Medal of Honor Winners on the African American Civil War Memorial

(1) African-American Civil War Memorial

African American Civil War Memorial

Enraged by a Confederate massacre, the United States Colored Troops (USCT) and other African-American fighting troops earned 24 Medals of Honor in the years between the Battle of Fort Pillow and the end of the Civil War.  Nathan Bedford Forrest enlisted in the Confederate Army when the war began and was immediately commissioned a general because he was rich, having made his fortune in the slave trade.  Did he have leadership capabilities?  He was responsible for one of the worst massacres in U.S. history at the Battle of Fort Pillow in Tennessee.  Confederate troops murdered soldiers who had surrendered, black and white, but mostly black.  Other victims may have been tortured and burned alive, including civilian women and children.  Despite multiple eye witness accounts, the accusations of torture remain controversial.  You can see a sanitized version of the Fort Pillow massacre in the 2016 television mini-series Roots, Part 4 (Bruce Beresford).  After the war, Forrest founded the Ku Klux Klan but he lost his fortune.  As an old man, preparing to die and meet his maker, he made amends with the African-American community by giving a speech promoting racial harmony.

African-American Civil War troops became ferocious after the massacre, rallying to the cry of “Remember Fort Pillow.”  They fought to the death because they knew they faced torture if they didn’t.  Except for William Harvey Carney’s Fort Wagner medal on July 18, 1863 and Robert Blake’s naval medal on Christmas Day, 1863 , the remaining 24 African-American and United States Colored Troops (USCT) Medals of Honor were earned in the year between Fort Pillow on April 12, 1864 and the end of the war on April 9, 1865.  These men from the South experienced slavery.  Those from the North experienced racism, a racism that continued in their own military as they were dying for their country.  They kept fighting for freedom, a fight their descendants carried into the Civil Rights movement, a fight that inspires us even today.

John Lawson

John Lawson

The Wessyngton Plantation memorial that we looked at on Memorial Day 2016 indicates which slaves joined the USCT to fight for the Union in the Civil War.  A reader expressed interest in the USCT and found the African American Civil War Memorial and Museum in Washington DC which has a memorial that lists names.  This memorial includes the Spirit of Freedom statue by Ed Hamilton depicting three African-American Civil War soldiers and a sailor.  It is surrounded by four low walls in a semi-circle with the names of 209,145 members of the USCT and other African-American army units.  African-Americans who served with white units, such as Medal of Honor winner Bruce Anderson, are not listed.  Members of the Navy are also not listed.  Seven African-American sailors received Medals of Honor during the Civil War:  Aaron Anderson, William H. Brown, Wilson Brown, John Lawson, James Mifflin, Joachim Pease, and the first African-American to receive a Medal of Honor during the war, Robert Blake.

The names on the memorial are organized in alphabetical order within their regiments.  There is no designation of rank.  One of the purposes of alphabetical order is to create equality and that is the result here.  In the USCT regiments, almost all of the officers were white, so organizing by rank or giving the rank with the name would build an inappropriate racial hierarchy.

The regiments are organized primarily numerically and alphabetically within each number.  They begin with the 1st Regiment, USCT Cavalry, Virginia, the second being 1st Regiment, USCT Heavy Artillery, Tennessee.  The state indicates where the regiment was formed.  Units may have had different names originally and took new names after being incorporated into the USCT.  These two can be found on panels A-1 and A-2.  There are four walls, but both sides are used on the innermost wall, so the panels are designated A – E.  The 157 panels number consecutively from A-1 to E-157.

The last USCT unit is the 138th Regiment, USCT Infantry, Georgia on panels E-140 and E-141.  The remaining panels are not so obviously arranged.  These include four military bands from Louisiana, the first being Brigade Band Number 1 Corps d’Afrique; African-American regiments that were formed early in the war and then abandoned; and state sponsored regiments that never entered the USCT.

(3) Andrew Jackson Smith

Andrew Jackson Smith

One such unit is the famous 54th Regiment, Massachusetts Cavalry (Colored), which the film Glory (Edward Zwick, 1989) was based on.  This film is highly recommended for its depiction of the experiences of African-American soldiers during the Civil War.  It builds up to their valiant attack on Fort Wagner in South Carolina, which, while not successful, was inspirational and encouraged other young African-American men to enlist.  Massachusetts even formed another regiment, the 55th.  Both claim Medal of Honor winners – Andrew Jackson Smith of the 55th at Honey Hill, South Carolina and William Harvey Carney at Fort Wagner.  Carney’s action is the earliest to win a Medal of Honor for an African-American but it was issued in 1900.  Smith received his medal posthumously in 2001 at a ceremony that also gave a posthumous Medal of Honor to Theodore Roosevelt for his military actions during the Spanish-Civil War.  Roosevelt’s oldest son, Theodore Roosevelt Jr., earned a Medal of Honor for his actions on D-Day during World War II.

Each name on the African American Civil War Memorial is separated from the next by one of three symbols.  The primary symbol is a star that simply separates the names.  A circle indicates multiple records in the regiment with that name.  A diamond shows this soldier may have served in other regiments, although he will only be listed once.  I would like to honor the people who put together the list of names.  They were dealing with fragile hand written records at least 140 years old, collected during a war.

These names can also be seen in a three volume print reference work titled Book of Names: The United States Colored Troops by Frank Smith Jr., Walter B. Hill Jr., and Hari Jones (2007).  This organizes the regiments by geography:  (1) The Northern States, (2) The Border States and (3) The Southern States.  Each volume lists regiments by the state where they were originally formed.  States and names are in alphabetical order with associated memorial panel.  Within each state, the regiments are organized as on the memorial, numerically and then alphabetically.  Regiments without an associated state are in the first volume.  That includes the four Corps d’Afrique brigade bands presumably because Louisiana is not officially part of their names.

(4) 4th or 36th USCT Infantry

4th or 36th USCT Infantry

At the Battle of Chaffin’s Farm, also known as New Marked Heights, 15 members of the USCT, earned Medals of Honor.  These soldiers were battle hardened from the siege of Petersburg in Virginia.  During that action, two of the regiments, the 4th and the 5th, experienced one of the worst Union losses at the Battle of the Crater.  The Union used explosives to initiate a battle but instead dug a crater from which they could not escape.  Surviving Confederates simply shot down at Union soldiers in what was called a “turkey shoot.”  This battle is portrayed in the film Cold Mountain (Anthony Minghella, 2003), where the action is shown from the South’s point of view.  The film displays the beginning of trench warfare, a style of war that continued into World War One.  Decatur Dorsey of the 39th USCT Infantry, Maryland received a Medal of Honor for his role in the battle.

(5) USCT soldiers at Dutch Gap

USCT soldiers at Dutch Gap

As they headed toward Chaffin’s Farm, Virginia, the 4th and 6th USCT infantry regiments participated in the action to protect the canal at Dutch Gap.  After Chaffin’s Farm, the 36th Regiment returned to Dutch Gap.  The photo here shows USCT soldiers at Dutch Gap.  Perhaps they are members of one of these regiments.

Christian Fleetwood

Christian Fleetwood

Three Chaffin’s Farm Medal of Honor Winners from the 4th Regiment USCT Infantry, Maryland appear on panel A-11 – Alfred B. Hilton, Christian Fleetwood, and Charles Veale.  Hilton is the only African-American Civil War Medal of Honor winner to die from wounds received in battle.  Fleetwood was a diarist, so his writings provide much information about the African-American troops.  Uncommon Valor: A Story of Race, Patriotism and Glory in the Final Battles of the Civil War, by Pulitzer Prize winner Melvin Claxton and Mark Puls (2006), is based in large part on his work.  At the Battle of Chaffin’s Farm, Hilton carried two flags, the United States flag and the regiment flag.  In the Civil War infantry, the flag bearer leads the soldiers who are trained to follow him into battle.  When Hilton fell, Fleetwood and Veale picked up the flags and continued to lead the 4th Regiment into battle.

Powatan Beaty

Powatan Beaty

Four more Medal of Honor winners from Chaffin’s Farm appear on panel A-14:  Powhatan Beaty, James H. Bronson, Milton M. Holland, and Robert Pinn of the 5th Regiment, USCT Infantry, Ohio.  All the officers from the 5th Regiment were killed and these men took over leadership.

On panel A-17, the Chaffin’s Farm Medal of Honor winners are Nathan Huntley Edgerton, Thomas R. Hawkins, and Alexander Kelly of the 6th Regiment, USCT Infantry, Pennsylvania.  Edgerton was an officer.  These men picked up the flags after their flag bearers fell and continued to lead the regiment into battle.  Their actions are depicted in the painting “Three Medals of Honor” by the well-known modern Civil War illustrator, Don Troiani.  The painting now hangs in the Union League of Philadelphia.

Two Medal of Honor winners from the 36th Regiment, USCT Infantry, North Carolina appear on panel C-51.  James Daniel Gardner went ahead of his fellow soldiers and killed a Confederate officer who was urging his troops into battle.  Miles James rallied his USCT troops into battle despite a serious arm injury that resulted in a battlefield amputation.

The final three USCT Medal of Honor winners from Chaffin’s Farm appear on panel C-53:  William H. Barnes, James H. Harris, and Edward Ratcliff of the 38th Regiment, USCT Infantry, Virginia.  These three men ran ahead of their fellow troops into the battle.

