Year of Publication


Competition Category

Humanities: Critical Research


Arts and Sciences




As the world approaches the 100th anniversary of the “War to End All Wars,” the mind can’t help but turn to the dozens of conflicts that followed the Armistice on November 11, 1918. Instead of ushering in an age of prosperity and peace, World War I thrust the globe into a maelstrom of instability that led to a second world war within two decades. Each successive conflict was a reminder of WWI’s failure to end global warfare while simultaneously creating a new generation of disillusioned citizens—both soldier and civilian. No conflict illustrates this disillusionment better than Vietnam, America’s equivalent to WWI in terms of collective psychological damage. Fraught with unclear motives, clouded by scandals, and opposed by a large portion of the American population, Vietnam flew in the face of the heroic narrative of the ideal American war. New technologies and new methods of battle in both Vietnam and WWI resulted in carnage and mass death on an unprecedented scale. Scarred populations were left to come to terms with their losses and memorialize their dead against the encroaching onslaught of time. This paper explores the connections between World War I and Vietnam through the lens of their memorials, specifically WWI’s Ring of Remembrance and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. An analysis of the concept, design, and function of each memorial reveals striking similarities between the two wars and how they are remembered by their respective populations. When seen side-by-side, the names inscribed on the memorials call out to the reader, “When this you see, remember me!” A plea, perhaps, that someday there will be no more need for walls of names.


Alyssa M. Mertka won the second place in the Humanities: Critical Research category.