build a memo-
rial, you should have come here to Mr. Montgomery, and we would have gotten it done for
you.” He concluded with an encouraging, “We’ll see if you guys pull this off!” “So much
for reconciliation,” I thought as we departed.
By the end of February, 54 of the 100 senators had co-sponsored S.J. Res. 119, and H.J.
Res. 431 had 86 co-sponsors in the House. In addition to Scruggs’s efforts, the number of
Senate co-sponsors had grown due to the friendly persuasion of Secretary of the Senate
Stanley Kimmitt, sometimes referred to as the “101st Senator.”
Senator Dale Bumpers, the chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Parks, set the
hearings for Wednesday, March 12, and Hammerschmidt called a press conference for
March 5 to reintroduce the House bill, which by that time had 103 co-sponsors. At Ham-
merschmidt’s side stood Congressman Morris K. Udall, an Arizona Democrat known as a
liberal. “This will begin the process of healing and reconciliation,” said Udall. Hammer-
schmidt included in the Congressional Record a statement by Scruggs about the need for
the memorial. Yet the highlight of the conference featured Jack Wheeler.
Also attending was a husky man of about my age, first-term Congressman Donald A.
Bailey, a Democrat from the Pittsburgh area. Bailey had played football at the University
of Michigan, and in Vietnam had led platoons, serving in the 82nd and 101st Airborne
Divisions. His decorations included a Silver Star, three Bronze Stars, two Army Commen-
dation Medals, and an Air Medal. After Vietnam, Bailey had worked as a steelworker, but
62 Creating the Vietnam Veterans Memorial

then went to law school at Duquesne. After the prepared remarks, Bailey stood up and
took the floor with a simple and direct message: “Vietnam was right”—implying that the
talk about reconciliation was for the birds.
Wheeler had sat at the side of the room, with his back to the windows. At some point,
unrelated to Bailey’s blast, Wheeler himself took the floor and started expounding. His
thrust was that we weren’t going to spoil the Mall, and that the memorial would consist of
trees and benches and be a quiet place. From somewhere, he pulled out the word “rustic,”
which the media liked. An AP story received wide coverage, and the Harrisburg (Pennsyl-
vania) News the next day carried a story headlined: “‘Rustic’ Vietnam War memorial
sought.” It quoted Wheeler, identified as a lawyer and West Point graduate, as saying: “We
are planning it as a rustic garden retreat…. It is not going to be a big block of granite.”
Some readers undoubtedly imagined a log cabin with rocking chairs on the porch.
The hearings before the Senate subcommittee were our first major opportunity to
demonstrate our credibility, so with input from Scruggs and Morrison, I set about drafting
our statement, which Scruggs would deliver. Wheeler, certain as always that the bureaucrats
were out to screw us, had insisted that the Mathias bill specify two acres in Constitution
Gardens, which the NPS—while not objecting to the concept of the memorial—would
oppose. Their argument wasn’t unreasonable: “How do we know where to put it until we
know what it looks like?” The two acres, of course, was another Wheelerism. Later I cal-
culated that an acre was about the size of a football field.
Wheeler drafted a memo in late February with ideas on how to prevail on the site
issue. He thought we had to keep the DOI from making a negative decision until EDAW
finished the study and could bolster our position. I incorporated several of his arguments
into our Senate statement, including that Congress had designated sites in the past, the
impact of the Vietnam War justified special treatment, the reconciliation theme made a
site near the Lincoln Memorial appropriate, and we were proposing a compatible landscaped
design.
I still retained doubts that we could prevail on the site-specific provision, so I called
a meeting of the Board and committee heads for March 6 to ask for negotiating authority,
i.e., how far can we back off? My request received short shrift. “This is no time for com-
promise,” asserted Wheeler. I got the point. At the Senate hearings we were to accept no
modification of S.J. Res. 119. Fortunately, the night before the hearings, EDAW delivered a
large display panel showing Constitution Gardens site as the most appropriate location.
Bumpers chaired the hearings, held in a large imposing room with a high ceiling. The
senators sat on two rows of elevated dark wood benches, which curved around one end of
the room. They looked down upon the witnesses at wooden tables; behind the witnesses
were rows of chairs for the public and those waiting to testify. We were last on the agenda,
behind bills dealing with the Biscayne National Park, the Valley Forge National Park, and
the Salinas National Monument in New Mexico. Also under consideration was a bill pro-
posed by Senator Domenici to take the Westphall chapel into the National Park System.
Testifying for the memorial along with us were VA head Max Cleland, Senator Warner, and
Senator Larry Pressler of South Dakota. Mathias couldn’t attend but put in a statement for
the record.
Cleland, the first witness on our bill, opened saying, “[It] is with a mixture of both
sadness and pride that I appear before you this morning….” For the bulk of his statement
9. The Buck, the Millionaire, and Action on All Fronts 63

he quoted from Philip Caputo’s book, A Rumor of War, the eulogy for Caputo’s friend Lieu-
tenant Walter Levy, killed trying to aid a wounded man:
So much was lost with you, so much talent and intelligence and decency….
As I write this, eleven years after your death, the country for which you died wishes to forget
the war in which you died. Its very name is a curse. There are no monuments to its heroes, no
statues in small-town squares and city parks, no plaques, nor public wreaths, nor memorials.
For plaques and wreaths and memorials are reminders, and they would make it harder for
your country to sink into the amnesia for which it longs.

In follow-up questioning, Cleland wouldn’t take a position whether Congress should specify
the site, in spite of a memo I had sent to persuade him to do so. The VA’s press release
about Cleland’s testimony said that VVMF would establish a “rustic” memorial.
In his testimony, Warner harkened back to his statement at our first meeting, i.e., his
service as Undersecretary and Secretary of the Navy:
It was my action, my signature on official orders that sent thousands of sailors and marines
into combat, many of them never to return, and many more to return with crippling wounds,
both physical and emotional, many to be forgotten and neglected by a bitterly divided Nation.
These things, Mr. Chairman, weigh ever so heavily on my conscience, and it is for that reason
that I am so pleased to be a part of this organization and to join in the effort to establish this
memorial.

Warner made a pitch for Constitution Gardens, arguing that precision on the location
would help the fundraising. In questioning, Domenici tried to get Warner to support bring-
ing the Westphall chapel into the National Park system, so Warner took the opportunity
to invite Scruggs, Morrison, and me up to the witness table with him. In response to
Dominici’s direct question, Scruggs said that we “hope to make a very substantial contri-
bution with the remaining funds”—a good way to phrase it. For clarity, I stated that while
we had a “corporate purpose” to contribute to the chapel, we took no position on the leg-
islation to include it in the Park System.
Warner excused himself to go to another hearing, and it was our turn. I had set up
EDAW’s site selection panel on an easel beside us facing the senators. As was usual, we
submitted a written statement and presented abbreviated oral testimony. Our prepared
statement came to 11 pages double-spaced, with another 60 pages of appendices. These
included the entire EDAW study, indications of support from 12 veterans’ and military-
related organizations, letters of endorsement from 18 senators, and finally a dozen letters
from contributors, many of whom were parents who lost sons. Our testimony blended
much of Scruggs’s writings about his own experiences and the need for reconciliation with
my strong pitch for a site in Constitution Gardens:
The area of Constitution Gardens is of special symbolic significance because of its proximity
to the Lincoln Memorial, which stands as a symbol of reconciliation after the Civil War. Not
since that bitter war over a century ago has our society been so divided as over our involvement
in Vietnam. Furthermore, that area became a battleground as opposing elements of our society
rallied for and against the war. It is most appropriate that the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, a
symbol of national reconciliation, be placed in that location, which befits its purposes and the
importance of the event it commemorates.

We emphasized that EDAW had found Constitution Gardens to be the most compatible
with criteria developed in consultation with the relevant agencies and commissions. We
64 Creating the Vietnam Veterans Memorial

closed by noting the support of the American Gold Star Mothers and numerous other vet-
erans’ and military-related organizations.
Our oral testimony, which Scruggs delivered, also focused on the site issue. After he
had finished, Bumpers turned to Morrison and me. Speaking to the amendments proposed
by the NPS, I concluded with an appeal: “As the ultimate representative of the American
people, we feel that it should be up to the Congress to make the statement of where this
memorial, or the area, where this memorial should be put.”
Bumpers asked how much money we needed (perhaps $2 million) and opined that
raising the money wouldn’t be a “major chore.” A nice sentiment, but at the time we probably
had more liabilities than assets.
Larry Pressler had grown up on a farm in North Dakota and served two tours in Viet-
nam as an Army lieutenant, where he earned a Bronze Star medal. The first Vietnam veteran
elected to the Senate, he was only two years older than I. Focusing on the problem of public
perception, he stated that Vietnam veterans always felt on the defensive and many felt that
they’d been duped.
The NPS spoke last and addressed all the bills in detail. They supported the bill to
authorize the memorial, subject to taking out the designation of Constitution Gardens and
giving all three commissions an equal say in the approval.
To finish off our efforts in the Senate I submitted a final letter for the record, addressing
in detail our objections to the amendments proposed by the NPS. With 85 senators co-
sponsoring our bill, and with the professional credibility of EDAW’s study of site alterna-
tives, we now were in a strong position versus the NPS with regard to the site designation
issue. In late March, David Hales, Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Fish and
Wildlife, requested a meeting. Kimmitt and I met him and John Parsons for lunch on March
31 at a café on 17th Street, catty-corner from the Old Executive Office Building. The NPS
was willing to sign off on a site in Constitution Gardens, but they wanted assurances that
what we built wouldn’t conflict with the existing landscaped character of the site. They also
wanted to make sure that the soil conditions would allow a proper foundation. All of this
appeared to be workable, so Kimmitt and I agreed, subject to getting our Board’s approval,
which I received three days later. The Vietnam Veterans Memorial would be on the Mall.
I revised the bill and sent it to the Senate subcommittee. In late April the NPS followed
up with a letter to Bumpers. Citing the “thorough and excellent analysis of potential sites”
in the EDAW study, the NPS concurred with a site in Constitution Gardens, also noting
that “the memorial will be compatible with the existing character of the park and will not
conflict with the three major presidential memorials in the area.” In marking up the bill
on April 24, the full Committee on Energy and Natural Resources adopted our compromise
bill, but added a new section, at Domenici’s request, to provide some Federal funding for
the Westphall chapel. The provision did not affect our project, but became a bargaining
chip a few weeks later.
The Senate passed the compromise bill, with the Domenici amendment, by unanimous
consent on April 30, 1980—ironically, the fifth anniversary of the fall of Saigon. Up to the
day of enactment, the bill had 96 co-sponsors. Scruggs phoned the offices of the four hold-
outs under the ruse that the press wanted to know why they hadn’t gotten on board. As a
result, the bill passed with all 100 senators as co-sponsors. The Post had a brief notice about
it on May 1, and the UPI sent a story over its wire, also noting the sad anniversary.
9. The Buck, the Millionaire, and Action on All Fronts 65

R
I admired how Scruggs had pulled the $10,000 out of Perot and berated myself for not
having done it myself. I happened to mention my disappointment to Wheeler, who within
a few days drafted a memo for all hands, “Some Things to Tend To.” He wrote:
This is meant as a precaution amidst the excitement, great success, and friendship which have
enjoyed together.
In this project we have become trustees of a portion of the national heart. We must earn and
keep that trust with utter integrity.

Wheeler urged that we resist any pressure to use the memorial for any purpose other
than recognition and reconciliation, and asserted that in our own work together we evidence
the qualities of reconciliation and love. He concluded, “[P]ride and arrogance must continue
to be given no quarter in our work together.” Asserting that we were a team, he suggested,
as the way to hold pride and ego at bay, keeping in our minds the men we knew best who
fell in Vietnam. Living up to these fine sentiments proved not always easy in the heat of
the battle ahead.

R
Although hired to work half-time, I soon was spending most of the day on VVMF
business—out of both interest and necessity. Otherwise, I did some legal work for two guys
who were on the ropes from an investment in an Illinois coal mine, and I had a few job
interviews. Yet the prospect of the drudgery of legal work paled in comparison to the chal-
lenge of building a national memorial on the Mall in Washington. I couldn’t, however, both
continue at the same compensation level and pay my mortgage.
A dilemma concerning my employment appeared early on. Shortly after I became the
executive director, Scruggs announced that he had reduced his work week and salary at
the Department of Labor by two days in order to work on the memorial effort. The irony
was clear. He had had the idea, founded the organization, and raised initial funds, and now
someone else was being paid to work. At the directors’ meeting on January 4, 1980, I pro-
posed that he be compensated by VVMF for those two work days, to focus on PR and leg-
islation. Scruggs, however, for the time being did not want to be compensated.
My idea to separate the Board from the volunteer staff appeared to be working. The
staff developed and carried out projects, and the directors made decisions. Yet this Board,
with its three members, was an odd duck. The primary responsibility of boards of traditional
nonprofit organizations was to raise money. Directors were supposed to “give, get, or get
off,” but none of these three had substantial personal assets. Moreover, three was the min-
imum number of directors required by law, and a Board of that size didn’t allow for much
flexibility and diversity of opinion. At the January meeting, I suggested that the Board be
expanded and include some minorities. The answer was “no, for the time being.”
By the end of January, Scruggs decided to accept compensation. As a GS-11 in the gov-
ernment, he made about $20,500 a year, so I proposed that he be paid in proportion to that
level for the two days each week. He would remain a director, which Mayo opined would
be legal. In the end, because he sometimes had to take time off during his government
work days, Scruggs received $10 per hour for his time spent on VVMF, and he wasn’t limited
to 16 hours per week. At the January meeting, I also proposed that I continue as executive
66 Creating the Vietnam Veterans Memorial

director, but on a full-time basis, starting March 1. I’d accept a four-month contract, for a
take-home pay of $1,425 per month, with one week’s paid vacation, and $60 each month
for the health plan. Frank calculated that the annual salary level would be $24,750. My pro-
posal was accepted.
While fascinated with the challenge of creating something tangible from a mere idea,
I retained some ambivalence about my role. From a downtown Washington law firm I had
jumped to a Vietnam veterans’ organization. At that time, my position had about as much
prestige as a clerk at a thrift store. To compensate, I did everything possible to represent
myself and the organization as competent and professional. I always wore three-piece suits,
but as the only full-time employee of the organization I performed a wide range of tasks.
At any given time, I could be licking stamps and sealing envelopes or else meeting with a
senator or congressman. I wrote personal checks to pay for office and organization expenses,
as it was the only way to keep things moving.
Scruggs’s situation also complicated matters. He was the president of the organization
and a member of the Board, to which I answered. Yet he now showed up two days a week
in the minuscule office and looked to me for direction. I was feeling my way through the
labyrinth and really didn’t know what to do with him, just as one can’t use a carpenter
before the foundation for the house is laid. The best use of his time was getting co-sponsors
in the House and Senate, which he did well, but what I really needed at the time was a sec-
retary. He sometimes acted as though he was my boss, such as ordering me to have some
letters “typed for my signature by tomorrow.” I waved him off, but I got it done.
Despite my proposal to compensate him, Scruggs’s resentment of me appeared to con-
tinue. He considered the project to belong to him personally and presumably felt that by
becoming executive director, I had slipped the meat out of his sandwich. Yet I hadn’t lobbied
for the position, and I had put in a substantial amount of uncompensated time as a volun-
teer. I had also demonstrated leadership in drafting the legislation, chairing the meetings,
and initiating the direct-mail fundraising. But he showed no reticence in expressing his
hostility, usually at the Board meetings: “I’m getting fucked.” He thought I had ripped him
off by charging $500 for the incorporation and tax exemption, since somebody had told
him it was a “$300 job.” He once declared that I was on a “power trip” and “not acting like
a guy just doing a job.” In all cases, I tried to keep cool, such as explaining that I had sig-
nificant responsibility and therefore needed equivalent authority. But in my mind, I wasn’t
a guy “just doing a job.” I was on a mission.
It was an ambiguous relationship, as Scruggs discussed business in a cordial tone and
even gave me rides home after meetings. Yet the sense of being under attack while trying
to juggle dozens of balls was wearing, and led to one of the most foolish things I ever did
on the project. One day Scruggs asked me for a set of keys to the office, and I refused,
telling him that if he needed anything, he “could make an appointment.” He was justifiably
enraged, leading to a scene at the next meeting where Frank ceremoniously passed out
keys to all the directors. I felt small indeed.
Although Bob Frank did not appear to share the emotional passion for the project
that Wheeler, Scruggs, and I had, his contributions were key to its rapid progress. His
accounting firm—for a nominal reimbursement—performed all the essential financial func-
tions—writing checks, investing funds, etc. He volunteered his own time and assured the
financial integrity of the effort. For a number of reasons, Wheeler emerged as the organi-
9. The Buck, the Millionaire, and Action on All Fronts 67

zation’s authority figure. He actually had the experience of building a memorial, and he
had brought in most of the key people. Scruggs saw him as a saving grace, and I was
impressed by his background and credentials. He projected the aura that he deserved to
be in charge and appeared to believe it about himself. Perhaps it came from being a first-
born son or coming from a distinguished line of military officers, but he had it nonetheless.
Everyone, including me, fell in line behind him, which couldn’t be explained only by his
prior relationships with Frank, Mayo, and others. He projected the sense of an achievable
vision.

Public Relations
Bill Jayne outlined the messages for public relations: VVMF was credible and stable;
the establishment of the memorial was a national duty; and the memorial would focus
attention on Vietnam veterans. He proposed holding a Memorial Day service in May at
the Constitution Gardens site, issued a press release about the fundraising effort, and got
Scruggs on the Daybreak show of a local TV station. Jayne, too, had some good contacts.
One was Peter Braestrup, with whom we met in mid–January. Braestrup, wounded in the
Korean War and formerly a correspondent for both the New York Times and the Post, had
founded the Wilson Quarterly. His 1977 book, The Big Story, criticized the U.S. media’s cov-
erage of the 1968 Tet Offensive, arguing that it had been too negative and contributed to
losing the war.
In January, Jayne landed a meeting with Dick Halloran, Pentagon correspondent for
the Times, who interviewed Scruggs, Jayne, and me for two hours. Halloran’s article, “Viet-
nam Veterans Plan Memorial in Capital as Reconciliation Sign,” was published on February
25. A good 11 inches of column space, the article reviewed our purposes and progress and
named the NSC members. It provided credibility at a critical time. Jayne also recruited his
employer, the Associated General Contractors, which put an editorial in its February mag-
azine. He wrote to the Dick Cavett Show and asked William F. Buckley to write a column.
One Sunday morning in February, I happened to meet columnist George Will walking on
the Mall with his family and made sure to tell him about the memorial.
In mid–February, Jayne wrote to 930 local newspaper editors and asked them to bring
the memorial to the attention of their readers. He also contacted 60 Washington area broad-
cast media outlets, noting our availability for interviews. By the end of February, Jayne and
Scruggs had met with the Readers Digest, and in early March, Scruggs and I did a radio
interview with local station WMZQ. Most of the calls from listeners were supportive, but
one woman chided that we ought to be a building a memorial to those who opposed the
war. Scruggs retorted sharply, describing his experience of having to put friends in body
bags. Some people weren’t on our side.
That interview taught me a lesson. I had made a lame attempt to describe the war’s
negative impact on me, and afterward felt ashamed. I had not seen combat, so I had no
business talking about the war. I resolved to limit my public utterances to the project alone.
By this time I had also experienced the narcotic effect of seeing my name in the paper. It
would prove to be a mixed blessing.
Despite Jayne’s successes, I still thought we needed a full-time PR capability. Braestrup
68 Creating the Vietnam Veterans Memorial

got me a meeting in January with Tom Matthews, a founder of Craver, Mathews, Smith &
Company, which did direct-mail fundraising for liberal causes and candidates. Matthews
recommended Ernest Wittenberg Associates to do PR. Jayne at first was cool to the idea,
but I convinced him that he would still be the key PR driver, but with more horses pulling.
Wittenberg proposed a four-month contract for $10,000, but at the January meeting the
Board wouldn’t approve it. They thought we didn’t have the money and volunteers could
do the work.
Weeks passed, but I didn’t give up on professional PR. Wittenberg still was willing and
sent a revised proposal focused on utilizing Memorial Day as a “hook.” I called a special
meeting in mid–March for the Board to meet Wittenberg, who emphasized the crucial PR
opportunities of Memorial Day and the enactment of the legislation. A concentrated PR
program would reinforce the million-piece direct-mail appeal by building VVMF’s name
recognition. Time was short because many publications had advanced deadlines. Witten-
berg even lowered his fee to $6,000, including expenses.
Jayne seconded my recommendation, but Frank again warned about shifting funds
from operations to a support activity. Yet, we reached a consensus that the sooner we
reached the goal, the lower would be the overhead, so I signed the contract with Wittenberg
that week.
Scruggs had a gift for writing, and the Post on March 22 published his op-ed, simply
titled “A Vietnam Memorial.” He cited a Harris poll that found that only 25 percent of
Americans thought the U.S. military involvement in Vietnam was right, while 63 percent
agreed that Vietnam veterans “were made suckers.” Yet over 90 percent thought that Viet-
nam veterans deserved more respect: “We have received really no opposition to our goal,
but there have been two letters from persons still bitter about Vietnam. One person refused
to support any project sponsored in part by persons who opposed the war; he considered
them unpatriotic. The other letter writer refused to support the memorial unless it also
displayed the names of all those who were jailed for refusing to go to Vietnam.” He con-
cluded by quoting from Senator Warner’s testimony at the Senate hearings: “It will list the
names of those Americans who died there so that they will not be forgotten now or when
that war is in a better perspective in all our minds … now or when we are better able to
grasp the significance of what happened to our nation in its involvement in and conduct
of the war.”
That night Scruggs was a guest on Larry King’s radio show from midnight to 3:00 a.m.
King conducted the program almost like a telethon—frequently mentioning the address
for contributions. George McGovern called in, speaking for ten minutes about his own
reasons for supporting the memorial.
Wittenberg’s team got underway with press releases, which were picked up in small
newspapers, like the Hollywood (Florida) Sun-Tattler: “Vietnam Veterans Memorial Looks
Good.” They created a draft release for senators and congressmen to publicize their support.
In late April, the Washington Star published a long letter by Scruggs: “Heroes in Any
Other Conflict.” In a concise review of his war experience, the impact of the war, and the
purpose of the memorial, he concluded: “Our ultimate success will be a great deal more
than a belated tribute to Vietnam veterans and our country’s conveniently forgotten war
dead. The memorial will stand as a symbol of the reconciliation and reunion that has kept
our nation free, and it will serve as a focal point for all Americans, regardless of their views
9. The Buck, the Millionaire, and Action on All Fronts 69

on the war, for remembering the tragedies wrought by that conflict—and the lessons it
taught us.”

Veterans’ Organizations
In the fall, Scruggs had persuaded the VFW to contribute $2,500, but had made a neg-
ative comment to the press about the Legion. With its 2.5 million members and tremendous
political clout, the Legion was an elephant to our mouse. Hence, as another priority in Jan-
uary 1980, I wanted to mend any broken fences and get as many veterans’ and military-
related organizations as possible to support the legislation. I met with everyone from the
Air Force Sergeants Association to the Military Order of the Purple Heart and hit them up
for everything possible: stories in their publications, publication of a VVMF ad, endorse-
ments of their boards, support for our legislation in Congress, use of their mailing lists,
and direct contributions. Their responses overall were positive.
In December I had phoned Legion national adjutant Robert Spanogle, a Vietnam-era
veteran who headed the Legion’s staff, in Indianapolis. He cordially explained that the Legion,
befitting a large bureaucracy, had a procedure for making endorsements. In mid–February,
I therefore met with James Dean, a volunteer from Alabama who chaired the Legion’s
National Internal Affairs Commission, and Tom Haynes, a two-tour Vietnam veteran who
was the Legion’s director of internal affairs in Indianapolis, a paid position. It went well.
They explained that a favorable recommendation from their commission would trigger the
Legion’s immediate support for the memorial. All of the paid Legion staff members at the
meeting wore blue blazers emblazoned with the Legion logo. One speculated that perhaps
the Legion should just build the memorial on its own, a comment I chose to ignore. Another
asked why we hadn’t approached them earlier. My answer was simple: “We didn’t exist.”
It was to the Legion’s advantage to support a high-profile project for Vietnam veterans.
Its membership overwhelmingly came from the World War II generation, and by 1980 the
average age approached 60. The Legion had to attract Vietnam veterans, who so far had
not shown themselves to be joiners. The three other major national membership organi-
zations were in the same position, i.e., the VFW, the Disabled American Veterans, and the
American Veterans of World War II, Korea, and Vietnam. I cited support from 12 of the
military and veterans’ organizations in our testimony before the Senate in March.
One organization stood apart. In mid–December a letter came from Ann Mills Grif-
fiths, the executive director of the National League of Families of American Prisoners and
Missing in Southeast Asia, founded in 1970. Her brother, James Burton Mills, a Navy pilot,
went missing over North Vietnam in September 1966. She requested more information
about the memorial, so I called her. Her message was blunt: “We don’t want the names of
MIAs to be displayed on the memorial.” I understood the League’s position. Many families
sustained themselves with the hope that their man was still alive in captivity. A memorial
listing their names among the dead would be anathema—politically and emotionally. I
assured her that we wouldn’t counter the wishes of the families. At that point, the number
of official MIAs was about 1,200, while there were about 1,300 men in the status of
“KIA/BNR,” i.e., killed in action, body not recovered. One man still was officially listed as
a POW.
70 Creating the Vietnam Veterans Memorial

I met Griffiths in mid–January. The League had an office in the Legion’s building on
K Street. Griffiths, an attractive dark-haired woman a few years older than I, managed a
tough and emotional issue and projected a firmness and intensity that matched the chal-
lenge. Although slightly intimidated, I proceeded with my pitch. Fortunately, I had a very
good card in my hand—my personal experience with MIA/POW matters in Vietnam. As
a first step in interrogating a North Vietnamese prisoner, we had reviewed a checklist of
subjects to determine which, if any, he knew about. Some requirements, like the effects of
a B-52 strike, mattered little in the big picture. The most important topic to me was whether
he had seen any American prisoners in the North. A surprising number of them, maybe
one in ten, reported having seen an American shot down, captured, and marched away. In
these cases I attempted to extract all possible information, including the time, date, location,
and type of aircraft. I also tried to get a description of the American by standing up and
asking our prisoner whether the pilot was shorter, taller, heavier, or slimmer than I. The
result was usually disappointing; most of the North Vietnamese troops had just six years
of education and little concept of time or place.
By explaining all this to Griffiths, I wanted to show I shared the League’s commitment
to a full accounting of the men. We ended the meeting on cordial terms, and she invited
me to speak to her Board of Directors on January 25, where I received a cordial reception.
10

Crisis on the Hill, but


Promise of a Rose Garden

The Senate’s passage of the bill moved the ball down the field, but we were only on
the 50-yard line. Right after the Senate hearings Morrison ceased an active role, given his
job and his wife’s pregnancy. Paul Haaga knew a Vietnam veteran who was the legislative
director for the National Association of Counties and willing to assist with the House leg-
islation. I met Ronald Gibbs for lunch in late March. Gibbs, a handsome, well-dressed man
a year or two younger than I, initially seemed put off by my questions about his experience
with the legislative process. He soon put me in my place by rattling off his achievements,
and we then found we had things in common. He also had grown up in an ethnic family
in the western suburbs of Chicago. He had been raised by a single mother, who worked in
her family’s restaurant. Although an only child, Gibbs had been embraced by his extended
Lithuanian family, and his experiences included participating in gang fights with his cousins.
The family noticed that he was smart and sent him to a local military school to get a better
education. He received a commission as an Army infantry officer through ROTC at Drake
University. After an initial tour in Germany, he volunteered for Vietnam, and there worked
on a program to reduce drug use among the troops. Gibbs became an essential member of
the team and a personal friend.
A few days later I was back on Capitol Hill for another chewing out—this time at the
offices of the House Veterans Affairs Committee. Scruggs had called the committee’s chair-
man, Congressman Ray Roberts of Texas, to pitch him on legislation—apparently a breach
of protocol. Achille Murat “Monk” Willis, Jr., the committee’s staff director, also a Texan,
called us in, and for political cover we asked Cooper Holt, the executive director of the
VFW Washington office, to come with us. Holt, with an office within shouting distance of
the Capitol, was the dean of the veterans’ lobby. Willis, uniformed in a dark suit and white
shirt, assumed an indignant tone: “We don’t do things like that up here, Mr. Scruggs!” That
being said, things calmed down. We assumed a sheepish, apologetic posture, and assured
him that it wouldn’t happen again. Fireworks aside, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial now
had hit the radar screen of the House Veterans Affairs Committee.
A month later, Scruggs achieved a more positive result. Through Perot he arranged a
meeting with House Majority Leader Jim Wright, a fellow Texan, on April 22, 1980. I arrived
a few minutes late, let myself in, and sat down next to Scruggs in front of Wright’s desk.
Scruggs explained what we were trying to do, and Wright declared himself to be “for it.”
He picked up the phone and reached Roberts. I heard him say: “Sonny [Montgomery] has
problems with it? But I’m for it. I’ll talk with Sonny.” Wright followed up with a letter the

71
72 Creating the Vietnam Veterans Memorial

next day to all members of the Committee on House Administration, which included
Nedzi’s Subcommittee on Libraries and Memorials. Wright asked for early action so that
the resolution could be signed by Memorial Day, saying: “The basic theme of the entire
movement is reconciliation. The sponsorship of the Resolution is fully bipartisan in both
houses. Its prime sponsors include former hawks and doves of the Vietnam era.”
Gibbs knew Chicago Congressman Dan Rostenkowski, the Chief Deputy Majority
Whip. Rostenkowski in early May also wrote to the Administration Committee’s members,
urging them to adopt the Senate’s version of the bill, so that it could be passed by Memorial
Day and a conference committee wouldn’t need to resolve discrepancies. Nedzi set the
hearings before his subcommittee for May 12, 1980, by which time the co-sponsors num-
bered almost 200. Our bill came fourth on the agenda, after ones dealing with distribution
of government publications to foreign governments, renaming Library of Congress build-
ings, and reauthorizing the National Museum Act. The substance of our testimony
addressed the distinctions between the House and Senate versions, rather than the purpose
and meaning of the memorial, so I delivered it myself rather than having Scruggs do it. I
emphasized that the Senate version of the bill had resulted from an agreement between
VVMF and the NPS and urged them to report out the same version. I also reported that
some more prominent people had joined our National Sponsoring Committee, i.e., Red
Auerbach, Rosalynn Carter, Gerald Ford, Barry Goldwater, Jimmy Stewart, and James
Stockdale. Finally, endorsements had come from the AMVETS, the Legion, and the Jewish
War Veterans.
Webb had drafted Hammerschmidt’s testimony, which concluded: “Vietnam was not
merely a war, as we all know and remember. It was a profound political event with ramifica-
tions that completely transcended the battlefield and which still haunt us in both our foreign
policy and our view of ourselves as a nation. We must lay to rest our angers, and get on with
the business of helping America regain its respected place among the community of nations.
The first step in doing that is for us to get our own house in order, by recognizing the essential
dignity of service to our country. This memorial will help perform that function.”

R
We received another boost from the press—or perhaps a kick—in a long article, “The
Making of a Monument,” on Saturday, April 26, in the “Style” section of the Post. Written
by architecture critic Wolf Von Eckardt and subtitled “Planning for the Vietnam Vets’
Memorial,” the article began with a statement that proved so prescient as to suggest clair-
voyance:
Seven years after the end of the Vietnam war, hawks and doves seem agreed that the veterans
who never got their parades must not be forgotten.
Now, after 70 years of abstract art, the conflict is likely to be over a modern or traditional
design.”

Von Eckardt saw a potential conflict between our plans for a landscape solution with
the names of 58,000 dead and our notion of “a sculptural statement, in one or more pieces,
symbolizing the experience of Americans who served in Vietnam.” He went on:
So far, nothing has been said as to who might design the memorial or even how its designer
or designers should be selected. That’s a tough one, because if this memorial is to be a symbol
10. Crisis on the Hill, but Promise of a Rose Garden 73

of reconciliation, it must also reconcile established notions of “good art” and popular notions
of meaningful art.
Our last experience along these lines—the attempt to build a memorial for Franklin D. Roo-
sevelt—was a monumental disaster.
The Roosevelt design, chosen in a competition with 574 entries, came to be dubbed “Instant
Stonehenge,” and hence “was laughed out of court.” Von Eckhart continued:
Perhaps Lewis Mumford was right when he said: “The notion of a modern monument is ver-
itably a contradiction in terms; if it is a monument it is not modern, and if it is modern, it
cannot be a monument.”
Perhaps not.
The last time we tried an old-fashioned monument, it did not work so well, either. What we
got was mawkish photo-realism in bronze: Felix W. de Weldon’s life-sized, three dimensional
rendering of AP photographer Joe Rosenthal’s Pulitzer Prize-winning news picture of those
marines on Iwo Jima.
The tourists love it, maybe. But those who think of themselves as being “serious about art”
hold their noses. The word is “kitsch.”
But then again, plain folks are likely to greet “serious art,” as currently established in America,
with the “my-3-year-old-could-do-better-than-that” refrain.
In other countries, however, there is no such polarization and our time has produced mon-
uments that are neither modern nor not modern. They are simply emotionally moving.

As examples, Von Eckardt cited the Fosse Ardeatine, near Rome, a memorial to Italian vil-
lagers murdered by the Nazis, the memorial in Rotterdam to the bombing of the city in
May 1940, and the Hall of Remembrance in Jerusalem.
None of these … is “good art” or popular art, abstract or representational, “modern” or “tra-
ditional.” They are simply powerful ideas translated into a powerful emotional experience.
And that is what I think the Vietnam Veterans Memorial group needs.
To elicit powerful ideas, there must be a competition. It would be corrupt for some more or
less self-appointed committee to pick some favorite.

Von Eckardt went on to describe how a good competition should be run. He concluded:
The emphasis should be on simplicity. As I think about the Vietnam memorial, Augustus Saint
Gaudens’ Adams Monument in Rock Creek Cemetery keeps coming to mind.
Created [in 1891] in memory of the wife of Henry Adams, the memorial represents a draped
bronze figure, sitting in a shaded, roomlike, landscaped space. The figure is so steeped in con-
templative sorrow, that Mark Twain said it embodied all human grief.

R
The wire services picked up Wittenberg’s press release announcing the Senate’s passage
of the bill, and it got good play in papers around the country. Wittenberg then reported
that conservative columnist James J. Kilpatrick would do a column. “The Wounds of Viet-
nam” appeared locally on Thursday, May 8, in the Washington Star. Explaining that Con-
gress was about to pass a bill authorizing the memorial, Kilpatrick wrote:
If ever a patriotic cause merited universal support, this is such a cause.
This war was not “unpopular.” This war was despised.
In the 16 years I have been writing this column, I don’t believe I ever have urged contributions
to a particular cause. I do now. Tax-deductible gifts should be made to the Vietnam Veterans
Memorial Fund, 1025 Connecticut Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20036. The bitterness
engendered by Vietnam may never be forgotten. The sacrifice at least should be remembered.
74 Creating the Vietnam Veterans Memorial

The mail on Saturday, May 10, brought 75 letters generated by the Kilpatrick column, with
an average gift of about $20, coincidentally the same amount we’d asked for in our direct
mail appeal. On Monday came 150 checks, and the contributions generated by Kilpatrick’s
column eventually exceeded $60,000—and with no fundraising costs. The Wittenberg con-
tract had paid for itself, and a few weeks later we repaid the First American Bank loan.
We now waited for the House to pass the bill and expected no problems. After all, it
had almost 200 co-sponsors and the support of the House Majority Leader. I had already
written to Anne Wexler, White House special assistant for public outreach, to request a
formal White House signing ceremony. Senator John Chafee inserted Kilpatrick’s column
into the Congressional Record, and I invited the key Congress people to our Memorial Day
service on May 26. Cindy Szady on Nedzi’s staff continually reassured me: “Not to worry.”
Nedzi planned to bring up the bill on the unanimous consent calendar on Tuesday, May 20.
The phone rang about 3:30 that afternoon. I heard Szady. “We’ve got a problem. Con-
gressman Phil Burton won’t let us pass the bill unless we take out the site specific provisions
for Constitution Gardens. He’s also threatening to ask for sequential referral to his own
subcommittee. You better come up here.”
I grabbed a cab, ran through corridors, and met Szady in an anteroom just off the
House floor. She said, “You need to decide. We can pass the bill now with Burton’s amend-
ments, or we can pull it off the floor. Mr. Nedzi will do whatever you want.”
“How much time do I have?” I said.
“About two minutes. It’s coming up right away. But remember, even if it passes like
Burton wants it, you might be able to get the provisions back in the House and Senate con-
ference. If he gets sequential referral, he can bottle the bill up forever.” She went back onto
the floor.
It now was up to me, an ordinary guy, to decide whether the United States House of
Representatives would pass a bill that afternoon. I saw a pay phone in front of me and
reached Morrison. “You’ve got to get that bill off the floor,” he said. Kimmitt, on the other
hand, advised going for it as is. Szady came back: “There’s no more time.” With heart pound-
ing, I said “Go for it,” and the House passed the emasculated bill.
Phil Burton, a liberal Democrat from San Francisco, had been instrumental in abol-
ishing the House Un-American Activities Committee. He chaired the Subcommittee on
Parks and Recreation and saw the Mall as his turf. It wasn’t our fault that the bill hadn’t
been assigned to his subcommittee, but we had the problem. Burton also apparently per-
ceived the memorial as having some nefarious political motive.
As the first step, we decided that Ron Gibbs and I would meet with Burton. Over the
phone he barked, “Some Vietnam veterans in my district want it to be in Arlington Ceme-
tery,” but he agreed to meet. On Thursday, May 22, Gibbs and I sat with him at a small
table in a quiet meeting room in the Capitol. Burton, in his mid–50s and slightly overweight,
looked frazzled and worn from political battles—and perhaps a little too much alcohol. He
was surprisingly subdued. “Thanks for not beating up on me in the press,” he said. We
made our pitch. I laid out the philosophy of the memorial, especially its focus on the vet-
erans and not the war, and Gibbs reviewed his own Democratic Party credentials. Talking
with us seemed cathartic for Burton. He had suspected that because the Vietnam Veterans
Against the War had encamped on the Mall, we wanted the memorial there as a pro-war
statement. His problems with the war went a lot deeper, however.
10. Crisis on the Hill, but Promise of a Rose Garden 75

He emotionally described meeting with President Johnson in 1964 on the presidential


yacht Sequoia. Johnson had persuaded him to vote for the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution,
which effectively became a declaration of war. He felt manipulated and betrayed, and related
how Johnson had given him a white paper, which he had kept. He wanted us to have a copy,
so we walked with him back to his office. Rather than the white paper, he gave us a memo
to Johnson from Will Sparks, a speech writer, about a conversation that Sparks had had
with Burton in September 1967. The memo quoted Burton as saying: “Vietnam will destroy
the Democratic Party. We will lose five to eight California House seats, probably the Cali-
fornia legislature. It makes no difference whether the President is re-elected or not, because
we will be so badly off in the Congress that we can all just sit there for four years and watch
the country slowly go to hell….”
To conclude our meeting, Burton said, “I know when I’m licked. I’ll just stay off the
House floor when the final bill comes up for unanimous consent.” We were hopeful, but
knew that a signing by Memorial Day could not happen.
The New Republic, a liberal weekly journal, in its May 31, 1980, issue, published a long
editorial critical of Burton: “A Needless Obstacle.” It praised VVMF for having “conveyed
a vision of a monument to reconciliation, which would affirm the dignity and recognize
the sacrifice of those who served in Vietnam instead of using them once again as tools in
the old arguments for and against the war.” Citing the EDAW study and the concurrence
of the Park Service, it urged the conference committee to adapt the Senate’s version of the
bill. A few days earlier, on Memorial Day, the Austin American Statesman had an article
titled: “Paying honor to war dead seldom simple.” It related how Burton had frustrated our
plans to have the legislation signed that day and proceeded to recount the entire story of
the “damned crate of eggs.”

Memorial Day
We were mailing a million fundraising letters on Memorial Day, so publicity to rein-
force our name recognition was crucial. That day and Veterans Day were natural hooks—
the media looked for stories about veterans. To reinforce our bid for Constitution Gardens,
we planned the ceremony at our preferred site and billed it as the “First National Veterans
Veterans Memorial Day Service.” So as not to conflict with the traditional 11:00 a.m. cere-
mony at Arlington Cemetery, we set ours for 1:00 p.m. The NPS provided a platform and
the Military District of Washington provided a bugler, a band, and a color guard, along
with 500 chairs. We hired a contractor for the sound system. For the program, I had envi-
sioned a standard formula of speeches and music, but Wheeler had another idea. He pro-
posed we put microphones on the lawn in front of the speaker’s platform and invite all
comers to say aloud the name of someone they knew who had died in Vietnam. Nothing
was more symbolic of a person than his or her name.
As the only full-time staff member I had to be a jack of all trades and now would do
some truck driving. I drove a rented a truck over to Ft. McNair to pick up the chairs on
the Friday before Memorial Day. Some soldiers of the Army Old Guard ceremonial unit
helped me load the chairs, and for the weekend, I parked the loaded truck in front of my
condo on Pennsylvania Avenue near Georgetown.
76 Creating the Vietnam Veterans Memorial

I had recruited Carhart to help me set up the chairs, and we met at the site at 8:00
a.m. on Monday. I drove the truck over the curb onto the lawn and parked near the platform.
I started handing chairs down to Carhart, but after a few minutes he got impatient. “Give
me the keys,” he ordered, and we climbed back into the truck with the back doors open.
With Carhart at the wheel, the truck careened around in circles on the National Mall, as
chairs cascaded out onto the lawn. Not my style, but it worked.
By noon it had gotten hot. After things looked ready, I walked to the public restroom
in order to rinse off the sweat and put on my white shirt, tie, and blazer. Scruggs and
Wheeler were speaking, so they were up on the platform. A nice crowd—perhaps 500 peo-
ple—had gathered, and many of the chairs were occupied. The colorful flags of all states
waved in the breeze, and the 90-member U.S. Army field band, with its red tunics, added
even more pomp. The Gold Star Mothers stood together in their white uniforms. I hung
around by the trees. Speaking were Scruggs, Wheeler, Senators Mathias and Warner, and
Lupe Saldaña, the national commander of the leading Hispanic veterans’ organization. Also
delivering remarks was a retired Army brigadier general named George B. Price, a tall,
distinguished-looking man with a booming voice. It matched that of his sister, the opera
singer Leontyne Price. The invocation, prayer, and benediction would be delivered by three
military chaplains: a minister, a priest, and a rabbi.
The ceremony proceeded without a hitch, and at the appointed time, Wheeler invited
audience members to come and speak the name of someone who had died in Vietnam.
People lined up before the two mikes on the lawn in front of the platform. Carhart stood
as the monitor at one of them while I took the other. With the first speaker, I felt the emo-
tion. Young veterans, older people, and even children came forward to offer names, iden-
tifying them as “my father,” “my son,” “my West Point classmate.” After a few minutes,
however, I saw a black guy, in his 20s and wearing Levis, stand up to the mike and raise
his fist. “Vietnam was an imperialist war,” he yelled. “Down with U.S. imperialism.”
Carhart, dressed in a tan suit and Panama hat, reacted immediately. He grabbed the
guy from behind by his upper arms and shoved him off the field to the trees, where some
veterans took over and made sure the guy was gone. We started the procession up again,
but after one or two more people, another black guy, dressed like the first one, came up
and made the same rant. Carhart again did his thing, and the guy too was soon history.
After this, Carhart wanted to put a stop to the name recitation, but many people were still
in line, so I insisted that they get their chance. The ceremony ended without further inci-
dents. Afterward I drove the truck back out on the grass, and many people pitched in to
fold and load the chairs. Wheeler, however, never touched one. I assumed that birth had
its privileges.
We succeeded in our primary objective. All four local TV stations, as well as NBC and
ABC national news, reported on the ceremony that evening, and stories went out on the
wire services. The next day the Baltimore Sun had a long article, “‘Vietnam veterans’ service
a reminder that conflict lingers.” The article quoted Price (“The soldier, he said, ‘did not
fail us; we failed him’”) and included a detailed profile of Scruggs, with a telling quote:
“One day I saw 12 men die in a flash, in an instant. They were unloading an ammunition truck,
mortar shells. A [safety device] on one of the shells had been removed and two cases exploded.
“I never saw anything like it. I remember running over there and seeing all the bodies and
organs, guys I knew.”
10. Crisis on the Hill, but Promise of a Rose Garden 77

Another good dose of publicity came the day before the ceremony. The Post, in its
Sunday “Outlook” opinion section, published extensive excerpts from a symposium called
“Voices of a Wounded Generation,” which Wheeler had organized a few weeks earlier. He
had recruited an all-star cast from the Vietnam generation, including authors Caputo,
Webb, Tim O’Brien (Going After Cacciato, 1978), and Lucian Truscott IV (Dress Gray, 1978).
Others were James Fallows and Bobby Muller, a wheelchair-bound former Marine lieuten-
ant, who had been active in Vietnam Veterans Against the War and in 1978 had founded
the Vietnam Veterans of America. Fallows had written an article (Washington Monthly,
October 1975) titled “What Did You Do in the Class War, Daddy?” It described how he and
his fellow Harvard classmates had finagled medical exemptions to the draft, while the
working-class guys from South Boston were all found to be fit.
The exceptionally articulate discussion ranged from traumatic experiences in the war
to anger over the treatment of the veterans at home and the classism and racism of the
draft. Wheeler, however, had totally missed the key point. To discuss a war fought by blacks,
Hispanics, and poor whites, his chosen panel included none of them. The participants all
were white and college graduates. The only enlisted man was O’Brien.

R
After Memorial Day, Carhart frequently visited the office. He worked just down the
street, but didn’t have a lot to do there. An exuberant and jovial personality with a deep
voice, Carhart exuded plans and stories, including the time in Vietnam when he had given
the order to his platoon, “Fix bayonets. Charge.” On the possibility of POWs still held in
Vietnam, he fantasized about asking Perot to finance a foray that he would lead into Laos.
“That would be a good death,” he declared. The prospect, however, didn’t appeal to me,
since with all the obligations I had had to meet, i.e., college, military service, Vietnam, and
law school, I didn’t feel that I’d had a chance to really live yet. One of his plans was to run
for the Senate in Massachusetts as a conservative challenger to Ted Kennedy, and to boot
he wrote an article about reforming the structure of the federal government. How he and
Webb had once gotten drunk together in Annapolis was another story.
Most of all Carhart delighted in relating the story about how he and Mosley had
together stolen the Navy goat. The tradition of the military academies stealing one another’s
mascots had endured for at least a century, so Carhart, Mosley, and one or two other buddies
decided to do it again in advance of the Army-Navy football game in 1965. Carhart gleefully
recounted the audacious prank. Because matriculating cadets annually were big customers,
the auto dealers in the area were generous about loaning cars. Carhart’s group borrowed a
few for the trek, which exceeded 500 miles round trip, and consistent with the “Mission
Impossible” ethos, they donned black turtleneck sweaters.
A ten-foot-high fence topped with barbed wire surrounded the Naval Academy, and
the large billy goat with blue and gold horns was kept in a well-lighted pen. Two Marines
stood guard nearby. Having enlisted their girlfriends to come along and chat up the guards,
they got the goat and crammed it into the back seat of one of the cars for the ride north,
where over the ensuing hours it proceeded to relieve itself on the new upholstery. The auto
dealer wasn’t happy about the condition of the car, but it was a great victory for the Army.
The following Monday at noon, Carhart and Mosley set up a sound system on the West
Point quad and announced their triumph to the cheers of their compatriots. The goat soon
78 Creating the Vietnam Veterans Memorial

went home, the game ended in a 7–7 tie, and Carhart’s group received perfunctory pun-
ishments from the academy superintendent.
In Vietnam, Carhart had replicated the goat experience by commandeering a Marine
Corps truck to carry out a mission for an Army general. While irreverent by nature, Carhart
was intelligent and worldly. He spoke fluent French, and after studying law at the University
of Michigan, he had worked for a law firm in Brussels. I appreciated his empathy for my
situation, which he described as “overworked and underpaid.” He provided me with first-
hand glimpses of ground combat. Moreover, I learned a new word to describe my role in
Vietnam: REMF, meaning “rear echelon mother fucker.”
A final bond between Carhart and me arose from our similarly ambivalent attitudes
about Wheeler. While I admired Wheeler, I found him difficult. When I called, I never
knew which of his personalities I would encounter. Once when I called to innocently report
that the hearings in the House had been rescheduled, he yelled: “Nedzi’s trying to screw
us!” Carhart appeared to hold a long standing grudge, describing Wheeler’s behavior at
West Point as “sneaky.” Clearly, a major issue for Carhart was Wheeler’s service in Vietnam
as a REMF. Moreover, in the current situation, Wheeler held all the cards, while Carhart,
wanting to be a player, was a mere bystander. Unfortunately, he would go on to play the
role of Judas in the upcoming passion play.

R
Another new player joined the cast in June. David DeChant attended our Memorial Day
service and came to see me a few days later, wanting to help. A tall, slender, and good-looking
man, a few years younger than I, he had grown up in a large Catholic family. His father was
a career military officer and had exerted strong control. DeChant expressed ambivalence
about his experience in combat in Vietnam as a Marine rifleman—on one hand proud of his
service, and on the other, unsure whether it had been worth it. He worked as a bartender at
the Dubliner Irish Pub near the train station, which I had frequented while in law school.
DeChant’s resume also reflected ambivalence. After Vietnam he had worked for the
CIA as an intelligence officer, learning basic skills like following without being detected.
During the same period, he had gone to Chicago to attend a course on community organ-
izing run by Saul Alinsky, most noted for the book Rules for Radicals. There, DeChant had
been shunned as a potential informer. He later worked as a community organizer in sub-
urban Maryland, successfully opposing local banks that redlined blacks and other minorities
and preventing the Metro system from destroying a small community. A member of the
city council had called him a “real troublemaker.” He retorted, “Yes, and I earned the right
in Vietnam,” which had shut the guy down.
DeChant, attracted by the idea of national reconciliation, proposed an initiative to
involve churches, a “National Day of Reconciliation.” He had a contact at the national offices
of the United Church of Christ to the Reverend Barry Lynn, who had been prominent in
the antiwar movement and the effort to gain amnesty for draft evaders. I agreed to explore
the church initiative.

R
After the House passed the gutted bill, the differing House and Senate versions had
to be reconciled in a conference committee. Monica Healy assured us that the Senate
10. Crisis on the Hill, but Promise of a Rose Garden 79

wouldn’t compromise on designating the location of the memorial, and the conference
committee finally met on June 25. Its members included Bumpers and Nedzi, as well as
Congressman Newt Gingrich. Besides Burton’s amendments, the two versions differed only
with the innocuous provision in the Senate bill that any remaining funds would go to the
memorial at Eagle’s Nest, New Mexico. Conveniently, the latter gave the Senate side some-
thing to give up in the conference, while the House side added back the provisions for
Constitution Gardens. As a result, the bill that the conference committee reported out was
exactly what we had proposed for the location. The bill made the memorial’s design subject
to the approvals of the CFA, the NCPC, and the Secretary of the Interior, and required that
sufficient funds to complete it be on hand before ground could be broken.
In advance of the conference meeting, the DOI wrote Nedzi to reaffirm its agreement
on the Constitution Gardens location. Their letter also affirmed the terms of our deal, i.e.,
“the memorial will be compatible with the existing character of the park and will not conflict
with the three major presidential memorials in the area.” The House agreed to the confer-
ence report on the 27th, and the Senate cleared the bill for the White House on June 30.
Anticipating the bill’s passage, Mathias held a reception on June 24 in a Senate hearing
room, which merited a small story in the Post, with a picture of Mathias, John McCain,
and Max Cleland. Scruggs thanked the key sponsors and the Senators (Warner, Bob Dole,
and Sam Nunn) who had actually made financial contributions. Warner had agreed to per-
sonally fund any shortfall in the costs of the reception, and Scruggs concluded, “So everyone
have a good time here at this joyous event; this may be your only chance to have a U.S.
senator buy you a drink. Tonight is indeed a time for joy and celebration. Yet it would be
a travesty for any of us to forget the real reason that we are gathered here.”
The White House approved a Rose Garden signing ceremony on July 1, 1980. As a
bewildering ancillary twist on the event, Perot dispatched two of his company’s (Electronic
Data Systems) PR people—a guy and a woman—to Washington the day before. Wittenberg,
Scruggs, and I met with them at our office late in the afternoon. They wanted us to use our
perceived influence on the White House to have words inserted into Carter’s speech at the
bill signing ceremony to the effect that “Ross Perot is very interested in this legislation and
is ready to speak with the press about it.” I couldn’t believe they were serious. This was out-
landish on two counts: that we would have that much influence over the White House, and
that the president would want to give Perot a free plug. The two of them, however, did not
waiver from their corporate PR upbeat enthusiasm, and we kept straight faces. As we were
leaving, Wittenberg came up to me: “I can’t understand the fascination that Scruggs has
for this Perot guy.”

R
Tuesday, July 1, 1980, dawned hot, humid, and sunny, with hardly a breath of wind.
An opportunity to attend a ceremony in the Rose Garden was one of the few perks that I
could give the volunteers, so I made sure that the right names and Social Security numbers
made the list for the 2:00 p.m. signing. Wheeler and Carhart both showed up at the office
at about 1:30 to catch a cab with me. Their greetings to one another were civil, but not
warm; obviously they weren’t buddies. Carhart and I were in good moods and the overriding
task at hand was fundraising, so I started to wax eloquent with great ideas as we rode down
17th Street.
80 Creating the Vietnam Veterans Memorial

“I think we oughta organize the fundraising effort by ethnic groups,” I said. “Tom,
you can work the Irish Catholics; I’ll take the Czechs and Slovaks; and Wheeler can take
the Episcopalians.”
Wheeler didn’t move a muscle, so Carhart said something like: “Come on, Jack, we
know you’re a WASP. Didn’t you have some ancestor who was a Confederate general?”
“Damn fine cavalry officer,” was all Wheeler had to say.
In the Rose Garden we sweated on folding chairs set up in four or five rows facing a
small secretarial table and a podium with microphones. Facing us, behind the table and
backed up to the rose bushes, was another row of chairs. I didn’t recognize anyone sitting
there but assumed they were Congressional committee and subcommittee chairmen, who
would take the credit for passing the legislation. It was a winner for them, since they could
now claim to have done something for Vietnam veterans without appropriating any money.
Yet Max Cleland was there too, and no one could begrudge him recognition after the price
he had paid.
At the appointed hour, President Carter appeared. He acknowledged Scruggs, Senators
Mathias and Bumpers, and Congressmen David Bonior, Tom Daschle, Nedzi, and Ham-
merschmidt, as well as Secretary of the Interior Cecil Andrus and Cleland. Carter said that
he had been heartened to witness the attitude of Americans toward those who served in
Vietnam. He mentioned that at his White House reception for Vietnam veterans the pre-
vious year, he had read from Phil Caputo’s book, A Rumor of War, and again read the
passage about Walter Levy.
Cleland in brief remarks said he considered himself fortunate to have survived Vietnam
as well as its aftermath in America. Mathias said that he had undertaken the legislation
“because of the obvious sincerity, the moving dedication, of the Vietnam veterans who first
came to see me about it,” and because of a sense of debt to those who died. Perhaps the
best comments came from Nedzi, who praised the “initiative and the creativity of the Viet-
nam Veterans Memorial Fund, particularly the tone in which this whole enterprise was
undertaken…. The memorial is a creative, finely honed, high-minded, and encompassing
idea.”
By this time, Carter was perspiring. He sat down at the table, signed the bill, and then
trooped down the rows to shake everyone’s hand. He got to Scruggs, standing to my left,
who offered him one of our lapel pins. “Pin it on me,” Carter muttered. Unlike my own
trepidation at laying a hand on Liz Taylor, Scruggs reached over and touched the Leader
of the Free World. After a few more handshakes, Carter disappeared down the portico.
Greetings and handshakes ensued among the attendees, but I was eager to doff my
jacket and return to some place with air conditioning. As I looked around, however, I saw
standing directly behind me a tall, slender, distinguished-looking figure in a dark suit,
whose sculpted patrician cheekbones flared out under a pair of dark sunglasses. J. Carter
Brown, the director of the National Gallery of Art, was also the chairman of the CFA. A
descendant of the Rhode Island Browns of Brown University renown, he had taken over
the Gallery in 1969 at the age of just 34 and had built the East Wing, financed primarily by
the Mellon family. Feeling my oats after our legislative triumph, I, a Bohemian boy whose
grandparents had arrived in steerage, couldn’t resist a dig at the rich and powerful. I stuck
out my hand and introduced myself, and he responded with a firm handshake. I said that
we were looking forward to working with the CFA on the design of the memorial. Grimac-
10. Crisis on the Hill, but Promise of a Rose Garden 81

ing, with cheekbones flaring even wider, Brown responded: “Yes, we’re very interested in
seeing what you propose for out there. After all, Constitution Gardens is so beautiful as it
is now.” I assured him that we would make it even better.
After the ceremony a group of us went down to the site of the memorial; we had heard
that the press wanted to do interviews. A TV network truck with flaring antennas pulled
up to the curb on Constitution Avenue, and a black woman, whom I recognized as a cor-
respondent, got out. At about the same instant we saw a wheelchair rolling rapidly down
the sidewalk. It was Bobby Muller, the executive director of the newly organized Vietnam
Veterans of America. As she approached him with her microphone in hand, we protested:
“Why are you talking with him? He doesn’t have anything to do with the memorial.” She
smiled.
The next day the Post had an article: “Carter Clears Vietnam Memorial.” The story
quoted from Carter’s remarks, but also reviewed the results of a survey released by the VA,
i.e., 66 percent of the public thought that the government should do more for Vietnam-
era veterans and felt positively toward the veterans. According to the Harris survey, 91 per-
cent of the veterans were glad to have served, and two-thirds would do it again. The Times
devoted even more ink to the event, with longer quotes from Carter. The Times quoted
Muller, described as “a crippled veteran who is executive director of the Vietnam Veterans
of America,” as saying: “Carter’s comments were ‘merely words’ and that the Administra-
tion’s programs involving Vietnam veterans were ‘a drop in the bucket.’” According to the
Times, “the design concept for the memorial calls for a landscaped setting with sculpture
that will symbolize the experience of American troops in Vietnam. The memorial will
include the names of all 57,661 Americans who died in the war.”

R
As the NEA staff had recommended, I submitted two grant applications by the deadline
on June 30, one for $30,000 to support the design competition and one for $5,000 for the
EDAW study. I estimated a total budget for $130,950 for the competition and included rec-
ommendation letters from Cleland, Warner, architect Paul Spreiregen, and Von Eckardt.
Mosley and I had met with Von Eckardt for his general advice in early June, and on Post
letterhead he wrote, “I … believe that the process by which the designers of the memorial are
chosen is as important as the quality of the design itself. The selection must be open, unas-
sailable, and as representative of contemporary American artistic thought as we can make
it.” Cleland’s letter wasn’t ready until late in the day, so I had to run down to the main post
office where I could still get the application postmarked. Afterward, I crossed the street to
celebrate at the Dubliner, where DeChant served up a draft.

R
By mid–May we had 2,338 responses to the 200,000-piece test mailing, for a total of
$45,500. In anticipation of the good news, the Board agreed to a million-piece mailing for
Memorial Day. Oram’s contract was to expire on June 15, and Haaga already recommended
an extension through year’s end for a $25,500 fee. I preferred to wait until we saw the results
of the upcoming mailing, so we extended Oram for two months at $4,000. By the first week
in June the unexpected $40,000 from Kilpatrick’s readers had alleviated our cash flow prob-
lem. We paid off the First American loan on June 16, and $10,000 per day was coming in
82 Creating the Vietnam Veterans Memorial

from the new mailing. Frank had recruited Peat Marwick to do pro our audit pro bono,
and Paine Webber to invest our funds. Lady Bird Johnson sent $500.
All donations first went to our bank, which opened the envelopes and deposited the
checks. If an envelope contained anything else, the bank sent it to our office, along with a
tab of the day’s deposits. Sometimes, besides a check, came a nice letter, thanking us for
what we were doing and telling us about a lost son. Sometimes came genuine letters of
inquiry, but also came the hate mail, which took various forms. Some chose to punish us
by tearing up our letter into little pieces and sending them back in the return envelope in
order to cost us a few cents. Some sent in multi-generational Xerox copies of racist, anti–
Semitic, or conspiratorial rants. But some actually sent legible notes, mostly scratched into
the margins of our letter, i.e., “Go to work, you begging bums!” After a few dozen, I began
to perceive some core messages, which reflected a range of attitudes against the memorial.
They boiled down to a matrix, pro-war or antiwar—good faith or bad faith:
Good faith/antiwar: Benefits rather than a memorial.
Good faith/pro-war: No memorial until the POWs come home.
Bad faith/antiwar: No memorial for baby killers.
Bad faith/pro-war: No memorial for losers.

R
Another problem with fundraising was how to deal with the “grass roots,” i.e., well-
meaning people in the hinterlands who wanted to raise funds for us. If someone wanted
to solicit from friends and neighbors and send us a check, that was fine. The problem came
when someone wanted to use our name to hold an event and keep a portion of the proceeds
to cover expenses. If we agreed to this in advance, we might inadvertently make that person
our agent. If someone got hurt at the event, we could be liable. We did not need this night-
mare.
I also found a lot of naiveté out there. A college veterans’ group in Montana had raised
$500—a nice gift, but they wanted someone to fly out there to accept the check in person.
I explained that the airfare would eat up the entire amount. A veteran asked for assurances
that if the project somehow didn’t go through, all the money would be returned. I explained
that funds already were partially spent for the paper and postage in my response letter. I
didn’t mention my own salary, since everyone working for a nonprofit undoubtedly was
an ephemeral spirit who didn’t need to eat or pay rent. The naiveté wasn’t limited to veterans.
A Baltimore Sun columnist expressed outrage that we had a budget for PR and were actively
promoting our project. “If a cause is good, people will contribute to it,” he wrote, but I
wondered whether he had ever sent a buck without being asked.
A disabled Vietnam veteran in California proposed to raise funds for us. He seemed
to be good guy, and I didn’t want to stiff him. I got the Board to agree to let me grant
limited powers to agents outside the Washington area, subject to a written agreement. A
big problem with these arrangements was that they were time-consuming, especially when
I was the sole staff member. The ratio of cost to benefit was totally unknown.
Other groups wanted a VVMF representative to come and speak at their events. A
nice lady from Peoria, Illinois, whose husband was in the AMVETS, had even printed flyers
and organized a fundraising event. It was time for me to visit my parents anyway, so I
agreed to come to their meeting in mid–June. I flew into O’Hare on a Friday evening, and
10. Crisis on the Hill, but Promise of a Rose Garden 83

with my parents—always up for a road trip—set out early on Saturday morning for the
140-mile trek to Peoria. Wittenberg had set up an interview for me with the local Chicago
suburban newspaper, which did an optimistic article: “Vietnam Veterans Memorial Near.”
Mid-morning we found ourselves surrounded by nice central Illinois people at the
VFW post hall on Main Street in Creve Coeur, Illinois, just across the Illinois River from
Peoria. Some of the men wore AMVETS caps, while other caps had Caterpillar logos. With
white shirt, tie, and blue blazer marking me as the outsider, I gave a short talk to review
the purposes of the memorial and our progress and thanked them for their support. My
mother hit it off with the nice lady, who confessed that she had feared that my mother
might be “snooty,” since she was from a big city. A nice visit, but I had to conclude that
only Superman could ever have time to tend to all the grass-roots efforts. A few months
later Scruggs went out to attend the event-in-chief, which left him underwhelmed and
raised but a few hundred dollars.

R
From an organizational point of view, the looming question was the combination of
volunteers, salaried staff, and outside consultants and contractors that would be needed to
run the machine. I had no good idea at that point, but I wanted to continue in my role.
After years of meaningless tedium as a lawyer, I was exhilarated to achieve concrete goals.
Yet I couldn’t continue to do everything myself, including buying stamps and licking
envelopes. In late May I notified the Board that my current employment contract would
expire on June 30, 1980, and that I wanted to hire an administrative assistant. They wanted
to discuss my status, but committed to extend my contract to at least August 31. At the
meeting in early July they authorized me to hire the AA, and my contract was extended
for six months, through year end, at an annual salary rate of $28,500. Scruggs wasn’t happy
to hear that and jibed, “I bet you’ve never made that much before.” Mayo quietly responded,
“I bet he has.”
Scruggs continued to make his ambivalence toward me clear. When we were alone
together, things were mostly quiet. But he appeared to see the Board meetings as a safe
forum for him to vent. Once out of the blue, he shouted, “I’m not afraid of you, Doubek!”
I responded that I was happy to hear that, since we had to work together. Another time it
was: “I started all this, but Bob Doubek is getting all the benefits.” I smiled, because his
benefits as a federal employee far exceeded what I was getting. At one meeting, I had com-
mented how his wife Becky was doing volunteer work for the organization, thinking that
I was giving a compliment. Twenty minutes after the meeting adjourned, he called me—
enraged—from a pay phone on his way home. He had perceived me as insulting his wife.
In general, he had no patience for all of the contracts, filings, and other details necessary
to run the organization. “Do we really have to do all of this to get a memorial built?” he
lamented. Mayo volunteered, “I’m afraid so.”

