Web site makes Vietnam wall names searchable, personal

By EMILY BROWN | STARS AND STRIPES Published: March 26, 2008

WASHINGTON — The Vietnam wall is now digital and interactive.

With a few keystrokes, each of the 58,000-plus names on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington is searchable and linked to that person’s service records and casualty report, thanks to the National Archives and the online company Footnote.com.

A digital image of the wall — actually thousands of photos fused together — locates each veteran’s name where it appears on the memorial in Washington. From there, information on that person is displayed and any visitor to the Web site (www.footnote.com/thewall) can upload photos of veterans and leave comments and stories free of charge.

“We hope this will be a means for healing and paying tribute … to those who sacrificed for our country,” said Russell Wilding, CEO of Footnote.com.

While all the records used to make the database are accessible at a National Archives research room in College Park, Md., and at www.archives.gov, the site allows “far more people to have access to these Vietnam records,” said Allen Weinstein, archivist of the United States.

Veterans can be searched through 54 categories, including name, age, birthday, hometown, home state, start of tour date and rank.

Vernon Early, a Vietnam Veteran who served on the USS Shangri-La and now works at the National Archives, said he was excited to look up and add information about his two cousins who died during the Vietnam War and search for friends. He hopes the Web site won’t take the place of a trip to the real thing, but “the accessibility is very important for someone who couldn’t come to the wall,” he said.

The site was announced Wednesday, the 26th anniversary of the memorial’s groundbreaking ceremony. It took about six months to build the database.

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