Maya Lin Vietnam War Memorial Essay

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Although controversial in its inception, Maya Lin's Vietnam War Memorial adequately fulfills the vision of Jan Scruggs, who returned home wounded from the conflict in Southeast Asia at the age of 19, for a monument to his fallen comrades in arms that would "provide a symbol of acknowledgement of the courage, sacrifice, and devotion to duty of those who were among the nation's finest youth."1

Lin's work, unlike most previous military monuments, rejects the emphasis on heroics in favor of a poignant, contemplative, apolitical design which conveys an almost unbearable sense of loss. Simple, graceful, and abstract, the design specified two 246.75 –foot long walls of polished black southern India granite, set below grade and connected at a
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Thus, the first seems to follow the last, and this was intended by Lin to symbolize the closure of the conflict that the Vietnam War Memorial truly represents.

Early detractors of Lin's design often referred to it as a "black gash of shame."8 Vocal veterans groups opposed to the design of the monument took exception to virtually every aspect of Lin's conception; from the color of the granite and the below-grade aspect to the austere simplicity of the whole. Some groups saw a social agenda in the very concept that this would be a "war monument" 9 which would be devoid of such heroic glorification of armed conflict in a purposeful effort to downplay the war so that the sacrifices of the warriors could be truly fully honored. Maya Lin defenses her creation: "The design evokes feelings thoughts and emotions… It does not scream anything.It is strong in its understatement. It is strong in it simplicity. It is no a banner's blaring. It is not loud. I do not think it makes it less beautiful. It is different."10

What some veterans groups wanted was a monument to the Vietnam War in the image of the Iwo Jima monument on the other side of the Potomac

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