R
By the time of the House hearings, we had support from the veterans’ lobby well in
hand. We could cite endorsements from almost all the major players, as well as smaller
groups like the Air Force Sergeants’ Association. In mid–April I had driven out to College
Park, Maryland, to address the University of Maryland Veterans Club. Only a dozen guys
84 Creating the Vietnam Veterans Memorial

attended, but they were enthusiastic about the idea of the memorial. Little forays like that
weren’t worth my time, but they provided some idea of public attitudes.
A more memorable experience with attitudes toward the war and the memorial came
at the end of June. The National League of MIA/POW Families was holding its annual
meeting at the Capital Hilton Hotel downtown. Ann Griffiths had invited me to speak about
the memorial, and my turn came on Saturday morning, June 28. As I observed the pro-
ceedings of the business meeting, with perhaps 200 people present, I could sense that it
was a tough group. Everyone in the room had an immediate family member—a husband,
brother, or son—who hadn’t come home from the war, and no one knew their fates. The
thought of a loved one rotting in a bamboo cage was tormenting, and emotion simmered
in the room. Some believed that the government wasn’t doing enough; others believed that
the government was deliberately lying. As the executive director, Griffiths was the point
person with the government, and one man stood up and criticized her for some action or
another.
Stepping to the podium, I instinctively assumed the same sense of humility and dignity
that I had when officiating at military funerals in Arizona. To establish credibility, I reviewed
my own experience as an interrogator attempting to obtain information about POWs. I
explained the purpose and progress of the memorial effort and asked for questions. A slen-
der blonde woman stood up. In her mid-thirties, but still quite pretty despite the sad look
on her face, she resembled other young women I had seen on the arms of Air Force and
Navy pilots. With a pained voice she chided, “You shouldn’t be doing that. You should give
all that money to us.” I responded quietly, “I’m sorry, but people have contributed the
money for a memorial. We can’t use it for something else.”
Afterward I sat alone in a back row and wondered how I had done. A felt a hand on
my shoulder and saw two older women, who also looked like military wives. “We think
you’re doing a good thing. Keep it up. We know that this is for the young guys.”
After the session adjourned, a man of my age approached me: “Did you say that you
interrogated prisoners in Da Nang? The only information we have about my brother comes
from an interrogation report from Da Nang.” He fetched the report, written by one of my
teammates in 1969, which described the shootdown and capture of an American pilot. The
prisoner was a North Vietnamese first lieutenant whom I had previously interrogated about
his infiltration route into South Vietnam. It was poignant to learn that these many years
later, one of our many reports, otherwise now totally worthless, was a source of hope—
misplaced or not—for at least one family.

R
In late April I met Richard Radez for the first time. Radez, a year younger than Wheeler,
had been in his company at West Point, and they had graduated together from Harvard
Business School in 1969. In Vietnam, Radez had worked in the banking system. He was in
Washington for a number of months to work on a project for a government agency. Tall,
slender, and of Serbian descent, his prematurely gray hair gave him a distinctive presence.
He exuded Wall Street and considered himself a guru of organizations. He wanted to help
on corporate fundraising, where I needed good advice and assistance. Since Radez had
come to me through Wheeler, I assumed that I could speak candidly and confidentially
with him, just as I did with Wheeler. At one meeting I laid out various challenges facing
10. Crisis on the Hill, but Promise of a Rose Garden 85

the organization and the project. I added that Scruggs was a problem, because we had to
find something for him to do. Scruggs soon after informed me that I was a problem; Radez
obviously had relayed my comment.
I felt targeted. Radez once informed me that I was “too bureaucratic,” and that I didn’t
need to treat the three Directors differently than anyone else. I demurred, yet we were
stewarding a high-profile project with hundreds of thousands of dollars in the bank and
needed to follow strict procedures and document what we had done. Radez, with no official
position or formal responsibility, could walk away at any time. I couldn’t, and since Wheeler,
Frank, and Scruggs were keeping all power to themselves, I wanted to make sure they
couldn’t either.
I perceived Radez as having the mindset that staff members—like pawns on a chess-
board—could be moved around from position to position, regardless of their own interests,
skills, and the working relationships they had developed. I resented the attitude. At one
Board meeting, he speculated that Scruggs might become CEO and “Doubek would go on
the Board,” as if I would be nonchalant about both losing my livelihood and seeing Scruggs
take the wheel. He talked about “where the power was in the organization,” obviously with
Wheeler. Organizational intrigues were the last thing we needed, but I had to tolerate Radez
because of his relationship with Wheeler. I did tell Wheeler, however, that I didn’t trust
him.
Most importantly, I perceived that Radez saw no future in the organization for me.
He once suggested that my ambition should be to have my own law firm. I held my tongue,
since I saw that prospect as equivalent to death compounded by hell. He obviously didn’t
see me as a “manager,” but I had never aspired to that role. I did see myself as a leader,
however, having made successful initiatives in fundraising, public relations, site selection,
and legislation. Whereas the “bureaucrats” were trying to screw us all, it seemed that I now
had someone out to screw me specifically.
11

Design Disputes

For the design and construction effort, I thought that Mosley could use more man-
power. I recalled a man I had met at a dinner party some years earlier; the conversation
had somehow revealed that all four of the men had served in Vietnam. John O. Woods, Jr.,
a structural engineer, had graduated from the Citadel in South Carolina and had been shot
down flying as an Army helicopter pilot in Vietnam. Woods consequently spent eight
months at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, and although he could walk, he was left with
mangled legs and without functioning ankles. Woods, a pathologically positive individual,
readily agreed to volunteer on Mosley’s team.
Mosley had accepted the idea to hold a full-blown design competition. Essential to
that process was a professional advisor, and Mosley sought recommendations and set up
interviews. All of the candidates were competent professionals, but one definitely stood
out. Architect Paul D. Spreiregen, FAIA, had written the definitive book Design Competitions
(McGraw-Hill, New York, 1979), and spoke knowledgeably and forcefully about the process
and its problems. A tall, slender man with graying hair, Spreiregen worked out of his modest
house in northwest Washington, where he lived with his French-born wife. He both wrote
about and executed architecture and design. His contributions had earned him election as
a Fellow of the American Institute of Architects.
Even while Mosley, Woods, and I proceeded with the interviews, the questions of how
we would select a design and what that design should be remained open. At one Board
meeting Frank shook his head and blurted, “Why don’t we just let them design it?” By
“them” he meant the NPS and the other agencies. I responded that “they” most likely were
not competent, willing, or able to do it. Most importantly, the design would be the essence
of the memorial and surrendering our control would be like giving up an eldest child.
Sometime in June 1980 a distinguished-looking man of about 60 appeared at the office.
Granville W. Carter was a sculptor and the president of the National Sculpture Society,
headquartered in New York, which since the 19th century had been dedicated to promoting
figurative and realistic sculpture. In Washington on other business, Carter wanted to deliver
the message that the Vietnam Veterans Memorial should contain a work of figurative sculp-
ture. Otherwise, “the common people won’t understand it.” I thanked him but responded
that we had not reached the point of making that decision. His visit alerted me to the fact
that the figurative sculptors saw themselves as the only genuine ones, as well as the culture’s
defenders against abstractionism and other shoddy goods. Carter’s outlook contrasted
sharply with the perception of the Marine Corps Memorial as “kitsch,” as Von Eckardt had
called it in his April article. As we were to learn, the “realistic” versus “abstract” debate
spilled over from art into politics.

86
11. Design Disputes 87

In the interviews, we raised the question of the composition of the jury. Should it
include design professionals, i.e., architects, sculptors, and critics, or should it contain
members of the affected class being honored, i.e., Vietnam veterans and family members
of those who died? Or some combination of the two groups? Spreiregen clearly favored the
professionals. Design was a mature ability, and it took years of experience to fathom and
imagine what the effect of a piece of work, once built, would be. From two-dimensional
renderings the jurors needed to picture the full three-dimensional forms. Yet to ensure
that the jurors understood and accepted the purpose of the memorial, we would have the
opportunity to interview them.
July 4, 1980, as a Friday, made for a long weekend. A year earlier I had heard Roger
Mudd’s sardonic remarks about our $144.50, but now total contributions were almost
$300,000. I looked forward to the Board meeting on Tuesday evening, July 8; I had numer-
ous items for consideration, covering everything from PR to fundraising, but especially
design. The agenda included a proposal for an audit by Peat Marwick and an extension of
the contract with Wittenberg’s PR firm. We now had sufficient funds on hand to plan the
design competition and develop other types of fundraising. An act of Congress was no
small feat, so I even expected a word or two of praise for my role in getting us to this point.
Sitting around a conference table with me were Wheeler, Scruggs, Frank, Jayne, and
Mayo. I had invited Jayne to speak to the Wittenberg proposal, but Mosley hadn’t seen the
need to be there. Though not a member of the Board, Mayo attended the meetings in his
role as general legal counsel. His wife also practiced law, and due to inevitable child care
issues he had brought to the meeting his three-year-old daughter, who sat in his lap. The
last item on the agenda was the recommendation to retain Spreiregen as the professional
advisor. I reviewed the role of the advisor, the various people we had interviewed, and the
reasons for recommending Spreiregen. I emphasized that Mosley agreed, since Mosley had
been somewhat of a protector of Wheeler’s at West Point. Wheeler, who had remained sub-
dued throughout the meeting, narrowed his eyes, puckered his mouth, and asked: “How
does he feel about having members of the Board on the jury?”
“I don’t know,” I replied. “We didn’t get to those specific issues.”
“I need to know before I’ll approve him,” said Wheeler. “I’m going to call him.”
I tried to talk him out of it. Mosley, Woods, and I had spent a lot of time interviewing
candidates and were unanimous in our recommendation. Wheeler’s insertion of his own
hubris into the equation—just like with the “rustic memorial”—could only make us look bad.
“Are you against my calling because I’m going around you?” he said. Then he barked:
“There’s going to be two members of this Board on that jury: Jan and me.”
I was dumbfounded, since neither was qualified for the role. I said something non-
committal, and Wheeler continued: “My intuition is telling me that this is the right thing
to do, and my intuition is always right.”
At this point, I thought I’d inject some levity. “Oh, come on, Jack, your intuition isn’t
always right.”
As if I’d insulted his mother, Wheeler exploded in rage, pounding the table and bel-
lowing at the top of his lungs, “What do you mean my intuition isn’t always right? How
dare you say that, you piss-ant?” The explosion caused Mayo’s daughter to cry, so Mayo
took her out of the room. Wheeler continued to rant at the top of his lungs. I couldn’t take
this without losing the respect of the others, so it finally pushed me out of my bubble of
88 Creating the Vietnam Veterans Memorial

reasonableness into defending my dignity. According to the book on assertiveness, I needed


to defend myself, but not counterattack. I stood up and stared down at him. “Don’t yell at
me, Jack; I’m not a piss-ant,” I repeated over and over. Scruggs became alarmed and threw
out, “Are you guys going to start beating the shit out of each other?” After the few seconds,
Wheeler shut up, sat down, and glumly moped in his seat.
Discussion eventually resumed and the Board made the decision to go ahead with the
Spreiregen contract, with the understanding that the jury question was still open. Before
we broke up, Wheeler turned to me and said softly, “I’m sorry I yelled at you, Bob.” I
accepted his apology.
If Wheeler had forced himself onto the jury, I would have had to resign. If we decided
that we must have a Vietnam veteran per se, I could accept Scruggs. He knew nothing
about design, but he was the philosophical inspiration behind the memorial as well as
smart and sensitive and a combat veteran. Wheeler, on the other hand, had no unique qual-
ification, other than having become the de facto VVMF dictator. I couldn’t have gone along
with that. It would have violated the norm that we were trustees rather than owners.

R
Bob Hope was performing at the Kennedy Center, so the day after the meeting,
Wheeler, Scruggs, Frank, and I had our picture taken with him and thanked him for signing
our fundraising letter. Other peripheral events took place during that hot summer.
On July 19, Scruggs and I were invited to an evening reception at the White House to
celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Veterans Administration. The weather cooperated,
and after the reception the hundreds of guests went to the south lawn for entertainment,
including fireworks, the “1812 Overture,” a fife and drum corps parade, and the Air Force
drill team. After only a year, VVMF was on the White House’s radar screen, and Scruggs
was among those quoted in the Post the day after.
Although I needed a full-time assistant, I got some temporary help for a few weeks.
Wheeler asked me whether I could take his sister Janet, a rising high school senior, as vol-
unteer intern for the summer. Janet was smart, diligent, eager, and pleasant, and I had her
do a lot of the errands and administrative chores. I also took her to meetings to get her a
taste of the real mission. Although she had signed on as a volunteer, I got Frank to approve
a small stipend for her at the end.
Our landlord had given us notice on the small office, so I also had to ferret out new
space. I found a consulting firm about three blocks away on M Street that had some free
offices and moved in on August 1. The moving operation consisted of me in my white shirt
and tie and a handcart shuttling up and down past the Mayflower Hotel in the heat. The
original six empty file folders had expanded to a dozen boxes, so it took a few trips. I hoped
that my former colleagues in the legal profession wouldn’t see me.
In June we had received a letter from Victor Westphall, who had built the chapel in
New Mexico featured in the Parade magazine article in November 1979. He wanted to know
when he could expect some financial support from us. The Parade article had been our
first lesson in fundraising reality, i.e., people don’t respond to media articles; they have to
be asked directly. With all that we had to do, we hadn’t thought about Westphall at all.
Haaga, Scruggs, and I decided to send to Westphall any Parade donations that had been
specifically designated for the chapel. The total amounted to just over $100.
11. Design Disputes 89

For an administrative assistant, the owner of the Georgetown Secretarial College men-
tioned that she was graduating a class that had a few former stay-at-home mothers. Since
we had a limited budget, one of them might work out for us. I interviewed Kathy Kielich
in early August. From Buffalo, New York, she had graduated from college as a voice major
the year after I was born. Along with raising two gifted daughters, she had sold real estate,
worked as a receptionist in her husband’s dental office, and served on numerous nonprofit
boards, including the League of Women Voters and the Catholic Charities. Although nerv-
ous in the interview, she came off as confident and assertive. Moreover, she had cheekbones
like those I’d seen all over my neighborhood growing up. She turned out to be of Croatian
descent, and her husband was Polish. We bonded quickly, and she started work the week
after Labor Day.

R
After the fist-pounding meeting, Mosley temporarily quieted Wheeler; I put Spreiregen
under contract (hourly fee of $45) as of July 21; and we moved out on planning. During
the following two months, Mosley, Woods, and I had weekly meetings with Spreiregen to
discuss the various issues framing the competition, which included who could enter, what
the prizes would be, what rights the winner would have, etc. We had already heard from a
large variety of artists and designers, including sculptors, architects, landscape architects,
and graphic artists, both professional and amateur, all wanting to “get to us” before others
did. I was relieved to send them a form letter notifying them of the planned competition.
A chief objective of the memorial was to unify the public around honoring those who
had served. Consistent with this objective and that of the memorial’s being financed by
public donations from grass-roots Americans, we decided to open the competition to every-
one, regardless of professional qualification. There were only two requirements. The mon-
ument was to commemorate the experience of Americans in Vietnam, so the designer
should be an American citizen. Since he or she would have to enter into a contract, we
required that each entrant be at least 18 years old.
One problem with allowing anyone to enter was that the final building plans needed
to be submitted by a licensed professional. Spreiregen explained, however, that the purpose
of a competition was to obtain a concept, rather than a final set of plans. A concept could
then be developed into a buildable design. We therefore added the requirement that if the
winner was not a licensed professional, VVMF could itself retain the professionals needed
to realize the concept, while the winner would have the right to “consult” on the selection.
We also wisely added a provision specifying that VVMF would own the winning design.
We specified two types of entrants: individuals and teams, as we hoped to see collab-
oration across disciplines. I envisioned that a team, for example, might have an architect,
a landscape architect, and a sculptor. An entry fee was necessary to weed out the dilettantes
from the serious players, yet it had to be low enough to allow students and amateurs to
participate. We settled on $20 per team or individual. The prizes were to be $20,000 for
the winner, $10,000 for second place, $5,000 for third place, and fifteen “honorable men-
tions” of $1,000 each.
We also thought long and hard about setting a budget, i.e., a maximum amount that
it would take to build the design. It would be no use to select a design costing $25 million,
if we couldn’t afford to build it. We arrived at $3 million, which seemed both achievable
90 Creating the Vietnam Veterans Memorial

for fundraising and “decent.” With all other the needs of veterans, $3 million struck us as
an appropriate amount for purposes of recognition.
We planned to announce the competition and then allow about two months for entrants
to register. We would open the competition by mailing the competition “program”—in effect
a “take home” examination. Competitors then would have 90 days to complete and submit
their entries. Up until the 30-day mark, they could submit questions in writing. Answers to
all questions would then be sent to all competitors. We looked to mail the competition pro-
gram at year’s end, with a deadline of March 31, 1981, for submittal of design concepts.
A competition portended serious legal, public relations, logistic, and security impli-
cations. VVMF was entering into a contract with each of the competitors, so the process
had to be transparently fair, because each entrant would otherwise have standing to sue
us. One essential aspect, therefore, was to judge the entries anonymously. Entries were to
be submitted on 30-inch by 40-inch foam core panels, showing a plan (vertical) view, a
cross section, and an elevation (side view) of the design concept. The competitors had the
option of submitting a second panel containing photos, an explanatory statement, and any
other relevant material. No information to identify the designers could appear on the faces
of the panels; name(s), addresses, and phone numbers were to be on a small card in a sealed
envelope affixed to the rear of the first panel.
To conduct the competition, we had to create two documents. The rule book set out
the terms of the contract between the competitors and VVMF, the procedures, and dead-
lines. It included information about the competition sponsor, VVMF, and most importantly
a statement of the purpose and philosophy of the memorial, i.e., what should be the message
of the memorial to the nation and future generations. Secondly, the competition program
contained photos, a detailed description of the site, and the criteria by which the designs
would be judged, as well as the specifics of how the design concepts were to be presented.
Spreiregen went to work on these and by early August had produced some basic drafts,
which included a stab at the purpose statement. Reading his draft, I realized that it was too
vital a component of the project to be left to an outside consultant. It had to come from
the core of the organization, so I requested ideas from the directors and advisors.
Wheeler submitted a lengthy and thoughtful memo. He thought that the program
shouldn’t be strictly technical but should include quotes and even poetry so as to be evoca-
tive and reach out to the designers’ intuition. For months we had talked about a “landscaped
solution,” but Spreiregen had advised that our role, as the competition’s sponsor, was to
pose the question, not the solution. Wheeler, picking up on this, suggested using an “evoca-
tive question” in the program. He expressed concern that some designers would focus not
on the war but on the war over the war at home. He hoped that the finished memorial
would evoke thoughts of the experience of those who fought, the allegiance of the veterans
to those who died, veterans reaching out to achieve reconciliation at home, the role of sac-
rifice, and the signs of hope issuing from the tragedy. Wheeler proposed that the jurors be
given homework, i.e., books about the war, specifically Webb’s and Caputo’s. He questioned
whether there could be an expression of religious faith in a public monument, and what—
if any—distinction should be make between the veterans and the dead. He opined that fail-
ure would be a memorial that perpetuated the divisions of the war years. Finally he pointed
out that there had been no one war in Vietnam. Depending on the time, location, and
enemy, each man or woman had had a different experience.
11. Design Disputes 91

Another submission (unsigned) suggested that “[a]rchitecturally it is envisioned as


being in harmony with those structures surrounding it with which it will be visually com-
pared, i.e., the Lincoln Memorial. Thus a classical, timeless design would appear mandatory.”
Heather Haaga wrote: “The memorial [should] be an emotional expression because the
war was such an emotional experience for much of this country…. A garden, perhaps sur-
rounded by a low retaining wall which contains all the names, or footpaths with the names
inlaid on the sides, is what I see in my mind’s eye. As a central core or focal point a piece
of sculpture that could evoke the incredible sadness those families must feel who lost boys.
The sculpture should be a dignified expression of the sorrow and bitterness so people won’t
forget how difficult that time was in our country’s history. The garden itself will provide
people a place to sit and reflect; a place of peacefulness.”
Another volunteer had a different slant: “As well as honoring the American who died
in Vietnam, we want to remember how we got to Vietnam, the errors in judgment, the lack
of understanding, and many other mistakes.”
Saturday, August 9, brought a typical summer Washington dog day: humid, partly sunny,
windless, and temperature exceeding 90 degrees. To attempt the statement of purpose and
philosophy, I needed an uninterrupted block of time, so I got to the office early. Expository
writing about abstract concepts had never been my strong suit, and it was slow going at first.
I reviewed what Wheeler, Scruggs, and Jayne had written, and probed my own thoughts.
After three hours, I came up with something that seemed to nail it and typed it up.
Jayne liked it, but had scheduled another lunch with Peter Braestrup, whose opinion
I solicited. Braestrup laughed out loud: “What’s with this stuff about reconciliation? What
are you going to put up? A statue of a hippy embracing a grunt?” I took another look at it,
toned down the reconciliation theme, and came up with the final nine-paragraph version
that went into the competition program. The key paragraph read as follows:
The purpose of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial is to recognize and honor those who served
and died. It will provide a symbol of acknowledgment of the courage, sacrifice, and devotion
to duty of those who were among the nation’s finest youth. Whether they served because of
their belief in the war policy, their belief in the obligation to answer the call of their country,
or their simple acquiescence in a course of events beyond their control, their service was no
less honorable than that rendered by Americans in any previous war. Those who served and
died embodied values and ideals prized by this nation since its inception. The failure of the
nation to honor them only extends the national tragedy of our involvement in Vietnam.

I should have realized that the phrase “those who served and died” would become a prob-
lem. Although the statement later includes the phrases “acknowledges the veterans of Viet-
nam” and “mourn those who were lost,” I should have said “those who served and those
who died.” Our eventual opponents seized on this wording to assert that we had changed
the purpose to honor only the dead. Furthermore, I should have used “trauma” rather than
“tragedy,” as the latter smacked of antiwar sentiment.
The housekeeping issues like the amounts of the prizes were important, but two matters
were essential. The first was the specifications to define the parameters of the design. From
my experience with formal procurements for computers, I envisioned that we would set
out a series of specific requirements and prohibitions (size, height, etc.) that in effect would
be a sandbox within which the competitors could play. So far, however, the only definitive
specifications that we had were the inscription of all the names and the site size of two
92 Creating the Vietnam Veterans Memorial

acres. As for a “landscaped solution,” our role was to ask the question, not dictate the
answer. Whereas I had always seen architecture as dealing with the building, landscape
architecture as cultivating the space around the building, and sculpture as the statue stand-
ing in the lobby, Spreiregen had explained that works of public art could reflect elements
of all three disciplines, e.g., an earthen sculpture. As we moved ahead with the planning,
the question of the design requirements hung like a fog in the back of my mind.
The second essential question addressed who would decide, i.e., who would be the
jury? One option was “to judge it ourselves, so we get what we want,” as Wheeler once sug-
gested. From having known architecture students and taking a course in art history, I knew
that art and design were real disciplines. My knowledge was minimal, and the others
involved knew even less. Moreover, getting “what we want” was in itself a good question;
we had never discussed the topic.
A second option was the “affirmative action” jury, comprised—for example—of two
Vietnam veterans, two Gold Star mothers, two antiwar protestors, etc. Again the issue
involved their expertise in art and design. Could they look at a drawing and envision its
impact in three dimensions when built in full size?
The third option was the professional jury, comprised of experienced designers who
could separate the wheat from the chaff and envision the actual force of a concept—Spreire-
gen’s preference. Because we envisioned collaboration among various disciplines, he sug-
gested a jury with two architects, two landscape architects, two sculptors, and one generalist,
someone in tune with the society and culture. As qualifications, Spreiregen postulated that
a juror should be good at articulating design issues, not have a stylistic bias, and be perceptive,
sensitive, intelligent, and highly respected as an artist and designer. The latter factor was
particularly important for attracting good people to make the major investment of time and
effort to submit designs. Spreiregen also thought that the jury members should reflect the
country’s ethnic and geographic diversity. He compiled an extensive list of architects, land-
scape architects, and sculptors as potential jurors, but none were known to me. For the gen-
eralist, he suggested former POW Admiral James Stockdale, author Robert Penn Warren,
scientist and philosopher René Jules Dubos, and television journalist Alistair Cooke.
On having a Vietnam veteran per se, Spreiregen was leery. It wasn’t simple. Would the
veteran have to have design expertise? Could it be any veteran or only a combat veteran?
Spreiregen’s chief concern was that the veteran would have outsize influence over the other
jurors; out of their respect for his experience, they would overly defer to his opinions. I
agreed with Spreiregen. I could imagine no clear connection between the horrific experience
of combat and the ability to judge potential designs of a major work of public art. I thought
that if we found experts of good faith, who were willing to read and learn of the Vietnam
experience as Wheeler had proposed, we had our best chance of finding a good design. In
fact I had once broached with Webb the idea of his being on the jury. He dismissed it,
saying he didn’t know anything about architecture.
One problem was that in our prior descriptions of the design concept, we had set
out—as quoted in the Times on July 2—that the memorial would have “sculpture that will
symbolize the experience of American troops in Vietnam.” A veteran called me to discuss
the jury issue and later wrote: “The…. Memorial … is to express and symbolize the expe-
rience of Americans who served in Vietnam. Surely it would require a person to experience
Vietnam as a qualification to judge a design trying to express such an experience.”
11. Design Disputes 93

By mid–August, Spreiregen had completed detailed working papers for the competi-
tion, including a draft of a set of rules. His proposed “Objectives and Purpose,” based on
his interactions with us and on what Scruggs and Wheeler had written, included “a design
of passive character, one that evokes spiritual values, inner feelings, and thoughtful con-
templation.” Mosley responded with a memo that included some technical points on the
rules. But he also opined:

The memorial is by its very nature speculative. One can only speculate what the war might
mean to those who died in Viet Nam, to those who have died for other human causes, to those
who live with personal pain or injury as a result of the war, to those not yet born who will be
influenced by the precedent of the war. Yet this uncertain nature of the memorial forms the
design challenge. It is a challenge to speculate on the meaning of the war held by each individual
being and to compose those meanings in a single creative expression.
The successful composition of these meanings should result in an expression which is rec-
onciliatory in its effect. To successfully express the composition of meanings one must under-
stand the different meanings, and understanding leads to reconciliation.

Mosley cited John Donne’s sonnet, “Death Be Not Proud,” as suggested reading.
Having made substantial progress with the competition planning, Mosley and I decided
to have Spreiregen present the results to date at the Board meeting on September 4. In an
upbeat tone, Spreiregen walked us through the main points. Wheeler meanwhile sat back
and brooded. When Spreiregen concluded, Wheeler pounced. “How come you don’t want
a Vietnam veteran on the jury?” he snapped. Spreiregen attempted to stay cool and explain
his thinking, but Wheeler kept pounding. Unfortunately, Mosley—the one person who
could soothe Wheeler—hadn’t come. The noise continued for a few minutes until I asked
Spreiregen to excuse us, and he left.
Immediately after the meeting, calls started shooting back and forth among Spreiregen,
Mosley, Wheeler, and me. No one was happy. Ultimately it was decided that the Board,
meaning Wheeler, would have the opportunity to interview each juror. Yet, the issue of the
jury composition was never really discussed by the Board.
Fortunately, the first potential juror whom Wheeler got to meet was Harry Weese.
Weese headed his own architecture firm in Chicago, which also had offices in Washington
and Miami. He had designed the stations for the Washington Metro, but more importantly
from Wheeler’s point of view, Weese had served in World War II as an officer on a Navy
destroyer. For me the crucial factor was that Weese, like Wheeler, was a WASP. He reflected
his upbringing on Chicago’s upper-strata north shore and was even about the same height
and build as Wheeler. They had an engaging conversation, and Weese received thumbs up.
Whereas the pools of jury candidates from the design fields were limited, our search
for a cultural generalist was wide open. A well-known personality like Alistair Cooke would
yield tremendous publicity value, attract competitors, and buttress the credibility of the
winning design. To increase our own credibility, we asked Senator Mathias to send out
some of the letters on our behalf. Among others, we approached Eric Sevareid, James Mich-
ener, Herman Wouk, and Walter Cronkite, but the chances that one of them could devote
a full week’s time were slim. In following up, I learned that Cooke answered his own phone
and was as gracious to a stranger as he appeared to be on TV.
We couldn’t recruit a “name,” but received from Isamu Noguchi a gracious handwritten
letter explaining why he had to decline. He wrote, “I am disqualified for the reason that I
94 Creating the Vietnam Veterans Memorial

saw the site, as you may know, and thought it too beautiful and delicate for anything so
didactic as a war memorial usually is…. Of course some lovely thing that blends with the
land is conceivable—a stone outcropping that speaks to the heart.” Wouk wrote that “[t]he
idea of the Memorial is a superb one,” but he declined because of his schedule. Robert Penn
Warren expressed his “full sympathy with the project” but cited the same reason, as did
Cooke, Sevareid, and René Dubos. Ultimately for the generalist, we hit upon Grady Clay,
a journalist and author from Louisville, Kentucky, who was the editor of Landscape Archi-
tecture magazine. He impressed me as a classic Southern gentleman and had the additional
qualification of having been wounded in combat at Anzio, Italy, in World War II.
After meeting Weese, Wheeler opted out of further interviews with the jurors, which
were left to Spreiregen and me in late October and early November. All were Spreiregen’s
recommendations. Architect Pietro Belluschi had been dean of the MIT School of Archi-
tecture and Planning. His designs included the Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall in Bal-
timore and the Pan Am Building in New York. Born in Italy, he had served in combat with
the Italian Army in World War I. A dignified older gentleman, he spoke with an accent.
Hideo Sasaki, considered to be the dean of landscape architecture in the United States,
had been the chairman of the Department of Landscape Architecture at Harvard University
and had served on the CFA. During World War II, because of their Japanese descent, he
and his family had been put into an internment camp. He was gracious and friendly.
Richard Hunt, a black man from the south side of Chicago, was a sculptor with works
in many museums throughout the country. He had been appointed by President Johnson
to the board of the National Endowment for the Arts. Hunt’s style was “abstract expressionist.”
An open and engaging personality, he joked about how his proposed abstract design for a
memorial to Martin Luther King, Jr., had shocked the black ladies in a Southern city.
Sculptor Costantino Nivola, born in Sardinia, had works in leading American museums.
In 1957, he had created a 110-foot-long mural of reinforced concrete at the Mutual Insurance
Company of Hartford. He also had designed the memorial to the “Four Chaplains” of World
War II, an abstract work at the National Memorial Park cemetery in Falls Church, Virginia.
New Yorker James Rosati was primarily an abstract sculptor, although he had also
rendered figurative portraits. He had a work on display at the National Gallery of Art in
Washington, and in 1974 he completed a 25' tall stainless steel piece called Ideogram on the
plaza between the towers of the World Trade Center. He projected an image totally opposite
to that of an effete artist. Stocky and speaking with a New York accent, he could credibly
have been a plumber. He even joked that sculptors liked to have a beer from time to time.
Landscape architect Garrett Eckbo from San Francisco had been a prolific designer,
teacher, and writer, with numerous awards from the American Society of Landscape Archi-
tects. I didn’t know it at the time, but his past left-wing activities later would be exploited
by the opponents of the winning design.
In the interviews, the artistic issues were out of my element, so I focused on their
understanding of and commitment to the purpose of the project. All expressed support
and empathy for the veterans, and all agreed to read the literature about the war that we
would send. The only comment that stuck out was one by Eckbo, to the effect that the idea
of “dying for one’s country” had been invalidated. Ironically, Sasaki and Belluschi had
served on the jury for the FDR memorial that had selected “Instant Stonehenge.”
To publicly announce the jurors’ names, we needed their written consents. I wrote
11. Design Disputes 95

them to outline VVMF’s commitments to the process and the commitments we expected
from them. We committed to a well-managed and fair competition, a jury of the highest
caliber, and payment for the jurors’ travel and stay in Washington for the jury week. We
asked them to abide by the rules, reserve the last week in April 1981, give their full attention
to the jury work, participate in writing a jury report, endeavor to reach a consensus with
the other jurors, and prepare themselves by reading two or three books on the Vietnam
experience. All confirmed in writing that they agreed with the statement of the Purpose
and Philosophy of the memorial and with the commitments.
By October, Spreiregen had prepared detailed drafts of the rule book and the program,
which I edited and circulated for comment. In addition to the rules and the statement of
the purpose and philosophy, the rule book contained descriptions of VVMF as the com-
petition sponsor, the memorial site, the competition, and the design. It included the reg-
istration forms and a list of recommended reading. The cover had a list of names of
casualties from top to bottom, and on the inside cover was a short statement by Wheeler
about the names spoken on Memorial Day, which included: “The pain, the reality, and the
brokenness were there for all to see. And the barriers to learning the need for reconciliation
were there for all to see as well.” Wheeler also made another very specific contribution to
the rules, based on his experience in government. He added a paragraph providing that
the VVMF Board had the final decision in any disputes over the rules.
As for the requirements governing the design, the final design program stated: “The
competition places the question of the design concept in the minds and hearts of the com-
petitors,” while referring them to the statement of the purpose and philosophy. Also,
“[u]nnecessary design constraints as well as indications of any design predilections have
been purposely avoided.” Yet there were certain requirements that all had to satisfy. We
listed 14, but six were essential: The site could occupy only up to two acres; “The memorial
design should be reflective and contemplative in character”; “The memorial should be har-
monious with its site, an integral part of Constitution Gardens”; the names of the dead and
unaccounted for had to be permanently displayed; the construction cost could be no more
than $3 million; and the memorial could not make a political statement about the war:
“The memorial should be conciliatory, transcending the tragedy of the war.” To conclude,
we disclaimed any prior statements regarding design concepts or criteria.
The requirements dealing with the size, the cost, the names, and the political statement
arose from the legislation, the fundraising realities, or our basic mantras. The “harmonious”
point arose from our deal with the NPS for getting Constitution Gardens. “Reflective and
contemplative” was really the only one that expressed some philosophy of what the theme
or message of the memorial should be. I anguished long and hard over the requirements.
Spreiregen and Mosley assured me that they were sufficient. For a lawyer, requirements
were prohibitive; a designer saw them as evocative.
To get out the word to potential competitors, Spreiregen created a flyer for posting on
bulletin boards and Wittenberg put out a news release on October 1. We sent the flyer and
release to publications relating to architecture, landscape architecture, art, and design, as
well as to over 800 architecture, landscape, and art schools. Also to state arts agencies, to
the mailing list of the AIA, and to the veterans’ and military-related organizations. The
flyer and release provided our address for asking for the rules and entry forms, which were
due by December 29.
96 Creating the Vietnam Veterans Memorial

The news release received good play in newspapers around the country, and requests
started to come in. Some newspapers, however, didn’t publish our address. The Times,
moreover, didn’t give us any mention at all, which was particularly unfortunate given the
number of artists and designers in New York. On November 10, as a tie-in with Veterans
Day, we held a press conference at the memorial site to announce the design competition
and the names of the jurors. An AP story was published widely around the country.
The Post did its own article, which named the jurors and published the address for
entering. Yet the story mainly was about Scruggs: “This city full of monuments will soon
have another, thanks largely to Jan Scruggs.” The focus on Scruggs flowed naturally from
our PR strategy, since—as noted by one flack—he was “good copy.” The story of the poor
kid who was wounded in Vietnam and pulled himself up by his bootstraps was compelling
and gave credibility to the effort. No equivalent narrative could be found in the experiences
of most of the rest of us.
Ultimately we sent out 5,000 copies of the rules, and by the deadline, 2,573 entries had
registered, some as individuals and some as teams, for a total of about 3,800 individual
participants. Coincidentally, the total from the entry fees slightly exceeded the $50,000
that we would award in prizes.
The artistic community closely monitored our progress on the competition. Our news
release in October stated that the competition was open to “all American designers—archi-
tects, sculptors, landscape architects and artists—professional and non-professional.” In
mid–October I received a phone call from Granville Carter of the National Sculpture Soci-
ety. Citing our release, he again argued that the memorial had to contain a work of figurative
sculpture. Furthermore, the winner had to be qualified to execute the design, to actually
create the work. He proposed sculptor Donald De Lue as a juror. Carter followed up with
a detailed letter, asserting that there had never been a successful design competition that
hadn’t been limited to professionals. “A sculptural entity … will need to be a most important
element of this proposed memorial as is found in all great works of art from the past.” He
asserted the need for a great sculptor to be on the jury and again proposed De Lue. Spreire-
gen shrugged at the letter.
In mid–October I also received a thoughtful letter from Washington, D.C., sculptor
Barry Johnston, a Vietnam veteran. Like Carter, he made the point that the winning artist
should be commissioned to execute the work. In anticipation that the individual proposing
the winning design concept might not be professionally qualified to stamp the actual con-
struction drawings, we had written the rules to allow us to retain appropriate professionals,
with the winner in a consulting role. Johnston had picked up on this point and asserted
that “only the conceiver can fully understand the congnizants of a conceived work.”
Johnston argued that the National Sculpture Society should have an advisory role in
the competition equivalent to that of the AIA, and that the AIA’s design bias was predom-
inantly abstract. “Almost all of our recent monuments have been commissioned, managed,
and awarded by architects to architects…. The result: works that have very striking initial
impact, but can not hold the viewer’s attention.” Johnston closed by stressing the need for
balance and reconciliation between the realistic and abstract positions, and he urged VVMF
as a client to take the lead on that route.
Our first logistic problem was finding a place where the entries could be delivered,
unwrapped, numbered, and photographed. I had circulated a letter to the other offices in
11. Design Disputes 97

our building to determine whether anyone had free space, but there were no takers. Luckily,
a contractor offered some empty warehouse space adjacent in Capitol Heights, Maryland.
By the end of October we had set the schedule for the competition. We’d start sending
out registration forms on November 14 and would close registration on December 19. We’d
mail the competition program, i.e., the requirements, on December 31, and entries would
be due on March 31. The jury would convene from April 26 to May 1, 1981.
12

The Fundraising Maze

Notwithstanding our eloquent elucidations of the noble purposes of the memorial,


the proof of the idea lay with fundraising; the money had to come. So far our initiatives
had been the polar opposite of the accepted approach for a new nonprofit. That called for
assembling a board of people with—or access to people with—means. Only after raising
seed capital would an organization venture to raise money from grass roots Americans
through direct mail. Yet, using borrowed money, an idea whose time had come, and the
prestige of our NSC, we had successfully appealed to the grass roots, and they had
responded. We netted $120,000 from the one-million-letter appeal, and the Kilpatrick article
had brought in $60,000 of free money, but we were still a long way from the two or three
million dollars that loomed as necessary to complete the project.
Some givers assumed that 100 percent of their money would go to bricks and mortar,
but in reality—at least in the beginning—virtually all of the early contributions had to be
plowed back into fundraising. We had to be careful about discussing the details. The 1.2
million letters mailed in the first half of 1980 had grossed $345,000, but cost $220,000; we
had spent 64 cents for every dollar raised. “Watchdog” agencies, like the Philanthropic
Advisory Service of the Better Business Bureaus, monitored nonprofit fundraising. Their
guidelines called for fundraising and administrative costs to be limited to 30 percent of
total costs. We had done nothing improper but now needed to find less costly ways to raise
money.
The memorial now was a realistic possibility, but I felt a sense of crisis—as reflected
by the Chinese character—a combination of danger and opportunity. We presided over an
asset in which the public, the press, and the Congress had substantial interest, namely the
authority to utilize two acres of the most valuable real estate in the country. The amount
of work and the number of decisions ahead were daunting, especially for the flimsy VVMF
organization. Without careful thinking, planning, and execution the advantage could be
squandered.
Moreover, we arguably held in our hands the national legacy of the Vietnam War.
After the fall of Saigon it had been like a ball bouncing loose on a field, and could have
been exploited for both left- and right-wing political agendas. But we had picked it up and
were carrying it in the direction of positive closure and national reconciliation—a heavy
responsibility. As the sole salaried employee, I perceived a heavy burden on my shoulders.
Each step entailed a new challenge and a steeper learning curve.
Like any other commercial or nonprofit organization, we had to pay bills, buy supplies,
negotiate contracts, respond to public inquiries, answer the phone, and so on. This all,
along with responding to emergencies, fell to me. Moreover, I was responsible to the Board,

98
12. The Fundraising Maze 99

which was such only in the minimum legal sense. A nonprofit board was supposed to set
goals and raise money; this one did neither and had only three people. Bob Frank as treas-
urer was making a huge contribution, but rarely seemed to think in terms broader than
the finances. Scruggs saw the memorial as “his” and himself as entitled to do and say any-
thing he wanted. That made me his principal antagonist. Not only was I in the job that he
saw as his, but my desire to do things correctly in his mind was just slowing things down.
Yet, as a combat veteran and the one with the idea, he embodied the credibility of the effort.
Wheeler was brilliant and the locus of authority, but greatly erratic—one day speaking in
spiritual and comforting terms and the next day projecting paranoia and prejudice. For
weeks during the spring of 1980 I didn’t hear from him at all.
In this context I had to figure out how to raise millions of dollars through a major-
gifts campaign. In the years before “rightsizing,” corporations regularly contributed money
to charities and even maintained staffs to do so. We wanted to get our share and also hit
up foundations and national organizations. Unlike direct mail, a major gifts campaign took
a tremendous amount of phoning, letter writing, face to face meetings, and travel, not to
mention recruitment of leaders.
Wheeler’s idea of getting into the Fortune 500 through personal contacts had found
no traction. Haaga’s fundraising committee seemed to be focusing on projects that they
could do on a hands-on basis, like a 10K race. Haaga drafted a memo with ideas on a major
gifts plan, but it didn’t address the basic questions like whom you target, whom in the com-
pany you contact, how much you ask for, and who asks. All of this would require a ton of
staff time. Radez also had weighed in in May with a memo mirroring Wheeler’s thinking
that we could somehow find the Vietnam veterans in middle management positions to
push the donations. He was prescient in seeing the need for a committee of “senior business
and financial statesmen,” but didn’t mention how to get all the research and work done.
The problem therefore fell to me, but in the first half of 1980 my time and energy had been
devoted to all the other priorities, mainly the legislation and the direct-mail fundraising.
In early June the National Black Veterans Organization presented an award to Scruggs,
as “the founder of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial,” a tad premature. The moderator had
opened the meeting with pointed criticism about the complete lack of black participation
in the “Wounded Generation” symposium in the Post at Memorial Day. But a positive turn
was my meeting James A. Herbert, a retired Army brigadier general who worked as a
fundraiser for United Service Organizations, which since World War II had sustained the
morale of the troops. Stocky and bald, Herbert exuded good will, and I asked, “How do
you go about raising money from corporations?” Walking to his office, he explained that
there existed firms, referred to as “major gifts counsel,” that assisted colleges, schools, etc.,
to organize and run capital fundraising campaigns. They had their own association to pro-
mote professional standards, the National Society of Fund-Raising Counsel. He gave me
his copy of the association directory and suggested I talk with some of the firms.
Herbert also suggested that we meet retired four-star General Michael S. Davison, the
USO president, a volunteer position. We met in mid–June. Davison had been the com-
mandant at West Point in the mid–‘60s, so I took Carhart, along with Scruggs, to the meet-
ing. Central Casting could not have created a better image of a general than Davison in
person. Tall, slender, and ramrod straight, he had the chiseled facial features of a Charlton
Heston. His résumé matched the image. From a military family, he had graduated from
100 Creating the Vietnam Veterans Memorial

West Point in 1939, and at the age of 26 had commanded an infantry battalion in Italy and
France, where he was twice wounded. Later, with a master’s degree from Harvard, he had
commanded the Command and General Staff College and the U.S. Army Pacific, as well
as West Point. In Vietnam he had commanded the invasion of Cambodia and had ended
his career as Commander in Chief, U.S. Army Europe, from 1971 to 1975. There his emphasis
on race relations and equal opportunity had earned him an award from the NAACP.
Despite the enormous power he had wielded, Davison’s gracious reception of us epit-
omized the manners of “an officer and a gentleman” from a bygone era. He accepted my
service in Air Force intelligence as worthy and was immediately receptive to the idea of
the memorial. In this and subsequent meetings, he revealed genuine respect and admiration
for the men who had been under his command, along with his lingering ambivalence about
the enormous sacrifice made in Vietnam, wondering whether any good might come out of
it. At the time we didn’t imagine the critical role that this professional warrior would play
in defending a gentle work of art.
Also in July, General Davison arranged a meeting at his office with General William
Westmoreland, who had commanded U.S. military operations in Vietnam from 1964 to
1968. Westmoreland expressed his support for the memorial project and offered some sug-
gestions on approaching defense contractors and military organizations.
In mid–July, Scruggs sent out a memo to the directors and advisors declaring that
“our corporate fund raising campaign is going nowhere.” He therefore would ask General
Westmoreland to be the chairman of that campaign. I perceived this as both another reckless
hip shot and an attack on me, as though I had been “shucking and jiving,” instead of working.
But I was able to dissuade him from contacting Westmoreland. I immediately started calling
the fundraising counsel firms, and for the first two weeks in August, various major gifts
consultants shuttled down from New York for interviews, to which I invited Scruggs and
Radez.
The firms reflected blue blood. Obviously the bulk of their clients were private schools
and universities that wanted to build new dormitories, gyms, and endowments, and the
prospective givers were the affluent. Nonetheless, the firms saw us as a serious potential
client. In each meeting I learned a little more about capital fundraising and therefore could
better engage with the next firm. A capital campaign was designed like a pyramid. If
$1,000,000 were the goal, the lead gift, i.e., the cap of the pyramid, would be $100,000. On
the next level were two $50,000 gifts, followed by four at $25,000, ten at $10,000, and many
smaller ones. The proposed services of major-gifts counsel included a feasibility study,
which—with good results—would be followed by researching the prospective donors and
then organizing and managing the campaign.
The firms presented various methods for working with their clients. One would assign
an executive to execute the campaign from the firm’s offices in New York. Another one
would house one of its own executives in the client’s office. A third would simply advise
and assist our own in-house staff, which would handle all of the legwork. In our present
situation, with a minuscule office and a single staff member, we weren’t set up to do any of
these.
Along with figuring out major gifts, two more big fundraising challenges faced me.
Haaga’s committee in June submitted a recommendation to do a major fundraising event,
a benefit dinner-dance to be held in the fall. They had solicited proposals from event plan-
12. The Fundraising Maze 101

ners, but Oram was the only bidder. I was ambivalent. An event like that was a major logis-
tical undertaking, entailing much financial risk. But I took it to the Board, which approved
it on July 8. Yet because of my uncertainty, I held off on signing the contract with Oram
for almost two weeks. Finally, with the faulty reasoning that the fundraising group needed
something to do, I sent it off. Time was of the essence in getting the event organized, and
my hesitation didn’t help. Moreover, I took a hands-off attitude toward the event. I was
focused on major gifts and the design competition, and I imagined that with Oram, Haaga’s
committee, and two days per week of Scruggs’s time, enough of our meager resources were
committed to the event.
The second challenge involved direct-mail fundraising. In early August I received a
visit from Ray Grace, who owned Creative Mailing Consultants of America. About my age
and built like a guard on a football team, he had grown up in a middle-class Maryland sub-
urb and had attended the rigorous Gonzaga College High School, where Jesuits educated
the sons of Washington’s Catholic elite. After college, he had served in Vietnam with the
SeaBees, the Navy construction battalions. Since then he’d worked in direct-mail fundrais-
ing. Down to earth but clearly on top of his game, he had come to pitch his services to
VVMF.
The big feather in Grace’s cap was the 1980 Lake Placid Winter Olympics. Having
taken over a failing direct-mail program, he had ended up netting millions. He spoke in
depth about numerous ways to increase responses in our program that Oram hadn’t men-
tioned, like providing small gifts to donors, varying the texts and signatories of the prospect
letters, and increasing the appeals to our donor list. One point that jumped out was sending
thank-you letters, which seemed to me a major omission on Oram’s part. A few days later
he submitted a formal proposal. I was impressed, and I considered it my responsibility to
consider Grace, even though Haaga in June had already recommended that we extend
Oram’s contract through year’s end for a $25,500 fee. I had waited until we saw the results
of the current mailing, so now a decision loomed.
Haaga outlined the Oram results in a memo of August 9. The test mailing (188,903
letters) and the Memorial Day prospect mailing (905,478) had netted just over $118,000,
for a response rate of 1.4 percent and with an average gift of $17.63. This was a very good
result, despite that each dollar raised had cost over $0.60—unacceptable in the long run.
Moreover, we now had our own mailing list of over 15,000 donors, and a small test of a
“renewal” mailing to our own donors had yielded a 10 percent return. The latter dollars
had cost only $0.10 each, so we were on course to reduce the overall cost percentage. In
addition, on August 22, we received a $10,000 donation from Hughes Aircraft, dating back
to the Warner breakfast.
I had scheduled my week of paid vacation for August and arranged a bike trip in Ver-
mont with Dianna and Ron Slaby, who lived in Boston. Coincidentally the Legion was
holding its annual convention there the week before. I passed out our literature and met
with various commanders and commission members, all wearing hats with numerous
badges and buttons. An interesting clash of cultures: I spoke about recognition and recon-
ciliation but heard mainly about bingo nights.
With the looming decisions I had teed up, I felt I had led us all into a swamp but had
no idea how to get out. I struggled to maintain authority and credibility. As executive direc-
tor, I was responsible for moving things forward, but I had no experience in these areas;
102 Creating the Vietnam Veterans Memorial

nor did anyone else. Everyone became impatient with the uncertainty. Scruggs once mock-
ingly proposed that we hire a consultant to help us make the decision of what consultant
to hire.
Haaga was displeased that I wanted to consider Grace for direct mail. Hence, seeking
to create the impression that I was on top of the matter, just before my vacation I wrote a
long memo to review our upcoming decisions on fundraising. These involved the firms to
use for the PR, direct mail, and major-gift campaigns, as well as what additional resources
we needed for in-house support.
Haaga had wanted a decision by August 30 on a one-million-piece Veterans Day mail-
ing, but I wanted to wait for two more proposals, coming in September. I knew my memo
would anger her. In hindsight, it would have been easier to ignore Grace’s overtures, but
he had raised persuasive points about improving the program, and I felt I had a responsi-
bility to get the best possible solution. The minutes of Haaga’s committee meeting on Sep-
tember 24 reflected her unhappiness. She described a “move afoot” to send thank-you
notes, which the committee found to be irresponsible. Finally, “the role of the committee
and its mission are being reevaluated by all members given the current method of decision
making.”
My vacation over, stress resumed, starting with a Board meeting on September 4.
Frank reported good news: we now had $177,000 invested. Scruggs, however, then indig-
nantly reported how he had had to drive out to Middleburg, Virginia, the previous Sunday
afternoon, the day before Labor Day, to meet Warner at his country estate. He needed
Warner’s signature on letters to potential corporate contributors to the benefit dinner.
Recruiting a corporate chairman had become a problem, as all the candidates recommended
by Oram had declined. Scruggs held up his right hand with forefinger and thumb an inch
apart, and declared: “We came this close to having the whole thing fall apart, and that’s the
fault of Mr. Bob Doubek.” I had signed the Oram contract over six weeks earlier, but pre-
sumably my ten-day delay, along with my lack of involvement, had put us in this dire
predicament. To defend myself, I retorted that he had had two full days a week to work on
the event. In the end, John Winkel, a vice-president of Hughes Aircraft, agreed to be the
chairman, and carried the 24 letters from Warner to a meeting of corporate executives in
Wyoming.
The meeting’s consensus was to meet again the next Monday to decide whether or not
to cancel the event. At the end Scruggs muttered: “Just kickin’ ass,” but I again held my
tongue. Inviting him outside to discuss the remark could likely have tumbled the house of
cards that was the organization.
The direct-mail program came next. Oram had set a deadline of August 30 for a deci-
sion in order to obtain lists for a Veterans Day mailing. We had four proposals on the table:
Oram, CMCA, and two others that I had solicited. I recommended CMCA over Oram on
the basis of Grace’s better ideas and initiatives. Radez proposed holding a competition with
each doing 500,000 pieces. The problem was also tabled until the next Monday, when more
drama ensued.
For the Monday meeting, I had invited an outsider, Roger Craver, a partner in Craver,
Mathews, Smith & Company, which had raised record amounts of money for Democratic
candidates and liberal causes. Craver once mentioned that he had “financed the antiwar
movement.” As a favor, he had reviewed our direct-mail proposals. He cautioned that VVMF
12. The Fundraising Maze 103

could “mine out the center” of the political universe only so long before we’d run out of
lists, but he recommended we go ahead with the fall mailing, for which Oram was capable.
In the end, I received the go-ahead, in consultation with Craver, to do the mailing with
whatever contractor I thought most appropriate. I also got the authority to contract with
CMCA to set up a computer database of donors, which Oram couldn’t do.
For drama, Scruggs reported that Oram’s Kay Lautman had called him over the week-
end in tears. Looking at me, he said, “You musta said something to her, and I had to spend
my time on a weekend talking to her.” Since working on weekends was de rigueur for
lawyers, I mocked him, “Oh, you poor guy.” I continued, “I don’t say things to people. It’s
not my style. Anyway, it’s not my job to make our consultants happy.” He conceded the last
point.
Scruggs reported that 18 tables had been sold for the benefit, but none of the companies
had yet responded to Warner’s letters. Oram had prepared a revised budget, assuming 400
people, which lowered costs to $36,000. The two main risks were losing money and being
embarrassed by low attendance. Only 20 tables would be the breakeven point, so it was
best to go ahead because of the costs, time, and effort already committed and the public
relations value. But we would assess ticket sales as of noon on September 10 to make the
final “go” decision. Meanwhile, we’d print the tickets, the deadline for which was the next
day. The final decision was “go.”
The logical choice for the Veterans Day mailing was to go ahead with Oram, so I
signed their contact on the 17th. Meanwhile, we issued a formal request for proposals to
Oram, CMCA, and other direct-mail firms to get comparative proposals for the direct-
mail program in 1981.

R
A career consultant in the nonprofit sector in late July had referred me to Sandie Fau-
riol, and Scruggs and I met her at the Ascot Restaurant, at 17th and L Streets, which featured
reasonable prices. Slender and outgoing, Fauriol exuded professionalism and ambition.
She had worked on a capital campaign for Planned Parenthood. Consistent with her pro-
fessional demeanor, she followed up with a letter, enclosing both a personal contribution
to the cause and a résumé. Her employer was moving from Washington, and she was looking
for a new job. I couldn’t yet see making an offer since we were just learning how to do a
major fundraising campaign.
Radez had become the principal advisor on the corporate fundraising, and right after
Labor Day I set up another lunch with Fauriol, including him and Scruggs. The meeting
amounted to an interview; Fauriol endorsed the concept of retaining professional counsel
and expressed her own interest in joining the VVMF staff. She also recommended an overall
fundraising plan to give direction and focus efforts on the best potential payoffs. Radez
afterward proposed that we hire her. This tied in with my own thinking; I had also con-
cluded that we needed someone on staff. On September 24, the Board authorized offering
her the job of director of development, and she started the next Monday.
Fauriol, about 30 and married to a French-born economist, exuded a sense of ambition
and professionalism. Upbeat and cheerful, she appeared to have read every book published
on dressing for success, time management, and career advancement. She had published an
article in 1978 about the Planned Parenthood campaign, and she arranged for a write up
104 Creating the Vietnam Veterans Memorial

in the newsletter of the fundraisers’ association about her new job with VVMF. She started
detailed planning for the VVMF campaign. Hiring her had not only added knowledge and
expertise but made organizational politics even more complex, since we now had a fundrais-
ing professional on staff along with a volunteer committee. Radez—as the Wall Street
guru—assumed the role of her chief mentor and advisor.
At the Board meeting on October 30, I reported on public relations, our receipt of a
$15,000 NEA grant for the design competition, and the interviews with the potential jurors.
But the business was fundraising. Scruggs, Radez, Fauriol, and I had interviewed the direct-
mail firms and unanimously recommended going with CMCA on the basis of their more
imaginative and aggressive approach, as well as their ability to provide the other necessary
services, i.e., computerization, donor acknowledgment, and list brokerage. I therefore was
authorized to contract with CMCA.
We had also conducted final interviews with five firms to provide major-gifts counsel,
including one recommended by Fauriol, Semple Stueber Cole of New York. Robert Semple
had been the advisor for Planned Parenthood’s campaign. We judged that Semple Stueber
offered the most reasonable and straightforward approach with experienced personnel for
a reasonable fee. Semple had detailed knowledge of corporate leaders and could begin work
immediately. I was authorized to contract with Semple Stueber.
Bob Semple outlined the major-gifts campaign at a meeting in mid–November: “Get-
ting our foot in the door” with a particular individual was key. For this, the help of promi-
nent supporters like General Westmoreland and Bob Hope would be essential. A committee
of corporate leaders, organized both by industries and geographic regions, would lead the
campaign, based on networking. An executive serving on several boards would approach
fellow members of these, who in turn would approach members of other boards. Each
member of the corporate committee would have to be able to deliver a major gift from his
own corporation, so as to have the credibility to approach others. Each one would also be
expected to make a personal gift.
Radez broached the idea of kicking off the campaign by obtaining a major gift to fund
the design competition, which would be a major publicity hook. He suggested that the
most appropriate candidates would be highly regarded “all–American” companies, like
IBM and Xerox, which had had little connection with the war. Frank again raised the issue
of the percentage of the gross contribution revenues being used for administrative and
fundraising costs. While the costs of salaries and rent were low, the percentage of initial
fund raising costs, i.e., over 60 percent, was unacceptable in the long run. Yet, direct mail
had been the only way to raise funds to begin the design competition and majorgifts cam-
paign. Major gifts would lower the overall cost percentage, as would more renewal mailings
to our established small donors. Nonetheless, we lived with the risk that a “Woodward” or
“Bernstein” might write a sensationalist story, which could kill us. We also had to deal with
the percentage limits imposed by some states to allow solicitation. We had to move ahead.

R
To follow on with his success with the “Wounded Generation,” Wheeler had now pro-
posed a seminar on the topic of “reconciliation,” to be sponsored by VVMF. To moderate
it, he had approached a professional named Victor Fischer, who had conducted the Harris
poll about Vietnam veterans for the VA that found that most would serve again. Wheeler
12. The Fundraising Maze 105

thought it would be appropriate for VVMF, with its theme of reconciliation, to do a seminar,
which could lead to a book or a public opinion poll. My cynical side, however, thought
that Wheeler wanted to get his name in the newspaper again, and I resented seeing our
donors’ money diverted from our primary purpose. Fischer submitted a formal proposal,
which the Board approved at the end of October.
13

Not Afraid of
Virginia Woolf

Oram and Haaga’s committee moved ahead with the planning and details of the event,
from programs to flags. They hand-addressed 5,000 invitations for the $150 tickets and
held sessions early in September to stuff and stamp the envelopes. Senator and Mrs. Warner
agreed to be co-chairmen, and Willard Scott, the weatherman on the NBC Today show,
signed on as master of ceremonies. The corporate donors included Boeing and over a dozen
other defense contractors, as well as Marriott Corporation and Time magazine. Other major
patrons were Perot, the Legion, and the Washington Post Company. As “Honored Guests”
we had Perot, Webb, Cleland, General Westmoreland, and George Will. Other well-known
attendees included Major General George Patton, son of the World War II commander;
Captain Red McDaniel, a former POW in Hanoi; and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of
Staff, General David C. Jones. Reporter Phil McCombs, a Vietnam veteran, covered the
event for the Post.
The event, on Saturday, October 11, 1980, also got a boost through the participation
of Frank Harden and Jackson Weaver, whose Harden and Weaver Show dominated the
Washington morning radio waves. They hyped the event on the air; one announced, “I’m
going to dance with Liz.”
The event’s venue was the Great Hall of the Pension Building, built in 1887 in the
Italian Renaissance Revival style to administer pensions for Union Army veterans and to
provide a fittingly majestic space for social and political events. The hall, the length of a
football field and a third as wide, contained a fountain in the center. Enormous Corinthian
columns, eight feet in diameter and 75 feet tall, suspended the ceiling. To seat the 400
attendees, more than 50 round tables, each for eight to ten people, were arranged throughout
the hall. We had no “head” table sitting on a raised platform, as is often the case. All were
on ground level, and four, reserved for insiders, were the only ones by the fountain in the
center.
The “power” table consisted of Senator Warner, Willard Scott, Ross Perot, General
Westmoreland, Scruggs, and their spouses, who included one of the world’s most famous
people. Scruggs appeared to take his tablemates in stride. My architect girlfriend and I
were at one of the other center tables, along with Harden, Weaver, Bob Frank, Air Force
Chief of Staff General Lew Allen, Jr., and his spouse.
Prior to the event, Warner had invited the insiders to cocktails at his home on Dum-
barton Street. Mrs. Warner did not make a showing, and at one point I found myself in the
dining room with just two other people, Perot and Westmoreland. I happened to hear the

106
13. Not Afraid of Virginia Woolf 107

Elizabeth Taylor and Senator John Warner, June 1, 1981 (© Walter McBride/Corbis).

military man congratulate the civilian on the latter’s successful military operation in res-
cuing EDS employees from revolutionary Iran. The irony didn’t escape me.
I had no responsibilities at the event, so we just stood with our wine glasses. I could
sense anticipation in the air; everyone was waiting for the entrance of the diva. Finally, I
saw Warner with Taylor on his arm walking quickly along the gallery on the north side of
the hall. She looked none too happy, and he sported a grim expression. Obviously the
habeas corpus (producing the body) had not been easy. The flashes of Instamatic cameras
lighted their way.
They found their way to the four center tables, where I stood. After a minute I heard
Warner say my name: “Um, Doubek, can you come over here, please?” He nodded in the
direction of his spouse, ten feet away. “Um, my wife and this wife of a Vietnam veteran
appear to be having some kind of disagreement. Perhaps you could step over there and
calm things down.” I looked over to see Taylor, with forefinger in the air, nose to nose with
a tough-looking blonde woman of about thirty, whom I recognized as the wife of a veteran
from the blue-collar suburbs of Maryland. He had lost parts of both legs in the war but
was ambulatory on prosthetics. Her finger was also in the air. As I walked over, serious
intervention appeared needed, so I inserted my body between the two, feeling contact on
each hip. I mumbled something about helping, but my words were lost as Taylor blurted,
“I didn’t call him a chump; I didn’t call him a chimp.” The response from the other hip was
conciliatory: “OK, then. You’re a beautiful lady, and we thank you for coming.” Both turned
away, and my hips were freed.
108 Creating the Vietnam Veterans Memorial

As other witnesses later testified, the flap had begun when the veteran called out some-
thing like, “Hey, Miss Taylor, can I take your picture?” The retort was, “That’s Mrs. Warner,
chump!” His wife, no shrinking violet who had “stood by her man” with his serious wounds,
was not about to take anyone’s guff, even from the world’s most famous woman.
The event went off without a hitch. Scruggs, Warner, Taylor, Perot, Cleland, West-
moreland, and Mathias all spoke before dinner. Taylor—not quite convincingly to me—
emoted that she gave her love to the veterans. Scruggs, after wishing all a pleasant evening,
appropriately asked all not to forget the purpose of their presence: “We all lost a lot of good
friends.”
McComb’s story made the front page of the Post’s “Style” section with a big picture of
Scruggs, Warner, and Taylor. He interspersed his report of the event with quotations from
Vietnam War literature that, according to a Vietnamese custom, he had chosen at random
“by opening the books and placing a finger on the first passage noticed.” McCombs also
quoted remarks by Webb, Bobby Muller, Perot, Westmoreland, and Dean Phillips, and
described how Patton had been shown in a documentary describing his men as “a damn
good bunch of killers.” As for Scruggs, “‘Crazy, hey this is crazy,’ says Scruggs in his shy,
slouching way, looking down at his arm in disbelief….”
The event grossed over $85,000 and netted about 50 percent. In addition to the funds
raised, it generated real credibility for the organization. Haaga had done a superb job, but
my hands-off attitude had alienated her. My actions amounted to poor organizational pol-
itics, even if I was justified in leaving the event to her, Scruggs, and Oram.
14

Burning Out

By November 1980, due to stress, I found it difficult to think and react, and I became
depressed, waking up each day at 5:00 a.m. and worrying. I had been the sole employee
for eight months and remained overwhelmed with work, even now with Kathie Kielich on
staff. The decisions on fundraising had taken a toll, and I worried about my job. I had
expended my best efforts to the cause of the memorial, and it was painful to receive almost
no credit and little support. To those outside the organization, I had to project a good
image. Yet I could turn to no one inside for advice; any show of vulnerability would fuel
those wanting to bring me down. Meanwhile I faced the demands of organizing the design
competition, interviewing the jurors, and developing the written materials, in coordination
with Spreiregen and the PR firm.
The project was on track and I had gained substantial knowledge of all areas, but I
also struggled with doubts about my credibility and competence. Moreover, I competed
with the specter of a “real” executive director, in the words of Scruggs. Supposedly out
there could be found a crowd of people who knew fundraising, legislation, finance, design,
construction, etc., and wanted a job in a minuscule office for a nominal salary. I feared
that such a person actually might exist and that the rug would be pulled out from under
me at any time. I had no idea of where I could go and make a living, and being a lawyer
again was my worst nightmare. I imagined a slow death working in some trade associa-
tion.
I saw the memorial as my mission, so my immediate concern now was my future with
the organization. My contract ran only through year end, so I teed up the issue in late
November with a memo to the Board requesting an increase in my salary and a contract
for the duration of the project. I knew Scruggs, Radez, and others were talking behind my
back. Scruggs had resented me from the beginning and knew that I didn’t want him on the
staff full time. To get what he wanted, he’d have to get rid of me. Radez didn’t perceive me
as a “manager,” although my leadership initiatives with direct mail, PR, the site location
study, the legislation, and major gifts had been right on the money. Heather Haaga was
miffed because I had entertained the proposal from CMCA and had taken a hands-off
approach to the benefit. Scruggs had even mentioned offhandedly that “we might hire Don
Schaet,” a soon-to-be-retired Marine Corps colonel who was with Haaga’s group. To top
things off, I made a major mistake in organizational politics
I perceived the size of the Board to be both unfinished—and my—business. The law
required three as the minimum of directors, so if one resigned we’d have a crisis. Moreover,
the small number precluded input on decisions from many points of view. I believed Mayo,
Mosley, Jayne, and Haaga also deserved a vote. They had earned it. At the same time I had

109
110 Creating the Vietnam Veterans Memorial

little faith in Scruggs’s judgment; Frank wasn’t interested in the larger picture; and Wheeler
was unpredictable.
The Philanthropic Advisory Service of the Better Business Bureau was the leading char-
ity watchdog, sending out questionnaires to charities and providing evaluations to the public.
I had dutifully submitted the questionnaires, with explanations of our plans to bring down
our fundraising cost percentage. The PAS issued positive reports about VVMF but in Sep-
tember sent a letter strongly recommending that the Board be expanded. I felt validated.
After the launch of the major-gifts campaign, I had taken the initiative to interview
attorneys with experience in fundraising and nonprofit activities. Mayo had come with me
to meet Arthur B. Hanson, a retired major general in the Marine Corps Reserve and pres-
ident of the Marine Corps War Memorial Foundation, which had built the Iwo Jima Marine
Corps memorial. Hanson related a sobering story of how a volunteer fundraiser in New
York had embezzled $125,000 from his foundation and been incarcerated. Upon hearing
that our Board had but three members, he judged it as too small for the project. Armed
with the PAS letter and with Hanson’s comment, I set about assessing the availability of
additional potential Board members from among the advisors. I planned to propose them
to Wheeler, Frank, and Scruggs.
The Board meeting on December 11 was a disaster for me. My first mistake was having
lunch with Radez that day, naively expecting that I could get some support. I inquired
about his interest in joining the Board, and as I could have expected, he reported what he
considered to be my perfidy to Wheeler and Scruggs. During the afternoon, Scruggs called
in anger to find out if I’d been talking about expanding the Board, which I acknowledged.
At lunch Radez had nonchalantly mentioned that “you know that Scruggs is coming on
full time.” I retorted that we didn’t need him, and Radez rejoined that I could go find a new
job “next year.” I said that I already had a job, was doing it damn well, and that he didn’t
know what I’d done. He smiled. “I know very well what you’ve done. You’ve pissed off
Scruggs. You’ve pissed off Heather.”
I thought, “So what?” Scruggs had been pissed off since I had become executive direc-
tor, and the pissing-off between Haaga and me had been mutual. Moreover, Radez shared
responsibility for alienating her by helping select a new direct-mail contractor. At that
point, I really felt like a pawn on a chessboard. I was so anxious about the meeting that I
took off in mid-afternoon to work out, hoping it would help me keep my cool.
In the grim meeting, I reported on the meetings with the attorneys. Some of their
ideas were well received, but Wheeler finished by pounding on the table and blurting that
he didn’t want “anybody talking to any lawyers” until he’d checked them out. I next had to
broach the touchy issue of the Board’s composition, since Radez had leaked my initiative.
I explained that my motivation for talking to potential candidates was the PAS letter and
Hanson’s strong opinion. Mayo confirmed that Hanson had raised the matter. After some
heated discussion, Wheeler avowed that the Board’s composition was for it alone to consider.
Scruggs mumbled, “Nobody’s going to mess with our Board,” as if I were an infiltrator.
Radez concluded by saying that we didn’t need to expand the Board, because “we don’t
have any trouble in making decisions.” The same applied to all dictatorships.
In a one positive note, Wheeler proposed the idea of holding a vigil at the memorial
site at which the names of all who died would be read aloud. The consensus was to do this
at the memorial’s dedication.
14. Burning Out 111

I reported more bad news. Over the summer, I had continued to dialogue with Dave
DeChant about the possibility of a “National Day of Reconciliation,” involving churches.
In early September we saw Reverend Barry Lynn, a lawyer and ordained minister in the
United Church of Christ, who worked as legislative counsel for the Church’s Office of
Church in Society in Washington, D.C. Lynn, who had been prominent in the antiwar
movement and the effort to gain amnesty for draft evaders, was cordial and thoughtful.
Regarding his own pacifist activities, he opined, “I could be wrong.” Although not sold on
our idea, Lynn arranged a meeting for us with Louise Ransom of the National Council of
Churches, who led that organization’s push, along with the Synagogue Council of America
and the U.S. Catholic Conference, for amnesty for deserters.
We met with Ransom a few weeks later at the Catholic Conference offices. A graduate
of Vassar College, she was married to an IBM attorney. Their oldest son, Mike Ransom, a
1966 graduate of Colby College, had been killed on Mother’s Day 1968 while leading an
infantry platoon. He became one of the best-known casualties of the war with the publi-
cation of his letters to his family in The New Yorker magazine in July 1968. Ransom later
published the letters in a book and became a leading antiwar activist. She appeared ambiva-
lent about our idea, but agreed to take it up with her organization.
Ransom had reported in early December that our request for the National Council of
Churches to join in sponsoring a National Day of Reconciliation had been rejected by the
committee responsible for its initial consideration. Their reasons included that the memorial
could detract from the Council’s efforts on behalf of incarcerated veterans and could be
used as a tool to make a political statement about the war. I made a pitch to meet with the
committee in person, but she saw the issue as closed. Off the record, she related that our
proposal had been characterized as “cheap grace.” So much for Christian love. Wheeler
was particularly disappointed.

