No More Room on the Vietnam Memorial? Add a New Wall!

To the Editor:

How would you feel if your son, brother or father had been deployed to the Vietnam War and then tragically died, but his name is not honored on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial (The Wall) in Washington, D.C.?

The Pentagon says your loved one’s name is left off of The Wall because he had died outside of an arbitrarily designated “combat zone.’’

And how would you feel learning there are many men who also had died outside of this combat zone, but their names are honored on The Wall?

There is a growing movement of veterans who lost a military brother, and families who lost a relative, from two different disasters during the Vietnam War, demanding action. Action to get a total of 167 sailors’ and soldiers’ names who died in these disasters onto The Wall.

Senator Jeanne Shaheen is currently the only U.S. Senator cosponsoring two senate bills: S.849, “The U.S.S. Frank E. Evans Act” and S.1891,” Flying Tigers Flight 739 Act” that would approve their names to be on The Wall. Senator Maggie Hassan is a cosponsor of S.849.

And this is likely the tip of an iceberg. Tim Tetz, a spokesman for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund (VVMF), the nonprofit group that built The Wall said : “The last DOD estimate I heard of mentioned approximately 500 individuals were in somewhat similar circumstances…”

On June 3, 1969 the U.S.S. Frank E. Evans was participating in a 40-ship armada “show of force” war exercise meant to intimidate the North Vietnamese. The Evans was struck broadside by an Australian aircraft carrier ripping the destroyer in half and drowning 74 sailors.

The destroyer had served in several naval bombardment missions to support ground troops in Vietnam. The “Lost 74” names are not on the Wall because the tragedy happened about 100 miles outside of the combat zone. Gary Vigue and Ronald Thibodeau are Granite Staters who died in this tragedy.

On March 15, 1962 there were 93 hand-picked Army soldiers deployed on a classified mission to the Vietnam War. En route to Saigon, their plane, Flying Tigers Flight 739, disappeared between Guam and the Philippines. The official cause of the disaster is “unknown.” and the Pentagon had sealed the records However, Donald Sargent from Ossipee, was listed as being on board the flight.

The VVMF built The Wall by raising $8 million in private donations. Robert Doubek, a Vietnam veteran and a founder of the VVMF, “was tasked with identifying all of the names to be included on the Wall.” There is no official listing of casualties from the Vietnam War, but Doubek “tried to make the best call he could when adding names to the list.” Doubek determined a multitude of deserving men had died outside the combat zone and added their names to The Wall.

This included: deaths from an Air Force bomber from Guam exploding over the Pacific; deaths from the S.S. Mayaguez incident in Cambodia; and deaths that occurred in Thailand and Laos.

The DOD was later given the authority to determine any new names to be added to The Wall. The names of 375 have been added to The Wall since it was dedicated in 1982.

The National Park Service (NPS) that maintains The Wall, claims there is now not enough room for a large group of names to be added. A representative for NPS testified to Congress saying a “wholesale replacement” of The Wall would be needed.

Maya Lin, the designer of The Wall, said: “The names are the memorial. No edifice or structure can bring people to mind as powerfully as their names.” Lin wanted the structure of The Wall to look like a “cut in the earth” that would eventually “heal.”

This Memorial Day I was wondering what could be done, and I found an aerial view of The Wall. I almost instantly visualized a new wall.

A new wall could be placed in front and parallel to the existing wall—like a mirror image. It would be smaller version of the existing wall. An aerial view would look like two stripes that would be symbolic of the stripes worn by the enlisted ranks of the armed services. The enlisted ranks were the vast majority of those killed in the war. This design would still be a cut in the earth, just more pronounced. This additional wall would also allow space for more names to be added in perpetuity.

According to a 2017 financial statement, the VVMF that would fund a new wall had more than $40 million in total assets. Will the VVMFs’ board of directors be willing to approve and fund a new wall at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial that will help heal many open wounds of veterans and family members?

The names are the Memorial.

John Meinhold

Portsmouth, N.H.

The writer is an Air Force veteran and the son of a decorated WWII air combat veteran who was listed as MIA during March of 1945.



Congratulations: out of the myriad structures in Washington, D.C., you have brought up the one about which we are least capable of pretending to be either dispassionate or disinterested.

Tear down the FBI building? You bet. Paint the Supreme Court black? Let’s consider it. Mount a gigantic ATM on the steps of the Capitol? Why not? Put a gigantic sign in front of the White House saying, “Beware! Mad Dog!” Absolutely!

Modify the Vietnam Veterans Memorial? Let’s slow down here….

Feeling the need for backup, we forwarded your letter to a couple of fellow Vietnam veterans.

The first calmly responded:

“Why does the government feel the need to be fair about this issue of making sure every [obscene G.I. jargon denoting a male individual] gets on the wall when everything else about our war, from the very beginning, was f_____d up, reeking of unfairness. First of all, those of us that went were mostly poor, working class, or a minority, kids without a rich dad to keep us in college or bribe some doctor to give us an out. Once inducted in the military, nothing was fair. If you wanted to go to the ’Nam and kill [indigenous asians], you were sent to Germany; if you were revulsed about killing, you were assigned to an infantry unit and shipped on the first plane to I Corps. And it wasn’t fair how we died, alone and scared, just pawns in the game.

“So the bottom line is: nothing else about that f_____-up war was fair, so why should this be! Tough shit, if you didn’t get on the wall. What to [sic] f__k did you expect from this f_____-up country. Worst yet, there is no end to this s__t: the list of wannabes continues to go. Pretty soon, some dazed enlistee, who found out that he had gotten orders to the Nam in 1968, gets drunk and is KIA, driving into an oak tree. Pretty soon, they will want him on the wall also, because, after all, he was on the way to Vietnam.

“As a backup compromise, put them on a wall but don’t f__k with the one we have already broken-in, sacramentally anointed, as it is, by a tsunami of tears over the years. Instead, find another slab or [sic] that black granite, set it up somewhere nearby and put the new names on it. If do-gooders complain, tell them like any real Vietnam veteran would, ‘it-don’t-mean-nothing.’”

The second [edited for space] wrote,

“The whole f___ing thing stinks as much as the ’Nam’s murky rice paddies in humid 95-degree heat. As ____ says, there’s no end to this s__t. I wouldn’t want to see another Wall, even a smaller one in that space. The two-Wall chevron idea is nothing I’d be in favor of. Where the Wall memorial now sits is all that should be there, like a haunting ghost from a misbegotten war that never should have been. There is no good alternative to the Wall quandary, but a second Wall in that sacred place would detract from the power of Maya Lin’s profound design. And vets don’t need the chevron affect!”

Thanks, J___ and P____!

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