If we look at these 15 USCT Medal of Honor winners from Chaffin’s Farm, the common theme seems to be leadership.  Four of them took on the responsibilities of officers who had died.  The honor came for six of them because they carried the flag and therefore took their men into battle.  The remaining six ran ahead of their fellow troops, also leading their men into battle.

"The Gallant Charge of the Fifty Fourth Massachusetts (Colored) Infantry" by Currier & Ives. Note Union flag bearer as leader.

“The Gallant Charge of the Fifty Fourth Massachusetts (Colored) Infantry” by Currier & Ives. Note Union flag bearer as a leader.

Only a few African-Americans were allowed to become officers, although many did achieve non-commissioned officer status.  Christian Fleetwood, the diarist, advanced as far as he could within a few weeks of enlisting.  However, white enlisted men could become officers if they simply transferred over to the USCT or if, like Nathan Bedford Forrest in the Confederacy, they had a lot of money.  The massacre at Fort Pillow shows the result of selecting leaders for reasons other than demonstrated skill.

The film Glory explores this theme of leadership.  The character of Colonel Robert Gould Shaw (Matthew Broderick) is shown as someone who may not be prepared for this level of leadership and who grows into his role.  Sergeant Major John Rawlins (Morgan Freeman) leads because he has the wisdom of age.  However it is Private Silas Trip (Denzel Washington) who has natural leadership capabilities.  Just about every scene involving him displays his leadership.  His actions inspire Shaw to get the men new shoes.  He leads the revolt for equal pay for African-Americans.  Finally, in the battle to take Fort Wagner, Trip grabs the fallen flag, as did Medal of Honor winner William Harvey Carney.  Unlike Trip, Carney survived and returned to camp with the flag and the words “Boys, I only did my duty; the old flag never touched the ground!”

Graphic Credits

All graphics are licensed under Creative Commons.  The photo of the Memorial is from Sites of Memory.  The remaining photos are from Wikimedia CommonsLawson, Smith, Infantry (This is for the 4th Infantry.  Another caption for the same photo indicates it is the 36th Infantry.), Dutch Gap, Fleetwood, Beaty, Gallant Charge

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Honoring American Slaves

First Slave Auction in New Amsterdam, 1655

First Slave Auction in New Amsterdam, 1655

For Memorial Day 2016, we look at two memorials to American slaves, the African Burying Ground in Portsmouth, New Hampshire and the Wessyngton Plantation near Springfield, Tennessee.  Memorial Day began as Decoration Day to honor the military dead of the Civil War.  It’s controversial whether the day began as a Union or Confederate ceremony, but the first official event happened at the Union’s Arlington Cemetery on May 5, 1868.

Tonight the History Channel begins airing a remake of Alex Haley’s Roots, the story of his ancestors’ experiences in slavery, the institution the states were all fighting about.  Some say they fought over state’s rights, but Confederate papers of secession make it clear the right they were interested in was slavery.  One example is the Texas “Declaration of Causes,” essentially 1600 words about slavery, although they added 50 words about the Federal government not paying enough money to secure the Mexican border.

The first ancestors of today’s African-Americans arrived in Jamestown, Virginia in 1619.  That’s one year before the Mayflower landed.  About three decades later in 1652, Rhode Island passed the first abolition law.  It wasn’t enforced nor was a similar attempt in 1675.  Newport, RI eventually became a major point of entry for kidnapped Africans to be sold into slavery.  Seaports were vulnerable to the lure of riches provided by the sale of abducted humans.  The next attempt at abolition was well inland at a 1688 Quaker meeting in Germantown, Pennsylvania.

Ad for slave auction from a newly arrived ship.

Ad for slave auction from a newly arrived ship.

Portsmouth, NH was another profitable slave seaport.  That state began its gradual rise toward ending slavery in 1788, a task not fully completed in the state until 1857.  Portsmouth’s slave importing industry died in 1808 with the Federal Act Prohibiting the Importation of Slaves.  After passage, smuggling kidnapped Africans into the southern states continued until the Civil War, when we finally rid ourselves of slavery at the cost of about 400,000 Union soldiers’ lives.  Almost as many Confederate soldiers died fighting for the right to imprison other human beings for their free labor.

Throughout these events of slavery, abolition and war, African-Americans lived and died in Portsmouth.  When they died, some were buried in unmarked graves in a burial ground at the edge of town.  As Portsmouth grew, that edge became the center.  Structures that are still standing were built over the burial site.  It was paved with a street and a sewer line under the street.  The town conveniently forgot about the old burial ground, despite bones showing up every so often.  Workers even ran a pipe through caskets at some time in the past.

Finding the first coffin in Portsmouth.

Finding the first coffin in Portsmouth.

In 2003, the sewer needed an upgrade.  This time Portsmouth was ready with an archaeologist on hand in case anything interesting turned up.  And something very interesting did – thirteen coffins.  Now after centuries of debasing the long lost cemetery, Portsmouth finally honored its own history.  They only found thirteen bodies, but the estimate is that as many as 200 people may be buried there.  The city closed that block to traffic and built a memorial, the African Burying Ground, designed by artist Jerome Meadows.

On May 26, 2015 the thirteen bodies were moved to a central area in the block-long memorial in a magnificent reburial ceremony with new handmade coffins and a horse drawn hearse.  Because these people died in the 18th Century, they may have been native Africans, so each coffin contained a small item from Africa.  An earlier consecration ceremony included African rituals perhaps familiar to some of the people buried in the memorial and in the larger burying ground.

Model of sculpture by Jerome Meadows at African Burying Ground.

Model of sculpture by Jerome Meadows at African Burying Ground.

The African Burying Ground does not include a list of names.  There is no way of knowing who is buried there because nobody bothered to give them headstones.  However at the consecration ceremony, individuals read a list of names of all slaves who lived in Portsmouth or traveled through the slavery seaport.  The list was compiled by Valerie Cunningham, co-author with Mark J. Sammons of Black Portsmouth: Three Centuries of African-American Heritage.  This is a remarkable list, given the difficulty of working with materials about slaves, however I was not able to easily find this list of enslaved individuals.  Including a PDF of these names on the memorial’s website would give honor to them.

In a video of the ceremony, you can see people reading some of the names in alphabetical order by first name.  There is a slight variation for children who have no name and are simply listed, for example, as “Child of Becky Quint” where, presumably, the mother is also a slave and listed under B for Becky.  In my previous article, “Patcham Down Indian Forces Cremation Memorial,” I discussed the use of first names as a method for trivializing a group of people.  That is not what is happening in this ceremony.

American slaves were frequently not given last names, so practicality may be the reason for alphabetizing by first name.  However in the video’s small sample, we only have one example of an adult without a last name, “Child of Neptune.”  If a slave had a last name, it was often the last name of the previous owner, so organizing by last name would honor owners rather than the people of African heritage whose memorial was being consecrated.  By reading the names in alphabetical order by first name, it is the Africans who are honored, not their owners.

We do need to acknowledge that white owners often didn’t bother with last names for slaves as a method of dehumanization.  The survival of slavery as an institution depended on dehumanizing the victims.  Those who benefited from slavery had to convince otherwise honorable whites that Africans were not fully human and therefore deserved to be held in slavery.

Examples of this come from Thomas Jefferson’s book, Notes on the State of Virginia.  The section on slaves declares “the preference of the Oranootan for the black women over those of his own species” (p. 145).  Jefferson apparently believed that African women copulated with apes.  He did acknowledge that African-American men could be very brave, explaining it by writing “this may proceed from a want of forethought, which prevents their seeing a danger till it be present” (p. 146).  Jefferson is saying that, like animals, Africans don’t think ahead.  Despite his interest in science, Jefferson came to a racist conclusion first and then fit the evidence to his conclusion, although I doubt he had any evidence at all for his statement about Oranootans.

I found no evidence that Jefferson treated his slaves like animals, but other southern slave holders did.  Mia Bay, in her book The White Image in the Black Mind:  African-American Ideas About White People, 1830-1925, quotes Lizzie Williams, a Mississippi slave, “There was a trough out in the yard . . . (T)hey poured the mush and milk in and us children and the dogs would all crowd around it and eat together. . . . (W)e sure had to be in a hurry about it because the dogs would get it all if we didn’t” (p. 133).  In the book, the quote is in dialect, which I revised to the correct English spelling.  During my research, I noticed that almost all quotations from slaves and former slaves are in dialect, another method for demeaning them.  We don’t, for example, continuously quote in dialect people with broad New England accents.  Soujourner Truth’s “Ain’t I a Woman?” speech was transcribed into a deep southern slave dialect even though she was from New York and spoke English with a slight Dutch cadence.

Tobacco farming at Wessyngton Plantation, date unknown

Tobacco farming at Wessyngton Plantation, date unknown

About 20 years after the Revolution, Joseph Washington founded the Wessyngton Plantation near what is now Springfield, Tennessee.  It operated until the Civil War as the largest tobacco plantation in the United States and the second largest in the world.  The Washingtons’ strategy was to keep slave families together.  They only sold two people, one woman at the beginning of their operation because they needed cash and the other because he continually ran away.  However, these slave families still did not have last names.  Sometimes a group of slaves might be added through a marriage of the white owning family.  In that case, the added slaves would be given the last name of the previous owner to identify them as a group.

In the 1970s, pre-teen John F. Baker Jr. became interested in his family history.  A descendent of the Washington slaves, his large extended family still lived in the area of the Wessyngton Plantation.  Because he started young, he was able to interview people who had known relatives who had been slaves.  He was also aided by meticulous records kept by the owning family and donated to an archive.  Baker’s research studied both the black and white Washington families and resulted in his book The Washingtons of Wessyngton Plantation:  Stories of My Family’s Journey to Freedom.

