About the CIA Memorial Wall
The Memorial Wall is on the north wall of the Original Headquarters Building lobby. This wall of 139 stars stands as a silent, simple memorial to those CIA officers who have made the ultimate sacrifice. Among the stars, a simple inscription reads: “In honor of those members of the Central Intelligence Agency who gave their lives in the service of their country.” The Memorial Wall was commissioned by the CIA Fine Arts Commission in May 1973 and sculpted by Harold Vogel in July 1974.
There are 139 stars carved into the marble of the CIA Memorial Wall.
The Honor and Merit Awards Board (HMAB) recommends approval of the nomination to the CIA Director if it meets the following selection criteria:
Inclusion on the Memorial Wall is awarded posthumously to employees who lose their lives while serving their country in the field of intelligence. Death may occur in the foreign field or in the United States. Death must be of an inspirational or heroic character while in the performance of duty; or as the result of an act of terrorism while in the performance of duty; or as an act of premeditated violence targeted against an employee, motivated solely by that employee’s Agency affiliation; or in the performance of duty while serving in areas of hostilities or other exceptionally hazardous conditions where the death is a direct result of such hostilities or hazards.
The HMAB reviews the circumstances surrounding the death of an employee and makes its recommendation to the DCIA for final approval. Once approved by the DCIA, the Office of Protocol arranges placement of the star on the Memorial Wall.
A stone carver creates a star by first tracing the new star on the wall using a template. Each star measures 2-1/4 inches tall by 2-1/4 inches wide and half an inch deep; all the stars are six inches apart from each other, as are all the rows. The stone carver uses both a pneumatic air hammer and a chisel to carve out the traced pattern. After carving the star, the stone carver cleans the dust and sprays the star black, which as the star ages, fades to gray. The current stone carver is part of a lineage who learned this craft from the Memorial Wall’s original sculptor, Harold Vogel.
The new star is officially unveiled at the CIA’s annual Memorial Ceremony.
The Debrief: Behind the Mission - Memorial Wall
Just inside the main entrance of CIA Headquarters in Langley Virginia, is a white marble wall with a collection of stars etched into the stone. It is the most sacred space on our compound.
Each star memorializes a life lost in the line of duty, a sacrifice to our nation.
The inscription above the stars read “In honor of those members of the Central Intelligence Agency who gave their lives in the service of their country.” The book of honor on display in front of the Memorial Wall, contains the names of CIA officers who died in service. Each is written next to a gold-leaf star.
To protect intelligence sources and methods, some of the names must remain classified even in death. Once a year though, every name, even those unlisted, is read out loud in recognition at CIA’s annual Memorial Ceremony.
CIA officers are administered the Oath of Office in front of the Memorial Wall on their first day. The wall not only reminds these new officers of the inherent risks of our work, but it inspires them to continue to carry CIA’s mission forward in honor of those who came before them.