R
When we finally took up my contract, it was already late. Frank thought that VVMF
couldn’t pay a market-rate salary because it was a new organization and our cause was so
sensitive. Mayo, Mosley, and Jayne thought that my request was reasonable in view of my
responsibilities and performance. Scruggs had nothing good to say, criticizing both my job
performance and my personal style. I responded by reeling off my accomplishments, but
Scruggs mocked me. “Oh, you got the legislation passed? Morrison did that! Heather did
the direct mail.” In his mind, I hadn’t done anything for the last 12 months. He asserted
that the organization “ran itself ” for the past year. I lost control and angrily started to inter-
rupt. Mosley leaned over and said, “Let him talk,” but I kept on. I described one of Scruggs’s
gaffes, concluding with: “How dumb can you get?” Mayo rebuked me for that.
Scruggs described his displeasure with his status in the organization (“I don’t even
have a desk here”), and his wish to be a full-time staff member. I taunted him, “In what
position on the staff? How about deputy director of development?” “How about president?”
he responded. I was dumbfounded at the thought that the Board might really consider put-
ting Scruggs in charge of the organization. I blurted, “This is no time for patronage. What
we need are more people to do the real work, not more to be in charge.” Scruggs then fell
back on the defensive: “But I have a master’s degree.” At one point, I became plaintive:
“Why are you guys doing this?”
112 Creating the Vietnam Veterans Memorial

After the heated discussion had cooled a bit, it was concluded that no organizational
model had both a president and an executive director as staff members. During a bathroom
break, I stayed behind with Radez and Mayo and asked their advice. “He did found the
organization,” said Mayo. “You can’t win, Doubek!” shouted Radez. Clearly I couldn’t, so
when the meeting reconvened, I announced that I’d be willing to accept a reduction in my
overall responsibilities as long as my control over the design and construction process
remained. This broke the logjam. It was almost 10:00 p.m. so we decided to meet again at
the end of the month to sort things out.

R
A few days later I got locked into the detention center of Montgomery County, Mary-
land—as a guest at the Christmas party of the inmates’ Jaycees group. Some members were
Vietnam veterans, and as the highlight of the party they presented a $250 donation to
VVMF, collected from their own spending money. Most of the men were in their twenties
and looked middle-class. I made a short presentation about the project and thanked them,
but didn’t ask how they got there.
As another event to signify the new era for the organization, I terminated our PR con-
tract with Ernest Wittenberg Associates as of December 31, 1980. Wittenberg had provided
good service through the fall, including sending out audiotapes to radio stations with public
service announcements supporting the memorial from Bob Hope, Rocky Bleier, Jimmy
Stewart, Pearl Bailey, and Gerald Ford. But Wittenberg had asked for an increase from
$2,000 to $3,000 per month; the executive on our account had left the firm; and we weren’t
impressed by the man slated to replace him. It was time to reevaluate PR, and I prepared
a request for proposals to go out to the Washington members of the Public Relations Society
of America.
VVMF’s assets had grown impressively, from a fund balance of $8,149 as of March 31
to total assets of $195,549 on September 30. Revenue over the preceding six months had
been $402,338, against expenses of $246,134, the bulk of which—$200,381—had gone for
direct mail fundraising. As of year end, the cash balance was $415,000.

R
We reconvened on December 29 with the same players. Scruggs was made a full-time
staff member as of February 1, 1981, and he resigned from the Board as of that date, with
Mayo to replace him. Radez proposed creating the position of executive vice-president and
hiring Col. Donald E. Schaet to fill it as of February 17, 1981, after his retirement from the
Marine Corps. Among other qualifications, Schaet had administered major programs and
managed a lot of people, and had been a VVMF volunteer since October 1979. Fauriol’s
position would be renamed campaign director, and I took the title of project director.
Wheeler had asked whether I wanted to be a vice-president, but I thought the “director”
title provided better organizational symmetry. Scruggs was tasked with looking for new
office space, and all salaries were to be reviewed by February 1.
As the last item on the agenda, the Board’s composition came up again. Ray Grace
had asked the DAV for the loan of its mailing list, but the DAV wanted a seat on the VVMF
Board in exchange. “No way,” was the answer.
Some people had already left the meeting, and I was eager to see the end of my court-
14. Burning Out 113

martial. But out of the blue Radez said: “Now let’s say some nice things about Bob.” I again
was dumbfounded, having never heard anything equivalent in my entire working life. But
perhaps this was a ritual known only to West Pointers or HBS grads. Radez started off and
said something forgettable. Jayne, to my relief, declined the opportunity. Scruggs, however,
was effusive: “Bob was good at filling out forms.”
15

The Largest Architectural


Design Competition Ever

The December 1980 meetings hadn’t gone well for me. The whole organization had
been upended. Scruggs as president would now be a staff member, with Schaet as executive
vice-president. I would be on the same level as Fauriol, whom I had hired. I felt betrayed.
I had taken a major detour from a traditional career path to advance the cause and had
worked alone at a modest salary for months. The achievements on my watch were beyond
doubt, but I was told that I had had no role in the achievements and that I should find a
new job. I had considered myself to be part of a “band of brothers,” but for others I obviously
was just a pawn.
I considered resigning, but had no idea what I then would do. My chances of getting
a job as a lawyer were poor, as I’d been out of the profession for over a year. Moreover,
working as a lawyer was my worst nightmare. The first question in any job interview would
be why I was leaving VVMF when things were just showing promise. I felt trapped for the
long haul. The only way that I could redeem my sacrifices for an uncertain cause was to
see the mission through and make a national impact.
Fortunately, I didn’t have a lot of time to brood. The registration for the design com-
petition had closed on December 29, the day of the Board meeting. The competition pro-
gram—in effect a take-home exam—had to go out to the 2,873 entrants the first week in
January. We had found a sheltered workshop employing mentally disabled people to do the
stuffing, sealing, and mailing, and I made sure it got done. In January I also had to tell a
number of people that it was too late for them to register.
The main logistical problem was finding a space large enough to display the expected
number of entries. In Spreiregen’s experience, about 60 percent of the registrants would actually
submit entries, so we counted on receiving 1,500. The rules required that each entrant submit
one 30" by 40" rigid panel showing three views of the concept: a site plan, an elevation, and a
cross section. The entrants had the option of submitting a second panel with additional explana-
tory information like text and photos. We expected almost all entrants to submit both panels.
Each set of panels, therefore, would be 60" or five feet wide. With 1,500 panels we
would need 7,500 linear feet, about one and one half miles, of vertical surface to display
all the entries. Using both sides of a wall, we could have 25 rows, each 150 feet long. Assum-
ing 10' between rows and some space at the ends, we would need a space of up to 50,000
square feet. I pictured a vacant department store in some rundown shopping center, but
my calls to real estate agents got little response. No one was interested in leasing space for
just one month. “What we need is an aircraft hangar,” said Spreiregen.

114
15. The Largest Architectural Design Competition Ever 115

Joe Zengerle had taken a political appointment in the Carter administration, as assis-
tant secretary of the Air Force for manpower, reserve affairs, and installations. I reached
Zengerle, who would consider it but noted the shortness of time: the Reagan administration
was taking over in just a week. On January 19, 1981, the day before the Reagan inauguration,
Zengerle called with good news. He had arranged for us to use an aircraft hangar at Andrews
Air Force Base in Maryland—a home run.
The next problem was a space where the hundreds of design submittals could be
processed before going to the hangar. Luckily, Ray Grace offered empty warehouse space
adjacent to his offices in an industrial area in Capitol Heights, Maryland, just inside the
Beltway, east of Washington. The next operational problem lay in enlisting the manpower
to unwrap, number, and photograph the entries, and then transport them to the hangar.
At the hangar we had to devise a system to hang all the panels at eye level. This had to be
accomplished at a reasonable cost and between the deadline for submittals on Tuesday,
March 31, and the beginning of the jury’s deliberations on Monday, April 27.
Spreiregen knew of a Washington nonprofit, Partners for Livable Places, that worked
in housing and planning. Dennis Reeder, a PLP executive, agreed to take a crack at a proposal
to do all the processing work. I was relieved to find someone who appreciated the needs for
care, security, and confidentiality in handling the entries, just like at the Academy Awards.
January 31 was the deadline for entrants to pose questions, and Spreiregen and I would
have to get a set of answers mailed out soon thereafter. I felt a big personal commitment
to the competition. It was a significant cultural event that would stimulate a breathtaking
amount of creativity. Somewhere out there in someone’s mind was the design concept that
would end up being built on the Mall. On Saturday, January 10, I made a special trip to the
office to resend immediately any packages returned by the post office for bad addresses, as
I saw time as that precious.
I retained Kay Lautman and the Oram Group to coordinate the travel, lodging, and
catering for the jurors, as well as a welcome dinner and a closing cocktail party. Her initial
budget estimate for everything came to $92,000. Reeder proposed building a display system
out of two by fours, but I saw that a too wasteful and labor intensive. I suggested that he
use a “pipe and drape” system like I had seen at conventions. The design panels could be
suspended by wires hooked over the horizontal pipes. My suggestion came to bedevil us
during the entire exhibit.
The number of expected entries would make ours the largest architectural design com-
petition ever held in the U.S. or Western Europe. The logistics were challenging but not
impossible. What worried me, however, was the temperament of the entrants. By the reg-
istration process alone, they already had impressed me as prima donnas. Some couldn’t fill
out the forms correctly, while others conveniently neglected to enclose a $20 check with
the forms. In all cases I wrote back polite letters pointing out the problem and providing
an opportunity to correct it. People so lightly grounded potentially could cause big problems
when their entries didn’t win. We therefore had to cross all the “t”s and dot all the “i”s in
running the competition.

R
Don Schaet had retired from the Marine Corps at year end and would begin as executive
vice-president in February. He would usurp my authority, but the honorable and professional
116 Creating the Vietnam Veterans Memorial

course for me was to reach out to him and see how we could best cooperate for the sake of
the organization. We met on the last Saturday in January. Although I briefed him for two
hours, I still couldn’t cover everything going on. Schaet was impressed with the extent and
complexity of VVMF’s operations, and I was relieved that I would be able to work with him.
As a volunteer for Haaga’s committee, Schaet—with ten years on most of us—was the
oldest individual in the organization, and one of the few from the active duty military. Of
Scottish descent from New Jersey, he had been commissioned through a Navy ROTC schol-
arship at the University of Rochester. Although primarily an artillery officer, he had com-
manded troops and served in recruiting, training, maintenance, and media relations. A
graduate of the Army War College, he also had a master’s degree in counseling. In Vietnam
he had served as a fire support coordinator with the infantry and had received a Bronze
Star Medal with combat V. A virtual Renaissance man in uniform, Schaet also ran marathons
and played soccer. Soft spoken, unpretentious, and friendly, he was reasonable and prag-
matic—and would pitch in and do whatever work needed to be done—the polar opposite
of my mental image of a bombastic Marine colonel.

R
Even before the New Year I had noticed groups of well-dressed people on the street
as I left the office each day. As it happened, the Republican Transition Team had opened
its office in the building next to ours. With the legislation in hand, I had imagined our
political work to be finished. Little did I realize that we would have such intimate involve-
ment with the new administration.
Iran’s release of the 52 U.S. Embassy hostages on January 20, 1981, inauguration day,
had immediate, although inadvertent, repercussions for us. Although they were victims,
the hostages received a hero’s welcome—even a ticker tape parade through the Canyon of
Heroes in New York City. Vietnam veterans could not help but notice the contrast with
their own homecomings, as was flagged by the press. We were poised to fix that.
With the Reagan administration came a new Vietnam veterans’ program. Thomas
Pauken, a Vietnam veteran and former national chairman of the College Republicans,
became the director of ACTION, the federal domestic volunteer agency. One of his first
initiatives was the Vietnam Veterans Leadership Program, which in each state would set
up a nonprofit corporation led by successful Vietnam veterans on a volunteer basis. Each
group would then work to build the volunteer network, develop financial support, and help
Vietnam veterans with employment, training, and small business development. Overall the
VVLP would serve to counter the “loser” image of Vietnam veterans. The program would
be federally funded for three years, and by then the nonprofits would be on their own. The
Washington staff would recruit the initial boards of directors and provide $50,000 seed
grants to the new corporations. Shortly after its launch, Wheeler went to work for the
VVLP, on loan from his job as secretary of the Securities and Exchange Commission. Later
in the year Wheeler recruited Jayne to work for the VVLP as well.
Also in January came a letter from Victor Westphall, the builder of the chapel in New
Mexico. He would forward a report detailing his dissatisfaction with us. His December
newsletter asked people to not support VVMF until we did “justice” by the chapel. Hence,
we received about a half dozen letters reminding of us of our “commitment.” He needed
to raise his own funds; we had no further contact with him.
15. The Largest Architectural Design Competition Ever 117

With input from Jayne and Fauriol, I sent a request for proposals to 30 PR firms. To
assist with the selection, Jayne recruited Shaun Sheehan, an outgoing and exuberant Viet-
nam veteran who ran public affairs for the National Association of Broadcasters. Sheehan
had been in combat as a Marine officer and like Grace had been educated by the Jesuits at
Gonzaga College High School. Sheehan, Jayne, Schaet, and I interviewed four firms in
NAB’s conference room in late February and selected Daniel J. Edelman, Inc., a major
national firm. Edelman had done the publicity for the Washington Bicentennial celebration
in 1976. Their proposal laid out three objectives: create broad public support for the project,
convey the message that the memorial didn’t have a political ideology, and stimulate con-
tributions. In addition to getting maximum publicity for the design competition, the pro-
gram included a Vietnam Veterans Memorial postage stamp, national columnists, op-ed
articles, media interviews with Scruggs and celebrities, golf tournaments, a National Foot-
ball League event, and Sunday supplements. Patrick Pellerin, who would head our account,
also happened to be a Vietnam veteran.
Scruggs had found some larger office space, but Fauriol and Kielich declared that they
wouldn’t set foot in it. I found some space in a new building on Vermont Avenue just north
of L Street that an architecture firm had for sublet. It fit our needs and the rent was rea-
sonable ($2,267 per month). I bought some furniture, and we moved in as of March 1.

R
Within days after we mailed the design competition program, the questions started
coming. Spreiregen set to work to sort, compare, and combine them and draft the answers.
We wanted to get the question and answer compilation out to the competitors as soon as
possible after the January 31 deadline. About 180 entrants submitted a total of 530 questions,
which Spreiregen distilled into 230 Q&As, organized by the categories of rules, information,
design, names, illustrations, communications and shipping, and afterthoughts. The ques-
tions covered every conceivable detail. “May we add a designer to our team?” (No.) “What
are the prevailing wind patterns?” “As regards a ‘sculptural element,’ am I allowed to submit
several alternate ideas for the jury to select?” (No.) “What is the minimum acceptable letter
size for the names?” (They must be readable.)
There came a handful of politically charged questions, almost all sent by a Philadelphia
architecture firm, i.e., what was a political statement and could their design include “all of
those who suffered because of the war, like private citizens who actively opposed the war…?”
My answer to the first part was, “Any comment on the rightness, wrongness, or motivation
of U.S. policy in entering, conducting, or withdrawing from the war,” and our answer to
the second part was, “No.”
Their penultimate question was, “Is the VVMF aware of the risk taken if all possible
segments of American society are not included in the participation and definition of the
memorial?” Our answer was: “Yes. That is one reason why the VVMF decided to have an
open, anonymously juried competition to design the memorial. The number of competitors
and the fact that they represent all fifty states and several U.S. territories as well as all walks
of life testifies to the extent of participation in the process.” The Philadelphians then
responded with a letter withdrawing their registration: “The memorial is restricted to
honoring the military fatalities…, ignoring the incredible efforts, including loss of life, of
many other Americans who tried to stop the war…. An exclusively military memorial on
118 Creating the Vietnam Veterans Memorial

such a prominent public site is in itself a political statement that will serve to validate the
Vietnam War….”
Spreiregen worked around the clock to finish the Q&A, but the temporary typist
couldn’t get it typed up in the day I had allotted for that. So I stayed up half the night to
finish it myself, and we got it in the mail on February 10.
Our answers provoked even more letters. A professional engineer from Atlanta com-
plained because the answers discouraged fully enclosed structures, and he had already finished
his design. The acting carillonneur of the Taft Memorial objected to the answer that discour-
aged tolling bells. An architect from Charlottesville, Virginia, objected to the requirement
that entrants be U.S. citizens, since a colleague—who had lived in the U.S. for 18 years—
couldn’t enter. A Vietnam veteran asked why there wasn’t a Vietnam veteran on the jury and
volunteered his services. “My apprehension lies in the fact that these designers, if none are
veterans, may lack the emotional involvement that was an integral part of that entire conflict.”
Once I overheard Kielich trying to answer a question over the phone. I grabbed the
receiver from her, told the caller that we couldn’t comment individually, and admonished
her not to do that again. I didn’t want any nicks to mar our perfect competition. One guy
called and asked what we were looking for. “A good design,” I answered.

R
Monday, February 16, was a holiday, and I badly needed a break. I got a spot on a ski
trip to Vermont over the long weekend, and Ron Slaby came up from Boston to join me.
He brought his banjo, and we had a group at the lodge singing late into the night. One of
my roommates turned out to be a Vietnam veteran. He said, “That was a long time ago. I
don’t like to think about it.”
I returned with a better attitude, and Schaet started work the next day. In his first staff
meeting he outlined a team approach, with setting goals and meeting deadlines. He stressed
the primacy of integrity, and laid out the roles that he foresaw for each staff member. He
saw himself as a “housekeeper,” fundraiser, and speaker, with a finger in all pies who could
make the staff more efficient. He also laid out a number of systems for paperwork, including
written “call reports” of all substantive meetings and phone calls, and a daily “read board”
for everyone to review the previous day’s correspondence and call reports. We were moving
to the new office on March 1, and while Kielich, Scruggs, Fauriol, and I were assigned to
private offices, Schaet himself chose to sit in the open common area.
I was impressed and felt relief; I was actually better off. I could now focus on the aspect
of the project that really fascinated me and not worry about irritations like paying bills and
running the office. By the middle of March, Schaet had compiled a list of 132 “irons in the
fire,” everything from organizing a Texas Rangers baseball game for promoting the memorial
to assessing whether we should buy or rent our typewriters.
Wheeler, always seeing the big picture, wrote to Edwin Meese, one of Reagan’s principal
counselors, to offer a briefing. Wheeler noted that Reagan had spoken on the war and its
veterans, and the administration likely had a strong interest in our work

R
Schaet solicited Spreiregen’s opinion as to why we wouldn’t replicate the Roosevelt memo-
rial fiasco. Spreiregen laid out a number of points in a memo: everyone remembers failure, not
15. The Largest Architectural Design Competition Ever 119

success; the FDR jury included family; the competitors weren’t informed about what the family
would accept; we’d covered the bases; we’d set out harmony with the site as a major requirement;
we’d made the jurors sensitive to the issues; and we’d coordinated with the federal agencies.
One of Grace’s employees served as the gatekeeper for receiving the entries, the first
of which arrived at the warehouse in mid–March. Approaching the end of the month, four-
foot tall stacks of entries stood on 30 wooden skids. On Monday, March 30, John Hinckley
shot President Reagan. The next day the gatekeeper and I kept a vigil on the loading dock
until after midnight to accommodate the inevitable last-minute deliveries, for which I
stopped the clock. People drove from hundreds of miles away, including a carload of stu-
dents from Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, a 280-mile jaunt. At 11:55 p.m. a young woman
kneeled on the asphalt to write her return address on the container. In the next day or two
a half dozen more entries came in, which we labeled as “late.”
To begin the processing, two volunteers and I entered a number next to the return
address on each shipping container. The entries numbered 1,421. Most utilized the standard
foam core panels, but one submitted a plaster lump resembling a Tower of Babel. One wise
guy submitted his on a thick sheet of Plexiglas that weighed about 40 pounds. The PLP
workers then unwrapped the designs, cut off the return addresses, and entered the numbers
from the wrappers onto the faces of the panels. Finally they photographed each entry.
From the return addresses we made a list of the entrants, cross-referencing it to the
list of registrants. I wrote to the entrants to acknowledge receipt of their designs, and to
the non-entrants, asking each to contact me immediately by phone if he or she actually
had sent a design. I received calls from five agitated aspirants from around the country and
went through a tense weekend before I could get back into the warehouse and verify that
we indeed had their designs. While admonishing him to watch his language, I dissuaded
one guy from flying in from California. I also sent letters to the one or two entrants whose
names didn’t appear on the registration list. Spreiregen and I decided that if someone had
used a valid delivery method, and the entry arrived late through no fault of his own, we
would put it to the jury. I wrote to the latecomers saying that if our late entry policy applied
to them, they should send me documentation.
My letter to the entrants invited them to send $10 and a return address label if they
wanted their panels returned. I also invited them to a reception at the hangar at Andrews
on May 9. I concluded, “As the design entries have been unwrapped and processed, the
tremendous amount of effort which you and the other entrants have expended on this
competition has become evident. We are extremely moved and gratified, especially since
we all know that only a small percentage of entrants will receive awards.”
We next trucked the numbered entry panels to Hangar #3 at Andrews Air Force Base,
which was under the control of the elite squadron that maintained Air Force One. We had
the use of the back half of the 250’ by 300’ space, while a transport plane continued to be
housed in front. PLP had set up the dozens of rows of horizontal pipes on stanchions, and
began hanging the entry panels. The Air Force, however, still had to open and close the
huge doors at the other end to bring the plane in and out. Inevitably, the opening caused
a rush of wind that blew over broad sections of our display. I instructed PLP to run wires
across the tops of the stanchions and anchor them at each end, but they couldn’t quite get
it down and we had more blow-downs. The squadron commander finally took pity on us
and ordered that the doors not be opened any more.
120 Creating the Vietnam Veterans Memorial

Display of 1,421 design entries in Vietnam Veterans Memorial Design Competition at Hangar #3,
Andrews Air Force Base, Maryland, April 1981 (Robert Doubek).

In those years, Andrews was open to the public, and I envisioned threats to the display
from entrants, antiwar types, and the press attempting to get an advance look. I therefore
hired the enlisted men in the squadron to be night watchmen, which they were pleased to
do for $4 an hour. The hangar also housed a huge population of pigeons, whose droppings
were beginning to show up on the design panels. The squadron commander therefore pro-
posed that I buy him a pellet gun so the men could shoot the birds. I did, and dead and
dying birds soon littered the floor.
When the design panels all were hung, I finally took the time to look at them and
experienced a sinking feeling. Most of them were junk—a variety of towers, structures,
heroic soldiers, abstract sculptures, and meaningless geometrical patterns. Some of the
concepts, like huge American flags spread on the ground, would have meaning to someone
in a helicopter, but be unfathomable to visitors on the ground. Jury chairman Grady Clay
later described the mélange:
The entries included every imaginable form and type of “memorial,” from a building-sized military
helmet to gaunt groups of soldiers looking skyward for a helicopter. There were many variations
on the Fallen Comrade theme, and a fascinating variety of memorial glades, walls, mounds, hills,
mazes, groves and earthen enclosures, as well as a host of geometric arrangement—open circles,
closed circles, broken circles, obelisks—and variegated symbols such as eternal flames, broken
columns, a giant pair of combat boots, a massive ceramic tile American flag, and a permanently
maintained dovecote with fluttering doves of peace [Landscape Architecture, March 1982, “Viet-
nam’s Aftermath: Sniping at the Memorial”].
15. The Largest Architectural Design Competition Ever 121

By and large the entrants had ignored the guidance in the design program and Q&A
document and simply proposed their own gut sense of what the memorial should be. It
also appeared that our hopes for collaboration among the various disciplines were mis-
placed. Statues and buildings stood by themselves, and garden designs lacked any mean-
ingful symbols or foci. Yet I had believed in the competition process and still hoped that
at least one design might work—one needle in the haystack.
The jury week kicked off with a dinner on Sunday evening, April 26, at the Four Sea-
sons Hotel in Georgetown. Most of the jurors brought their spouses, and I had invited all
of the key volunteers and staff as well as their spouses. A total of about 40 people sat at
four round tables. Earlier in the week, Warner’s office informed us that he had opted out
of a cast party with his spouse in order to attend our dinner. Warner also wanted to see
the designs at the hangar that afternoon.
I rang the doorbell at Warner’s house on Dumbarton Street in mid-afternoon. Warner,
wearing a shirt and slacks, came out, and I motioned to my car parked at the curb. But
upon glimpsing my ancient yellow Opel contraption, Warner offered that he had a very
nice car in his garage that we could use, but that I’d have to drive. “Yes, sir,” was the only
possible answer, and we climbed into his late-model Chrysler Imperial.
Walking through the rows of designs, Warner remained quiet. Clearly he, like I, was
not impressed. On our way back to Washington, he asked what I thought of the mishmash.
I attempted a positive spin and assured him of my faith that something good lurked in
there. He suggested involving the American Battle Monument Commission, and I avoided
admitting that I perceived the ABMC as the enemy. At any rate, we agreed that it probably
was too late. When I told Spreiregen about Warner’s visit, he admonished me, calling it a
“big mistake.” I saw his point, but I couldn’t have refused Warner’s request.
As the dinner MC, I started by introducing everyone in the room, forgetting only the
name of Grady Clay’s spouse. The mood was positive and upbeat. Most notably, Harry
Weese got a little tipsy and attempted to drink his chocolate mousse, which was served in
a wine glass.
The final item on the agenda was the formal “charge” of the jury, which I delivered.
Spreiregen had prepared the original document, which I revised. The document charged
the jury to select a design which met a list of requirements. These included no political
statement, the inscription of the 57,692 names, harmony with the site, reflectiveness and
contemplativeness in character, and buildable for $3.0 million. These requirements had
been set out in the design program, from which all competitors worked. A problem was
we also had criteria that hadn’t been in the design program. Some were just common sense,
i.e., the memorial had to be durable without huge maintenance and approvable by the fed-
eral review agencies. Others, however, had the potential of changing the rules. We told
them to select a design that was “most appropriate to recognize and honor the memory of
those … who died…, those who were wounded and all those who served.” And we con-
cluded with: “The emphasis is to be on remembering those who died.” This statement
hadn’t been in the program. We also included: “A design of the highest artistic merit,” “a
memorial with a suitable ‘presence,’” and “Neither too commanding or too deferential. The
memorial should take its proper place in the historic continuity of our national art.” My
sense after these many years is that the formal “charge” of the jury was a mistake, since it
had the potential of confusing the standards for the judging. In addition, Spreiregen on
122 Creating the Vietnam Veterans Memorial

Monday handed out his original draft to the jurors, which instructed against “military”
content. Although I had taken this out, the draft somehow got into the hands of the press,
and later we were criticized for that point.
Anticipating the volume of entries, we had proposed to the jury that in advance of the
judging, Spreiregen do a preliminary sifting of designs, by dividing them into four cate-
gories: (1) disqualified for a clear breach of the rules, (2) of very poor quality—not a serious
contender, (3) a possible contender, and (4) an outstanding design. This would make the
procedure more workable, but out of fairness, we insisted that they still each view all designs,
to confirm Spreiregen’s judgment. They had agreed.
The jury spent the first day and a half in the hangar viewing each design individually.
Then as a group they vetted those they considered worthy of a second look. By the end of
the second day they had pared the pool to 232 and to 39 by the end of the third. Those
entering the hangar were limited to the jury, Spreiregen, the PLP people rearranging the
display, the watchmen, and me.
On Thursday, the evening before the jury’s report, Spreiregen asked me to see him.
“We have a brilliant design, but it is hard to understand,” he explained. Because the concept
was difficult to photograph as drawn, we would need to build a model.

R
In addition to the competition itself, I tended to all the ancillary activities. With Edel-
man I planned the press conference on May 6 to announce the winner, to be held in the
AIA’s board room. Later the same day we would hold a reception at the Senate; I also had
to set up for the Armed Forces Day display at Andrews on Saturday, May 9.
Spreiregen and I had already spent a good amount of time trying to find a venue for
a public exhibit of about 50 of the best designs. Our first choice, the new National Building
Museum in the Pension Building, hadn’t worked, but the American Institute of Architects
Foundation proposed opening the design exhibition on November 11 at the historic Octagon
House. There in 1814 President James Madison had resided while the British burned the
White House. Our cost would be $5,000 or less; I submitted a funding proposal to the
NEA.
Sometime in March two visitors from Baltimore, a competition entrant and a film-
maker, suggested producing a documentary film about the design competition. I told them
that VVMF couldn’t fund it, so the filmmaker recruited a family friend to help him raise
the money. The friend, Karen Bigelow, came to our office for the first time on March 30,
and our meeting would change my life. Bigelow, unemployed at the time, arranged with
Fauriol to work as a volunteer to raise funds both for the film and the memorial. She was
very attractive, and after a week or two, I summoned the nerve to ask her out. She declined,
saying it was her mother’s birthday. I thought this to be a convenient brushoff, so I didn’t
try again.
Also in March came a letter from a Vietnam veteran in New York who wanted to
submit his design for a “solar” memorial and claimed to be unaware of the deadline for
registrations in the competition. He had visited me in Washington in early 1980. His busi-
ness card represented him as the manager of a veterans’ theater company, and he sported
the standard uniform, jungle fatigues, for the role of a Vietnam veteran. He had casually
mentioned that it was his group that took over the top of the Washington Monument the
15. The Largest Architectural Design Competition Ever 123

previous Veterans Day, an act widely reported by the media—instead of our positive news
of the introduction of the memorial’s legislation. As per the competition rules, Spreiregen
denied his request to enter, citing our efforts to announce the competition, including to
the Times. The actor appealed to the Board, which on my recommendation affirmed the
denial. He phoned to tell me that my heart wasn’t in the “right place.” We would hear from
him again.

R
The first months of 1981 had brought some good press. Scruggs got a nice letter pub-
lished in the Washington Star, recapping our progress but lamenting that 90 percent of the
people in the country didn’t know about the project. He presciently added, “Eventually we
will get our breaks from the networks….” They’d been waiting to see what the memorial
would look like; that was to happen.
In late January the Baltimore Sun’s Fraser Smith interviewed Scruggs, Jayne, and me
and did a half page article, “Drive for Viet war memorial is an uphill fight.” Smith detailed
the hoops we were jumping through and said we were “taking it all very professionally….”
I was quoted, “We are not medieval popes with money for public monuments. We are not
Mrs. Astor deciding she wants a summer home in Newport.” Smith concluded by quoting
a letter from an Indianapolis physician who had lost his son: “The Vietnam veteran simply
did his duty as an integral part of his country—a role that was escaped by many of his con-
temporaries and avoided by many…. Thus, many are uncomfortable and seek to avoid the
fact of the Vietnam veteran’s service and sacrifice.” The Post also had a story, “An Unpopular
War, A Lasting Memorial,” with a large photo of Scruggs, VA Director Cleland in his wheel-
chair, and me at the memorial site.
Some senators and congressmen were doing radio spots for us, and Senator Jeremiah
Denton’s office helped coordinate a Legion event at Cypress Gardens in Florida. Senator
Jim McClure agreed to write to the presidents of Texaco and Mobil.

R
As of January 1981 the priorities in fundraising were to increase the intensity of the
direct-mail campaign and complete the overall campaign plan. CMCA presented a budget
to mail 650,000 pieces in March at a cost of $113,939. They were preparing to drop one mil-
lion pieces in April and May of a new letter signed by Vietnam veteran and football star
Rocky Bleier. The Legion at its expense would solicit all of its 16,000 local posts, collect all
the donations, and present the gift to VVMF as a total amount.
Scruggs joined the staff on February 1 and immediately achieved a major fundraising
coup. He had cultivated Lloyd Unsell, the president of the Independent Petroleum Asso-
ciation of America, who became a fervent believer in the cause. His initiative brought the
first major corporate contribution. The Sun Co. (Sunoco) gave $35,241—or $1 for each of
its employees. Sunoco announced the gift at a luncheon for oil and gas company represen-
tatives, where Unsell urged them to sponsor the memorial instead of obscure British dramas
on public television. Unsell also invited Scruggs to speak at IPA’s annual meeting in San
Francisco in May.
Scruggs and Radez met with IBM in New York in mid–February to solicit a major gift
tied to the costs of the design competition. Radez had proposed kicking off the corporate
124 Creating the Vietnam Veterans Memorial

campaign with a prestige corporation that had no involvement with the war. Fauriol put
together set of detailed talking points, and I laid out a budget of $250,000. The IBM people
took a “know nothing” stance, asking questions like what if the competition failed; what
if we couldn’t raise the funds; how were we different from the FDR memorial; what if the
CFA rejected the winning design; why weren’t any union leaders affiliated with the organ-
ization; and finally why us (IBM)?
In late March, Fauriol made a proposal to hire a second person for fundraising; all the
things needing to be done couldn’t wait for a volunteer. A country radio station, WPKX
(KX Country Radio), agreed to hold a radiothon when we announced the winner of the
design competition. Also, Cyrus Vance, Secretary of State under President Carter until
1980, agreed to help raise money.
Semple in early April completed the case statement and fundraising plan. The 24-page
document detailed the VVMF leadership, history, and mission, as well as the activities
involved in building the memorial. It discussed our competition for funds and the strengths
and weaknesses of the organization. It also outlined compelling arguments for supporting
the project—in my opinion an excellent piece of work. The plan succinctly articulated our
mission: build a national Vietnam Veterans Memorial, with the corollary goals of memo-
rializing the dead, honoring the veterans, and fostering reconciliation between the elements
of the society that were divided over the war. The “external constituencies” were large,
medium, and small corporations; foundations; government; veterans’ organizations; com-
munity organizations; and individuals. He set an overall income goal of $7,000,000, with
$3,500,000 coming from corporations and $1,500,000 from direct mail. The budget for
construction was set at $5,500,000.
Semple also discussed political (return of the Iran hostages), economic (end of 1980
recession), and social factors (a divided generation): “The memorial on the mall provides
a symbol for affirming the integrity of the service of the men who went, served, and gave
their lives. It affirms the integrity of the service of the Vietnam veterans who are still alive.
It is thus a symbol expressing a consensus that the Vietnam veteran is respected and has
self-respect. It is also a symbol of a continuing reconciliation over the divisions caused by
the Vietnam War.”
The plan called for regional vice-chairmen and industry chairmen (banking/finance,
oil, chemicals/pharmaceuticals, food/tobacco/beverage, etc.), as well as an overall chairman.
Candidates for the Corporate Advisory Board included the chairmen of General Electric,
Atlantic Richfield, Exxon, Mobil Oil, General Motors, PepsiCo, and United Technologies.
Semple had earlier proposed the idea of a “campaign cabinet,” which the Board had rejected
as an infringement on its own power.
At the meeting the Board approved hiring an administrative assistant and a deputy
campaign director. The planning for the campaign boosted the competence of the entire
organization. Fauriol had previously outlined all fundraising activities and functions among
staff, the direct-mail firm, the major-gifts counsel, and the volunteer fundraising committee,
and created job descriptions for the staff.
One day in mid–March I returned from a meeting, and Fauriol mentioned that Scruggs
had gotten Ross Perot to fund the design competition. Rather than feeling elated about
such a large gift, I saw a flashing yellow light. In fact, the competition per se did not need
funding. We had created the budget for IBM only because some companies liked to fund
15. The Largest Architectural Design Competition Ever 125

specific projects, and by the end of March we had $819,906 already invested and available.
Moreover, I perceived any involvement by Perot as dicey, based on his longstanding interest
in such a project and his attempt to have President Carter mention him at the signing of
the legislation. Scruggs agreed to provide Perot with an accounting of all funds expended
on the competition through its completion. His thank-you letter closed with, “[Y]ou are
indeed a true patriot.” I don’t know what was said in their conversation, but according to
his future statements, Perot had taken away the false notion that we couldn’t hold the com-
petition without his money.
In a letter in mid–April, Scruggs updated Perot and asked him to speak at our Memo-
rial Day service on May 25. He also asked him to co-host a late June fundraising luncheon
in Dallas. A $160,000 check from the Perot Fund of the Dallas Community Chest Trust
Fund came at the end of April.
In late April the Legion launched its fundraising drive with a letter to all 16,000 Legion
posts urging their total support. The Legion also put out a 30-second radio ad. Our total
direct mail income for February and March was $377,034 from 16,844 donors. Also as of
March 31, we had received $195,460 in corporate gifts from 77 companies. Members of
Lloyd Unsell’s IPA contributed $3,450.
16

“What the hell is that?”

We assembled in Hangar #3 at 1:00 p.m. on Friday, May 1, 1981. Using the pipes and
drapes, Spreiregen had set up a large “room” within the hangar with the winning and
runner-up designs hanging before us. The first-, second-, and third-place panels, in the
center, were covered. There were a total of 27 people: the directors, the staff, the jury, some
spouses, and the PLP workers. To match the number of jurors, I had chosen a panel of
eight of us to receive the report: Wheeler, Mayo, Frank, Scruggs, Schaet, Doubek, Mosley,
and Woods, reflecting our chain of command for the competition.
After a lunch of sandwiches, Spreiregen, standing front and center, called the meeting
to order at 2:10 p.m. The jurors sat on director’s chairs in an arc on his left side. The eight
of us sat in an equivalent arc to the right. Everyone else stood or sat behind us.
Spreiregen announced that the jury had reached a unanimous decision at 4:30 p.m.
the previous day, and that he believed that the chosen design would take its place among
the finest memorials ever seen. It was a magnificent idea for a magnificent design if the
public could be shown its merits. He introduced jury chairman Grady Clay, who said that
it had been an exciting experience for the jury. As appropriate for a journalist, Gray had
taken notes of the comments made by the jurors during the process, which he read aloud.
First came their comments about a memorial per se:
“A minimalist work could be evocative here. Everyone sees what he is prepared to see in
minimalist architecture.”
“Such a memorial must look both at death and look forward to life; it has to have something
of both.”
“This location is so important---90 percent of the memorial is already ‘done’ so that any
new presence here should be contrapuntal and modest.”
Clay then read remarks about the winning design, Number 1026:
“That geometry is totally eloquent. This is the evocation that responds to the whole.”
“It never looks really black. You get reflections.”
“It’s a lot of something without being much of anything.”
“A confused age needs a simple answer.”
“This is a statement of quiet reverence. The main thought here is reconciliation.”
“We don’t know how symbolism will work on millions of people and we have to take our
chances here….”
“The greatest value over time is to get beyond the superficial. This (design) suggests intrinsic
values.”
“This is the first memorial to use nature without dominating the site. It is an identity all its
own.”
“It is almost an outdoor chapel … will work a form of spirituality”
“We have chosen a profound understatement and avoided superficiality.”

126
16. “What the hell is that?” 127

The design competition jury presenting its decisions at Hangar #3, Andrews Air Force Base, Mary-
land, on May 1, 1981: (left to right) professional advisor Paul Spreiregen, journalist Grady Clay,
sculptor Richard Hunt, architect Harry Weese, landscape architect Hideo Sasaki, architect Pietro
Belluschi, landscape architect Garrett Eckbo, sculptor James Rosati, and sculptor Costantino Nivola
(Robert Doubek).

Spreiregen then unveiled the first-, second-, and third-place designs. The second-place
design consisted of two sets of 10' high walls: each set had two walls meeting at a 90-degree
angle. The apexes of the two sets faced one another, and a tremendous piece of abstract
sculpture formed a bridge between the sets. I personally couldn’t see any merit in this
one. The third-place design consisted of a low wall shaped like a giant horseshoe, enclosing
an open lawn. At the end of each wall, facing one another across the opening, were figurative
statues of soldiers in active poses. If someone had asked me to predict what the design
would be, I would have described something like this. One juror commented that he
saw the second-place design as appropriate for a World War I monument and the third-
place design as a fitting one for World War II. The second-place design was authored by
architects Marvin Krosinsky and Victor Ochakovsky of Long Island, New York, who hap-
pened to be Russian immigrants. The one placing third was submitted by Joe Brown,
Sheila Brady, Douglas Hays, and Michael Vergason of EDAW, along with sculptor Frederick
Hart.
Spreiregen next read the jury’s formal report. They found “Entry Number 1026 the
finest and most appropriate of the 1420 entries submitted,” and recommended it be built
on the site:
Of all the proposals submitted, this most clearly meets the spirit and formal requirements of
the program. It is contemplative and reflective. It is superbly harmonious with its site, and yet
frees the visitors from the noise and traffic of the surrounding city. Its open nature will encour-
128 Creating the Vietnam Veterans Memorial

age access in all occasions, at all hours, without barriers. Its siting and materials are simple
and forthright.
This memorial with its wall of names, becomes a place of quiet reflection, and a tribute to
those who served their nation in difficult times. All who come here can find it a place of healing.
This will be a quiet memorial, one that achieves an excellent relationship with both the Lincoln
Memorial and Washington Monument, and relates the visitor to them. It is uniquely horizontal,
entering the earth rather than piercing the sky.
This is very much a memorial of our own times, one that could not have been achieved in
another time and place. The designer has created an eloquent place where the simple meeting
of earth, sky and remembered names contain messages for all who will know this place.

The designer’s statement was longer and quite eloquent:


Walking through this park—the memorial appears as a rift in the earth—a long, polished black
stone wall, emerging from and receding into the earth…. These names, seemingly infinite in
number, convey the sense of overwhelming numbers, while unifying those individuals into a
whole. For this memorial is meant not as a monument to the individual, but rather as a memo-
rial to the men and women who died during the war as a whole.
The memorial is composed not as an unchanging monument, but as a moving composition,
to be understood as we move into and out of it; the passage itself is gradual, the descent to the
origin slow, but it is at the origin that the meaning of this memorial is to be fully understood.

The statement described that the names would be in chronological order and how the walls’
relationship to the Washington Monument and Lincoln Memorial would bring the memo-
rial into historical context.
We the living are brought to a concrete realization of these deaths.
The actual area is wide and shallow, allowing for a sense of privacy, and the sunlight from
the memorial’s southern exposure, along with the grassy park surrounding and within its wall,
contribute to the serenity of the area. Thus this memorial is for those who have died, and for
us to remember them.

The statement concluded by specifying the dimensions of the walls (200 feet long and 10
feet tall at the vertex) and the font and size of the letters, i.e., Trajan, ¾" high.
In addition to the statement, the winning submittal consisted of two minimalist pastel
sketches in just three colors: black for the memorial walls, green for the lawns, and blue
for the sky. The third sketch included some white, showing the Washington Monument.
Along with the sketches there were four simple line drawings in pencil on white paper,
intended to meet the requirements for a plan, a cross section, and an elevation. In my forays
in and out of the hangar during the previous week I couldn’t help but encounter this thing
as it made its way into the circle of the chosen. Never had I attempted to visualize what it
could look like. The sketches and drawings were very amateurish, and the black shapes
said nothing to me. “What the hell is that?” I had thought.
Spreiregen folded his arms and asked for questions. The ball was in our court, but I
wasn’t the one to hit it. I had advocated for—and directed—the competition, which made
me the vendor, not the customer. It would be self-serving for me to stir the pot here. For-
tunately, Wheeler stepped up and broke the ice. He said that in a thousand years he’d never
have thought of a design that went down and exclaimed, “It’s a work of genius.” We all
immediately applauded. Wheeler then explained that we faced an “information manage-
ment” problem, i.e., how would we convey this to the public, especially the Vietnam vet-
erans. The designer’s crude sketches made that difficult.
16. “What the hell is that?” 129

I had also applauded, but I wasn’t convinced. As a lawyer by background, I perceived


that the jury had made a mistake. I spoke up, saying that the rules required a design to
honor all who served and they had given us—as per the designer’s statement—a design
honoring only the dead. Weese made the first response, which I found somewhat uncertain:
“It can be for the living.” He pointed out that the statement said that it was for the living
as well. For him the important point was not to emphasize death but to give hope for life
itself, and the design had a very beautiful meditative and spiritual aspect about it. Eckbo
pointed out that the memorial was not just a wall, but the park around it, for people to
gather. Sasaki saw the widespread arms of the walls embracing everyone. Spreiregen asserted
that it was for those who lived, because of its relationship to Lincoln Memorial and Wash-
ington Monument.
I perceived that they and I were talking past each other, but their statement described
the design as “a tribute to those who served their nation in difficult times.” It was a unan-
imous decision by the best and the brightest of American design, and I had no credentials.
Moreover, John Woods had enthusiastically affirmed the choice, and as a disabled combat
veteran, he had special status in my eyes. I didn’t press my objections any further.
Fauriol expressed concern about the design’s impact on fundraising, i.e., how could
we explain it to parents and veterans? The jurors assured us, however, that the merits of
the design could be explained to more traditional elements of society if done properly.
Scruggs had remained silent through the presentation and discussion, but I wanted
to get him on record, so I asked his opinion. “I like it,” he said in a matter-of-fact tone,
adding that it was an appropriate way to honor the war dead, a buildable structure, and
would be easy to raise money for. Someone asked my opinion, and I said I agreed with
Scruggs.
By this time much of the initial tension had dissipated, and the jurors relaxed. Sasaki
emphasized that the design was still in the concept stage, and many issues would have to
be addressed in a process of design refinement. The issues included the layout of the let-
tering, drainage of the sunken area, and safety—so people didn’t fall over the edge of the
wall. Weese added that there should of course be an inscription to explain the purpose of
the memorial and whom it honored.
Our discussion shifted to the most effective way to present the design to the public
and avoid a damaging initial reaction by some influential person. Wheeler emphasized the
importance of finding the right language to set the proper tone. The jurors recommended
that we contact the winner immediately to prepare for the press conference and that we
make a model to photograph and show to the press. Weese volunteered the Washington
office of his firm to do the model and recommended Spreiregen as a good resource to get
the design through the approval process.
It was time to find out the designer’s identity, so Spreiregen opened the sealed envelope
glued to the back of one of the panels. The name on the card was Maya Ying Lin, whom
we assumed was a woman, and the occupation was “architecture student.” Born on October
5, 1959, she was just 21 years old. Wheeler identified the address as Yale University student
housing in New Haven, Connecticut. I volunteered that she probably didn’t even remember
the Vietnam War.
As the final act of the day, the Board adopted a resolution to accept the selections
made by the jury in the competition for first, second, and third place, as well as the 15 hon-
130 Creating the Vietnam Veterans Memorial

orable mentions. Before we left the hangar, Wheeler stressed that it was important how we
notified Lin. He thought it best that we notify her in person and bring her to Washington
immediately. His final admonition was that no one should disclose the outcome of the
competition before the press conference.
17

Unveiling and Reaction

Back at the office we deliberated how to notify Lin. Because she was a student, we
decided to send a delegation: Schaet, because he was the executive vice-president; Fauriol,
because she was a woman; and Kielich, because she was a mother. I didn’t dawn on us that
mothers were usually women too. Schaet, Fauriol, and Kielich flew up to New Haven on
Friday evening. They had phoned Lin to announce their coming, but didn’t disclose the
purpose of the visit. They found Lin and her roommate in their dormitory room, and
Schaet went through a long monologue about the jury and its deliberations. Finally he said,
“And the winner was Maya Lin.” She was taken aback after the long, deliberate buildup.
They spent Saturday waiting for Lin to make arrangements to miss class, and on Sunday
the whole crew, including Lin’s roommate, arrived at the VVMF offices in early afternoon.
Scruggs, Wheeler, Spreiregen, and I were waiting, along with George Tanber of our PR
firm. Lin was small, but stood straight and gave the appearance of dignity and stature. She
wore a long dress and a Frank Lloyd Wright porkpie hat, with a wide flat rim. The meeting,
though pleasant, felt anticlimactic to me. I had anticipated a messiah emerging from the
mists of competitionland. But she didn’t have a lot to say and didn’t seem to know or care
much about us. I felt like I had let a genie out of the bottle only to have the genie chill out.
We sat around and got acquainted. Wheeler, a fellow Yalie, acted as MC. Getting down
to business, we discussed the myriad of arrangements leading up to the press conference
and the other activities scheduled for Wednesday, May 6, 1981. After two years of buildup,
we finally were going to announce the design of the memorial, and—we hoped—get the
national news that would boost both our credibility and fundraising. Edelman had to pre-
pare press releases and the other materials for the press kits. Spreiregen, Scruggs, and I
would have brief statements, and then Lin would talk and answer questions. Everything
had to be scripted; we also had to prepare answers to the obvious questions, like what
would keep people from falling over the edge. The AIA board room had to be set up, with
the first-, second-, and third-place designs, along with the fifteen honorable mention entries,
displayed. Because the design was hard to visualize from two-dimensional drawings, a
model had to be made. Since Lin was a student and still dependent on her parents, she
wanted them to be present. Consequently, we had to make hotel and other reservations,
and pick up the tab for same.
Mid-morning on Monday, Lin showed up at our office with Post architecture critic
Wolf Von Eckhardt and a woman of his age. Von Eckhardt had somehow already made
contact with Lin, perhaps through a contact at Yale. The woman turned out to be none
other than “Miss Manners” herself. Lin didn’t have a dress to wear to the press conference,
so Von Eckhardt had recruited his Post colleague Judith Martin, who wrote the nationally

131
132 Creating the Vietnam Veterans Memorial

syndicated column that advised on fine points and dispensed witty wisdom, e.g., “You do
not have to do everything disagreeable that you have a right to do.” Martin, as gracious as
I expected Miss Manners to be, departed with Lin to Garfinkel’s department store. Lin also
lacked a pair of suitable shoes, so Fauriol later took her out for those as well, which we also
paid for.
Early that day the phone started ringing with calls from competitors all over the coun-
try to ask whether they should come to Washington, i.e., whether they had won. I tried to
be diplomatic: “We will let you know if we need you.” Joe Brown sounded particularly agi-
tated, wanting to know whether he should be preparing anything. I apologized, but I couldn’t
tell him anything, as per Wheeler’s warning.
Scruggs, on the other hand, had called Perot, and it obviously didn’t go well. Trying
to describe the design verbally was hard for anyone. Scruggs followed up with a letter after
the press conference and sent some of the photos of the model: “It truly is a work of art….”
He would call Perot in a while to see how he felt. Perot called Scruggs on May 13 with the
message that the design was great for the 57,000 who died, but not for the two million who
came home. He wouldn’t come to D.C. for Memorial Day, and if the press asked, he’d tell
them he didn’t like it. But otherwise he wouldn’t volunteer that he didn’t like it. Scruggs
sent the plaque that Perot otherwise would have received.
Spreiregen the same day responded to the letter regarding the lack of a Vietnam veteran
on the jury. He wrote that we believed that no one veteran’s experience could be represen-
tative of the total experience of all veterans and their families. Moreover, the ability to
select a proper memorial involved broad knowledge and experience. As a last point he
emphasized the emotional commitment of the jurors, each of whom had expressed his
compassion for the Vietnam veteran. To conclude, we wanted veterans to compete, rather
than to judge the work of other veterans.
We scheduled the press conference for 10:30 a.m. so the story could be on the evening
news. A dozen or so TV video cameras on tripods ranged about the packed room. The
huge table had a hole in the middle, so people had climbed under in order to get positions
front and center. As I entered I saw Joe Brown and congratulated him on getting 3rd prize.
He ran off to find a pay phone. My parents had flown in the night before and stood at the
back of the room. Lin’s parents had come in from Ohio, and her brother, a poet by profes-
sion, from New York.
Tanber and Edelman had prepared detailed press packets, with backgrounders on
VVMF, me, Scruggs, and past competitions. He had facts and figures: the design submittals
would cover half a football field; the competitors spent over $150,000 on costs; and with
an estimated two weeks spent on each design, the competition represented 80 years’ worth
of work, worth $2.0 million. We had prepared answers for nasty questions, i.e., why won’t
this suffer the same fate as the FDR memorial? A: We have the support of political leaders
and have worked closely with federal approval agencies. Some competitions are successful,
such as the one for the Gateway Arch in St. Louis. Why wasn’t there a Vietnam veteran or
next-of-kin on the jury? A: The depth of feeling of a veteran was unique, but “the question
of choosing a design was one not of feeling but the artistic interpretation of feeling—a
matter of the highest and most experienced esthetic discernment.” We wanted veterans to
compete rather than judge.
As MC I welcomed everyone, and Scruggs talked about the background of VVMF.
17. Unveiling and Reaction 133

Spreiregen then described the competition, and Scruggs announced the winner. Lin stepped
into the center, and she and Scruggs pulled the covering off the model on the table in front
of them. Flashbulbs went off, and I got into the picture on the other side of Lin.
The most memorable question from the floor had to do with her race. One reporter,
pointing out that she was “an Oriental person” and that many Orientals died in the war,
asked how she felt about it. She replied that it didn’t matter. After the presentation ended,
reporters surrounded her to get individual interviews. Most notably, she admitted to know-
ing little about the Vietnam War.
As I stood with Schaet, we were approached by Post reporter Henry Allen. Noncha-
lantly he said, “Mr. Doubek, I see that Vietnam is not mentioned on the memorial.” I was
dumbfounded. The memorial would extend over 400 feet and be ten feet high. Did it need
a big sign, like a McDonald’s, for people to know what it was? I blurted, “Is George Wash-
ington’s name on the Washington monument? You would have to be very oblivious to reality
to not know where they died.” Schaet, however, had perceived a different meaning in Allen’s
question, so he quickly added, “Of course there will be an inscription on the memorial.”
Yet, Allen had snagged his quote; it would haunt us for the next many months.
His story the next day was titled “Epitaph for Vietnam,” and obviously he wasn’t keen
on the outcome. He opened, “For the dead whom few wanted to remember after a war few
could forget, a woman who was 4 years old when the first bodies came home has designed
a national memorial to be built on the Mall.” He quoted Lin as saying that her design was
“too different, too strange,” and that “I wanted some sort of journey into the earth.” Then,

Jan Scruggs, Maya Lin and Robert Doubek at a press conference to announce the competition-
winning design, American Institute of Architects headquarters, Washington, D.C., May 6, 1981
(© Bettmann/CORBIS).
134 Creating the Vietnam Veterans Memorial

in a separate paragraph, he declared, “Her design does not mention the war itself, or the
Republic of South Vietnam; only the names of the dead.”
He quoted Spreiregen saying, “In a city of white memorials rising, this will be a dark
memorial receding,” and his comment that the jury “had decided on a minimalist design
because ‘people can bring to it whatever they want.’” And of course, he had my quote in
full, but “not mentioned” were Schaet’s assurances about the inscription.
I was a perfect target for Allen. He had been in combat as a Marine rifleman, while I
had slept on white sheets as a REMF Air Force officer—a totally opposite war experience.
Worse yet, I was a lawyer, presumably trying to promote myself by using the war. In later
years, Allen—who won a Pulitzer prize—wrote occasional articles debunking chicken hawks
and others who tried to inflate their Vietnam war records. He obviously saw me as one of
these. At any rate, he had to have heard Schaet’s comment, and we both had emphasized
that the design, still a concept, would go through a process of development and refinement.
This event taught me a crucial lesson: dealing with the press was playing with fire. They
knew we needed them for free publicity. That gave them bait to trip us up for the juicy
quote.

R
The day wasn’t over. We invited members of Congress to a reception at 5:00 p.m. in
the Dirksen Building. I had to set up for it, and my parents, always troopers, joined in. We
loaded the designs and the model into my Opel wagon, drove up to the Hill, carried them
in, and set them around the large hearing room. A half dozen Senators showed up, but we
kept the model of the winner covered up, since Spreiregen first would speak. Senator
Howard Metzenbaum, however, had to leave, and wanted to see what it looked like. I found
myself having to say “no” to a U.S. Senator, but offered to bring it to his office the following
day. I don’t recall much reaction to the design from the politicians one way or the other.
One notable attendee was Anna Chennault, the Chinese-born widow of World War II avi-
ation hero General Claire Chennault. A Republican politician in her own right, she came
to meet Lin.
Based on the turnout at the press conference, we had expected good coverage on the
national evening news. But again, we were foiled. An Air Force EC-135 aircraft had crashed
in northern Maryland that morning, with 21 deaths. That story dominated the TV evening
news, and the memorial wasn’t mentioned.
Despite the lack of TV coverage, the unveiling of the design made national news, with
photos in all major papers on May 7. The Los Angeles Times took both a racist and sexist
slant with its headline, “Chinese girl designs best U.S. vet memorial.” Lin was quoted: “I
wanted to describe a journey—a journey which would make you experience death.” The
Times framed it: “Student Wins War Memorial Contest.” The Courier-Journal of Louisville
did a long story about Grady Clay. In describing the jury’s presentation to us, Clay said,
“This was very touchy. We knew that the design would appear extraordinarily simple; so
simple that many people would not be able to appreciate the greatness of it.” Clay described
the design as “unique, memorable, moving, appropriate to the site, eloquent … a place out
of the wind, into the sun and a place of quiet, which a memorial should be.”
May 7 also brought angry phone calls from veterans who had expected a different
kind of design. One, who had been strongly affected by his war experiences, was particularly
17. Unveiling and Reaction 135

upset, alleging that very few Vietnam veterans knew about the open competition. He called
the design a “V-shaped hole in the ground” and a “big mistake.” He asserted that Vietnam
combat veterans had the right to make the decision on the design. He was particularly
enraged that the designer turned out to be a “braless 21-year-old Yale art student,” which
he characterized as “blasphemy.” I didn’t try to argue with the angry ones. I simply told
them that memorial would have an inscription and that we thought it would turn out to
be great. I let them vent.
We also heard the complaint that the memorial wouldn’t be accessible to the handi-
capped. As customary for architectural models, Weese’s office had used layers of fiberboard
to simulate the slope in front of the walls. Some thought that these layers depicted what
would be big steps in the finished product. I specifically briefed the staff of the Paralyzed
Veterans of America on this point.

R
Schaet, Scruggs, and Fauriol next focused on the KX Country Radio (WPKX) radio-
thon, beginning on Friday, May 8, while I prepared for the public’s viewing of the designs
at the Armed Forces Day open house at Andrews on Saturday. DeChant and some other
volunteers helped me to rehang the prize-winning designs and move the pipes and drapes
to set up a reception area, since 500 of the entrants had accepted our invitation to attend.
I had a large sign, “VIETNAM VETERANS MEMORIAL DESIGN COMPETION,” hung
on the outside of the hangar, and recruited VVMF insiders to serve as guides. Mayo notably
stepped up to the task.
In the hangar on Thursday, I encountered Tom Carhart, who got us the loan to do the
first large fundraising mailing. He later decided to enter the competition, so he severed all
contact with VVMF in order to do so. His design consisted of a statue of an officer holding
aloft the body of a dead soldier, as if to a hovering helicopter. The officer stood thigh-deep
in a rice paddy, shaped like a purple heart medal; the water’s surface rippled with the wash
from the rotor. He titled the design The Offering, and he had told Fauriol that he knew he
would win. I greeted him as he headed out, looking grim. “What do you think?” I asked.
“Aw, it should have been a statue,” was all he said.
Saturday brought beautiful weather. My parents and I got to the hangar by 8:30 a.m.,
and a good number of people came through. Lin’s design hung in the center behind a table
with the model, and she showed up sometime later in the morning. A lot of people wanted
to take her picture. I hung around the center area. My father was impressed with the mag-
nitude of the creativity: “Bob, do you know what you’ve done here?” Yet, the visitors who
had entered the competition weren’t necessarily pleased. An architect from New Jersey
wanted to know why Lin’s entry hadn’t been disqualified, as her drawings weren’t in the
required scale of 1" to 30'. I couldn’t answer, and he followed up with a letter: “You might
still salvage your self respect … by trying to understand … [my] philosophical insight …
on the judgmental error that your Directors let yourselves into with Pietro ‘B’’s (Belluschi)
arrogant nonsense.” He closed by asking for the name of the author of the “Purpose and
Philosophy,” who “seemed to know what might be appropriate.” I wrote back that I was the
author.
The day at Andrews ended with a crescendo. At about 4:30 I was standing in the center
aisle of the exhibit, at the far end of the hangar. The bright afternoon sun streamed through
136 Creating the Vietnam Veterans Memorial

an open door on the west side, opposite the runway. I had been concerned about the fragility
of the exhibit structure, and we had put up signs and verbally warned people not to touch
the hanging panels. Suddenly two boys, one chasing the other, ran in through the door,
and into the center aisle. I yelled at them, but the one being chased ran between two rows
and then right into one of the panels, knocking it up into the air. The second one followed
the first back out the door, but the next thing I saw was the entire 80-foot row of panels
falling over, scattering the designs on the floor. The next row of panels repeated the per-
formance, and so on—like a fence of dominoes—until virtually all the design panels in that
half of the exhibit were lying on the floor. I immediately envisioned injuries and lawsuits,
but fortunately it was late in the day, and no one had been in the area. Even more fortunately,
the press had departed, so no newspaper photos would haunt me. It would have been a
great image for those who considered the results of the competition to be a disaster. Simple
dumb luck saved me. On the bright side, we saved significant work in taking the exhibit
down. The next day, Sunday, I had energy for little other than to sit and stare out the
window while my parents cleaned my apartment.

R
While I was at Andrews, my colleagues were at Tysons Corner Shopping Center in
McLean, Virginia, where WPKX had set up a broadcast booth for the three-day radiothon,
starting at 3:00 p.m. on Friday and running through Sunday. The station took pledges both
over the phone and in person and had suspended its regular programming to play the top
100 Country Music Hits of All Time. Among the notables who came out to speak on the
air were columnist James Kilpatrick, Senator Warner, Virginia Lt. Governor and Vietnam
veteran Charles Robb, and Iran hostage Bruce Laingen. Howard Cosell, Willard Scott,
George Will, and the White House, as well as Senators Mathias, Denton, and Baker, had
sent in public service announcements and telegrams. By Monday morning some $260,000
had been pledged, a major boost to our construction fund. Of the pledges, 75 percent
($194,500) eventually were fulfilled.