Given the emphasis on families and the lack of slave sales, one might think that Wessyngton was the mythical plantation of contented slaves and benevolent owners.  The lie in that mythology is evident in Baker’s quote from a woman who was told by a former female slave, “If a white man told you to lay, you had to lay, like it or not” (pp. 104-105).  He also writes about slaves punished for praying for freedom and a child whipped for being sick.  According to Baker, the Wessyngton slaves had a clear sense of morality.  It was wrong to steal from other slaves, but there was no sin in stealing from the white owners, since their theft of freedom, and the abuses arising from that theft, branded the whites as criminals.

First Wessyngton Memorial, for those buried in the slave cemetery.

First Wessyngton Memorial, for those buried in the slave cemetery.

Baker built two memorials on the Wessyngton Plantation property, both financed by descendants of the white family.  The first lists names of slaves interred in a cemetery on the Wessyngton property, with names in no discernible order, although two of Baker’s great-great grandparents, Emanuel and Hettie Washington, are in the first two places.  The memorial includes birth and death dates, if known.

The second and larger memorial lists the names of all Wessyngton slaves in alphabetical order by first name, with birth and death dates included, if known, along with a designation for men who served with the Union Army’s United States Colored Troops in the Civil War.  Perhaps some of them fought in the USCT action at the infamous Battle of the Crater during the Siege of Petersburg, which was an early use of trench warfare.  This battlefield is currently in the news because of its recent looting in an archaeological theft.  On today’s Memorial Day, we honor the Wessyngton men who served with the USCT.

Bill Henry Scott (died 1929), Carey Washington (d. after 1863), Dick Lewis (d. after 1863), Granville Stroud Washington (d. after 1863), Henry Lewis (d. 1889), Hezekiah Tom Washington (d. 1918), Jacob Washington (d. 1903), Joseph Scott (d. 1932), Miles Washington (d. 1903), Otho Lewis Washington, Sr. (d. 1920), Reuben Cheatham Washington (d. 1894), William Washington (d. 1865)

Like the Portsmouth oral list of names, alphabetizing by first name at Wessyngton honors individual slaves rather than the white ownership families.  There is also a practical aspect since the vast majority of them have the last name of Washington.  Baker wrote that no slaves were given the name of Washington prior to Emancipation, so in the two memorials, he must have assigned that last name to those who died before that date.  This is a logical thing for him to do because their descendants took the name upon Emancipation.

Second Wessyngton Memorial, for all slaves held at the plantation.

Second Wessyngton Memorial, for all slaves held at the plantation.

When they were freed, slaves had the opportunity to select their own last name.  They often took the last name of their former owners, a familiar tradition.  Many Wessyngton slaves took the name of Washington, which was popular with other freed slaves as the name of a President.  Jefferson was also a popular choice for the same reason.  The newly freed slaves probably did not realize that when Thomas Jefferson wrote “all men are created equal,” he did not believe that Africans belonged to the category of men.  As a misogynist, Jefferson may have intentionally excluded women, but that’s another story, except to note that in his book, African males are unintentionally brave and the females consort with apes.

Both these memorials, the African Burying Ground and the Wessyngton Plantation, take a tradition intended to dehumanize a group of people and use it to fully honor them.  Slaves were frequently not given last names as one of many ways to show inferiority.  If they were given a last name, it was the name of an owner, thus validating the slaver’s claim to own another human being.

Organizing the names of slaves by first name invalidates that claim.  It shows that you can’t own another human being.  You can imprison them, assault them, force them to work, and treat them like animals, but you can never really own someone with a human brain.  Dr. Bay shows this in an anecdote from her book, The White Image in the Black Mind.  A female slave on the auction block in Texas demonstrated her opinion of the event by yelling, “Weigh them cattle.  Weigh them cattle” (p. 133).

I think the white ownership class understood that you cannot own a human being.  That’s why people like Thomas Jefferson lied to themselves about the humanity of their slaves.  They lied for the two centuries of slavery; they lied after the Civil War and through to the Civil Rights Movement and beyond.  We continue to suffer from their lies, but these two memorials, the African Burying Ground and the Wessyngton Plantation, help us to understand the truth of our history and how that shapes our current culture.

Sources of Graphics

First slave auction in New Amsterdam, 1655.  Wikimedia Commons

Ad for slave auction from a newly arrived ship.  Slave Auction Ad, Wikimedia Commons

Finding the first coffin.  Portsmouth Remembers – African Burying Ground, YouTube screenshot

Model of sculpture by Jerome Meadows at the African Burying Ground.  “In Honor of Those Forgotten,” Project Introduction Booklet PDF

Tobacco farming at Wessyngton Plantation.  View of Tobacco Farming with Unnamed Structure, Wikimedia Commons

First Wessyngton Memorial.  Wessyngton Plantation – A Family’s Road to Freedom, YouTube screenshot

Second Wessyngton Memorial.  Memorial Monument Dedication Ceremony, African American Cemetery, YouTube screenshot

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Honorary Marine Corey DePooter, Eleven Classmates, and a Teacher on the Columbine Memorials

image001Corey DePooter’s goal in life was to become a Marine. He proved his valor at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado on April 20, 1999 when he kept his cool and calmed his two friends while facing the horror of an armed attack. Corey was the last person killed. The Marines have done this for less than 100 in their history, naming Corey an Honorary Marine and placing a Marine insignia on his grave site in a 2000 military ceremony. Veterans Day is for veterans. Corey earned that honor.

Like Corey, Dave Sanders died heroically that day, running toward the gunshots and directing students away. He served his country as a respected teacher and coach. But the eleven students who died with Corey and Dave did not get their chance to serve their country in whatever way they would have chosen, including simply contributing to the economy. One student, John Tomlin, was planning to join the Army. Steven Curnow, the youngest victim at age 14, expressed interest in the Navy. We’ll give them honorary veteran status today also.  They join nine murdered students – Cassie Bernall, Kelly Fleming, Matthew Kechter, Daniel Mauser, Daniel Rohrbough, Rachel Scott, Isaiah Shoels, Lauren Townsend, and Kyle Velasquez – on two memorials in the Littleton area. One memorial in a private cemetery was built by Greg Zanis, who also installed a temporary memorial shortly after the attack. The families and the community built a memorial in a public park which is maintained by the Columbine Memorial Foundation.

Since the murders at Columbine High School and through October 22, 2015, 211 Americans have been killed and 295 injured in 167 school or college related shootings. Some of these were veterans, beginning a new life at college, but many were children. The recent murders at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon happened in a freshman English class with students straight out of high school. One Umpqua student, Chris Mintz, was a veteran whose heroic actions saved lives. Like many heroes, he declines the label.

Gun owners, however, often claim the hero label in advance. We are told that guns on campus keep everybody safe from murderers. Roseburg is a gun-rights town and several students had legal guns. They discussed their options and decided to not help because they might be mistaken for the shooter. Heroism is not logical. If you have to stop and think about it, you can always figure out a good reason to not be a hero.

When children and young adults lose their lives in school shootings, we think of the tragedy to themselves and to their families, but it is also a tragedy to our nation. We are built from everyone’s contribution and our society does not get the benefit of the contributions of murdered children. One excellent video, “Reunion: 13 Worth Remembering,” written and directed by Adam Kargman, imagines the 12 students and Coach Sanders at a Columbine High School reunion as if the murders had not happened. They all achieve stellar lives. And why not? We want that for everyone.

Columbine High School in 2006

Columbine High School in 2006

Three Columbine Memorials

The three Columbine Memorials, two by Greg Zanis in Clement Park and Olinger Chapel Hill Cemetery and one by the community at Clement Park, are different from other memorials with names in that certain organizational decisions were, in my opinion, made for personal rather than structural reasons. For example, if you put names in alphabetical order, there’s essentially only one way to do it, after you select the element to be alphabetized. However, if you decide that you want a certain name to be first, which is what I believe happened in the Olinger memorial, you can build a structure around that decision. In the same way, and in my opinion, the Clement Park memorial has no obvious organizational structure and is fully based on personal decisions.

Therefore, understanding these memorials requires understanding the people involved and making assumptions about their thinking. I contacted the Columbine Memorial Foundation early in my research in regard to the community’s Clement Park memorial and did not get a response. So I decided to think of this article as art criticism. My knowledge of the people who built the memorials is based on published materials. My analysis of their organizational structures is based on decades of looking at and building organized information structures. This article reflects my opinion. Others may have other opinions that are equally valid.

Zanis Columbine Memorials at Clement Park and Olinger Chapel Hill Mortuary & Cemetery  

Rocky Mountain Columbine (Aquilegia coerulea), the state flower of Colorado

13 Rocky Mountain Columbine flowers and buds (Aquilegia coerulea), the state flower of Colorado

At the request of a student survivor, Greg Zanis, an evangelical Christian carpenter from Naperville, Illinois, near Chicago, whose ministry involves building crosses for victims of violence, placed 15 crosses in Clement Park near Columbine High School on April 26, 1999, six days after 12 students and a teacher were killed in a murderous attack. At the time it was thought the two murderers had been severely bullied and were therefore victims themselves. This theory is explored in Comprehending Columbine by Ralph W. Larkin. After the murderers’ writings and videos were revealed, an alternate theory now posits one murderer as a psychopath and his accomplice as a lonely, depressed kid under his influence. See Columbine by Dave Cullen. Zanis may not be concerned with either of these theories. He may want to forgive the two murderers in order to redeem their souls, which may explain his placement of 15 rather than 13 crosses.

