Vietnam Memorial now online.
The project makes the records of tens of thousands of deceased Vietnam War veterans available online for the first time. The interactive website allows access to thousands of pages of casualty records and agency photos, according to the Associated Press (AP). Users can search by name, hometown, birth date, tour date, or many other categories.
This kind of information currently is available only at National Archives' physical locations and by poring over files organized by topic. The agency said that makes searches difficult and time-consuming.
Hundreds of veterans visit the central research room each year "to examine the documents that may enable them to establish their rights, and, just as with the wall, to honor, remember, and appreciate," said Allen Weinstein, archivist of the United States. "And historians increasingly turn to these essential records to explain the significance of the Vietnam conflict in American history."
The site will help "provide ever-greater access to our critical holdings on this subject," he said.
The goal, the AP said, is to tell the stories of the almost 60,000 names listed on the physical memorial wall, located on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. The interactive wall allows people to post photographs of deceased veterans and to make comments. The service is currently free for Vietnam War information; footnote.com said it is considering whether to charge fees for some of the 50,000 National Archives photos now digitized.
Veterans' advocacy groups praised the project as a good way to promote public awareness of the contributions of Vietnam veterans. But some said they would like the effort expanded to provide electronic access of records for living veterans, who often must go through a lengthy process of searching for records at the Archives and elsewhere to make a disability claim with the government.