R
The mail in subsequent weeks brought letters from competitors and veterans, mostly
critical of the result. An architect from California expounded that the design “has the
warmth and charm of an absidian [sic] dagger, and fits the meadow setting like a knife
wound scar…. [T]he American public has been misled by a coterie of nihilist aesthetes.”
A Vietnam veteran called it “a hole in the earth which suggests to me digging in and hiding
… it suggests to me the public’s perception; the pit.” A competitor and combat veteran
from Louisiana thought, “It is an absolute refusal to acknowledge and honor the surviving
veterans … the proposed memorial reflects the true situation of the Vietnam veteran—
bury the dead and ignore the needs of the living.” His own design was a statue of a solder
sitting slumped over with his rifle across his knees. He also quoted the statement in our
fundraising brochure that the memorial would include “sculpture symbolizing the experi-
ence of Americans who served in Vietnam.” I had feared that someone would pick up on
that.
An architect from Washington, D.C., saw the selection as an “extreme disservice to
the public, the veterans, and other competitors as well…. It was the Vet’s war, this is their
17. Unveiling and Reaction 137

monument and its selection should have been their choice.” His wife wrote to call it a “BOR-
ING AND DULL” monstrosity that failed to “give Americans something to be proud of.”
Even his mother-in-law chimed in: “Your choice was a joke and you ought to be ashamed
of yourselves.” An Army major said that it was “neither inspirational like the Washington
Monument, nor thought-provoking like the Iwo Jima Memorial … just a black wall that
expresses nothing.” He suggested using it as a backdrop and sent in a sketch of a huge piece
of broken bamboo sticking up with barbed wire twining around it.
Another veteran, who had gone to Andrews, opined that “it is much easier to spit into
a hole than it is to spit on a statue…. One can almost imagine Abbie Hoffman, David Stock-
man, Jimmy Carter, and Jane Fonda sitting on the selection committee and looking for a
design that best made a mockery of the memory of the 58,000 dead.”
An architect from California who had lost his brother in the war said that we had
“really messed up … [b]y not including significant participation of Vietnam Veterans (par-
ticularly combat veterans) in the design selection process.” He suggested having self-help
Vietnam veterans’ groups send representatives to judge the existing entries. His wife wrote,
“This practically shapeless, cold, black slab could never be conciliatory, much less inspire
contemplation, reflection, solace or comfort, as was the specified intent of the whole effort.”
One woman called, wanting to know how she ranked among the 1,421. A man phoned to
rant that couldn’t believe he didn’t win a prize, since he had met all the criteria.
By mid–May opinion pieces appeared in the press. The Washington Star had a favorable
editorial on May 11: “It will be a contemplative memorial, but there is a quality not assertive
but firmly declarative, in its representation…. There is pride, as well as reconciliation, in
the memorial.” An editorial in the Times stated, “The horizontal lines, the simple geometry
and the somber stone create a mood that is sober and eternal.” It also noted that “[n]owadays
… patriotism is a complicated matter…. But perhaps that is why the V-shaped, black granite
lines merging gently with the sloping earth make the winning design seem a lasting and
appropriate image of dignity and sadness. It conveys the only point about the war on which
people may agree: that those who died should be remembered.”
The architecture critics of the Post, the Times, and the Los Angeles Times loved it, while
the critic for the Chicago Tribune hated it. Von Eckardt in the Post wrote a long piece titled
“Of Heart & Mind—The Serene Grace of The Vietnam Memorial.” His view:
Lin’s design has been called “minimal art,” whatever that means. There is nothing minimal
about this concept. Nor is it abstract, in the sense of being apart from human experience. It is,
rather, a direct evocation of an emotional experience, which, one way or another, is what art
is all about.
Being unconventional—as unconventional as Stonehenge or the Eiffel Tower—the design
may not instantly be grasped. On some, its emotional impact—which stems from the setting,
the grass, the trees and monuments as much, or more, than from the memorial wall itself—
will take effect slowly, taking hold of the mind before the understanding quickens the heart.

Von Eckhardt quoted Lin as wanting “a place to be aware of death, what it is. I wanted just
something trying to be as honest as possible.” He quoted me as saying, “I was surprised”
by the selection.
The Times critic Paul Goldberger on June 6 had, “Vietnam War Memorial Captures
Anguish of a Decade of Doubt.” He wrote that the “design appears to be one of the most
subtle and sophisticated pieces of public architecture to have been proposed for Washington
138 Creating the Vietnam Veterans Memorial

in many years…. It is not haughty in the manner of so much of official Washington archi-
tecture; rather, it is discreet and quiet.” Yet, he went on to link the design with the contro-
versy over the war: “Much minimalism comes off merely as emptiness, but this design
seems able to capture all of the feelings of ambiguity and anguish that the Vietnam War
evoked in this nation.” He concluded: “[T]his will be a place in which nature and architec-
ture come into balance. The strength of the granite wall and the softness of the green lawn
will contrast so as to provide the contemplative setting that such a monument requires.”
The major dissent came from Paul Gapp of the Chicago Tribune, who in late June
checked in with “Clouds of doubt engulf Viet Nam War memorial.” Gapp was blunt: “I
don’t think the public will stand for it…. In other words, we are to memorialize 57,692 war
casualties with something resembling an erosion control project…. More than anything
else, this memorial competition (dominated in every respect by architects) underscores
the poverty of modern architecture and its detachment from public taste.”
The Post’s misrepresentation about the inscription had done damage. Two letters were
published on May 16, under the heading: “Inadequate Memorial.” A former Army company
commander commented on the alleged lack of an inscription: “Why can’t this be a living
memorial to honor adequately the dead as well as those who served and returned? Why
wasn’t there a Vietnam veteran on the jury that selected the design? … ‘The horror, the hor-
ror.’” A Navy commander wrote, “The sacrifice of … those who returned … should not be
concealed from the American public.” A few days later in Baltimore, Scruggs spoke to the
National Association of Concerned Veterans. About 40 veterans liked the design, but there
were two dissenters from Minnesota, who didn’t like it and questioned the $7 million cost.
The biggest lambast came from columnist Charles Krauthammer in the New Republic
on May 23: “Nothing but names…. Its purpose is to impress upon the visitor the sheer
human waste, the utter meaningless of it all…. To treat the Vietnam dead like the victims
of some monstrous traffic accident is more than a disservice to history; it is a disservice to
the memory of the 57,000. It is an act of arrogance for us to assign them the status of
victims, and nothing but victims.” He also perceived a political message: “The minimalist
design of this memorial was intended to reflect the moral ambiguity of the Viet Nam War.”
The Wall Street Journal picked up the inscription canard in its editorial on June 1,
“Remembering What?” While it would be “a powerful structure … there will be not one
mention on it of the word ‘Vietnam’ itself or the reasons for which over 50,000 Americans
died there.” Yet positive letters were also published. One appeared in the Washington Star:
“[I]ts symbolism seemed to speak to all humanity….” The next week the Star had two more
under the heading, “A Winning Design to Honor the Dead.”
The Chicago Tribune exhibited schizophrenia. On May 20, its front page carried a pos-
itive article, “Fund builds for memorial to Viet vets,” which quoted Lin as saying the she
didn’t intend to be critical of the war and described the design as “a natural sunken
amphitheater.” The story mentioned “Viet Nam veterans month” in June at Cypress Gardens
theme park in Florida, with $1 from each coupon sale going to VVMF. But the next day
the Tribune had an op-ed titled “America’s neglected war vets,” by Raymond Coffey, himself
a Vietnam veteran. “Nothing much seems to be going right for the Viet Nam veterans….
The memorial will not mention the war itself or Viet Nam…. It is as if the very memorial
itself is intended to bury and banish the whole Viet Nam experience.” Ironically, in the col-
umn adjacent to the positive article was a piece about the new U.S. Secretary of the Interior,
17. Unveiling and Reaction 139

James Watt. “Watt still ‘problem’ to environmentalists,” described his meeting with leaders
of conservation groups. Little did I know then that I too was fated for a close encounter
with the man.
In early June we heard from the nice lady in Peoria, Illinois. She was quitting. She had
tried to like the design but had received dozens of calls from veterans and former supporters
who hated it. Scruggs shrugged it off: “What the hell, she never raised any money anyway.”
Tad Foster, the author of the Vietnam Funny Book, reported that veterans thought the
memorial wouldn’t be identifiable.

R
At the expense of better priorities, we had to devote ourselves to damage control. The
Wall Street Journal published a letter from Scruggs on June 30, explaining that the design
shown at the press conference would go through a refinement process. “However, we can
assure you and your readers that the memorial will be clearly identified as the Vietnam
Veterans Memorial and will provide access for the handicapped.” The Tribune published
my letter on July 20: “Paul Gapp, your architecture critic, may not like the design for the
Vietnam Veterans Memorial, but he is incorrect in presuming that the American public
shares his opinion.” I cited the $257,000 from the radiothon in a single weekend. In August
the New Republic published Scruggs’s letter responding to Krauthammer’s “bus accident”
column in May, emphasizing that it would be clearly identified. Right below came
Krauthammer’s response to our response: “The memorial not only makes no political state-
ment about the war, it makes no statement at all.”
People wrote to their congressmen and senators. Senator Barry Goldwater wrote to
us that “the fact that the memorial does not indicate that it is to commemorate the Vietnam
War, has upset a lot of people.” Schaet responded that it would be fully identified, accessible,
safe, and dry. “Why would we propose a memorial design that says that we are ashamed?
… We sincerely believe … that the memorial … will be among the most beautiful and mag-
nificent in the Nation’s capital.”

R
I had followed up quickly to notify the winners, but unfortunately it took me three
weeks to get out a formal report to all the entrants. I expressed my “deep gratitude … for
your participation and sincere efforts in this competition…. The care, dedication and toil
that went into them was clearly evident.” I included the jury report, the list of winners,
Lin’s statement, Von Eckardt’s review, and a letter from Spreiregen, in which he thanked
them and solicited comments on the conduct of competition.
Spreiregen’s request and the opportunity to have their design sent back led to a new
spate of letters from competitors, about equally divided between strongly negative and
strongly positive:
“[T]he jury bombed out on this one.”
“[T]he same people who thrust ‘their’ opinions and values on us in the war years, who asked
us to fight, had again thrust their values on us … as to the definition of what the monument
to ‘our’ sacrifices should look like….”
“[L]et’s keep the 400' black wall as a wailing wall to be visited by all the disappointed veterans
to come and cry behind it for a lost cause.”
140 Creating the Vietnam Veterans Memorial

“[T]he consummate symbol of mediocrity and the innocuous—the ultimate non-statement….”


“[T]he careless and whimsical action of the Jury has done an injustice to the responsible
competitors and a disservice to the concept of a design competition.”
“[A] great injustice has been done to the [other] 1420 entrants.”

One asserted that the design should not have been considered as there was no site plan,
no section, and no elevation. To boot, it didn’t show how the names would fit. Another
said that his team was requesting a formal investigation, as the jury undoubtedly had helped
Lin by building the model.
On the other hand:
“[I]t is the best organized and conducted competition which I have entered….”
“[T]he winning entry was marvelous in its execution.”
“[W]inning solution … will be a fitting and purposeful memorial.”
“[J]udges … are to be commended on their choice.”
“[P]roud and elated with the winning design.”
“[T]he result was extraordinary.”

A month of heavy activity concluded with our second Memorial Day Ceremony on
May 25. Although we lacked a big crowd, the U.S. Marine Band, with their scarlet full-
dress uniforms, made it impressive. A Catholic, a Protestant, and a Jewish chaplain offered
prayers. The speakers included Thomas Pauken, Ann Mills Griffiths, and Ellsworth Bunker,
the former U.S. Ambassador to South Vietnam: “We went in not for greed but to help resist
aggression….” Wheeler again invited people to offer names: “This is a place where we will
always be able to express love,” he said. “They were young when we were young and each
one of their names matters.” The ceremony concluded with a bugler playing “Taps.” The
day before, at the Indianapolis 500, veteran driver Tom Sneva carried the American Legion’s
emblem on his car. The general public was asked to contribute to the memorial for every
lap he completed.
18

Who’s the Real Mother?

With the design selected, I again faced unfamiliar terrain. The challenges now were
to transform Lin’s concept into a set of plans, get the concept and plans approved by the
federal government, and get it built. But first I had to close out the design competition. We
hadn’t intended to return the submittals, but I received so many requests that I offered to
do it for anyone sending in $10 and a self-addressed label. I ordered custom cardboard
boxes and put together a team of workers to help me cull out and pack the approximately
500 entries to be sent back. I was finally able to get them sent out in mid–July. It was a
major chore. We spent an entire Saturday taping boxes, just like I had done years before in
my father’s cookie factory.
The immediate challenge, however, was the dynamic between Spreiregen and Lin. The
design competition had many analogies to a pregnancy. It took about nine months—accom-
panied by kicking, moaning, and some nausea—before there were any results, and you
didn’t know what you would get until the very end. Understandably, Spreiregen, as the
competition’s guru, might see himself as the mother, though he was actually the midwife.
At the same time, Lin considered the design to be her baby. VVMF, as the sponsor that had
paid for the whole shebang, was without doubt the father. We were proud to declare our
paternity, but to make the baby legitimate, we had to marry the mother. The question was:
which one?
In the competition planning, we anticipated the possibility that the winner might not
be professionally qualified to sign off on construction drawings or be registered to do so
in Washington, D.C. According to the rules, VVMF had the right to retain whatever con-
sultants were necessary to realize the design concept, while the designer had the right to
review and consult. From everything I had read about design competitions, including from
Spreiregen, the role of the professional advisor was to end with the conclusion of the com-
petition. Yet, immediately after the judging, Spreiregen proposed a continuing role for him-
self.
He once had some clients who wanted to build a beach house. He did a sketch but had
never heard back from them. When some years later he asked why they didn’t like it, they
replied that they had hired a contractor who had built it right from his sketch. This concept
appealed to him, and he now believed that Lin’s design could be built with a single drawing.
He proposed to become “coordinating architect,” i.e., he would direct the project, but not
be the “architect of record.” Lin would answer to him and presumably work at home, just
as he was doing at the time. We would find a construction company that had its own archi-
tects and engineers on staff.
The proposal wasn’t unusual, as some companies in fact styled themselves as “design-

141
142 Creating the Vietnam Veterans Memorial

build” firms, but I was uneasy about it, not in the least because I saw myself as directing
the project. Yet, I wasn’t in a position to deal with it for a number of weeks. I had to finish
cleaning up after the competition, and I also needed a vacation. Most importantly, lacking
both knowledge and experience, I had to educate myself about how a design and construc-
tion team was typically organized.
To complicate matters, Lin moved to Washington in June after graduating from Yale
in May. Her original plan had been to take a year off and work in San Francisco before
entering a graduate architecture program. Winning the competition had changed things.
She now would spend the next year in Washington to get her design refined and translated
into a set of construction drawings. She took a small apartment in a house at the corner
of 34th and Reservoir in Georgetown, and was eager to get the project underway. I wasn’t
ready to deal with her and said I was busy. “Everybody’s busy,” she retorted. Living alone
in a strange city without a job or office to go to made matters worse. She also wanted to
know when she would receive her $20,000 prize. I personally delivered the check.
For the time being, Spreiregen was leading and taking good initiatives. At the NPS he
explained the design to John Parsons and Joe Ronsisvalle, who liked it. He worked up a
realization plan for design development, construction, and the formal federal approvals.
The first step was obtaining the endorsement of the National Capital Memorial Advisory
Committee, the “gatekeeper” for memorial proposals. For this purpose Spreiregen prepared
a booklet to describe the design concept. The staff liked it, and the NCMAC formally signed
off on the design concept on June 17, 1981. The vote was unanimous, including the repre-
sentative of the ABMC.
It was also time to interview construction companies. In another good call, Spreiregen
suggested that “we go right to Gilbane.” Gilbane Building Company was a 100-year-old
firm based in Providence, Rhode Island. Most recently, Gilbane—as construction man-
ager—had successfully completed the Air and Space Museum on the Mall. Gilbane’s Wash-
ington office was headed by Bill Choquette, a highly energetic and personable man just a
few years older than I, whose mother was a Gilbane. His two uncles ran the company, but
Choquette hadn’t achieved his position due to nepotism. A Notre Dame graduate, he had
served in the Army with an ROTC commission. He held an MBA, and coincidently his
younger brother had been wounded in Vietnam.
We couldn’t consider just one company, so we also interviewed Tompkins Builders
and Turner Construction Company, which both had done large construction projects in
Washington. Our delegation consisted of Spreiregen, Lin, and me. Woods and Mosley,
when they could, attended some of the meetings. Lin clearly wasn’t happy. She was sullen
and didn’t participate in the discussions. Woods at one point reminded her that she was
part of the team and encouraged her to ask questions.
I had built some trust with Lin, and she let me know that Spreiregen’s “coordinating
architect” proposal left her cold: “Does he have a firm? Does he have an office?” She had
been looking forward to working in an architecture firm. I could only lamely reply that the
Board was impressed with Spreiregen, and his proposal appeared to be the way we would
go. Another incident further complicated the matter. Because Lin’s own drawings were
vague and ambiguous, we retained well-known architect/artist Paul Stevenson Oles to create
a number of renderings. Spreiregen, who knew the site well, advised Oles on a point involv-
ing the grades, but Lin subsequently accused Spreiregen of changing her design.
18. Who’s the Real Mother? 143

Lin didn’t lack resources and initiative. The Dean of Architecture at Yale, Cesar Pelli,
suggested some other firms in Washington, and Lin proposed that she and I jointly interview
them. I agreed, and the first was the Cooper-Lecky Partnership in Georgetown, headed by
Kent Cooper, the design guru, and Bill Lecky, who ran the business end. Cooper-Lecky
had done its share of commercial and residential buildings, but I was most impressed by
their work for Washington’s National Zoo. Their most recent project, a natural environment
and pool for the seals, demanded more than run-of-the-mill creativity. They also had
entered the design competition, and their design was among the 44 meritorious entries to
be displayed at the Octagon House. Lin and I also interviewed the firms of Winthrop
Faulkner and Avery Faulkner.
I sent a contract, based on Spreiregen’s proposal, to Lin’s lawyers in early June. Her
response was negative. In her opinion we weren’t taking her seriously because she was just
21 years old and a woman. In mid–June I met with her and the two lawyers. Though I was
confident that my legal position was solid, I was impressed by their tact and restraint. I
agreed to consider Lin’s position on the issue of the choice of an architect of record. After
the meeting Lin and I cordially shared a cab to the NCMAC hearing.
Word of Lin’s unhappiness had gotten out. At a meeting at the Octagon House, the
AIA Foundation’s director mentioned a rumor of a lawsuit between Lin and us. The turning
point for me came when Kent Cooper over lunch laid it on the line that we would make a
serious mistake by following Spreiregen’s proposal. There were too many complex issues
with the design concept; it couldn’t be done with one drawing. Cooper-Lecky would like
to do it, as well as get paid properly for doing it. I realized then that we were off course
with Spreiregen’s concept, and it was up to me to change it. I met with Woods and Schaet,
who agreed. I had also boned up on how a design and construction team was typically
organized.
At the Board meeting at the end of June, I presented my plan to structure the team.
Typically an owner contracted with a contractor on one hand and with an architecture firm
on the other. Neither the designer or the contractor controlled the other. The construction
firms that we interviewed reported that they did not have architects and engineers on staff.
Moreover they believed it to be bad practice for an engineer to be employed by a builder.
I had also concluded that the situation between Lin and Spreiregen couldn’t be resolved,
and that the design was more complex than we originally thought. I therefore recommended
that we retain a firm to be the architect of record to assume professional liability and retain
the other consultants. Lin would work under a consulting contract with the firm, and we
would invite Spreiregen to be a consultant.
Concurrently I recommended we use the “construction management” system. Rather
than bidding out the final plans to general contractors, we would retain a construction
management firm at the same time as we retained the architects. The CM’s fee (profit and
overhead) would be negotiated, but the subcontracts would be bid competitively. The CM
then would function as a general contractor and guarantee a maximum price. With a CM
as part of the team we had the advantages of getting early input on construction feasibilities,
acquiring materials with long lead times, and creating schedules and budgets early on.
VVMF had no in-house capability for budgeting, and we needed expertise immediately,
especially for fabricating the granite. The Board accepted my recommendations, but Spreire-
gen rejected a consulting role, preferring to withdraw from the project.
144 Creating the Vietnam Veterans Memorial

Cooper-Lecky provided an estimate of $62,000 for its costs, $8,300 for Lin, and from
$3,000 to $14,000 for the other consultants, a total of about $123,000. The CM firms Turner
and Tompkins each quoted $150,000 as a fixed fee, while Choquette came in with only
$60,000, for his overhead alone. Gilbane’s conceptual estimate for all costs came in at about
$2.9 million. Gilbane, waiving all profit, was clearly the pick, but for the record I did an
analysis of all factors, such as experience, references, etc. In early August we held a press
conference at the site to introduce Gilbane and Cooper-Lecky. Lin went under contract to
Cooper-Lecky as a design consultant at the hourly rate of $15. I told her and Cooper that
I saw them as “getting married.” I expected them to resolve any design issues between them-
selves and speak with one voice. I wouldn’t be put in the middle.
For the structural engineer, Cooper and Lin selected the firm of James Madison Cutts,
who happened to be a direct descendant of President Madison. As the landscape architect,
Lin brought in Henry Arnold from Princeton, New Jersey, who in 1980 had published an
award-winning book on architecture and urban planning and who had received an hon-
orable mention in our design competition. Schnabel Engineering would provide geotech-
nical services, and Bernard F. Locraft would be the civil engineers. The key man for Gilbane
on the project was the construction executive, and Choquette appointed Walter Marquardt,
a retired Navy construction officer. Marquardt, who had graduated from the Naval Academy
and had served in Vietnam, was tall, calm, organized, and amiable. He had been the con-
struction executive for both Pershing Plaza and Western Plaza on Pennsylvania Avenue,
both of which involved extensive stone detailing.
VVMF gained significant credibility from the involvement of Cooper-Lecky and
Gilbane, who were well known to the design and construction establishments. Just two
years earlier we had been reported to the bunko squad, but now the VA carried a story and
photo in its July newsletter. I experienced the construction people as a breath of fresh air.
After hearing the froth of the politicians, the fluff of the fundraisers, and the feelings of
the designers, it was refreshing to hear guys talk in terms of definite dates, lengths, and
quantities.

R
We formally presented the design to the CFA on July 7. When the meeting started at
10:00 a.m., the commissioners had already viewed the site for the memorial and those for
the other projects up for review. The panel included Chicago architect Walter Netsch, who
had designed the Cadet Chapel at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs and the
Chicago Circle campus of the University of Illinois. I led off our testimony, describing our
organization and the purpose of the memorial. Spreiregen next described the competition.
He had instructed the jury to consider two questions for each entry: its appropriateness
for the site and its appropriateness for the occasion, i.e., for service out of a sense of duty
in a questionable cause. Lin then read the statement she submitted with the design. The
commissioners had no questions, and Chairman Carter Brown asked for comments from
the community.
A veteran of about my age, wearing a suit and tie, read a statement criticizing the
design as hazardous, with drainage problems, and inaccessible to the handicapped. He
asserted that it was inappropriate because of its minimalistic nature and lack of nobility.
In his opinion the design was aimed at the lowest common denominator in order to avoid
18. Who’s the Real Mother? 145

attack by the opponents of the war. In response, Lin pointed out that the slope in front of
the walls met standards for handicapped access and that she would design a paved walkway
if needed. The hazard could be minimized with something called a “ha ha,” i.e., a furrow
with one sloped side behind the top of the walls. I added that our structure engineers had
indicated that drainage wouldn’t be a problem.
Addressing the concept itself, Netsch said that there had always been multiple opinions
about memorials. He noted that he had opposed the war, but that he himself had once been
an enlisted man. He saw the walls forming a chevron, i.e., the single stripe designating the
rank of Private First Class. He saw that as a handsome, not minimal or insignificant, recog-
nition: “I think it is modest in those marvelous ways in which modesty can be appropriate.”
Commissioner Sondra Myers, a professor of humanities, deemed it “an eloquent and beau-
tifully simple design.” Commissioner Alan Novak congratulated Lin on creating a simple
solution, capturing “the problem of the site,” that would be a “very moving memorial.”
Brown concluded:

The word nobility was used … and I think that that is the great hallmark of this design. We
do not have an established religion so we do not have a Westminster Abbey. The closest thing
to it as the symbological heart of what this country is about is our National Mall. To have a
site on that mall for a memorial which is near the other monuments and is as nice a piece of
real estate that one could desire to have a memorial on. It is an understatement of the sensitivity
to which it recognizes both those monuments and has taken part in the landscape of Consti-
tution Gardens and it is highly commendable.
We look forward to pursuing the specifics further and we give the Commission’s blessing to
the jury and to the designer.

The next day the Washington Star had a story with a photo, “Vietnam Memorial OK’d
on Mall.” The picture showed the guy reading his statement, me looking pensive as usual,
and Lin, in her press conference dress and pork pie hat, looking puzzled with her finger
on her chin.
We could not have received a greater affirmation from the country’s design establish-
ment. The NCPC followed suit on August 6, but raised the same issues, i.e., safety, hand-
icapped access, and drainage, to be addressed in the design development process. In a letter
of July 30, the NPS, on DOI letterhead, responded to the competitor from New Jersey who
had confronted me on Armed Forces Day. Noting that the design had already been approved
by the CFA and the NCMAC, the letter stated, “Traditionally, this Department has restricted
its review of memorial proposals to management and operations considerations such as
safety, visitor use, cost of maintenance, structure integrity, drainage, traffic, access for the
handicapped, and selection of plant materials. We have relied on the Commission of Fine
Arts on all matters concerning aesthetics, design details and concepts of memorials.” Unfor-
tunately, our project soon would become an exception to that tradition.
On September 9 the State Historic Preservation Officer for the District of Columbia
concurred that it would “not have an adverse effect on the qualities which qualify any of
the designated Landmarks in the area for listing in the National Register of Historic Places.”
He cautioned that in providing for safety, accessibility, and drainage, we needed to assure
that “the aesthetic integrity of this simple, yet powerful memorial and its unique relationship
to this extraordinary site are not compromised.”
In hindsight, we missed an opportunity by not anticipating Netsch’s comment about
146 Creating the Vietnam Veterans Memorial

the chevron representing enlisted men. The two walls met at an angle of 125 degrees.
Nonetheless, the press typically described them as forming a “V” shape. This unfortunately
brought up speculation as to whether it stood for “Vietnam,” “victory,” “veterans,” the peace
sign with two fingers, etc. Similarly we could have used the Tribune’s description of the
memorial as a “sunken amphitheater,” to counter the pejoratives that it was a “ditch” or a
“pit.”
The “V” had again haunted us in a profile of Lin in the Times in late June: “A Yale
Senior, a Vietnam Memorial and a Few Ironies.” It featured a photo of Lin sitting lotus
fashion with bare legs—not an ideal image for a designer of a memorial with 58,000 names
of the dead. The article quoted her as saying: “I don’t even know how to draft yet,” and
found ironies in that she wasn’t trained as an architect, was too young to remember the
Vietnam War, got a “B” in her course, and that her professor had also entered the compe-
tition. The story said: “Miss Lin says she made her memorial V-shaped and burrowed it
slightly into the ground … to draw passers-by,” and quoted her as explaining, “The V-shape
doesn’t have anything to do with ‘Vietnam’ or ‘victory’ or ‘veterans.’”
Lin responded to the Times two weeks later, “In designing the memorial I never thought
of these walls as being a letter ‘v’ written in the earth,” and noted that a 130-degree angle
was hardly a “v.” “But for your article to say that my design for the Vietnam Veterans’
Memorial has nothing to do with Vietnam veterans is totally wrong…. It is a segment in
time, meant to recognize all those who served during this war, and giving special recog-
nition to those who will never return from it.”

R
The issue of the country’s treatment of Vietnam veterans received major attention in
mid–July with an eight-page essay in Time magazine titled: “The Forgotten Warriors—A
nation begins to understand, as the Viet Nam vets wait for their parade.” There were photos
of Jim Webb, Bobby Muller, and a stand-up comedian named Blake Clark. “In the summer
of 1981, the war in Viet Nam is re-emerging as an item of profoundly unfinished moral and
psychological business,” stated Time, saying that this had begun the previous January, after
the Iran hostages were welcomed home. Vietnam veterans, in contrast, had been rewarded
with contempt or oblivion.

R
While moving ahead with design and construction matters, the organization still had
to run itself and raise funds. As of the end of May, Vic Fischer reported that he was having
trouble getting “name” individuals for Wheeler’s reconciliation seminar, but did get pollster
Peter Hart and Myra MacPherson of the Post. The Board passed a resolution that upon
VVMF’s dissolution, excess funds would go to organizations supporting Vietnam veterans.
We also would register as a charity for fundraising with all the states that had contacted
us. The issue of including the names of civilians who died had come up, but the Board
affirmed that we would adhere to the official Department of Defense casualty list. The
Board approved a 1.25-million-letter prospect mailing in midsummer for $216,047, but no
corporate fundraising chairman had yet been found.
As of the end of June, VVMF’s cash and investments exceeded $1.1 million. At the
Board meeting that month Schaet projected that through February 1983, VVMF would
18. Who’s the Real Mother? 147

have $6.4 million available to build the memorial. Wheeler expressed anger about the small
percentage from corporations so far, but Schaet predicted that it would soon break open.
Wheeler reported on the VVLP and the reconciliation seminar. Lance Morrow, of Time
magazine, had agreed to participate. The outgoing commander of the Legion wanted a seat
on the Board, but this was rejected. He didn’t live in the area and trading positions for sup-
port was seen as bad precedent.
As of mid–July, total radiothon receipts approached $300,000, i.e., $179,903 from 5,783
KX Country donors; $107,512 from 2,418 donors to WOAI in San Antonio; and $3,399 from
48 donors to KLRA in Little Rock. The average radiothon gift exceeded $35. The planned
direct-mail program from June through December would total 5.53 million pieces to new
prospects with an expected net of $553,000, and 300,000 pieces to previous donors for a
net of $195,000. The mailings would cost just over $1.0 million, so it was still costing us 57
cents to raise a dollar.
AFL-CIO President Lane Kirkland’s appeal to 102 international union presidents had
brought in $33,000 by mid–June. Best of all for our fundraising prospects, Scruggs per-
suaded Paul Thayer, the Chairman and CEO of LTV Corporation, to accept the position
as chair of our corporate campaign. But the little donations still counted. On July 4, I got
locked in at the Montgomery County Detention Center for the Jaycees’ banquet, where the
inmates presented us with a check for $250.
The last significant event for July 1981 was Wheeler’s Reconciliation Symposium. Its
goal, as explained by the moderator Vic Fischer, was to explore how events surrounding
the war affected people personally, where the generation was going, and the differences
between those who served and those who didn’t. Participating were Toni Louise Carman,
a psychiatrist who treated veterans for post-traumatic stress syndrome; Myra McPherson
of the Post; Lance Morrow of Time; Wheeler; his spouse Elisa Wheeler, an Episcopalian
priest; Jim Woolsey, a former Rhodes Scholar and law firm partner; his spouse Sue Woolsey,
a Harvard Ph.D.; Joe Zengerle, a partner in a law firm; and his spouse, Linda Zengerle, also
a partner in a major law firm. It was a highly impressive group, but hardly representative
of the generation. Sunk costs were $4,470, and I resented VVMF’s wasting the time and
money.
19

The Sacred Names and


the Inscription

Inscribing the names of the dead was one of Scruggs’s early ideas. While the memorial’s
purpose was to honor all who served, the names would appear as a special tribute to those
who had died or remained unaccounted for. We noted this in our Congressional testimony
in March 1980, and the names constituted a mandatory requirement in the design compe-
tition. The solemn and emotional reactions to the recitation of names at our Memorial
Day service indicated that they would be a powerful element of the memorial. Wheeler
frequently referred to the theological significance of a person’s name. In reality, however,
we had no idea how to engrave 58,000 names into stone. Questions included accuracy,
cost, and time. It was uncharted territory.
An office in the Department of Defense had compiled a listing of the casualties on a
computer tape, and DOD had officially transferred its custody to the National Archives,
where it was available to the public. Yet, to assist us in responding to public inquiries,
DOD’s Headquarters Services Office in February 1981 provided us with a printout.
Stone carver Harold Vogel in March 1980 had confirmed that we would have to use a
sandblasting process, for which the main problem was making the stencil. It would be
tough to solve, but I had expected that the professionals would have some knowledge. Yet
in reality, they were starting from scratch, just like I was. Cooper, Lecky, Lin, Marquardt
and I met with Vogel again on August 12. Vogel confirmed that one man could hand-carve
25 letters per day, i.e., two names. That came to 29,000 days or roughly equivalent to 132
people working for a year. Examining samples of granite, Vogel found that from Sweden
to be acceptable, but not those from the U.S. or Canada.
A local company that engraved glass estimated that the engraving would cost $1 to $2
per letter. At 13 or 14 letters per each of 58,000 names, this could cost up to $1.6 million.
The company that engraved the 4,609 names on the East Coast Memorial in Battery Park
in New York City had cut a rubber stencil, but we had over 10 times that number of names.
A third company, Rogan Granite, which eventually won the bid to supply and cut the gran-
ite, estimated that it would take up to 18 months to inscribe all the names and cost $0.50
per letter. Gilbane meanwhile had developed a schedule, to break ground in March 1982
and complete construction by Veterans Day, only 15 months away.
In mid–August I was called by a young man who spoke in a halting voice, yet sounded
intelligent. Larry Century, in Cleveland, had read about Maya Lin; he’d invented a process
that might help us inscribe the names. An intriguing proposition, but being both Czech
and a lawyer, optimism wasn’t my strong suit. I had, however, experienced other resources

148
19. The Sacred Names and the Inscription 149

magically appearing during our journey—akin to the miracle of the fish and the loaves—
so I suspended disbelief. His timing was incredible.
He wouldn’t say much about the still-secret process, but it involved a photographic
method for sandblasting. Kent Cooper sent Century a small sample of granite along with
a geometric design. Within a few days, the granite sample came back with the design per-
fectly engraved in the surface. We ran the drill again, with another sample and a different
design. The result was the same: the design flawlessly engraved. “Let’s go ahead and bring
this guy out,” I told Cooper.
Century, a pleasant, nondescript-looking guy in his mid-twenties, had after college
started a window washing business. Noticing etched glass, he began thinking about how
he could create designs like that in glass and stone. In a dark room in Cooper’s office, he
demonstrated. He had invented a photosensitive emulsion that could be spread on a surface.
After it dried, it could still be washed off with water—as long as it hadn’t been exposed to
light. But after exposure, it no longer was water soluble and formed a tough surface coating.
In this state, however, it could be removed with household bleach. Yellow in color, the stuff
had the consistency of mustard. In fact, Century used a plastic mustard squeeze bottle to
spread it on the granite sample in Cooper’s office. Like mustard, it dried after about 20
minutes and turned a greenish-brown color.
Century next laid a sheet of clear film with the design printed in black ink on the sur-
face. The sandwich was then exposed to light. Consequently, the places on the surface that
had been masked by the design were still water soluble, but the emulsion under the clear
plastic could no longer be washed off. Moreover, the areas exposed to light now had a coat-
ing tough enough to withstand sandblasting. Century took the sample that had been
exposed and ran it under a faucet. The coating peeled off from every area that was to be
sandblasted. Every area that was supposed to remain smooth was covered by the coating.
It was an instant stencil.
We soon conceptualized how to apply the process to the names, which were already
on a computer tape. They could be printed out onto a sheet of otherwise clear plastic. The
surface to be engraved would be coated with the emulsion and the plastic positioned on
the surface where the names needed to be. The entire surface then would be exposed to
light, and only those portions that had been masked by the lettering would still be water
soluble. After a washing, the stencil would be ready for sandblasting.
Century, however, was just a guy working out of his basement, and we had 58,000
names to engrave on about 3,000 square feet of granite surface. The panels would be heavy
and fragile, thus tricky to handle. The construction team therefore decided that we would
marry Century as a consultant or partner to a company capable of handling the production
of heavy and fragile pieces. Marquardt began contacting companies that made large pieces
of glass, like showroom windows. As it happened, Century already knew such a company.
For a time he had worked in research and development for Binswanger Glass in Memphis,
Tennessee, the largest fabricator of heavy glass table tops in the country.

R
The formatting and layout of the names drove the overall geometry of the memorial,
and many factors affected the layout of the names. Lin’s concept called for each wall to be
200 feet long and 10 feet high at the apex, yielding an area of about 2,000 square feet. The
150 Creating the Vietnam Veterans Memorial

names were to be listed in chronological order beginning with the top line on the east wall
next to the apex. All other questions were still open. How would the names appear, i.e.,
last name first, middle names spelled out, etc.? What about the font: all capital letters, upper
and lower case, or something else? What size font? How many rows of names and how
many names in each row?
The architects started with the stipulation that a visitor of average height should be
able to read every name, so the letters had to be about a half inch high. Next they decided
that the format would be given name, middle initial, surname, and generational suffix, i.e.,
John J. Doe, Jr. They selected Optima, a sans-serif typeface, as the font, with the names
displayed in all capital letters, but for three exceptions: the “r” in “Jr.” and “Sr.” and the “a”
and “c” in names like “McDonald” and “MacDonald.” By taking a random sample to deter-
mine an average length of a name, Cooper-Lecky calculated an overall area for the walls.
This dictated extending the length of each wall from 200 feet to about 250 feet. At the same
time, extending the length of the walls helped ease the access issue, as the grade of the
walkway was decreased to 4 percent.
Nature itself dictated the next decision. The height of the granite vein in the ground
limited the raw blocks cut from the quarry to be no more than four feet thick. Slicing these
like a loaf of bread would yield a panel only that wide. The architects then decided that the
panels would be like pages in a book, each 39⅞” wide, with the list of names reading from
upper left to lower right on an individual panel, and then resuming on the top line of the
succeeding panel. Each line would have five names, with the shortest panels having a single
row and the tallest having 137. Each wall would have 74 panels, 70 of which would contain
names. On the monument, the panels, each 2.75 inches thick, would be mounted on a curb,
but would be attached to the concrete wall behind by metal fittings.

R
The most delicate matter was the names of the “unaccounted for.” The highly charged
issue of the missing was owned by the National League of Families of American Prisoners
and Missing in Southeast Asia. I had stayed in contact with the League’s executive director,
Ann Mills Griffiths, known for her toughness and sharp tongue. The war ended with about
1,200 confirmed casualties whose bodies had not been recovered, but there remained about
1,350 who were “unaccounted for.”
Throughout the 1970s the DOD reviewed the cases of the MIAs and POWs in a process
known as “PFOD,” i.e., presumed finding of death. If for seven years there was no evidence
that a man was alive, he was presumed to be dead. As of the end of 1980, all but 17 (16 MIA
and one POW) had been officially declared dead. The families were bitter about the PFOD
process; they believed that the government should have acted to find evidence. Conse-
quently, they opposed any suggestion that the unaccounted-for were dead. Some men had
been seen alive in propaganda films or by other prisoners but had not been among those
released in early 1973. Until that time, the Nixon administration gave the League VIP treat-
ment, but afterwards the League became persona non grata because it disagreed with the
administration’s position that all now had been accounted for.
I had assured Griffiths and her board of directors that we would have a separate listing
or denotation for the unaccounted and that we would honor the request of a next-of-kin not
to include a name. Griffiths had put a notice in her June newsletter to let families know
19. The Sacred Names and the Inscription 151

that they should contact me if they did not want the name of their missing man to be on the
memorial. In mid–August Griffiths (like everyone else was doing) wrote to ask whether the
memorial would be identified as for Vietnam and about “separate identification” of the miss-
ing and unaccounted. I responded that we hadn’t made any final decisions, but “the idea at
present is that there will be an asterisk, star or other mark beside the names of the unac-
counted for.” I noted that the ordering of the names was an open question, and I welcomed
her thoughts as to whether the unaccounted should be listed as of the dates they were declared
missing or else at the end of the entire chronological listing. As for the identification of the
memorial, I referred her to Scruggs’s letter in the Wall Street Journal on June 30.
Griffiths replied that her board preferred that “those originally listed or still listed as
POW or MIA be separated from the KIA in alphabetical order.” This posed a dilemma,
which I addressed in a memo to my Board on October 1, as of which time I had received
no requests to exclude a name. I pointed out that the chronological order of the names
involved “design, philosophical, practical, and political considerations,” and that Lin and
Cooper-Lecky wanted the names of the unaccounted to be integrated into the overall
chronological listing with a symbol to mark their special status. Cooper had emphasized
that the chronological listing made the memorial a time capsule, reflecting both the passage
of time and the lives sacrificed. An alphabetical listing would simply be a roll of the dead.
I also reported that in spite of her board’s request, Griffiths herself favored the single chrono-
logical listing and indicated that her board was not particularly animated on the issue. I
concluded by recommending the single listing. But for the unaccounted, we would use the
date that they were declared missing or captured, rather than the date of the PFOD. In fact,
the PFOD dates extended through 1981, while the date on the wall would be 1975. Three
sets of remains had been recently returned, and undoubtedly more and more would become
accounted for. This fact made a separate list impractical, since whole names would have to
be removed, whereas a symbol beside the name in the general chronological listing easily
could be changed to reflect the new status.
By a letter of October 19, I informed Griffiths of our decisions on the inscription and
the names of the unaccounted. I reviewed our extensive processes to select the design and
to refine it. I described how the inscription would be divided into a prologue and an epi-
logue, and that we would develop an alphabetical directory of the names to show the exact
location of each. As for the names, “The listing was never intended to be simply a cold
bureaucratic roll. Rather, the names are to symbolize these people as our friends and broth-
ers who still live with us in our hearts and memories and may in fact be alive. The chrono-
logical listing of the names is an excellent way to symbolize this purpose.” I explained that
we would have a symbol after each name to indicate one of four categories: died, missing,
missing but later confirmed as died, and missing but later found alive. To conclude, I stated
we believed that our solution was the best not only for practical and design considerations
but to best commemorate the missing. Griffiths reported on the inscription and code system
in her December newsletter.
The opinion of the League’s board wasn’t shared by all family members. An architect
from Salisbury, Maryland, the son of a missing Air Force pilot, wrote that the chronological
listing provided an “extra measure of meaning.” “The chronological method respects the
service and sacrifice of the deceased by providing a date for our memory and a position
on the monument to reinforce that date.”
152 Creating the Vietnam Veterans Memorial

By September I was thinking a lot about the quality of the list of names from the DOD
from the points of view of accuracy and inclusiveness. I made contact with a major at
Marine Corps headquarters who confirmed that the Marines had their own list, which we
could compare with DOD’s. I reached Paul Gray, the assistant director for military records,
at the National Archives in St. Louis. By coincidence Gray was also a former Air Force
officer and Vietnam veteran, and we made a plan to check 10 percent of the names and see
how many spelling errors there might be. The National Archives confirmed that we could
buy a computer tape of the names for $86.

R
All architectural designs go through a development process, from concept, through
design refinement, to conceptual drawings, and finally to construction drawings. The pur-
pose of our competition was to find the concept, not the finished product. The jury had
raised a number of issues that needed to be solved, including safety and drainage. “Of
course,” they added, “you will want to have an appropriate inscription.” As the design team
got underway, numerous other issues—endemic to the design, the site, and the materials—
emerged. One of the most immediate was handicapped access. The presentation model
that we used at the press conference simulated the slope of the earth by using layers of
fiberboard. In photographs these looked like steps, and a staff member of Paralyzed Veterans
of America had expressed concern. I assured him that there wouldn’t be any steps.
Lin’s design concept called for stone with the finest possible grain, so that the surface
would be highly reflective and provide the greatest contrast with the incised letters. Accord-
ing to Rogan Granite, there were three sources in the world for stone of this quality: India,
South Africa, and Sweden. The stone on the base of the Marine Corps War Memorial had
been quarried, fabricated, and inscribed in Sweden. The indigenous stone in the U.S. and
Canada had a coarse grain, which made for a mottled surface.
A disgruntled competitor amused himself by sending us sketches showing visitors to
the memorial standing knee deep in water. Drainage was a concern because the site, for-
merly a river bottom, was filled around 1890 to create the Mall. Fortunately, a storm sewer
ran under Constitution Avenue at a depth well below the lowest point at the apex, and we
could pipe the rain water from the amphitheater of the memorial into it. Cooper-Lecky
designed a concrete gutter running along the base of the walls down to the apex to drain
all water runoff from the sloping field in front of the walls. The gutter solved not only the
drainage problem but access as well. Lin’s design concept called for grass to be planted
right up to the base of the wall, but there had to be a walkway, particularly for wheelchairs.
The gutter would be covered with granite blocks to create the walkway, with a narrow strip
of grass separating it from the base of the walls. For safety at the top of the walls, Cooper-
Lecky proposed three options: a curb wall set back 10' from the dropoff, a bed of ivy along
the top as a barrier, or a grass swale running parallel with the top. The curb was the best
solution.

R
Even though the memorial was consuming most of my time and energy, I still tried
to have a personal life. I belonged to a club of bachelors that threw monthly cocktail parties,
inviting single professional women. I always attended, hoping for that right woman for me,
19. The Sacred Names and the Inscription 153

even though most seemed to be looking for a guy who could afford private school tuition.
At one party that spring, on the roof terrace of Hotel Washington overlooking the White
House, I met an attractive woman who worked for Mobil Oil in Virginia. She invited me
to cocktail party, and we quickly became an item, once taking a whitewater raft trip in
western Pennsylvania and another time chartering a 32-foot sloop for a three-day cruise
on Chesapeake Bay. But of course it wasn’t meant to be. Her ambition was to someday own
a Mercedes 380SL convertible, and she couldn’t fathom my old Opel wagon. The denoue-
ment came in late July after an outdoor concert at Wolf Trap National Park. Upon returning
to her place, she announced that it was over. “I’m not going to fall in love with you. You
don’t have any money, and your whole life is consumed with this project.”
It was just a fling, but I had to wonder whether I was terminally undesirable. Dean
Phillips and his wife took me out to dinner for consolation: “You’re doing something more
important now.” Moreover, there had been some victory in that personal defeat. Due to the
woman’s prompting, Mobil had made a $50,000 donation to the memorial in early August.
Later in the year Mobil also ran an ad supporting the memorial.
This disappointing breakup also served as a wakeup call. Every day at work I interacted
with Karen Bigelow, a beautiful woman who appeared not to have a man in her life. The
Board in April had approved Fauriol’s request to hire a deputy campaign director, and
Karen, who was doing volunteer work, accepted the position, although it paid only $15,000
per year. Because I had once asked her out, I felt compelled to tell her that henceforth we’d
keep things “on a professional basis.” She appeared unfazed. As time passed, I began to
admire her for more than her looks. Quiet, dignified, and intelligent, she worked diligently.
Her “office” was a cubbyhole formed where a hallway had been blocked off, and she accepted
this inconvenience, along with her minuscule salary, without complaint.
I also found it interesting that Karen had grown up in the local area, and her parents
lived nearby. She had roots, unlike most of the transient young professionals who were in
Washington for the sake of their careers. I met her parents at the exhibit at Andrews and
had things in common with both. Her mother came from the Midwest, and her father had
been a colonel in the Air Force with a second career in building facilities at the University
of Maryland. He had flown bombing missions over Germany. After the war, he had com-
manded a base in Germany, and had been instrumental in establishing the West German
Air Force.
When Karen was nearby, I found myself popping out of my office to tell inane jokes,
always making sure that she could hear. In spite of my compunctions about not mixing my
professional and private lives, it finally hit me that the memorial project wasn’t going to
last forever. She wasn’t dating anyone, and I would kick myself forever if I didn’t make a
move. But dating someone from work was tricky. One had to be above board. If the romantic
part didn’t work out, you still had to be able to interact at work. But, finally, an opportunity
presented itself.
The leader of the U.S. Naval Academy Band had written a composition called “The
Vietnam Veterans March,” which would premier at a concert on August 11. He wanted a
representative from VVMF to come and receive a copy of the score. I volunteered and got
the idea to ask Karen to come with me, so that we could have a “trial date.” If it didn’t work
out, I could always say that it had just been “business.” I duly accepted the score, said a few
words about the project, and ventured to ask Karen if she’d like dinner. She accepted. The
154 Creating the Vietnam Veterans Memorial

conversation ranged wide enough for me to find out that she wanted children, a crucial
factor in my own business plan. I finally asked her for a real date, which ended up on the
roof terrace of the Washington Hotel. I told her how much I admired her. After that, we
started going out regularly but were scrupulous about concealing it from our colleagues.

R
With so much heat about whether the memorial would have an inscription, the only
way to definitively end the squabble was to draft and announce it. The VFW executive
director had even brought back the message from the VFW Southern Conference in July:
no money without “Vietnam” on the memorial. On September 2, I sent out a memo to
wide range of stakeholders, including Webb and Carhart, requesting their thoughts on the
words to be “carved in stone.” Webb wrote back in short order, but didn’t suggest any word-
ing. He did say that “some strong correspondence between this memorial and the war itself
must be developed,” which I found to be meaningless. He also suggested that “the American
flag be flown from a tall, lighted mast in front of the memorial,” for both patriotic and
pragmatic reasons. The flagpole would mark the edge of the wall and prevent people from
falling over. I called Carhart, who sarcastically suggested “designed by a gook” as the inscrip-
tion. The ASLA executive director, Ed Able, also wasn’t helpful: “You don’t really think
you’re going to get that thing built, do you?”
I received but a handful of responses, which basically noted whom it honored and
who (the American people) built it. One person suggested the word “belatedly,” and another
quoted, “The beginning of the end of war lies in remembrance.” One, out of left field,
included: “with WAR being the ultimate instrument of Death and Destruction.” I even
managed to reach by phone Daniel Boorstin, the Librarian of Congress, to inquire whether
classical or traditional guidelines or formulations for inscriptions might exist. He didn’t
know of any.
In a memo on September 30, I ventured a draft for the Board to consider at the next
day’s meeting. We reached a consensus on the following:
These memorial grounds are dedicated in honor and recognition of the men and women of
the Armed Forces of the United States who served in the Vietnam War. Their courage, sacrifice,
and devotion to duty and country shall not be forgotten. The names inscribed here preserve
the memory of those who gave their lives and of those who remain missing. As their names
are ordered, in that order did the war claim them. Built through the private donations of Amer-
icans. November 11, 1982.

Wheeler proposed that it be sent for ratification to a select group of our advisors, primarily
the Vietnam veterans. For its location, Cooper-Lecky recommended a plague on a paved
plaza at the entrance to the memorial site. We rejected this; it had to be on the walls them-
selves. I requested Cooper-Lecky to develop five alternatives, with at least two on the walls.
We would meet again in one week to consider them.
Cooper, Lecky, and Lin all came to the meeting on October 8, having prepared an elo-
quent statement. Of the five alternatives, three called for plaques to be set into the ground
or on altars, at various locations in front of the walls. One alternative had the inscription on
the ends of walls, but the last called for it to be divided into two parts, as a “prologue” and
“epilogue.” The prologue would be beside the date at the top of the first panel to the right
of the apex, and the epilogue would be beside the date at the bottom of the last panel to
19. The Sacred Names and the Inscription 155

the left of the apex. Cooper explained that a separate plaque would mark the entire
amphitheater as part of the memorial, while the prologue and epilogue would contribute
to the theme of the panels as pages in a book. Yet they didn’t recommend the prologue and
epilogue solution: “There is a quality to this design that must be experienced to be fully
understood, and no literal explanation or definition of this memorial belongs upon its
walls, especially not at this, the most important point.”
Cooper also emphasized the philosophical importance of the chronological listing,
i.e., to make the memorial a time capsule. He recommended having the names of the unac-
counted in the common listing, but differentiated by a symbol. Finally, he recommended
creating an alphabetical directory of all the names, showing their exact locations on the
walls.
The Board decided on the prologue and epilogue concept but accepted Cooper’s other
three recommendations. We reworked the inscription into the prologue and epilogue for-
mat, and I sent it for comment to 34 people. By October 20 I received 13 responses, including
from General Westmoreland and actor Jimmy Stewart. The general wanted “for a noble
cause” after “gave their lives,” and Stewart, who had lost his stepson, approved of our draft.
The final wording came out as follows:
In honor of the men and women of the Armed Forces of the United States who served in the
Vietnam War. The names of those who gave their lives and of those who remain missing are
inscribed in the order they were taken from us.
Our nation remembers the courage, sacrifice and devotion to duty and country of its Vietnam
veterans. This memorial was built with private contributions from the American people.
November 11, 1982

We scheduled a press conference for October 28 to announce the inscription and its
location. As a prop, Cooper-Lecky built full-sized replicas of the two panels at the apex.
To speak, we had recruited Jan Howard, a Vietnam Gold Star mother. A country and western
singer from Nashville, she had written a song about her son. Also attending was retired
Army Major General Thomas J. Hayes III, whose son, Thomas J. IV, was killed in action
in 1968. He had been one of Wheeler’s best friends at West Point. General Hayes had recently
been in charge of putting up the American Soldier’s Statue at West Point, for which he had
taken flak. Hence, he had empathy for our situation.
About twenty minutes before we were to begin, Lin and some junior architects showed
up with the replicas wrapped in brown paper. Made of Styrofoam panels on wooden frames,
these were 10' high and 40" wide. When the wraps came off, I hit the ceiling. The inscriptions
were placed next to the dates, but no line space separated the inscriptions from the names.
Since the inscriptions had the same size font as the names, nothing set them apart. “We
can’t show these to the press,” I blurted. Fortunately, they had brought black masking tape,
and I covered up the first row of names below the inscriptions to create a line space. Lin
pouted, but the press conference went off well and Howard and Hayes both voiced strong
support for her design.

R
Along with the criticism about the inscription, we heard rumblings about the lack of
a flag. The NPS early on had stated that it didn’t want to maintain a flag at the site. A flag
was not required nor prohibited in the design competition; some designs incorporated flag
156 Creating the Vietnam Veterans Memorial

displays and some didn’t. At the Board meeting on October 1, however, Wheeler directed
that Cooper-Lecky develop proposals for displaying a flag at the site.

R
By mid–1981, fundraising and public relations were rolling. In August 1981, at the invi-
tation of Shaun Sheehan, Schaet and I attended the National Association of Broadcasters
convention in Chicago to make the memorial known to its members. The NAB Board had
previously endorsed the memorial. Also in August, Cooper-Lecky had staked out the loca-
tion of the memorial at the site, so we invited the press for a look. The AP had a story for
Labor Day titled “Vietnam memorial staked out; funds short,” with a photo of Lin in a long
dress with porkpie hat in hand. The story said we still needed about $5 million, and
described the stakes “extending in a V-formation toward the Lincoln Memorial and the
Washington Monument.” I realized then that “V” stood for “vampire,” since we couldn’t
kill it, even with wooden stakes.
The Legion had pledged $1,000,000, and Scruggs and Fauriol went to Hawaii in late
August to address its convention. At its convention in August the VFW had adopted a res-
olution in favor of the memorial and had appealed to its 10,000 posts, asking for 100 percent
support. By the end of September $130,000 had come in. The AMVETS did an appeal to
their posts as well. We received over $33,000 in contributions from AFL-CIO affiliates.
First Lady Nancy Reagan joined our National Sponsoring Committee and agreed to sign
special acknowledgements for contributors of $500 and over. For the oil companies, in
addition to the $35,000 from Sunoco, we had gifts of $50,000 each from Mobil, Amoco,
and Atlantic Richfield. Senator Warner held a press conference in September to introduce
Paul Thayer as the chairman of the corporate major-gifts campaign. Otherwise the Cor-
porate Advisory Board included the CEOs of Boeing, John Hancock Life, Time, Pfizer,
Anheuser-Busch, and Flying Tiger Line.
From June through August, Fauriol, Karen, and Scruggs had made “corporate blitzes”
to Pittsburgh, Dallas, Houston, and St. Louis to make pitches at corporate headquarters
and foundations. This produced solid results, including $25,000 from Gulf and $20,000
from Dresser Industries. Planned visits in the fall included New York, Chicago, Minneapolis,
Milwaukee, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Buffalo, Boston, Philadelphia, San Francisco, and Los
Angeles. By December, they made 84 corporate and foundation visits outside of Washing-
ton, and raised $507,075 from 39 corporations. Many trips were supported by a PR blitz,
with press releases and radio interviews. Since I spoke Chicagoese, I went on the Chicago
visit with Fauriol in early October. The Tribune did an article about us the next week, “Viet
vet memorial is $5 million short.” It quoted me and published our address.
For direct mail in the fall, the fundraising plan called for 4.65 million letters in donor
and “cold” mailings, with an expected net of almost $590,000. Donors would be solicited
every eight weeks and prospects every three months. The lists generating the best responses
were primarily those of patriotic and conservative groups, especially USO donors and Sol-
dier of Fortune magazine subscribers, in spite of the fact that the magazine’s editors
denounced the design. Donor mailings usually brought returns of five to six percent.
The plan included approaches to service clubs like the Knights of Columbus, Kiwanis,
and Rotary, as well as more radiothons. As of the end of September 1981 we had $1.3 million
in cash and investments and a donor list of over 80,000 individuals.
19. The Sacred Names and the Inscription 157

R
Karen’s work was worth more than $15,000 a year, so Scruggs and Fauriol proposed
an increase to $18,000. The Board in October rejected this, falling back on a bureaucratic
excuse that increases would be once per year. This was particularly galling to me, after we
had wasted money on Wheeler’s seminar. At the meeting the Board also rejected a formal
appeal against Lin’s design coming from the disgruntled entrant who was sending the
sketches showing people wading in water in front of the walls. He based his opposition on
what he called the “unbuildability of the design.”
20

Our Opponents
Take the Field

From the beginning we knew we were playing with fire. The war cost 58,000 American
and 250,000 Vietnamese lives, and many more would bear physical and emotional wounds
for life. The domestic protests against the war had provoked huge demonstrations, civil
disobedience, and terrorist bombings. Despite its tremendous sacrifice in lives and money,
America had seen its ally collapse and itself ignominiously chased out. These events—sear-
ing in their own right—were magnified by the rancor of both those who believed our coun-
try was wrong from the beginning and those who believed it was stabbed in the back by a
domestic fifth column. Since the war’s end, a collective amnesia had captured the national
psyche. But the raw emotions still boiled under the surface, waiting to be released. For
these reasons, VVMF had eschewed any position on the war itself. We would focus on the
service and sacrifice of those who had served and those who had died.
We had flaunted our agnosticism over the war by including on the NSC, along with
General Westmoreland and Bob Hope, people like George McGovern and Carl Rowan.
McGovern’s name had provoked more outrage than any other. “I don’t want to be reconciled
with McGovern,” wrote one veteran. Some said, “We’ll support you if you take McGovern
off your letterhead.”
We had expected that any political opposition to the memorial would come from the
left. In April 1979, during Vietnam Veterans Week, the New York Times published a movie
review of The Deer Hunter with the title “The Gook Hunter.” After our legislation was
introduced in November 1979, the Post published a letter to the editor which asserted that
Vietnam veterans were trying to gain absolution through the memorial. During the aircraft
controllers’ strike, one columnist remarked on the paradox that the strikers were both anti-
government and right-wing; they were Vietnam veterans.
I saw military service as the duty of a citizen of a free country, but I also respected
the right of a free citizen to dissent. Especially galling was the oversimplification—made
by both the antiwar and pro-war camps—that everyone who had served in Vietnam had
supported the war while everyone who didn’t serve had protested. In fact most Americans
who weren’t directly affected ignored the war and enjoyed the booming economy.
The key criterion for the competition was that the design be “reflective and contem-
plative” in character. During all of our meetings, which had been attended by numerous
veterans, no one had ever suggested that the design should celebrate heroism, the nobility
of the cause, or any other traditionally patriotic theme. When we published the design pro-
gram, we heard no criticism of the criteria set for the design.

158
20. Our Opponents Take the Field 159

I myself had some ambivalence about the Lin design and had challenged the jury. Yet
their decision was the result of a lengthy, arduous, and fair process that had involved hun-
dreds of the country’s most talented designers, both as entrants and as jurors. Moreover, I
had directed the competition, and as the father, I could not reject my own child. I resolved
to do everything to get it built. The design also had practical advantages: it could be built
relatively quickly and it wouldn’t cost an excessive amount. We believed that in view of the
great human needs caused by the war, the cost of the memorial should not be excessive.
Overall the response to the design from the critics had been encouraging, but more impor-
tantly the major veterans’ organizations all published pictures of it and announced internal
fundraising drives to help build it.
Not happy, however, was Carhart. Early in the summer his wife called to invite me to
join them for dinner. A friend with a Ph.D. in the liberal arts was in Washington taking a
course on translating her skills for a job in the business world. I would make it a foursome.
We went to a restaurant in the Tysons Corner shopping center and things were proceeding
pleasantly. Both women were attractive and intelligent. Unfortunately, the conversation
turned to the memorial, and Carhart began to get heated. His wife tried to calm him down
but he kept ranting. Finally, turning his back to the table and putting his head in his hands,
he cried: “And then to have it designed by a gook.”
To date most of the negative comment had come from competition entrants. One
woman repeatedly wrote to House Speaker Jim Wright, demanding he undertake a Con-
gressional investigation of us. Her own design had consisted to a squad of men, naked but
for helmets and loincloth, standing under a trellis in the shape of the peace symbol—the
circle with three lines within it. In July 1981 the Washington Star ran a letter to the editor
titled “None But the Dead?” A veteran wrote, “This memorial, more than anything else, is
an open grave for the collective conscience of a guilty nation. The dead should certainly
be memorialized, but to again ignore those who still live make this open grave an open
wound as well.”
During the summer we began to perceive serious political opposition. In late June a
conservative journal carried an article by a Senate staff member named Gary Schmitt titled
“A-Memorial.” Schmitt criticized the color, the “sinkhole character,” and the chronological
listing of the names. But mainly he derided our requirement that memorial make no polit-
ical statement about the war. For him, it would be a monument to “victims,” not to “men
who died for an unsuccessful yet essentially correct cause.” He contrasted this with the Iran
hostages who were indeed victims yet treated as heroes. He saw the design as robbing “the
dead of the context that gives meaning to their deaths.”
Schmitt’s article was picked up by newspapers around the country, including the Chron-
icle of Bozeman, Montana, which in August published Don Schaet’s letter defending the
design as an “appropriate tribute.” Schaet wrote: “the issue is not whether the … war was
good or bad, right or wrong, moral or immoral, won or lost.” It was “whether or not the
people of this country should pay tribute to their sons and daughters who served.” He
described it as “a magnificent memorial…. It will be an open chevron recessed into the
ground and located near the Lincoln Memorial.”
In early September came a letter to me from Cy Kammeier, the executive director of
the Marine Corps League. Kammeier was a retired Marine captain, who had come up
through the ranks, and the Marine Corps League was the smaller of two Marine organi-
160 Creating the Vietnam Veterans Memorial

zations, the larger one being the Marine Corps Association (which later contributed
$10,000), the equivalent of the Air Force Association and the Association of the U.S. Army.
Jim Webb was a member of the League’s Legislative Committee, along with Kammeier and
four others.
Kammeier wrote to “express his personal concern and that of many, many other mem-
bers of the Marine Corps League regarding the design.” Although they weren’t architects,
there was a “general consensus that nothing in the design represents the purpose or the
commitment of those who served and survived the Vietnam experience…. [N]one volun-
teered to serve their country in Vietnam for the express purpose of dying or to ultimately
have their name engraved on a tombstone; as represented by the current design…. Duty,
honor and country were main motivating factors … which are best represented by the
American flag…. I encourage your committee to make every effort to include the flag in a
suggested modification to the current design, or to even scrap the design altogether and
reopen the bidding for a selection by at least several Vietnam veterans.” It was an articulate
letter, obviously with Webb’s input.
I knew that our response would be intensively scrutinized for any phrases or statements
that could be used against us, so I spent a lot of time with it. I pointed out the inaccuracies
in the media, like the alleged lack of mention of Vietnam and the presumed political message
of the black color. Noting the Marine Corps Memorial, the Seabees Memorial, and the new
South Boston Vietnam Memorial were all built with black granite, I asserted that the stone
was chosen for its artistic effect and not to make a statement.
I explained that the genesis of the design was the South East Asia Memorial at West
Point. A landscaped solution offered a place to pay homage without distraction. To obtain
such a prominent site we had to have a design that would be harmonious with Constitution
Gardens. I wrote: “The purpose of the memorial is not to literally depict the experience
and motivation of Vietnam veterans, but to express America’s honor and recognition of
them…. While it does not … have any literal description of the purpose and motivation
of those who served, the thoughtful visitor will contemplate those traits.”
I concluded: “America does not build memorials on its national Mall to any but its
best, and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial is taking its place literally in the shadow of the
Washington Monument. That monument, while having no literal expression of the courage,
honesty, and leadership of George Washington, more than anything else symbolizes our
country’s reverence of him.” We were reluctant to make any changes in the design because
“its strength and power derive from its very simplicity.”
The next salvo came from an editorial “Stop That Monument” in the September 18
issue of the conservative National Review magazine. Alleging that the name of the war
would not be “mentioned,” it said: “Our objection to this Orwellian glop does not issue
from any philistine objection to new conceptions in art. It is based upon the clear political
message of this design.” The article decried the black color, the mode of listing the names,
its “invisibility,” and its “V-shape,” supposedly an antiwar signal. It concluded: “The Reagan
Administration should throw the switch on this project…. If the current model has to be
built, stick it off in some tidal flat, and let it memorialize Jane Fonda’s contribution to
ensuring that our soldiers died in vain. And let us memorialize with suitable sculpture …
the Americans who gave their lives….”
Adding context to the issue was an article by Myra MacPherson called “Taps in
20. Our Opponents Take the Field 161

Southie—South Boston’s Homage To Its Vietnam Dead,” in the “Style” section of the Post
on September 15, 1981. “Vietnam was America’s class war and while the upper-class enclaves
around Boston were sending their sons to college and Canada, Southie’s working class sons
went to war as usual,” wrote MacPherson in the article about the dedication of the South
Boston Vietnam Memorial. Southie lost 25 men in Vietnam, two and a half times the
national average. Their memorial was a polished black granite wall inscribed with the
names and the inscription: “If you forget my death, then I died in vain.” The principal
speaker at the dedication was Jim Webb; the granite came from Uruguay.