Two of the fathers of murdered students did not appreciate the two extra crosses. Brian Rohrbough, father of Daniel, and Albert Velasquez, father of Kyle, removed the murderers’ crosses, which didn’t sit well with Zanis, whose art they desecrated. So he returned from Naperville and took down the remaining 13 crosses. Now the community got involved and individuals contacted Zanis. They liked the 13 crosses, although they didn’t care much for the 15. Zanis returned to Colorado to re-install the 13 crosses. However the Parks Dept. soon removed them for reasons of safety.

I found a photo of the 15 crosses that lists 14 names. Cassie Bernall is the missing name. She’s probably in the first six because one of the murderers is listed as the sixth name but his cross is actually seventh. The April 23 issue of USA Today lists the 13 victims in the article “Slain Students Had Myriad Dreams” with a brief paragraph about each except Kyle. Three are shown to share Zanis’ Christian values: Cassie Bernall, Rachel Scott and John Tomlin. A fourth evangelical Christian, Daniel Rohrbough, was not indicated as such in the article. According to the photo’s list of names, Rachel and John are the first two crosses.

If Cassie is the first cross, a likely guess since that first name could have been cut off in the transcription, these three evangelical Christians would be first and in alphabetical order, which creates a pattern — three evangelical Christian victims, then three victims, then one murderer, four victims, one murderer, and finally three victims: 3, 3, 1, 4, 1, 3. The murderers are in alphabetical order. Zanis placed the two remaining girls in the center of two different sections (second set of three and set of four), but otherwise these 10 victims seem to be random.

About a month after the attack, Zanis teamed up with a private local cemetery, the Olinger Chapel Hill Mortuary & Cemetery, to make his crosses a permanent memorial. At first he installed the original 13 wooden crosses, but later they were made of marble. You can see this marble version in a video tour, “Columbine Memorial Garden – Chapel Hill Cementery in Littleton, CO – Part 2” (sic).   Here is the order of the names on the crosses, with ages and genders added to help display the pattern:

The locations of murdered children in the Columbine library.

The locations of murdered children in the Columbine library.

Daniel Rohrbough     15     Male
Kyle Velasquez           16     Male
Cassie Bernall             17     Female
Matthew Kechter      16     Male
John Tomlin               16     Male
Rachel Scott                17     Female
Dave Sanders             47     Male
Corey DePooter          17     Male
Kelly Fleming             16     Female
Isaiah Shoels               18      Male
Lauren Townsend      18     Female
Daniel Mauser             15     Male
Steven Curnow           14     Male

At first it looks like the obvious pattern is gender based but that is actually secondary. In my opinion, the primary purpose of this structure is to place Daniel Rohrbough and Kyle Velasquez in the first two positions. Greg Zanis, as an evangelical Christian, seems to believe in forgiveness. He asked for and received the forgiveness of Brian Rohrbough for the original placement of the murderers’ two crosses. While also a devout Christian, Brian is an argumentative man and his forgiveness was hard won. But Zanis may also need to forgive Rohrbough and Velasquez for the destruction of his artistic vision of 15 crosses. I believe placing their sons’ two crosses at the beginning of the structure may be his way of expressing that forgiveness.

Daniel Rohrbough at 15 is one of the younger victims. Kyle at 16 shares his age with five other victims. However, Zanis uses Kyle to create a pattern of younger victims. He puts Daniel and Kyle at the first two positions in order by age. Then he places Steven Curnow (14) and Daniel Mauser (15), at the other end, in order by age, beginning at the last position.

Now we can look at the gender alternation. There are four females and nine males, so the pattern is primarily two males and one female, but it changes at the end. To accommodate the two younger boys, Zanis changes the gender structure to female/male/female and then two males. A consistent gender pattern would end with one male not two.

Dave Sanders is at the center of the pattern with six students on either side, creating a first and a second group. This memorial is his grave site. Two of the students, Corey DePooter and Rachel Scott are also buried in the cemetery but not at the memorial. According to an article in The Denver Post, “Crosses Find Permanent Home / Carpenter, Families Honor Columbine” by Peter G. Chronis (5/28/1999, p. B-02), Corey and Rachel were originally buried at the memorial, presumably with wooden crosses, but Dave was not. So there has been some rearrangement of grave sites in relation to the memorial.

The organizational structures are different for the boys and the girls. Dave is not included in this. He is simply at the center. The three youngest boys and Kyle are at either end. The remaining four boys are arranged by age. If two boys are the same age, they are in alphabetical order: Matthew Kechter (16), John Tomlin (16), Corey DePooter (17), Isaiah Shoels (18).

For the four girls, Zanis had three at age 16. Following the alphabetical model of the boys, the three girls would be in this order: Cassie Bernall, Kelly Fleming and Rachel Scott. But Zanis didn’t do that. Instead he put Cassie Bernall and Rachel Scott in alphabetical order in the first group. Kelly Fleming and Lauren Townsend are in the second group, either by age or in alphabetical order.

The most likely reason for this would be the status of Cassie and Rachel as evangelical Christians. By placing Rachel into Kelly’s logical place, all four of the devout Christians, Daniel Rohrbough, Cassie, John, and Rachel, are in the first section of the crosses. Apparently Zanis made an error in his own pattern to suit his personal belief system. Not only is this un-Christian, it is a slight to Kelly. The parents of the evangelical Christian teenagers were innocently implicated in Zanis’ sin, but it looks like they asked for forgiveness in the community’s Clement Park memorial.

The Columbine Memorial at Clement Park

Columbine Memorial in Clement Park

The Columbine Memorial opened in Clement Park on September 21, 2007, near the high school. On the day of the attack, most of the escaping students gathered in the park which became the site of spontaneous memorials of flowers and teddy bears. In developing this memorial, parents and community planners were clear that there would be nothing reflecting the numbers 2 or 15. They didn’t want any suggestion of honoring the two murderers. For example, there are three textual elements: a Ring of Remembrance, with 13 plaques, one for each person murdered, written by their families; a Wall of Healing, with quotations from injured students and from the community; and an inlayed ribbon on the floor inside the Ring with the words “Never Forgotten.” To experience the memorial, I recommend the virtual tour “Columbine School Shooting | Columbine Victims Tribute – Permanent Memorial for the Columbine Victims,” which focuses on each plaque on the Wall and in the Ring so you can easily read the text.

There are three entrances into the Ring of Remembrance. The round Ring obviously creates a sense of equality among the 13 victims and yet the entrances by definition create first and last places. I believe the parents designed this Ring so that each of the 13 spaces is a place of full honor. At the same time, they acknowledge the inevitable importance of first and last.

There is one entrance into the memorial itself. At that point, a visitor has the choice of entering the Wall of Healing or the Ring Remembrance. The parents may have felt it was more likely visitors would choose to see the Wall as a preliminary to the Ring. At the end of the Wall, there is an entrance into the Ring, which would therefore be the primary entrance. A secondary choice would be to visit the Ring of Remembrance first and there is a Ring entrance near the memorial entrance. The third Ring entrance is at the beginning of the text of the Wall of Healing, but by that time a visitor has already made the decision to view the Wall first, so that is the least likely entrance into the Ring.

We’ll now look at the individual placements of the 13 names, using the most likely entrance at the end of the Wall of Healing. This analysis assumes visitors walk clockwise, which I think is most natural. As a reminder, this Columbine Memorial is not an organized structure with an obvious pattern, so my comments are my personal opinions based on my research.


The third textual element, the Never Forgotten ribbon

(1) Isaiah Emon Shoels is the first name at the entrance most people will select. He is the only African-American victim. The murderers sought him out and called him a nigger before killing him. In a day of cruelty, Isaiah’s death was especially cruel. I believe the parents gave him the honor of absolute first position for this reason.

One of the fathers, Tom Mauser, became a prominent gun control advocate, but some of the parents do not agree with him. It was decided that gun control would not be a part of the memorial plaques, but the Shoels family used their position as absolute first to make their opinion known, “(Isaiah) would want you to look up and see the light, to put away the guns, hate, prejudice, and pride, and see the great light that is love.”

(2) Lauren Townsend was Valedictorian of the Senior Class. If Isaiah is in first position for social reasons, Lauren, at the second spot, is in first position for reasons of skill and leadership.

(3) Corey DePooter died a hero. He’s a hero wherever his plaque sits. He and his friends, Austin Eubanks and Jennifer Doyle, were the last people shot. Austin credits Corey with taking control of their immediate situation and keeping their group calm during the intense horror.

(4) Steven Curnow is the youngest victim at age 14. He would be in the final position for visitors who choose to view the Ring of Remembrance before the Wall of Healing, the second most likely traverse.

The Ring entrance nearest the memorial entrance is here.

(5) (6) Matthew Kechter and Kyle Albert Velasquez. It may be Matthew’s football status that places him first in this second most likely entrance to the Ring. The Columbine team dedicated their season after the attack to him. They won their first state championship that year, a feat repeated the next year, then again in 2002 and 2006.

Matthew’s placement next to Kyle, who was developmentally disabled, may reflect the attack. One motive suggested for the murders is the alleged rampant bullying at Columbine, especially by football players, although I have not found evidence that Matthew was a bully.  Ten deaths occurred in the library. When the murderers entered that room, they made it clear they intended to kill jocks. Isaiah had been on the varsity football team but he was murdered for his race not his athletic status. While other murdered boys were athletes, as an expected football star on next year’s varsity team, Matthew may have been the most obvious jock.

