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10 November 2016

preliminary design for Wars Without End Memorial, Washington D.C. / Veterans Day and Remembrance Day / In Flanders fields the poppies blow

Click to enlarge.

Eventually -- many years after the USA military skeedaddled (diddimaued) out of Vietnam in 1975 -- a very slow, reticent realization materialized like unwanted fog upon the spaces reserved for the great monuments of my hometown, Washington D.C. Somewhere between 52,000 and 58,000 members of the U.S. military had been killed, had died from combat, during the U.S. phase of a war that the other side had been fighting continuously since around 1924 -- first against France which possessed Indochina as a rubber plantation colony, and then, after France was defeated in the battle of Dien Bien Phu in 1954, against the United States, which took over colonial possession of the Southern half of Indochina.

North Vietnam belonged to the anti-colonial Communist/Nationalist forces, and South Vietnam was a sovereign protectorate of the United States, which shored up its corrupt fragility first with U.S. Army Special Forces (the Green Berets) and then increasingly with large numbers of conventional ground, naval and air forces.

Now it was finally time to add a Vietnam War Memorial to the enshrined spaces of Washington D.C.

A competition was held for designs, and the winner was 21-year-old architecture student Maya Lin. I've seen thousands of photographs and television images of it, but despite DC's being my hometown, I've never been to the Vietnam War Memorial. 


Vietnam was my war, I was drafted and served two years (the draftee's absolute minimum) during it, high school pals were killed and died in ghastly ways -- I don't want to see any names I know on the Black Wall. I have no feelings for the public memorial of that war.

I felt ever since that Vietnam had one great benefit: It taught the American people and their decision-making elite to be very cautious about starting or declaring new overseas wars. Maybe so cautious that Vietnam would be our last fucked-up, liars' and scoundrels' overseas war, our last massive spilling of human blood for great lies.

I'm smart. But on that score, I was naive. George W. Bush waited just long enough for the memory of the Vietnam War to have blurred into Rambo movies and TV show cliches, waited just enough time so that the majority of Americans had no direct and certainly no clear memories of the Vietnam War.

And then Bush, as Commander-in-Chief of the U.S. military, declared war on Taliban-ruled Afghanistan, soon followed by our invasion of Iraq, ruled by the despot Saddam Hussein.

(Previously, Hussein had been the USA's pet Mad Dog, because the USA hated its neighbor and traditional enemy, Iran, much worse.)

The U.S. military and intelligence community have been waging Bush's wars in Afghanistan and Iraq for 15 years -- the longest wars in United States history.

By comparison, the USA declared war on Japan, Germany and Italy -- the Axis powers -- in the week following Japan's surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. 


The last Axis holdout, Japan, surrendered in August 1945, after the U.S. Army Air Corps dropped two fission bombs on the cities Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The USA's war against the Axis powers -- which resulted in unconditional surrender -- lasted 3 years, 8 months and 9 days.

Above -- because 15 years, with no end in sight, is about time -- is my preliminary sketch of Washington D.C.'s Memorial to our Wars Without End.

The Finnish architect Eero Saarinen's world-famous Gateway Arch (St. Louis, Missouri) takes the shape of the mathematical curve known as the catenary. The symbolism is that, after Jefferson's purchase from France of a huge area of land west of the Mississippi River, St. Louis became the Gateway to the new American West.

Maya Lin's Vietnam War Memorial (to howls of controversy) is a long, stark, ominous black wall with the names of nearly all American combat deaths engraved. (As new military deaths are identified and confirmed with the cooperation of the government of Vietnam, more names are still being engraved on the Memorial.)

My preliminary design for The Wars Without End Memorial takes the shape of a geometrical object known variously as Gabriel's Horn or Toricelli's Trumpet.

It has an odd property.

Notice the liquid fill tube at top left.

If you pump liquid into this tank, eventually it tops off -- the tank can only hold a finite volume of liquid.

Having filled the tank, now we want to paint its outside. We "guesstimate" how many cans of paint this will require, drive a big truck to the paint store, return with many paint cans, and begin painting the outside of the tank (starting at the high end at left).

(A) Eventually we run out of paint. We return to the paint store and fill our truck with many many more cans of paint, and continue to paint the tank.

(B) Return to (A).

We can never buy enough paint to finish painting the exterior of the tank. Gabriel's Horn is a solid which has Finite Volume, but Infinite Surface.

(I am indebted to a film, "Infinite Acres," for acquainting me with this bizarre object. I have subsequently secured, via e-mail, the professor-creator's permission to blog about it.)

My Memorial never ends because its descending curve gets narrower and narrower, unto infinitessimal height. Thus its right-side asymptote goes on and on unto infinity.

Please Leave a Comment about my preliminary design for the United States of America's Wars Without End Memorial for Washington D.C.

These Wars have gone on through most of George W. Bush's presidency, and for the entirety of Barack Obama's presidency.

On 20 January 2017, Donald Trump will take the oath to become the next President of the United States.

Leave A Comment if you know How or When President Trump will end the USA's Wars Without End.

Oh, that red color in the tank and the paint cans is human blood. In an hourly ritual -- like the Changing of the Guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier across the Potomac River -- an Honor Squad climbs a ladder to the fill pipe, and pours more cans of human blood into the Memorial. Eventually the tank will fill up, because there's only a finite amount of human blood, no matter how long the wars last. Eventually the human race -- which, though very populous, is Finite -- eventually our side and our enemies run out of dead people and blood.

But another Honor Squad continuously paints the exterior with human blood. And they can never stop. The Wars Without End Memorial in my hometown, Washington DC, has an infinite surface.

Leave A Comment.

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Oh ... Friday 11 November is

* Remembrance Day in the United Kingdom and Commonwealth nations

* Veterans Day in the United States.

Veterans, and those who wish to honor veterans, wear a red Poppy. I'm a vet, I'm wearing my Poppy. If you want to wear a Poppy today, go to any American Legion or Veterans of Foreign Wars post, make a modest donation, pin your Poppy on your chest.

The Poppy is the symbol because of this poem, by a Canadian WWI medical officer. His friend had just been killed in Flanders.


In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.


-- John McCrae

It's this date because in 1918, largely by accident, the generals agreed that the guns would fall silent on the Western Front (France, Belgium) on the 11th Hour of the 11th Day of the 11th Month. For much of the 20th Century, the holiday was first called Armistice Day.


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