R
Gilbane had identified the granite as the “long lead” item in the construction schedule,
and to meet our goal of dedicating the memorial on Veterans Day 1982, we had to order it
by November 1981. Although the CFA preferred to review the final design in its entirety, it
agreed to see the granite samples in advance so that we could meet our schedule. The
matter was on the agenda for the meeting on Tuesday, October 13. During the prior week
we heard through the grapevine that Carhart had announced that “Jimmy Webb and I are
going down to the Fine Arts Commission to raise some hell.” On Friday, Wheeler had
implored me to “write a brief ” over the weekend to defend the design, and as a good soldier
I had agreed. Wheeler had also deployed Mosley to try to talk Carhart out of coming.
Monday, the 12th, was Columbus Day, and our office observed the holiday. On that
beautiful fall day, I had taken Karen to dinner at the Comus Inn in the Maryland country-
side. After dinner, standing by the wooden rail fence, we gazed over the fields and watched
the sun go down behind Sugarloaf Mountain. It was a romantic interlude right out of the
book, except that I had to take her home so that I could go to the office and write the
paper—a feeling of being doused with ice water.
The meeting started at 9:30 a.m. at the Commission’s offices in an elegant Federal style
townhouse facing Lafayette Park, across the street from the White House. Dolly Madison
had lived just a few doors away. Carhart showed up wearing his two Purple Heart medals
on his left lapel, trailed by a TV camera. He had obviously thought about his potential
impact. Webb didn’t show up in person, but had submitted a letter for the record. When
our turn came, I introduced Kent Cooper, who presented samples of the stone from Sweden
and India and explained that the design required solid black granite with no veining. In
response to a commissioner’s question, he clarified that acceptable stone was not available
domestically. Then it was Carhart’s turn.
He identified himself as an attorney, a West Point graduate, and a Vietnam veteran
who was proud of his service and his two Purple hearts. The war had been a noble cause,
and he had been a victim of animosity upon his return, having been spit on in the Chicago
airport. He described his volunteer work for VVMF and how he had arranged the loan for
us. But in his mind the black and hidden winning design was based on a political view of
the war: “I was truly stunned. I thought it the most insulting and demeaning memorial to
our experience that was possible.” Carhart’s theory was that there had been two Vietnam
wars—one on the ground in Vietnam and the political one in the media and on campuses
in the U.S.—and that the jury—not including any Vietnam veterans—had naturally echoed
the war at home. He praised the Seabees, Iwo Jima, and 101st Airborne Division memorials,
which all were made from black granite, “and then we come to the shameful degrading
162 Creating the Vietnam Veterans Memorial

ditch that Vietnam veterans are given as their memorial: a black gash of shame and sorrow.”
He concluded by calling on the CFA to reopen the competition and require a jury of only
Vietnam veterans. Carhart gave the strong impression of a Bible-beating preacher, and I
imagined that he hadn’t had so much fun since he and Mosley had stood in the yard at
West Point and announced the theft of the Navy goat. Next to testify came a veteran carrying
a book called unbuilt America, in which he had found a drawing for a “summer music
shell” with two intersecting walls. On this basis he questioned the originality of Lin’s design.
The ensuing silence was broken by Commissioner Walter Netsch, who stated the obvi-
ous point that it wasn’t up to the CFA to reopen the competition. He added that sincere
people can be members of juries without having been in the group honored. Carter Brown
then spoke, obviously for the record, to recap the Commission’s prior approval of the design:
But the feeling of the commission at that time was that there is an extraordinary sense of
dignity and nobility that comes out of this design precisely because of its great simplicity and
not because it goes through a lot of corny specific references which may seem briefly to go to
the heart of the matter but can be seen to be really rather superficial, and that this solution
which had to do with nature, the ground, the modulation of the ground plain, the openness
of the sky and the view of the other great historical monuments around on our National Mall,
but it would be within, with the extraordinary litany of names, would be ones which would
call up in the visitor’s heart a tremendous admiration and gratitude for the extraordinary sac-
rifice made on behalf of all of us.
So we found a noble cause here well expressed and the concept of it being this very beautiful
material, highly finished, highly polished, that you wouldn’t expect to stumble across, gave
contrast to the natural forms that showed that men had been here. We found the sight of it
rather extraordinary. There is no group of veterans in the history of our country that have
been proposed to be memorialized in such a conspicuous place. It is right next to the Lincoln
Memorial and on the major axis that leads up to the Capitol of the United States and I think
will draw many, many visitors and bring into their hearts and minds a sense of contemplation
and appreciation which I think will move all of them.
Now; we can’t tell before it is built whether it will have this effect, but a lot of people whose
profession it is to visualize plans have been involved in this, and all of them seem to feel that
this has every earmark of extraordinary success. That is not always true of memorials. It is
very difficult to find a great solution to our great President Roosevelt, and yet the whole trend
in memorial design has been away from the approach of bits of whipped cream that are put
on to fancy pedestals and to go at the emotions in a more serious way and feel the element of
nature and to get into a landscape solution for the memorial as the proposed Roosevelt memo-
rial does rather than to try to sum it all up in a single statue or a single temple building.
We recognize that symbols are inadequate to express the enormous impact of some of these
national experiences of ours. So, more recently, people have responded to a different approach.
I think that is what is involved here.
I was interested in the presentation that there was the word “inference” used rather than
“implication,” and I think that is the nub of it. People will always react to these things subjec-
tively according to what they read into it, and we can’t avoid that…. We felt that this was the
kind of memorial that would do honor to the people it memorialized. That was really our
intention.

To conclude our testimony, Scruggs made a statement for the record: “The winning design
is a very beautiful and extraordinary work of art and one that all of us are very proud to
have.” He cited the support of James Kilpatrick, the VFW, the Legion, and the results of the
WPKX radiothon. Reverting to his psychological training, he concluded with a statement
that the design had aroused misplaced anger on the part of some veterans, which was really
20. Our Opponents Take the Field 163

directed towards the war itself and their treatment upon returning home. The Commission
approved the granite samples and went on to the next matter on its agenda: a proposal to
extend the second floor balcony at the National Theater.
Carhart had played his hand well. A story by Mike Feinsilber, “Vet asks rejection of
design,” went out on the AP wire and was picked up by newspapers around the country.
The piece, describing Carhart as a “decorated Vietnam veteran,” emphasized his portrayal
of the design as a “black gash of shame and sorrow.” While the design allegedly would fail
to “mention” Vietnam, Feinsilber in fact failed to mention that Carhart also was an unsuc-
cessful entrant in the competition. He quoted Carter Brown’s defense of the design, i.e., as
conveying “an extraordinary sense of dignity,” but also Brown’s gibes, i.e., no “corny specific
references” to the war and no “bits of whipped cream on pedestals.”
Webb’s letter took a different tack and prescribed specific changes to the design. He
described his background and how it led to frequent contact with veterans, whose reaction
to the design was “almost unanimously negative.” His criticisms included that “a black hole
in the ground … listing the names of those who died, is itself a very strong nihilistic state-
ment regarding the war,” and that the design lacked “implements of war.” Finally, since the
jury contained no Vietnam veterans, it “lacked the acute sensitivity needed to place the
emotions of the issue in their proper context.” His prescriptions included flying the Amer-
ican flag, having “a strong inscription denoting the values for which our countrymen fought
and died,” raising the memorial “above ground,” or changing the stone from black to white,
and abandoning the chronological listing of the names. I found Webb’s proposed remedies
to be infuriating. He once could have owned the project, but had never attended a meet-
ing.
The negative publicity, especially about the “black gash of shame,” produced com-
pounding (and confounding) effects. People wrote their senators and congressmen. Senator
Johnston of Louisiana received complaints that Lin was “un–American.” The job of answer-
ing the letters fell to the young staff members in each office, who by and large were ignorant
of the whole matter, so they called our office. We had to take the time to explain it to each
one of them from scratch. Yet the advantage was that they would answer their constituents
with our side of the story.
The UPI wire carried a story titled “Group opposes planned Vietnam memorial—Viet
vets propose alternate,” about a group in California that wanted the memorial to be a 30-
foot-long M-16 rifle stuck into the earth in Arlington Cemetery. “We think we know better
than a bunch of strangers what should stand in Washington to remember our brothers by,”
said their spokesman, who wanted to have it built entirely by Vietnam veterans.
The mood in our office became like that in a besieged fortress, as the attacks came in
from all directions. Rather than to building the memorial, Scruggs, Schaet, and I were
almost exclusively devoting our time to meeting with congressmen, writing letters to editors,
and talking to reporters and others on the phone. Wheeler constantly called, attempting
to give us orders. Schaet drafted a memo, “Facts About the Vietnam Memorial,” to respond
to all the points of criticism: Vietnam veterans participated in the design competition; it
would be highly visible and have an inscription; the chronological listing of names gave
dignity; black was a color of dignity and respect—the Iwo Jima, Seabees, and South Boston
memorials were black; the shape of the memorial was not a “V”; it would have handicapped
access, drainage, and safety; and it would honor all who served.
164 Creating the Vietnam Veterans Memorial

Nonetheless, none of us had backgrounds in art and design, and I found explaining
the concepts to be a challenge. Cindy Szady, who had shepherded the legislation in the
House, posed the pointed question of how the memorial honored the living veterans. I
responded that it would honor all the veterans just like the Washington Monument honored
George Washington. It would have a striking image and presence, be in a prominent loca-
tion, and be called the “Vietnam Veterans Memorial.” It would be ill-advised to designate
some particular feature, such as the 125° angle of the apex, as a means for honoring the liv-
ing. We were hearing from some quarters that a statue would somehow honor the living,
but I saw many statues in Washington that honored people who had died. Indeed, the
Marine Corps War Memorial was dedicated to those who died.
It was particularly important to shore up our position on Capitol Hill and with the
administration, since some congressman might introduce a bill to withdraw our legislation.
We heard that Don Bailey was ranting so we went to see him. Bailey threatened to speak
out against the design on the House floor and wanted to know what the inscription would
say. We told him we were still working it out but would have something in four weeks. He
said he’d hold our feet to fire, pointed at me, and said I’d better have it to him by October
22.
Congressman Hank Brown of Colorado, a former Navy flier and Vietnam veteran,
also posed a challenge. He pronounced himself offended by the black and underground
design. He held up his first and middle finger and declared that the design represented the
“peace sign” made by antiwar protestors. He followed up with a letter expressing his “deep
disappointment,” saying that the design was a “tragic mistake,” although he didn’t question
our motives. Scruggs responded, emphasizing that the angle of the walls was 125 degrees
and he couldn’t imagine that anyone could see a symbol in that. For our meeting with Vet-
erans Administrator Robert Nimmo, we flew in jury chairman Grady Clay. We pitched
Nimmo on getting a letter of endorsement from Reagan. At the White House we briefed
Morton Blackwell, the liaison with veterans’ organizations.
The impact that the design would have when built was difficult to explain; the model
built for the initial press conference didn’t portray its beauty; and the black and white ren-
derings were bland. Especially lacking was a depiction of the reflective quality of the highly
polished walls. Cooper-Lecky eventually made a five-foot-long model that much better
showed the expanse of the walls and the effect of the green lawns and trees. Cooper took
slides of the model, and I took photos of the Seabees and Marine Corps memorials to show
how the polished black granite reflected the images of the surrounding parkland. I put
together a show of about 15 slides and carried a slide projector to all the meetings on the
Hill. Before we’d enter a congressman’s office, I’d have the projector set up, with the carousel
mounted on top and with the power cord in my hand. As soon as we entered I’d find an
outlet, plug in the cord, and have the first slide projected on a blank wall before anyone
could object. That set the stage for us to deliver our message.
The National Review, for October 16, carried two letters defending the design, one
from James J. Kilpatrick and one from me. Kilpatrick’s was poignant: “Far from being an
‘outrage,’ the winning design approaches a level of architectural genius. It promises to be
the most moving war memorial ever constructed…. You would prefer a piece of ‘suitable
sculpture,’ on the model of memorials to Gettysburg or Appomattox. Bosh! Such memorials
gather moss in every village square from Mobile to Manchester. Washington is full of suit-
20. Our Opponents Take the Field 165

able sculptures, and with perhaps a half a dozen exceptions they are dreadful—pedestrian
examples of the stone carver’s skill. These ‘suitable sculptures’ arouse no emotion whatever.
The proposed Vietnam memorial, believe me, will pack an unforgettable wallop.” I admon-
ished them not to “set up straw men,” noting that Lin had never expressed any opinion on
the war and that “[a]ny ‘clear political message’ is solely in the eyes of the beholder.”
Carhart continued to get his message out. The Times published his op-ed, “Insulting
Vietnam Vets,” on October 24: “By this will we be remembered: a black gash of shame and
sorrow, hacked into the national visage that is the Mall…. The jurors know nothing of the
real war in Vietnam … anti-heroic…. Black walls, the universal color of sorrow and dis-
honor. Hidden in a hole, as if in shame…. Why can’t we have something white and tradi-
tional and above ground?” Not mentioned was that Carhart had entered the competition.
It was as if the man were on a holy crusade. In addition to writing articles, he visited
congressional and administration offices and spoke to groups of veterans: “Are we Vietnam
veterans so blind? Are we so dumb? Will we be outhustled once again? Are we going to
take this, a black pit of shame?” He approached Joe Brown, who with Rick Hart had won
third prize in the competition, but Brown blew him off and said Lin’s design would be
built. Thomas Haynes, the Legion’s director of internal affairs, also blew him off: “The
building of this Memorial (no matter what shape, size or color) must be paramount to any
other consideration…. I … hope that you will be able to set aside your personal dislike of
the design and join us in building the memorial.” Carhart and Scruggs did an on-air debate
on a Denver radio station. Carhart characterized VVMF as “slick operators,” who had
snowed the Legion and the VFW into thinking that if this design failed, there would be no
memorial. He yelled at a veteran who liked the design. Carhart’s fervor eventually led him
beyond the limits of the honorable.
The attacks expanded beyond criticism of the design. Some military organizations
received letters alleging that we were overstaffed and wasting funds. The NCPC staff
reported that veterans had been calling, and they expected a big demonstration at their
meeting in early December.
While the pace of the probes and our reactions intensified, many powerful backers,
like Generals Davison and Westmoreland, stayed with us, even though Westmoreland wanted
the inscription to state that the war was a “noble cause.” Kilpatrick assured us that problems
with monuments were inevitable and urged us to hold our ground. The VFW already had
raised over $130,000. A VFW post in Massachusetts voted a $1,500 donation, but wanted to
know why “Vietnam” would not be written. A publication called Human Events, in its “Con-
servative Forum” column, carried a sympathetic article. VA Deputy Administrator Chuck
Hagel thanked us for the hard work and said he was behind us 100 percent. Another combat
veteran, Congressman John Murtha, met with us to strategize. He didn’t want the project
to fail and the complaints to get out of control. His first question was whether the jurors
were antiwar protestors. I didn’t know; we hadn’t asked that question.
I received a call from a Milton Copulos, on the staff of the Heritage Foundation, the
prominent conservative think tank. He identified himself as a 100 percent disabled veteran
who had done two combat tours in Vietnam. “I’ll be upfront,” he said, “I have some problems
with the design.” He noted its emphasis on those who died, contrasted with the goal of
honoring and recognizing all who served. While he didn’t perceive anything nefarious, i.e.,
no communist plot, he did think that the jury had an unconscious aim to bury the whole
166 Creating the Vietnam Veterans Memorial

episode. He saw a very striking but negative impact and alleged that one of jurors was an
antiwar activist and had counseled draft resisters. He wondered whether there might be
some way to strike a middle ground, perhaps by adding a flag.
Copulos published an article in the Heritage Foundation newsletter, “A Black Trench,”
with the standard litany of criticisms. He quoted Kammeier’s letter to me and my language
of “those who served and died.” But his ultimate problem was political: “Many veterans,
however, regard the lack of any statement about the role of the American serviceman in
defending the freedom of the Vietnamese people as a political statement of the strongest
kind: a statement that their war was a meaningless sacrifice…. Given the rhetoric of the
brochure, it is understandable why the designs entered conveyed a negative feeling about
the Vietnam conflict.” Our materials allegedly stressed an “anti-heroic theme,” and the jury
had one antiwar activist. Along with Webb and Carhart, we now had the last member of
the troika that would lead the opposition to the design.
I had dropped an important ball by forgetting to inform Don Bailey of the wording
of the inscription by October 22. Two days later he called Scruggs to complain. He liked
the inscription but didn’t think it said enough to defend the war. Although he had helped
squelch a move to revoke our legislation, he nonetheless would put a statement in the Con-
gressional Record to express his dislike of the design and of our requirement that the mon-
ument not make a political statement about the war. A few days later General Davison
reported that he had phoned Bailey at the suggestion of Congressman Montgomery and
heard a “profane tirade”—the design didn’t recognize heroism; the inscription was a cop-
out and disgrace; and it totally ignored the most important point, which was the cause.
A puzzling turn was the visit to our office by Norman B. Hannah, a retired Foreign
Service officer and contributor to the National Review, whom Scruggs and I received gra-
ciously. He seemed to be having second thoughts about the Review’s denunciation of the
design. We discussed it at length, and he suggested a goal of inserting the memorial into
the mainstream of American historical pride, i.e., “From these honored dead we take
increased devotion.”
To round out the month of October the Legislative Committee of the Marine Corps
League, consisting of Webb, Kammeier and four others, adopted a resolution declaring the
design to be inappropriate and an insult to the memory of those who died. The organiza-
tion’s national commandant approved the resolution. A stone company in Minnesota wrote
Gilbane saying it wouldn’t submit a bid for the granite as a matter of principle, because it
would come from Sweden or India. They of course copied their senators and congressman.
The Times had a brief mention of our upcoming announcement of the inscription, but
“Carhart … insists that the original plan was to omit the word as part of what he terms
‘this final sneer at Vietnam veterans.’” The Army Times quoted him as well: “It’s a memorial
to Jane Fonda, not to those of us who served in Vietnam.”
On November 4, the VVMF staff was invited to an evening reception at the editorial
offices of the Post on 15th Street, honoring the Post’s publication of Wheeler’s “Wounded
Generation” symposium in book form. Wine loosened things up, but Webb remained stand-
offish. Kathy Kielich, in her motherly way, chided him: “We haven’t seen you lately.” More
significantly, Chuck Hagel mentioned that Carhart had brought him a document alleging
that one of the jurors was a communist. He offered to give us a copy, so we walked back
down Vermont Avenue to his office at the VA.
20. Our Opponents Take the Field 167

The six-page essay, called “Reexamining the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Project,” was
written by a Francis M. Watson, without further identification. Watson, however, was a
retired Army officer who had done research on public opinion and propaganda, including
a project looking into underground newspapers in the United States. His publications
included a lengthy analysis of Jane Fonda’s broadcasts in Vietnam, and in 1976 he had tes-
tified before a Senate subcommittee about how a group called the Peoples Bicentennial
Commission was attempting hijack the Bicentennial celebration. According to Watson,
“some of VVMF literature smacks heavily of the old antiwar movement and the far left.”
He cited the standard criticisms of the design and quoted Carhart’s theory of the two Viet-
nam wars. He asserted that VVMF had two sets of literature, one for each war. Our docu-
ments for the design competition allegedly appealed to the antiwar movement and our
fundraising letters were tuned to traditional patriotism: “The … entire letter prepared for
Bob Hope’s signature, and used to coax funds from the general public, omits words, phrases,
and whole sentences having antiwar connotations that were retained or injected in the
brochure sent out to guide the thinking of participants in the design competition.”
Watson also thought that the site had significance to the antiwar movement, but his
trump card was: “Preliminary research … indicates that four, maybe five, of the eight mem-
bers of that jury were involved in some sort of protest against the war, and one of those
has a record in the far left reaching back to 1944.” This juror had taught at the “California
Labor School, a noted front of the Communist Party USA,” and in June 1957 had been iden-
tified in hearings before the House Un-American Activities Committee. In sum, the memo-
rial site, the specifications for the design, and the jury were antiwar in nature. The VVMF
leadership, while sincere, had been duped.
The Watson article changed the game. Whether it was true or not, the very allegation
of a “commie on the jury” was potentially fatal. Wheeler knew an attorney, Walter Surrey,
who had defended alleged communists during the 1950s. We let this fact be known to
dampen the enthusiasm of our opponents to spread the smear.

R
Veterans Day, November 11, always elicited media stories about veterans, and our proj-
ect provided a good hook for 1981. By coincidence, the final approval of the memorial
design was on the agenda for the November 10 CFA meeting. No one showed up in oppo-
sition, and the meeting went off in an orderly fashion. Lin presented slides showing our
proposed solutions to all the issues. For safety there would be a 12-inch-high curb of black
granite, set 11 feet behind the wall. Each wall would be lengthened to 246 feet, nine inches,
and in front would be a granite pathway, four feet wide at the top, and eight feet wide at
the apex. The slope of the pathway would be 1:24, making it fully handicapped accessible.
For drainage we would extend a pipe to a storm sewer under Constitution Avenue that was
lower than lowest point of memorial. The lawn in the amphitheater in front of the walls
would be reinforced with a layer of Enkamat, as used on football fields.
The letters of the names would be 0.53 inches high and inscribed 1/32 inch deep, with
line-to-line spacing of 0.83 inches. We would create an alphabetical directory showing the
location of each name. A final design detail dealt with the geometry of the walls. At the apex,
they would be 10 feet, 1.56 inches high, and although their visual effect would be that the tops
were level, they would actually slope down 2 feet 6.71 inches over their 246.75-foot lengths.
168 Creating the Vietnam Veterans Memorial

Following our presentation, the Commission members went to the site, where our
subcontractor was already doing borings for soil tests. They weren’t happy that we extended
the walls from 200 feet, but gave approval. That evening the AIA held a reception at the
Octagon House to mark the opening of the exhibit of the designs from the competition.
The next day I spoke at the Octagon at a performance by a choir of veterans in treatment
for PTSD at the VA hospital in Menlo Park, California.
In its “Outlook” opinion section on Sunday, November 8, the Post devoted almost the
entire first two pages to articles about Vietnam veterans and the memorial. The first was
about B.T. Collins, a former Green Beret who lost his right arm and leg in Vietnam, now
chief of staff for California Governor Jerry Brown. “Viet Vets: Doing It Ourselves,” by a
West Point graduate, had a political twist: “It is past time to affirm a positive image of the
Vietnam veteran. The catch is that we have to do it ourselves.” The writer perceived vested
interests in keeping us down. Liberals allegedly wanted to make us into another welfare
constituency.
William Greider saw political implications in the memorial design, with a column
titled, “Memories That Shape Our Futures—If Vietnam is behind us why are 300,000 kids
dodging the draft?” He recalled that he had written a story in 1976 about the rage of Vietnam
vets, one of whom was Jan Scruggs, a sociology student at the time. Regarding the design:
“The point seems obvious: our shared memories of that war do not include any suitably
heroic images which a sculptor could convert to stone or bronze…. When one thinks of
what might authentically capture the national feeling about Vietnam, there is no clear and
obvious answer, none that would not restart the old arguments…. Thus, the memorial
committee chose a neutral and soft-spoken monument….”
Regrettably Greider’s article was illustrated on page 2 with a rendering of the memorial
beside three of the most infamous photos from the war: the general shooting a Viet Cong
in the head, the little girl running naked after being burned by napalm, and the helicopter
on the roof during the fall of Saigon. A quarter of the same page was occupied by an ad
titled “Dare we forget?” signed by Mobil. It praised VVMF and gave our address, concluding:
“Mobil is proud to have contributed and we urge other business concerns, labor unions,
and a host of other groups, as well as individuals, to share in the memorial.”
On the 11th, the Post carried an op-ed by James Kilpatrick, “Finally, We Honor the
Vietnam Dead.” “Let me venture my own opinion: this will be the most moving war memo-
rial ever erected,” he wrote and provided our address for contributions. The Times’s editorial
“How to Remember Vietnam,” had a political slant: “A memorial that emphasizes the names
without offering any conclusion about the war reflects the truth about how the nation
remembers Vietnam.” The Times didn’t publish Scruggs’s letter responding to Carhart’s op-
ed, but did carry one from the wife of an Air Force officer missing in Vietnam since 1967.
She thought the prominence given to Carhart’s opinion was out of proportion. The “design
… has been widely praised for its eloquence, dignity and nobility, which is the message it
conveys to me.” The Times also carried a letter from a minister, wanting to know whether
Mobil would support extending the reach of the memorial to include conscientious objec-
tors.
The Dallas Morning News published my op-ed, “Vietnam Veterans Memorial a mag-
nificent tribute,” occupying the top half of the page. I refuted all the criticisms of the design
and quoted from the Plain Dealer of Cleveland:
20. Our Opponents Take the Field 169

We could argue aesthetics forever. Beauty speaks softly into each individual ear. If you don’t
hear, then you don’t, and that which may exist for others is lost on you.
Must a war monument be like every other monument to speak it message of respect and
honor?

On the same page was the rendering of the design and Carhart’s piece “Insulting Vietnam
Veterans”—the “counterpoint” to my “point.”
Also helpful were editorials in two significant publications with a military connection.
The Reserve Officers Association carried a long editorial in its November magazine: “The
design … does not employ conventional symbols associated with traditional memorials.
No cannons render a silent volley. No flaming sword emblazons the roster of the fallen. No
spirited GIs raise the flag to lofty heights. Therein lies it uniqueness.” The piece refuted all
the arguments against the design and quoted a former Green Beret: “Everybody sees in
Vietnam what they want to see, and there isn’t going to be any one design that all Vietnam
veterans will agree upon, sums up the feeling and honors those who served and those who
died.” The Army Times editorialized that the design was “simple, honest and in good taste.
No matter which design was picked, someone probably could be found who preferred
another.”
Wolf Von Eckardt had since gone to work for Time magazine, and his piece, “Storm
over a Viet Nam Memorial,” defended the design before a national audience. Responding
to Paul Gapp’s estimation that it was “bizarre” because it was “neither a building nor sculp-
ture,” Von Eckardt wrote: “But of course it is precisely those unclassifiable qualities that
make Lin’s design so eminently right. It fits. At this time in the history of our architecture,
and at this place in the monumental heart of Washington, additional buildings or sculptures
would intrude.”
The weekend after Veterans Day, the Post’s new architecture critic, Benjamin Forgey,
weighed in with “Model of Simplicity—Another Look at the Vietnam Memorial,” prompted
by the opening of the exhibit:
Just how wrong are the naysayers and how amazingly right were the jurors can be seen in an
exhibition at Octagon House.
[N]one of [the other designs] so succinctly responds to the competition requirement that
the memorial design should be contemplative and reflective in character.
All of the proposed figurative schemes are too specific. They limit the range of possible
responses.
Those impressive, long black walls, set into the earth, are perfect. The will invite the viewer
to walk down the hill. The will demand a response without dictating what it should be. They
will insist simply that he reflect in some way upon the nature of the sacrifices made.

The Wall Street Journal had an editorial, “Free the Veterans,” which fortunately was
not about us. It dealt with a documentary that PBS was airing that evening called Frank:
A Vietnam Veteran, about a man suffering from severe PTSD more than ten years after
coming home. He had left his family because of violent impulses toward them and said
that killing made him feel like a man. The editorial equated the documentary and its timing
with portraying the Irish as drunken brawlers on St. Patrick’s Day. Quoting Tom Pauken,
it noted that 80 percent of Vietnam veterans had already made a successful transition to
civilian life. It found the film to be “a vicious stereotype of the Vietnam veteran … that has
been carefully nurtured for more than a decade by an antiwar movement intent on nailing
170 Creating the Vietnam Veterans Memorial

down the American defeat.” Don Bailey already had entered a statement of protest in the
Congressional Record.
The Veterans Day press continued through Sunday, November 15, when the Post’s
“Outlook” section published another critique by Carhart: “A Better Way to Honor Viet
Vets,” at the top of the page. Again, not mentioned was that he was an unsuccessful entrant
in the design competition. Carhart ran through all the criticisms and concluded that all
the problems with the design could be solved if it were made white and above ground with
a flag at the apex. In support he noted that while VVMF would have to buy black granite
in Sweden or India, white marble could be obtained in America. He didn’t, however, propose
changing the color of the Marine Corps War Memorial, with its offensive Swedish stone.

R
Positive opinions of architecture critics and editorial writers were encouraging, but
with the controversy over the design, the rubber met the road in the Congress and the
administration, which had the power to kill it. After Veterans Day I was called by John
Kachmar, a Marine grunt in Vietnam and now chief of staff for a conservative Republican
congressman from Pennsylvania. I had met Kachmar a few months earlier. Of Slovak
descent, he impressed me as a good guy. His message, however, confirmed our fears: “There’s
a move to block the design gaining support on the Hill.” A lobbyist and ex–Marine, Bill
Chatfield, was hitting up Congressional offices. An ad hoc group, including the Marine
Corps League and Harris Jordan on the staff of conservative Republican Phil Crane, had
come together to block its construction. “And I’m not sure how I feel about it myself,” said
Kachmar, closing with, “Jimmy Webb is a good guy.”

R
And then there was Perot. Scruggs had tried diligently to bring him around on the
design, and in July had sent the artist’s rendering and wrote, “Ross, this design is really
magnificent.” To no avail, however. Perot called Scruggs the first week in November to vent.
He had received many letters from veterans; he disliked the design more each day; he was
angry that he had helped us; and he wanted Carhart’s phone number. Scruggs wrote back
with a plea that Perot try to hear our side. Asserting that memorials are always criticized
before they are completed, he cited as examples the Eiffel Tower and something called “The
Cauldron” in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He meant the huge metal sculpture created by
Alexander Calder in 1969, referred to by the locals as “The Calder.’’

R
A major front in the war over the design involved the jury, which the opponents sought
to discredit. Yet the jurors were a prestigious body that we could mobilize to defend the
design. As the opponents now were spreading the rumor of a “commie on the jury,” we had
to warn them about the smear campaign. I got on the phone and reverted to my former
occupation as interrogator.
Pietro Belluschi had supported the war and never demonstrated against it. He knew
Senator Hatfield and would contact him. Nivola and Rosati had never protested. They had
agreed to be jurors out of sympathy for the cause of the veterans. Weese, himself a combat
veteran, hadn’t protested or counseled resisters. He knew Senator Percy and would call
20. Our Opponents Take the Field 171

him. He felt that a flag could be flown for special occasions, but that a permanent flagpole
was “corny.” In his opinion, the judgment of the responsible agencies was being impugned
and if this design was not built, none would be. Our jury was the best in the business, and
he was glad to be in the hot seat with us. It was a matter of democracy. Sasaki was sad about
the controversy and confirmed that he had not been involved in any antiwar activities and
that there had been no political discussion during judging. Hunt had served as a medic in
the peacetime Army, during which he participated in civil rights sit-ins in his off-duty
time. He had been against war, but didn’t counsel resisters. He had, however, contributed
a painting to the Peace Tower that had been erected in Los Angeles in 1966 by artists as a
statement against the war.
The principal target of the opponents was Garrett Eckbo. We had heard through the
grapevine that Carhart was saying that he could prove that Eckbo was a communist. On
Saturday, November 14, I spent the bulk of the afternoon in the stacks of the Library of
Congress plowing through transcripts of HUAC hearings. On page 1166 of a 1957 hearing
I found Eckbo’s name. A Jack Patten had identified Communist Party members active in
the arts. He named Eckbo, but provided no other information.
I called Eckbo on Monday. He had never heard of Patten, had never been a member
of the Communist Party, had never been called before HUAC, and had not counseled draft
resisters. What he had done was teach a course in landscape at the California Labor School,
which had been set up in 1942 by 72 trade unions, with the program of supporting “the
present world struggle against fascism.” It had been accredited for veterans’ education under
the G.I. Bill of Rights, but in 1948 it was put on the Attorney General’s List of Subversive
Organizations and closed in the 1950s. Eckbo did not deny being an intense antiwar activist.
Indeed, an anonymous package showed up at our office containing copies of full-page
protests against the war that Eckbo had signed and that had been published in 1966 and
1967 in the Times, the Daily Californian, and the San Francisco Chronicle. Eckbo was coming
to Washington later in November to attend the annual meeting of the American Society
of Landscape Architects and would meet with Walter Surrey. “The accusations are, of
course, a deliberate smear and a throwback to the bad old days,” he said.
Jury chairman Grady Clay already had begun to play an active role by meeting with
the head of the VA. Clay confirmed that he had opposed the war, but hadn’t demonstrated.
A new chapter for Clay began on November 11. Wheeler called, having talked with Webb,
who wanted the memorial to be white, with a flag at the apex, and the names in alphabetical
order. Webb also had said that no one named “Grady Clay” had been in the Army before
1947. I called Clay, who was irate. He retorted that he’d been commissioned in 1942, had
served in the artillery battery of the 1st Armored Division, and had been wounded at Anzio,
Italy. “If they smear, we sue,” he said.
Clay called Webb the same day, following up with a letter to confirm their discussion:
Webb wouldn’t further repeat the rumor that Clay didn’t serve in World War II. Finally,
“[L]et me say in conclusion that I admire your writings, and regret that we seem to be at
opposite poles in interpreting the winning Memorial design. Time will show it to be a great
work of memorial art to those who served in a terribly difficult war.”
Webb quickly responded, writing he was “sorry you were embarrassed by the events
last week…. In fact, if anyone was defamed over this unfortunate occurrence, it was probably
I….” He explained that he simply had told Wheeler regarding the rumor that he had “better
172 Creating the Vietnam Veterans Memorial

check it out.” “I have been operating as a moderating influence on people who are rabidly
opposed to it, and who wish to destroy the project altogether,” he said, but “[u]nderstate-
ment is not called for when we are dealing with the heroic and honorable loss of life,
whether you believed in the cause or not.” In closing, Webb asked Clay’s opinion about
making the memorial white with a flag. Clay had the last word in the exchange of letters:
“Clearly the memorial jury did not see the negativism you find in the winning design. Sub-
tlety is no negative, but merely the deeply pervading presence of emotional content.” Regard-
ing its color, Clay retorted: “[T]his was the winning design.”
Wheeler and I held a conference call with the eight jurors the evening before Thanks-
giving. We reported that Walter Surrey had advised “to act and band together” to defend
the process but to avoid any personal explanations. We pointed out that the opponents
were trying to get to Watt, and it was agreed that Clay would write a letter on the jury’s
behalf. His three-and-a-half-page essay went out on December 1. Clay reviewed the jury’s
entire process, and summed it up: “All the foregoing, Mr. Secretary, we offer to you as evi-
dence of our dedication to the task of choosing a great memorial from the entries in this
extraordinary and historic competition…. Sir, we knew the risks. In all competitions, few
can be chosen, and many are the losers. Not all who lose can do so with grace. Not all win-
ning designs can please everyone. But great art will survive.”
In mid–November, Richard Harwood, the Post’s assistant managing editor, assured
Wheeler that the controversy was small time and not worth worrying about unless the
VFW, the Legion, and the AFL-CIO pulled out. Designs for national monuments always
took hits. All well and good, but we faced a real threat. Also in mid–November, John Woods
and I briefed Ric Davidge, a special assistant to the DOI assistant secretary for Parks and
Wildlife. Davidge, athletic-looking and personable, had served as an Army medic and been
decorated. He said it had taken him six years to readjust from combat, and he liked the Lin
design. He reported that the detractors had been calling Watt with allegations that the
jurors were communists. Their political hook for blocking the design would be the alleged
involvement of the American Communist Party. He requested a written rebuttal of the
charges, as Watt’s staff wanted to keep him out of the loop on the memorial.
Davidge had pointed out one troubling fact: technically, the design had never been
submitted to Watt for his approval. Our legislation provided that if any of the three approv-
ing entities failed to report approval or specific objection to the design and plans within
90 days of their submittal, the approval would be deemed given. Under normal circum-
stances, the secretary’s authority was delegated to the NPS. While CFA was the guru for
the pure design aspects and NCPC focused on regional planning, NPS normally concerned
itself with the basics like soil conditions, parking, and public access. We had submitted the
plans to the NPS the previous June, but if Watt wanted to involve himself in approving the
design, he possibly had the legal authority to do so.
The next public event would be the NCPC hearing on December 3 to approve the final
design. I urged our supporters to sign up and testify, since we expected a large demonstra-
tion against us and saw the opponents’ actions as serious threats.
On Capitol Hill, a memo from Harris Jordan to his boss, conservative Congressman
Phil Crane (an Illinois Republican), asserted that the memorial design (“a pit with a
black wall below ground level”) was unacceptable and recommended a menu of actions
to block it: a joint congressional letter to Watt, a “Dear Colleague” letter to other congress-
20. Our Opponents Take the Field 173

men, a resolution to amend our legislation to require the Armed Services committees to
approve the design, and activation of the conservative network. A decorated combat veteran,
Jordan wanted it to be above ground level, white, and made of American materials, with a
flag over it and the names in alphabetical order. A problem, he explained, was that it had
already been formally approved by the CFA and NCPC (he was mistaken) and the 90-day
period for the Secretary of the Interior’s response had already lapsed. The position of
Watt’s staff, however, was that changes made during design refinement required further
approval.
Anticipating a positive response from Crane, Jordan had prepared a draft letter to
Watt, asserting that the memorial contradicted the intentions of Congress by honoring
only the dead, while the legislation authorized a memorial to those who served. In support,
he quoted my language from the Purpose and Philosophy statement: “those who served
and died.” He included a quote from Scruggs in the Post on May 25, 1977: “No efforts can
provide compensation, of course, to the Americans who made the ultimate sacrifice in
Vietnam. For them, perhaps, a national monument is in order, to remind an ungrateful
nation of what it has done to its sons.” He concluded by comparing the design to the mouths
of the ovens at Dachau, the Nazi concentration camp. Jordan and the other opponents
looked for every way to block us. He even asked me whether we had consent from the fam-
ilies of the dead to inscribe their names. I verified that the names were public record.
Our mini-war continued during the short week before Thanksgiving. Jimmy Stewart
called to say he would see President Reagan the next week and ask him to help us. On
Tuesday, the Post published three letters under the title: “The Vietnam Memorial: ‘Eloquent’
or ‘Repugnant’?” The first, from Scruggs, responded to Carhart’s missive, pointing out that
Carhart had entered the competition and had had no problem with the jurors then. “It will
become, in time, a symbol of national healing, and much of the credit will go to the veterans
of Vietnam—who had to build their own memorial,” he concluded. A nurse who spent 14
months in Vietnam wrote: “I find the proposed design … personally repugnant … it rep-
resents the black gash that ripped our country apart in dissent.” Another wrote: the “design
… is the cruelest joke yet.”
The kicker for the week was a letter from Webb: “Having received no response to my
several communications with VVMF regarding the inadequacy of the proposed design, I
must unfortunately resign from the NSC, effective immediately…. Any representation or
communication from the Fund, either written or oral, from the date of receipt of this letter,
that either states or implies that I support the proposed design will be a misrepresentation,
and will be treated as such may be.” The next week, I drafted our response for Scruggs’s
signature: we would make no representations and his name would be deleted. Yet, I used
letterhead that still had Webb’s name on it and threw in another dig: we were confused
about his reference to communications, since the only thing we’d heard from him had been
his letter about the inscription and his letter to the CFA. Webb sent an immediate response
to Scruggs: “I reiterate: if my name is used at any time from the date you received by certified
letter, I will consider it a misrepresentation and act accordingly.”
He went on to explain that he had had “many, many conversations” with Wheeler. He
had even read Wheeler a piece that already had been accepted by the Post for Veterans
Day. Wheeler had become upset, so he had withdrawn the letter in exchange for Wheeler’s
promise to negotiate some compromise with other members of VVMF: “It is not unrea-
174 Creating the Vietnam Veterans Memorial

sonable to assume, given subsequent events, that this was a delaying tactic designed to
enable VVMF to conduct its Fort Bragg Dog and Pony Show on Capitol Hill, and to allow
the American Legion piece to be published.” By the latter, Webb referred to my article in
the December issue of the Legion’s magazine.
Webb gave us too much credit for deviousness and attributed too much importance
to himself. Could he really think we would throw out the product of the largest design
competition ever held because he didn’t like it? Could he really think we shouldn’t defend
the design? In fact, Wheeler had requested that I get proposals from our architects for
adding a flag, but the idea of changing the color to white was outlandish. I myself had expe-
rienced Wheeler’s often sly persuasive tactics, so I could appreciate Webb’s chagrin.
Nonetheless, I had to applaud whatever Wheeler might have told Webb in this case.
Webb also noted “Bob Doubek’s actionable defamation of me with respect to Grady
Clay, after I attempted … to give Wheeler a run down on the rumor mill.” He invited me
to apologize and went on: “You have been extremely vicious in your ad hominem attacks
on Carhart; what is your syllogism? … anyone who dislikes the design is either troubled
or a sore loser?” Finally, “I never in my wildest dreams imagined such a nihilistic slab of
stone.”
Webb’s lawyer called the next day; Webb wanted his name deleted immediately—as
of VVMF’s date of receipt of his first letter. I said Webb’s name would be deleted from out-
going correspondence, and accordingly the Gold Star Mother volunteers whited out his
name on our stock of office stationery. Yet the major problem was the materials for the
direct-mail appeal. We were to mail 882,000 letters through the end of December. All were
printed, folded, stuffed, and sealed in envelopes. The replacement cost would be $20 per
thousand, a total of $17,640. We also had an inventory of brochures worth $6,000. Moreover,
lists had been rented, at a cost of $24,000, and the expected net revenue from the December
mailing was $75,000 with 8,000 names to be added to our donor list. We had since retained
an attorney versed in nonprofit matters, and in his opinion we weren’t required by law to
delete Webb’s name from the existing materials. Moreover, if we did, it could be deemed a
waste of assets, subjecting the directors to personal liability.
Wheeler decided that most important was not missing the mailing dates. Lost revenue
would be the biggest expense, and the main risk was Webb suing to enjoin us from mailing.
We therefore had new stationery printed so as to do as much of the mailing as possible
without Webb’s name. This cost $4,800; the attorney agreed it was not a waste of assets to
mitigate exposure to a lawsuit.

R
Our position on Capitol Hill appeared to be holding. Majority Leader Wright’s staff
hadn’t heard of any move to pull our authorization. Senators Boschwitz and Laxalt were
with us. Mathias and Warner planned a “Dear Colleague” letter, and the counsel to the
Senate Veterans Affairs Committee asked for a briefing to help him deal with the complaints.
Senator Jim Sasser of Tennessee introduced a bill for a postage stamp to honor the dedi-
cation of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Yet the Legion reported a call from the office of
a “far right” senator, saying the memorial was a “celebration of the antiwar movement.”
The first week in December, Scruggs and I went to the Hill to meet with Congressman
David Bonior, a Vietnam-era veteran and a “friendly.” Afterward, I suggested to Scruggs
20. Our Opponents Take the Field 175

that we dare to enter the “belly of the beast,” that we visit Phil Crane’s office. We ended up
meeting for three hours with Harris Jordan, Bill Chatfield, and two others, explaining at
length our motivations, the jurors’ attitudes toward Vietnam veterans, and how the design
was ratified. Jordan projected intensity, bolstered by a blue suit and white shirt. For him
the “left” was the enemy. Chatfield, a Pentagon employee, appeared more open. He wanted
to know how I would feel knowing that one of the jurors was a communist, with three
aliases. (Eckbo later explained that the “aliases” were the names of former employees in his
firm.) They pointedly asked whether we opposed having a flag at the site; we said we didn’t.
Chatfield called the next day. He had liked my M.O. and had talked with Webb and Carhart,
who had already heard that we had “proselytized” Crane’s office. He understood the reasons
for the black granite and liked our idea for a name locator, which neutralized opposition
to the chronological listing. He thought we could take the fuel off the fire of the opposition.
A flag would make a lot of people happy, but it had to be as close to the apex as possible.
He still needed to counter the “underground trench” notion. Acknowledging that the oppo-
nent group was splintered, he remarked on the tough people out there, especially former
POWs working with Ross Perot.
According to Chatfield, many of the opponents believed that the left wasn’t vocal
against the memorial because they wanted it as a place to hold demonstrations. Chatfield
believed the design to be redeemable, if we just added the flag and strengthened the wording
of the inscription. Don Bailey wanted something like “fought for freedom” and “right and
just.” Chatfield further alluded to the “moral turpitude” of the jurors, as each allegedly had
signed antiwar protests. I pointed out that on principle we couldn’t make major changes,
like black to white. Chatfield felt that things had gotten too paranoid, since “we are all good
guys.” He suggested that all the players on both sides get together and talk face to face. “A
lot of people put stock in Jim Webb,” he said. “Webb has the power to quell problems.” He
closed by apologizing for the late nature of his involvement.

R
Chatfield’s call was a potential breakthrough. Putting a flag at the site, albeit not at the
apex, wasn’t a problem, and we could possibly tweak the inscription to satisfy Bailey. But
the opponents meanwhile rolled on. Webb and Andrew Messing solicited VFW Executive
Director Cooper Holt, but he declined to help shoot down the design. I found Messing’s
involvement ironic, since in my prior job, I had done the legal work get the incorporation
and tax exemption for his conservative advocacy organization. That experience helped me
do the same things for VVMF. I then had asked Messing, a Vietnam veteran, whether he’d
like to participate. He responded that he was proud to have fought communism, but as for
the memorial, “Nah, no one would be interested in something like that.”
On December 3 the NCPC approved the schematic (above ground) design of the
memorial. Among others testifying in support were Reserve Officers Association Executive
Director Maj. Gen. J. Milnor Roberts and John Terzano from the Vietnam Veterans of
America. Terzano later wrote that the VVA “supports, applauds, congratulates, and com-
mends on the design chosen.” Despite our fears, no one showed up to oppose it. Our oppo-
nents preferred to work outside the system.
They next held a press conference at Messing’s office on December 7. About 25 people
attended, including Schaet and George Tanber from our PR firm. The six speakers included
176 Creating the Vietnam Veterans Memorial

the usual suspects, Carhart, Jordan, Kammeier, and Copulos, along with a retired Army
general and a retired admiral from the Naval Aviators Association. They voiced the usual
complaints and called for the memorial to be white and above ground with a flagpole at
the apex. Carhart alleged that we come up with the inscription only as a reaction and that
the Legion made its pledge in the dark. “We Vietnam vets are being abused and hustled,”
he said. They praised the chapel in New Mexico, a white tower, as excellent, along with the
Stonewall Jackson statue at the Manassas battlefield. Someone had done a rendering of
their concept: a hideous, 500-foot-long white wall cutting through the park, with an empty
blank back side. The UPI wire carried a piece: “Veterans Fault Vietnam War Memorial
Plans,” repeating all the criticism, but again failing to mention Carhart’s role in the com-
petition.
The same day, Copulos published a Heritage Foundation “Backgrounder.” He ran
through the usual taunts (black, down, inaccessible, hazardous) and quoted Kammeier’s
letter to me and my wording: “those who served and died.” He found “extremely question-
able” the statement in the Purpose and Philosophy: “The failure of the nation to honor
them only extends the national tragedy of our involvement in Vietnam.” Yet, most egregious
of all was the lack of a political statement about the war, making it “a meaningless sacrifice.”
He stated, “Given the rhetoric of the brochure, it is understandable why the designs entered
conveyed a negative feeling about the Vietnam conflict.” Our materials allegedly had stressed
an “anti-heroic theme.”
Dean Phillips from the VA reported that the Air Force Association was writing an
editorial and wanted his opinion on the design. He wasn’t in love with it, but “wasn’t going
to call in an air strike.”
A new representative of Watt’s office introduced himself: Dan Smith, a Vietnam vet-
eran, who’d been drafted into the Marine Corps. The opponents had been sending memos,
but “Watt doesn’t need this,” Smith said. He remained nervous about the approval process
and requested a memo outlining all the support that the memorial design enjoyed. Under-
secretary Donald Hodel wanted to keep Watt out, but the opponents had found sympathetic
ears with Watt’s executive assistant Steve Shipley and Perry Penley, a former Marine officer
who was a deputy assistant secretary. Both had worked at the Heritage Foundation.
At all costs, we wanted to avoid making the battle of the design into a partisan political
question, even if most opposition came from conservatives. Moreover, reacting to each
negative letter or article drained our staff resources. To distance ourselves and not react to
each detractor individually, Schaet prepared a general statement for responding. Our argu-
ments to defend the design stressed our fair play in selecting it, the transparency of our
competition process, and the procedure for approving the design created by law.
Despite the opponents’ efforts, we received some good press in early December. A
letter in the Post pointed out that the designs in the competition for the Washington Mon-
ument had been “pretty awful,” prompting the U.S. ambassador to Italy to suggest a simple
marble obelisk. “No change in architectural whim affects the simplicity and beauty of the
Washington Monument, and it may well be that the design by Maya Ying Lin, with its
similar simplicity, will also prove timeless.”
More important was the turnabout at the National Review. The Review’s December 11
issue carried Norman Hannah’s article “The Open Book Memorial.” “It will, pace National
Review’s premature evaluation of it…, be beautiful, imposing, and fitting,” Hannah wrote.
20. Our Opponents Take the Field 177

Regarding the walls pointing to the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial,
“[t]here is something appealing about such austere, principled simplicity…. The memorial
is clearly an ‘open book’ in which Americans can not only honor their dead but see the
Vietnam War in the stream of our history.” Yet bad news came from Newsweek, which had
a special issue called “What Vietnam Did to Us,” with a photo of three young troops on
the cover. Their reporters had found and interviewed 54 men who had served together in
an infantry company. The story perpetuated the myth that the memorial wouldn’t mention
Vietnam.
December 11 made for a big day in the melee. Senators Mathias and Warner issued
their “Dear Colleague” letter with an update on the fundraising and approvals for the
memorial, while Congressman Dan Crane put the Copulos piece into the Congressional
Record. Scruggs and I went to see a Vietnam veteran on Senator Denton’s staff. A Southern
guy, he didn’t think the design showed “pride in the military.” We then met with Senator
Warner to brief him on the potential breakthrough and request that he host a meeting with
the opponents. I envisioned perhaps three people from each camp. Best of all, Perot called
Scruggs and proposed that we stop the plans to build the current design; he would fund a
new competition and “jam” the winner through the CFA.
On the 13th I attended the annual POW remembrance service at the Fort Myer chapel.
In his homily, Chaplain Max Sullivan said we would “soon have a beautiful monument
with a lot of names.” Ironically, most of the audience probably hated it. On the following
day General Westmoreland came to our office for a briefing. Webb had lobbied him to
resign from the NSC. Scruggs and I took him into a darkened office, and I gave the slide
show. Upon leaving, Westmoreland pronounced himself “confident that this will be a memo-
rial worthy of Vietnam veterans.” He would write to Watt.
Webb had more success with Admiral James Stockdale, one of the longest-held and
most severely tortured POWs. Stockdale, presently a fellow of the Hoover Institution at
Stanford University, had received the Medal of Honor in 1976. After his release he filed
charges against two other officers for aiding and comforting the enemy. Then-Secretary of
the Navy John Warner, however, had allowed the men to retire. Stockdale sent us a terse
letter of resignation from the NSC and refused to take a call from Scruggs.
There was not a dull moment. The next day, the 15th, we heard from Rick Atkinson,
with the Washington bureau of the Kansas City Times. He had talked with Perot, who
related how the committee (VVMF) had called in panic when it had only $7,000 and needed
$160,000. Perot said that the decision on the design should be up to the veterans and sug-
gested a national referendum. He also was irked about stone from Sweden. I explained that
we hadn’t been dependent on Perot’s money to hold the competition. Atkinson’s long story
went out the same day: “Viet Memorial opens new wounds—Benefactor wants referendum
on design.” Perot saw the design as carrying “totally negative connotations” and wanted a
national veterans’ referendum. The story mentioned that we had already ordered the granite
and were cool to the referendum idea, but in Scruggs’s words, “Who in the world would
want to take on H. Ross Perot, much less a little group of veterans?” Regarding our depend-
ing on his money, “‘His is a tremendous misunderstanding,’ Mr. Doubek said.” Carhart,
also quoted, again was not identified as an entrant in the competition.
Mike Feinsilber picked up the ball in a story on the AP wire: “Vietnam Memorial
inappropriate, millionaire sympathizer protests.” “Perot, who financed the $160,000 com-
178 Creating the Vietnam Veterans Memorial

petition,” was willing to underwrite a poll of Vietnam veterans to see if they like the plan,
“a design he considers ‘a tombstone.’ … Perot … says he has talked to thousands of Vietnam
veterans and found few who like the design.” “‘No,’ Scruggs said, ‘there will not be a new
memorial designed for Vietnam veterans. If Perot wants to do his Gallup Poll, fine--- it’s his
money.’” Amazingly, Perot both ran a business and had time to talk with thousands of guys.
I had started the memo for Smith about nationwide support for the design, but time
was short. The memo kept getting ever longer as I tried to capture every detail. I called
Smith on the 14th to let him know my progress. He warned that Shipley and Penley agreed
with the detractors, but Hodel wanted to keep Watt out. Penley appeared to believe that
we were communists, but Grady Clay’s letter and a memo I wrote about the selection process
had played strong roles in influencing Hodel. Ric Davidge the next day reported heavy
pressure on Watt, presumably from the Heritage Foundation. He also heard of an initiative
to turn Reagan against the design.
On the 16th Scruggs talked with Senator Jeremiah Denton, a former POW, whom he
described as an “extra reasonable” guy, who didn’t object to the design and thought we
could solve the dispute with a flag on a white pedestal. Chuck Hagel assured Schaet that
the VA was on our side and recommended asking Senator Paul Laxalt to get to Ed Meese
at the White House. David Christian, the most decorated Vietnam veteran and currently
the national adjutant of the Legion of Valor, agreed to send a letter for inclusion in our
memo to Watt. Christian felt he had as much clout as Webb, who thought “he’s the only
Vietnam veteran.” Christian at age 20 had received a battlefield commission.
The pressure on us continued. The Non-Commissioned Officers Association wrote to
the House Interior Affairs Committee urging a public hearing to “clear the air,” but both
houses rejected the idea of oversight hearings. Webb’s lawyer wanted a copy of our corporate
bylaws, for Perot, as it turned out. I sent Perot copies of the bylaws and our audits. The dis-
gruntled competitor from Florida wrote to the president, asking him to “prevent a national
disgrace.” He included a sketch with the heading: “Vietnam Veterans Memorial or a Hoax
Shrouded by a Conspiracy of Silence.” It showed people wading in two feet of water in front
of the apex. The Legion reported that members were mailing in copies of Carhart’s article.
Friday, December 18, brought both good and bad news in major ways. I delivered my
magnum opus to Dan Smith at DOI. An 11-page letter with 115 attachments, it outlined
support for the memorial from veterans’ and military-related organizations, the corporate
sector, labor, members of Congress, Vietnam veterans, professional journals and design
critics, columnists and commentators, community organizations, and the general public.
We had raised over $1.4 million since announcing the design, from more than 250,000
individuals, including 900 people responding to James Kilpatrick’s Veterans Day column
to the tune of $21,000. I concluded with an appeal to Watt’s conservatism: “The memorial
will stand as a symbol that our country does recognize the traditional values of service,
sacrifice and devotion to duty. The national Vietnam Veterans Memorial will also stand as
a symbol of what the people of this country can do without having to ask the government
for monetary assistance.”
The day’s best news came from William Horn, the DOI Assistant Secretary for Fish,
Wildlife, and Parks. At a staff meeting that day, Watt had announced that he could see no
reason to take any action on the memorial. The 90 days to approve the design or raise
objection had runout. He believed that it was up to the people spreading rumors about
20. Our Opponents Take the Field 179

communists to come forth with evidence. They would also need to provide overwhelming
evidence that the majority of Americans didn’t like the design.
Bad news came from Melvin Laird, who said that Perot was going wild. Laird was
concerned, since Perot had the money to blow us away. Paul Thayer was also concerned.
Laird hoped that the meeting we asked Warner to host would help solve something that
had gotten way out of hand.
That afternoon Kielich, Scruggs, and I trooped down to the Heritage Foundation,
again to enter the belly of the beast. We met with president Edwin Feulner, Jr., and Burton
Yale Pines, a senior VP. Kielich expressed anguish about her beloved Heritage Foundation’s
stance on the memorial. At one point, Pines accused me of “questioning people’s motives”
in my criticism, and I reactively shook my head and groaned in disgust. The meeting got
us nowhere, and afterward Scruggs correctly admonished me not to telegraph my feelings.
The worst news of the day, however, came early, with Jim Webb’s op-ed in the Wall
Street Journal, “Reassessing the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.” Webb reviewed what he saw
as the faults of the design: a nihilistic statement, no images indicative of war, “a mockery of
… service, a wailing wall for future anti-draft and anti-nuclear demonstrators,” a memorial
only to the dead. Asserting that the opposition to the design was not a reaction of the far
right or “disgruntled contestants,” Webb compared it to seeing the ovens at Dachau. And all
because no Vietnam vet was on the jury, some members of which were opposed to the war.
Moreover, “the winning design seems to reflect a desire to avoid any symbol or statement
that would put the war or those who fought in it in an affirmative light.” He proposed a solu-
tion: “In the interest of compromise, those who oppose the present design have asked that
it be made white, above ground, and have a flag at the juncture of the two walls.” Finally, he
suggested that the public should refuse to “bankroll a subtle but real denigration.”
Webb had cachet. A congressman that same day wrote that he was disturbed by the
article, and “I have tremendous respect for Jim Webb.” I summed up our position in a
memo to the jury the next day: the Watt meeting was good news, but the Webb article was
a big hit. “His article,” I noted, “unfortunately, is very well written, and it will take a lot of
thought to do a good response” … note how clever he was in alluding to the ‘anti-war activ-
ities’ of ‘several’ of the jurors. His conclusion is that the jury could not have chosen a design
that honored the veterans.”
Barry Johnston, the sculptor and Vietnam veteran, copied us on an op-ed that he was
submitting to the Post. Likening the struggle over the design to the political conflict at
home during the Vietnam era, he wrote: “The liberal community contends that the only
solution is a non-memorial, low-key, and below ground. The conservative community is
striking for glory. And as usual, the veteran is caught in the middle.”
Our struggle continued through the week before Christmas. Papers around the country
were still publishing Copulos’s article, as well as the story about the opponents’ press con-
ference. On Monday, the 2lst, we visited Congressman Bob Livingston of Louisiana, who
had signed Phil Crane’s letter against the design. John Woods knew Livingston and came
with us. Livingston explained that he had heard a radio show, and all the veterans calling
in hated the design. Yet his respect for Woods prevailed and he dropped off the letter. Bob
Ashworth reported that the AMVETS had had a hot internal debate about handicapped
access and the flag at the memorial. That evening I spoke at the Jay-Cees Christmas party
in the Montgomery County Detention Center.
180 Creating the Vietnam Veterans Memorial

On Tuesday, we saw Senator Warner, who had met with Webb and Copulos. They had
spoken of formidable allies: Perot, members of Congress, and senior military officers. In
Warner’s opinion the White House wouldn’t get involved. He believed that we could win,
but it was a question of damage. Carter Brown had confirmed that the CFA wouldn’t take
lightly any proposal to make it white and above ground, let alone with a flagpole at the
apex. Warner’s message to Webb therefore would be that the only room for compromise
was the addition of a flag and that any other changes were not likely to receive CFA approval.
We proposed a press conference, but he said under his breath, “I don’t need any more pub-
licity today.” It had been reported that he and Taylor had announced their divorce. We con-
firmed that we could accept a flag at the site. In closing, Warner expressed his impression
of Webb: “a troubled man.” Indeed, I had never seen Webb smile or laugh.

R
Wednesday morning, December 23, 1981, the Post carried a letter titled “Let It Be?”
from a Vietnam veteran who had seen the Octagon exhibit: “I hold no truck with those
who would tear us apart again over a piece of stone. One of the songs that we would listen
to had a refrain that still makes sense: let it be.” That afternoon the VFW was presenting
a check for $180,000 and had brought football star Rocky Bleier for the occasion; we took
him to lunch. A delightful and humorous guy, he had starred for the Pittsburgh Steelers
after being badly wounded in Vietnam. The afternoon event was at the National Press
Club, just off Pennsylvania Avenue. We brought the large model of the memorial as a
prop, with two of the younger architects at Cooper-Lecky dragooned into carrying it. After-
ward, I was opening doors for them as we made our way to the elevators. Rounding a
corner, we were halted by the frantic gestures of two Asian cameramen, who pointed at a
pair of doors about six feet down the corridor. Before I could assert our right-of-way, the
doors opened and out stepped Henry Kissinger, looking dignified in a dark overcoat. Some-
what surprised at seeing all the bodies, he glanced to his right, focused on the model, and
said, “Vat iss zat?” I spoke up: “That is a model of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Dr.
Kissinger.”
“Iss zat za vun zat iss zo controverzial, or iss zat some utter vun?” he asked.
At first, in my mode of defending the design, I made some lame remark about it not
being really controversial, but I immediately got off it: “Yes, Dr. Kissinger, that is the design
that everyone is talking about.”
“Oh, can you explain it to me?”
I had the guys set the model down on some chairs and took Kissinger through the
elements: walls pointing at the other monuments, reflective black granite, names in chrono-
logical order starting at the apex, etc.
“It looks like it will be very moving,” he said. “Is there an address for contributions?”
I handed him my card, and his check for $500 arrived just before year end.

R
We had to respond to Webb’s op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, but Scruggs, Schaet, and
I all felt stymied in writing something effective and punchy. Such required time to step back
and be creative, but we’d been in a reactive mood for so long that my creative juices were
dry. After weeks, we still were struggling with it, when a sympathetic newspaper reporter
20. Our Opponents Take the Field 181

volunteered to ghostwrite the letter. It was a gutsy move; he could have lost his job over that.
He had asked rhetorically about the opponents, “Who are these people?” I rattled off some
immediate impressions: military academy graduates, combat veterans, Marines, conserva-
tives, and those who wanting to affirm the rightness of the war. His eyes brightened. “The
warrior caste!” he said. A bulb in my head switched on; this explained a lot. I had been oper-
ating under the paradigm of the citizen soldier, someone who leaves his normal occupation
and stoically takes a turn defending the country. But a warrior would see it differently. A
war was the ultimate opportunity to validate his identity, an essential component of which
was heroism. From there it wasn’t a big leap to hating someone who opposed that war.

R
Despite the controversy we continued with the construction planning and fundraising.
Some key decisions came out of the Board meeting on December 10. In conjunction with
dedicating the memorial, we would organize a multi-day celebration with the theme: “A
National Salute to Vietnam Veterans.” We would do the final prospect mailing of 1,295,000
letters in January, but there would be a special final donor mailing with a new company in
early February. With a specially designed package and premiums such as a pin and plaque
and an honor roll of contributors, the contractor projected that a 135,000-piece drop would
gross $935,000, with net revenue of $700,000. We had received offers of up to $50,000 to
purchase our donor list, but would look for more. With the check coming from the VFW,
we would have almost $2,000,000 invested, so we needed to find out how to certify the
funds, as required by our legislation.
The Military Personnel Records Center in St. Louis had completed checking 5,265
names from the Vietnam casualty list. They had found but 12 spelling errors and six omis-
sions of generational suffixes, an error rate of 0.34 percent. The Center, however, couldn’t
check the remaining 90 percent of the names on a voluntary basis. This would cost $0.50
per name, for a total of approximately $26,000, so I recommended limiting any further
checking only to names appearing incomplete. Mayo, however, argued that the overall cost
was reasonable, especially since the names would be inscribed in stone forever. We went
ahead with the contract.
We also dealt with the issue of deleting names from the memorial. The opponents
were trying to promote a groundswell of deletions, but we had had only one request from
a next of kin. In view of the risk of fraud, we would henceforth require a sworn statement.

R
As of September the construction team held regular meetings, to include Gilbane,
Cooper-Lecky, and other consultants and contractors as needed. I found myself playing
the role of the owner/developer of the project, and I again had to ask myself what I was
doing. I had never overseen a construction project before, but here I was by default. At first
I simply kept a straight face and nodded at appropriate times, although I once asked Kent
Cooper how I was performing in the role. He assured me that I was a “credible client.” As
we moved forward, I found that it wasn’t rocket science, and my logical bent often helped
solve problems. Earlier in the summer, Wheeler had mentioned putting Mosley in charge
and relegating me to “counsel.” I would have resigned.
Gilbane developed a preconstruction schedule and was identifying prospective sup-
182 Creating the Vietnam Veterans Memorial

pliers and contractors, including one that could put Century’s photo-stencil process into
production. The bids to supply and fabricate the stone came in on October 27. Two com-
panies bid the Indian stone at $186,200 and $185,000, and two bid the Swedish stone at
$301,000. I approved Gilbane’s recommendation to go with Rogan Granitindustrie of
Chicago Heights, Illinois, which had bid Indian Premium Black, coming from a quarry
near Bangalore. The fabrication of the 40 to 45 blocks would be done by a subcontractor,
Nativi & Sons, in Barre, Vermont. Nativi could cut, shape, and polish the panels in four
weeks. As consultants to Rogan, two professors at Purdue University in Calumet, Indiana,
utilized the university’s computers to create the layouts of the panels.
One bidder had proposed Starlight Black from South Africa, which would cost the
least, because a sufficient supply was already in the U.S. I shot this down immediately, since
the stigma of “supporting apartheid” would damn us forever.
Gilbane signed the Rogan contract on November 17, with the first shipment to leave India
on December 19 and arrive in Vermont by February 15. We expected the first finished pieces
by March 15 and the last piece by April 15. Cooper-Lecky expected to have the construction
drawings completed by January 11, ready for bidding. We issued the specifications for the work
of inscribing the names through the photo stencil sandblasting process (PSSP) on Friday,
December 11. Gilbane negotiated a consulting contract with Century and identified three
potential bidders for the work. The PSSP would require us, however, to provide camera-ready
layouts of all the names. That in turn required that we find a contractor capable of doing that.
Gilbane’s schedule proposed Monday, March 1, 1982, for actual groundbreaking on
the site. The following dates, leading up to a dedication on November 11, 1982, tied in:
• Feb. 15: VVMF supplies all corrections to computer tape list.
• Feb. 17: All corrections made on tape.
• Mar. 15: Computer graphic contractor delivers first camera-ready inscription layout
to inscription contractor; inscription work begins.
• Jul. 15: First inscribed panel is delivered to site for installation.
• Sep. 15: Last panel is delivered to site for installation.
The Paralyzed Veterans of America reviewed our solutions for accessibility and gave
the affirmation: “Keep up the good work.” Somebody warned Bill Lecky that the Indian
granite would fade and develop a greenish tint. Gilbane checked it out with the industry
and the consensus was: no problem with Premium Black Granite. The first blocks were
shipped from India on December 19, and Gilbane invited bids for the inscriptions.