Kyle, however, was a likely victim of bullying. In Comprehending Columbine, Richard Larkin provides evidence that the two murderers bullied another developmentally disabled student (p. 93). These two murderous alleged victims of bullying were themselves bullies, attacking someone with minimal ability to protect himself. Kyle may have been placed next to Matthew on the memorial to absolve Matthew and the other athletes of culpability in their own murders.

(7) (8) (9) (10) Rachel Joy Scott (17, born 8/5/1981), Cassie René Bernall (17, born 11/6/1981), John Tomlin (16), and Daniel Lee Rohrbough (15). These four evangelical Christians would be last if a visitor takes the least likely traverse of the Ring. This placement and their arrangement may be a response to Greg Zanis’ crosses at the Olinger cemetery.

Zanis manipulated and made an error in his name arrangement to place all four evangelical students in the first section of his permanent memorial. The error slighted Kelly Fleming. For the boys, he used an age arrangement, youngest to oldest. On this memorial, the four devout Christians are reversed as oldest to youngest. Daniel Rohrbough, who is first on the Zanis crosses, is last here. The parents may be seeking forgiveness for Zanis’ sin by placing their children in the least favored position. Having taken this graceful and humble act, they demonstrate Christianity at its highest level.

Except for one thing. Daniel Rohrbough’s parents are divorced and they chose to write two separate memorial statements. Brian Rohrbough used his statement on his murdered son’s memorial plaque to promote his own political activities, “‘Dad, I have a question.’ / Why? / My son, in a Nation that legalized the killing of / innocent children in the womb; . . . .” He probably didn’t change anybody’s mind on that issue, although he may have sent a few undecided teenagers over to the other side.

Here is the Ring entrance at the beginning of the text of the Wall of Healing.

(11) William “Dave” Sanders has first place in the least likely traverse of the Ring. He died heroically, walking toward the shooters in order to guide students to safety. Dave is at the center of Zanis’ cemetery crosses. The placement in this memorial connects him with the four evangelical Christians and the possible statement about Zanis’ organizational structure.

(12) Daniel Mauser expressed an interest in gun control several weeks before he was murdered. To honor his son’s memory, Tom Mauser became a prominent gun control advocate. Some parents do not support this position, so it was agreed that gun control would not be mentioned on the memorial, although the Shoels family figured a way around that. This means Daniel cannot be at an end because his name is now synonymous with gun control. However, giving him a center space because of gun control is a negative placement. Daniel is equally important to the other 12. So they placed him in the middle of the smallest group of three, prominently second to last at the most likely traverse of the Ring.


The new Columbine High School library

(13) Kelly Ann Fleming was slighted by Greg Zanis in his cemetery crosses. In this memorial, she has the important position of last in the most likely traverse of the Ring of Remembrance. But that’s not the only reason she has this final placement. The thoughts on the last plaque are what visitors take with them. Kelly was a writer. After her death, she became a published author in Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul III (p. 209-210) by Canfield, Hansen and Kirberger. Kelly represents hope. Hope is important to these parents. The rebuilt high school library is named the Hope Columbine Memorial Library. This is an extraordinarily sad memorial. These are murdered children and a beloved teacher. But as visitors leave this solemn ground with much to contemplate, they’ll know Kelly achieved her dream.

After the Umpqua College shootings, I read a comment about one of the news articles from a gun rights advocate. He wrote an urban cowboy scenario in which the only safe outcome was his heroic stance with his gun and wouldn’t we all be glad he was there to rescue us. But it never happens like it does in the fantasy. The Columbine High School murderers planned for two years and they still flubbed it. They intended to bomb the cafeteria and kill 500 kids but their bombs thankfully fizzled.

Corey DePooter didn’t plan for two years about how to act when the murderers showed up. At 17, he just had the strength within him as the horror started. He kept his terrified friends calm and may have saved their lives. He was a natural leader, the kind of guy you want on your side, the kind of guy who might have made a difference in the world, perhaps as a career Marine, or wherever his extraordinary talent would have taken him.

As I write this, we have another college shooting – November 1 at Winston-Salem State University in North Carolina, a 19 year old sophomore died; another student was injured. That’s 168 school or college related shootings with 212 killed and 296 injured since the attack on Columbine High School on April 20, 1999.


Illustration Credits Wikimedia Commons:  Marine corps flag.gif, Columbine High School Pan.jpg, Heavycolumbinebloom.jpg, Columbine library fbi diagram.jpg, Columbinememorial.jpg, Columbine memorial.png (Never Forgotten), Hopelibrary.JPG

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Nov 2015

Patcham Down Indian Forces Cremation Memorial

The Royal Pavilion in Brighton

The Royal Pavilion in Brighton

Built in 1787, the Royal Pavilion in Brighton was as an extravagant beach house for the Prince of Wales who became King George IV.  Over the years, it evolved into the appearance of an Indian palace.  Queen Victoria preferred another summer retreat and sold the Pavilion in 1850 to the City of Brighton.  In World War I, it was converted into a hospital for the British Indian Forces.  After they left, the facility rehabilitated veterans with amputated limbs.  The Pavilion eventually returned to the City and now is a prominent tourist attraction.

Britons who die in war are always honored by name, preferably on their gravestones.  For those who are missing, and this was a huge problem in World War I, names are listed on monuments, such as the massive Memorial to the Missing of the Somme.  But 53 Hindus and Sikhs in the British Indian Forces fell through the cracks.  They died in the Royal Pavilion war hospital and were cremated in keeping with their religions.  With no burial, their names were not on gravestones, yet they weren’t missing, so they couldn’t be listed on a Memorial to the Missing.

Patcham Down Indian Forces Crenation Memorial with Chattri Memorial in background

Patcham Down Indian Forces Cremation Memorial with Chattri Memorial in background

In 1920, the City of Brighton and the India Office built a memorial temple, the Chattri Memorial, on the site of the cremations.  It was not until 2010 that the 53 names were listed on the Patcham Down Indian Forces Cremation Memorial, built by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission on the same property.  As in all British memorials, the names are listed with their military units in Order of Precedence, a chronological order based on each unit’s date of establishment.  It’s difficult to visually perceive the further information structure because only a few names are listed within single units.  These are soldiers who survived different battles, made it across the Channel to a hospital on the coast and died of their wounds in that hospital.  Nineteen Muslim soldiers from the British Indian Forces also died at the Royal Pavilion, but they were buried so their names are on gravestones.

On the larger memorials, the military unit is carved once with names below.  Here, each man has the full name of his unit below his own name.  They are listed in their units by rank, which is not indicated, and within rank by alphabetical order.  On this memorial and on the Somme memorial, alphabetical order for South Asians is by first name.  On the Somme memorial, European members of the British Indian Forces are listed last name first.

Names on the Patcham Down Memorial

Names on the Patcham Down Indian Forces Cremation Memorial, during construction

Why the discrepancy?  Is it practicality or racism or both?  Many South Asian names are quite common.  One third of the men on the Patcham Down Memorial have the last name of Singh.  Another name, Gurung, is owned by 15% of Nepalis.  Only one first name is repeated, giving 52 unique first names.  So from an information management standpoint, the first name provides more value in identifying individuals.

In the tradition of the British colonizers, people who are socially higher are addressed by last names, while people who are lower are addressed by first names.  The organizing structure of first name first may have been based on practicality, but its use would have reminded Europeans that, in their eyes, South Asians were less valuable.  This would be the case even if South Asians didn’t acknowledge the use of first names as a diminishment.

"This is Sepoy Khudadad"

“This is Sepoy Khudadad”

Let’s take a look at the first South Asian recipient of the Victoria Cross (VC), the highest British military honor.  Non-European members of the British Indian Forces were not allowed to receive the VC before 1911.  Khudadad Khan, a Muslim, was in the 129th Duke of Connaught’s Own Baluchi’s with the rank of Sepoy or Private.  His last name is now the 80th most common name in Britain.  When Khan’s unit arrived in October 1914 at the pivotal First Battle of Ypres, the fight was already raging.  His machine-gun team was sent to stop the Germans from getting to a port.  Eventually every other soldier in his gunnery group died.  Injured, Khan kept shooting and held the Germans long enough for reinforcements to arrive.  Because of his extreme effort, the British saved the port.  With him, the military finally awarded the Victoria Cross to a non-European member of the British Indian Forces.  Kahn died at the age of 82 in 1971.  He is honored with a statue in front of the Pakistani Army Museum in Rawalpindi.

What if Khan had not kept shooting and the Germans had taken that port?  Would they have won the First Battle of Ypres?  How would that have changed the war?  Without Khudadad Khan, who wins World War I?  Yet in a newspaper article about his award, Kahn is called Sepoy Khudadad.  The Daily Mirror doesn’t even bother to give his last name, signaling to all Londoners the relative social status of this astonishing hero.

Darwan Singh Negi being carried into the Royal Pavilion

Darwan Singh Negi being carried into the Royal Pavilion

The second South Asian Victoria Cross winner belonged to the unit on the Patcham Down Memorial with the most deaths.  The 39th Garwhal Rifles lists one Naik and five Riflemen.  A Naik is similar to a Corporal.  Darwan Singh Negi was hospitalized at the Brighton Royal Pavilion but he didn’t die.  Of the six memorialized names in the unit, which you can see in the photo above, three have the name of Negi.

