Thursday, April 30, 2015

Top 10 Remembering Vietnam Veterans 40th Anniversary of the Fall of Saigon

Today is the 40th Anniversary of the Fall of Saigon

1. One of the highlights of the Veterans Day Parade in Media, PA each year is the roar of the Vietnam Vets on motorcycles. The Vets open the parade and you take notice and stand at attention.

2. The Vietnam Memorial in Washington D.C. does not tell the complete story of the Vietnam War but it can give a detailed description of the names of those that lost their lives, went missing in action and those that later died from injuries sustained during the Vietnam War.

3. The Wall was built without government support. Congress did give approval for the 3 acres of land at the National Mall, it is built upon. Jan C, Scruggs a wounded Vietnam Vet was responsible for starting the Vietnam Memorial Fund that initiated the project to honor those that were killed or missing in action from the Vietnam War.

A design contest was held with the following criteria:
1. must be reflective and contemplative in character;
2. harmonize with its surroundings;
3. contain the names of those that have died in the conflict or who were still missing;
4. make no political statement about the war.

A 21 year old undergraduate of Yale won the competition, her name is Maya Lin.  She was born in Athens, Ohio and is of Chinese descent. You can view a list of some of her other works at her Maya Lin Studio website. As you can see by examining the photograph of the wall below, Maya Lin meets all the requirements.

4. The memorial spans out into a V-shape. The walls are sunk into the ground, with the earth behind them. At the highest tip (the apex where they meet), they are 10.1 feet (3.1 m) high, and they taper to a height of 8 inches (20 cm) at their extremities. Symbolically, this is described as a "wound that is closed and healing." One side of the wall points in the direction of the Washington Monument and the other towards the Lincoln Memorial.

5. July 8, 1959 – Chester Melvin Ovnand and Dale Richard Buis were killed by guerrillas at Bien Hoa while watching the film The Tattered Dress. They are listed 1 and 2 at the wall's dedication. Ovnand's name is spelled on the memorial as "Ovnard," due to conflicting military records of his surname. Look at the top left hand corner of the tablet on the right you will see 1959 etched in stone and on the tablet to the right at the bottom right hand corner 1975. May 15, 1975 – 18 U.S. servicemen (14 Marines, two Navy corpsmen, and two Air Force crewmen) are killed on the last day of a rescue operation known as the Mayag├╝ez incident with troops from the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia. They were the last servicemen listed on the timeline. On May 4, 2010 – Six names were added to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial during a ceremony. The new names are veterans who died after the war as a direct result of injuries suffered in the combat zone

6. June 8, 1956 – The first official death in Vietnam was United States Air Force Technical Sergeant Richard Bernard Fitzgibbon, Jr. of Stoneham, MA who was murdered by another U.S.A.F. airman. Technical Sergeant Richard Bernard Fitzgibbon, Jr. USAF was the first American to lose his life in the conflict that would later be known as the Vietnam War. He was murdered - shot by another airman and dying of his wounds later on June 8, 1956. Through the efforts of his sister, Alice Fitzgibbon Rose DelRossi, Fitzgibbon's name was added to the Vietnam War Memorial in 1999. Following his father's footsteps, Richard B. Fitzgibbon III joined the United States Marine Corps and also served in Vietnam, where he too was killed in September 1965. The Fitzgibbon deaths are one of only three amongst US casualties in which both father and son were killed in the Vietnam War. Other Father-Son Pairs appear on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and  the names of eight women appear on the Vietnam Memorial Wall, military personnel only. No civilian casualty of the Vietnam War is represented on the memorial to my knowledge.

7. The Three Soldiers Memorial bronze statue by Frederick Hart (one white, one African American, and one Hispanic ) was dedicated in 1984.

8. ("Faith, Hope, and Charity") the three nurses shown tending to a wounded soldier in the Glenna Goodacre-sculpted Vietnam Women's Memorial statue. Approximately 11,000 American military women were stationed in Vietnam during the war. Close to ninety percent were nurses in the Army, Navy, and Air Force.

9. On November 10, 2000 a memorial plaque, authorized by Pub.L. 106–214, honoring veterans who died after the war as a direct result of injuries suffered in Vietnam, but who fall outside Department of Defense guidelines was dedicated. Ruth Coder Fitzgerald, founder of The Vietnam War In Memory Memorial Plaque Project, worked for years and struggled against opposition to have the "In Memory Memorial Plaque" completed. Veterans who died of cancer from Agent Orange and suicide from PTSD were those who fell outside the Department of Defense guidelines to be included on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, as I understand and are to be honored by this plaque.

10. The guys in the yellow hats at the Vietnam Memorial are all volunteers. I am not 100% sure if they are all Vietnam War Veterans but the one I overheard speaking was and he flies in once a month to volunteer to teach the visitors about the memorial and to honor his comrades who died.  He feels he owes it to them and it is good therapy for him as well.

An incredible and thorough point of reference about the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, D.C. is

On the website you can search the names on the wall by state and city. You can also drill down and get a bio of the people listed. There are some sobering facts; you also can place a face with a name by using the (Faces of Freedom) photos link. In Pennsylvania, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia have a very long list of names. Thomas Alva Edison High School in Philadelphia is said to have the largest loss of American life in Vietnam of any high school alumni.

Check out PBS, they have had some great specials on this week to honor the 40th Anniversary of the Fall of Saigon.

If you would like to see photos of some of the heroes aboard the U.S.S. Midway you can view a blog I have from a few years back at my The U.S.S. Midway link. The museum is an amazing place to visit and one you will not want to pass up if you travel to San Diego.  It is a highlight.

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