R
The publicity about the design controversy resulted in a substantial increase in con-
tributions, yet Gulf & Western refused to meet with Cyrus Vance, citing a “highly contro-
versial project” and Carhart’s October op- ed in the Times. The presidents of Martin
Marietta, General Electric, IBM, and Deere and Company joined our Corporate Advisory
Board, and corporate gifts included $30,000 from Texaco, $50,000 pledged by LTV, $25,000
from the Bell System, $20,000 from Southwestern Bell, $63,000 from Boeing, $75,000 from
Exxon, $38,000 from the insurance industry, and $10,000 each from Rockwell, Pfizer, Time,
and PepsiCo. Overall $748,000 had been received or pledged in the corporate campaign.
David Rockefeller made a personal gift of $10,000. Kilpatrick’s Veterans Day column
20. Our Opponents Take the Field 183

had brought in $9,774.50 on November 16 alone. A Dallas radiothon at Thanksgiving gen-


erated $21,000, and the Legion reached $460,000 toward its goal of $1,000,000. As of Decem-
ber 31, VVMF had $2,580,000 invested. A UPI story just before year end was titled: “Fund at
Halfway Point for Vietnam Memorial.” In reality, we already had sufficient funds to build the
memorial, but we had deliberately understated our success, lest potential donors stand down.

R
I flew to Chicago on Christmas Eve, the last I would spend without Karen for years
to come, and drove with my parents to my brother’s house on Lake Geneva, Wisconsin.
With Watt’s statement in mind, I was guardedly optimistic that we were out of the woods,
and it felt good to be in the family fold. On Saturday my niece and nephew invited me to
ski with them on the small local slope in the midst of the cornfields—a great day. But upon
returning, my mother handed me the Tribune folded to the op-ed page, saying, “Bob, I hate
to show this to you.”
We had done our best to suppress the “communist” allegation, but in the vast right-
wing universe, there had to be someone low enough to publish it. That honor went to
Patrick Buchanan, whose op-ed was titled, “An insulting memorial.” Citing the opposition
of Webb, Carhart, Stockdale, and the Marine Corps League, Buchanan parroted their lines
about: “a memorial that will be a mockery of the sacrifices of those who served, ‘a wailing
wall for future antidraft and antinuclear demonstrations.’” VVMF, Buchanan wrote, had
screwed up by having not a single Vietnam veteran on the jury, and “one member allegedly
had a long association with the American Communist Party.” According to Carhart, a “twice
wounded platoon leader,” relatives were coming forward to keep names off the wall.
Buchanan called on veterans to rise in angry protest.
James Kilpatrick later advised us not to dignify Buchanan’s article with a response.
Carl Rowan thought that Buchanan was crazy and not taken seriously and didn’t recom-
mend meeting with him. But whether he was crazy or not, Buchanan’s article had serious
fallout. It was read by Illinois Republican Congressman Henry Hyde, whose Chicago sub-
urban district included Berwyn, Illinois, where I was born and went to elementary school.
Hyde even served on the board of a “Bohemian” savings and loan there. On the 30th, Hyde
fired off a letter to his fellow House Republicans, attaching a draft letter to Reagan. The
letter urged Reagan to have Watt withhold permission for our groundbreaking and enclosed
Webb’s article, saying that it “expresses our view that the design of this memorial conveys
more shame than honor.” Hyde advised his colleagues to call his office and add their names
as signatories. He enclosed both the Webb and Buchanan op-eds.
Meanwhile, the NPS was still sending out letters defending the design, and a DOI
lawyer had written an opinion that all legal steps for approval of the design had been com-
plied with. Even Senator Ted Kennedy was concerned. His office reported getting heat from
Boston veterans about the design, i.e., a black hole without a flag. Kennedy was willing to
introduce a bill to add a flag.
Kathy Kielich threw a New Year’s Eve party at her home. I showed up with Karen and
made some dumb comment about “giving her a ride.” Kielich smiled.
21

“A nasty five hours”

The New Year’s bubbles soon burst, starting with a long article by Phil McCombs on
the front page of the Sunday Post “Style” section on January 3, 1982. “Maya Lin and The
Great Call of China—The Fascinating Heritage of the Student Who Designed the Vietnam
Memorial.” The piece occupied two thirds of the front page, including a photo of a smiling
Lin in her porkpie hat alongside two huge Chinese characters, purportedly spelling her
name. There was also a bad photo of the original fiberboard model. The article continued
over four interior pages and had another photo of her. McCombs described her as the scion
of “one of China’s most remarkable literary, artistic and political families.” Indeed, her
brother was a published poet. “[T]he cultural mix of East and West … has helped shape
this new young architect and her work…. An Asian artist for an Asian war.”
Pointing out that she didn’t yet know how to draft, the article quoted from her journal
and described her pristine upbringing in Athens, Ohio, where she was a loner and worked
at McDonald’s. She was quoted: “I don’t read the papers. I just ignore the world. It’s like
everything is up in my head [with] no real, concrete experiential reality. It’s all what I feel.”
Better yet, “For many years, Maya Lin has been fascinated—at times almost obsessed
---by death. It began when she read the existentialists and pondered the meaning of life and
death…. ‘Everyone knows I’m morbid,’ she said.” At Yale she began frequenting a cemetery.
A final sour note sounded: “I’ve always been the little kid.”
Nothing would serve to provoke the warrior caste—with its ethos of heroism and
glory—more than the notion that their legacy was in the hands of an airhead “gook” kid
fascinated by death. Worse yet, her brother—rather than a kung fu champion or a Green
Beret—was a poet, the essence of effeteness. Whereas the average veteran had received no
recognition for his service, this kid was being lionized for drawing some lines on a piece
of paper. During the fall, the Post gossip section had mentioned sightings of Lin at trendy
Georgetown nightspots, and I heard derogatory comments from veterans. This article was
the icing on the cake. I realized that we should have put a clause in her contract that we
would control all contact with the media, but I hadn’t envisioned that the personality of
the designer would be an object of media interest.
Somewhat better news came with the next day’s issue of Time magazine, featuring
Lech Walesa on the cover as “Man of the Year.” Wolf Von Eckardt had cited Lin’s concept
as among the “Best of 1981” in design, yet had described the 57,709 dead as “victims of the
controversial war.”
The Board met in early January on a strategy to respond to Hyde; Wheeler declared
that we were “really at war.” Hyde’s staff was holding a meeting the next day to organize
opposition to the memorial, and Perot had his survey underway. The attacks on Eckbo

184
21. “A nasty five hours” 185

continued, and we were having trouble drafting a response to Webb’s Wall Street Journal
op-ed. We decided to retain a political consultant, along with a polling counsel, to help
debunk Perot’s poll. We also would propose having a flagstaff at the site, as long as the
approval process wouldn’t hold up the groundbreaking for the project as a whole. Not dis-
cussed was Wheeler’s conversation with Schaet over the weekend about throwing in the
towel on the design. If so, my involvement with the project would be over.
Things soon got worse. On the 5th we received a letter from Watt: “As a result of con-
tinuing modifications in the original concept submittal of June 1981, I hereby request that
you advise me once the design has been finalized in order that I might proceed to a con-
sideration of that proposal to fulfill my statutory responsibilities.” The letter was worded
to circumvent the provision on our legislation giving the agencies just 60 days to approve
the design. Yet, we had submitted the design concept to the DOI well over two months
before Watt’s letter.
Hyde’s initiative obviously had tipped the scales for Watt, who just two weeks earlier
had announced a “hands off ” stance. Dan Smith confirmed that Watt wanted to take over
personally and recommended we meet with him over the issue of the “final design.” Watt’s
involvement with the design contradicted normal procedures. An NPS letter in July had
explained that DOI restricted its review of memorial proposals to management and oper-
ations considerations. The AP’s Mike Feinsilber of course did a story about Watt’s inter-
vention. John Parsons confirmed that Penley had written the letter without the NPS’s review.
Parsons earlier had emphasized to Watt that there had been no modifications. Penley, who
worked on offshore oil leases, clearly was operating outside of his sandbox. I considered
Parsons to be an unsung hero. He had played an honorable hand from the beginning, but
if Watt wanted to hang someone out to dry, Parsons was the likely candidate.
We weren’t without allies. Republican Congressman Larry DeNardis, who represented
New Haven, on the 7th put out a “Dear Colleague” letter opposing Hyde’s. He wrote, “Congress
has no business meddling in the subjective judgments about the design of a memorial we are
not financing…. The terms and conditions of the joint resolution permitting construction
have been scrupulously met….” He pointed out that an American Legion post in Berwyn,
Illinois, in Hyde’s District, had “conducted a walkathon to raise funds for the memorial, on
November 26, over six months after the design was revealed.” DeNardis attached a list of
quotes from Hyde’s letter with specific refutations, and concluded: “There is an odor of mis-
chief in this last minute attempt to discredit the Vietnam veterans’ design selection process….”
Cindy Szady reported that the meeting at Hyde’s office was not well attended, although
Carhart and Webb came. Her boss’s attitude was that the “controversy” didn’t extend beyond
the Washington beltway and he wouldn’t hold any hearings. Another attendee reported
that Webb and Carhart spoke of having powerful allies, but received the impression that
no one was really in charge of the opposition. In fact, the amorphous nature of the oppo-
sition group made for one of our biggest aggravations. We routinely heard defamatory
statements about the jurors and racist comments about Lin. Each individual opponent,
however, could self-righteously declare that he himself had never uttered such a thing.

R
For Perot’s poll, which would be done by mail, his PR man, retired Air Force General
Jerry Dalton, asked for a photograph of the design and our arguments for it. We considered
186 Creating the Vietnam Veterans Memorial

the venture to be bogus, equivalent to submitting a Supreme Court decision to review by


a popular vote. Ron Gibbs perceived Hyde, as a master of parliamentary procedure, to be
very dangerous. Hyde could call for a Congressional investigation, which could tie up the
process indefinitely. By the second week in January, the war was back in full tilt, starting
with a CBS 60 Minutes piece about Watt on Sunday, the 10th. From Wyoming, Watt con-
sidered himself to be “a man of the people.” A born-again Christian, he liked controversy
because it showed he was doing a good job.
Hyde’s letter went to Reagan signed by 30 other Congressmen, but some Republicans
pounded him over it. Four conservative senators, Helms, Symms, East, and Denton, wrote
Watt echoing Hyde’s position. The White House’s Morton Blackwell forwarded to Watt’s
deputy, Donald Hodel, Michael Deaver’s comments on political options for the memorial.
Hodel didn’t want to intervene, considering it to be an issue of artistic taste. Deaver, how-
ever, liked the idea of making it white and above ground with the names in alphabetical
order. But Blackwell assured Scruggs that as long as the VFW and American Legion
remained loyal, so would the White House. The VFW’s Cooper Holt had empathy for our
situation, since he himself had experienced problems with the memorial in front of his
building on Capitol Hill. Copulos informed Andy Wahlquist that the opponents would
have the courtesy to inform Warner if they decided to go to court. I wondered who would
fund the man’s litigation fancies. A veteran working on Wall Street called to report that he
had written to Reagan, urging him not to interfere with the memorial.
The battle in the media also continued. Conservative columnist Phyllis Schlafly chimed
in with “Viet Memorial Insults Vets,” saying it was a “tribute to Jane Fonda.” The Federal
Times, however, carried a long letter from a combat veteran with the title “Not Shameful.”
“If anything is a shame,” he wrote, “it is that veterans would fail to support a memorial sim-
ply because of some fanciful reading of ‘shame’ in some aspect of the design of the memo-
rial…. The good in having any kind of memorial outweighs whatever ‘bad’ we might read
into it.” The Army Times reported that a Washington law firm had agreed to represent pro
bono 40 families in getting the names of sons and husbands removed from the memorial.
This was Carhart’s initiative; he claimed the families had a right to privacy.
Feinsilber did another AP story, carried in both the Times and the Post. Describing
the design as a “wide ‘V,’” he reported on the Watt and Hyde letters and Perot’s plans for a
national poll. Hyde was quoted: “A new jury ought to be appointed.” A friend from the
bachelor’s club knew Buchanan and talked with him at my request. Buchanan was angry
about a letter from Schaet challenging his integrity. He didn’t like the design but was
impressed by the support from Kilpatrick and the National Review. Business Week ran a
two-page color ad for us created by Ogilvy and Mather and sponsored by LTV Corpora-
tion.
A lot of press came on Thursday, the 14th. The Evening Sun of Baltimore had a sup-
portive editorial: “Now the wounds are opening again as right-wing critics try to stop con-
struction…. There is a shrill, whining, and mischievous tone to the criticism.” James
Kilpatrick wrote a column, “In the Eye of the Beholder,” quoting the Irish novelist who
coined the phrase. “I happen to think the design is superb; in my own view, it promises to
be the most moving war memorial in this country, if not in the world.” Regarding Buchanan’s
attack, he opined: “A cheaper shot has seldom been fired.”
The main press piece of the day was our ghostwritten op-ed in the Wall Street Journal
21. “A nasty five hours” 187

under Scruggs’s name: “In Defense of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.” He “was shocked
by … Webb’s … attack,” and cited the support from the Vietnam Veterans of America, the
VFW, the Legion, and Paul Thayer. Noting that Webb “had his say and lost, fair and square,”
the piece concluded by quoting from General Westmoreland’s letter to Webb, declining to
resign from our National Sponsoring Committee:
With an open mind and careful consideration of all factors, my verdict is not in agreement
with yours. The memorial is in no way a “trench,” black polished granite is far more handsome
than any other possible stone, the chronological listing of names is not inappropriate, the struc-
ture reflects dignity and good taste and blends in aesthetically with that beautiful area of the
Mall.
The war in Vietnam sadly, and I believe unjustifiably, divided our nation. Those of us who
served in Vietnam believe that we fought for a worthy cause and are proud to have done so. It
is now sad indeed to see efforts to divide us.

On Friday, the Baltimore Sun carried a political cartoon, mocking super patriots: “It’s
just a trench! What WE want is something more HEROIC—like B-52s bombing the stuffing
outta Hanoi, Cambodia, gooks, Cong, PEACENIKS.”
It was also a big week for meetings. On Wednesday morning, the 13th, General Davison
hosted our meeting with Dalton and his Gallup pollster. Scruggs and Woods represented
VVMF and brought our polling consultant. Our tactic was to set forth in detail the criteria
required for a fair poll, so we could impeach the results. Henceforth General Davison took
over liaison with Perot.
Perot happened to be in Washington for a meeting of the Foreign Intelligence Advisory
Board and showed up at our office Wednesday afternoon. I had heard from Ric Davidge
that Perot, “mad as hell,” had bent Watt’s ear with allegations that VVMF’s design misrep-
resented the intent of Congress. With us, however, Perot stayed low-key, sitting at a small
round conference table with Scruggs, Schaet, and me. He noted his problems with the
design, and we calmly reviewed our points about the process, the design refinements, and
the wide support for it. I said that we had already bought the granite, and he nonchalantly
replied that he’d buy it from us. I then happened to mention that we had asked Warner to
set up a meeting with the opponents, which caught his attention. “Oh,” he said, “if you can
work something out with them, then I’ll hold off on the poll.”
He made one comment that illustrated the differences between our views of the purpose
of the memorial. In discussing the preferences of the veterans, I mentioned the problem of
finding a valid sample. His response was, “There’s plenty of them over at the Pentagon.” I per-
sonally hadn’t envisioned the memorial as primarily honoring the professional military. I
considered the veterans who remained in the military after Vietnam to be well taken care of.
The week’s main event was our audience with Watt on the 14th. We had to hit a home
run, so in a four-page outline, I scripted the points that each of us would cover, accompanied
by a slide show. We flew in Grady Clay to speak about the jury process and brought Kent
Cooper to talk about the design refinements. John Woods came to lend his credibility as a
disabled combat veteran who designed structures. We also brought our ally Lloyd Unsell,
who knew Watt through his role with the Independent Petroleum Association. The previous
day Copulos had lobbied Unsell for a good 45 minutes.
On that cold, windy, and overcast day, the city remained in shock from the previous
day’s plane crash into the 14th Street Bridge. The DOI building occupied two city blocks
188 Creating the Vietnam Veterans Memorial

just north of the Mall, and before it stood a memorial to The Liberator—Simón Bolívar.
Directly across 18th Street was DAR Constitution Hall, infamous for having barred Marian
Anderson from singing before an integrated audience in 1939. We arrived well before our
2:00 p.m. appointment and were ushered to a large high-ceilinged reception area on the
top floor overlooking Constitution Gardens. At the appointed hour appeared Watt along
with Donald Hodel and a few others. After cordial introductions, we did our thing, and all
remained standing throughout. At the end Watt was noncommittal, but made a point of
affirming that he had the right of final approval. He expected a lawsuit from objectors the
minute he issued the permit, so he wanted to be protected by following all requirements.
Ironically, in an opinion the following day, the DOI Office of Solicitor concluded that the
NPS had had the authority to approve the design and that if Watt reversed the approval,
VVMF might indeed have grounds to sue on the theory of detrimental reliance.
Back at the office, I briefed the editor of the Legion’s magazine on our Watt and Perot
meetings, so he decided to hold off on hammering Watt in his March issue. The next day’s
feedback from Watt’s staff was that he thought we did good job. Ray Arnett advised that
the White House would have final say on the design, so it was important to get to Ed Meese.
The new week brought a new twist in the attacks on the design. Whereas previous
shots had been based on themes like racism, disloyalty, defeatism, and nihilism, a big article
in Spotlight, published by the Liberty Lobby, found sexual implications in the “boomerang-
shaped memorial.” It quoted “one critic” as saying, “The subliminal sexual overtones of the
Washington Monument reflecting or casting its shadow onto the polished black V-shaped
memorial are disgusting.” Fortunately Spotlight did not command a lot of credibility, since
Liberty Lobby’s founder was considered to be both anti–Semitic and in favor of repatriating
blacks to Africa. (Later that year the article’s author was fired for being gay.)
On that Sunday, Tom Sedlacek, with whom I’d been in Cub Scouts in Riverside, Illinois,
called to report on his breakfast meeting with Hyde that day. Savings and loan associations
were pillars of Chicago’s Czech community, and Sedlacek’s family managed one on Cermak
Road in Berwyn. He had raised money for Hyde, and Hyde himself sat on the board of a
“Bohemian” S&L, for which he later came to grief. Sedlacek wanted to get Hyde to back
down without embarrassment. Hyde said he’d give us a hearing and knew that other con-
servatives saw it differently. He claimed that the Webb and Buchanan pieces were the first
that he had heard about the project. He thought the design would be a focal point for
protests and VVMF had an antiwar and anti-military stance. While he would do all he
could to stop it, he didn’t think it would be stopped. We met with him later in the month,
but he wasn’t moved by my Berwyn Bohemian background.
On Monday, the 18th, Joe Ronsisvalle called from the NPS: the White House wanted
to see the model of the memorial as soon as possible, and I had to provide the names and
birthdates of the messengers. Carla Corbin at Cooper-Lecky commandeered the firm’s sta-
tion wagon along with two junior architects to bear the load. They were kept waiting at the
southwest gate for hours, but finally got it delivered. It was set up in the Roosevelt Room
near the Oval Office for a viewing the next morning by the White House senior staff.
As fortune had it, we had an invaluable inside asset: Army Major and West Point grad-
uate Tom Shull, a White House fellow on the staff of Richard Darman, the deputy to Chief
of Staff Jim Baker. Shull got himself appointed as the White House point man on the memo-
rial, and with Bob Kimmitt, on the National Security Council staff, did everything possible
21. “A nasty five hours” 189

to keep it moving forward. As Kimmitt later explained, Watt had fished for signals that he
would be free to kill the project, but Kimmitt and Shull made sure that the signals pointed
the other way. Shull reported that the model had been viewed by the senior staff, including
Baker, Meese, and Darman, with the consensus that a compromise could be reached. They
were aware of the big guns on both sides of the dispute. According to Shull, Watt had been
prepared to shoot it down summarily, but James Cicconi on Baker’s staff had prevailed on
him to hold off for the possibility of a compromise. Overall there seemed to be confusion
about who was in charge. Our political consultant Chuck Bailey said that Watt was the
decision maker and wanted assurances that the veterans’ organizations were really behind
the design and not just acquiescing to it. Meanwhile an aide to Meese told Wahlquist that
Warner would have the last word.
On Monday afternoon, Lin and I attended a reception at the Howard University School
of Architecture and Design at the invitation of Dean Harry Robinson. I had first encoun-
tered Robinson when he called in November, introducing himself as Howard’s dean of
architecture, to request that the Octagon exhibit next be put on display at Howard. As the
exhibit was far down on my priority list, I hemmed and hawed. He then, however, really
introduced himself: “I am the only dean of a U.S. architecture school to have been wounded
and decorated in combat in Vietnam.” I immediately changed my tone and committed to
make the exhibit happen. Howard hosted the exhibit in January and it later traveled to
other universities around the country.
When we asked Warner to moderate a meeting with the opponents, I had envisioned
three or four of us sitting down with three or four of them. But now Perot was involved.
Scruggs discussed dates with him (late January), but also asked Warner not to give Perot
free rein with the meeting. We might as well have tried to stop the wind. Scruggs thought
Perot understood the pragmatic realities of changing the design and could be satisfied with
a better inscription, larger lettering, and a flag. The next day, however, we heard from the
Paralyzed Veterans and others that Dalton had already invited them to the meeting, which
would be on Wednesday afternoon, the 27th. Even a reporter from CNN had heard about
the meeting. By week’s end, I knew it was out of control and we would be skewered.
The remainder of the week featured the usual conflicting thrusts and signals. The
Charleston (West Virginia) Gazette carried a supportive editorial, while the Desert Sun of
Palm Springs had a negative one. My mother sent a mailgram to Watt, telling him to give
his approval. Our construction bidding was delayed because the NPS needed to review the
final working drawings, but they’d been ordered not to talk with us. Bob Ashworth of the
AMVETS wanted to know when we would start fighting back, and the AMVETS were feel-
ing the conflict and having their own internal debate. Ashworth himself thought that the
memorial was the first positive thing done by Vietnam vets. The Legion wanted us to get
our fund certification documents to Watt before the meeting. The Legion planned to get
revenge against Hyde and his co-signatories. Morton Blackwell asked Cooper Holt what
the VFW would do if the White House shot us down. (The VFW would stay out of it.) The
design took fire from generals at a meeting of the National Guard Association, but they’d
be willing to support it if we added the flag. A letter from the Steelworkers Union inquired
whether we’d be using union labor. Senator Hatch was with us, but Stockdale’s wife Sybil
had met with both Bill Horn and Vice President Bush.
On Thursday, Scruggs had a conversation with a “very, very nice and reasonable”
190 Creating the Vietnam Veterans Memorial

Perot. This time his problem wasn’t the black color but its being below ground. Perot
advised to raise it up, build a berm behind it, and he’d get it through the commissions. He
also wanted a flag on top with a big base and big inscription. That afternoon, at Kent
Cooper’s invitation, I briefed the “Committee of 100 on the Federal City,” which, founded
in 1923 and reflecting the old Washington establishment, focused on city planning, land
use, and historic preservation. In the current battle, however, they could provide only sym-
pathy.
Friday, the 22nd was relatively quiet. Dalton had delivered a draft of Perot’s Gallup
poll questionnaire. At 6:05 p.m. only Schaet and I were still in the office, and the phone
rang. A voice said, “Please hold for the Secretary of the Interior.” We both got on the line
and greeted Watt. His message was direct and clear. He was under heavy pressure, but had
heard rumors, which he hoped were true, about a meeting at which a compromise could
be reached. We confirmed that the meeting would take place. I then asked about submitting
our formal funds certification, and the answer was short: “If you send it now, you know
what I’ll do with it. Be assured, I will take swift action.” He repeated that he was under
heavy political pressure that he wanted to contain. He urged us to do what is necessary to
quiet the controversy, or he would disapprove the design. As a final note he reaffirmed his
legal position: “It keeps changing on us. It has never been submitted to me.” The call con-
stituted an ultimatum.
Culminating the week was a special CBS TV report in which Mike Wallace alleged
that General Westmoreland, for political reasons, had concealed intelligence regarding Viet
Cong troop strength.
On Monday the Legion’s national commander sent a telegram to Watt, reaffirming
the Legion’s pledge of $1,000,000. He expressed deep concern over Watt’s “hesitancy in
approving construction…. We see it to be a dignified and eloquent tribute.” Scruggs
released the telegram to the press, and the AP did a story. Smith reported that Perot was
coming to meet with Bill Horn, and the Ledger-Star of Norfolk, Virginia, had a supportive
editorial.
The Board met that evening. Warner’s office reportedly had invited 18 people to the
Wednesday meeting, and the 90-day period for Watt to approve or disapprove would run
out on February 4. The consensus regarding any design compromises was that we would
propose a flag and strengthen the wording of the inscription as long as it didn’t make a
political statement. We wouldn’t change the size or the location of the inscription, but we’d
consider gold lettering. Most importantly, we couldn’t change the memorial’s color, con-
figuration, or the order of the names without destroying the basic concept of the design
obtained through the competition.
On Tuesday, Scruggs and I headed for the leafy enclave of Chevy Chase, Maryland,
to meet with columnist George Will at his home. According to Scruggs, Will didn’t like the
design but liked VVMF. We climbed two flights of stairs before finding a blank wall in a
spare bedroom, and I set up the slide projector on a bed. Will didn’t commit to do anything,
but offered some insights. The right, “smarting from the loss of the war,” couldn’t separate
the issues of the war from the service of the veterans. He was surprised that Buchanan
would make the communist allegation without naming names. The right had thought that
the memorial would give it the last word on the war, but saw the design as a betrayal.
21. “A nasty five hours” 191

R
Later that day Perot announced that he would come to Cooper-Lecky’s office at 10:30
a.m. on Wednesday to look at the model. He was bringing a number of former POWs along
with Sybil Stockdale and the widow of his Naval Academy roommate, Marine Lt. Col.
William Leftwich, killed in 1970. At the appointed time I found myself sitting in a small
room with the model of the design and a bunch of people who hated it. Ironically, one was
General Robbie Risner, whose exploits and heroism as a fighter pilot and then a POW for
seven years had already been legendary when I was on active duty. I could not help but be
in awe of him, and despite our obvious differences, he was cordial. There also was a younger
guy wearing an Air Force chaplain’s uniform, but with a set of pilot’s wings. Apparently
having heard the call in Hanoi, he carried a distinct air of self-righteousness.
Sitting beside me was Stockdale, no stranger to Washington machinations as a result
of her role as a co-founder, and then national coordinator, of the National League of Fam-
ilies. Holding a copy of the VVMF letterhead with the names of our officers and directors,
she began to interrogate me as to the combat experience of each. On active duty I had
experienced the phenomenon of wives pretending to assume the ranks of their senior officer
husbands and lording it over enlisted spouses at the checkout counters in the base exchange.
Mrs. Admiral now took this one step further and assumed herself to be a combat veteran.
Perot, meanwhile, took the opportunity to instruct his retinue about the negative aspects
of the design, notably that it went down into the ground.
That morning had transpired an incident directly out of Bambi meets Godzilla. The
model hadn’t yet been brought up from the basement level, and Perot was down there look-
ing it over with some of his compatriots. Lin, working upstairs, heard that they were in the
building and came down to engage with Perot. As described by Carla Corbin, it was a face-
off between two small, but powerful people, each believing in the rightness of his/her posi-
tion and certain that he/she could convince the other of its merits. Lin argued the virtues
of the design while Perot claimed to represent the preferences of the veterans. The row
lasted a good fifteen minutes, and Corbin became more and more alarmed. Lin kept her
cool, while Perot appeared fascinated and bemused by her, obviously not used to having
his opinions contradicted.

R
The summit commenced at 3:30 p.m. on Wednesday, January 27, in a large hearing
room on the west side of the Russell Senate Office Building, with windows overlooking
Delaware Avenue and the Upper Senate Park beyond. In the distance stood the Robert A.
Taft Memorial and Carillon, a 100 foot tower that embodied the best argument in the city
against tall and white memorials. The temperature was in the 50s, and the air felt humid.
Tables formed a big square, with rows of chairs to the rear of the room. Scruggs, Schaet,
and I represented VVMF, and walking into the room I saw that we’d been ambushed. Every-
one was there, from Ann Griffiths of the National League of Families to Gordon Mansfield
with the Paralyzed Veterans, along with a gaggle of people I’d never seen before. Perot had
stacked the room. There were perhaps 60 in total, and we were outnumbered at least five
to one. One guy represented the Marine Corps Reserve Officers Association, which
appeared on no list of organizations that I’d ever seen. He of course didn’t like the design.
192 Creating the Vietnam Veterans Memorial

The dominant uniform was the blue suit, and the Legion’s Tom Haynes remarked that he
wished he’d owned the “blue suit franchise” for Washington. In addition to the Legion,
allies on our side included Generals Davison and Price, Shaun Sheehan, Ron Gibbs, and
Chuck Bailey, our political consultant. Notably not present were Wheeler and Webb, who
reportedly was out of town.
In the initial confusion I happened to deposit my briefcase on the south side of the
square. I had claimed a seat on the east side, but I stood up for a minute and Stockdale
grabbed it. I told her how nice it was to see her again. Scruggs, Schaet, and I ended up
together at the south end of the east side. Warner stood in front, and Perot took the seat
right behind my briefcase, with Carhart sitting next to him. Perot’s retinue sat on the west
side, facing us.
To open, Warner announced that he would conduct the session as a “Quaker style”
meeting, with everyone having the opportunity to air his or her views. We would kick it
off with my slides, which Schaet wanted to present. Although the slides of Carhart’s design
weren’t part of the show, I had them stored in the same carousel. As Schaet scrolled through
the slides, looking for the beginning, Carhart’s design happened to pop up on the screen.
After the show Carhart whined that he didn’t want his design to be used anymore, whatever
that meant. Perot patted him on the arm.
Warner next invited comments, starting from the west side. Perot acted like a prose-
cutor presenting witnesses. His charges, holding note cards, stood up in turn to denounce
the design in the usual terms, i.e., a tomb, lacking height, black, no honor, no gratitude,
etc. Risner compared it to a “Texas bar ditch.” One guy bemoaned that meeting with us
was “a pissing match with skunks.”
Opposing organizations included the Naval Aviators Association, the Marine Corps
League, and the Non-Commissioned Officers Association. The Air Force Association and
the Reserve Officers Association took no position, while the AMVETS now supported hav-
ing a poll. The representative of the Blinded Veterans Association announced that he was
against it, based on what he had heard. The chairman of the board of the League of Families
again called for a separate listing of the names of the missing. Carhart gave his standard
spiel about the design representing the war at home, and Copulos pronounced it to be
“anti-heroic.” On the other hand, Legion National Adjutant Bob Spanogle and VFW exec-
utive director Cooper Holt affirmed their organizations’ support.
Scruggs, Schaet, and I mostly had been playing defense, shooting down the attacks
and proposals for changes. Shaun Sheen, however, presented an eloquent positive affirma-
tion. He established his bona fides—a Marine combat vet and now a successful media exec-
utive with a beautiful wife and two kids, living the American Dream—not the stereotypical
downtrodden vet. He had been attracted to the project by its nonjudgmental philosophy;
it would simply recognize the American Vietnam experience, an important historical activ-
ity that was being forgotten. Noting the competition for public support from hundreds of
other worthy charities, he praised us, a bunch of novices, for having done a remarkable job
and suffered “slings and arrows.” The dispute over the design could cripple our momentum
and stymie the project. Visible on the Washington Monument was a distinctive line showing
where construction had been halted for decades. Our project couldn’t afford such a rupture.
Sheehan then complimented all for their devotion and service and was sorry we were in
disagreement. They nodded in agreement, and he closed with a flourish, asserting that
21. “A nasty five hours” 193

altering the open design competition, the largest in history, behind closed doors was anti-
thetical to the principles of the United States and its democratic institutions. Unfortunately,
as one of our allies later opined, reasonable arguments were of no use in that group.
Congressman Don Bailey repeated his demand that the inscription say that the war
was right. Senator Denton spoke thoughtfully and at length, even saying that he had been
embarrassed by the attention lavished on the freed POWs as compared to the average vet-
eran. Although he didn’t like the design, he thought that a deal was possible to save it. Later
in the meeting he broke into tears. Gold Star Mother Regina Wilk lamented, “We are refight-
ing the war here.”
The conclave dragged on for five hours, seemingly without prospect of resolution. In
spite of the heat in the room, no one took off his coat (except for Warner) and no one went
to the bathroom. Warner heroically stood the entire time, directing the proceedings with
arms raised and attempting to preserve order and decorum. Our offers of adding the flag
and strengthening the inscription were ignored. We went back and forth over every issue
involved with “fixing” the design and/or starting over. Certain incidents remain in my
memory:
A retired naval aviator admiral patted himself on the back for having flown off aircraft
carriers and said, “Let’s do it right.” Although Scruggs, looking sullen, had been mostly
quiet, he rose to the occasion and chewed out the admiral: “We held the largest design
competition ever and raised millions of dollars. What have you ever done?” It was one of
his finest hours, even if he referred to the project as “my memorial.”
With great certainty a guy affirmed the presence of a communist on the jury. I invited
him to name names. He sat down.
Denton pondered why an Oriental had been chosen to design and see the memorial
to completion.
Stockdale periodically chimed in with sarcastic comments: “Why don’t we put this
design in front of the art museum, and build the real memorial on the Mall?” Warner was
moved to groan: “Come on, Sybil!”
Risner lamented that they were being “nicer” to us than we were being to their side.
He obviously hadn’t been read in on the allegations made by his side about our financial
mismanagement and commies on the jury.
At one point came a call to change the color. Warner commented that he understood
that the black granite was necessary so that the sandblasted names would be legible, and
turned to me: “Isn’t that right, Doubek?” I had a sample of the granite in my briefcase, so
I called over to Perot, who had had his elbows propped on it during most of the meeting:
“Hey, Ross, would you open that briefcase, please?” It turned out that I also had left my
rubber overshoes folded in the briefcase, and these snaked out and landed in Perot’s lap.
General Price, who had been sitting back in the audience, performed the most mem-
orable scene. Rising ramrod straight, in full command voice he proclaimed: “I am sick and
tired of hearing black called a color of shame. If I hear this from anybody again, he can
answer to me!” The whole room went quiet, and Denton said meekly: “We don’t mean
black people.”
The sun had set and the sounds of rush hour traffic had died away. Someone had
opened the windows to let in much-needed air. Stockdale declared that she could “see,
hear, or feel” no effective compromise and that having nothing would be better than the
194 Creating the Vietnam Veterans Memorial

Lin design. Perot described the dilemma as a “family feud.” Tom Haynes took the floor and
spoke calmly and forcefully, pointing out that there had been controversies over both the
Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument. The Legion believed that the process
of selecting the design had been the fairest possible. We could either reach a consensus or
go to battle, and the Legion was prepared for the latter.
Things weren’t looking optimistic when General Davison stood up and made a simple
proposal: keep the design as is but to add a statue of a fighting man. He had in mind the
Follow Me statue at Fort Benning, Georgia. Standing 12 feet tall, it depicted a charging
infantry soldier waving for others to follow. All went quiet, and I heard Perot: “Yeah, a
statue for the living and the wall for the dead.” Others chimed in with positive remarks,
but I saw the idea as grotesque. The image of the charging soldier was the antithesis of a
“reflective and contemplative” memorial.
Yet, instantly we were surrounded by Gibbs, Chuck Bailey, and General Price. I thought
we had done a good job defending the design, but Gibbs said we had sounded like a “bunch
of bureaucrats.” Bailey’s message was that we had to give up something to get a deal that
would satisfy Watt, or else he’d kill the whole project. Price agreed, and in the back of my
mind I saw an escape. We could agree to the deal, break ground, let the CFA kill the statue,
and we’d keep the design unblemished. I turned to Scruggs on my left and said: “Stand up
and tell them that we’ll push for it, if they stop trying to block our groundbreaking.” He
thought for a minute and then did so; Warner proclaimed that we had an agreement. In
the wrap up, we agreed to have a follow-on meeting. VVMF also would find the photos of
all the designs in the competition that included statues.
Afterward I felt as if our peaceful garden had been pillaged by vandals, to whom we
owed no specific loyalty or special respect. We had sweated and sacrificed to harvest a
world-class design, which now would be trampled. Most aggravating of all was that the
press treated the opponents as if they had moral equivalency with us, who had done all the
work and followed all the rules.

R
The next day a congressional staffer reported that he’d never felt more emotion in a
meeting. Scruggs was interviewed about the deal on Good Morning America, and was quoted
in the Times: “You can get furious to see politicians get involved with two out in the bottom
of the ninth, with not one red cent from Uncle Sam involved and with thousands of parents
waiting and writing and telling how they can’t wait to visit this remembrance of their dead
sons.” Feinsilber did a story for the AP: “Flag, hero added; Stark Vietnam veterans memorial
to be modified.” He wrote, “According to some participants nearly all the 50 or 60 people
in the room were moved to tears when some veterans who had spent years as prisoners of
war told why they objected to the original design…. ‘It was a fierce, emotional evening,’
said one participant, who asked that he not be identified. ‘It was a nasty five hours.’ … One
[critic] called the changes minimally acceptable.” As per a later article in the Boston Globe’s
magazine, “‘[t]he statue will now be the focal point,’ Carhart said exultantly after the meet-
ing. ‘The wall will be like a black curtain behind it, and the flagpole will even mitigate
that.’”
According to Feinsilber’s AP story, we had agreed to add a replica of the Follow Me
statue. Yet a memo drafted by Shull for Cicconi in the White House was more nuanced:
21. “A nasty five hours” 195

the basic design would remain unaltered, but VVMF would accept a statue in the design,
seek approval for a flag, strengthen the wording of the inscription, and consider an inscrip-
tion for the base of the statue. The attendees of the meeting could participate in the selection
of the statue design. Shull wrote that there was no reason to hold up the plan to break
ground by March 1. If there were concerns about VVMF reneging on the deal, the dedication
could be made contingent on placing the statue.
Both Griffiths and Mansfield called me to apologize for not supporting us at the meet-
ing, but they’d been helped by Don Bailey and couldn’t cross him. With our allies we began
a push to break ground on March 1. The AMVETs would write to Watt. The VFW’s com-
mander in chief send a telegram: “Our nation has never given honor and respect due Viet-
nam veterans. Now the nation is giving them respect and I urge you to do the same by
approving this memorial.” The Legion wanted a meeting with Watt, and Dan Smith said
that Watt wanted to get it behind him. Chuck Bailey reported that “Dear Colleague” letters
were ready in both houses, including from the Vietnam Veterans Caucus.
The White House, seeking the right signal, had called Kimmitt, who recommended
that we hold off on a political offensive against Watt. Spreiregen warned that we’d be in
trouble with the design community and the commissions if we added the flagpole and
statue. The NPS now would meet with Gilbane on the construction matters, but Parsons
personally hoped that the CFA would turn down the statue. Watt wanted to meet with us
before meeting with the Legion.
On Friday, I met with Cooper and Lin, who were not happy. Cooper and Lecky warned
that they might have to resign from the project. I entreated them to stay with us, if only to
preserve the design from further disaster. Wolf Von Eckardt advised to break ground now
or we never would. He perceived a moral obligation for an open proceeding to select the
sculpture. He also advised an early meeting with Carter Brown, who was politically shrewd
and saw the Mall as his turf. An architect from North Carolina wrote that a flag would be
a change to the design program that we were obligated to clear with the competitors and
the jury. I reviewed the slides of all the entries in the design competition and found 84 that
included statues.
The next week the Chicago Sun-Times had an editorial calling for breaking ground:
“The American Legion is hardly a hotbed of flag-burning.” In a story about the never-
ending efforts for a Roosevelt Memorial, Time quoted a former congressman: “There are
more sleeping art experts in Washington than anybody dreamed of….” The AIA’s publication
quoted Grady Clay: “The detractors have marched serenely from emotion to hyperbole
and their language has converted a beautiful design into something despicable.” Architec-
tural Record quoted Lin: “The Memorial will be serene, beautiful and graceful, not at all
threatening and morose…. In its simplicity it attains nobility. It is a park within a park and
provides a haven and refuge in one of the busiest parts of the city. It plainly is not a trench.”
The North Carolina architect sent me a copy of the AP story with a note: “It appears that
not only has the winner been sold out, but so have all the other competitors. Talk about a
‘slap in the face,’ this will place a black gash of shame on the history of design competi-
tions.”
Perot ranted to General Davison that the project wasn’t VVMF’s private domain and
that Scruggs was too possessive. The memorial was “all–American,” and so was he. He
couldn’t understand our opposition to his audit. Davison told Perot that we would pick out
196 Creating the Vietnam Veterans Memorial

the 12 best statues from the design competition, and the two agreed to try to have the flag
and statue up by the time of the dedication in November. Perot also wanted to consider
something like the Green Beret Memorial at Fort Bragg or the Leftwich statue by Felix
DeWeldon at Quantico. The former was 12 feet tall and stood on a 10-foot pedestal. Iron-
ically, its sculptor was Donald De Lue, whom the head of the National Sculpture Society
had suggested for our jury. The latter statue stood nine feet and showed Leftwich in a
“follow me” stance.
Chuck Bailey reported that Watt was happy with the agreement, but that the Legion
should keep low-key pressure on Watt. He advised us to lay low and avoid the press, but
we needed Warner to endorse the language of the White House memo. The Legion wanted
us to tee up the documents for Watt to sign off. Copulos reported that he had assured
Watt’s office that we could break ground even if the design wasn’t final. I played along with
his contempt for Lin’s discomfiture: “Hell, the check cleared, didn’t it?”
On Thursday, Scruggs and I went to brief Watt on the deal. Smiling, he pronounced
himself pleased with the compromise. Later that afternoon, however, I came back from a
meeting and found the office in a hushed mood. Fauriol whispered that Scruggs was on
the phone with Watt. I went into my office, closed the door, and holding down the button,
picked up the telephone receiver. I released my finger and heard Watt angrily chewing out
Scruggs. Unbeknownst to me, Scruggs had called the press after our meeting and reported
that Watt had approved the modified design. He quoted Watt as saying, “Bring on the bull-
dozers.” Watt’s office had picked up the story from the UPI and AP wires. Watt ranted that
we had a lot of nerve making a press event out of a private meeting. He had not known
that we had no integrity. If it were not for the fact that he believed in having a Vietnam
Veterans Memorial, he was so angry that he would can the whole project. Furious, Watt
worried that congressmen would attack him. How would the “environmentalists” react to
bulldozers in the national parks? He declared that he’d give us one more chance, and Scruggs
apologized.
Right afterward, Scruggs, in a chastened mood and not knowing that I’d been listening,
came to tell me what had happened. I advised him to see if he could get the press to hold
off. As a result, Friday’s Post carried two opposing articles. One short squib had the wire
service story, while the “Personalities” column in the “Style” section reported a clarification:
“But Scruggs later called reporters to say he erred in making Watt’s views public…. ‘I
showed bad judgment.’”
It appeared that Watt indeed was giving us a second chance: John Parsons called on
Friday to say that “all is go.” Watt had said “proceed,” and the NCPC could give its final
approval at its meeting on the 18th. Meanwhile, Buchanan wrote another piece, “The Crypt
on the Mall,” in the conservative weekly Washington Inquirer, while the Post carried an op-
ed by General Maxwell D. Taylor decrying the CBS attack on Westmoreland.

R
That afternoon, Scruggs and I traveled again, this time to central Long Island to speak
at an evening meeting of a large chapter of the Vietnam Veterans of America, in Deer Park,
New York. The chapter’s president had called Schaet in January to complain about the
design, and Schaet had committed to go up there and do a briefing. He perceived this as
an opportunity to test whether we really could bring people around if they could hear the
21. “A nasty five hours” 197

whole explanation of the design. I would do the slide briefing, and Scruggs would provide
credibility as a decorated combat veteran.
About sixty guys sat on rows of folding chairs. I had the impression that most had
been enlisted men and worked in blue collar occupations. Scruggs and I were the only ones
wearing suits. Speaking in a heavy New York accent, the president opened the meeting
with some announcements. One had to do with job opportunities: a local company was
willing to hire Vietnam veterans who wanted to work. Suddenly one guy, clearly the resident
wacko, stood up and began yelling about something. The president let him rant for a while
and finally told him to sit down and shut up.
When the time for us came, he reviewed that we had come from Washington to give
a presentation about “this memorial that we all hate,” and added: “Both of these guys are
Vietnam vets.” Scruggs told them about his background and how he came up with the idea,
and I did the slides. I emphasized that we were attempting to do something world-class,
something better than anyone thought Vietnam veterans could do. In the end, they took a
vote by a show of hands, coming out two to one in favor of the design. We had passed the
test. To kill time before our flight the next morning, I took a drive and came across a town
called Bohemia, that had been settled by Czechs in the 19th century. I couldn’t escape my
roots.

R
The next week Art Mosley arrived for a four-week stint. According to Wheeler, his
role was to “implement the compromise.” Davison reported that “Perot is 100 percent with
us,” although not ready to pick out a specific statue. Bill Horn advised us to submit the
funds certification. On the 11th we delivered a set of the final construction plans along with
Gilbane’s final budget estimate of $2,333,790. Certificates from our financial institutions
showed that we had $2,468,720 invested, plus a $1,000,000 pledge from the Legion, which
Spanogle confirmed by letter. Our cover letter stated that we would “add, as refinements
to the design, a staff for the American flag at the site and a statue of a serviceman to be
placed within the area before the apex of the memorial’s walls.” I don’t recall how I let it
go with the words about the apex. Now we would await word from Watt.
While we waited, an assortment of press articles over the next week provided enter-
tainment. In the Baltimore Sun appeared, “Ex-generals helped save Vietnam memorial
design.” The Wall Street Journal had “Renewed Hostilities” and “Design of Proposed Memo-
rial to Vietnam Dead Is Reopening War Wounds Meant to Be Healed.” The next day’s WSJ
had two letters to the editor. One said that the opponents of the design wanted to justify
the war. The other, from a combat veteran, for a design suggested “a heroic statue of an
American serviceman—handcuffed, blindfolded, armed with an M-16 rifle that doesn’t
work, led by a man with his head in the clouds, and being stabbed in the back by Jane
Fonda.” Friday’s Post noted that while the NCPC had given its final approval of the Lin
design the day before, the statue and flagpole still had to be approved by the commissions,
which might be difficult to get. The Post also had an op-ed by Joe Zengerle: “Vietnam: The
Bone In Our Throat.” He compared Vietnam to the title creature in the 1979 movie Alien,
living “within its host as an indigestible identity, erupting unpredictably to turn on its for-
mer home with a voracious appetite.” As examples he included the CBS program about
Westmoreland and the 11th-hour hit on the memorial. Also, the guy in Florida who had
198 Creating the Vietnam Veterans Memorial

been sending the sketches of waders in front of the wall now sent some articles from his
local paper about the flag and statue and said, “I told you so.”

R
Schaet resigned, effective April 1. I had perceived that he’d been disgusted by a number
of things, including Wheeler’s micromanagement and Fauriol’s assumption that Radez was
her boss. It had also come to light that Eckbo in 1968 had signed the “Berkeley Vietnam
Commencement,” which said “I pledge to support [refusers of induction] with encourage-
ment, counsel, and financial aid.” Schaet did a memo saying “I resent Eckbo’s lie.” Five
hours of getting beat up by the vandals probably influenced his decision.

R
The next week Perot said he couldn’t do anything with the 86 slides of statues we had
sent. He suggested that we pick a sculptor and commission him to do models. According
to Davison, Perot was now hung up on alphabetizing the list of names. At a Board meeting
Fauriol reported that $750,000 had come in from January 1 to February 12, so contributions
now totaled $5,855,247. Mosley out of the blue opined that there was a 50 percent chance
of a 100 percent cost overrun on the project. I jumped down his throat, pointing out that
Gilbane was the best in the business and the memorial was merely a retaining wall. Wheeler
emphasized that a commitment to the consensus reached at the Warner meeting was the
only chance for the project to go forward on schedule; a delay would mean it would never
be built. Hence, we’d have Cooper-Lecky develop proposals for siting the statue and flag.
With the fundraising campaign all but over, Fauriol now became the director of the National
Salute to Vietnam Veterans.
No word came from Watt by Monday, the 22nd, and the Legion called the White House
when he wouldn’t return their call. Chuck Bailey advised that we line up all possible assur-
ances that there would be a statue. It didn’t help that I had shot off my mouth to a few
people about the CFA shooting it down. Wheeler had even scolded me. After meeting with
Watt, Lloyd Unsell reported that I’d received a compliment. While Watt thought Scruggs
was a nice guy, “Doubek is a hard-nosed son of a bitch.”
The issue of Time magazine appearing that day didn’t help. Scruggs’s meeting with
Hugh Sidey earlier in the month resulted in an article titled “Tribute to Sacrifice.” Sidey
lauded Scruggs, “an infantry corporal with nine pieces of shrapnel in his back,” for having
overcome generals, multimillionaires, politicians, pundits, and bureaucrats, naming Watt
as the latter. Smith reported that Watt was miffed, and asked, “Why won’t Jan Scruggs keep
quiet?”
On Wednesday, Horn conveyed the bad news. It was uncertain whether the CFA and
NCPC would approve the flag and statue, and Watt saw the compromise unraveling. He
therefore would formally ask the two commissions for “conceptual approval.” His letters
went out the next day, and the Legion sent him a nasty telegram, with plans to go to war.
By coincidence the NCPC and the CFA had meetings coming up on March 4 and 9,
respectively. And the next Warner meeting with the opponents was set for the 11th. Ben
Forgey, the Post’s architecture critic, questioned, “Whether … the reviewing agencies …
will regard these changes as ‘design improvements.’” Charles Atherton, the CFA’s secretary,
doubted whether the commissioners would approve a concept they couldn’t see, but the
21. “A nasty five hours” 199

NCPC had a precedent for approving development concepts not backed up by actual
designs. To cover all possibilities, I called Rick Hart to find out how long it would take to
come up with a statue. It would take at least three weeks for a clay sketch and three months
for a scale model. In closing he said that the Lin design had integrity, and he would hate
to be a despoiler.
March 1 was to have been the day for the groundbreaking. A congressional office
reported that some veterans from their district had traveled to Washington for the event.
The Board met that evening. I had worked up a long memo laying out alternative courses
of action in response to Watt’s failure to approve the design. We hadn’t guaranteed to add
a statue, but only to push for it in good faith, so I favored repudiating the agreement and
suing Watt. Scruggs agreed with me, but Mayo laughed. The consensus was to play out the
scenario and attempt to obtain the “approvals in principle,” since Watt’s action would appear
to the public as reasonable. A lawsuit would make him an enemy, and there’d be no swift
resolution. Going forward, we’d make no public statements against Watt and let it be known
that we were restraining the Legion. I would present our testimony, because the staffs of
the commissions knew me. Our tactic would be to extol the existing design and explain
why the additions made it better. We’d also get the opponents to testify in support.
John Woods and John Morrison had attended, and as the meeting was ending Woods
proposed that the Board be expanded. Responsibility would be spread, and the rationale
of facilitating decision making had been outgrown. Morrison agreed, and Wheeler of course
was suspicious. He wanted to know who had come up with the idea. Fortunately, Woods
covered my rear and said it was his own. In fact, I had already expressed my concern to a
number of confidants, including Mayo and Woods, that Wheeler had a conflict of interest.
His boss, Tom Pauken, admired Webb and had ordered Wheeler to resolve Webb’s problems
with the design. The stress on Wheeler was showing, and I really feared that he might make
a separate peace with Webb.
The Legion’s pressure prompted Morton Blackwell to send a White House memoran-
dum to all the veterans’ organizations, according to which Watt hadn’t “raised another
obstacle.” There had been a compromise, and everyone understood that the CFA had to
approve it. The disgruntled competitor from New Jersey wrote to the CFA: “THIS ABYSS
IS A MONUMENTAL FAILURE—THIS MONUMENT IS AN ABYSMAL FAILURE.”
Meanwhile, the Philadelphia Daily News had a long article by a veteran against the design.
“No one has asked the Vietnam veterans how they feel about such a shape and symbolism,”
as if the average guy had a clue about such things. He wanted Congress to convene public
hearings for veterans to express their feelings.
I coordinated the NCPC meeting with the staff and lined up witnesses and statements
in support of the “approval in principle.” John Parsons, representing the NPS on the com-
mission, would move to suspend the rules to take up our item. Grady Clay declined my
request to testify; he felt that the statue was an imposition. So did I, of course. I had lunch
with Lin and Kent Cooper to keep them read in.
In prostrating (better, prostituting) myself before the commissioners, I urged them
“to approve today, as requested by Secretary Watt, the concept of these refinements so that
construction of the memorial may begin this month.” We would “develop the specifics …
and submit them separately for approval.” Regarding the criticisms of the design, I said, “It
became apparent to VVMF that these concerns had merit and needed to be addressed.”
200 Creating the Vietnam Veterans Memorial

The elephant in the living room was the general knowledge that we had a gun to our head.
In its approval the NCPC urged that the new elements “be located and designed so as not
to compromise or diminish the basic design of the memorial as previously approved.”
Cooper reported that Lin had an appointment with Carter Brown and suggested we
do the same. She reportedly was “sick at heart,” wanting to see the memorial built as
designed or not at all. He felt we needed to show sufficient respect for the design community
and let Lin testify against it at CFA. Yet that would be awkward, as she worked as a consultant
to us.
Brown’s spacious office, on the top floor of the new East Building of the National
Gallery, had floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the Capitol. The striking structure was
designed by I.M. Pei, like Lin of Chinese descent. A 76-foot mobile designed by Alexander
Calder hung over its central court. Brown received us graciously, and I reviewed the events
that led to our dilemma, especially Watt’s ultimatum. We all understood that getting the
commission’s approval for something that didn’t exist was far from ordinary. My basic plea
was that if the CFA simply could approve the concept of adding the two new elements, we
could break ground and work out the details of their size and location while construction
proceeded. In closing, Brown put his palms together and said, “We’ll take this home and
pray over it.”
Saturday’s Post carried a comment by Ben Forgey, “Monumental ‘Absurdity,’” that well
summed up the situation: “Today, because a few of them are rich and a few are congressmen
who managed to get the ear of a headstrong secretary of the interior, these opponents are
busily engaged in forcing through a ‘compromise’ design that promises to muck up an
extraordinary work of memorial art…. To transform those noble walls into a backdrop for
a lonely statue is an absurdity that ought not to be countenanced. To do so would the true
shame.”
The CFA convened at 10:00 a.m. on Tuesday, March 9. I again supplicated, referring
to the vandals as “our brother Vietnam veterans.” I assured the commissioners that we
would attempt to see “that the design, placement and proportions of these additions are
developed in a manner that will respect the beauty and simplicity of the approved design.”
Pointing out the presence of the Marine Corps League and Copulos, along with the VFW,
the Legion, and the American Gold Star Mothers, I said it represented “a coming together
for the common goal of expeditiously completing the project.”
Brown then got to it. Their task was not to review a design, but answer a letter, and
he had drafted a reply: “However, we believe it is possible to find a solution for adding
those elements in such a way as to obtain the approval” of the Commission as required by
law. He suggested an entry point as a place for the elements. “The Commission looks for-
ward to reviewing ways in which additional elements could be designed and positioned so
as not to abrogate the integrity and magnificence of the existing design concept….”
Standing there, I couldn’t fathom his meaning, so I pinned him down: “As I understand
your letter, it does, indeed, accept the concept of the flag and the sculpture at the site?”
Brown murmured, “That is true.” We had what we needed, or so I hoped. Kammeier of the
Marine Corps League asserted that the elements had to be “incorporated within the design
of the memorial and not a separate memorial and apart from it.” But General Price got up
and said that “we recognize the entire two acres as symbolic” of the service of the veter-
ans.
21. “A nasty five hours” 201

In the Post on March 10, Ben Forgey wrote, “It remains to be seen whether the com-
mission’s action will satisfy critics of the design.” Noting Kammeier’s objection, he said,
“[T]he placement of these new elements has now become the key issue in the controversy.”
All that day the litter continued to accumulate. Parsons had heard Copulos talking about
going to court if the CFA stuck the statue away from the walls. General Davison liked the
entry plaza idea for the statue and argued to Perot that the whole two acres made up the
memorial. Perot thought that the statue would be “shoved off to the side,” and reportedly
wanted a survey of all Vietnam veterans. Perot told Mosley that breaking ground would be
a “grave mistake.” Shull felt that Brown’s letter was too weak to satisfy Watt, but Brown
agreed to call Horne to confirm the approval. Wheeler was convinced that Perot meant to
destroy us. A Post reporter called about the meeting with the opponents the next day.
To top things off, I took a call that morning from a lawyer who wanted to know whether
we had fired a secretary because she was pregnant. The woman had been a problem from
early on, and around the time that she was to be fired, she got pregnant. Schaet, Kielich,
and I decided that the best way we could help her was indeed to fire her so that she could
draw unemployment. I transferred the call to Schaet, and he put the guy in his place. Yet
it was the straw that broke me emotionally, and for the first time during the entire project
I lost faith.
It happened to be my birthday. I was 38 years old and in my own estimation had little
to show for my life. I didn’t have a family or any wealth and worked for a modest salary in
a job with no future. The project that had consumed my life for three years might not go
forward, and I would be on the street sooner rather than later. I no longer had a chance of
a career in law. I wanted to get married, but couldn’t without being able to promise my wife
a future. My task that day had been to prod the NPS to prepare the building permit so we
could pull it as soon as the anticipated approval from Watt came through, but I was para-
lyzed and didn’t do anything for the remainder of the day.
The following morning, Wheeler heard that Watt was ready to issue the approval. We
waited. About 11:00 a.m. Horn confirmed that Watt had indeed signed off and a letter was
on the way by messenger. Again we waited. When the letter hadn’t shown up by noon, we
called the messenger service. The guy had stopped for lunch. It arrived about 1:30 p.m. and
Watt had indeed approved construction, with the caveat that we would add “better and
proper language bringing honor to all 2.7 million Americans who served in Vietnam as
well as design refinements, by separate submittal, for a flag staff at the site and a statue of
a serviceman.” Moreover, we couldn’t dedicate the memorial until the flag and statue were
in place.
Although elated, I immediately felt a bolt of guilt and shame. We wouldn’t be out of
the woods until we had the actual construction permit, and I had wasted an opportunity.
We now had to go to another meeting with Perot, so our chances of getting the permit
before the weekend were nil.

R
Warner had set the second meeting with the opponents for 2:30 p.m. that afternoon
in a Senate hearing room. He sent invitations to attendees at the last meeting, along with
an agenda, i.e., we would report on reviewing statues from the competition, Perot and the
rest would make their suggestions on the sizes and locations of the statue and flag, and
202 Creating the Vietnam Veterans Memorial

VVMF architect Kent Cooper would make his suggestions. Perot, however, had told Davison
that he wanted agreement on the sizes and locations at the meeting. Wheeler, who would
attend this time, suggested that I not come, since my comments at the last meeting pur-
portedly had irked some people. I irately blew him off, since the vandals were the last
people I cared to please. We all agreed not to flaunt Watt’s approval letter.
Again we were substantially outnumbered, as Perot had again brought an entourage
and took over the meeting. Even Andrew Messing, who didn’t think anyone would be inter-
ested in a memorial, was there. Their consensus was that the flagpole would be planted
right above the apex of the walls, and that the “follow me” soldier would have his back to
the apex. The walls therefore would become merely a base for the flagpole and a backdrop
for the statue. Cooper had brought the large model of the memorial and made a sincere
effort to explain design considerations. At one point, however, he referred to the flagpole
as a “long stringy object,” so was denounced for his lack of patriotism.
Various suggestions were made for inscriptions to go on the bases of the flagpole and
statue. Don Bailey wanted to have “for liberty and freedom.” One positive twist, however,
was Perot’s idea to have an “executive committee” to decide on the statue. Perot next took
up the chronological listing of the names, but Wheeler got on top of the situation by declar-
ing that we wouldn’t proceed with inscribing the names until the problem of readily locating
a name could be fully briefed and technically demonstrated. What Wheeler wisely didn’t
do was to commit to do the briefing and demonstration for those present.
To close, Perot proposed a vote on the locations of the flag and statue. I knew how it
would come out, but for the record, if not for self-esteem, I made a stab at a rational argu-
ment, i.e., in deciding a location the preferences of the sculptor should be considered.
Carhart, however, immediately responded that they’d get a sculptor who would do their
bidding. The meeting returned me to my Chicago roots. By packing it and then forcing a
vote, Perot had stuffed the ballot box. As the meeting broke up, Messing told Scruggs that
no matter how it all ended up he would be a “hero,” and Bailey leaned over to Wheeler and
said: “You’re a sissy.”
Watt’s approval was no secret, and the Wall Street Journal, the Times, and the Post all
ran stories about it. The Post noted, “Still to be resolved is the controversial question of
where the statue and flagpole will be placed in the memorial design.”
Bill Lecky later sent comments on the meeting to Warner: “There seems to be a pre-
vailing attitude among some of the participants that if the flag, sculpture and related inscrip-
tions do not serve as the focal point for the design, then the design is somehow automatically
unpatriotic.” He pointed out that it was precisely out of respect for the flag and sculpture
that Cooper-Lecky proposed moving them away, since the impact of the wall would be
“enormous.” He noted the minimal respect for aesthetic considerations, which implied
“that the ‘message’ conveyed by the flag and the sculpture were more important.”
Parsons on Friday confirmed that Watt’s office had instructed him to “prepare the per-
mit but not issue it.” Both Carhart and Congressman Duncan Hunter were lobbying Ray
Arnett against it. This of course added to my sense of guilt. My delay had kept us vulnerable,
and we would now have to go through a weekend of uncertainty. A lawyer working for
Perot would have plenty of time to prepare a request for a restraining order to keep us from
going ahead. Yet Morton Blackwell assured Shull that it was all over but the shouting. The
permit had been typed.
21. “A nasty five hours” 203

On Monday morning, the 15th, I got up the nerve to call Parsons. He hadn’t heard
anything, but called back to say that he was authorized to issue the permit. I ran out onto
Vermont Avenue and hailed a cab. The permit turned out to be a thick document full of
various provisions governing everything from the marking of trees to the type of fencing.
I sat down to sign it to accept the conditions, and Parsons asked: “Don’t you need to get
your Board’s approval first?”
“I have all the authority I need,” I said as I signed off. I grabbed my copy to get out
the door before there was any other glitch. That stack of paper seemed like the most valuable
thing I’d ever held in my hands. Finding a pay phone near the tennis courts, I called Scruggs:
“I’ve got the permit! I’ve got the damned permit! Call Walter Marquardt at Gilbane and
have him come to the office.” Back at the office we had a quick staff meeting and decided
to have the ground breaking ceremony on Friday, March 26, with Fauriol in charge.
We met with Cooper-Lecky and Gilbane later in the day. First, the architects had to
go out and tag the trees that should be saved. We also had to put up a temporary snow
fence around the entire site before any actual work could be done. Everyone understood
the urgency of moving out quickly. By Thursday the trees had been tagged and the fence
was up. The plan was to remove and stockpile the topsoil before the ceremony on the 26th,
and start the actual excavation the week after. Marquardt suggested that since removing
the topsoil would take only two or three days, we wait until Monday to actually get started.
As a lawyer I had experience with temporary restraining orders, the purpose of which
was to preserve the status quo. As long as Perot and his lawyers were still after us, we were

Robert Doubek at memorial site as construction commences on March 19, 1982 (Karen Bigalow).
204 Creating the Vietnam Veterans Memorial

vulnerable. I’d learned my lesson. I didn’t want to go through another weekend of uncer-
tainty. I wanted the status quo to be a site under construction rather than a pristine glade
of grass.
“No,” I told Marquardt. “We need to start tomorrow. Get the grass torn up.” Scruggs
jumped in: “Make it look like a B-52 strike hit it.”
The next day we all went out to the site to watch the pans run back and forth and
gouge huge slashes into the National Mall. If Watt or Perot wanted to stop us now, they
would have to deal with a big open sore. On Thursday, Perot had called Warner and
demanded that we not break ground. Warner blew him off, so Perot called Watt without
success. We sent out the invitations that day.
The week of the ceremony, Copulos wrote a piece asserting that the modifications
would “insure that there will be no doubt in the minds of future generations of the fact
that the soldier who fought in Vietnam did so honorably, and for an honorable purpose.”
Warner’s office issued a press release reflecting the kangaroo vote at the March 11 meeting.
The flagpole would be placed atop the apex of the two walls, and “[t]he statue, to be placed
in front of the walls, will be a strong, commanding figure symbolizing all who served in
Vietnam.” It included the variety of patriotic inscriptions that came up at the meeting. A
story based on the release went out on the AP wire. Henry Hyde entered a statement in
the Congressional Record: “I would presume to assert that war memorials may be too
important to leave simply to artists and architects.” For praise he named all the opponents,
along with Scruggs, who “deserves the highest credit.”
On Friday the Los Angeles Times architecture critic opined about locating the flag at
the apex: “That location would be a disaster. It would be as obtrusive and aesthetically
destructive as a beautiful eye in the middle of a beautiful woman’s forehead.”

R
We set the groundbreaking ceremony for 10:30 a.m. The weather was sunny, chilly,
and windy, and the ground, having been stripped of its topsoil, was hard as rock. Gilbane
staked out ribbons along the lengths of the planned walls, and 125 shovels, each with a
number, were laid out behind the ribbons for the veterans and dignitaries. With almost
500 feet of wall, it was a great opportunity to involve a lot of people, and the 125 represented
all states and organizations. Each was assigned his or her own shovel. Scruggs got the one
at the apex, with Wheeler and then Mathias to his right and me and then Warner to his
left. A hardware store had lent us the shovels, but we let everyone know that if he wanted
to keep his as a souvenir, he could buy it for $10.
About 2,000 attended, along with the Marine Corps Band and the Joint Services color
guard. Wheeler did the welcome; Scruggs did introductions, and the speakers were Jack
Flynt, the national commander of the Legion; Cooper Holt, the VFW executive director;
Warner, Mathias, Vietnam veteran and Senator Charles Robb, General Price, and Chuck
Hagel. Chaplain Max Sullivan said a prayer: “May this place be a holy place of healing.”
Maya Lin was in China.
Holt expressed hope that the memorial would help “create an accord out of our bitterest
military experience since the Civil War.” Robb recounted how two men under his command
had died in his arms. Hagel said, “We all know there’s no glory in war, only suffering.” To
culminate the ceremony, Fauriol gave the preparatory command, “Ladies and gentlemen,
21. “A nasty five hours” 205

Vietnam veterans of the American Legion breaking ground for the memorial on March 26, 1982:
(right to left) Joe Frank, Jr. (Missouri), Doug Henley (Maryland), Tom Kouyeas (District of Colum-
bia), John Maddox (Tennessee), Ed Pendarvis (South Carolina), Dyke Shannon (Florida), Pat Smith
(Colorado), Dewey Spencer (Arkansas), Bruce Thiesen (California), and E.C. Toppin (North Car-
olina) (The American Legion National Headquarters).

put your shovels to the earth,” followed by, “Break ground.” We all gave it a good try, but
with the ground so hard, the best anyone could do was to scrape ground. The closing
anthem was “God Bless America.”
A saccharine twist occurred immediately after, when Congressman Duncan Hunter,
a veteran and one of our primary opponents on the Hill, ran up from his spot half-way
down the ribbon to schmooze with us so as to get his picture into the newspapers.