Darwan Singh Negi received his Victoria Cross from King George V on the same day as Khan for an action that happened about a month later.  He was in Festubert in what would become the Battle of Artois.  He and his fellow soldiers needed to retake trenches that had been seized by Germans.  So they stood at the top of the trenches on either side, threw in bombs, and then jumped in themselves and bayonetted their way back into possession of each trench.  They did this all night long until they had retaken all of the trenches.  Negi, a Sikh, was especially skillful at this technique of hand-to-hand combat.  During the Victoria Cross ceremony, King George V asked him, “What can I do for you?”  Negi said his home area in India needed a middle school and the King had one built.

Kulbir Thapa

Kulbir Thapa

Nepal recently suffered a devastating earthquake and a major aftershock, so let’s honor their WWI Victoria Cross hero, Kulbir Thapa.  He’s not on the Patcham Down Memorial but his last name is represented by three men.  Thapa was injured September 25, 1915 in a battle near Fauquissart, France.  In the melee, he found a wounded British solider who was not even in Thapa’s unit.  Despite being injured and encouraged to save himself, Thapa stayed with the soldier for 24 hours and finally was able to drag him to a place of relative safety.  Then he went back twice to save two South Asian soldiers.  He went back into the fight once more to get the British soldier to full safety.  These are roundtrips.  So Thapa ran into a raging battle seven times in order to save these three soldiers.

I made my donation to the victims of the Nepal earthquake via Shelterbox.  In one precisely packed box, they provide a tent big enough for a large family, along with blankets, mosquito netting, a stove with cooking equipment, water containers with filtration, a tool kit, warm hats & gloves, and a children’s activity pack.  The tents are especially needed in Nepal as their monsoon season begins.



Acknowledgement:  Thanks to Peter Francis of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission for assistance with some details in this article and for providing two photos.

Photo Credits

© Commonwealth War Graves Commission:  Patcham Down Indian Forces Cremation Memorial (1) with Chattri Memorial and (2) during construction

Wikimedia Commons:  Royal Pavilion, Khudadad Khan, Darwan Singh Negi, and Kulbir Thapa

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May 2015

Canada’s Books of Remembrance


The Canadian Parliament and Peace Tower

Seven days after ad-Dawlah al-Islāmīyah fīl-ʻIraq wa ash-Shām (ISIS) announced mass rape to be religious practice, a Canadian supporter in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu near Montreal rammed his car into a group of soldiers, killing Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent.  The murderer was then killed by police in a car chase.  Two days later, on October 22, 2014, another Canadian ISIS supporter shot and killed Corporal Nathan Cirillo of the Princess Louise’s Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders of Canada Regiment1 as he stood ceremonial guard at the Canadian National War Memorial and Tomb of the Unknown Soldier on Parliament Hill in Ottawa.  In a move worthy of Hollywood, Parliament’s Sergeant at Arms Kevin Vickers, a retired Royal Canadian Mounted Police Chief Superintendent (i.e. management), killed the murderer within the building complex just outside the Library of Parliament.


A Book of Remembrance in the Memorial Chamber of the Peace Tower

The most visible structure on Parliament Hill is the Peace Tower which includes a Memorial Chamber.  In the Chamber are Books of Remembrance, seven books holding the names of Canadians who died in service to their country.  Beautifully drawn with hand calligraphy, these volumes are the equal of any medieval monastic work.  The first artist was James Purves, who did preliminary work on Book 1 and completed the first page.  He died in 1940 and was replaced by his assistant Alan Beddoe, who worked on the project until the 1970s.

Book 1 – First World War (66,655 names).  The names of the Canadian Expeditionary Forces are listed first, by year (1915-1922), then in alphabetical order.  Each listing includes rank, name (last name first), and regiment.  Canadian names from the British Empire Forces are listed next.  Finally there is an Addendum with names in the same order.  The second page of the Addendum has a drawing of the WWI Canadian National Vimy Memorial in France.


Page from Book 2, “Second World War,” 1947

Book 2 – Second World War (44,893 names).  These names are listed by year (1939-1947), then alphabetical order, with the same information as World War I.  There is no Addendum.

Book 3 – Newfoundland (more than 2300 men and women who died in the two World Wars before Newfoundland became a Canadian province).  These names are listed by war, then in alphabetical order.  This book adds date of death to the information for each name.  Both wars have Addenda pages.  Book 3 includes a number of decorative pages.

Book 4 – The Korean War (516 names).  These names are in alphabetical order, with rank, name (last name first), regiment and date of death.  There is no Addendum.

Book 5 – South African / Nile Expedition (266 names from two 19th Century and early 20th Century military deployments).  The names are divided between the two deployments with the South African War (1899-1902) first, then the Nile Expedition (1884-1885).  The names are then in alphabetical order.  South African War names include rank, name (last name first), regiment and date of death.  Nile Expedition names include only the name and the date of death.  No Addendum.

Book 6 – Merchant Navy (more than 2170 men and women who died during the two World Wars).  These names are divided between the two wars, then in alphabetical order, with rank, name (last name first), ship’s name and date of death.  There are several Addenda, which indicates multiple additions of names.  There are also decorative pages.


Gisèle Michaud, the 2014-15 National Memorial Cross Mother wearing the Silver Cross. Her son Master Corporal Charles-Philippe Michaud died in 2009 from wounds received in Afghanistan.

Book 7 – In the Service of Canada (an ongoing book, currently with more than 1700 names of military personnel who died since World War II [excepting the Korean War] “in times of conflict, or during peacetime training exercises, peacekeeping deployments abroad or other military duty” 2)  The names are organized by year only.  The listing includes rank, name (last name first), regiment, and date of death.  There are also decorative pages.

Pages in the Books of Remembrance are turned daily in a ceremony.  Each page is shown for at least one day every year.

The names of Warrant Officer Vincent and Corporal Cirillo have not yet been added to Book 7, so as our example, we will use Master Corporal Charles-Philippe Michaud, whose mother Gisèle is this year’s National Memorial (Silver) Cross Mother.  She represents all Canadian mothers who have lost children in war.  Master Corporal Michaud was wounded by an explosive device near Kandahar, Afghanistan on June 23, 2009.  Five days later he arrived at a Quebec City hospital where he died on July 4.

By placing Charles-Philippe Michaud’s name into the search interface, we can see him on page 234 which is open in the Memorial Chamber on April 19, August 14 and December 9.  Book 7 begins in 1947 with all entries in English.  Current practice enters some names in French and some in English.


Isis protecting Osiris

Isis and ISIS

Since the name of my business is Isis Information Services, I want to share thoughts about my business name being adopted by mass rapists.  My name reflects the Egyptian goddess Isis who saved the world by putting her dismembered husband Osiris back together and breathing life into him.  It seemed like a good metaphor for putting together an information system.  A lot of people agreed and there are many information companies, systems and services named with the acronym ISIS.  I tried to differentiate myself by using the word Isis not the acronym.

The actual name of the terrorist group ISIS is ad-Dawlah al-Islāmīyah fīl-ʻIraq wa ash-Shām, so we should be calling them DIIS, but the acronym in English is ISIS (Islamic State in Iraq and Syria) and that’s what we’re mostly using.  Another variation is ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) and for awhile I was using that as a diversion away from my own name.  But now I realize DIIS simply forgot their due diligence in language translation and managed to name misogynist rapists after a powerful ancient Egyptian goddess.

1 The Princess Louise’s Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders of Canada Regiment served at the Battle of the Somme in World War I, a battle much discussed in this blog.  This year marks the 100th anniversary of the start of World War I.  The ceramic poppies surrounding the Tower of London are an especially beautiful memorial installation.


Photo Credits:  Parliament, Book of Remembrance, Second World War 1947, Gisèle Michaud, Isis and Osiris

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Nov 2014

Alice Koenigswarter Halphen and the Rue des Deux Ponts

(This post honors my father, Jack Bertolucci, who served in the Pacific during World War II.  He died last year.  Today would have been his 89th birthday.) 


Memorial Plaque at #8 rue des Deux Ponts, Paris

The Ile-St-Louis, a wealthy residential area in central Paris, appears today much as it did in the 17th Century, except for the even numbered side of rue des Deux Ponts, which was gutted between 1912 and 1930 to widen the street.  Taking advantage of that opportunity, Alice Koenisgswarter Halphen built low-income housing for large Jewish families in the 08-12 block.  The project was sponsored by her Foundation Fernand Halphen, named after her husband, a wealthy composer who died in World War I.

The families lived there until September, 1942 when Nazis captured the residents and transported them to Auschwitz, where they all died.  After the war, the complex remained low-income housing, sometimes for relatives of the original families.  A plaque was installed, “In memory of 112 inhabitants of this house with 40 small children, deported and died in the German camps in 1942.”  Another 2007 plaque lists the names of inhabitants who died at Auschwitz.  It mostly gives surnames, in alphabetical order except for the last one.  Parents are indicated by “M Mme,” with 66 children under age 21 primarily shown by number.  The largest families were “M Mme  ADONER et 5 enfants” and “Mme Veuve WIOREK et 6 enfants.”  In 2004, new developers tore off a mosaic entrance plaque with the words “Foundation Fernand Halphen 1926.” Low-income housing became luxury apartments.

Alice Halphen experienced another aspect of Nazi occupation in 1940 when they stole art from her lavish chateau in Chantilly.  According to her son Georges, he and his mother survived the war on a farm.  Georges eventually joined the Resistance.  After the war, Mme Halphen wrote a timeline article about the Jewish experience in occupied France.*  It is perhaps not a coincidence that her low-income housing became high rent the year after her son’s death in 2003.

