In 1957, Communist-led guerrillas began a campaign of sabotage and assassinations in South Vietnam. American aide to South Vietnam increased through July 1965, when the first U.S. troops were sent into battle in what would be our country's longest war engagement in history. At the peak of conflict in the late 60's early 70's, 500,000 Americans, mostly 18 to 22 years old were involved in a fierce jungle war with the tenacious Vietcong (Vietnamese Communists) whose guerrilla tactics of sabotage and torture became notorious. Complete withdrawal of U.S. troops commenced in March 1973, only after more than 46,000 Americans and 250,000 Vietnamese lost their lives in a fight for freedom.
To honor the Vietnam veteran in general, and in particular to commemorate those killed or missing on action, New Fairfield Vietnam Veteran Marine Corporal Richard Cacace began efforts to plan, construct and dedicate a monument that would pay a lasting special tribute to the courage and compassion displayed by the U.S. forces in Vietnam. Five years later, at a dedication ceremony on May 29, 1988, the Vietnam War Memorial was unveiled.
Unlike most war monuments that celebrate the glory of war for freedom, this monument was designed and sculpted by George Koras as a statement of compassion - a monument to humanity - to acknowledge the Vietnam veteran in his or her role of protector and liberator of a people under scourge. As such, an eight foot tall bronze statue of a combat soldier stands at the top of the monument carrying a small child in one hand and an M-16 rifle in the other. It has been suggested that all observers should spend time looking into the combat soldier's eyes and facial expression, where the sculptor put most of the his efforts, to see the struggle in his heart that had all servicemen fighting a savage war while remaining humane and compassionate to those in need.
The six foot high granite base below holds a bronze plaque honoring Danbury-area veterans who died in combat or are missing in action. The right wing of the base features a medical evacuation scene, while the left wing depicts Vietnam service medals and a map of the country.