R
After the ceremony, we convened in a Senate reception room for the “Victory Lunch-
eon” for the Corporate Advisory Board, which had raised $1,195,996 from 192 American
companies. There were about 40 people, including Paul Thayer, the committee chairman.
As we waited for the food to be served, I heard a commotion, looked around, and saw the
party being crashed by about 10 guys who loudly complained about not being invited. In
tow they had their very own pretty blonde TV reporter, a Diane Sawyer wannabe, who
would document this latest affront to these long-suffering victims. The month hadn’t been
206 Creating the Vietnam Veterans Memorial

easy, so I just shook my head in disgust. In an instant, however, Warner rose and in a con-
ciliatory voice invited them all to join him for lunch in the Senate dining room next door.
The prospect of a free lunch obviously outweighed the cause at hand, so the interlopers
quickly disappeared from view. Warner’s move remains one of the classiest actions I’ve ever
seen in my life.
In the afternoon I was interviewed at the site by a local TV station. I said, “It was a
great day! It was a great day for Vietnam veterans. It was a great day for the country.” After-
ward Karen and I went to the National Press Club. A guy, seeing my shovel, asked: “Oh,
was there a groundbreaking today?” We told him to go watch it on TV. We did and were
treated to another cute dig from CBS News. After drolly reporting on the event, Dan Rather
closed with, “It is hoped that it will be completed in time for Veterans Day.” “Thanks for
the confidence,” I thought.
On Saturday the groundbreaking was front-page news in major newspapers across
the country, including the Times and the Post, which had a large photo above the fold. The
photo showed a line of people, bent over with shovels in hand, extending from the apex
with the Washington Monument in the background. The most prominent heads were those
of Scruggs, Warner, and me. The Post article, by Phil McCombs, was titled, “RECONCIL-
IATION Ground Broken for Shrine To Vietnam War Veterans.” An interior page had a large
photo of Wheeler, Mathias, Scruggs, Hunter, Warner, and me, but the caption identified
Wheeler as Hagel and Hunter as Wheeler. The story also quoted the guy who had led the
invasion of our luncheon. An Army officer veteran from New Hampshire, he was angry
that he had to pay $10 for the shovel and wasn’t invited to lunch. Scruggs was quoted: “My
personal position was, put it above ground, make it white. I’m here to build a monument,
not put a Rembrandt on the Mall.” The article in the Times parroted Warner’s press release,
i.e., the statue would be placed in front of the walls. Even The Economist swallowed the
press release whole, concluding, “These additions are meant to relieve the memorial’s ambi-
guity. They may, however, merely serve to emphasize it.”
That evening I broke ground on another project: I proposed to Karen, and she accepted.
22

Prefixes

For the first three months of 1982, the bulk of my time had been spent defending the
design, but my real job was to get the memorial built. As of January 2, Gilbane and Cooper-
Lecky were moving out on a lot of fronts, and I was trying to keep up. I approved Gilbane’s
contract with Rogan for the granite curbs, and Gilbane contracted with Pittsburgh Testing
Laboratory for $3,000 to analyze whether the granite would in fact turn green. Cooper-
Lecky finished the construction drawings on January 11; their billings through year end
had been $71,500. The technical specifications were underway. We opened the bids for the
name inscription work on the 19th, and that day the Pittsburgh report exonerated both the
Swedish and Indian granites. I approved Gilbane’s bidders’ lists for the subcontracts for
excavation, foundations, landscaping, concrete, and the granite erection and setting.
Cooper-Lecky delivered 50 sets of plans to Gilbane by January 27 for the invitations to bid
to go out on February 1, with bids due on the 25th. After analyzing the samples submitted
by the inscription bidders, Cooper-Lecky recommended awarding the contract to the low
one, Binswanger Glass of Memphis, Tennessee. On February 2, a ship carrying half the
granite arrived in New York. A new player had joined the construction team in November.
Carla Corbin, an architect of about 30 who exuded calm, confidence, and competence,
became Cooper-Lecky’s project manager.
Gilbane could build a concrete retaining wall in its sleep, but the ambiguity in the
project involved the names. The problem had many moving parts, some under my personal
control, some with the architects, and some with the construction manager. All had to
come together. For my part, I had to produce a list of names and make sure it was complete,
correct, and properly formatted. Cooper-Lecky had to deliver to Binswanger full-size film
positives of the panels, with the names properly arrayed. Binswanger had to inscribe all
the names without otherwise damaging the panels.
The National Archives had provided a computer tape of the names, but we needed a
contractor to process them into the right order and format and produce the film positives.
Corbin found consultants who knew fonts, kerning, and spacing, and we learned that it
was critical that the lettering on the film be as dense and sharp as possible. A contact rec-
ommended a firm in Atlanta, Datalantic, that had just acquired one of the best printers
available. Datalantic submitted a proposal to supply the finished film positives by March
15 for $47,650. The names would be in chronological order, formatted, with imbedded
kerning and quads (margin justifications), and with the panel and line number for each. I
authorized them to start work as of February 4. One of the Datalantic owners, Steve Swan,
was a Vietnam veteran.
On February 3, Cooper, Lecky, Corbin, and I flew to Memphis to check out Binswanger,

207
208 Creating the Vietnam Veterans Memorial

Rinsing a granite panel after exposure to light to create the stencil for sandblasting, Binswanger
Glass Company, Memphis, Tennessee, July 1982 (William Lecky).

along with Marquardt and Ed Small, Gilbane’s procurement man. We met with the local
manager and Brian Carter, who headed the Glasscraft subsidiary. Larry Century came
down from Cleveland. A 100-year-old firm, Binswanger had eight years earlier founded
Glasscraft, the first company in the furniture industry to produce heavy glass tabletops and
insulated glass. Glasscraft had the talent and dedication to do our job and would accept
complete financial responsibility. Carter had 12 people on his R&D staff and four would
be devoted to the inscriptions of the panels, the heaviest of which weighed 1,450 pounds.
They outlined the process, i.e., cleaning a panel, leveling it on a specially built carriage,
spreading the emulsion and letting it dry for eight hours in a dark room, placing and taping
the film positive, exposing the panel under lights for 30 minutes, washing out the unexposed
portions (the letters), tilting the panel on the carriage, and finally blasting it. Glasscraft
could start production in eight weeks and do the entire job in 13 weeks. Glasscraft planned
to do the grit blasting with a hand-held nozzle, but Lecky raised the concern that this could
produce an uneven result. Carter knew of no good example of a mechanically controlled
blaster. The issue would remain open for weeks.

R
For the accuracy of the names, we had already contracted with the National Archives
in St. Louis to cross-check the DOD list with the official files of the casualties. On the
matter of the list’s completeness, I contacted the casualty offices of the various services. I
obtained copies of the lists maintained by the Marines, Air Force, and Army, but the Navy
22. Prefixes 209

hadn’t kept one. The DOD file was formatted with one line for each casualty, with all letters
in capitals. Along with the name was the service branch, date of birth, date of casualty, and
home of record. The names themselves were entered with surname first followed by the
first name, the middle name(s), and the generational suffix (JR, III, etc.), if any. Between
each name and/or the suffix was a single space. Datalantic created a program to reformat
the names to read: first name, middle initial, surname, and generational suffix. The first
week in February they delivered the first printout of the list, formatted and in chronological
order. It presented two big problems.
Hundreds of names appeared at the end of the list with dates of casualty long after the
war’s end in 1975. These obviously were the dates that the men were declared dead through
an administrative process, Presumed Finding of Death (PFOD). The PFOD date could be
many years after the incident in which the man was actually lost. I decided that we couldn’t
list all these names at the tail of the chronological list. The date of a bureaucratic proceeding
had little connection with the sacrifice made, and a major symbolic component of the
design was the ordering of the names between the war’s beginning and its end. Fortunately,
Ann Mills Griffiths of the League of Families had a database with the dates of incident, and
I had all of the PFOD dates changed to reflect these.
The second problem posed a potential nightmare. In perusing the printout, I saw most
names formatted correctly, i.e., “JOHN J JONES Jr.” Yet, I frequently ran across names that
couldn’t be right, e.g., “ROCHERS J B DES,” “CLAIR C H ST Jr,” or “PLANTE W R LA III.”
As it happened, these names came out wrong because they had prefixes. The men’s names
actually were “JAMES B DES ROCHERS,” “CLARENCE H ST CLAIR Jr,” and “WILLIAM
R LA PLANTE III,” but the computer program couldn’t discern that. As I continued through
the list I realized how many prefixed names there were, especially considering all the ethnic
groups in America. National groups with such names included Dutch (De, Van, Vander,
Van Der), English (St), French (La, Le, Du, Des, D’, De), German (Von, Zu), Irish (Mc),
Italian (D’, Da, De, Del, Della, Di, Li, Lo), Portuguese (Da, Dal, Dos), Scottish (Mac), and
Spanish (De La, De Los, Las, San, Santa).
Fortunately, Datalantic had the capability of inserting a symbol into the space after
the prefix, which the formatting program would read as part of the name but the printer
would ignore. I, however, had to tell them which names to fix, so I began the first of what
would eventually be my eight readings of the entire 58,000-name list. I had the advantages
of having intensively studied both a Germanic and a Slavic language and being interested
in names per se. Through having failed French in the 9th grade, I also had some familiarity
with a Romance language. As fate would have it, many other aspects of the names would
require my personal attention, always coming to mind in the middle of the night.

R
Despite the political pall hanging over the project, we pressed ahead through February
and March on design and construction matters. Cooper-Lecky developed alternate pro-
posals to anchor the granite panels to the concrete wall. Gilbane opened bids on February
23, and subsequently set a guaranteed maximum price (GMP) of $1,956,364, assuming a
groundbreaking on March 15. The largest single item in the GMP was $818,608 for the
granite, including material, fabrication, lettering, and erection. On March 9, Corbin, Lecky,
and Lin, along with Joe Thorp from Gilbane and Jim Rogan from Chicago, traveled to
210 Creating the Vietnam Veterans Memorial

Barre, Vermont, to meet with Silvio Nativi and check on the cutting and polishing of the
slabs. The first shipment to Memphis would be ready to go on March 25. There would be
a total of four loads, and Corbin would come up and spot check the finishes of the panels
prior to loading. Nativi recommended that we hold an additional block of granite in reserve
in case of future need for replacement panels.
In the meanwhile, a monument company in Chicago and a granite company in Penn-
sylvania were complaining to the Legion’s magazine and to Senator Heinz, respectively,
about our use of foreign granite. Also, Corbin discovered a problem with the layout of the
names on the panels. Although on the average, five names could fit on a single line, in
about five percent of the cases, i.e., every 20 lines, the combined length of the names pushed
the line beyond the edge of the panel. We’d have to find a solution. Another key player
joined the construction team. Warren Creech, who had flown bombers over Germany in
World War II, joined Gilbane as the on-site construction manager. Like Corbin, he brought
calmness, experience, and competence. We held the first project review meeting on March
25, the day before the ceremonial groundbreaking.

R
On January 14, Schaet authorized the staff to say that we had raised $4.0 million. In
fact we had raised about $5.1 million, and still expected $1.0 million from the Legion and
about $525,000 from other sources. We did not, however, want to convey that we were so
close to our goal lest donors stand down. By the end of the month, Schaet projected that
we’d end up with a substantial surplus of funds. Yet, since we had already paid $147,630 to
print the materials for the Epsilon donor mailing, and CMCA had $70,000 worth of printed
inventory, the Board decided to go ahead and mail these.
Fundraising had continued at a strong pace. From the end of 1981 through the first
quarter of 1982, over $300,000 came in from the corporate campaign. This included $46,000
from 384 union affiliates and locals, $38,000 from LTV employees to be matched by the
company, $35,000 from IBM, $26,000 from Tandy Corporation, $25,000 from Lilly Endow-
ment for the 1,526 Indianans who died, $15,000 from 19 electric and power companies,
$15,000 from Merrill Lynch, $11,000 from Flying Tiger employees to be matched by the
company, $10,000 from each of Pfizer Foundation, Times Mirror Foundation, Sundstrand
Corporation, Union Pacific Railroad, and General Foods, $6,000 from Prudential, and
$5,000 each from Johnson & Johnson, SmithKline, Latrobe Brewing Company, the Hershey
Fund, Teledyne, Coca-Cola, Sea-Land Industries, Sterling Drug, Gould Foundation, and
Olin Corporation.
By the time of Schaet’s farewell party on March 30, Scruggs, Fauriol, and I had already
interviewed and selected his replacement.
23

Moving Dirt and


Molding Clay

As of the beginning of April 1982 we had the site excavation underway, but faced a
new set of challenges: producing a statue, dealing with Perot, and inscribing 58,000 names
into stone. Confronting me personally was the specter of ironing out the formatting and
spelling errors in the list of names, perfecting the inscription process, and putting the two
together to get the process under production. Moreover, we now had a whole new crew of
opponents, in the American design community.
In its April issue the AIA Journal reported, “Reaction in the design community to the
proposed modifications is intense…. Walter A. Netsch (the Fine Arts Commissioner) … calls
them ‘maudlin’ additions to ‘the most sublime monument Washington has received in a long
time.’ … Harry Weese (the juror) … says, ‘Putting those elements in that design is a spoiled
brat approach—if you can’t kill it, adulterate it.’” As for the rump vote at the second meeting,
“Cy Kammeier, executive director of the Marine Corps League and an outspoken proponent
of the modifications, says it was ‘solidly agreed’ that a flag would be erected ‘at the apex of the
“V” and that a serviceman figure on a pedestal would be put within and to the rear of the
apex of the “V.”’” Finally came a quote from Kent Cooper: “It is going to be a long summer.”
On Sunday, April 4, the Boston Globe Magazine had “A Vietnam Epitaph,” telling the
story of the controversy in exquisite detail. It had a full-page photo of Lin with her original
rendering of the design. “[C]ommemorating the war in Vietnam is likely to prove no simpler
than fighting it,” opined the writer.
In a private conference call meeting on April 5, Wheeler, Frank, and Mayo made three
significant changes in the organization’s structure. They expanded the Board by electing
Ron Gibbs, John Morrison, Dick Radez, and John Woods, and designated Wheeler as chair-
man, which he informally had been. I was happy that Wheeler’s erratic behavior would be
tempered, yet now there were four more people who potentially could meddle with the
project. Moreover, I felt that Bill Jayne deserved a spot more than some of the others, but
Wheeler had chosen him for a more sensitive role.
Picking up on Perot’s suggestions of forming an “executive committee” and retaining
a sculptor to start anew, Wheeler developed the idea of a “sculpture panel,” comprised
equally of supporters and opponents of the Lin design, to select the sculptor and decide
on the specifics of the statue. Carhart was anathema to Wheeler, but Copulos and Webb
accepted the appointment. The VVMF people on the panel would be Mosley and Jayne.
Jayne, as a former enlisted Marine who was wounded in combat, would have credibility
with Copulos and Webb.

211
212 Creating the Vietnam Veterans Memorial

Driving piles to support the memorial, April 1982 (Robert Doubek).

The third step was hiring retired Air Force Colonel Robert Carter as the new executive
vice-president. Carter, who’d been interviewed by Scruggs, Fauriol, and me, was a tall, slen-
der former fighter pilot from South Carolina. A soft-spoken man, he emanated calm, wis-
dom, and confidence, exactly what we needed at the time. He started immediately.
By a memo on April 14, we formally appointed Webb, Jayne, Mosley, and Copulos, as
the VVMF Sculpture Panel, to select the sculptor, the sculpture, and the inscriptions and
placements for the flagpole and statue. “Your selections are to be given to the VVMF Board
for submission by the VVMF to the statutory approval agencies. The VVMF Board will
provide the professional advisors for the Panel.” They were to give preference to sculptors
who had entered the design competition.
To my relief, Cooper and Lecky had decided to stay with the project, despite the poten-
tial ethical problems of altering a design that had won a competition. Cooper believed that
the flagpole and statue could be added at the site without diminishing Lin’s design and that
he could ensure this by acting as the professional advisor to the panel. He advocated our
being proactive on finding the sculptor, and we met with Admiral William Thompson to
learn how the Navy Memorial Foundation had gone about it. All this proved to be in vain,
as the panel had its own ideas about how to proceed.
On the 27th, Jayne reported that the panel had asked Rick Hart for a clay sketch of a
statue. I expected and liked the idea. As a member of the third-place team, Hart was the
highest ranking figurative sculpture in the competition, and Copulos and Webb likely had
23. Moving Dirt and Molding Clay 213

approached him months earlier, as one of their ideas had been to get the first- and second-
place designs thrown out. I considered Hart to be a professional, and we would avoid the
agony of a formal selection process. The same day, however, Kent Cooper described the
sculpture situation as going in the wrong direction. He had reluctantly agreed to swallow
the idea of the flag and statue and serve as professional advisor for something he didn’t
believe in. He wasn’t sure he wanted to be involved. Two weeks later he reported that Hart
hadn’t shown up for a scheduled meeting. Cooper was unhappy that his services weren’t
being utilized by the panel.
On May 17 the panel by memo informed the Board they’d selected Hart and wanted
to present his clay sketch to the Board as soon as possible. Hart would then make a 16"
bronze model to present to approval agencies. Hart also would make a full-scale Styrofoam
mock-up to help the panel decide on the scale and location. Finally, the sculpture couldn’t
be completed before July 15, 1983, and they wanted the sculpture to be included in all media
presentations on the memorial. The panel already had informed Wheeler that they wanted
no events at the site of the memorial in November. That day Bob Carter sent Hart a check
for $3,000 to produce “preliminary clay conceptual sketches for a sculpture piece.”
Cooper finally got to meet with Hart and the panel on the 19th. In a memo to Charles
Atherton and me marked “confidential,” he expressed his thoughts in detail. Hart had pre-
sented two small-scale studies, and Cooper paraphrased Hart’s description: “Three fully
equipped and armed GI’s are on patrol. They emerge from a thicket and freeze in surprise
as they behold the walls of the memorial. They are young and vulnerable.” According to
Cooper, “The grouping is fully realistic, accurate in detail to a flaw, multiracial in character,
and expressly close knit in pose. The placement proposed is at the tree line south of the
wall. The exact location is to be determined by placing a full scale mock-up on site, and
moving it until it ‘1ooks right.’ The scale will be slightly over life size. The material will be
bronze. The base will be about ten inches high…. The committee feels that the design is
just right; that it is human, approachable, something veterans will be able to identify with
instantly; and it will add the thing that is missing in the present design.”
Cooper described his own reaction as “mixed.” On one hand, “I believe that the scale,
placement and content of the design will not really damage the concept of the memorial
irreparably.” Another good sign was that the neither Hart nor the panel proposed that the
statue be located on the axis running out from the apex. On the other hand, the idea was
trite, even cute: “It tends to weaken the powerful formality—the necessary inhumanity—
of the memorial, and indicates the kind of contemplative mood that the memorial evokes
and demands needs to be turned into a sort of “happening” or a story, in order to be
approachable. However, I must admit that I can’t think of anything that would be better.
This is probably because the memorial just does not need this addition.” Cooper thought
that if Hart could create a grouping like Rodin’s Burghers of Calais, then there would be
two fine memorials coexisting in the same park. His bottom line was to “let it happen, get
it placed artfully.”
“The placement of the flag [was] another matter.” Because of the rump vote at the sec-
ond meeting, the panel thought that they had to put it within a radius of no more than 30
feet from the apex. At the apex it would dominate the wall. Behind the wall, it couldn’t be
seen by people reading names. Cooper thought that a flag should be a symbolic focal point
from any vantage point on the site and recommended putting it at the end of the western
214 Creating the Vietnam Veterans Memorial

wall near the name locator device. The flagpole would become a destination, not a backdrop.
“My second bottom line is that the real fight ought to be around the location of the flag,”
he wrote.
Cooper had called me after the meeting and described his position as “unmanageable.”
He wanted to be included in the upcoming walk-through of the site with the Styrofoam
model. He was afraid that unless Hart could put power in the statue, it would be seen as a
sop and sneered at.
As I later heard from Bill Jayne, the idea of having a grouping, rather than a single
soldier, resulted from Webb’s insistence on righting a historical wrong and depicting a black
man in a national memorial. To do this, there had to be more than one figure, and three
was fitting, as the smallest unit in the Marine Corps was the three-man fire team. As Hart
years later explained, he wanted the man in the center to be an “all-American boy,” while
the third figure would represent everyone else in the great American ethnic panoply.
Nonetheless, as of the present day a mythology that makes the third man Hispanic has
evolved.
At any rate, with the creation of the panel, the retention of Rick Hart, and the decision
to do a grouping, three positive steps now had been taken away from the potential disaster
of sticking a figure in a “follow me” pose in front of the apex. Hart had an artistic reputation
to uphold and wouldn’t want his work to be exploited for blatant spite. The grouping
changed the whole dynamic of how the sculpture would relate to the wall. Moreover, it was
unlikely that Perot would try to overrule Copulos and Webb.

R
In April we freed up another sticky item. The chronological ordering of the names
had been a bugaboo for the opponents, but Wheeler had cleverly finessed the issue at the
meeting on March 11. Yet, for the record we had to deliver a briefing, and General Davison
graciously agreed to receive it. It wasn’t hard to make the case. I went through the list of
names and started with the obvious choices. There were 650 men named Smith on the list,
followed by 518 Johnsons, 400 Williamses, 389 Browns, 351 Joneses, and 289 Davises. Three
men were named James Edward Smith and five Robert Lee Smith. Otherwise, 24 pairs of
Smiths had identical first and middle names. The general agreed that the chronological
listing was more than appropriate. Each man’s name would have its own place in history,
and the names of men who served and died together would remain together. They had not
died in alphabetical order.

R
For a studio, Hart rented a small apartment located on an upper floor of an old building
at 930 F Street, NW. The building was known for the music venue on the first floor, the 930
Club. He invited our Board and senior staff for noon on June 17 to see the clay sketch and
have lunch. The time of day was important; he wanted the model to be viewed in natural
light. We all liked what we saw and held a Board meeting immediately afterward, author-
izing an additional $2,500 for Hart to complete the clay model. This would take seven
weeks, until mid–August. Wheeler insisted that we announce Hart’s selection on July 3, as
a news peg for Independence Day. I was directed to start contract negotiations, and Edelman
to plan a press conference. Also discussed was the idea of inviting Lin to consult with Hart
23. Moving Dirt and Molding Clay 215

Sculptor Frederick Hart displaying the first clay sketch of the statue of three soldiers, June 17, 1982
(Robert Doubek).

regarding the scales and locations of the sculpture and flagpole. It would remain a bone of
contention for weeks to come.
Having never written a contract for a work of art, I sought help. The obvious source
was the National Cathedral, for which Hart had created a famous work. My father-in-law,
Robert Kendig, a volunteer on the Cathedral’s building committee, recommended a lawyer,
Bowdoin Craighill, who had negotiated contracts with sculptors. He also prevailed upon
Richard Feller, the Clerk of the Works, to advise. Over a series of meetings, Hart, Hart’s
lawyer, Craighill, and I worked out an arrangement by which Hart’s fee would be paid in
slices upon his completion of defined steps in the process, e.g., upon signing the contract,
the finished clay model, the finished full size version, etc. The copyright to the statue would
be jointly owned by VVMF and Hart.
Hart was firm on his demand for a $330,000 fee, which did not include the costs of
casting the sculpture into bronze. I couldn’t tell whether this was reasonable or extortion.
Mosley opined that it was a “$200,000 job,” but I could see some equity in Hart’s demand.
To achieve the skills that qualified him, he had spent many years as a starving apprentice,
and this job would take more than two years of his time. The trump card, however, was
that he had us over a barrel. For reasons of politics, public perception, and our self-imposed
deadline, we couldn’t walk away and get someone else.
We put out a press release on July 1 to announce Hart’s selection. The UPI did a story
and the next day’s Post quoted him: “I realize that there is an existing design and that the
integrity of the design should be maintained.” On the 2nd, Scruggs and I led a tour of the
216 Creating the Vietnam Veterans Memorial

construction site for the press, for their July 4 stories. There was a good turnout. The Board
first met on the 6th to consider Hart’s contract, and I brought Feller and Craighill to the
meeting. Feller stressed that we had a good contract and that contracts with artists were
not those like with other professionals. If the fee wasn’t fair, the resulting work would be
lifeless. Moreover, Felix DeWeldon would have charged $800,000. It was approved by a 4
to 3 vote, with Radez, Morrison, and Frank against.

R
For me, one advantage of signing the contract with Hart was being able to clear a pile
of clutter from my office floor. As soon as we announced we would add a statue to the
memorial, every sculptor in the country started making his pitch. I referred to them as
“sculpture vultures,” since they sought to feed off the carcass of the now wounded memorial.
I piled their packages on the floor unopened, but one guy’s marketing agent even brought
in a model of the memorial in a wooden case, showing a 20-foot-tall “follow me” statue
with its back to the walls. We mailed back all the packages.

R
High drama played out on June 24. The panel had taken the Styrofoam mock up to
the site to check out alternate locations. Mounted on a platform with wheels, the whole
contraption stood about eight feet tall. As the curtain rose, Allen Freeman, the managing
editor of the AIA Journal, “happened” to be at the site and photographed the mock-up
being unloaded. I don’t know who tipped him off. Invited or not, Kent Cooper came in his
role as professional advisor and brought landscape architect Henry Arnold, one of the
designers of Constitution Gardens and currently on our design team. Cooper described
the events in another confidential memo, with photos, to Atherton and me: “The Committee
finally seemed to settle on a location approximately 25' east of the axial line of the walls,
about 25' north of the tree line…. Henry Arnold and I strongly objected to this placement.
We were told by two members of the Committee that in this instance a ‘pure aesthetic solu-
tion’ would have to give way to ‘political considerations.’”
Seeing the mock-up had caused Cooper to change his opinion that Hart’s idea might
work: “The existence of this sculpture on the site really is disturbing, and the siting which
will probably be proposed is disastrous.” Noting that the Board probably would approve
whatever came from the panel, Cooper wrote, “This will put me in a difficult position since
I believe that proper siting is the only way the ‘concept of a statue and flag on the site,’
which I have reluctantly agreed to support, can be realized without significant damage to
the design of the memorial.” He proposed another private meeting with Carter Brown, to
“see if a major political problem in September can be avoided, and the memorial design
preserved.”
The next day, Copulos called Scruggs to vent his anger at Cooper, who at the meeting
had pushed for putting the flag at the entrance to the site or as an application to the wall
itself. Copulos warned that if Cooper tried to lobby the CFA, he’d be at war with the new
right. Cooper therefore had better learn to live with the flag as per the sculpture panel’s
dictate.
Arnold also weighed in, in an eloquent letter to Cooper. “When any new addition is
made to a public open space in Washington, particularly within the Fed Mall, the first con-
23. Moving Dirt and Molding Clay 217

cern should be its suitability in a civic design context.” He concluded, “I hope that no
encroachment on the approved memorial will be approved by the Fine Arts Commission.
The addition of a counter proposal that is executed in a spiteful way is completely alien to
the concept of the Park and the symbolic meaning of Washington’s civic spaces.” Arnold
was preaching to the choir. The haters of the Lin design didn’t give a whit about “civic
design.”

R
While Styrofoam was being pushed around the Mall, Perot still stalked. He told Warner
that he’d jump back in if we weren’t serious about the flag and statue. In early May he told
a producer with CBS TV’s 60 Minutes that if the flagpole was not drilled down the center
of the apex, “he’d jump in with both feet.” He said that we’d agreed to the compromise out
of fear of his Gallup poll. He complained to Warner about our planning for the salute to
be held when the memorial would be only half finished. We had been “rude and arrogant”
for not inviting him to the groundbreaking. He was angry about the Boston Globe article
and claimed VVMF had forgotten the guys who really got the memorial going: him and
Warner.
His main line of attack, however, was his demand to get into our records. Bob Frank
had our finances audited by Peat Marwick, Mitchell, one of the “Big 8” accounting firms,
but Perot wanted a “deeper” audit done by his own Big 8 firm. From the beginning, despite
my discomfort with the personalities of some of my colleagues, I had been totally confident
of their financial integrity and that of the organization. No one even thought of putting his
fingers in the till, which Frank guarded like a hawk anyway. We had nothing to hide, but
someone out to embarrass us could certainly find something. Perot expressed his incredulity
at our reluctance. Supposedly all other charities welcomed his audits, and he’d made sub-
stantial contributions to VVMF. Wheeler had recruited former Attorney General Elliot
Richardson to our cause, and he advised to hold firm on Perot, who in Richardson’s opinion
was a publicity seeker. We didn’t owe him anything, either an audit or his money back.
Perot was a party to the compromise and shouldn’t try to intimidate us. Richardson even
offered to have a lunch for Perot, Scruggs, and the head of the General Accounting Office.
General Davison tried to convince Perot that there was no use in having another audit,
but to little avail. Perot asserted that we’d spent funds outside the bounds of our charter
and that the Salute was not a proper purpose. Radez and Mayo thought we might assuage
his hurt feelings by assuring him of big publicity during the Salute, e.g., he might fund the
entertainers’ show. Perot had somehow gotten to Wheeler’s boss, Tom Pauken, who now
was pressing Wheeler on Perot’s audit. Perot had implied to Pauken that VVMF was in bed
with the Vietnam Veterans of America and the Vietnam Veterans Against the War. Perot
later told Davison that he wouldn’t oppose the Salute as long as it didn’t include a dedica-
tion.
Peat Marwick finished its audit in early June, and Perot demanded the opportunity
for the head of his Washington office to interview their senior auditor. He repeated the
allegation that we had spent funds outside of our charter, and said he would sue to get our
records. Richardson advised to hold firm, as Perot just wanted to “go fishing” in our records.
Radez took the initiative to form an “independent audit committee,” composed of senior
executives like the chairman of Pfizer, to serve as a buffer against Perot.
218 Creating the Vietnam Veterans Memorial

In town in mid–June, Perot had lunch with Scruggs and Davison and again threatened
to sue if we didn’t let him do his audit. Scruggs assured him that we would honor our com-
mitment to have no activity at site itself until flag and statue were placed and invited him
to fund the Gold Star Mothers’ open house. In July, however, Perot, asserting that our Peat
Marwick audit was “skeletal,” declared he would take legal action to do his own.
The pressure finally overwhelmed Wheeler. He resolved his conflict of interest in mid–
June by resigning his job with the Vietnam Veterans Leadership Project and returning to
the Securities Exchange Commission. The Board decided that Perot was a serious threat
and retained legal counsel. Thus the team gained a new and very valuable player in the
person of Terrence O’Donnell of the law firm Williams & Connolly. O’Donnell himself was
a 1966 graduate of the Air Force Academy but hadn’t served in Vietnam. He father was
four-star General Emmett E. “Rosie” O’Donnell, Jr., who led the first B-29 Superfortress
attack against Tokyo during World War II.

R
By mid–April construction at the site and fabrication of granite in Vermont were well
underway. Rough grading neared completion, and at the apex, workers could collect blown
glass bottles that had been deposited on the river bottom 100 years before. Lecky and Corbin
traveled to Vermont, where 25 granite panels were ready for shipping. They inspected every
detail: radius edge, honed edges, thickness, flatness, surface grain, and anchor slots. The
first shipment of panels arrived in Memphis on April 27, the third anniversary of VVMF’s

The Wall taking shape, June 1982 (Robert Doubek).


23. Moving Dirt and Molding Clay 219

founding. The next shipment arrived on May 11. By the middle of May, all pilings had been
driven at the site and the forms for the footings were almost ready for pouring the concrete
base of the wall, starting on May 20. I visited almost every day and took satisfaction in the
racket caused by the pile driver, audible in the government buildings across Constitution
Avenue. Vietnam veterans indeed were having an impact, but the American stone industry
remained angry with us for using the Indian granite. The May issue of Stone in America
had an article about the memorial: “Monument or monstrosity?”
Ironically, in laying the drainage pipe under Constitution Avenue, the man with the
job of crawling through the casing had been a “tunnel rat” in Vietnam. The work of actually
cutting through the street was done at night. By Memorial Day we had planted 17 trees and
started pouring the concrete for the first segments of the actual wall. Both walls were com-
plete by June 18. Because of the delay in groundbreaking, construction was slightly behind
schedule, but as of June 23, Marquardt estimated completion by October 22, three weeks
ahead of the Salute. Yet changing the schedules for inscriptions, panel erection, and land-
scaping would cost an additional $60,000.
Once while the footings were being poured, a man in uniform came to the site, threw
a medal into the concrete slurry, came to attention, and saluted. Another day Warren Creech
reported that someone had thrown an Army blouse with sergeant’s stripes over the fence.
I called a Vietnam veteran nurse with the same surname as shown on the blouse. She
believed that it had belonged to her cousin, whose mother was very bitter about his loss
in Vietnam. These acts were the first harbingers of the tradition of leaving objects at the
memorial.

R
The groundbreaking for the memorial and my engagement to be married dramatically
changed my outlook. The project on which I had staked three years of my life, my career,
and my reputation would become a reality, and I looked forward to creating a family with
a woman I loved. I became eager to get to work each day and attack the tasks at hand.
Karen and her mother wasted no time on planning the wedding. Because her father served
on the building committee of the National Cathedral, we could be married there, and the
St. John’s chapel was available on Saturday, August 14. We still kept our engagement a secret
from our VVMF colleagues, but the time had come to introduce my bride to my parents.
My taking leave for a long weekend in Chicago was not unusual, but the fact the Karen
took off the same days didn’t go unnoticed.
In Chicago, the engagement faced a cultural challenge. My parents took us directly
from O’Hare Airport to the fancy Oak Brook offshoot of the traditional Old Prague Restau-
rant in Cicero. Karen was bewildered by the spongy objects on her plate, and halfway
through the meal my mother said, “Oh, I see you don’t like dumplings.” Karen took that as
if she’d blasphemed the Good King Wenceslas himself, but we made it through the week-
end.
At the office on Tuesday morning, Kielich was already whispering, so we decided to
come clean. Before announcing it to the staff, however, I felt we needed the Pope’s blessing,
so I invited Wheeler to lunch. When he saw Karen with me, he was suspicious, but I soon
relieved his fears, and he was genuinely happy for us. At the staff meeting the next morning
I asked for leave for both of us to go on our honeymoon.
220 Creating the Vietnam Veterans Memorial

R
My ordeal with the list of names occupied virtually all my time during the months of
April and May. Each time I reviewed the roll, I thought of something new that required
another reading of the entire list. Along with prefixed surnames, I found that some men
had prefixed given names. Then I realized that some, like Harry S Truman, had no names
behind the initials. This wasn’t a problem with middle names, but if a man’s name was “B
Nelson Jones,” it wouldn’t be right to inscribe it as “B N Jones.” All deserved at least one
given name to be spelled out.
Then came the “Billy Bobs” and “Danny Genes,” a naming tradition common in the
South. Late one afternoon it struck me that inscribing them as “Billy B” and “Danny G”
might be wrong. I called information for the history department at the University of Ala-
bama, but it was already past 5:00 p.m. so no one answered. I reached the University of
Southern Mississippi in the Central Time Zone and asked whether any professors special-
ized in the history and culture of the South. I was put through to the Center for the Study
of Southern Culture, and Professor Grady McWhiney confirmed my suspicions. “Billy Bob”
was not a first and middle name, but a compound first name. This started a nerve wracking
quest, as I tried to guess what a man’s family might have called him. If the first name, ending
in “y” or “ie,” was obviously a diminutive and the middle name was a nickname, it was
pretty clear. But what about a middle name that could stand on its own, as in “Billy Earl,”
“Terry Lynn,” or “Tommy Dale?” I took my best guess.
As I looked for the compound first names, the Hispanic names beckoned. I understood
that in Hispanic culture, a child carried the surnames of both his father and his mother.
In Puerto Rico, all the surnames were hyphenated compounds, i.e., “Eugene Oscar Morales-
Gonzalez,” which made it easy. Yet, I feared that some family’s identity would be lost by
virtue of how an Army clerk had written a name. For the Hispanics, I decided to include
the full middle name if it could possibly be a family name. A Hispanic veteran helped me.
Eight times I checked the entire list of 58,000 names. At some points, I despaired of
getting it right, and it would be a disaster to have massive errors inscribed in stone. At one
of our premarital counseling sessions I was so distraught that the priest said a prayer to
help me with the names. If only I had had a personal computer and spreadsheet program,
I could have done that work in ten percent of the time.

R
Spelling and formatting were but half the problem, vis-à-vis the completeness of the
list. The files in St. Louis weren’t coded by Vietnam service, so the inclusivity of the DOD
list couldn’t be verified there. During and after the war, the DOD compiled the list in accor-
dance with criteria set in an executive order and a DOD instruction. Executive Order No.
11216, signed April 24, 1965, designated Vietnam and adjacent coastal waters, within spec-
ified geographical coordinates, as a combat zone. As hostilities spread, the combat zone
was expanded to include additional areas such as Laos and Cambodia. DOD Instruction
7730.22, “Reports of U.S. Casualties In Combat Areas,” January 20, 1967, and March 20,
1973, provided that the casualties to be reported were all those occurring within the des-
ignated combat areas and those deaths occurring anywhere as the result or aftermath of
an initial casualty occurring in a combat area.
23. Moving Dirt and Molding Clay 221

The computer tape we obtained from the National Archives in early 1982 contained
57,707 names, including those known or presumed to have died, those still officially missing
in action (approximately ten), and those still officially prisoners (one). The 57,707 included
both casualties from battle and from accidental causes. The source documents for the DOD
list had been the DD Forms 1300 (military death certificates) forwarded by the casualty
offices of the service branches.
In order to cross-check for possible omissions, I contacted the casualty offices of the
service branches for casualty lists that may have been compiled independently. The Air
Force, Army, Coast Guard, and Marine Corps had lists available. All seven of the names
on the Coast Guard list were on the DOD list, and after laboriously cross-checking the
DOD list against copies of DD Forms 1300, the Marine Corps casualty office forwarded 60
names of Marine casualties in the Far East during the Vietnam War who did not appear
on the DOD listing. Of these, seven, by virtue of having either died in the war zone or as
a result of wounds sustained in the war zone, appeared to meet the criteria set in the exec-
utive order and DOD instruction, so I added them.
The Air Force’s list showed approximately 200 names that weren’t on DOD’s. They
included men killed on isolated outposts in Laos, which technically was outside the war
zone, but I had no problem adding these. In fact, in 1980 the widow of Air Force Lt. Col.
Clarence F. Blanton had inquired whether the memorial would include people killed in
Laos. The appearance of his name on the Air Force’s list was the first official acknowledg-
ment of his death. There appeared also the names of the men who died in the effort to
rescue the crew of the American container ship SS Mayaguez, which had been captured by
the Khmer Rouge off the Cambodian cost in mid–May 1975. This was the last battle of the
Vietnam War, but it too happened technically outside the war zone. I added these as well,
and they became the last names in the chronological listing. The foregoing totaled 18 addi-
tions.
The greatest discrepancy came from casualties in Thailand. Some of these appeared
on the DOD list, but most didn’t. The notes beside a name might indicate a death in Thai-
land due to hostile fire, but there was no war in Thailand. Yet Air Force crews flew to Viet-
nam and Laos from there, and it was likely that a plane had gone down in Thailand due to
battle damage suffered in the war zone. The file for each individual case could have clarified
the situation, but I was out of time and used my best judgment based on the notes. I added
the names of those indicated to have died in Thailand due to flight operations—approxi-
mately 160. Finally, I added the names of eight crewmen on an Air Force bomber that
exploded in the air on a combat mission coming from Guam. These did not appear on the
DOD list or the Air Force list, but were verified by the Air Force.
The Army’s list was on a computer tape, and Datalantic ran a comparison and found
about 150 names not on the DOD list. Most mismatches resulted from stray punctuation
marks between letters, so the computer spit them out. Our Gold Star Mother volunteers
reviewed the names and verified that all but 53 were in fact on the DOD list. For these, the
St. Louis Records Center had no record or found no DD Form 1300 in the personnel file,
so I needed to pound pavement.
The Hoffman Buildings, two monstrous 14-story blocks, sat orphaned in a treeless
plain just north of the Beltway in Alexandria, Virginia. There, at the Army casualty office,
I found rows of desks occupied by uniformed bureaucrats, but no one appeared to have a
222 Creating the Vietnam Veterans Memorial

clue about my inquiry. As I got ready to push the elevator’s down button, I heard a raspy
voice. Looking up, I saw a classic little old lady, right out of Central Casting. She no doubt
had come to Washington to be a “Government Girl” during World War II and still perse-
vered. “I know what you’re looking for,” she said. “We once had all those files here, but we
sent them to Suitland.” I thanked her.
A day or two later I arrived at the Washington National Records Center in Suitland,
Maryland. Its ambience made the Hoffman Buildings seem like French chateaus. After a
grim-looking young man warned me to avoid a certain hallway, I finally found the right
room and the records dealing with most of the 53 men. I scrutinized the actual casualty
reports from the war zone detailing the extent of injuries for each. Where the daily log
indicated that the man had died or had severe injuries, or else no record could be found,
I added the name to the list, a total of 40. I didn’t want their sacrifice to be lost to history,
but at least a number of these them did survive, so to the present day there are names of
living veterans on the Wall.
The last additions became the first two names on the Wall. The DOD list began arbi-
trarily with January 1, 1961, but we had identified an Air Force man who died in 1960 and
General Davison recalled an even earlier incident. On July 8, 1959, Master Sergeant Chester
M. Ovnand and Major Dale R. Buis were killed in a Viet Cong attack on the Military Assis-
tance Advisory Team quarters at Bien Hoa. Mosley happened to take the call from the gen-
eral and wrote the two names down in longhand with a pencil. In reading his notes, however,
I read the second “n” in “Ovnand” as an “r.” To my enduring regret, the second name
inscribed on the wall therefore is misspelled. Finally, at the request of next of kin, we deleted
two names on the DOD list. During the process, contrary to rumors, I found no evidence
of any deliberate government attempts to reduce the number of casualties reported.

R
Getting all the changes input into our own database was another problem. Neither e-
mail nor fax existed yet, so numerous FedEx packages with handwritten notations went
back and forth to and from Atlanta. I made three trips down there, sitting late into the
night with people at keyboards. I stayed up all night before one of them. My last trip, in
mid–May, lasted four days, but the list—as far as I could tell—was ready for typesetting.
Our contract provided that Datalantic would finish its work by the end of March, but
I couldn’t provide all the corrections and additions until mid–April. They had to add
approximately 250 names to the list and change several hundred dates. While they delivered
the artwork for the first five panels by May 24, their final output was further delayed while
we ironed out glitches in the Memphis process. By the end of May, Datalantic’s estimated
cost overruns came to almost $33,000. I did not want them to be hurt, so I renegotiated
their contract to provide for payment for time and materials, plus a fixed fee.
The polished panels had been shipped to Memphis, and I finally had the name list
ironed out, but it would be weeks before Kent Cooper was satisfied and the first inscribed
panels saw daylight. Brian Carter asserted that Binswanger would ready for production by
the first week in May; he was frustrated by the delay. By the end of the month he informed
Gilbane that he’d have to pay his employees overtime to finish the job on time.
Carla Corbin discovered another problem. Cooper-Lecky had estimated the lengths of
the rows of names from the length of the average name. Yet the initial printouts of the panels
23. Moving Dirt and Molding Clay 223

showed that on about every 20 lines the five names were too long to fit within the margins.
Corbin and her colleagues undertook an exacting process of “name swapping,” by which the
longest name on the protruding line would be exchanged with the shortest name on a short
line. To the extent possible, they swapped names that had the same date of casualty.
On May 26, I traveled to Memphis with Cooper, Corbin, and a Gilbane rep to inspect
Binswanger’s first sample panel. Cooper didn’t like the depth of the letters and asked for
another sample the next week. This was repeated a few times until he finally was satisfied.
Binswanger used a hand-held nozzle to blast the panels, which created variations in the
depths of the letters. They solved this by hanging a 2 × 12-inch board on a skate which ran
on a track attached to the ceiling. The board could be pushed left and right as if opening
a curtain. Along the length of the board they drilled holes, every inch or so, through which
the nozzle would fit. The operator then, using each hole, would do a given number of passes
of the nozzle across the length of the panel. That yielded consistency, and in the end it took
about six hours to blast a single panel. Finally all was ready. Binswanger estimated it could
produce 18 panels per week, so could finish the 140 panels by the end of August.

R
The final donor mailing had netted $110,000. Although we no longer were actively
raising funds, donations kept coming. Among many others, the AMVETS contributed
$30,000, and the National Endowment for the Arts gave a $15,000 grant to fund the traveling
exhibit of the competition designs. At the end of June, Fauriol sent the final report to the
corporate advisors. The committee had raised $1,195,696, out of the total of $1,491,082 that
came from corporations. As of May 1, VVMF already had raised $7.77 million, including
the pledge from the Legion, and had $3.2 million in cash and investments. Against known
liabilities and projected expenses and with estimated income of $185,500, we predicted a
surplus of $1.2 million.

R
With groundbreaking behind us, Fauriol and Karen moved forward with planning the
National Salute to Vietnam Veterans. We announced it in mid–April. The Salute activities
would start Wednesday, November 10, and run through Sunday, the 14th. They would include
a vigil at the site, a parade, an entertainers’ salute, veterans’ organization welcome parties,
unit reunions, a thank-you reception, and a religious service at the Cathedral. In June, retired
Army Colonel Kelvin (“K”) Hunter joined the staff to organize the parade. Fauriol solicited
proposals from consultants to organize the entertainers’ show. The headquarters hotel, the
Sheraton Washington, would for free provide 36,000 square feet of exhibit space for the unit
reunions, along with special prices for rooms. Tyl Associates, a local advertising firm, would
create a logo, theme ideas, and public service announcements, all on a gratis basis.
Because Perot alleged that the Salute wasn’t a proper corporate purpose for VVMF,
Fauriol requested a legal opinion from attorney Bruce Hopkins, who specialized in repre-
senting nonprofit organizations. Hopkins wasn’t totally certain that we could do it if it
wasn’t linked to the dedication of the memorial, but it would pass muster if some other
events, like fundraising or a statue unveiling, were part of it. On June 1, Bob Carter warned
the staff to not publicly imply that any “dedication” would be part of the Salute.
By mid–June we had a consultant on board for the entertainers’ show. Also, the
224 Creating the Vietnam Veterans Memorial

National Conference of Catholic Bishops would notify parish priests nationwide to say
special prayers for Vietnam veterans on November 14. The VA office running the Vet Center
counseling program agreed to help. Jim Rogan and Silvio Nativi would produce commem-
orative granite souvenirs, and the Coast Guard reserved a band for the event. Fauriol and
Karen contacted Anheuser-Busch about a Budweiser ad for Vietnam veterans. Tyl Associates
sent out public service ads for publication in August issues of national magazines. By the
end of June, the planning for the parade was complete and a letter had been sent to all state
governors asking for their states to be represented.

R
We couldn’t hold a Memorial Day service at the site, so on the prior Thursday, May
27, we did a walkthrough for the media, which got good coverage. On the 31st, Scruggs
spoke at the Memorial Day service in Pottsville, Pennsylvania, a town of 15,000. In a moving
slice of Americana, third-grade students presented VVMF with a check for $1,000, collected
from sale of T-shirts in honor of a paralyzed veteran.
Scruggs did a lot of other visits and interviews. In mid–April he was interviewed by
Morley Safer for 60 Minutes. In mid–May he gave a plaque to Cyrus Vance in New York City,
and on the 28th he was in Cleveland for an afternoon call-in talk show. The next day he
briefed the Saigon Mission Association, comprised of civilians who served in Vietnam. In
mid–June it was a plaque for the National Association of Broadcasters, and later that month
he was in Albuquerque as keynote speaker for the convention of the Vietnam Veterans of
New Mexico. In June at the Capitol, he presented a plaque to Majority Leader Jim Wright.

R
Other matters demanded attention. We had authorized filmmaker Hugh Drescher to
film construction for a potential documentary for which he hoped to find funding. It didn’t
come, but we authorized $10,000 for him to continue to document construction activities.
Later in the year, WETA, the local public television station, assumed sponsorship of the
film, and VVMF donated Drescher’s construction footage.
Under the compromise agreement, we had committed ourselves to strengthen the
wording of the inscription, so in the sentence starting, “Our nation remembers the courage,
sacrifice and devotion to duty,” we changed “remembers” to “honors.” Rolling Stone mag-
azine made an offer to purchase magazine rights to the Reconciliation Seminar for $2,500.
(The board eventually turned this down out of concern that an association between VVMF
and Rolling Stone wasn’t appropriate.)
A matter of concern was “Operation Dewey Canyon IV,” a demonstration by the Viet-
nam Veterans Against the War to take place in Washington in mid–May. Ostensibly it
would celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Bonus March by World War I veterans in 1932
and the 11th anniversary of Operation Dewey Canyon II, when Vietnam veterans threw
away their medals on the Capitol steps. We feared they might demonstrate at the memorial,
but nothing came of it.

R
Adding a sense of history in the VVMF office was Ethal Wyman, the widow of four-
star Army General Willard G. Wyman, who, among other distinctions, had been deputy
23. Moving Dirt and Molding Clay 225

chief of staff in China under General Joseph Stillwell. In her mid–80s, Wyman rode the
bus several times each week from the Army Distaff Hall by Rock Creek Park in order to
volunteer her services. Kathy Kielich always found something for her to do. Wyman
recounted stories of the rarified life on Army posts before World War II: “Oh, that Georgie
Patton, could he ever ride a horse.”

R
Despite the positive events with the memorial and in my private life, I continued to
be obsessed by doubt about whether or not it was a mistake to build Lin’s design. One day
I’d come to work convinced that it wasn’t, and the next day I would think that it was. I
respected the military credentials and heroism of some of those who hated it, yet I also
had great regard for the design community in whose realm this question dwelled. I had
once been advised that in life one must “tolerate the ambiguity,” so I pushed ahead. It was
too late to turn back anyway.
24

“Art war”

Our announcement of Hart as the sculptor set off a whole new a salvo of fireworks,
starting with the great “art war.” On Wednesday, July 7, 1982, the front page of the Post’s “Style”
section had a story, “Maya Lin’s Angry Objections,” by Rick Horowitz, who had also written
the Boston Globe article. It had a photo of a smiling Lin in her porkpie hat, along with a bad
photo of the original model of the memorial. “This farce has gone on too long,” she said,
adding “I have to clear my own conscience.” As for the statue, “I don’t want it to appear they’re
going to shoot you when you start walking toward the walls….” And as for Hart, “It’s unprece-
dented—artists don’t go around scabbing on other artists’ work. I can’t see how anyone of
integrity can go around drawing mustaches on other people’s portraits. I hoped he’d have the
courtesy or guts to call me.” The flag would make the site “look pretty much like a golf green.”
Although she had left town months before, she complained that we’d excluded her
and had problems with her age, race, and sex. We purportedly told her that if she didn’t
agree with the compromise “we’re gonna can the whole thing right now.” That was news
to me. She also thought that had we stuck by our guns and waited “a few years,” her design
could have been built unblemished.
The same day I wrote the editor of the AIA Journal to “strenuously object” to their
plans to publish Allen Freeman’s photos of the mock-up in their August issue. I argued that
we should have a “zone of privacy” to protect internal deliberations. Also that day, Watt,
Hodel, and Penley went to see the model of the statue at Hart’s studio. Copulos reported
that they loved it.
The next day’s “Style” section had “‘Art War’ Erupts Over Vietnam Veterans Memorial,”
describing reactions to Lin’s comments. Fortunately, Hart kept his cool, and simply said he
hadn’t yet decided on scale, placement, or number of figures. Scruggs was quoted: “We
really fought for Maya’s design, but we’re happy with the compromise. The way it’s done
does not detract from the design. It makes it 100 percent better, much more beautiful.” I
agreed with part of that. Harry Weese spoke for the jury: “It’s as if Michelangelo had the
secretary of the DOI climb onto the scaffold and muck around with his work.” Hart later
told me that he wanted to talk with Lin and respected her design.
The Washington Star had an article similar to the Post’s, and Scruggs was described
as “the former Vietnam infantryman who single-handedly persuaded Congress to give pub-
lic land on the Mall for the memorial.” That was news to me also, but if the media had to
create a superhero to get the memorial built, so be it.
Skyrockets landed from other directions. Kent Cooper was upset because he had agreed
to be the professional advisor to the panel, and they’d selected Hart without having talked
with him. Bob Spanogle, the national adjutant of the American Legion, complained that

226
24. “Art war” 227

veterans were getting mixed signals on whether there would be a dedication in November.
The Legion wanted a formal dedication, and he warned that veterans would riot if it didn’t
happen. He wanted VVMF to stand up and be counted.
Monday, July 12, was a big day in the melee. The Post had three letters to the editor,
all in support of Lin’s objections. A veteran wrote, “Those who fought the war know
painfully that nothing about the Vietnam War pleased everyone. Should this memorial be
any different?” That morning Lin was on both National Public Radio and NBC TV’s Today
Show. The interviewer asserted that “veterans’ groups” were complaining that her design
wasn’t heroic enough. Lin hit that one out of the park: “Well, it’s a question of who ‘they’
are, and I say the people that dislike it are a very small few and they happen to be very tra-
ditional artistically … there’s satisfaction in trying to fight for what I think is the very pure
thought….” Copulos complained about her having called it “her design.” I called the jurors
to ask that they withhold judgment on the statue. Hunt agreed, but Clay wouldn’t. To round
out the day, Lin visited the construction site with the press. She was quoted in the Post the
next day: “It really fits in. It slides right into the ground.”
The AIA joined the battle with a letter from its president, Robert M. Lawrence, FAIA,
to the CFA: “The proposed changes … are ill-conceived.” He continued, “What we have
here is nothing less than a breach of faith” with the designer who won the competition,
with the jury, and with American veterans. “In short the very purpose of competitions is
seriously jeopardized. That’s the real danger here. And that is why the AIA must oppose
… any dilution of the project as originally designed.”
To finish the week, Saturday’s Post had a major article by architecture critic Benjamin
Forgey along with six letters to the editor. Forgey wrote about the Gordian knot of “Building
Memorials in the Nation’s Capital.” “[I]n nearly 200 years of trying,” he wrote, “we have
discovered no universal solution to the complex problem of designing a public monument
or memorial that is both esthetically satisfying and symbolically appropriate.” I felt per-
sonally complimented by, “Despite the abrasive struggle, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial
has been a veritable clipper ship of efficiency.”
Regarding the Washington Monument,
[I]f the final, and somewhat accidental, abstract form of the great obelisk is a hard act to follow
in terms of urban design, symbolic presence and monumental force, its troubled history set
high standards, too, for vitriolic controversy.
What is really fascinating about the history of monument building in this city is that in
almost every case, whether the final product resulted from a competition or a commission,
certain clear divisions occur: professional standards versus popular taste, modernity versus
traditions, abstract symbolism versus realist representation. The results have been mixed, in
more way than one. There were triumphs for each side and failures.
If the debate over Lin’s earth-hugging design for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial reflects a
time-honored pattern, it is, if anything, even more intense because the subject itself is so
difficult and so close in time. The politically inspired design compromise, adding realistic stat-
ues to the abstract design, obviously is not without precedent but clearly it is chancy.

Five of the six letters supported the Lin design. A Vietnam veteran wrote: “The con-
troversy over the proposed new additions is a memorial to the indecision, political meddling
and lack of principle and conviction that marked the war.” The one in opposition, also
from a Vietnam veteran, was graphic: “The [Lin] design … actually appears more like a
great privy, an outside urinal of German beer garden design….”
228 Creating the Vietnam Veterans Memorial

The following week, beginning July 19, featured both public relations and legal maneu-
vering. On that sunny sweltering day I led a tour of the construction site for 25 reps of vet-
erans’ and military organizations. They wanted to know where the statue would be. On
Wednesday morning we held a small but moving ceremony to unveil the first inscribed
granite panel on the memorial, the ninth from the apex on the west wall. It contained 665
names of casualties from June 2, 1970, to July 8, 1970. The ceremony was Wheeler’s idea,
and as usual, he was thinking strategically. We would not only get publicity but would
begin a new phase in the construction process. If anyone filed suit to enjoin us, the status
quo would be that panel installation was underway.
Wheeler also had the idea of inviting the families of four Maryland men whose names
were on the panel: Joseph M. Turowski, Jr. (Baltimore), Allan R. Stroud (Silver Spring),
Terry A. Mote (Rockville), and James F. McDermott III (College Park). American Legion
Post 108 from Cheverly, Maryland, provided a color guard, and Chaplain Kingsley said a
prayer. Senator Warner, Congressman Murtha, and Gold Star Mother Emogene Cupp spoke
and unveiled the panel, and each family was escorted to see their relative’s name. The media
turnout was large, and we received favorable publicity. Mote’s father was quoted: “It has
been something I’ve been anticipating since the memorial was announced—to see his name
there.” The feedback from Watt’s office, however, wasn’t as positive. Copulos had to calm
them down and explain that the ceremony wasn’t a dedication.
With Hart and the panel, Bob Carter worked up a plan to deal with Lin and unveil
the sculpture. He invited her to see the statue, but it was uncertain whether Hart would
meet with her because of her personal attack on him. We first would hold a press conference
to unveil the statue and then present it to the CFA in September or October. Lin’s objections
had reverberated. Shiela Tate and Ann Wrobleski, on Nancy Reagan’s staff, asked Fauriol
whether Lin was satisfied. She answered, “Never.”
The debate over the design continued in the pages of the Post. A Charles B. Leidenfrost
charged that “the jury failed to recognize its mandate to find a design that puts a positive
accent on a colossal historic event. The jury failed to anticipate what millions of Americans
could identify with and rationally or emotionally respond to.” Post columnist Colman
McCarthy criticized Congress and the administration for the lack of job training programs
and small business loans for Vietnam veterans: “These actions … not the memorial in Con-
stitution Gardens, represent ‘shame and dishonor.’” James Brodniak of the Vietnam Veterans
Against the War wrote to oppose the statue and flag: “[W]ar in any form is not ‘noble,’ but
rather catastrophic and beneath the dignity of intelligent life.”
Both the Legion and the AIA had articles in their August magazines. The Legion
announced that contributions from its posts had surpassed its $1 million pledge, and pub-
lished excerpts from letters: “It would mean a lot to me to have such a memorial built in
Washington. For I am a father who lost a son in Vietnam….” The AIA Journal had “Viet
Memorial Designer, AIA Strongly Denounce Alterations,” with photos of the Styrofoam
mock up.

R
The question arose of what, if anything, would take place at the memorial on Veterans
Day. According to Copulos, Blackwell at the White House thought VVMF wanted a “ded-
ication,” but Scruggs reassured him otherwise. I began work with NPS lawyer Rick Robbins
24. “Art war” 229

on regulations to prohibit demonstrations and special events at the memorial—a delicate


task. Any potential prohibition of free speech on public land in Washington had major
implications under the First Amendment to the Constitution, and groups like the American
Civil Liberties Union were vigilant. Arlington Cemetery was the only other site with similar
regulations. Yet, we didn’t want the memorial to be exploited as a backdrop for every cause
on earth. VVMF controlled the site under its construction permit through November 1983,
and Robbins was confident that we could get the regulations adopted by then.

R
In early August, John Barnum of White & Case, a major law firm based in New York,
wrote to notify us that they’d been retained to represent Lin. He cited Paragraph 9.3 of the
design competition rules, providing that the use of a feature that was not part of the first-
prize winning design “will be made only with the agreement of … the author of the first-
prize winning design.” VVMF would be committing a “material breach” of the rules by
adding the sculpture without her approval. “She requests she be permitted to review the
design of any such proposed addition as soon as available. Until she has agreed, no mod-
ification should be submitted to commissions or DOI for approval.” We heard they were
representing her pro bono. Barnum, however, was distorting the meaning of Paragraph
9.3, which in fact stated that the winner needed to agree if we wanted “to use a feature from
a design other than [italics added] the first-prize winning design,” and Hart’s statue hadn’t
been part of his design in the competition. Wheeler called Lin’s father to try to get him to
intercede. To no avail.
Copulos stayed busy giving us advice and warnings. The panel planned to present a
scale model of the statue to President Reagan at the Salute, and if the memorial would be
open, they wanted a model of the statue on display there. Yet no ceremony at the site would
be allowed; VVMF had already violated the compromise agreement by unveiling the panel
and giving tours. Copulos was certain that Lin had “stolen” the design from somewhere.
He wanted us to put up a temporary flagpole and leave one panel off the wall to emphasize
that the memorial wasn’t finished. We needed to keep Copulos talking. The more talk, the
less damage he could do.

R
Karen and I married on August 14 at the National Cathedral. Other than Wheeler,
who asked to attend, we invited only family and close friends for the ceremony. Ron Gibbs
served as our usher. We invited the VVMF Board and staff, however, to the reception at
the Chevy Chase Club. After a week in Bermuda, we spent a week at my brother’s house
on Lake Geneva, Wisconsin.

R
While we were gone, Scruggs and Fauriol attended the Legion’s convention in Chicago,
where the Legion presented a six-foot-long check for $1 million. Unfortunately, it was only
a prop and wouldn’t be good until November. In his remarks, Vice-President Bush referred
to the memorial as a great tribute to Vietnam veterans. The Legion people made clear that
they wanted the memorial dedicated in November.
On August 18, a UPI article headlined “Memorial Dedication Delayed” was carried
230 Creating the Vietnam Veterans Memorial

widely in newspapers around the country and caused confusion. Although technically cor-
rect about the lack of a dedication ceremony, it didn’t mention the Salute. Veterans started
canceling hotel and transportation arrangements, and we were inundated with phone calls.
Our press conference on September 1 finally straightened things out.