The Seine at Asnières by Claude Monet

The Seine at Asnières by Claude Monet

One piece of art stolen from Alice Halphen was Monet’s The Seine at Asnières.  Its provenance got altered via a trip to Switzerland.  In 1948 the Detroit Institute of Arts bought it from a reputable dealer.  About a year later, another art dealer contacted the DIA asking if the painting was the same one he sold to Mme Halphen and providing proof of her ownership.  So in 1950, the DIA became the first museum to return Nazi stolen art to its rightful owner.

The DIA itself is now in danger of losing its collection.  Acquired during times of prosperity, its art is being eyed by creditors as a source of repayment.  To keep the collection in Detroit, a “grand bargain” was proposed that would privatize the museum, which would buy the art from the city.  The money would be used for employee pensions.  It’s a popular idea that has garnered large donations from prominent foundations and from the auto industry But it may not be legal because it prioritizes one group of creditors (pensioners) over another (bond holders). 

Alice Halphen served her community by providing a place for people in need to live.  The contributors to the DIA, of art and funding, serve their community by providing beauty and culture.  The bond holders also served their community.  When Detroit asked for a loan, they provided it.  Today, June 20, Governor Rick Snyder signed a bill allowing the state to contribute $195 million to the “grand bargain.”  In the meantime, pensioners, who expected a secure retirement, have until July 11 to vote on the deal, but these are just the first steps in what may be a long story with a lot of protagonists.   

* “Lest We Forget . . . ” by Alice Fernand-Halphen appeared in the December 1948 issue of The Jewish Monthly.  My thanks to Elliott Wrenn of the U S Holocaust Museum for sending me a PDF of this article.

Credits:  Memorial Plaque at #8 rue des Deux Ponts, Paris; The Seine at Asnières by Claude Monet

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Jun 2014

Kyle White’s Personal Memorial

The Army version of the Medal of Honor

Army version of the Medal of Honor

In a recent television interview, Kyle White displayed the bracelet on his arm, a stainless steel band etched with six names of Americans who died in the Afghanistan battle where he earned the Medal of Honor presented to him in a White House ceremony on May 13.  When I saw the bracelet, it felt like White was carrying a personal memorial, his own private version of the Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial.

On November 9, 2007, Sergeant White’s Army paratrooper unit and a team of Afghani soldiers were ambushed by Taliban near Aranas, Afghanistan.  White was knocked out by an explosion and received multiple shrapnel to his face.  When he came to, he knew he would probably die and since he was going to die anyway, he might as well use his remaining time to help his wounded team members.


President Obama and Sergeant White walk to the Medal of Honor ceremony.

He first applied a tourniquet to Kain Schilling.  Then he saw the Afghani team’s American trainer, Marine Sergeant Phillip Bocks, severely wounded and in the open.  Under a barrage of bullets, he ran to Bocks four times, finally pulling him to relative safety.  White applied another tourniquet, but Bocks soon died of his injuries.  In the meantime, Schilling was shot again and White applied a third tourniquet, this time using his belt.

He saw their unit leader Lt. Matthew Ferrara in the open.  White ran to save him but the lieutenant had already died.  White then knew he was the one who had to report the attack.  With effort, he found an operational radio on Bocks’ body.  The Taliban blew the receiver out of his hand but he still managed to get it working, repeatedly calling for reinforcements.

Another explosion and White got a second concussion.  Schilling also had a concussion and the two forced themselves to stay conscious.  When the helicopters arrived, White established a landing area and got the wounded on board.  He was the last one out.  Four other Americans died that day with Bocks and Ferrara:  Sean Langevin, Joseph Lancour, Jeffrey Mersmen, and Lester Roque.  Three members of Bocks’ Afghani team also died.

Kyle White's memorial bracelet.

Kyle White’s memorial bracelet.

Kain Schilling, who is alive because of White’s actions, presented a bracelet to each of the eight survivors in his unit, including himself, with the names of the six Americans who died that day.  They are listed horizontally on two lines with rank and last name, three names to a line, in order of Army military rank with the Marine sergeant last.  There are two corporals but they are not alphabetical.  The first corporal has fewer letters, so I’m guessing they were arranged for line spacing.  You will need to look at photos of the bracelet for the actual arrangement since news articles list the names in a different order.  The bracelet’s third line gives the unit as 2/503, the 2nd Battalion of the 503rd Infantry Regiment, then the date of the battle and the location as Afghanistan.

White used the GI Bill to get a BA in Business Administration and now works as an investment analyst for a major bank.  He wears the bracelet as a reminder and motivation, “(N)o matter what is going on in my life, like if something is hard . . . you look down and . . . you know, these guys, if they were here right now they would not be complaining.”

That’s the power of the Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial which creates a private space for each surviving veteran of that war.  Names are listed by date of casualty or the day last seen.  All those who died or went missing from one battle are listed together.  Survivors see the names from that battle in one place, with their own faces reflected among the names of their friends in the mirrored black marble.

To get that power, Vietnam Vets must travel to Washington, DC.  But Kyle White, Kain Schilling and the other surviving Americans from the Aranas battle carry their experience in these bracelets.  It’s there for them when they need it.

Photo Credits

Medal of Honor:

Pres. Obama & Sgt. White:


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May 2014

Stolpersteine: Europe Becomes a Holocaust Memorial


Stolperstein for Erna Wazinski

Today is the 95th anniversary of the World War I armistice, when the war ended at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month.  The night of last Saturday and Sunday was the 75th anniversary of Kristallnacht, a pogrom that moved German Jews from the loss of civil rights into a nightmare of torture and murder.  Both concepts, honoring the war dead and remembering the Holocaust, are featured in Stolpersteine an art project by Gunter Demnig, who transforms all of Europe into a war memorial.

Stolpersteine is the German word for “stumbling blocks.”  The blocks are small brass cobblestones installed into sidewalks near locations of Holocaust events, primarily homes where victims once lived.  They are small, about 4 inches square, one per person.  While there are variations due to individual circumstances, the stones primarily give name, date of birth, deportation, and the fate of the person being honored.  Demnig also makes “stumbling thresholds,” Stolperschwellen, for areas with too many names, such as a mental institution in Trier from which 542 patients were taken and murdered.  These can be as large as 1 square meter.

The typical cobblestone is sponsored for a fee of €120.  Demnig’s instructions tell sponsors how to interact with municipal authorities and who to inform, including family members and neighbors.  Demnig personally installs each of the stones, a full time job.  He can also give a talk about the project for an additional €200 plus expenses, a remarkably reasonable fee for someone of his stature.

Gunter Deminig with Two Newly Installed Stolpersteine

Gunter Demnig with Two Newly Installed Stolpersteine

By December 2013, the project expects to have installed 43,500 stones in 1000 locations.  This is up 3,500 stones from the April 2013 count, also at 1000 locations.  It looks like once a municipality agrees, the stones continue to be laid throughout the area.  Today, Armistice Day, Demnig is placing stones at several sites in the Berlin area.  Tomorrow, 11/12/13, he will be in Stuttgart.  In 2014, he is tentatively scheduled through May for 136 installations and 8 speaking engagements.  There is a six month waiting list for installations.

When I first heard of this, I immediately had negative thoughts about people walking on these sacred names.  But you have to look beyond that.  Of course, there is a logistical issue.  Plaques on the sides of houses require negotiations with current owners, while a project of brass cobblestones in the sidewalk can be approved once by the municipality or the approval process streamlined by regulations.  But more than that, the cobblestones are placed where these people lived.  They are on the sidewalks in front of their homes.  When we walk in their neighborhoods, even if we tread on named cobblestones, we walk where they walked.  We share a moment in their lives before insanity grabbed them away from us.


Erna Wazinski

This past week we had news about 1400 artworks discovered in the Munich apartment of Cornelius Gurlitt, son of Nazi art dealer Hildebrand Gurlitt and his wife Helene Hanke, a dancer who worked with German modern dancer Mary Wigman.  An additional 22 works were then voluntarily disclosed by Hildebrand’s brother-in-law.  So we’ll take as our example the cobblestone of Erna Wazinski, a 19 year-old non-Jewish German who lived in Brunswick.  The town was bombed in 1944.  Erna went to her bombed home trying to find her mother and to collect what was left of their belongings.  A neighbor denounced her as a looter and she was guillotined by the Nazis for having a couple of suitcases filled with stuff she thought she owned.  In 1986, German author Adam Seide wrote a novel about her, Die braunschweigische Johanna: ein deutsches Requiem (The Brunswick Johanna: A German Requiem).

Let’s compare Erna and her two suitcases with the Nazi pillaging of Europe.  Nazis conceived of World War II as not just a military war but a cultural offensive.  Hitler, an artist himself, first went after valuable objects, looting entire countries of their museums and private collections.  Then they started taking everything else.  In Paris, Nazis went door to door.  If a home was not occupied they helped themselves to its contents, with no concern for value.  In The Rape of Europa, Lynn H. Nicholas provides a list of loot from one apartment, “5 ladies’ nightgowns, 2 children’s coats, 1 platter, 2 liqueur glasses, 1 man’s coat. . . .” (p. 139).  The Nazis transported boxcars and trainloads of other people’s stuff across Europe, using massive resources that were therefore not available for the actual shooting war.

