The black marble slash of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. is an iconic and nuanced symbol of the human cost of war, known and beloved across the United States. Less well known are a handful of permanent and mobile replica walls, like the half-scale installation in Pensacola, Florida called “Wall South.”
The idea for “Wall South” was born in 1987 when the “Moving Wall” temporary memorial installation passed through town and drew an emotional impact on the local community. Marine Corps veteran Bill Davis was a member of the planning party and later described the project as a straightforward but genuine nod of respect to the full-scale wall designed by Maya Lin.
“We wanted it to be a replica of the one in Washington, have all the names on it,” Davis told WSRE. “But we also knew that we couldn’t build one the same size, so we settled on one about half sized.”
After years of private fundraising, the Pensacola City Council set aside 5.5 acres of a public baseball field and dedicated Wall South in December 1992. A crowd of thousands gathered to view the unveiling and listen to a reading of all 58,000 dead and missing.
The Wall South is a good copy—if in half scale—of the Lin original, with 58,315 names in Optima typeface, arrayed chronologically by date of death. But despite initial efforts to source stone “ from the same quarry, using the designer’s original plans and involving the original engraver and others connected with the Washington project,” Wall South ended up using a lighter Pennsylvania granite instead of the original Indian imported slabs.
The memorial did, however, raise some questions about the line between tribute and forgery when it was being constructed. In a 1991 interview with the Pensacola News Journal, Lin explained that she saw the replica as “well intentioned,” but that “part of the power of the memorial is its size.”
Construction of Wall South was so controversial at the time, the D.C. Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund threatened to sue their Floridan brethren over copyright infringement. The Pensacola City Council consulted its lawyers and plunged courageously forward with construction, forcing the D.C. memorial to essentially admit that the claim of intellectual property was a bluff.
Today tempers have cooled between the memorials, and the Sunshine State’s veteran community proved that there’s plenty of wall to go around.
Know Before You Go
Wall South is located in Veterans Memorial Park Pensacola, a monument-dense collection of shrines to the American revolution, Korean War, WWI, WWII, and War on Terror.