American Legion deflects controversy, contributes more than anyone to memorial.
The American Legion, at its national convention in Chicago, presents a check for $1 million to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund, making it the single largest contributor to the monument on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.
The road to its dedication is anything but smooth. Following congressional authorization to raise funds for the memorial on two acres of national park property in Washington, D.C., the design of Yale architecture student Maya Ying Lin, 23, is chosen twice by two separate panels of judges. Her design, announced as the winner on May 6, 1981, is met with vocal and influential criticism and an initial refusal by the Department of Interior to break ground. The stalled project leads The American Legion to call a meeting with Secretary of the Interior James Watt and to launch a letter-writing campaign seeking President Reagan’s intervention.
The Legion is ultimately credited for breaking the government logjam over the design, which leads to the beginning of the project on March 26, 1982.
The American Legion sponsors the four-day “National Salute to Vietnam Veterans” Nov. 11-14, 1982, the crescendo of which is the formal dedication of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial on Nov. 13, attended by thousands.
The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall becomes the most visited monument of remembrance in the nation, receiving more than 3 million people per year, with a traveling replica that crisscrosses the country.