Creating the Vietnam Veterans Memorial

The Inside Story


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About the Book

Since its dedication in 1982, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial has become an American cultural icon symbolizing the war in Vietnam—the defining experience of the Baby Boom generation. The black granite wall of names is one of the most familiar media images associated with the war, and after three decades the memorial remains one of the nation’s most visited monuments.
While the memorial has enjoyed broad acceptance by the American public, its origins were both humble and contentious. A grassroots effort launched by veterans with no funds, the project was completed in three and a half years. But an emotional debate about aesthetics and the interpretation of heroism, patriotism and history nearly doomed the project. Written from an insider’s perspective, this book tells the complete story of the memorial’s creation amid Washington politics, a nationwide design competition and the heated controversy over the winning design and its creator.

About the Author(s)

Robert W. Doubek served in Vietnam in 1969 as an intelligence officer in the U.S. Air Force and later was in charge of building the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Presently an employee of the U.S. State Department, he travels worldwide to purchase land for construction of new U.S. embassy and consulate compounds. He lives in Washington, D.C.

Bibliographic Details

Robert W. Doubek
Format: softcover (7 x 10)
Pages: 324
Bibliographic Info: 19 photos, index
Copyright Date: 2015
pISBN: 978-0-7864-7909-2
eISBN: 978-1-4766-1988-0
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

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
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

Book Reviews & Awards

“Doubek tells the story from his recollections and personal notes, calendars, photos, and news clippings…the book is a good read because Doubek, who was an important player in the Memorial’s early history, describes the fervor, as well as the pettiness and rancor, displayed by those for and against the design, himself included”—VVA Veteran Magazine; “a valuable contribution to the memorial’s historiography”—The New York Review of Books.