Erna’s translated Stolperstein reads “Here lived / Erna Wazinski / Born in 1925 / Arrested in 1944 / Looting / Convicted 21.10.1944 / Executed in / Wolfenbüttel.”  Germany has 60% of the cobblestones.  The rest are scattered all over Europe in Austria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, France, Hungary, Italy, Luxemburg, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Russia, Slovakia, Slovenia, and the Ukraine.  In Stolpersteine, all of Europe is a location-based memorial.

Smaller location-based installations include the Oklahoma City National Memorial, which places an empty chair at the site where a body was found, with a litttle chair to indicate a child.  The World Trade Center’s National September 11 Memorial is primarily location-based.  Within the footprints of the two structures, names are included with their associated building.  In addition, family members suggested placement of their loved one’s name, which, for the most part, was among their co-workers.  Since companies were housed in different offices, this essentially creates a location-based arrangement, although actual placement has a lot to do with the puzzle of fitting name groups into the available space.  The Memorial to the Missing of the Somme in France also has elements of a location structure.  Because of Britain’s World War I recruiting strategy, a strict adherence to military order of precedence places soldiers from the same town together.

Today, Armistice Day 2013, Gunter Demnig installed stones at Weißensee and Charlottenburg in the Berlin area.   Weißensee is the site of one of the largest Jewish cemeteries in Europe, which brings up an argument against his project.  The cobblestones remind some of the broken Jewish gravestones that were used for paving.  In response, Demnig quotes a passage from the Talmud, a passage illuminating this entire “Names on a Memorial” series, “A man is not forgotten until his name is forgotten.”


Buddy Bear in Charlottenburg

In addition to the Stolpersteine, Charlottenburg participates in another international public art project, the United Buddy Bears.  These are life size decorated statues of smiling bears representing peace and happiness.  The project was conceived by a German couple, Eva and Klaus Hurlitz, with sculptor Roman Strobl.  The bears are installed individually or as part of a travelling exhibition, the Circle of United Buddy Bears, with alphabetized bears representing each nation.  Typical bears have upraised arms, allowing them to stand hand-in-hand together.  At the end of each tour, the bears are sold with proceeds donated to UNICEF.


Buddy Bears in Kuala Lumpur, 2012
(click on the photo for a closer view)

Cartoony smiling bears might seem trivial compared to evil of such dimension as the Holocaust.  But Eva Hurlitz has created a compelling ethic around her bears including the golden rule, tolerance, and respect for others.  This message, delivered by a painted bear, can especially resonate with children, who will have to navigate the international snares of an ever-shrinking world.  As Eva said in her joyous writings about peace and tolerance, the Buddy Bears help us “understand one another better, trust each other more, and live together more peacefully.”

(In the spirit of Buddy Bears, and in remembrance of the Holocaust, I would like to suggest donations to a charity helping the Philippine victims of Typhoon Haiyan.  A final death toll has not been released but it looks like 10,000 were killed in Tacloban, the capitol of Leyte Province.  ShelterBox provides a large box of life’s equipment, including a tent that sleeps 10.  I support this charity because it simply provides a basic human need.  For people who suddenly have to live outside, perhaps mourning family members, the privacy of a tent can make a big difference in the ability to cope.)

Photo Credits

Wikimedia:  Stolperstein for Erna Wazinski, Gunter Demnig, Erna Wazinski, Buddy Bear in Charlottenburg, Buddy Bears in Kuala-Lumpur

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Nov 2013

Noor Inayat-Khan at the Air Forces Memorial in Runnymede

Noor Inayat-Khan

In 1949 King George VI posthumously awarded the George Cross, Britain’s highest non-battle military honor, to an Indian princess, Noorunissa Inayat-Khan, Sufi musician, children’s author, and spy.  The French government also awarded her the Croix de Guerre.

Noor’s father, Hazrat Inayat-Khan, a musician of royal Indian blood, brought Muslim Sufism and Indian classical music to the West.  Their international family, with an American mother, Ora Ray Baker from Albuquerque, first lived in Moscow and London.  Noor then spent much of her early years in Paris, where she and her younger brothers studied with Nadia Boulanger, the famous composition instructor whose students included Elliott Carter, Aaron Copeland, and Quincy Jones.   One brother, Vilayat, became head of the Sufi Order International.  The other, Hidayat, continues to compose music in Paris and the Netherlands.

At the age of 13 in 1927, Noor took responsibility for her family when her father died and her mother became inconsolable.  She began writing children’s stories for magazines and for French radio.  In 1939 she published a children’s book, Twenty Jataka Tales, folktales about previous reincarnations of the Buddha in both human and animal forms.

When the Germans invaded France in 1940, Noor and most of her family relocated to Britain.  Hidayat stayed behind and still lives in the Parisian suburb of Suresnes, location of an estate given to the family by a Sufi follower.  When they got to London, both Noor and Vilayat wanted to support the anti-Nazi cause.  Vilayat served in the Royal Navy, while Noor joined the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force and later the Special Operations Executive (SOE), an espionage agency.  They taught her how to use a wireless and how to be a spy.  She wasn’t very good at her lessons, particularly the anti-interrogation techniques.  But she knew how to operate a radio and she spoke French, so they sent her off to Paris to begin transmissions.

Air Forces Memorial at Runnymede

Most wireless technicians only lasted a few weeks before capture.  Noor keep her radio operation going for several months until she was betrayed by another spy.  In her ten month imprisonment, she was tortured with daily beatings.  According to her German captors, Noor never revealed any information, despite her superiors’ lack of confidence in her anti-interrogation skills.  However her equipment was confiscated, causing the capture of several more SOE agents.  After an escape attempt, Noor and three other British female spies were transported to Dachau.  The three other women, Yolande Beekman, Madeleine Damerment, and Eliane Plewman, were executed with shots to the back of the head.  One witness reported that Noor was almost beaten to death before she was shot.  Her last word was “Liberté,” the last word of many patriots at the guillotine during the French Revolution.  The four women are listed together on a plaque at Dachau.

Noor Inayat-Khan’s Inscription at the Air Forces Memorial

Noor Inayat-Khan is among the 20,456 names on the Air Forces Memorial in Runneymede, a memorial for WWII Commonwealth air force personnel who died with no gravesite.  The names are listed by year and then by air force.  The Royal Air Force is followed by the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force.  Next are the air forces of five different countries listed in the order of the number of names on the memorial:  Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and India.  These are followed by four civilian units in alphabetical order.  Then names are listed by rank and alphabetical order.  Noor is listed in 1944 with the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force at the rank of Section Officer.  Her inscription includes G.C. for George Cross.  On November 8 of this year, a memorial to Noor was unveiled by another princess, Queen Elizabeth’s daughter Anne, in a park near the Inayat-Khan’s London home.

Runnymede is the site of the signing of the Magna Carta and the location of several memorials, including one to President John F. Kennedy with this quotation from his inaugural address, “Let every Nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend or oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and success of liberty.”

Photo Credits:  PortraitImperial War Museums; Memorial — Yoavr763W; Inscription — Antony McCallum of Wyrdlight

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Nov 2012

De Gustibus Non Est Disputandum*

(Today is the birthday of the Dalai Lama, a survivor of religious persecution.  So we honor the shrines of Timbuktu, recently demolished by religious vandals who think God wants them to destroy beauty.)

Three Soldiers

Burton Barr Central Library sits a mile or so from my house.  Named for a Phoenix politician who supported the library, this main branch still has a few microfilm readers.  That’s where I’ve settled in, immersed in the early days of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial (VVM) as documented by the Washington Post and just about every art critic in 1980’s America.

The announcement of Maya Lin’s winning design erupted into a battle between the forces of representational and non-representational art, causing the addition of an Iron Mike, the typical soldier statue erected in a town park.  Twelve years after the VVM established itself as one of the world’s great memorials, best-selling author Tom Wolfe, a representational combatant, illogically lamented the 1980’s “ludicrous lapse of taste,” while boasting of “the throngs who came annually to see” Three SoldiersFrederick Hart’s statue, of course, benefits from its proximity to Lin’s VVM.

While I respect Lin’s fight for artistic integrity, I like Three Soldiers, handsome guys in the tradition of World War II movies, a good war when President Roosevelt’s four sons all served in the military.  The statue solved another controversy.  War memorials cannot be neutral because neutrality is defined as anti-war.  Wars require promotion, PR skills honed with millenniums of practice and contradicted by the reality of a list of names.

Aerial View of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial

On the memorial, the names are in chronological order by date of casualty, with each day alphabetized.  I have stated many times that chronological order and the mirrored surface allow vets to join their comrades.  But thinking about local Iron Mikes made me realize that chronological order also creates a memorial for every day of fighting in Vietnam and for every battle.  When a vet finds names from a battle he survived, he discovers a personal Iwo Jima monument.  The VVM is not just one memorial; it’s thousands of memorials.

The Washington Monument

A complaint against Lin’s concept was the lack of Vietnam vets on the selection committee.  But that’s why they got this exceptional memorial.  As a consultant, I know fresh viewpoints build innovation.  Instead of learning about the Vietnam War, Lin studied other memorials with names.  She built a space to heal sorrow.  The descent into the earth and the V-shaped design, with names beginning and ending at the central vertex, all interact with the phallic Washington Monument to bring us into the comforting arms of the feminine.  The VVM is about those who died, but it was built for those who survived and for them, it’s a coming home.

* In matters of taste, there can be no disputes.

Photo Credits:  Wikimedia Commons, Three Soldiers, Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Washington M0nument

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