R
The sculpture panel drafted a plan to unveil the statue on Monday, September 20, at
the Pension Building. Scruggs would open the event, and Webb would introduce Hart.
“The theme of the presentation should be positive; the proposed sculptural element
enhances the memorial.” Kent Cooper didn’t support their recommendations for the loca-
tions, so for “architectural and artist” support they had enlisted landscape architect Joe
Brown, with whom Hart had teamed on the design competition. Brown agreed to provide
design services on condition that all other consultants were notified. He saw his role as
integrating the sculpture with the memorial area, the existing landscape, and the proposed
landscape setting. The panel planned “to construct a model of the granite wall at the same
scale as the sculptural model in order to realistically portray the relationship between these
elements.” Webb warned Wheeler that it was premature to say that the memorial would be
“open” on Veterans Day, so Wheeler feared that the panel was still ready to “stick it to us.”
In early September, Bob Carter invited Lin to see the model of the statue, and
O’Donnell met with her lawyers. They stood by their opinion that Lin had legal right to
block any additional elements to her design. O’Donnell wrote to formally disagree.
Eventful was Thursday, September 9. EDAW submitted a $33,000 proposal to support
the unveiling event, provide a landscape treatment plan of the design, hire a lighting con-
sultant to light the flag, and have a rendering done. The bulk of the funds, almost $25,000,
would be for a model of the wall made from framed Masonite panels extending 64 feet.
The trees and grass behind the statuary would be represented with a panoramic color pho-
tograph of the actual site. The expenses had gotten out of hand, but for the time being, the
panel had us over a barrel.
The Board meeting that evening started with a visit to Hart’s studio to see the model.
Back at our offices the meeting was kicked off by Legion National Adjutant Bob Spanogle,
who had flown out from Indianapolis, pushing for VVMF to take a stand for a dedication
ceremony on November 13. During the spring and summer, the VVMF party line was that
the memorial would not be dedicated in November, even though we would hold the Salute.
Radez once even gave a scolding lecture about a staff member’s comment that might be
interpreted as hope for a dedication. Yet, the idea of having a huge gathering of veterans
but not a dedication did not sit well with the major veterans’ organizations, the Legion in
particular. The Legion had met with the other organizations the previous day, and their
consensus was to hold the ceremony. All would write to Watt. Hart, Brown, and Brady were
in the room, and as we moved into a discussion, I objected to their presence, as they were
beholden to the panel. Wheeler noted my objection, and the discussion went on. Spanogle
summed up his case: “We’ve been wondering where the balls are in this organization,” and
he departed.
Cooper next outlined Cooper-Lecky’s objections to the flag and statue locations pro-
posed by the panel. They had agreed to be professional advisors, he noted, but hadn’t been
contacted until decisions had already been made on the sculptor, the concept, and the flag
24. “Art war” 231

Workmen with Volpe & Musolino Co. setting granite panels, September 1982 (Robert Doubek).
232 Creating the Vietnam Veterans Memorial

location. “On two occasions the Committee has asked for our views, which were rejected
on the spot as being inappropriate. As a result of the above, we do not feel in any sense
bound to support the proposals which we understand are being forwarded this week by
the Committee.” He felt that co-existence between the statue and wall was possible: a “pre-
ferred location is in a shallow alcove in the tree line which faces the memorial wall.” He
recommended that the Board endorse it. He also believed that the panel’s flag location was
weak for such a powerful symbol. The best location by far was at the west end of the wall:
“This location marks the major entrance to the site, is clearly visible throughout the site,
and allows this important symbolic element to assume the character of a destination rather
than floundering aimlessly in the negative space behind the wall.” He asked that the Board
forward his own proposals to the CFA.
Cooper left, and Joe Brown reviewed his proposal for unveiling the statue. In his opin-
ion, Cooper’s objections to the locations had merit, and the CFA might well disapprove
them. Yet, the Board’s consensus was that modifying the panel’s recommendation carried
a substantial risk of undoing the compromise agreement. Furthermore, VVMF would build
the expensive model so as to present the recommendation in the best light. I felt disgusted
at the waste; Gilbane could have mocked up the walls out of plywood and paint for $1,000
or less.
Lin finally saw the statue on September 17, under the conditions of no press, photog-
raphers, or third parties. I don’t recall her saying anything.
The panel’s final report, dated September 16, reflected Jayne’s thoughtful drafting. The
Congressional mandate “made it imperative that the sculpture complement the memorial
wall and provide a clear statement of the nation’s acknowledgment of the courage, sacrifice,
and devotion to duty of those who served, both living and dead. The panel believes that
both of these elements are necessary in order for the Memorial to comport with the Con-
gressional intent, and believes also that they should interact, thus creating an artistic and
conceptual whole.” The Panel wanted the sizes and locations of the statue and flag to “cause
their interaction with the wall to create the conceptual whole just mentioned.”
Like the Lincoln statue in his memorial, “Hart’s sculpture adds an essential human
element to the existing design.” “Caught in a moment of time, the figures look toward the
memorial wall and beyond to the American flag. Thus, a creative tension is established
between the human figures and the abstract symbols of the wall and the flag, drawing all
three elements into a harmonious whole.”
The flagstaff would be 50 feet tall and 40 feet behind the apex, but off center. A pedestal
at the base would contain the emblems of the five military services and bear the following
inscription: “The flag represents the gift of service to the American people by the veterans
of the Vietnam War. Its presence at this site reaffirms the principles of freedom for which
they fought. It flies continuously to honor their pride in having served our country under
difficult circumstances.”
The Board formally approved the model, and we sent Hart a $20,000 payment. The
statue had its début for the media at 10:00 a.m. on Monday, September 20, in the Pension
Building, with the display substantially occupying the entire west end of the building’s huge
interior. The model stood on legs, representing the ground at the apex at about the height
of my shoulder, with the flag set behind the wall. The model stood on a table at the appro-
priate height and distance from the wall, but the whole really didn’t work. The power of
24. “Art war” 233

the actual wall came from the expanse of green lawn before it, while bobbing heads occupied
the corresponding space here.
Hart read: “I have from the start conceived the work of sculpture with three goals in
mind: first, to preserve and enhance the elegant simplicity and austerity of the existing
design by Maya Ying Lin; second, to create a work which interacts with the wall to form a
unified totality; and finally, to create a sculpture which is in itself a moving evocation of
the experience and service of the Vietnam Veteran.” His approach was that he understated
the statue by removing it from the wall and keeping it small in scale. But, he added, “[t]he
gesture and expression of the figures are directed to the wall, effecting an interplay between
image and metaphor. The tension between the two echoes from one to the other.” He
described the figures as realistic and consistent with history, and “I see the wall as a kind
of ocean, a sea of sacrifice that is overwhelming and nearly incomprehensible in its sweep
of names. I place these figures upon the shore of that sea gazing upon it, standing vigil
before it, reflecting the human face of it, the human heart.”
The Post’s Ben Forgey quoted Wheeler as hailing the statue as “a hopeful sign that our
country can work together more creatively and in greater friendship after the Vietnam
war,” but the Washington Times, Washington’s new conservative daily newspaper, editori-
alized: “It’s not clear exactly what these soldiers are doing or where they are going. And
the look on their faces could as readily be consternation at American foreign policy as the
alert gravity of a nation’s defenders reacting to their life-and-death responsibilities.” The
editorial concluded, “At best, the sculpture adds a hesitant ‘Yes, but…,’ to the original state-
ment, which conveys mourning without the exaltation that can be a component of grief.
Perhaps it is the best we can do with a national experience still so incompletely assimilated.
At least, though, there is to be an American flag added to the two incompatible symbols
to keep them from adding up to an anti-memorial.”
Columnist Ellen Goodman was equally unimpressed. At the event, Wheeler had spent
most of his time courting her, but to little avail. She wrote, “Everyone struggled to present
the final composite of wall and statue as an integrated design. Only Maya Ying Lin was
missing. The creator of the wall had described this statue as ‘a moustache’ on her original
design…. So, in the end, we have a political pastiche of heroism and loss, a trio of warriors
larger than life, and a list of the dead. Instead of a resolution we have an artistic collision
of ideas, an uncomfortable collage of our Vietnam legacy. Maybe, just maybe, that’s fitting.”
USA Today had a story, “Vietnam vets’ salute set for Nov. 10–14,” with a photo of Hart
and the model. According the Scruggs, the statue was “perhaps the most extraordinary
piece of sculpture the world has ever seen.”
Things happen in threes, and unveiling day was no exception. The Washington Times
published a long missive by Carhart, “Coming out of the shadows of Vietnam.” Ostensibly
we all were comrades again, and he had sent us an advance copy, explaining that he wanted
“good press” for VVMF. His article, however, repeated all his criticisms of Lin’s design, and
expressed his hope: “The black wall will become only a backdrop to this powerful statement
of what we were then, what we will always remain.” The article also dealt with the shadiness
of the left and the looming communist threat in Central America. According to Carhart,
“[W]e Vietnam veterans … have met and resolved our differences, and now we have once
again closed ranks as brothers.” He finally exhorted America to “reassume her rightful place
as the true beacon of liberty in the world today.” It was great press indeed.
234 Creating the Vietnam Veterans Memorial

The third shoe to drop that day came from Lin through her lawyers. Her letter, copied
to the DOI, the CFA, and the NCPC, squarely rebutted Hart’s statement:
I disapprove of the proposed additions to the original design. Not only is each additional ele-
ment unnecessary in and of itself, but more importantly these “enhancements” violate the orig-
inal concept.
And as each person enters the memorial, seeing his face reflected amongst the names, can
the human element escape him? Surely seeing himself and the surroundings reflected within
the memorial is a more moving and personal experience than any one artist’s figurative or alle-
gorical interpretation could engender.
The concept of an eloquent place where the simple meeting of earth, sky and remembered
names contain messages for all who know this place, needs no embellishment.
Furthermore the visual axis connecting the sculpture and flag splits the Memorial at its focal
point, the point where it joins in concept. This intrusion rips apart this meeting of names,
beginning and end, and destroys the meaning of the design.

James Kilpatrick’s op-ed the next day bolstered Lin’s position. Scruggs and I had taken
him to see the finished panels early in the month, and he had broken into tears on the spot.
He wrote: “We walked through the usual litter of a construction site, and gradually the
long walls of the memorial came into view. Nothing I had heard or written had prepared
me for the moment. I could not speak. I wept…. This memorial has a pile driver’s impact.
No politics. No recriminations. Nothing of vainglory or of glory either.”
Recalling the debate over the cause of the war, he said, “Never mind. The memorial
carries a message for all ages: this is what war is all about…. On this sunny Friday morning,
the black walls mirrored the clouds of a summer’s ending and reflected the leaves of an
autumn’s beginning, and the names—the names!—were etched enduringly upon the sky.”

R
The epic CFA meeting on October 13 was now just three weeks away. Beyond it loomed
a public gathering of tens of thousands of veterans, whose expectations could only be sur-
mised. These deadlines set off fits of activity around a number of issues. The big three vet-
erans’ organizations, along with the Paralyzed Veterans, met with the DOI’s Bill Horne on
the 21st to push for the dedication ceremony. They let him know that they would be playing
political hardball on the matter. The feedback from Dan Smith, however, was that the DOI
wouldn’t change its position. He and I discussed whether the DOI would make us keep the
construction fence in place to emphasize the idea that the memorial wasn’t finished and
to prevent demonstrations. Parsons thought that pressure was coming from Penley, but
Horn agreed that the fence had to be down. Horne directed us to formally request Watt’s
approval of the flag and statue, so that he could sign off and forward the request to the CFA
and NCPC. We did so, on the 23rd. Our letter specified that the design and plans being
forwarded were as recommended by the sculpture panel. We enclosed a photo of the model,
a site plan, and a design of the pedestal and its inscription.
I felt that not dedicating the memorial during the Salute would be a tragedy. It had
been seven years since the fall of Saigon, and Vietnam veterans had been wandering in the
wilderness. They now would have a memorial that would technically be under construction
for another two years as a hostage to politics. In fact, a group of veterans from Delaware
had already applied for a permit to hold a candlelight vigil at the memorial on November
10. I saw the makings of a deal. Watt now was under pressure from the veterans’ organiza-
24. “Art war” 235

tions, which in the public mind embodied patriotism. He needed a way to get off the hot
seat, but had his right-wing constituency looking over his shoulder. The CFA and Carter
Brown wanted to see the memorial built as unblemished as possible but had already gone
on record as approving the concept of a statue. If they would approve the sculpture panel’s
designs, if not their locations, Watt might have enough leverage to stand up to the right-
wingers, since the statue would be a reality. Finally, the veterans’ organizations—and in my
mind the average Vietnam veteran—wanted the closure of a dedication. If everyone could
give a little, we might have a resolution.
The Legion meanwhile was ready, according to Haynes, to get 150,000 letters mailed
to Watt and could count for support on the Washington office of Standard Oil of Indiana.
On the 22nd we met with National Commander Al Keller and National Adjutant Bob
Spanogle, and Scruggs presented a proposal that Wheeler had drawn up for “an emotionally
sensitive and comforting access to the site of the memorial….” Spanogle shot this down
out of hand: the “grass roots” wanted a dedication and all the veterans organizations agreed.
The Legion would apply for the permit and later add VVMF to it. They wanted an answer
from us by the next day, the 23rd. That day Keller told Watt, “My members want this memo-
rial to be dedicated.”
The Board meeting that evening centered on Lin. We had invited her, but two of her
lawyers, John Barnum and Michael Sullivan, came instead. Steven Umin of Williams &
Connolly came as well. Barnum affirmed her position on the additions as stated in her
letter on the 20th. He also cited Paragraph 9.3 of the rules regarding use of a feature that
was not part of the first-prize winning design. A discussion of Lin’s rights ensued, and I
again objected to doing so with her lawyers in the room. Wheeler again blew me off. In
the end the Board resolved to forward without modification the report of the sculpture
panel to Watt, but not Kent Cooper’s dissenting views. They also passed a resolution that
the Legion should “feel free” to request a permit. The Legion had mustered support in
Congress to hold the dedication and was happy with the Board’s decision. They gave Watt
a deadline of the 27th to respond.
To cover myself, I reported to the Board my initiative on a deal for the dedication,
and the next morning I went to see Smith at the DOI. Worried about the Legion deadline,
he liked my idea. When Watt had heard about the Legion’s demand, he said, “I guess we’ll
dedicate.” I next visited CFA Secretary Charles Atherton to outline a potential resolution
in hypothetical terms. My message was that, “[i]f the [CFA] could approve the design of
the statue, that might be enough for Watt. We can deal with the locations after the new
year.” I approached Wahlquist in Warner’s office about having Warner mediate, since Warner
had direct contact to both Watt and Carter Brown. Together they could make a “win-win”
deal. Watt could make the Legion happy and look good himself. For our part, we’d put up
a temporary flag at the dedication and display the model of the statue.
Ray Arnett, Smith’s boss, agreed with the plan, i.e., the DOI would let the professionals
deal with the locations. Watt’s deputy Donald Hodel found the idea interesting, as he was
concerned that Watt had been put in the middle. Late in the week he even called Atherton
about his fear that CFA might not approve the statue “at all.” If so, Watt might look liked
he’d been duped. He even mentioned shutting down construction at the site. Smith, however,
assured me that there was no possibility of that.
What I never revealed—to the Board or anyone else except Karen—was my back-
236 Creating the Vietnam Veterans Memorial

channel line of communication with Carter Brown. He had initiated contact sometime in
midsummer, and we spoke every week or two. I would fill him in on what was happening
under the radar, and I of course was highly flattered that he deemed me to be competent
and trustworthy. I believed that he and I shared the same goal of getting the Lin design
built as unblemished as possible, and I had the sense that he empathized with our political
dilemma.
Our request for approvals had forced a decision on Watt, and the veterans’ organiza-
tions wanted a response to their request for a ceremony by the 28th. Horn drafted a memo,
setting out three options. The first would be to approve adding the statue and flag, including
the locations. The second would be to approve adding the two elements but let the CFA
and NCPC be flexible on their locations, and the third would be to approve the elements
and merely recommend approval of the locations. Under all three options, Watt would
approve adding the elements, but they differed in how they dealt with the locations. Horne
had been impressed that Atherton strongly supported adding the statue and believed that
the strident ones on both sides had to give way to the majority in middle. His memo there-
fore recommended the second option, on the grounds that “The final confrontation between
the original design and the additions … can be diffused if professional architectural and
landscape concerns can be addressed at the CFA.” In short, politics would drive the addition
of the elements, but their locations would be left to the professionals.
Parsons feared that the CFA might postpone consideration of our proposal if it didn’t
include the name locator, so on the 29th we forwarded Cooper-Lecky’s drawing of a holder
for the name directories. Our letter explained that we had researched alternatives, including
a mechanical “Rolodex” and a computerized system, but “[w]e selected the printed volume
and holder on the basis of its simplicity and dignity, its familiarity and ease of use to the
average visitor, and its low initial cost and cost of maintenance.” We would supply 1,000
copies to the NPS, which would allow for the directory to be replaced weekly for 20 years.
We also outlined the program for volunteer guides to help visitors find names and our plan
to distribute 2,000 copies of the directory to Congressional offices, state veterans’ affairs
offices, and VA facilities.
Watt’s letter arrived that same day: “Based upon the commitments made in March
1982 and our review of your submission, we enthusiastically approve your latest submission.
The addition of a heroic sculpture and our flag to the site will transform the design into
one which honors both those who served our country and those who made the ultimate
sacrifice. We must not forget that our objective is to build a fitting monument to honor
thousands of men and women who served their country in Vietnam. Design aesthetics are
a secondary concern.” He had forwarded our submission to NCPC and CFA and was pre-
pared to allow a dedication, “if both Commissions approve the additions of the sculpture
and the flag staff to the memorial at their scheduled October meetings.” He had accepted
the second option outline by his staff: “Pursuant to the compromise struck last spring, it
would be inappropriate to permit a dedication to proceed if either of these critical design
elements were disapproved or located in such a fashion as not to have the wall, the flag,
and the sculpture constitute a single memorial [italics added].”
We now had an open window and our job was to squeeze through it. Atherton thought
that Watt’s “one memorial” requirement left a lot of room for the CFA. His advice for our
testimony was to avoid any rhetoric about compromise and simply emphasize the merits,
24. “Art war” 237

i.e., the need for a human element. NCPC decided not to consider the memorial at its meet-
ing on October 7, as its primary job was planning, not aesthetics. The CFA meeting therefore
would be the main event, so I started lining up witnesses and planning our testimony.
To round out September, the Legion reported that it had applied for permits to dedicate
on both November 11 and 13, but according to the NPS all applications were on hold pending
the results at the CFA. Rick Robbins let me know that the DOI would issue “interim/pro-
posed” regulations to prohibit demonstrations at the site. These would go into effect imme-
diately, except for the dedication and Memorial Day. The Chicago Tribune’s Paul Gapp also
put in his two cents: “Let us hope the [CFA] pays as much attention to common sense and
public taste as it does to the arcane beliefs held by some architects who are out of touch
with reality.”
A final shot came from Lin. After our Board meeting she had asked to see Cooper-
Lecky’s proposals for locating the flag and statue, but on the 30th Barnum called to say that
she rejected all proposals to include a flag and statue. He opined that she might be recal-
citrant, but Umin saw little chance of her taking legal action. An article in the AIA Journal
for October, “Architects Fight Additions,” had a photo of the model and quoted Hart’s state-
ment and Lin’s objections. The CFA had received 200 letters from architects, opposing the
additions.
We had also received numerous letters from the design community criticizing our
compromise, so I drafted a form letter to respond. I reviewed in detail the history of the
competition and the controversy and concluded, “We are happy that we were able to reach
an agreement by which Miss Lin’s design, as developed under her supervision, could be
built intact without modification and according to our original schedule. We are convinced
that any significant delays in breaking ground would have seriously jeopardized our chances
of ever achieving our ultimate objective…. We sincerely appreciate your concerns regarding
the esthetic integrity of Miss Lin’s design. We were not the ones, however, who made the
design a political issue, and our efforts to defend its merits received little support from the
design community at the crucial time.”

R
Construction on-site had bowled ahead, but the off-site work had been our main con-
cern. The first production panel was blasted on July 6, and Cooper was happy with it. Blasting
would take about six hours per panel and Binswanger could be putting out four panels a
day within two weeks. Sufficient artwork was available in Memphis to allow a steady work
flow. We authorized Binswanger to accelerate the work schedule to 11 hours a day and six
days a week. By July 20, Nativi had shipped all 140 panels to Memphis. Corbin made weekly
trips to Memphis to check on quality. She found some problems with “streaking,” where the
depth of the letters in a vertical row was too deep or shallow, and with “blow outs,” where
the tape around the negative had come off during the blasting. I caused some problems also.
I had continued to check names for spelling or formatting errors, and I had Binswanger
hold off on blasting three panels and wait for revised artwork with the correct names.
The scope, circumstances, and schedule of Datalantic’s work had changed materially.
Their costs were now almost $20,000 above the contract price of $47,650. I negotiated a
revised contract, and we estimated the final costs to be about $93,000. The Board approved
the revision by a split vote.
238 Creating the Vietnam Veterans Memorial

With the first panel now installed, security became an issue. A sledgehammer blow
could break it to pieces. I proposed to the Board that we retain a guard service during the
night. They, however, voted for 24-hour coverage, which we set up in early August.
The backfill behind the walls, as well as the concrete trench drain in front, were com-
plete by July 6. All concrete work was completed by July 22, and the hanging of the granite
facing on the curb wall was done by August 13. The first full shipment, of 29 panels, arrived
from Memphis the week of August 16, and hanging them started on August 23. The sub-
contractor for that work was Volpe & Musolino. The owners and workers, all Italian immi-
grants, maintained exact tolerances in aligning the rows of names from panel to panel, as
well as with the gap between the panels. As of September 2, 47 panels were installed. The
rest were shipped by the end of September and would be installed by the end of the first
week in October. Installation of the sprinkler system and the final site grading were complete
by September 10, and Gilbane started the landscaping on the 13th.
Cooper-Lecky had received three proposals to develop a computerized name directory,
ranging from $46,000 to $81,000, with maintenance costs of $5,000 a year. The bottom line
was that a computer system would cost $140,000 for hardware, installation, and 20 years
of maintenance, while we could have 2,000 copies of a printed directory for no more than
$20,000. With these the NPS could replace a book a week for 40 years. I was also concerned
about the dignity of a computerized directory, so I had directed Cooper to design a holder
for the paper directory that would keep it dry. I brought in Barbieri & Green, the firm that
had designed the logo, to work with me on creating the directory itself, which had to be
ready for the Salute.

R
In late July I met with the NPS’s Jane Chandler, in charge of interpretive programs.
She outlined all the aspects that went into one, such as brochures and volunteer guides,
and discussed as well the overall transition of the memorial to NPS control. To my disap-
pointment, however, the NPS didn’t have the funds to create and print a brochure by the
time of the Salute. As I was determined that our memorial should have all the trappings
upon its opening, I obtained authorization from the Board to spend $20,000 to design and
print our own brochures and $30,000 to design and print 2,000 name directories. In Sep-
tember I worked with Fran Norton and Levi Strauss of the NPS to have the volunteer guides
recruited and trained for the opening of the memorial.

R
During the summer, despite no active fundraising on our part, contributions continued
to come in: $380 to inscribe 19 names from an all–Vietnam-veteran color guard in Michigan;
$584 raised by a volunteer in Jacksonville, Florida; $1,000 from COMSAT; $45,591.13 from
LTV as their company and employee gift; $5,027 from the Idaho Vietnam Veterans Asso-
ciation; and $50,000 from Anheuser-Busch. We netted $113,000 on our last donor appeal
for the groundbreaking. Otherwise it was $40,000 from Chevron; $300 from the Jaycees
at the Sumter Correctional Institution in Bushnell, Florida; and $564 from the VFW Post
in Pinedale, Wyoming.
Obviously the design wasn’t universally hated. The Delaware River and Bay Authority
requested our authorization to make a replica adjacent to the Delaware Memorial Bridge.
24. “Art war” 239

VVMF officers (left to right) Robert Doubek, John Wheeler, Robert Frank, and Jan Scruggs meet
Bob Hope, center, at Washington’s Kennedy Center, July 9, 1980 (Richard Braaten).

The Board tabled the issue. A woman whose son died on a Navy ship near Hawaii in 1969
insisted that we add the names of all who died in the military during the war.

R
Planning for the Salute also went full steam ahead. A parade committee of the veterans’
organizations advised on details. We sent an announcement to all military and veterans’
organizations, invited President and Mrs. Reagan to co-chair the Salute, applied for parade
permits, contacted Bob Hope for the Entertainers’ Salute, pitched CBS, ABC, HBO, and
PBS for televising the show, and contacted airlines and hotels about special rates for Vietnam
veterans and families of those killed. Canon Charles Perry of the National Cathedral agreed
to designate the 11 o’clock service on November 14 to honor all who served in Vietnam, and
the Episcopalian Church Center agreed to encourage Episcopal priests to hold special serv-
ices and prayers on that day. The media cooperated. On July 23 an AP story about the
Salute was carried in papers across the country, and we received hundreds of inquiries. Tyl
Associates, an advertising firm in McLean, Virginia, volunteered its services pro bono.
Washington hotels were quoting 20 to 40 percent discounts for Salute attendees.
240 Creating the Vietnam Veterans Memorial

Other initiatives included a potential Budweiser commercial about Vietnam veterans,


a proclamation from the mayor of Washington, and participation by the active duty military.
Dr. Art Blank, the director of VA’s Readjustment Counseling Service (the Vet Centers),
agreed to set up an emergency psychological counseling center at Sheraton Washington
for veterans and families, and the Sheraton donated two rooms for it.
By mid–August, Fauriol and Karen had contacted the restaurant association for special
deals for Salute visitors, the Board of Trade to get retail businesses involved in promotion,
Metro regarding a 50¢ fare on parade day, hospitals to line up Vietnam veteran nurses to
march in the parade, and the major Army and Marine division associations to encourage
them to hold reunions. Metro agreed to print for free a schedule of events with their Metro
stops. Hotels agreed to display “Welcome to the National Salute” banners and have their
staffs wear buttons. We contracted with a company to make all five parade floats for $75,000,
below cost, and the Stars and Stripes newspaper agreed to sponsor a float to carry Kris
Noel, the famous radio disk jockey in Vietnam. We requested port visits by Navy ships and
requested an FAA waiver for a flyby by eight F-4 jets and ten Huey helicopters. We invited
the service academies and military schools to have units march in the parade. Five Medal
of Honor Winners had already accepted invitations to be parade grand marshals. The design
of the souvenir program was underway. The administrative workload was extremely heavy,
so we hired an administrative assistant for the Salute and added another 531 square feet to
our work space. Two interns started in September to assist with the parade.
On September 1 we brought in Rocky Bleier for a press conference at the National
Association of Broadcasters to kick off the publicity campaign for the Salute, which obvi-
ously was being taken seriously. Showing up were Cox TV (Pittsburgh), AP wire and AP
radio, WMZQ, RKO Mutual Radio, photographers from Newsweek and UPI, the Washington
Times, NBC Radio, the AfroAmerican News Service, Newhouse, and Meddle News. The
Post quoted Bleier: “This is the chance a lot of people have been waiting for. Americans
are finally going to give Vietnam veterans the welcome home they never received.” We esti-
mated that up to 250,000 people would come to the Salute. Noting that a formal dedication
would not take place, the Washington Times wrote, “Scruggs and other organizers of the
event stressed that they want the activities to be ‘patriotic, positive,’ not a demonstration
by Vietnam veterans on such controversial issues as exposure to Agent Orange.”
Jimmy Stewart already had agreed to be the Master of Ceremonies for the show on
November 10, and almost all governors had appointed parade coordinators. The First Cav-
alry Division Association would sponsor a reunion, and individual veterans were organizing
reunions of units that didn’t have formal associations. Tyl designed a lapel pin to be given
to all parade participants. Two optical scanning firms volunteered to put individual regis-
tration information on a computer tape. The major veterans’ organizations, however, were
already concerned that we’d give it to the VVA and the United Vietnam Veterans Organi-
zation.
At the Board meeting on September 9, Fauriol presented a budget for the Salute in
the amount of $350,000, to be potentially offset by $315,000 in income from sales and ads.
The Board was leery but authorized it subject to continuing oversight.
An elephant in the Salute’s living room was the potential involvement of the President
and the First Lady. A volunteer with connections reported that Nancy Reagan, worried
about his safety, didn’t want him to be chairman. The White House later confirmed that
24. “Art war” 241

the Reagans would be honorary co-chairs of the event. In the end, however, their partici-
pation would be minimal.

R
Not infrequently we received letters with complaints and suggestions. One, for exam-
ple, complained about the parade being organized by states and not military units. Another
faulted us for not providing trinkets to donors. A third chastised us for not including the
ranks beside the names on the wall. And almost always the signature would be followed
by the title “Lt. Col. (Ret.),” leading me to develop a theory. Officers retiring below that
rank had to have second careers out of financial necessity, while officers retiring above it
were ambitious enough to pursue new ventures. Those retiring at the rank of lieutenant
colonel, however, had enough money to just sit around and write inane letters.
Perot still lurked, but fortunately we now had Williams and Connelly on our team. As
an opening card, Radez offered the opportunity for Perot’s employee to meet with Bob
Frank to answer his questions. Perot, however, wanted to talk to our auditors, Peat Marwick,
and couldn’t understand why he couldn’t. In mid–July he told Davison he planned legal
action to get our records. By a letter of the 23rd to the Board, he requested access and a
“yes” or “no” answer at its meeting on the 29th. In a call with Scruggs, however, Perot would
not specify his concerns about our spending. Scruggs told him that the independent audit
committee would look into the specifics for him. Scruggs also said that we would fight, but
preferred to have his help with the Salute. Perot in turn said he had decided not to take
legal action at that point, but again requested a meeting with our auditors.
In response to Perot, Radez and Lloyd Unsell co-signed a letter pointing out that he
hadn’t specified why he wanted to access to our accounting firm and our records, but offering
a meeting. In mid–August came a letter on Electronic Data Systems letterhead from Richard
P. Shlakman, an EDS vice-president based in Washington, who handled legal and govern-
mental affairs. He wanted to meet. The meeting finally happened in mid–September at Unsell’s
office. Unsell told Shlakman that Perot’s demand was nothing but harassment. If Perot had
specific allegations, they would be investigated by the audit committee, but Perot would not
be allowed to audit VVMF’s books. Shlakman did not appear happy with his assignment, but
asserted that Perot was accustomed to having his way and if VVMF had nothing to hide, it
should welcome his advance. Shlakman couldn’t identify any other charities that Perot had
audited, but described him as the proverbial “800-pound gorilla.” Steven Umin repeatedly
asked for specifics and compared Perot’s demand to a house search without a warrant.
Umin followed up with a letter to Shlakman: “[W]e have heard little or nothing from
Mr. Perot except preemptory demands. We encourage you to pursue a more reasonable
position so that the differences which led to this morning’s meeting can be resolved ami-
cably.” Shlakman called a few days later to report that Perot wouldn’t yield on his demand,
but as an “important concession” would have Peat Marwick perform the special audit. Perot
would pay for it but hold the results in confidence. Shlakman advised to accept the arrange-
ment and avoid bad publicity.
At its meeting on September 23 the Board resolved to deny Perot’s request, but at the
same time have Peat Marwick examine all disbursements above $2,500 and to officers and
staff. They also decided to amend the bylaws so that VVMF could indemnify officers and
directors.
242 Creating the Vietnam Veterans Memorial

R
On the public relations front we signed a new four-month contract with Edelman at
its full fee. We invited 75 members of Congress to film publicity shots at the site, but didn’t
receive much interest. In early August, Wheeler, Scruggs, and I hosted about 50 “friendlies”
for a site walkthrough and soft drinks. All were attentive and appreciative.
When not dealing with Perot, Scruggs stayed busy making appearances and giving
interviews. He presented a plaque to Congressman Tom Daschle and went to Cleveland to
be in a film being produced for the Legion’s annual convention. During successive weeks
in August he attended the conventions of the AMVETS in Florida, the VFW in Los Angeles,
the UVVO in Philadelphia, and the Legion in Chicago. The VFW gave him a standing ova-
tion and he learned that VFW posts would be sending dozens of busloads to the Salute. A
Hispanic organization requested to hold a ceremony at the unfinished memorial for
National Hispanic Heritage week in mid–September.
Now that the memorial was certain to become a reality, the lionization of Scruggs in
the press began in earnest. His story, of the wounded and decorated poor kid veteran pulling
himself up by his bootstraps and singlehandedly conquering the Washington establishment,
was compelling, and we had made the most of it in our own PR initiatives. The press now
embraced it with fervor. During the summer, the Washington Times ran a long article with
his photo, titled “Vietnam vet’s crusade: monument to persistence.” It reviewed his entire
life story and attributed VVMF’s achievements to him alone. I was the only other VVMF
person mentioned, in passing, and my name was misspelled.
25

“A felt need in this


country for healing”

The attention of everyone—the press, the veterans’ organizations, Watt’s office, the
opponents, and us—focused on the CFA meeting on October 13, 1982. Our objective was
to obtain approval of the statue’s design and the flagstaff ’s addition, along with a rejection
of the locations proposed by the sculpture panel. Its townhouse wouldn’t accommodate the
expected crowd, so the CFA arranged to use the Cash Room, off the lobby of the Treasury
Building next to the White House. Our session would begin after lunch, and we were to
have the Styrofoam mock-ups at the site for the commissioners to see for themselves.
I worked up a plan. Our message would be that the basic design was great, but the
statue was a positive enhancement by adding a human element: a depiction of youth, cour-
age, and sacrifice. Also, the memorial was for Vietnam veterans and not designers. To be
avoided were the design controversy, the political compromise, and any suggestion that
the Lin design did not meet the Congressional authorization, as well as any attacks on Lin,
the design community, or the CFA. For our testimony, Wheeler would talk to the spirit of
the memorial, Webb would speak to the guidelines set by the panel for the sculpture, Hart
would talk about his concept of the statue, and Kent Cooper and Joe Brown would talk
about locations. Scruggs would close and read a letter from juror Hideo Sasaki.
I stayed in contact with Carter Brown. While he didn’t tip his hand, I had the impres-
sion that he was inclined to go with the statue. Yet we had to make a good showing at the
hearing, so I lined up friends and organizations to testify. The delicate part was steering
them to favor the addition of the elements but to be agnostic about their locations. One of
our regular volunteers, however, the wife of a missing Air Force pilot, rejected my invitation:
“I don’t condone the unfair and undemocratic methods of the opponents.” Horn offered
to have either Watt or his deputy Donald Hodel appear at the hearing.
On October 4, Scruggs, touring the site with some of the Legion people, happened to
bump into Shipley and Watt, who was friendly. “Off the record,” Watt said, “I think the
memorial is beautiful.” He added that he had already approved the dedication; it now was
up to the two commissions. Watt also had heard that the AIA was flying in 75 architects to
oppose the additions at the hearing. When I heard this, I too was alarmed. Having 75 guys
with knit ties, tweed jackets, and leather elbow patches in one small room would make the
record books. Watt’s letter to Carter Brown that same day said, “I have enthusiastically
approved these design refinements. We will issue the necessary permits for a dedication if
the refinements are approved in the interim.”
In a letter to Watt, Bob Spanogle of the Legion referred to the informal meeting at the

243
244 Creating the Vietnam Veterans Memorial

site and the Legion’s application for a dedication permit. He asked whether Watt could
issue a conditional permit for the dedication, so the Legion could start planning. We now
saw November 13 as the best date for the ceremony, since it was a Saturday, but Spanogle
would leave in his application for the 11th, so all bets would be covered. The Legion, more-
over, wanted to buy the flagpole for the memorial.
The national press, meanwhile, weighed in. Their narrative carried the undertone of
noble, heroic, and innocent waif veterans, on one hand, facing off, on the other, against
elite, arrogant, effete arts aficionados of dubious sexual orientation. Fatigues against tweeds,
as it were. The Chicago Tribune editorialized (in “The war over a war memorial”): “This is
not a rousing, hell-bent-for-glory statue…. It does not glorify the war. It honors the men….
But this is not a purely artistic debate. The power of the original design came from the way
it reflected this nation’s ambivalence about the Vietnam war…. it would be a pity if the
statue were excluded. This would tell the veterans once again that their experience in war
and their feelings about it are not important, that they embarrass us by their presence….”
Meanwhile, Tribune columnist Joan Beck thought that “a memorial that was to have been
a strikingly powerful symbol of dignity, serenity, honor and healing unity will probably be
diluted by a kitschy, photo-realistic statue….” The Austin American-Statesman saw adding
the statue as “a textbook copy of a camel created by a committee on horse design….”
By coincidence, the National Cathedral on Sunday, October 3, celebrated its 75th
anniversary, highlighted by the dedication of Hart’s stone tympanum above the main
entrance. Ex Nihilo depicts mankind emerging from the void. The Post had a large photo
of Hart and his creation. The previous week the Houston Chronicle ran a story about Viet-
nam veteran Charles Berl, whom Hart had asked to pose for the soldier in the center of
the grouping. According to the story, “Hart was looking for a veteran, an all–American-
young-man-type—a muscular build, a medium height, a stereotypical middle American
who at least looked like he grew up with mom and dad and apple pie.”
Carhart chipped in with a letter in the Washington Times titled “Veteran’s Memorial
should not be mournful”: “[T]hey died noble, principled deaths, and I am proud of them.”
The memorial was not to be a national mourning ground for Vietnam nor to honor artists,
he wrote. The Times’s architecture critic Paul Goldberger did a lengthy analysis and opined
that adding the statues would transform a symbol of loss to one of war: “[T]his design
gives every indication of being a place of extreme dignity that honors the veterans who
served in Vietnam with more poignancy, surely, than any ordinary monument ever could….
The design is discreet and quiet, and perhaps this is what bothers its opponents the most.”
The White House was already thinking about the dedication. Morton Blackwell talked with
Scruggs about Reagan’s possible involvement. He wanted to know whether we expected
any demonstrations, by Vietnam Veterans Against the War or anyone else.
The memorial’s Week of Destiny kicked off at 7:00 p.m. on Sunday, the 10th, with the
airing on CBS TV’s 60 Minutes of the long-awaited “Lest We Forget” segment, hosted by
Morley Safer. Carhart, Watt, Bailey, and the AIA’s Lawrence played cameo roles, but the
stars were Perot, Scruggs, and Lin. According to my brother, observing from sane Wiscon-
sin, Lin came off as the most reasonable of the trio.
Safer raised the issue in chief: was the opposition to the design or the designer, who
was a student, a woman, and a Chinese-American? He described Perot as the one who “got
things going” with his check for $160,000 and related the tale of the competition and the
25. “A felt need in this country for healing” 245

design controversy. On camera Perot held up a model of the Iwo Jima statue and said he
wanted an equivalently appropriate memorial for Vietnam veterans. Bailey said it was a
conflict of ideas about “whether or not America should have been involved in Vietnam.”
Carhart, of course, saw a “black ditch.” Lin, on the other hand, related how some veterans
lumped all people of Asian descent together as “gooks” and hated the idea that one of them
would have designed the memorial. Scruggs said that “if it were designed by an Anglo-
Saxon male … the difficulties … would have been considerably less.”
In his clip, Watt said: “Unless they approve of those three changes, there will be no
Vietnam memorial here….” Finally, Safer got into the dispute over the locations. Perot said:
“This is a case of taking a beautiful design and trying to modify it so it becomes an effective
memorial.” But Lin, obviously referring to their close encounter in the basement at Cooper-
Lecky’s office, retorted: “He really couldn’t see the sort of quiet dignity that underlies the
whole design. He really couldn’t.” In closing, Safer lamented that the 57,000 dead, who had
been “the pawns of those fighting political battles on the home front” were “still being used.”
On Monday, Carhart released the results of the poll of former POWs for which Perot
had hired Gallup in February. Mike Finesilber obliged with a story on the AP wire: “Some
Ex-POW’s Dislike Memorial Design.” Of the 587 prisoners who had been released, 265 had
responded. Of these, 67 percent (178) said they disliked the original design. They wanted
it white, above the ground, and with a flag. Carhart was described only as a “former infantry
platoon leader.”
On Tuesday, the 12th, Carhart did another op-ed in the Washington Times, the title of
which substantially spun the opinions of the 178: “Poll shows most Viet-veterans against
Memorial design.” Carhart described Perot as “a godfather figure to Vietnam veterans.” Of
the millions of Vietnam veterans, the former prisoners were chosen for the poll, “because
of their unimpeachable credibility with the American public.” With construction at the site
having “proceeded at a maddening pace” and 75 architects on the way, Carhart was certain
that VVMF was plotting to thwart adding the flag and statue. After a gratuitous comment
about our “improper handling of contributions,” he got down to his bottom line for the
memorial: “If they must put the names of our dead on a black wall below ground level,
then we must work to see that they at least get a decent burial: we must fill the trench in,
then plant flowers on top and install the flag and statue.”
The former POWs constituted a dubious sample for a poll. Most of them were highly
trained Navy and Air Force flyers and career officers. Flying from aircraft carriers and secure
bases, they had little contact with the war experienced by the troops on the ground. At my
first base in Arizona, I had backseat rides in F-100 fighters on practice bombing and strafing
missions and so had personally witnessed the flyers’ tremendous physical courage and tech-
nical skill. Yet I had also taught a class on how the U.S. had become involved in the war and
was surprised at how uninformed most were on the topic. These guys were jocks. They read
the sports pages, not the op-eds, and I couldn’t imagine that many had a clue about the arts
and humanities. But they were supremely confident of their abilities. The Air Force mantra
was that the highest evolution of the species Homo sapiens was the fighter pilot.

R
Carhart could rant all he wanted, but the heavy rhetoric came in a piece by Tom Wolfe,
covering virtually the entire first page of the Post’s “Style” section on the morning of the
246 Creating the Vietnam Veterans Memorial

hearing. “Art Disputes War: The Battle of the Vietnam Memorial” was illustrated by a ren-
dering of the wall and a photo of a Marine carrying a wounded comrade. Right in the first
paragraph, Wolfe characterized the Lin design as “the Tribute to Jane Fonda.” Wolfe posited
that two groups did the fighting in Vietnam: “the professional military and the prols.”
Carhart exemplified the first group and Scruggs the second. Meanwhile, “[t]he unspeakable
and inconfessible goal of the New Left on the campuses had been to transform the shame
of the fearful into the guilt of the courageous.”
Obviously having been fed by Carhart, Wolfe projected Carhart’s opinions on VVMF:
“Most of them … had only a passing interest in ‘remembering the dead.’ They wanted to
remove the big accusing index finger from those who had returned from Vietnam and were
living in its shadow…. They had in mind a statue.” According to Wolfe, by choosing a jury
of “art eminences (all of whom had been students or teachers at Harvard, Yale, or MIT),”
we had been captured by “a world as bizarre and totally removed from the rest of American
life as anything any soldier had ever run into in Vietnam.” Because modernism had inun-
dated American arts, “by the late 1950s … [the] eminences were dedicated to art that baffled
or annoyed the public.” Therefore, “the incicient [sic] of the Tribute to Jane Fonda was
inevitable once the art experts were brought in.” “Far from lifting the accusing finger from
those who fought in Vietnam—it will be the big forefinger’s final perverse prank,” Wolfe
concluded.

R
The show in the Cash Room kicked off right after lunch, with estimates of attendance
ranging from 200 to 400. I found a seat along the wall and avoided eye contact with Carter
Brown. Wheeler opened our testimony with a wish: “[T]he statue is a hopeful sign that our
country in time can work together … in greater friendship….” Webb followed. Although
presumably he was on our team, he characterized the Lin design as “not a statement of
honor to the constituent group,” and cited the poll of the former POWs. The sculpture
panel had honored the principles of the compromise and “actually enhanced the original
design while, at the same time, showing the utmost respect for it.” The figures would be
170 feet away from a 400-foot wall. As he saw it, the three men would look across the gash
in the earth, representing tragedy, to the flag, representing the reasons for military service.
Hart testified that he had had three goals: “preserve the simplicity and austerity of the
design, … create a work which interacts with the wall to form a unified totality, … and
create a sculpture which is in itself (was) a moving experience of the Vietnam veteran.”
Mosley had warned that the panel didn’t want Kent Cooper to speak against their
choices for the locations, but Cooper ended up supporting them on the statue: “Hart’s con-
cept, three … figures placed carefully along the perimeter tree line facing the walls, seems
to us to be an acceptable resolution….” Joe Brown seconded Cooper’s opinion. Regarding
the flag, however, Cooper stated, “[A] clear consensus has not emerged,” as the effect of
the flagpole on Constitution Gardens as a whole had to be considered. He also threw in a
good line of “architect speak”: “[t]he basic unresolved contemplative geometry of the ground
would be resolved into a single vertical element.” Finally Scruggs read a letter from juror
Hideo Sasaki, who asserted that while the winner in a competition was the best of the lot,
it might still be improved. “Thus, it is not certain that the design [will] be irrevocably com-
promised by the changes….” We did not, however, put Harry Weese’s letter into the record:
25. “A felt need in this country for healing” 247

“[T]he adulteration of Maya Lin’s design by any dissident group” is destructive. “Art is
uncompromisable.”
The agenda then called for comment from the public, and over the ensuing hours, 29
testified for the additions, including Interior Undersecretary Donald Hodel, Congressman
Don Bailey, the VFW, the Legion, and all the outspoken opponents of the Lin design. Bailey
opened by disavowing that the controversy over the design had ever included elements of
racism, as implied by the 60 Minutes report. He said the additions added “pride” to the
memorial.
Ten spoke in opposition, including Lin (wearing her porkpie hat), Lawrence, Spreire-
gen, Von Eckhart, and Vietnam veterans James Butera and James Brodniak. Butera, a lawyer
and Marine officer combat veteran, asserted the unfairness of “alter[ing] a design that was
selected on the basis of free and open competition….” Brodniak, representing the Vietnam
Veterans Against the War, said “[the Lin] design is such that I can go in, and I can remember,
and that is the only thing that has to be done.” A woman questioned whether there were
any appropriate images of the war to be realistically depicted, citing the photo of the guer-
rilla being summarily executed during the Tet Offensive. Spreiregen argued, “[n]o symbols
of any kind are appropriate. We shouldn’t instruct visitors’ thoughts in any direction but
allow many thoughts and feelings.” For the AIA, Lawrence read a long statement, validating
the Lin design as “the result of a legitimate, tested, open competition process….” The origins
of the “new” design were “confused and closed to public scrutiny.” The new scheme, “in
which the statue becomes the actual memorial and the wall an almost incidental backdrop
supporting a flagpole,” would make for “a patched-up, modified, compromised memo-
rial….” Lawrence closed: “Our Vietnam veterans fought and many died for our democratic
process. This same democratic process led to design excellence in the selection of the orig-
inal design. Our veterans deserve nothing less than excellence and the public trust demands
nothing more.” Lin defended her design as “a living park, symbolic of life—the life of the
returning veteran, who sees himself reflected with the time, within the names.” “I am not
disapproving of the sculpture per se,” she said, but of the “forced melding of these two dif-
ferent memorials into one.
By the time the last speaker was heard, four hours had passed and the sun lay low in
the sky. Carter Brown recessed the meeting and the commissioners boarded a waiting bus
to view the Styrofoam figures. Some spectators departed, but the hard core waited in place.
After 40 minutes the commissioners returned, and Brown read a prepared statement, open-
ing with the assertion, “There is a felt need in this country for healing, and we want to be
part of that process….” Having just returned from the site, with some sod already down,
he said the final effect of the Lin design was “extraordinarily moving.” He noted that it
would have been easier for the CFA to have rejected the additions outright and “[w]e would
have been great heroes in some quarters for doing that.” Their conclusions were that they
wanted a different location and design for the name locator and, while it was very fitting
that the memorial have a flag, “we have to find the right location.” They approved the sculp-
ture in principle, but reserved the right to approve the finished piece. “[I]t strikes a chord
of recognition, in those who care most deeply about their experience [in Vietnam], and
we find it acceptable.”
The bottom line was, “[i]f the sculpture is allowed to shiver naked out there in the
field, to be an episodic element that is not integrated, that somehow relates to a flagpole
248 Creating the Vietnam Veterans Memorial

which is so far away and whose height and silhouette will be cut off as one approaches the
existing memorial, cut off at the knees as it were, they will not combine to have the critical
mass and impact that those elements deserve.” The CFA therefore recommended that the
elements “be brought together to help enhance the entrance experience to the memorial,
be put up front so that they are in the foreground and so that people will have a chance to
recognize them and derive all the benefits from them as they enter the precinct.” Brown
finished and the commissioners voted to unanimously accept the statement. In a subsequent
letter to Watt, Brown was more specific about the locations: “We believe that all three ele-
ments should be grouped near the southwest end of the memorial.”

R
The decision made national news. According to the UPI story, “[A] group of Vietnam
veterans won a battle with modern architects….” The Post’s story, by Ben Forgey, quoted
Hodel as afterward saying: “It looks good for the dedication.” Hart described the decision
as “Solomon like” and “not unacceptable to me.” As quoted in the Army Times, Lin expressed
relief that “the commission saw these two designs as separate memorials and didn’t try to
meld them together.” The AP story quoted Webb: “It seems clear they rejected the idea of
a single monument.”
An editorial in the Star and Stripes attacked the opposition to the statue as “the know-
alls supreme in their professional textbook expertise against the give-alls, vulnerable because
of their service.” The piece asserted that the “give-alls” had collected millions in dollars in
support of the memorial, but ignored the fact that the same bunch that had collected the
money had come up with the Lin design.
That evening both Scruggs and I appeared live on late-night TV: Scruggs on Nightline
with Ted Koppel and Perot, and I on Crossfire with Carhart, Tom Braden, and Pat Buchanan.
Koppel’s introduction featured the usual factual twists: Perot had “gotten the project going,”
“veterans’ groups” were outraged by the result, and Lin hadn’t been invited to attend the
dedication (which had not yet been scheduled). He showed clips of Hart, Bailey, Lin, and
Lawrence at the CFA hearing, and with more mishmash of the facts said, “[a]nd veterans,
after a tough fight, got some of the compromise they fought for,” as if there hadn’t been
veterans on both sides of the argument. To his credit, Koppel challenged Perot’s poll, asking
whether 324 POWs were really representative of the 1,600,000 who fought. Perot talked
past him: “The only thing that’s important is how the fighting men feel about this memorial.”
Scruggs channeled David and Goliath and sunk a great shot: “I’m just a guy trying to build
a Vietnam veterans’ memorial; I’m not interested in getting into these contests with Texas
millionaires and all that. I’m just trying to build a memorial to make the veterans happy.”
Crossfire aired at 11:30 p.m. from the CNN studio on Wisconsin Avenue, just north of
Warner’s house. I showed up in time to get my cheeks powdered, and at the appointed hour
took a chair between two enemies: Carhart, on my right, and to my left, Buchanan, who
was “on the right” for the viewers—physically and philosophically. Braden, “on the left,”
sat on the other side of Carhart. Braden opened with the by-now usual factual fog. He
described Carhart as a decorated veteran and me as “practicing law,” so the first time I got
to speak I pointed out that Carhart was an unsuccessful entrant in the competition and
that building the memorial was my full time job. By now I knew that programs like this
didn’t strive for resolution, so I focused on scoring points. Buchanan asked me a question,
25. “A felt need in this country for healing” 249

and I found a way to slip in his failure to name his alleged commie on the jury. At one
point he pointedly asked whether I would have done anything different had I to do it over
again. I coolly answered in the negative, even though I had been beset by doubts the whole
way through. So it ended.
On the 14th the Legion came through with a check for $406,630, as an advance on
their pledge. While the Legion’s pledge of $1,000,000 was exceedingly generous, their desire
to present the check during the dedication posed a problem because we needed the money
to complete building the memorial so there would be a dedication so that we could receive
the money. Tom Haynes saw our point and arranged to advance the funds needed to pay
the final construction bills.
The CFA decision and the Wolfe article continued to reverberate in the press through
the end of October, with commentary for, against, and on the fence. The Telegram of
Herkimer, New York, in an editorial, “Vanity Triumphs Over Patriotism,” lamented, “Old
Glory has been rather rudely and condescendingly pushed to the side by artistic egotism.”
The Daily Mail of Charleston, West Virginia, ran an op-ed quoting Carhart and Wolfe:
“National Memorial ‘Buries’ Vietnam War, Its Veterans.” In Virginia, the Richmond News
Leader had an editorial titled “Victory,” along with the Wolfe article. Ross Mackenzie of
the Chicago Tribune Syndicate opined: “But despite the assault that art is making on honor
and ideals in this century, the battle for at least a modicum of honor and idealism has been
won regarding the Vietnam Memorial.” The editor of The Journal Herald (Dayton, Ohio)
didn’t like monuments at all: “The Iwo Jima monument … is an incredibly bad statue….
The Vietnam monument will be awful…. A free society is the best way to honor our dead.”
More nuanced was John Teare of the Gannett News Service: “As architecture, the whole
thing is controversial, as you might expect. This is fitting, in a way, for a war that was con-
troversial and largely eluded people’s ability to define or understand it.” The Times editorial-
ized, “If compromises have to be made with public works of art, this one seems decent enough.”
The editorial in the Waco Tribune-Herald (“A grand memorial to petty bickering”) called
upon both Lin and Perot to end “their public squabbling and remember … what the memorial
is all about: … a healing and unifying force, a tribute to hundreds and thousands killed and
scarred veterans still living.” An editorial in the Fresno Bee called the CFA’s action “the aesthetic
translation of the only political resolution of the Vietnam controversy yet possible for the
nation: a live-and-let-live admission of divided passions.” In Waterville, Maine, the Sentinel
praised the CFA action, saying the memorial “should aptly reflect a people torn between grief
and heroics.” In Utica, New York, the Observer-Dispatch editorialized that some of the oppo-
nents could be “excused for not grasping the subtleties of Lin’s granite walls,” but “[l]ess excus-
able is the exploitation of the veterans, living and dead, for political gain.”
There was even humor. Comedian Mark Russell in the San Francisco Examiner dis-
cussed a compromise: “A statue of Joan Baez and Gen. William Westmoreland is fine—but
holding hands?”
A cartoon in the The Journal Herald compared the statue at the memorial to pink
flamingos and jockeys holding reins in front yards.
Specifically in response to Wolfe, the Post published five letters the following week. A
veteran who graduated from Harvard pointed out that like Wolfe, the Nazis disliked the
Bauhaus too, and “[s]ome of us who did fight in Vietnam actually like the Maya Lin design.”
Another writer called it a “hideous sunken gravestone.”
250 Creating the Vietnam Veterans Memorial

Long, critical pieces on the Wolfe article appeared in the the Evening Sun of Baltimore
and the Dallas Times Herald. In Baltimore, Carl Schoettler mocked Wolfe as “our chief cel-
ebrant of The Right Stuff, the brave warrior of the Kandy-Kolored Kool-Aid Test, the Gen-
eralissimo of the New Journalism….” Schoettler pointed out, “Jane Fonda doesn’t have
anything to do with the Vietnam Veterans Memorial…. But she did oppose the war, which
is enough for Wolfe to make her into a symbol of The Wrong Stuff,” even though Wolfe sat
out the Korean War in college and grad school.
In Dallas, Bill Marvel picked up on a similar theme in “How everybody lost the Viet-
nam memorial battle.” He described how Wolfe, as “critic of the Culture At Large,” had now
“taken up the role of super-patriot, wielding his pen on behalf of honor, manhood and the
flag.” Marvel pointed out the obvious contradictions in Wolfe’s criticism. If “the veterans”
had in mind a statue, why hadn’t they made it a requirement in the competition? Wolfe
had ignored the fact that Scruggs, a “prol,” supported the Lin design. “Over and over again,”
wrote Marvel, “the words ‘simple,’ ‘eloquent,’ ‘dignified’ and ‘moving’ keep turning up in
descriptions of the memorial. Except in those by Tom Wolfe.”
In a final note after the historic decision, we received letters from two people wanting
refunds of their small donations. One labeled the Lin design as “disgusting”; the other
hated the additions. Offsetting these was a donation of $360, representing a veteran’s combat
pay. He would be here for the dedication, and said we’d “done a wonderful job.”

Dedication Permit
Encouraging news came on Friday, the 15th. Dan Smith called from the DOI to report
that Horn, Donald Hodel, and he were in agreement that the dedication could take place,
but they had to wait to brief Watt early on Monday. Hodel was pleased with the outcome
of the hearing, and John Warner would hold the line against any dissident senators. As far
as Smith was concerned, VVMF had kept all its commitments. Yet the threat was real. A
call came from the office of Senator Symms, who wanted Watt to enforce the original com-
promise. I told him that the compromise had always been subject to CFA approval. Some
Senators (Symms, McClure, East, and Grassley) and Congressmen (Bailey, Craig, Phil
Crane, and Hyde) shot off a letter to Watt asking him not to give the dedication permit.
They didn’t want the new elements to be located “outside the memorial wall area.” Also
that day, Parsons recommended that Smith take the memorial off the NCPC agenda until
after the dedication. It was in no one’s interest to deal with it.
The Board met that evening. I was eager to get the sculpture panel out of my way,
so I proposed that, in view of the CFA action, any further proposals for the additional
elements be the responsibility of the VVMF professional staff and our consultants. The
new design team for the locations would be Cooper, Joe Brown, Hart, Webb, and Mosley.
The Board agreed but deferred on formally disbanding the panel. Otherwise, I had been
concerned by the chatter about our keeping the construction fence up, so when Gilbane
was ready to remove their trailer in early October, I had them quietly take down the
fence and put up a snow fence. The Board directed the staff to take whatever action was
necessary to secure the site. Other decisions were to formally invite Lin for the Salute
and, in view of the TV appearances by Scruggs and me, to stop cooperating in providing
25. “A felt need in this country for healing” 251

a forum for the opponents. We’d work up a plan for the dedication ceremony, which fell to
me, but we wouldn’t invite Perot. As a reminder of what we were commemorating, the AP
reported that day that the Vietnamese had turned over the remains of five Americans lost
in the war.
On Tuesday, Smith reported that Watt would approve the dedication. He had spo-
ken with Carter Brown, who was agreeable to a temporary flagstaff at the site for the
ceremony. The NPS would issue the permit through its normal procedures, but Interior
would not make a formal announcement. The NPS also would issue interim regulations
to prevent demonstrations at the memorial. From the White House, Tom Shull reported
that the president wanted to speak at the dedication and the Secret Service had evaluated
the site as securable, but Baker, Meese, and Darman were debating the political ramifica-
tions.
I had three weeks to organize the ceremony, and fortunately the Military District
of Washington, which would provide the ceremonial units, was already engaged with us
on the parade. The ceremonial gurus, all retired officers, advised on the proper content
and format of the dedication. They made two significant points: the military reserved the
playing of “Taps” for funerals and memorial services, and this ceremony would be neither.
Also, flags would be carried, so a flag-raising would not be an appropriate part of the cer-
emony.
Concurrently with the ceremony I was dealing with Carter Brown’s wish to quickly
resolve the placement of the flagstaff, statue, and name locators. Brown had told Hart that
no significant changes were needed in the statue, so on Friday morning, October 22, I held
a summit to discuss locations with Carter Brown and Charles Atherton at the CFA offices.
With me were Kent Cooper, Joe Brown, Joe’s landscape architect colleague Shiela Brady,
Hart, Webb, and Dan Smith. I explained that the team for the sitings would be Cooper, Joe
Brown, Hart, Webb, Mosley, and Lin. “My, there certainly has been a lot of healing,”
responded Carter Brown.
The meeting quickly became a faceoff between Brown and Webb, or more correctly
an attempt to sell a refrigerator to an Eskimo. A sullen Webb said he couldn’t look at the
walls without getting angry. Brown replied he saw it entirely oppositely and launched into
an explanation of the principles of siting sculpture. He related an anecdote from his student
days in New York, when he couldn’t understand how the cashier in the grocery store could
correctly enter all the prices just by glancing at the items. When he finally asked, the man
responded, “What do you do all day?” “What I do all day is site sculpture,” said Brown, and
explained how a proper setting that didn’t compete with the Wall would actually enhance
the statue. Webb, obviously unconvinced, remained quiet. Brown said he had even been
given a proxy by the other commissioners to work it out. Webb made a pitch for having
the sculpture out where it could at least look at the walls, which Brown said was doable.
On the location of the flag, Webb was more open. Brown did his utmost to lobby Webb,
saying how honored he was to meet him and how his work was a “great contribution to
our letters.” He even talked about “tree lines” as per Webb’s book. Yet the meeting reached
no conclusion.
Later that afternoon, Cooper, Joe Brown, Brady, Smith, and I met at the memorial to
plan the ceremony. The color guard would present the national colors above the walls at
the apex, while the 50 state flags and their bearers would be spaced in front of the entire
252 Creating the Vietnam Veterans Memorial

length of the two walls. Dan Smith came up with a brilliant idea: the bearers of the state
flags would march from behind the memorial to the apex in a double column, which there
would divide into two single columns, with each marching along the top of one of the walls
to its end and then turning down to spread out in front of the wall. The architects envisioned
the main “sight line” as toward the Lincoln Memorial, so, rather than at the centerline, we
placed the speaker’s platform above the middle of the west wall, angled toward the Wash-
ington Monument. We put the bandstand closer to the apex. On the other side I placed a
low platform for people in wheelchairs.
I at first had argued with Smith and Horn against a temporary flagpole, but Watt
wanted one there for the dedication. Carter Brown had advised against putting up anything
that would suggest a permanent height or location, so I picked out a spot that no one would
want, near the speaker’s platform, and had Gilbane install a 29-foot pole. Watt later com-
mented that he liked the location.

R
With most of the sod laid and only a snow fence surrounding the perimeter, the sweep
and majesty of the two black granite walls were now manifest. Warren Creech occasionally
allowed passers-by to walk down to the apex. This led to a new round of media attention,
but with a new tone. According to an AP story on October 24, “Now that it can be seen …
the Vietnam memorial is starkly dramatic….” John Kinder wrote in the Federal Times, “I
have seldom been moved to tears more quickly than early one morning last week when I
visited the as yet incomplete Vietnam Memorial…. It was breathtaking … there was a quiet
glory in … Lin’s monument on the Mall.” A Post story quoted a woman, “It’s a handsome
memorial, and the reflection is beautiful…. You see all the names of the boys who died for
nothing, sent to die by men, but none of the men who sent them died.” The Odessa American
carried a photo of veterans looking at the wall and quoted a Texan whose brother had died:
“I get a feeling of healing. I think you are going to find that this is one of the most attended
monuments in the city.” A reporter with the Topeka, Capital-Journal happened to visit
Washington: “The farther we walked, the taller the panels became … the full impact of the
many who died hit like a sledgehammer.”
In contrast, the Cambridge Chronicle had a story, “Memorial daze,” about Lin and the
difficulty she had faced in doing graduate school while fighting over the design. She was
quoted, “It never occurred to me that people would hate the design because the designer
happened to be oriental, or that they [the veterans] might have killed a lot of people who
looked like me.”
With the CFA decision and Watt’s approval for the dedication, we naively expected
that the battle might be over. AIA President Lawrence wrote to the CFA to express the
AIA’s support for its action. The AIA hadn’t wanted the new elements at all, but was satisfied
with the result. Carter Brown reported that Lin had told him that the statue at the entrance
might be better than just her design. She even wrote to Kent Cooper that she might concur
with a placement of the sculpture as per the CFA decision. The Post on October 16 carried
a photo with the caption, “War Memorial For Veterans Nearly Finished.” It showed a man
contemplating the names.
While the game was fated to continue a while longer, one player who no longer had
a dog in the fight was Hart. Throughout the battle over the design, he had developed per-
25. “A felt need in this country for healing” 253

sonal relationships with Webb,


Carhart, Copulos, and the other
opponents. Weekends he’d go
fishing with them on the Chesa-
peake. After he had finished third
in the original design competi-
tion, they had given him a second
bite at the apple in his quest to
design a national memorial. But
ever since the CFA had accepted
his concept, the wind for Hart
was blowing in the other direc-
tion. His place in history was
guaranteed, and his negotiation
skill had made his involvement
Stone carver John Benson engraving the dates “1959” and
attractive financially as well. Ear- “1975” on the memorial walls, September 1982 (Robert
lier he had been willing to flaunt Doubek).
the sensitivities of the arts estab-
lishment, but now he had to solidify his reputation. Hart had told Carter Brown that he
preferred his sculpture to be sited in a copse of trees, and he was eager to get started on
the full-sized model. Under his contract with us, his next payment, of $40,000, was due
upon approval of the model by the three agencies. He asked VVMF, based on the CFA deci-
sion, to waive the requirement and make the payment. We did so.

R
On September 30, Binswanger finished engraving the last two panels in Memphis.
Stone carver John Benson came from Rhode Island to engrave by hand the dates “1959”
and “1975” on the panels at the apex. In 1964 he had carved the inscriptions for the John
F. Kennedy memorial at Arlington National Cemetery. In late October, Cooper-Lecky cre-
ated a “punch list” of details which remained unfinished, and on October 29, Gilbane issued
a Certificate of Substantial Completion.
I turned to Adriana Barbieri and Barbara Green to design and create the name direc-
tories and interpretive brochures that we needed to open the memorial to the public. Kay
Lautman’s spouse, Robert Lautman, an architectural photographer, took the photos of the
Wall for the directory’s cover. I wrote the introductory text, and Datalantic provided the
data for each casualty, i.e., full name, home of record, service branch, dates of birth and
death, and panel and line numbers. One day I brought in five people from a temporary
agency who, along with my father-in-law, sat at our conference table all day and proofread
Datalantic’s printout.
The NPS interpretive staff at Harpers Ferry had no money in its budget for a brochure,
but I’d be damned rather than allow the memorial to open without one. At that time, the
standard form for brochures for the memorials in Washington was a three-fold, in a different
color for each memorial or site. I collected five or six samples and drafted the text for our
brochure using the same outline and writing style. In the end the dark green brochure
looked exactly as if it had come from the NPS, the only difference being the words “Vietnam
254 Creating the Vietnam Veterans Memorial

Veterans Memorial Fund” on the last flap. The quality of my creation was validated when
the NPS subsequently simply reprinted it with its own name on the back.

R
Despite our hopes, our opponents had their own plans. Copulos called on the 28th to
invite us to participate in a press conference on Thursday, November 4, to announce the
introduction of a Joint Resolution in Congress to place the flag and the statue where the
sculpture panel wanted, instead of “in the woods.” Bob Carter declined the invitation, but
the event set off a new flurry of activity. Hart tried to convince Webb and Carhart that
more PR against the CFA about the locations was a mistake. He wanted to work with Carter
Brown to decide the location. We asked Cindy Szady and other allies on the Hill to look
out for any initiatives. Carter Brown indicated his willingness to do battle over the legislation
but said we shouldn’t overreact. The task was to isolate the extremists and have the majority
tell them to shut up. He praised Scruggs’s shot at Perot on Nightline.
The day before the press conference, the design team of Cooper, Brady, and Hart
agreed on the locations for the flag and statue. Webb was invited and brought Copulos and
Jayne. They jointly rejected the CFA decision and said they would act on their own. Spanogle
reported that Carhart had invited a widow to join a lawsuit to tear down the memorial on
the grounds of invasion of privacy. She, however, had told Carhart that he was a lunatic
and that she wanted her husband’s name on the wall.
Webb, Bailey, and Carhart did most of the talking at their press conference. Their
message was that the CFA should have adhered to the “compromise,” meaning the Chicago-
style show of hands that Perot had orchestrated on March 11, and that the flag and statue
should be integral parts of the design. They now would request a presidential proclamation
on the placement of the elements, and failing that, introduce a resolution in Congress.
Finally, they’d begin an effort to build their own memorial.
Bailey wanted a new design that would properly reflect the cause for which he
fought. Webb, citing Lin’s grade of “B” in her course, described her design as “incomplete,
negative, nihilistic, sad. A place not for celebration, but to go and be depressed.” He praised
Spreiregen as “the Svengali of the original design competition,” and contrasted the uplifting
feelings evoked by the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument, with the message
of “the black gash of earth…. this sad, dreary mass tomb nihilistically commemorating
death….”
Other speakers took the usual shots, i.e., the Bob Hope letter misled donors, the “vast
majority” of veterans agreed on the locations, and VVMF wouldn’t honor its commitment
to add the statue. Later that day Carhart, in a radio interview, was heard saying that if
VVMF didn’t put the statue at the wall, they’d show us what they had learned from the Viet
Cong about explosives. Jim Hubbard of the Legion had also heard Copulos talk about blow-
ing up the memorial.
Bill Jayne hadn’t participated in the press conference, but argued to Scruggs that the
sculpture panel wasn’t finished with its work and that VVMF should hold off on any pro-
posal to CFA until they were satisfied. They felt like they’d been used, so that VVMF could
go ahead and build the Lin design. Andy Wahlquist on Warner’s staff appeared to agree
and proposed convening another mass meeting, to include Copulos. I retorted, “How many
bites at the apple does that guy get?” As far as I was concerned, we had lived up to our
25. “A felt need in this country for healing” 255

commitment to “push for” the new elements and had given Copulos and his bunch ample
opportunities to screw us. Later that week the National Park Police, in preparing for the
week ahead, asked Bob Carter and me whether we knew of anyone who might want to
harm the memorial. We of course mentioned Copulos. He later called, sputtering with
anger. “Now, now, Milt, calm down,” Bob said. It was just deserts.
26

Our Moment

My plan for the dedication ceremony was straightforward. Wheeler would do the
greeting, Scruggs would MC, and we’d have three prayers, by a Catholic, a Protestant, and
a Jewish chaplain. The Marine Band would play; the Joint Service Color Guard would pres-
ent the colors; and the Army Old Guard ceremonial unit would bear the state and territorial
flags. For speakers we’d have General Price and Everett Alvarez, the Deputy Administ